October 06, 2015

Horse 2000 - Wittgenstein's Beetle

I think that 2000 is an arbitrary number. I think that the Base-10 system is mostly stupid (see Horse 1109), and most of the first 211 posts which were hosted on Geocities have long since disappeared down the memory hole of the internet. Whoever controls the past controls the future; whoever controls the present controls the past.
And now...

Horse 2000

I have in my life broken bones, tendons and cartilage; so much so that when making trips to the A&E department at the hospital that when they ask for my Medicare card, I'm almost half-expecting them to tell me that I've won an all expenses paid trip to the Islets of Langerhans because I've accrued so many frequent dier points.

Every single time that you're taken beyond the green door and find out exactly what that secret they're keeping is (believe me when I tell you that there is no old piano and they ain't playing it hot back there), at some point you'll be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to ten, or if they're feeling playful 11.
The problem with trying to convey pain in words is that no one else in the world can ever feel the sort of pain that you're feeling. In fact, due to our cosmic loneliness, not only can no one else in the world ever see the world through our eyes but we can also never see the world through someone else's eyes.
It is a vexed problem because pain is a 'qualia'; that is a private, individual, subjective and conscious experience. No only can we never convey what we are feeling adequately, other people's ability to even accurately perceive that same feeling is impossible.

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein proposed a thought experiment in which everyone in a small neighbourhood carried around a small box with a 'beetle' inside. No one is allowed to look into anyone else's box, no one is allowed to show anyone else the 'beetle' in the box and everyone in the neighbourhood can only say that they know what a 'beetle' is anyway by looking into their own box.
If the word 'beetle' could mean anything to these people in the neighbourhood, then it couldn't very well be the name of something because it's possible that the 'beetle' in everyone's box was entirely different. To an Australian who lived in Albury, the 'beetle' might be a small black Christmas Beetle or Anoplognathus. To someone from England, the 'beetle' might be a Four Spot Ladybird. If it had been me, the 'beetle' might be a Volkswagen 1500 Standard or 1600 Special. To my day, the 'beetle' might be either John, Paul, George or Ringo. The box could also be empty for all anyone knows.

The analogy is to say that one can not experience someone else's subjective experiences and that all we have to talk about is what can be established and learned through public experience and shared language. What is actually inside the box, is in fact irrelevant.
The weird thing is that because pain is a thing which we can carry and experience but can only experience in private, individual and subjective terms, then we can't really teach anyone else about this sort of thing because like the 'beetle' in the box, we can't show, we can't look and we can't really even get at it at all.

I make mention of this because as I'm typing this on a rainy morning in September, I have a head cold and a sinus headache that feels as though the M40 bus to Chatswood has just driven straight through my head and violated all sorts of traffic rules.
I have known for a very very very very long time that I see the world differently to most people. I don't just mean in some physical way (because I'm red-green colourblind; which itself is ironic because I like Liverpool FC) but in some fundamental philosophical way that not even I can get at. For me, this is like my 'beetle' in the box, in that I can't show, you can't look and I can't really even get at it at all.
Someone once upon a time even came up with a word to describe this; being 'rolloesque' which is also about as useful as the 'beetle' in the box because the '-esque' suffix merely denotes something that is 'in the manner of' and since I live as Rollo, that's kind of like a subjective pile of nonsense. I would like to think that I've conveyed some shread of meaning but that would depend on whether you think that meaning is derived or received; I have no idea.

I hope that I've been able to bring some sort of light into your darkened lives, or joy into sadness, or anger into ennui, or annoyance into complacency, or even wisdom into whimsy and whimsy into wisdom. I also hope that the quality has improved. I've looked back over 11 years of posts here and have been shocked at what I've found - yuk, hurl, vomit, argh!


Derik Rickwell said...

I would like to spend just one afternoon in your brain. It must be full of politics, sport, numbers and weird stuff.
Congrats on 2000. May there be 2000 more!

Lynda said...

good work on 2000 horsies