The Chinese Challenge :: 中国挑战

"The Chinese Challenge"-Teamblog is opening up a discussion about a possible new rationality hidden in the Chinese writing. The main question is: What can we learn from China that China is not teaching us? It is proposed that a study of polycontextural logic and morphogrammatics could be helpful to discover this new kind of rationality. Those topics of polycontexturality are presented at my website and at the complementary Blog Rudy's Diamond Strategies. Start with the "Pamphlet".

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Alphabetism

Alphabetic script is in itself the most intelligent. Hegel, Enzyklopädie

The term alphabetism as used in the Pamphlet is mainly in the sense of deconstructivism and grammatology (Derrida). Obviously, this use is not the only use of the term alphabetism, more common meanings of alphabetism are acronym, initialism and alphabetic discrimination.

Alphabetism as Acronym and Initialism

Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations, such as NATO, laser, and ABC, written as the initial letter or letters of words, and pronounced on the basis of this abbreviated written form. [...] The word alphabetism is sometimes used to describe these "letter name" abbreviations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acronym

Alphabetism as Discrimination

Over the past century, all kinds of unfairness and discrimination have been condemned or made illegal. But one insidious form continues to thrive: alphabetism. This, for those as yet unaware of such a disadvantage, refers to discrimination against those whose surnames begin with a letter in the lower half of the alphabet.
It has long been known that a taxi firm called AAAA cars has a big advantage over Zodiac cars when customers thumb through their phone directories. Less well known is the advantage that Adam Abbott has in life over Zo&Zysman. English names are fairly evenly spread between the halves of the alphabet. Yet a suspiciously large number of top people have surnames beginning with letters between A and K. (Text 2)
http://bbs.eol.cn/archive/index.php/t-143856.html

Another alphabet related discrimination mentioned by Matthew Yglesias:
[...] after the featured speakers said what they had to say, did a question and answer session for reporters with questions asked in alphabetical order! Alphabetism is, truly, the last socially acceptable form of discrimination in America. Liberals, really, need to do a better job of reaching out to the alphabetically challenged.
http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2005/03/index.html

Analphabetism is then an opposite to alphabetism.
Analphabetism as a discrimination of non-alphabetic cultures.

Alphabetism as Western Ideology

Hegel writes in his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences
Part III: The Philosophy of Spirit (1830)

Alphabetic writing is on all accounts the more intelligent: in it the word – the mode, peculiar to the intellect, of uttering its ideas most worthily – is brought to consciousness and made an object of reflection. Engaging the attention of intelligence, as it does, it is analysed; the work of sign-making is reduced to its few simple elements (the primary postures of articulation) in which the sense-factor in speech is brought to the form of universality, at the same time that in this elementary phase it acquires complete precision and purity. Thus alphabetic writing retains at the same time the advantage of vocal language, that the ideas have names strictly so called: the name is the simple sign for the exact idea, i.e. the simple plain idea, not decomposed into its features and compounded out of them.

Hieroglyphics, instead of springing from the direct analysis of sensible signs, like alphabetic writing, arise from an antecedent analysis of ideas. Thus a theory readily arises that all ideas may be reduced to their elements, or simple logical terms, so that from the elementary signs chosen to express these (as, in the case of the Chinese Koua, the simple straight stroke, and the stroke broken into two parts) a hieroglyphic system would be generated by their composition.
[...]
A hieroglyphic written language would require a philosophy as stationary as is the civilisation of the Chinese.
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/suspirit.htm#SU459n3


Jacques Derrida, Speech and writing according to Hegel, 1971
2. The critique of every philosophical or scientific project of non-phonetic writing. The most eminent example is, of course, the Leibnizian project of universal characteristics. One of the essential arguments of the Hegelian critique is precisely that the word and the name would be dislocated, no longer constituting the irreducible and dialectical unity of language. Speaking of the hieroglyphic or Chinese writing, Hegel notes (as he does in other texts, notably in the Logic): 'this feature of hieroglyphic - the analytic designation of representations - which misled Leibniz to regard it as preferable to alphabetic writing is rather in antagonism with the fundamental desideratum of language - the name'.
http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/derrida1.htm

