The Semantic Deception of Dialectical Theses
Dissecting the premise and purpose of this series.
Those of you that have read my Shame Theory essay, or the Rampant Ineptitude of Modernity, know me to be critical of some of humanities' designs and tendencies, but also that I hold for us all an ultimate hope. I know that both individuals and groups of people have achieved great things in the past and I have no reason not to expect this trend to continue. Above all it is imperative that this hope remain steadfast and transparent, lest we let our anger overtake our reason. For if we are to agree that there are certain problems in the world, some of which are wholly intentional or partly perpetuated, we must also agree to react reasonably and contemplatively in the face of such maddening information. The causation may need addressing, this is not being denied, merely cautioned against. It is action alone that makes the indelible marks in life, but only right action can prove eudaemonic. Ideally, this is to be a place where you too can throw any contradictory facet of Earth culture under a logical macroscope. It is, in fact, the goal of Anti-Social Engineering, Assignee's Prerogative, the best possible authenticity.
Before we begin examining specific damages, let us develop an appreciation for what is being sought out, as defined by the title of this article. What is, “the semantic deception of dialectical theses?” Everyone knows that a “deception” is a “lie,” so this is as good place a place as any to start our discussions. It isn't always the case that there is a “liar” telling us a “lie” when we are being deceived. A lie is a falsehood, but it is stated. An omission of information could be just as damaging and is still a deception, although not a lie. However, to deceive, to “create a deception” does involve work. Somebody or some thing has to “do something” to deliberately cause you to be deceived. So, stated or not, any deceptiveness we are about to discuss, by the rules of existence and definition, must be intentional. We will be well served by remembering this. You cannot be deceived by erroneous information that occurred “by accident,” this is simply you deceiving yourself with erroneous information. For it to be deception, there must someone doing the deceiving.
What about “a semantic deception?” Semantics are about meaning, in language and in logic. Those of us with an understanding of the art of reason know that language and logic are related both in structure and rules, but for the sake of our discussions today, just know that reducing the two subjects to their fundamentals reveals two key relevancies: Words and ideas can be arranged by formula and any such communications must have the basest possible words/ideas as their foundations. So we must ask, “what do we mean by 'meaning'?” Let's first look at something concrete, what I call an experiential norm, such as “fire.” Fire is a word that represents the idea of fire and, although we can use the word to mean other things, (I was “fired from work,” we raised our rifles and waited for the “order to fire,”) we wish to use the word to mean something being aflame. We too may have countless associations in our fire paradigm, any and every single idea, good, bad or indifferent, that we harbor for fire would be a fair consideration. Still, of the links between ourselves and the physical sensation of flame, it should be fair to say, we will have found a legitimately “fundamental enough” definition in the term “fire burns.” This is the depth of meaning possible with what you could fairly call an internal conversation. Semantics is not hard when our concerns are concrete. “Ouch! Fire hurts!”
When we are considering an abstract idea in our “fire” paradigm, such as “if she is a witch, then we must burn her at the stake,” our opinions may vary and matter greatly. These ideas, where one must simply “come to agree” with some particular bit of information that can't be tested, are strict social norms. When we look at the complexities of the associations we have attached to burning witches at the stake, we can see the problems of any semantic reduction and the opportunity for deception. Your not going to be able to manipulate very many people to agree that fire doesn't burn. Convincing them of whom to burn is much easier. Herein we find our limitations, then end of our objectivity: there is no more reason to attach to our “meaning.” It means what we say it means. This abstraction presents a paradox, “How can a definition mean something other than what we take it as?” Witches are one thing, but in a more modern parlance, perhaps you might be willing to “give up some freedoms for liberty,” or taste “the best cheeseburger in the State.” One of these semantic deceptions is going to matter more than the other, with varying results, according to the bearer of the decision. The goal in our understanding of the semantic deception is twofold: First, we must know that abstract considerations are matters of opinion and that definitions, when reduced properly, should not end up contradictory. Now, let's remember that “a deception” requires a “deceiver.” So if we have a semantic deception, we have a message that is intentionally false, wrong and dangerous, in it's meaning.
The most convoluted aspect of the sentence that gives this piece its title is discovered in the question, “What is the dialectical theses?” To start with, “theses” is the plural of “thesis,” which is simply “a premise or proposition to be held, used or proven.” A premise, (or a proposition,) is just a concept which can be proven true or false. “All birds can fly,” would qualify. (Not true.) “Fire burns wood, producing heat.” Yes, indeed it does. “Witches are made of wood and therefore, if you light a woman on fire and she burns, she is a witch.” Um... Wait a minute, let's talk about this. There is more than one proposition being stated here and this helps demonstrate a literal aspect of the dialectical theses. In order for you to agree with this last statement, you must agree with all the separate statements. “Witches are made of wood.” False. “If you light a woman on fire she burns.” True, sort of. “If you light a woman on fire and she burns, she is a witch.” Untrue, all women lit on fire will burn, witch or not.” (This may all seem very silly to you, as you read this on your computer screens in the 21st century. It isn't. It just wasn't that long ago. Certainly not “long enough ago.”)
