All through human history, troubles of many kinds seem to have plagued the human race. Everyone has noted this who has even a cursory familiarity with the historical record, from the first writing system to the printing press. With all the problems, from excessive taxes to crime and punishment, the five million dollar question remains, what stands behind all the mischief? Why do we seem to keep repeating the same folly, and even create a few new problems along the way (e.g. nuclear weapons, etc), when we seem to be advancing so well in so many areas (medicine, etc)?
After studying the problem myself for decades, I have come to a recent conclusion that the root of all the many and various problems we have on this planet lie within the nature of the languages we have created and use. Recall my theory of social and cultural development that stipulates that the way cultures and societies develop over time comes by way of the mutual (somewhat reflexive) interactivity of language and the cultures yielded by them. Thomas Kuhn hints at this interactivity by arguing that communities develop paradigms, and that these paradigms in turn both shape and define the communities that create them.
Here lies the upshot: natural languages form on a kind of “ad hoc basis,” where historical exigencies (like the unpredictable news events that transpire as “headlines”) somewhat spontaneously set the course of the development of linguistic discourse and patterns. I can easily make the point clear by asking, “What is the Sumerian word for “Microwave Oven” ? Back in the day, no one knew that we would develop that technology, so they had no possible way to refer to that kind of device. As times change, language changes with it. These unforeseeable changes (“historical exigencies”) alter the way languages emerge and shape them as they go, and this affects not only the menus for word choices (vocabularies), but also the ways in which we consider it proper to point to things in the world using them (reference [What you “point at”, and “mode of reference” — the way you do your “pointing” with words]).
All this means that no natural language — from Dutch to Swahili — has ever been formed by the study of languages, with an eye to discovering the principles of the light of nature, and then using these to sculpt and form the “ideal language.” One language, “Esperanto,” provides some helpful insights, and is the closest one on record to trying this, but this tongue fell quite short of the goal to which I aspire.
Long story very short ….. I have been working on just this project, the creation of the ideal language, and it looks very Hellenistic, though not as Hellenistic as I once thought. Here are my preliminary results.
We start by noting that the Greek civilization was the only one in human history ever to make the pursuing of wisdom a top priority, which priority led to the emergence of “philosophy” (“the love of wisdom”) as a uniquely Greek phenomenon. All Hail Plato. This tongue had several streams which merged and changed over time to produce the Greek that turned out to invent the steam engine and yield many technologies way ahead of their time — Alexandrian Greek, in which location flourished the prototype of the university with its extraordinary library. So the profitability and innovation criterion of the light of nature would point to Hellenistic (Alexandrian) Greek and the locus of the template for our work.
Next comes the problem of empty reference. I believe this has plagued every tongue on the planet and one of our primary problems — creating a false mode of reference — which has largely escaped detection. Our ideal (it will turn out to be quasi-Alexandrian at the end) language begins at Alexandria and inherits this very important qualification — we must remove from it, its tendency to construct words, sentences and paragraphs by using what points to — absolutely nothing (This is the “empty reference” problem restated). What does this mean for our Greek language?
- It will not use the alpha-privatives (the “a” at the outset of a word that simply negates what follows, like the word “A-typical.” Here the prefix in question simply means “not.”
- It must not use words that have the same problem by other means. In English, this includes words ending in “-less,” like “formless” or “hopeless.” This just adds “not” at the end.
- We must also preclude other forms of mere semantic negation — the verbal “via negativa”– such as the prefixes “mis-” (meaning “not well”), or “dis-” [interested] or any use of the letter “I” that reduplicates the letter that follows it — e.g. “irreducible,” “illicit,” “immaculate,” “innumerable,” and the like. Here the letter “I,” plus the doubling of the letter that follows it, simply means “not.” The word “not,” of course, points at nothing at all in the real world. It only negates, and suffers from empty reference, as do all mere negations. Other such negating prefixes might include — “de-” [construct], “dys” [functional], “re-” [verse], “anti-” [social], “op-” [position], “ob-” [verse], “ad-“ [verse], and the like.
- We must also remove from our language all words like “not,” “never,” no one” (none), and the contractions that go with these “don’t,” “can’t,” etc., and the prefix “non.”
One will notice that I use these throughout my blog [Physician heal thyself!] I intend to correct these in time, but I cannot assimilate the ideal all in one day when I have only recently learned these things by study and have had limited access to my own blog! Have patience, grasshopper.
Recall that we have already affirmed the following changes to the original, Hellenstic tongue:
a. Remove the passive voice from all verbs (active and middle voice alone prove necessary).
b. Omit the infinitive, which has no necessary function and shows only “pure abstraction” — that has no reference in the real world — e.g. to run, to jump, to sing.
c. Omit all irregular (exceptions to the rule) forms of verbs and all else, changing them to make the whole language 100% regular.
d. Omit all verbs of being, since “being” is not an attribute, and all actions of any subject (“Jake ran”) presuppose the existence of the subject to begin with. “To exist” remains the lone exception here, maybe.
e. False antitheses (now)
f. Negative sanctions language (not ideal)
g. Vice language (not ideal)
h. Excessive synonymy (redundant beyond 5 synonyms in many cases)
i. religious language (promotes fiction).
This will mean that we must also remove from our math system all nonpositive numbers — zero and negative numbers (nonreferential indicators) — using only real numbers and their decimals. These create an interesting lie in set theory, where the material adequacy of -3 equals the material adequacy of -1000 or zero. But here, the referential (applied in the real world) math simply does not work out well. Nor will it help at all if one falls for the very tempting false analogies (some of which economists seem particularly fond of) like comparing negative numbers to debt load numbers.
The problem, mentioned before, is that “-3” actually names an operation (subtraction), and then “adds” that operation to a number (3), creating a category mistake of -3, where the negative sign is treated as a quantity value — instead of an operation (procedure).
Conclusion: The modified-Hellenistic Greek that I propose as the ideal language will avoid the problem of empty reference by creating a host of new words, carefully made from traditional prefixes, roots and suffixes of that tongue (with a few alterations later noted) that replace the needful words that suffer from the empty reference problem. “Hopeless” could be said as “less than hopeful” if we create a “less than” prefix of suffix, or even better, we can simply discover what prevents the hope (in context) and say “fearful,” if fear is the problem preventing the hope that would otherwise obtain.
In the ideal language, to avoid falsehoods and fallacies, we must replace the “via negativa” with positive affirmations only, when attempting to describe the real world.
This will shape our language by the light of nature, and progressively remove the (inherent) lying from our natural languages, to which they have — each and every one of them — always been given (until now) by both a wrong-headed vocabulary and false modes of reference — more about these later. In my following blog posts, the reader can expect that I will work to:
Keep it profitable; Keep it clear; Keep it rational; keep it uniform; keep it reflexively sound (able to pass its own stated tests or criteria); keep it charitable, keep showing progress (gradual improvements), keep it virtuous, (removing its “violent language” content) and the like.
This is what I mean by saying that I will “cause the ideal language to conform to the principles of the light of nature. These are what will make the (Hellenistic) language “IDEAL.”