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Implicitness versus explicitness - what is the question?

Article By: MisterS86
Editorial and opinion

small essay opinion on some of the global issues facing the world today, such as how language and its improper interpretation, or even a proper interpretation, is always subject to debate, in the minds of everyone.

Submitted:Jun 16, 2011    Reads: 139    Comments: 3    Likes: 1   

Implicit Versus Explicit language - what really is even the question? "That's one small step for man*, one giant leap, for mankind," Neil Armstrong, July 1969 Those words resonate through my core, for these are amongst my first memories of being alive, though I can remember snippets of dreams from all the way back to when I was 2 years old. The landing of man on the moon, was a historical event, and shaped the direction of my entire life since, a life of interest in all things science, of exploration - of boundaries inner and outer, and an allegory for my own journey to reach for the stars up in the heavens, only to find the inner stars more rewarding. Those words, also lock in, a mindset, of gender bias, that in that mere utterance, failed to give credit to ½ the entire world's population, a understanding that is unrealized in many nation/states on earth, even today, with civil rights, educational opportunities, and equality in so many ways, not offered to women, for the sole accident of their gender at birth. The human species, may have reached the moon, but in many respects, we are still old school in our thinking, with the result being needless suffering and abuses that violate the very freedom human beings inherent as a birthright, yet whose rights are often taken away, by governments, entities, and people, with their own selfish self serving interests. If the human species wants to be successful, to continue to exist, to proliferate throughout the solar system and beyond, the old ways of thinking must be reassessed, to be questioned as to their legitimacy, and be adapted, modified, or upon failure to adapt, be tossed out, as an unworkable approach to long term human survival, happiness, and freedom. If human beings continue to use violence, physical means, and weapons of force to solve problems, disputes, differences, questions over economics, ideologies, religions, or governments, the human species will never know peace, will never be successful long term, and will only end up being here as a footnote in the geological record. In fact, our boot prints on the moon, could potentially outlast all of us, if we do not evolve beyond impulse, and action without thought to consequences, and the concept of getting back or controlling others. In a world with nuclear weapons, cyber warfare, nuclear power plants, toxic environments, and global warming, we are the only species on the planet, whom decides each and every single day, the fate of our entire existence here, along with the existence of many other life forms here, on a 24/7 365 day a year basis, to live or die, by our own swords, technology, or ignorance in ruining the climate. It's a question about "perspective" Take this one simple statement - "Nuclear weapons, are the umbrella, that protect us, and keep the peace…" What is the 1st reaction that comes to mind? Depends, entirely, upon the lens through which you have lived your life. This one statement, can be interpreted in completely different manners, often contradictory to each other. To me, if one just looks at the words alone, and not the emotive, the language itself, human psychology says we all assign different meanings to the words alone. If we then add in the emotive to the mix, the chances of identical views on this one simple sentence, changes to a less mutualityness. Given 100 people, from the United States of America, and you would find a difference of opinion about the validity of this statement. Such differences of opinion can be found, amongst genders, across ethnic groups, and across age samples, as well as perhaps, service background experience. If I claimed to say, unequivocally, there is but one way to interpret this sentence, even if I explicitly state what I mean by it, there still would be alternative views or understandings. Now, ask a random 100 person sample from say, North Korea, whose nation is trying to perfect the bomb, after 2 nuclear tests already. Or, ask 100 random people from Hiroshima, Japan, or even Fukishima Prefecture. You will likely obtain completely different results. There is no "true" means to actually diagnose and interpret exactly what the words as written mean, even if other factors are explicit, given, that the only one whom actually knows for sure, is the one whom wrote them in the 1st place. Now, take the next sentence I offer and tell me what you think you know I mean.. "Hey! Leave that pot alone!" Analyze the words, try to discern their meanings, and what if any emotive force is behind it. To you, what does the phrase mean? Why is it being said? What is the desired outcome of the words used? How does the person using those words feel? What do they want? How does the person hearing the words feel? Will they do as told? Would you? Do you even know what the words even actually mean? How many of you, upon reading the words, thought of perhaps, some potentially illegal substance (pot, also known as marijuana?) Or, how many of you thought the pot, was something you cook with? How many of you saw these words, as a pot to put flower in? Get the idea? There are numerous ways to even interpret what the words used even are referring to, let alone what else is going on. What is missing, is something called "context." Context is either implicit, or explicit. In this case, the sentence offers little clues as to answer the question as to what physical form the word "pot" is referring to. However, even without knowing the word meaning, it can be inferred, and is explicit, from the exclamation marks, that whatever the pot is, someone does not want someone else to be doing something to or with it. One does not know, from the sentence alone, if someone was trying to pick it up, move it, turn it upside down, add water to it, or cut it? Again, there is no explicit information to accurately ascertain the exact meaning, without guessing based upon your own personal framework, and perhaps, some pre-existing info that is missing from the sentence, like the potential it could be a pot of boiling water with pierogies in it - or not! These sentences to me, highlight a significant problem, that educator theorists and philosophers have been thinking about, of how the mind knows what we think we know. Research into knowing about knowing, is known as