New McCarthy Piece in Nautilus Magazine

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  • 01 Dec 2017 at 8:36 pm #9908

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: “I also wonder what he [McCarthy] thinks of the movie Arrival, if he’s seen it.”

    Well, I saw ARRIVAL and have read Ted Chiang’s book of stories. His “Story of Your Life” was interesting for what it says about time (lost in the movie, but there in the text). I thought it was also interesting that the aliens were cephalopods and I wondered if the reference was to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu (or has everyone been reading the same books on deep consciousness I mentioned above?).

    [edit] I have withdrawn the dumb rhetorical question. McCarthy should be interested in Ted Chiang’s story because he is interested in linguistics, and “Story of Your Life” presents several interesting problems. I had to go back this morning and read it to “get it.” The story soars in my estimation. I think I’ll watch the movie again too.


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    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Richard L..
    02 Dec 2017 at 2:22 am #9910

    mother_he
    Member

    I havent read the William Burroughs book that several people mentioned in which apparently language is compared to a virus. The only Burroughs book I’ve read is Naked Lunch.

    Can somebody hand me a towel for the egg on my face?


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    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  mother_he.
    02 Dec 2017 at 1:43 pm #9914

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: “Can somebody hand me a towel for the egg on my face?”

    A small thing, that. Of course language, once invented/discovered, probably did spread something like a virus–or like gossip, as Keith Devlin had it in THE MATH GENE: HOW MATHEMATICAL THINKING EVOLVED AND WHY NUMBERS ARE LIKE GOSSIP.

    So perhaps Dennis McCarthy printed out the thread here and gave it to Cormac along with the postings at the Nautilus site.

    Cormac McCarthy says he doesn’t know what the subconscious is. Well, the standard dictionaries all define it as the unconscious and it doesn’t seem to have been a rhubarb anywhere but in the original thread here. I don’t feel any egg on my face for that because, regardless of what anyone else says, I believe that there are degrees of consciousness. It’s not either/or, not black or white.

    Sometimes we’re only barely conscious of something dim, out of reach. Sometimes we know but we still don’t know, as the song says. Subconscious seems to me to be a better description of some things just below the surface than unconscious. Think of the sub-soil as opposed to the deep clay. Consciousness is layered.


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    02 Dec 2017 at 6:32 pm #9915

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    ““….no matter what your view of the nature of reality they can have no existence in the absence of an eye or something very like it.”

    Same is true for the tongue. Say what you will about reality, it’s still the best place to get a steak.


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    02 Dec 2017 at 6:51 pm #9916

    Clement
    Member

    I had thought the matter already settled with Jean-Pierre Brisset’s nineteenth century linguistic and philological work with the various Frog languages and French. Language is not a human invention. We already knew it when we were frogs.


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    03 Dec 2017 at 5:09 pm #9919

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: Steak and Frogs

    Hey, this thread is already a greater source of amusement than the original thread. This is the one that should have been handed over to Cormac.

    ——

    Upthread efscerbo astutely pointed out the possibility that Cormac McCarthy might have seen the movie ARRIVAL, which was made from the Ted Chiang story, “STORY OF YOUR LIFE.” And efscerbo suggests that if he hasn’t seen it, he might like it, or at least parts of it.

    Here’s Cormac:

    “There is more to be considered concerning the structure of language. Our understanding of the world at large is formed by our experience of that world in a way which is difficult to exaggerate. This is Nietzsche on the subject, even if he doesn’t go far enough:

    However far human knowledge may extend or however objective that knowledge may appear to be it is nevertheless largely only our own life stories.

    Now this of course jibes with the title and spirit of Ted Chiang’s story about a linguist who is given the job of translating the language of the alien heptapod cephalopods who have appeared on earth. She tries and fails to verbally translate their language, but the aliens begin to give her representative charts with symbols and mathematical equations which she finally begins to translate. The aliens have a different way of thinking about time and so their language contains the past, present, and future in the same diagram.

    With experience, the linguist is able to think in their language to a degree and this allows her to see her own future. She says that before she learned their language, “my memories grew like a column of cigarette ash, laid down by the infinitesimal silver of combustion that was my consciousness, marking the sequential present.”

    But after she learned their language, “new memories fell into place like gigantic blocks, each one measuring years in duration, and though they didn’t arrive in order or land contiguously, they soon composed a period of five decades,” ending with her death.

    It is both more complicated and more logical than that, something I didn’t realize until I went over it again:

    The physical universe was a language with a perfectly ambiguous grammar. Every physical event was an utterance that could be parsed in two entirely different ways, one causal and the other teleological, both valid, neither one disqualifiable no matter how much context was available.’

