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Old 08-18-2015, 01:38 PM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Semantics

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
If we can't all agree on names how can we talk about anything?
This has been a reoccuring theme for me in other topics so I felt compelled to start a thread to discuss it a little, and iron out some of my own thinking on it. I'd really appreciate any examples folks have which relate, or whatever other insights folks may have.
I think a lot of us tend to get so caught up in labels, and the presumption of understanding which often goes with them, that we miss the actual thing itself. This relates to an idea that knowledge easily obfuscates learning. One of the things I took away from my TESL courses was how language acquisition is very functional in orientation, but more importantly, is an ongoing process of development.
The terms serve to mark ideas based on functional needs; in Aikido practice, this means that all that matters, ultimately, is how the terms help us learn, but a problem arises when two different sets of terms/semantics get introduced to the situation (and we cannot always readily perceive the semantic differences). Translation becomes necessary to share the ideas and in an organic situation like a casual conversation over the internet, this demands a lot of trying to read between the lines to avoid getting caught up on the superficial terms, and arrive at an understanding of the actual semantics involved...reaching past the superficial bits to arrive at meaningful dialogue...verbal Aikido, as it were.
Anyhow, my dose of too much thinking for the day, shared with you all.
Take care!

P.S. Some fun (for some of us ) reading: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/meaning/#TwoKinTheMea

Last edited by mathewjgano : 08-18-2015 at 01:42 PM.

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Old 08-18-2015, 06:59 PM   #2
rugwithlegs
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Re: Semantics

Each label is actually a product of a lineage possibly extending generations and decades and thousands of miles. That label can sometimes be traced back through time and to a specific person and their personality and experiences. In discussing labels, I know people who would say we are missing "the thing itself." I think there is value in the insights and history of others.

Language is the tool we use to communicate our history (shared and personal), our innovations, our discoveries, and our practices. This is how we understand our past and present, and how we convey our understandings to our future - our students. When we don't share language, someone has not just different language but a different perspective.

As we discuss the language and come to understand each other, we come to maybe understand a bit more about each other's Aikido. Most Aikido groups get to a point that people are doing things that names don't clearly exist for in free techniques, so I think the language was set up for beginners to learn from, not so much for seniors.
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Old 08-21-2015, 02:57 PM   #3
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Re: Semantics

A rose by any other name...

I don't think it's possible to convey the fragrance of a rose in words.

Which is probably why I find many threads pointless: if the people involved got on the mat, they would be able to tell within a matter of minutes whether their differences truly did involve "the thing itself" or just semantics.

Katherine
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Old 08-21-2015, 03:48 PM   #4
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Semantics

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
A rose by any other name...

I don't think it's possible to convey the fragrance of a rose in words.

Which is probably why I find many threads pointless: if the people involved got on the mat, they would be able to tell within a matter of minutes whether their differences truly did involve "the thing itself" or just semantics.

Katherine
I agree; words will always fall short of the thing itself. As Feynman once said, knowledge isn't found in the names of things (anything for an excuse to post something from him ).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFIYKmos3-s
Talk is cheap for more than one reason, but words can still convey something useful sometimes; through the process of description we can narrow some things down...and in a forum of words, that's all we have to work with, so we're stuck with doing what we can to make sense of what we're presented with. I'm not interested in capturing the thing itself so much as figuring out how to parse through the similarities and differences to arrive at some kind of meaningful understanding.
I agree that a direct exposure is the quickest way to understanding, though there's still a process of developing understanding present in that setting as well. It's not always a matter of minutes after first touch that some kind of meaningful recognition occurs.
In a nutshell, it requires being accepting (to some degree) of differences in a shared process.

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Old 08-21-2015, 03:51 PM   #5
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Semantics

Quote:
John Hillson wrote: View Post
Each label is actually a product of a lineage possibly extending generations and decades and thousands of miles. That label can sometimes be traced back through time and to a specific person and their personality and experiences. In discussing labels, I know people who would say we are missing "the thing itself." I think there is value in the insights and history of others.

