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Tag: 1754

Eco: Theoretical Objections and Counter-objections


Antoine-Louis-Claude Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836), Projet d’éléments d’idéologie, Paris, 1801. This copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“A fundamental objection that can be applied to any of the a posteriori projects generically is that they can make no claim to having identified and artificially reorganized a content system.

They simply provide an expression system which aims at being easy and flexible enough to express the contents normally expressed in a natural language. Such a practical advantage is also a theoretical limit. If the a priori languages were too philosophical, their a posteriori successors are not philosophical enough.

The supporters of an IAL have neither paid attention to the problem of linguistic relativism, nor ever been worried by the fact that different languages present the world in different ways, sometimes mutually incommensurable.

They have usually taken it for granted that synonymous expressions exist from language to language, and the vast collection of books that have been translated into Esperanto from various of the world’s languages is taken as proof of the complete “effability” of this language (this point has been discussed, from opposite points of view, by two authors who are both traditionally considered as relativist, that is, Sapir and Whorfcf. Pellerey 1993: 7).

To accept the idea that there is a content system which is the same for all languages means, fatally, to take surreptitiously for granted that such a model is the western one. Even if it tries to distance itself in certain aspects from the Indo-European model, Esperanto, both in its lexicon and in its syntax, remains basically an Indo-European tongue.

As Martinet observed, “the situation would have been different if the language had been invented by a Japanese” (1991: 681).

One is free to regard all these objections as irrelevant. A theoretical weak point may even turn out to be a practical advantage. One can hold that linguistic unification must, in practice, accept the use of the Indo-European languages as the linguistic model (cf. Carnap in Schlipp 1963:71).

It is a view that seems to be confirmed by actual events; for the moment (at least) the economic and technological growth of Japan is based on Japanese acceptance of an Indo-European language (English) as a common vehicle.

Both natural tongues and some “vehicular” languages have succeeded in becoming dominant in a given country or in a larger area mainly for extra-linguistic reasons. As far as the linguistic reasons are concerned (easiness, economy, rationality and so on), there are so many variables that there are no “scientific” criteria whereby we might confute the claim of Goropius Becanus that sixteenth century Flemish was the easiest, most natural, sweetest and most expressive language in the entire universe.

The predominate position currently enjoyed by English is a historical contingency arising from the mercantile and colonial expansion of the British Empire, which was followed by American economic and technological hegemony.

Of course, it may also be maintained that English has succeeded because it is rich in monosyllables, capable of absorbing foreign words and flexible in forming neologisms, etc.: yet had Hitler won World War II and had the USA been reduced to a confederation of banana republics, we would probably today use German as a universal vehicular language, and Japanese electronics firms would advertise their products in Hong Kong airport duty-free shops (Zollfreie Waren) in German.

Besides, on the arguable rationality of English, and of any other vehicular language, see the criticism of Sapir (1931).

There is no reason why an artificial language like Esperanto might not function as an international language, just as certain natural languages (such as Greek, Latin, French, English, Swahili) have in different historical periods.

We have already encountered in Destutt de Tracy an extremely powerful objection: a universal language, like perpetual motion, is impossible for a very “peremptory” reason: “Even were everybody on earth to agree to speak the same language from today onwards, they would rapidly discover that, under the influence of their own use, the single language had begun to change, to modify itself in thousands of different ways in each different country, until it produced in each a different dialect which gradually grew away from all the others” (Eléments d’idéologie, II, 6, 569).

It is true that, just for the above reasons, the Portuguese of Brazil today differs from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal so much that Brazilian and Portuguese publishers publish two different translations of the same foreign book, and it is a common occurrence for foreigners who have learned their Portuguese in Rio to have difficulty understanding what they hear on the streets of Lisbon.

Against this, however, one can point out the Brazilians and Portuguese still manage to understand each other well enough in practical, everyday matters. In part, this is because the mass media help the speakers of each variety to follow the transformations taking place on the other shore.

Supporters of Esperanto like Martinet (1991: 685) argue that it would be, to say the least, naive to to suppose that, as an IAL diffused into new areas, it would be exempt from the process through which languages evolve and split up into varieties of dialects.