    “When the ancestors of humans and heptapods first acquired the spark of consciousness, they both perceived the same physical world, but they parsed their perceptions differently; the worldviews that ultimately arose were the end result of that divergence. Humans had developed a sequential mode of awareness, while heptapods had developed a simultaneous mode of awareness…’

    . . .—–. . .

    “With this language, I can see how my mind is operating. I don’t pretend to see my own neurons firing; such claims belong to John Lilly and his LSD experiments of the sixties. What I can do is perceive the gestalts; I see the mental structures forming, interacting. I see myself thinking, and I see the equations that describe my thinking, and I see myself comprehending the equations, and I see how the equations describe their being comprehended.”

    In the movie ARRIVAL there is a tension that isn’t there in “Story Of Your Life,” and while that makes it more of an alien movie, it makes it less of a linguistic movie. Both are worth your time. Perhaps even worth Cormac McCarthy’s time.


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    07 Dec 2017 at 4:38 pm #9926

    Richard L.
    Member

    It would be nice if I could make the trip to the New Mexico conference in February, the agenda for which now includes replies to Cormac McCarthy’s published reply. I’ll start trying to persuade my wife.

    I certainly enjoyed Julie Sedivy’s A LINGUIST RESPONDS TO CORMAC MCCARTHY, published in Nautilus. She appears to make an argument that matched Max Tegmark’s theory, that all language is mathematical, that it started out as simple equations (as in Robert Calassio’s KA from the Sanskrit) but evolved shortly into compound mathematics and equations suggestive of computer language.

    She says:

    “Mathematically, we could say that a phrase formed by an adjective plus a noun corresponds to the intersection of the sets of things denoted by the adjective and the noun.”

    The simple becomes compound and then complex. And she talks about songbirds and human music, which uses a lot of the same “neural circuitry.” Lovely stuff on a lovely subject. She disagrees with McCarthy on some things, and no doubt there are a large number of her peers who disagree with her. As with a McCarthy conference, we can have diametrically opposed ideas yet acknowledge our shared delight in all of the subjects at hand, respectfully.

    Max Tegmark’s detractors are numerous as well, but unlike McCarthy, he frequents the internet and will argue his ideas on internet forums under his own name. See, for instance, here:

    https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1753

    Some of those dismissing him are no better than clowns throwing cream pies, but Max Tegmark is polite and argues in reply with his logic of an algorithm, which still leaves the pie-throwers cold, probably honestly because they just don’t understand how an algorithm works.

    What do you do after such a one-sided bout? You shrug it off and just keep moving. The world is as it is.


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    15 Dec 2017 at 9:42 am #9950

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Oh what a great “article”…which I guess is actually a “writer responds” letter.

    Now THAT is the McCarthy I know and love!!!!! Wow….what a blast!!!

    And the funniest thing is…it’s like he just experienced how it feels to participate at forum! You throw your perspective out…and god help ya….some people will disagree, take umbrage, or embrace ya. LOL

    (And I still have to ask…how come no one, not a friend, an editor, a scientist, another person at SFI didn’t know the idea of language being a virus came from Burroughs….I guess no one is a Burroughs fan in his community LOL…or possibly it’s a case of really big fame often incites “yes men”. Maybe no one wanted to tell him the idea was a famous FAMOUS idea of Burroughs)

    And yes….efscerbo…your first paragraph…that is the basic essence of all of McCarthy. That was the best part of the original essay in NAUTILUS that got a little distilled in some of McCarthy’s metaphors/examples. When you shared your experience…”And in so doing, reading McCarthy violently ripped me out of a strict logical positivist worldview and is the single most important formative experience of my life that I am conscious of, despite how ridiculous that may sound to some”

    THAT is IT. Absolutely…unless if you were someone like me who was already living in that mystical state…finding McCarthy was “yay, one of my peeps”

    And not to say that there is any kind of ego reward for that….no….but in a world where the dominant culture is a “strict logical (positivist?) worldview” finding other people and art that is exploring anything outside of that is a total relief and joy. It’s the thrill of looking at all the art ad literature that is portraying and emulating the nature of reality…..once one has the veil of illusion pulled away from their eyes….they often seek and hope t find others who have the veil of illusion pulled away too. It feels good to find others who “see” this is all a dream.

