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TorgoX (1933)

TorgoX
  sburkeNO@SPAMcpan.org
http://search.cpan.org/~sburke/

"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Thursday October 31, 2002
04:40 PM

Tempest

[ #8708 ]
Dear Log,

I've spent the past few days (or is it weeks?) doing markup-language stuff (toward a new version of HTML-Format in CPAN; and various Pod thingies) and some SQL stuff (which may show up somewhere a few weeks/months down the road, as an application for managing lexicon databases).

For fun, I've been trying to read Nagarjuna. I'm told that in the original Sanskrit, Nagarjuna's style was quite nice. However, it makes for almost unavoidably hideous translations into English. Example: "Consequently, the effect (i.e., arisen entity) is neither with relational nor without non-relational condition. Since the effect has no existing status, wherein are the relational and non-relational conditions?" I sort of stare at that. Then I stare at the Sanskrit, which is peppered with words like "phalabhavatpratyayapratyayah", and I puzzle out how it's plausable to translate "phalabhavatpratyayapratyayah" as "relational and non-relational conditions" (as this particular translator did). But that still doesn't get me very close to making any real sense out of the full assertion, much less the rhetorical question. When I get a hint of the sense, I figure "Sure, it could actually mean that -- or it could mean the exact opposite, or six other things besides".

Alfred North Whitehead once said something about how language simply is not very good at clear expression of abstract concepts -- and that it's so bad, in fact, that it's amazing that we ever have any success at all in conveying abstract concepts. I quite agree with him.

Nagarjuna's stuff all seems formally quite like the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus -- that is, a massive reductio ad absurdum. The problem with such arguments is that they're just no fun to really work thru. One is quite tempted to say, "mmm, relational AND non-relational conditions, yes, quite, I'll take your word for it. I'll be over here playing Tempest."

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  • "Consequently, the effect (i.e., arisen entity) is neither with relational nor without non-relational condition. Since the effect has no existing status, wherein are the relational and non-relational conditions?"

    Uh, is he talking about SQL? ;-)

    --David

  • The main problem -- besides the difficulty to translate properly any post-vedic speculative text written in sanskrit -- is that we now live in a post-Gödel (or post-Wittgenstein [kfs.org] world). All mathematical proofs of the existence of God or of the soul have failed, and can't convince anybody anymore. We now know that the language can't prove anything except about itself. Nagarjuna's demonstrations are, at best, entertaining, like Plato's Parmenides or Borges [themodernword.com]'s short stories.
    • We now know that the language can't prove anything except about itself.

      Yes, that's Nagarjuna's point, sort of. More like: ideas disprove themselves.