My latest MercatorNet piece looks at the supposedly lost meaning of the word “natural”:
We are so deeply in agreement on the actual quantities of numbers that there is no room for controversy in basic mathematics, only for error and correction. Yet when it comes to language our capacity to bend and distort the meaning of words undermines even the efforts of a wise man like Socrates to appeal to the reason of his interlocutors.
By analogy, it is as though most of us are not entirely sure how many is “two”. We know that two is usually less than five, but we’ve never taken the time to work it out precisely. In a society where two can be several different quantities, math cannot really take priority, and the insistence of a Socrates that two is always and everywhere 1+1 will be viewed as merely a firmly held belief, one opinion among many.
Replying to another of Matthew’s comments, I thought it worth making a new post to draw attention to a significant theme in Confucian thought.
If I may channel my inner Confucian: what bothers me about the phenomenon of Yoga drifting from its ancient roots is not a disdain for “cherry picking” nor a direct concern for the spiritual well-being of Western pseudo-yogis, but an appreciation for what Confucius called ‘the rectification of names’.
A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.
When someone says “Yoga”, but what they refer to is not actually Yoga, then we have the beginnings of ignorance and confusion. Defining our terms is vital from a philosophical perspective, and relying on incorrect terms or misappropriated terms is simply wrong; why do it if you don’t have to?
But the truth is that I enjoy looking at the meanings, natures, and definitions of things, as well as the origins and use of words. I don’t really care if no one else thinks it important or relevant or worth the time and effort.