The Beginning of the Beginning -Part 3



§3. The Complex of Consciousness-Reality-Language


There is indeed no beginning to be found in this or that part of the complex; the beginning will reveal itself only if the paradox is taken seriously as the something that constitutes the complex as a whole. This complex, however, as the expansion of equivocations shows, includes language and truth, together with consciousness and reality. There is no autonomous, nonparadoxic language, ready to be used by man as a system of signs when he wants to refer to the paradoxic structures of reality and consciousness. Words and their meanings are just as much a part of the reality to which they refer as the being things are partners in the comprehending reality; language participates in the paradox of a quest that lets reality become luminous for its truth by pursuing truth as a thing tended. This paradoxic structure of language has caused certain questions, controversies, and terminological difficulties to become constants in the philosophers' discourse since antiquity without approaching satisfactory conclusions.

One such constant is the great question whether language is "conventional" or "natural." The conventionalist opinion, today the more fashionable one, is moved by the intentionality of consciousness and the corresponding thing-reality to regard words as phonic signs, more or less arbitrarily chosen to refer to things. The naturalists are moved by a sense that signs must have some sort of reality in common with the things to which they refer, or they would not be intelligible as signs with certain meanings. Both of the opinions are precariously founded because their adherents were not present when language originated, while the men who were present left no record of the event but language itself.

As I understand the issue, both groups are right in their motivations, as well as in their attempts to explore the conditions incidental to the origin of language and its meaning; and yet both are wrong inasmuch as they disregard the fact that the epiphany of structures in reality—be they atoms, molecules, genes, biological species, races, human consciousness, or language—is a mystery inaccessible to explanation.

Another such constant is the distinction between "concept" and "symbol," with the difficulty of assigning precise meanings to the terms. This problem has plagued the philosophers' discourse ever since Plato recognized it and, in the practice of his own philosophizing, coped with it by using both conceptual analysis and mythic symbolization as complementary modes of thought in the quest for truth. In the so-called modern centuries, since the Renaissance, these difficulties have become further aggravated by the parallel growth of the natural and the historical sciences.

On the one hand, the advance of the natural sciences concentrated attention intensely on the particular problems of conceptualization they posed, so intensely indeed that the concentration has become the motivating force of a socially still-expanding movement of sectarians who want to monopolize the meaning of the terms "truth" and "science" for the results and methods of the mathematizing sciences.

On the other hand, the equally astounding advance of the historical sciences has concentrated attention on the problems of symbolization posed by the discoveries in the ancient civilizations and their mythologies, as well as by the exploration of the modes of thought to be found in contemporary tribal societies. Again the two concentrations are transparent for the experiences of intentionality and luminosity, of thing-reality and It-reality, behind them; again the representatives of both concentrations are right in their pursuit of truth as long as they confine themselves to areas of reality in which the structures of their preference predominate; and again both are wrong when they engage in magic dreams of a truth that can be reached by concentrating exclusively on either the intentionality of conceptualizing science or the luminosity of mythic and revelatory symbols.

From the analysis there emerges the complex of consciousness-reality-language as a something that receives its character as a unit through the pervasive presence of another something, called the paradox of intentionality and luminosity, of thing-ness and It-ness. In what sense, however, is this complex the beginning we, the reader and I, are pursuing without having found it yet? And what are such terms and phrases as "complex," "paradox," and "pervasive presence"? Are they concepts intending a thing-reality or are they symbols expressing the It-reality? or are they both? or are they perhaps no more than pieces of empty talk? Do all these things really exist anywhere as a meaningful complex except in the phantasy of the present analysis?

What is needed to calm down this class of questions is a literary document, a concrete case, which intelligibly demonstrates the co-existence of the structures in the unit of the complex, as well as the meaning of this complex as a "beginning." For this purpose I shall present one of the classic cases where the Beginning makes its beginning with precisely the complex of structures under analysis, the case of Genesis 1.

In Search of Order , CW Vol 18
Ch 1, The Beginning of the Beginning,
§3. The Complex of Consciousness-Reality-Language,
pp 31-33.

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