    The nature of reality is defined by what one has been taught or indoctrinated into…..and then possibly the nature of reality might become what one chooses to believe or reject. Unless one experiences an altered sense of stepping out of that frame. Examples of stepping away from a “strict logical positivist worldview” might be accounts of LSD (McCarthy gave that example in his experience) or having a pilgrimage (can be portrayed like in the movie THE WAY with Martin Sheen) or going to a shaman (taking a guided journey with ayahuasca) or having a baby (some people claim their live altered completely to a view of life outside themselves when they raised children)

    I think there are countless versions and paths to shake loose our comfor/programed metaphors….the point being all of existence as a human is metaphor (Or symbol as McCarthy tends to use that as his wording) I prefer it’s all metaphor and story. But it’s not worth a knock down fight…the meat is similar. So in that way…I agree “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it…there is no tree”. We can find that example in the THE MATRIX. The way Carrie Anne Moss could travel and jump and move or Keanu Reeves bend a spoon…was because “there was no spoon”

    There is no McCarthy. There is no internet forum. There is no strict logical positivist worldview. There is no computer. There is no efscerbo. There is no Candy. There is no forest or trees. There is no highway or coffee mug or desk or rent or mortgage or novels or movies….

    We utterly made it all up…and some of us share a group hallucination. It’s what everybody sees what’s on the end of the fork.

    We probably share it through language and metaphors and symbols by agreeing to call one can be another thing.

    The real lovely part I feel about this is that the idea of why Finns and Hungarians can’t converse…is the same useful metaphor about why we can hardly converse even when we speak an identical or similar language. The diversity of language is a good metaphor for the diversity of cultures, communities, and ideas….much like the diversity we confront as we visit this forum and argue about ow we think and feel about one subject or another. I mentioned in another thread that when I met Lee Driver, who recently passed away…a couple years ago…he was hellbent on asking me “What did you do to that guy that he hates you so much?” He was asking about another participant here at the forum who travelled over a thousand miles to end up talking about me to Lee. HAHA and I said to Lee…”I disagreed with him.”

    the kind of arrogance our egos get regarding metaphors…and worldview is both sad and horrible juxtaposed with the need for diversity. We need to be different…we need to argue and think differently and test test test….what dream are you having and why isn’t it the same dream I have?

    If McCarthy ends his article with these words…”Before language men did not know other men dreamt”

    I would say…”Before language people did not know they would disagree with other peoples dreams”

    It is this diversity…contrasted with the need to be diverse and yet have a series of conflicting metaphors…that are so threatening. If we all agree to have the same dream…danger. We need to allow ourselves and our egos to leave safe for diverse dreams…. All of our dreams are real to us but different. How do we live with our different and similar dreams and allow space for those differing narratives? We do it by always learning that we are living within a dream in the first place.


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    15 Dec 2017 at 9:59 am #9951

    Candy Minx
    Member

    When I just posted above…I had not realized there was a further thread here so missed the descriptions of ARRIVAL.

    In ARRIVAL the aliens are metaphors for all the other cultures in the world. They are representing all the other ways of living outside the dominant culture. So the question isn’t really “has McCarthy seen ARRIVAL?” but rather “How did Chiang and McCarthy access other cultural narratives within such a restricting culture as North America?”

    McCarthy has shared that William James “Varieties of Religious Experience” and LSD helped him see other ways of looking at life.

    And Chiang seems to share with McCarthy things….

    “If there is a single recurrent theme in Ted Chiang’s work, it’s the attempt to square the circle between human fantasies of belief and the perceived certainties of a rational, scientific world view. There’s a strong sense in Chiang’s work that he sees conflicts of faith versus reason, or freedom versus determinism, as illusionary, that if we can simply see clearly enough, all conflicts give way to harmony. Chiang’s rigour and logic take him to a point of mysticism.

    Ted Chiang is all the more conspicuous for his absence from all forms of authorial self-promotion. There is no Ted Chiang Twitter feed issuing entertaining quips on pop culture. His work has been published almost exclusively in limited runs through the small press, with the text often released free online. It is tempting to wonder why: perhaps the status games of writerly life are as illusory to Chiang as the boundaries between space and time. Or, perhaps, he’s simply busy doing what he does best – writing great stories.”The Guardian


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    16 Dec 2017 at 10:02 am #9957

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Not only was I thinking about “Varieties of Religious Experience” when I read this new response in NAUTILUS…I also thought about the “COURSE ON MIRACLES” which for those who don’t know it is a book written in the 1960’s and 1970’s by medical practitioners Helen Schucman and William Thetford who said Jesus dictated it to one of them. Some people feel this was the book that helped create “the new age movement.” It’s a cult popular culture book that began as a photocopies and then went epic with practitioners. It’s interesting to me in relation to the way McCarthy writes in this new article….because the entire first chapter in A COURSE IN MIRACLES claims everything involving time and perception is illusory. This seems very close to McCarthy overall but especially in this article.

    The first chapter describes the nature of reality as only one child of god was created that only one life is being lived right now but that one life is dreaming of separation and fragmentation.

