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Monday, April 4, 2011

On Language and Disciplines

All disciplines are false in that they cordon off and divide that which is unified, whole, and indivisible. But it is only by this cordoning off, this bringing to systems of language, that the reality can be known.

That statement is true insofar as language can state what is true, but also either redundant or nonsensical.

"Known" can only mean "put into a system of language." "Reality" here is not being "known" except insofar as it is expressed. If you measure a length of stem, you know the length of stem because you can express it in a number. You don't know the stem. If you say, "the stem of that plant is nine inches long" you come away knowing more about the length of nine inches than you know about the stem.

Disciplines are nonetheless necessary because measurements must be taken. This is among our most profound ways of knowing, despite its limitations. A bottle of soap is mostly water. But you need the water.

The main function of all disciplines, from math to music to poetry to philosophy, you might say, is to improve and refine language: to find a better way to speak the world. And though they hide in exact proportion to what they make known, they repeat (thus) the fundamental creative gesture, God's gesture, "let there be....and there was."


  1. especially like the comment about the stem and the measuring thereof. Also wishing the garden looked as green as this photo!
    Love the website design, also a lovely marbled green...

  2. Hello, Laura, and Anonymous. The garden wants very much to be green today. It'll get there.