So let's look at “dialectical.” Taken alone, as a word, my dictionary defines it as, “1. Relating to the logical discussion of ideas and opinions. 2. Concerned with or acting through opposing forces. These “forces” could be social, (such as the semantics we wish to discuss,) or just the metaphysical contradictions that life throws our way. (If you wish to learn about the deeper concerns of reality and our role in it, read my book, Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self. Then read Camus' the Myth of Sisyphus and Wittgenstein's Logical Investigations.) To be blunt about the concept of the philosophical dialectic, it is a tug of war we have with ourselves when ever we are confronted with combative internalization, regardless of source.
“The Dialectical Thesis,” as it were, is something a little more defined. It, in fact, has a formula that is surprising simple. It started with Plato and (pretty well) ended with Georg Hegel, which is why it is often referred to as the Hegelian Dialectic. In normal language, it goes like this, “I know stealing is wrong. I have to feed my starving children. I will steal some bread to feed my starving children.” Or, “Lying is wrong. Lying gets me out of trouble if it's clever. I'm in trouble. I'll lie.” In terms of our own observations of the external world it might go something like this, “One must support the troops or one is considered a traitor. I don't wish to be considered a traitor. I'll support the troops.” Or, “Fundamental radicalism is dangerous. Fundamental radicalism gets results. I'll be a fundamental radical.” Maybe you're part of the business world, where it could be stated, “Product A is of poor quality but sells well because it's inexpensive. Product B is of good quality but does not sell because it's expensive. I'll raise the price of product A.” In all of these examples there are three parts to our “idea equation.”
Part A is the thesis, a proposition stating a full abstract idea, subject and predicate, without being concrete. Such as, “All philosophers are wise.” (A matter of opinion. We are not going to waste our time arguing concrete information, such as, “This philosopher is male.”)
Part B is the antithesis, again, a proposition stating a full abstract idea in opposition to part A. Such as “All philosophers are not wise.” (Still, a matter of opinion. We could spend the rest of our lives arguing what “philosopher” means, or “wise.”)
Part C is the synthesis. It is the agreement that the two opposing propositions find themselves at. It is the epitome of Aristotle's golden mean. All things meet in the middle, because if they don't, all things are chaotic and confrontational. Yet, the middle wouldn't exist without the two extremes. There is no mean without the chaos, and vice versa. The grandfather clocks pendulum swings back and forth to two extremes, but it is only in the middle that we get tick and tock, pushing us forward.
The dialectic is part of the inception and spread of science or its method. It is the base for all argument, inquiry, discovery and truth. Scientist or not, everyone uses it, every day. However, very few people think about their use of it, even fewer examine that use, still fewer make changes to their lives by way of that examination. If we wander through our lives without examining the decisions we make, the things we believe, the actions we take based on these decisions and beliefs, we are akin to a blind rat, scrambling randomly through a finite maze, responding only to that which we bump against, repeatedly. This is not right, proper or healthy. This is the total sum of what is wrong with the human species, this is the reason we suffer. Due to our position and power on this planet, this too is why it suffers under our hand. This will end, the only question is, “what are we going to do about it in the mean time?” (Interesting phrase, “in the mean time.”)
Here we can put together the entire sentence and discover its full meaning. The semantic deception of dialectical theses is the opportunity for us to do some anti-social engineering. We can recognize contradictions in life for what they are, reduce their intentionality into something revealing truth and decide wisely upon the value of perpetuating the ideas presented. If someone suggests that consumerism is the foundation of democracy, or that morality must be legislated, or that, money makes the world go 'round, or that my God is better than your God, we can examine these ideas, decide authentically, act appropriately, promotively.
This is the challenge: when it comes to any dialectical thesis, the tug of war to find the mean, there can be no known truth. To suggest that there are "truths," or to otherwise intimate that this or that opinion shall be considered correct, particularly if placed outside the mean, in either extreme, is to perpetuate the semantic deception. To realize that this deception exists is step one to defeating it, to understand who delivers it and why is step one to stopping its dissemination.
This is the goal: everything done, must be done consciously and virtuously. It is the path to eudaemonia. We begin by deciding to begin. So decide. We can continue on this path of following greed and competition or we can start a new path, a logical path, one of co-operation and promise. We are the creatures who, above all others, rationalize. It is time to start using this power to do the right things, rather than to trick ourselves into believing we're doing the right things.
In the comments section below, you will find modern impressions of the phenomenon and a chance to win a book. Make sure you click the comments!