Let me start off by saying that Philosophy classes are really great. Mind-blowing, even. There are times when I become too confident in my knowledge of things, and my class had the wonderful effect of adding more to this pool of information.
In today’s class, my professor helped me understand and learn that there is still a lot that I have to learn about realities. I learned that asking questions actually exhibited one’s knowledge; by asking, the person inquiring acknowledges his ignorance on the subject of the question. When I studied the thought, I was tempted to think that it was common sense to see that aspect of the act of inquiry as something obvious, common sense, something that everyone knows. But this deceivingly simple thought struck me.
I have been writing for academic purposes and for leisure for a long time. One issue that frequently bothered me was that I could not write about certain events and emotions I have experienced without looking back and seeing that, at least for me, the act of writing has “reduced” or diminished the experience. As my knowledge and techniques improved, I kept trying, but at best I could only arrive at approximations and estimations of what I experienced.
Now let’s back to my Philosophy class.
In the same class, my professor told us how abstraction works in the context of conceptual analysis. Abstraction is the act of prescinding from other aspects of reality in order to focus on certain aspects, if not on one specific aspect. He demonstrated that through the example of counting; one prescinds from, say, the uniqueness of cars in order to be able to count them. One focuses on the quantity instead of other aspects in order to be able to count. Once this abstraction has been done, it can be used to gain insight into other aspects of reality.
However, he warned against the dangers of such abstractions; they reduce realities to certain aspects. Thus, the superabundance of reality is reduced. In order that this danger can be avoided, one needs to return to the reality so that the abstraction adds to a deeper understanding of reality, and not merely serve to superficially classify it.
I digress. Why don’t we return to the topic?
Tonight while idly tossing around ideas in my head, an insight suddenly presented itself.
Writing is an act of abstraction from reality.
In order to convey ideas to other people, we commonly use language to serve as an avenue of communication. We use words to tell time, arrange meetings, and to engage in discussion. We use words in order to make things happen and to help us interact with others.
However, words themselves are abstractions. The word “car” generally calls to mind a certain experience, a certain image, perhaps of a red car one has seen on the road. The word “car,” on the other hand, is not the reality itself. Words are used to stand for realities and experiences.
By so doing, one prescinds from reality to be able to represent it using letters and phonetics. Because one detaches from its superabundance, one’s reality in writing will always “miss” something. The richness of the reality cannot be captured easily, if at all. I can write using the entirety of my vocabulary how being ignored by a loved one feels like, but at best it would be a mere estimation. I can write about the ecstasy of passing a difficult exam with flying colors, but words could not arrive at the very heart of the emotion. I could write about love and loving, but to me it would be an insult to its nuances. This is, for me, why I hesitate to write about great experiences – I find it better to immerse myself in them, silent, merely feeling and listening.