Grammatology and Alphabetism

Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, 1967
What can a science of writing begin to signify, if it is granted:
1 that the very idea of science was born in a certain epoch of writing;
2 that it was thought and formulated, as task, idea, project, in a language implying a certain kind of structurally and axiologically determined relationship between speech and writing;
3 that, to that extent, it was first related to the concept and the adventure of phonetic writing, valorised as the telos of all writing, even though what was always the exemplary model of scientificity — mathematics — constantly moved away from that goal;
4 that the strictest notion of a general science of writing was born, for nonfortuitous reasons, during a certain period of the world's history (beginning around the eighteenth century) and within a certain determined s stem of relationships between “living” speech and inscription;
5 that writing is not only an auxiliary means in the service of science and possibly its object — but first, as Husserl in particular pointed out in The Origin of Geometry, the condition of the possibility of ideal objects and therefore of scientific objectivity. Before being its object, writing is the condition of the epistémè.
6 that historicity itself is tied to the possibility of writing; to the possibility of writing in general, beyond those particular forms of writing in the name of which we have long spoken of peoples without writing and without history. Before being the object of a history — of an historical science — writing opens the field of history — of historical becoming. And the former (Historie in German) presupposes the latter (Geschichte).

The science of writing should therefore look for its object at the roots of scientificity,. The history of writing should turn back toward the origin of historicity. , A science of the possibility of science? A science of science which would no longer have the form of logic but that of grammatics? A history of the possibility of history which would no longer be an archaeology, a philosophy of history or a history of philosophy?

[...]
With regard to this unity, writing would always be derivative, accidental, particular, exterior, doubling the signifier: phonetic. “Sign of a sign,” said Aristotle, Rousseau, and Hegel.
http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/derrida.htm

Kenogrammatics and Alphabetism

Gotthard Gunther in: The logical structure of evolution and emanation, 1967
The logic discussed in allprevious confrontations between Logic and Time was invariably the classictwo-valued logic; but it might be proper to raise the old issue again when a logician claims that our traditional theory of thinking is not the only one and that a trans-classic system of rationality might be able to tackle the problem of time if more powerful methods of investigation were available.
Since the classic theory of rationality is indissolubly linked with the concept of value, first of all one has to show that the whole "value issue" covers the body of logic like a thin coat of paint. Scrape the paint off and you will discover an unsuspected system of structural forms and relations suggesting methods of thinking which surpass immeasurably all classic theories.

Alphabetism and Technology

Today, it is convenient to think that a language is simply a tool for communication. Even if we understand that language is more than a communication instrument, but a medium, too, language is still considered as one and only one of many different other media and techniques of communication. With such an instrumentalistic view the importance of language and script as disclosing and enclosing a world-view for thinking and living is obscured and lost. It is a simple step then to believe that language and script are only a way coding and codification which is best realized by the binary code of digitalism. Linearity and digitalism as achievements of alphabetism are foreclosing future developments.

Interestingly, Leibniz’ misunderstanding of Chinese language, according to Hegel, and his project of a Lingua Universalis led ground for modern technology. Hegel’s approach had no technological influence at all. This doesn’t mean that his analysis was wrong. What he wanted with his dialectics, thought against any form of formalization, was much too speculative to be understood in a scientific way, and conceptually, it was also ahead of its time. At least, Karl Marx was close enough to Hegel to apply dialectics in a productive way in his analysis of capitalist economy.

Computation matured to a degree that Hegel’s dialectical themes of reflectionality are becoming central for Artificial Intelligence and robotics. Now, computer scientists are studying Husserl, Heidegger and Merlau-Ponty, 20th century European philosophers which are more accessible than Hegel, to tackle highly philosophical problems of cognitive, volitive and even conscious computing systems.

Hegel’s deep insight into alphabetism led him to become its strongest defender. Ironically, this was possible only by surpassing the limits of reasonable or common sense use of alphabetic language and script. His use of German language is of such a high speculative complexity that it is simply not translatable into other languages. Existing translations are more or less remaind as highly misleading jokes.

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