the phrase "epistemology," as well as metacognition. To me, these two sides of a coin, deal with concepts about thinking, thinking about thinking, and research into how we think about thinking. This is important, for in a global society, with thousands of years of literature and historical and religious texts, as well as 7 billion people on earth, there is plenty of room for misunderstandings amongst many. It is often, questions as to the meanings of things written long ago, that lead to debates over ideologies that have echoed through millennia. Instead of trying to say that the sentence refers to pot as in an illegal substance only, and that's the only way to correctly interpret it, one must be keenly and constantly aware, that there are alternative views whose rational reasoning may prove as equal to those whom say it must be my way of interpreting things. To me, psychology, really can help in these forms of debates, for it can shed light on the motivations each person brings to the table when told, reading, or viewing something. Some have gone so far, as to suggest, that in education, there really is no such thing as "absolute truth" in things related to language, ideas, concepts, and so on, other than the mere empirical symbols themselves, that each human mind may not get the exact same 100.000000000000000000% intent of what one says…. This makes the jobs of politicians, easy and difficult at the same time. If one takes a clear cut stand on a given issue, then the number of possible interpretations would be small in number, but if one offers an obfuscated viewpoint, one that is muddy, not clear as to the intent of an answer, then such a nebulous answer can be interpreted literally in many many ways. This can be either good or bad, good in that those whom may not actually agree with the hidden implied answer, though might not see the implicitness, and therefore conclude, erroneously, that you agree with their own views, which might pick a vote up you otherwise would not have gotten. However, the inverse may also be true too, in that a diffuse answer may not provide explicitly enough of a confirmation of evidence you support the view someone else wants you to, and you end up losing a vote. This is the amazing nature of a language that is inexact, the psychology of implicitness or explicitness, and the different perspectives we view all things from. This is just the kind of quandary that comedians understand on a deep level in coming up with their source material, resulting in humorous, though dichotomic conditions between the expected and the absurd. I believe George Carlin and Gallagher were comedic geniuses with respect to the English language and the difficulties inherent in a language that has way too many problems with implicitness or explicitness necessities. While the confusion over meanings of words, can lead to humor, laughter, and good times, the opposite, sad, and horrific can occur too, over exactly the same kinds of issues over interpretation. You see a sign, attached to a water pump, with a hose at the end of the pump. Thinking the sign says the water is fine and free, you go ahead and fill up the 5-gallon water jug with the water, and commence to drink it over the next week, and even share it with your fellow geology students on the field trip we all were taking. It's not until you get to the emergency room at the hospital, before you realize, the words in the sign, in plain English, words though never seen, and therefore had no idea what they meant, were actually telling you that the "non potable water" sign means - not fit for human consumption - don't drink this stuff! The resulting digestive issues and diarrhea I had as a result, were due to 2 issues - one, the sign makers assumed I knew what the words "non potable" either explicitly meant, or, knew enough to understand implicitly what they meant. So, whom is to blame? If it me for being not educated enough to know what non-potable water means? And if the failure is my education, whom further is to blame - me, as a student, my parents, my teachers, the curriculum, the standards? Or, is it those whom created the sign and thought of the words to use in their failure to see that not everyone even knows what those words mean? Is that a failure of their lens to be sufficiently broad enough to see beyond their own experiences and lexicography, to think outside their box of life experiences and step into the world and mind of someone whom does not share the knowledge of the words used they do? Or, is the whole concept of "blame" itself an issue that should not even be thought of. Before you answer that question, let me offer a few other variables to consider. If one considers someone to be at fault, then there usually then is pressure from someone, to prevent such an event from occurring again, or, to adapt and modify the conditions that exist so that others faced with the same thirst as I, do not make the mistake I made. In other words, there could be a call for increased attention to spelling, or to more rounded environmental curricula, or more global issues taught, or, maybe survival skills. See, just in trying to rectify an imagined problem, that of why did I fail to deduce correctly the "true" meaning of the sign, could we be over reacting, or stepping on toes of others, and lead to unintended consequences? Perhaps, instead of placing blame on others, I should simply take ownership of the problem, learn from it, and pass on my understandings to others, so they too do not make the mistaken belief I had in the purity and essence of the water (hmm Dr. Strangelove line). Perhaps, it would be easier to change the sign, to change the message from "non potable water", to "don't drink this water." To me, the phrase I suggest in replacement, is quite clear as to the direction not to drink it, though it clearly says nothing about why not to drink it. What if, as a result of my ignorance, someone, or even me, got so sick from the water, that I died, or someone else drinking the water did? What then? Human nature, often is afflicted with the concept of revenge, of getting back, or hurting others or making them pay. You know, the classic eye for an eye stuff, or incarceration - i.e. crime and punishment, or suing, or stoning, or other forms of even more violent reaction. Psychologists have proven that when they observe brain wave patterns in volunteers observing (not even actively engaged in - simply being passive observers) acts of vengeance and punishment, that areas within the human mind light up that are closely aligned with chemical receptors associated with the same forms of stimulus such as copulatory acts and natural highs. In others words, some