Language is the tool we use to communicate our history (shared and personal), our innovations, our discoveries, and our practices. This is how we understand our past and present, and how we convey our understandings to our future - our students. When we don't share language, someone has not just different language but a different perspective.

As we discuss the language and come to understand each other, we come to maybe understand a bit more about each other's Aikido. Most Aikido groups get to a point that people are doing things that names don't clearly exist for in free techniques, so I think the language was set up for beginners to learn from, not so much for seniors.
That seems to make a lot of sense to me. Words become increasingly useless as we go deeper into the thing the concept approximates.
...Except perhaps in the basic descriptions like, "less tension here," etc.

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Old 08-21-2015, 05:49 PM   #6
rugwithlegs
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Re: Semantics

Good comments, and I do agree that direct exposure communicates volumes - it is very easy to feel why people struggled for words for some of the things I have felt!

But, you'll never directly feel my teacher - he is dead now. I will never feel O Sensei, he died before I was born.

In the absence of a Shodokan black belt student laying around, I only have written materials or online conversations available if, say, I have an abnormally tall person who joins my dojo and is interested in what a taller person's Aikido might look like (knowing that Tomiki was around six feet and much taller than O Sensei, and taller than Kisshomaru Doshu who codified much of Aikikai).

This does not replace experience, this is just supplemental stuff.
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Old 08-23-2015, 08:10 AM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Semantics

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
I agree; words will always fall short of the thing itself. As Feynman once said, knowledge isn't found in the names of things (anything for an excuse to post something from him ).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFIYKmos3-s
Talk is cheap for more than one reason, but words can still convey something useful sometimes; through the process of description we can narrow some things down...and in a forum of words, that's all we have to work with, so we're stuck with doing what we can to make sense of what we're presented with. I'm not interested in capturing the thing itself so much as figuring out how to parse through the similarities and differences to arrive at some kind of meaningful understanding.
I agree that a direct exposure is the quickest way to understanding, though there's still a process of developing understanding present in that setting as well. It's not always a matter of minutes after first touch that some kind of meaningful recognition occurs.
In a nutshell, it requires being accepting (to some degree) of differences in a shared process.
Hello Matthew,

Feynman might well have been good at physics, but the extract you included suggests to me that his grasp of language issues is, well, limited. To see what I mean, try George Steiner's After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, 3rd Edition, 1998. It is all about translation -- and not just from one language to another.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:47 AM   #8
jonreading
 
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Re: Semantics

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
This has been a reoccuring theme for me in other topics so I felt compelled to start a thread to discuss it a little, and iron out some of my own thinking on it. I'd really appreciate any examples folks have which relate, or whatever other insights folks may have.
I think a lot of us tend to get so caught up in labels, and the presumption of understanding which often goes with them, that we miss the actual thing itself. This relates to an idea that knowledge easily obfuscates learning. One of the things I took away from my TESL courses was how language acquisition is very functional in orientation, but more importantly, is an ongoing process of development.
The terms serve to mark ideas based on functional needs; in Aikido practice, this means that all that matters, ultimately, is how the terms help us learn, but a problem arises when two different sets of terms/semantics get introduced to the situation (and we cannot always readily perceive the semantic differences). Translation becomes necessary to share the ideas and in an organic situation like a casual conversation over the internet, this demands a lot of trying to read between the lines to avoid getting caught up on the superficial terms, and arrive at an understanding of the actual semantics involved...reaching past the superficial bits to arrive at meaningful dialogue...verbal Aikido, as it were.
Anyhow, my dose of too much thinking for the day, shared with you all.
Take care!

P.S. Some fun (for some of us ) reading: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/meaning/#TwoKinTheMea
Remember, much of what we know about aikido was deciphered by students of O Sensei. Many of those students have admitted that often they did not know about what O Sensei was talking or demonstrating. So we are trying to solidify terms used by different groups but with subtle differences in what those terms represent. We're playing the telephone game where the first listeners have admitted they did not hear the entire message.

I don't think it was a mistake when you look at some of the old references to aiki training and the author says something like, "learn aiki from someone who has aiki," or, "first you must have aiki, this is not taught verbally." Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes we can't do this and we have to settle for "best guesses."

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