    “Furthermore, the “Son” is regarded as not just Jesus, but as all collective life. In this time-space dream, perception is continuously fueled by what it originated from: separation, judgment, and attack. This results in what the Course calls the “sin-guilt-fear” cycle: we sinned by rejecting God and making a universe of time-space (the Big Bang); this results in guilt over our rejection of our Creator, and subsequent fear of God’s wrath. The “sin-guilt-fear” is described as too horrendous to face, and therefore subsequently projected out, so that to Homo sapiens it seems that evil is everywhere except in himself. The world becomes a threatening place, in which we are born only to fear, fight, and die. The thought that keeps this process going is referred to as “ego”, or “the wrong mind”. A Course in Miracles concludes that happiness cannot be found in earthly time-space life, and urges the reader not to commit suicide but rather to make a fundamental mind shift from “condemnation-out-of-fear” (mindlessness) to “forgiveness-out-of-love” (mindfulness), since our “right mind” is outside time-space and cannot be harmed by worldly attacks. According to the course, seeing “the Face of Christ” in all living things is the way to “accept the Atonement” and ultimately awaken from the dream and return to the eternity of God. Ultimately, this means the end of individuality and of the ego. In this respect, there are parallels with the Indian concept of karma and the Bhagavad Gita scriptures, which Helen Schucman reports that she was not familiar with, although William Thetford was.”

    And here is something to compare….

    Notes in Bagagavita

    “For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
    Purport:
    Qualitatively, the small atomic fragmental part of the Supreme Spirit is one with the Supreme. He undergoes no changes like the body. Sometimes the soul is called the steady, or kūṭa-stha. The body is subject to six kinds of transformations. It takes its birth from the womb of the mother’s body, remains for some time, grows, produces some effects, gradually dwindles, and at last vanishes into oblivion. The soul, however, does not go through such changes. The soul is not born, but, because he takes on a material body, the body takes its birth. The soul does not take birth there, and the soul does not die. Anything which has birth also has death. And because the soul has no birth, he therefore has no past, present or future. He is eternal, ever-existing and primeval – that is, there is no trace in history of his coming into being. Under the impression of the body, we seek the history of birth, etc., of the soul. The soul does not at any time become old, as the body does. The so-called old man, therefore, feels himself to be in the same spirit as in his childhood or youth. The changes of the body do not affect the soul. The soul does not deteriorate like a tree, nor anything material. The soul has no by-product either. The by-products of the body, namely children, are also different individual souls; and, owing to the body, they appear as children of a particular man. The body develops because of the soul’s presence, but the soul has neither offshoots nor change. Therefore, the soul is free from the six changes of the body.
    In the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.18) we also find a similar passage, which reads:
    na jāyate mriyate vā vipaścin
    nāyaṁ kutaścin na babhūva kaścit
    ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo
    na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

    The meaning and purport of this verse is the same as in the Bhagavad-gītā, but here in this verse there is one special word, vipaścit, which means learned or with knowledge.
    The soul is full of knowledge, or full always with consciousness. Therefore, consciousness is the symptom of the soul. Even if one does not find the soul within the heart, where he is situated, one can still understand the presence of the soul simply by the presence of consciousness. Sometimes we do not find the sun in the sky owing to clouds, or for some other reason, but the light of the sun is always there, and we are convinced that it is therefore daytime. As soon as there is a little light in the sky early in the morning, we can understand that the sun is in the sky. Similarly, since there is some consciousness in all bodies – whether man or animal – we can understand the presence of the soul. This consciousness of the soul is, however, different from the consciousness of the Supreme because the supreme consciousness is all-knowledge – past, present and future. The consciousness of the individual soul is prone to be forgetful. When he is forgetful of his real nature, he obtains education and enlightenment from the superior lessons of Kṛṣṇa. But Kṛṣṇa is not like the forgetful soul. If so, Kṛṣṇa’s teachings of Bhagavad-gītā would be useless.
    There are two kinds of souls – namely the minute particle soul (aṇu-ātmā) and the Supersoul (vibhu-ātmā). This is also confirmed in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.20) in this way:
    aṇor aṇīyān mahato mahīyān
    ātmāsya jantor nihito guhāyām
    tam akratuḥ paśyati vīta-śoko
    dhātuḥ prasādān mahimānam ātmanaḥ

    “Both the Supersoul [Paramātmā] and the atomic soul [ jīvātmā] are situated on the same tree of the body within the same heart of the living being, and only one who has become free from all material desires as well as lamentations can, by the grace of the Supreme, understand the glories of the soul.” Kṛṣṇa is the fountainhead of the Supersoul also, as it will be disclosed in the following chapters, and Arjuna is the atomic soul, forgetful of his real nature; therefore he requires to be enlightened by Kṛṣṇa, or by His bona fide representative (the spiritual master).”


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