Yet in so far as an IAL remained an auxiliary language, rather than the primary language of everyday exchange, the risks of such a parallel evolution would be diminished.

The action of the media, which might reflect the decisions of a sort of international supervisory association, could also contribute to the establishment and maintenance of standards, or, at least, to keeping evolution under control.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 330-2.

Synchronicity as an Expression of a Deeper Order

“Synchronicity: the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, whereas they are unlikely to be causally related.

Meaningfully Related versus Causally Related.

The concept is dependent upon a subject, an observer, who sees the experience as a meaningful coincidence, though the events need not be simultaneous  in time. The concept of synchronicity is attributed to Carl Gustav Jung, circa 1920’s. Jung’s first recorded mention of the idea of synchronicity occurred in 1928, during a seminar on the interpretation of dreams.

The concept does not strictly compete with or challenge or question the notion of causality. Rather, just as events may be connected by a causal line, they may also be connected by meaning. A grouping of events by meaning need not have a causal explanation. Arthur Koestler also addressed synchronicity in The Roots of Coincidence.

Synchronistic events hint at an underlying pattern, a larger framework that encompasses the synchronicity. Jung termed such incidents “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.” Jung again mentioned synchronicity in a 1930 speech memorializing Richard Wilhelm, a scholar of Chinese philosophy, and in 1935 he compared it to the Tao. Jung finally addressed the concept at an Eranos lecture in 1952, and published a paper (Synchronizität als ein Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhänge or Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle) in a volume with a related study by the physicist Wolfgang Pauli.

Jung claimed that the principle of synchronicity provided conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious, as it describes a governing dynamic that underlies the entirety of human experience and history in all realms, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.

Jung was convinced that life was not a series of random events, but rather an expression of a deeper order, in which each human is involved, whether consciously or not. Realizing that there is a broader, encompassing order is akin to a sort of spiritual awakening, it is an awareness of a larger pattern, that is dimly perceived and poorly understood. We can feel it, and we can realize that it exists, but we typically are unable to discern its parameters and dimensions. In religious terms, Jung sees this revelation as “an intervention of grace.” Jung also believed that synchronicity serves a role similar to that of dreams, nudging human egocentric consciousness to recognition of a greater wholeness.

A later researcher, Ray Grasse, in The Waking Dream: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of Our Lives, notes that synchronicity is ubiquitous, all-pervasive, and our occasional awareness of it is similar to seeing just a portion of the visible iceberg floating above a mystifying surface that shields far more complex and complicated interrelationships.

Indeed, all phenomena are interwoven and characterized by analogies or correspondences. While correspondences often are recognized by observers with a shock of recognition, this is more a reflection of our talent for ignoring or failing to see them, as they describe a vast mesh which vibrates with endless interactions and sometimes distant relationships. Time is often reduced to a minor factor. Events sometimes occur which suggest an eery echo of something else, continents away, separated by entire eras.

Jung cited the following exchange from Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass:

“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.

“It must come sometimes to “jam to-day,” Alice objected.

“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”

“That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “It always makes one a little giddy at first–”

“Living backwards! Alice repeated in great astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”

“–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.”

“I’m sure MINE only works one way,” Alice remarked. “I can’t remember things before they happen.”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.”


The concept of synchronicity is related to the idea of serendipity. The first noted use of the term was in Horace Walpole’s letter to Horace Mann (28 January, 1754). He says that he derived it from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, whose protagonists were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things that they were not in quest of.” The word serendip was once an Arabic term for Sri Lanka, from Sarandib.

Walpole stated that protagonists need to be sagacious enough to link together apparently innocuous and unrelated facts in order to reach unexpected conclusions.

Also see deja vu.

Harvested from Wiki.

With details gleaned from Charlene P.E. Burns, “Wolfgang Pauli, Carl Jung, and the Acausal Connecting Principle: A Case Study in Transdisciplinarity,” 2011, published on MetaNexus:

And here is a gift from the universe. Enjoy:

Joseph Cambray, Synchronicity, Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe, 2009

Click to access Synchronicity%20Cambray.pdf

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