humans seem hard wired, to get off so to speak, on getting back at other, or, at the very least, to derive pleasure from it. This though, is one thing the human species must abandon, if we are to survive. For if humans feel good about deliberately doing bad to others, for the bad they did to them, or someone they like, love, or are allied with, then all we will have is constant battle, constant getting back, in a never ending cycle of violence. Only f humans can move beyond the concept of getting back altogether, will we ever survive. Gandhi once said… "an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." I, for one, love this quote. To me, he has evolved spiritually and philosophically beyond basic human programming to a more enlightened, state of thought, with respect to interpersonal and global geopolitical relationships. How many wars has humanity fought throughout modern times, that began, with retaliation for something some other kingdom, state/nation, empire, invader, did first? That psychological desire to retaliate, permeated the US decisions to invade Afghanistan following 9/11 and to go all the way to Japan following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. This psychological trait, is the basis for having nuclear weapons, as anyone whom attacks a nuclear armed nation, risks instant, and complete, elimination from the planet, unless they too have a complimentary capability. And it's this understanding, that drives fear into the hearts of all nuclear armed nations, for each one of them truly knows, if war ever came to them, the desire would be there, to go nuclear. And once that 1st cloud rises over any target, the human reaction to retaliate in kind, will over rule any higher cognitive thought processes that would say - stop, enough… no more…. One bomb becomes two, becomes three, becomes four, and before the eye even blinks, there is no one left in either state/nation whom have any eyes left, or a body either for that matter, as whatever was matter is converted to energy in a flash. Given the huge challenges in understanding a simple one sentence, by people whom speak the same language, live in the same state/nation, may be the same age, same demographics, and so on, one wonders then, how anything can ever truly be agreed to on a global geopolitical stage, with absolute certainty. One lesson I learned long ago, was from a friend, as we played a board game - Risk. Everyone knows the idea is to be the sole player left in control of the entire map at the end game. Players can make treaties all they want, break them too, but it's all mostly about armies that fight and die in your or my cause. One time, I was offered a treaty - which reads roughly as follows: "The hereby undersigned parties agree, to refrain from any current or future combat across all current borders." The astute politician and English maven can easily pick up the explicit flaw in the above treaty as written and agreed to by both parties. But while its explicit no future combat (i.e. read peace forever) across current national borders, the implicitness is, that does not hold true for future borders. You can guess how shocked this not yet even a teenager was, when the other party to the treaty, took a 3rd players territory next to mine, and then immediately afterwards, attacked into my territory adjacent to it, across a "new" and "non current" border. He held true to the letter of the treaty, yet was able to "cheat." Nations and states on the real world geopolitical stage do this too. Think back to world war 1, and the post years. Germany was required to dismantle their air force, and never build combat planes again. A loophole was exploited that allowed for mail transport planes, and there began the birth of a new Luftwaffe, stronger than anyone ever thought was permissible. Following the Iraq war in 1991, Saddem Hussein was prohibited from flying military aircraft in combat roles, and fighters and jets were grounded. Yet, a loophole allowed military transport via helicopters to take place, and Saddem Hussein used these helicopters to put down a revolt against his regime in the north and the south. The issues of differences in opinion on the letter of the law, as to treaties, or other codecs of law, takes place all the time. In fact, this is recognized that by design, there would be issues needing further clarification, when we created a supreme court, to apply interpretation on the constitutionality of law, as applied over time. Were laws specific, exact, unchanging in their meaning and interpretation, than there would be no need for a supreme court, the law itself would be enough. Time too changes things. More than 4 decades ago, it was all about "mankind's quest" to come in peace. Today, it would be "humanity's quest," a more gender neutral and PC way of including the entire world. Of course, one would only use the word "humanity" if one actually consciously thought of the differences between "manned" spaceflight versus human spaceflight. If one is not hip to the fact that women now are astronauts and cosmonauts, and have the same dreams to explore that we all do, one might not make the change from man to human. This switch in thought processes, takes place, either on a national level - think it was not until the 70s, that the ERA and NOW came about and pushed for equal rights here in the US. Women in the US only had the official US wide right to even vote less than 100 years ago. Had the Soviets been to the moon, they might have used the word "comrades", a sort of gender neutral word, or perhaps humankind, given they had put the 1st female in space in 1963 I believe, almost 2 whole decades before America's 1st female astronaut Sally Ride went into space. When humanity does return to the moon and moves beyond, the phrase may very well be replaced by the non species centric view of "earthlings" as we may go to explore, with not just humans, but with plants, and other biological necessities of long term survival, and of course, with robots like Robonaut and Dextre, and maybe someday like Hal 9000 and Watson…. Someday, all species on earth may have the greater collective sense of oneness that Gaia gave to each offspring she birthed, either directly, or from our labs. When humans start to not only recognize the equality of each one of us on earth, that will be a lot farther from where we are today, than the days before we had written language, for the intellectual, societal, and cultural leap therein achieved will be far more expansive to the human condition than the advent of writing was…. If we can all just learn to live in peace, equality, and tolerance.


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