This post centers around the answering two question posed by Professor Robb in Unit 2. The questions center around the way conceptual schemes affect the way interpret the world around us. The first question causes the reader to consider a hypothetical conceptual scheme of a hypothetical planet Tlön.
Q: The Tlönists would regard Plato’s narrative as deeply puzzling. In fact, they’d probably find it even more paradoxical than the parable of the missing coins (p. 26). Why?
A: To understand why Tlonists would find Plato’s cave allegory paradoxical is because of the logic of the missing coins evidenced in the text. To Tlonists the very idea of losing and finding coins is very different than what we think of. In our world we accept the existence of the coins from when they are lost to when they are found. Tlonists disagree with this, the time from when the coins are unperceived to when they are found the coins do not exist. Our idea of lost and found is founded off the idea of petitio principii or the idea that a conclusion is taken for granted given the circumstances. The example in the text shows that how could person X conclude that the 2 coins he finds were the same ones that he lost. The logic in the text attempts to assume that an Individual which is a part of everything like money, people etc. allows person X to know that he only found 2 coins because the other coins where discovered by Person Y and Person Z. The Tlonist belief tries to avoid this assumption by refuting the existence of the coin the moment they are unperceived. It is for this reason that Plato’s cave allegory would be seen as a paradox. Plato, in his allegory, says that three prisoners would be trapped in a cave and never released to see light only shadows, then when one of the prisoners was released, he would be exposed to light and a whole new world. However, this is where the Tlonist would see this as a contradiction. Plato assumes that life and light would exist outside of the cave while the prisoners are trapped. However, the Tlonist belief would be since the prisoners don’t perceive light or the outside world it does not exist. In a Tlonist’s mind the whole situation that Plato sets up doesn’t make sense because how could the subject be shown shadows his whole life without ever perceiving light. In Plato’s scenario a small fire would allow the subjects to see shadows, however, this would be impossible because light does not exist to them.
This second questions asks how the hypothetical Tlönist conceptual scheme relates to an earlier discussion of how language is a conceptual scheme that affects how we interpret and categorize our world.
Q: Translation Panel relation to texts?
A: Professor Denham’s talk during the translation panel correlated strongly to a few ideas I found in the Borges short story. Prof. Denham brought up that translation is haunted by the fact that translators have so many different translation options so that how can the reader be sure there isn’t bias. Translators are given the freedom of choice with many translations and the decisions they make can affect the mood, tone and message of the writing. I thought this was very interesting paralleled with the Borges short story. In the story the Tlonists do not have nouns only a build of adjectives and adverbs. I thought this correlated strongly with what Prof. Denham claimed because with a language with no nouns it is all up to interpretation. There is a strong license given to the reader as opposed to the translator. An additional correlation to Prof. Denham’s talks is the idea of the nonexistence of coins. Without translation the meaning does not exist to the reader of another language. Nothing can be discerned without a translator. This is similar to how Tlonist’s do not believe in the existence of a coin once people stop perceiving it.
In these questions we can see how language is a conceptual scheme that shapes how we describe our human experience. In the first question, the Tlonist’s meaning of the words lost and found greatly differs from our understanding. Thus, the meaning constructed from the lost and found would differ greatly depending on the conceptual scheme. The fictional example from Tlon demonstrates how language is an expression of how we see and create meaning from the world. This arbitrariness of language can be seen throughout many of our humanities units. For example, in Unit 1 we examined aspects of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, ” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” However, in his world view “all men” simply meant white land-owning men. In the span from 1776 till now, the way we view the world is much different than Jefferson, and we now interpret this term to include all men and all women.