Saturday, December 02, 2006

Communication of Reality

The communication of reality is divisible into two forms:

1) data

2) interpretations of the data.

Data by itself is not usually sufficient to persuade people.

For example, concerning the reality of the problem of Islam, many Jihad Watchers seem to think that it will suffice to merely communicate the data of Muslims expressing, plotting and perpetrating atrocities. I maintain, however, that by and large they are making an erroneous assumption: they don’t realize that, in addition to this ever-renewing stream of data, the Jihad Watchers also have developed an interpretation, or interpretive template, by which to process this data into certain conclusions. Because of our already possessed, or developed, interpretive template, the data does suffice, for us. But when we encounter other people out there who don’t share this template, we notice (with frustration and annoyance) that the data—even such an ever-growing mountain of data—does not often suffice to cause the recipient to conclude that, for example, Islam itself is the problem (and not just some extremist minority that has “hijacked” Islam).

Furthermore, the second form of communicated reality—interpretation—itself may be subdivided into categories or types, based upon (among other things) varying degrees of the mutually limiting vectors of flexibility and resiliency.

Flexibility is how open the interpretive template is to modification as new data comes in, while resiliency is the degree of coherent integrity it has, preserving it from being too fickle and flimsy. An interpretive template that has too much resiliency at the expense of flexibility veers toward becoming an ideology, or ‘philodoxy’, as Eric Voegelin put it—or, at the very least, of becoming a position held with irrational obstinancy, due usually to emotional factors that can often be merely the consequence of a personal peccadillo. On the other hand, an interpretive template with the reverse configuration—too much flexibility at the expense of resiliency—can become a useless exercise in relativism or indecision, or—even worse—can actually be a crypto-ideology disguised by an obfuscating sophistry (as with Foucault and Derrida, as well as with the “wondrous diversity” of Islam).

We employ the term template, then, to refer to the immediate interpretive framework that directly processes the incoming data. For various related categories—whether of subdivision or superdivision—other terms are used, many of which are well known, with perhaps conventional meanings that do not entirely jibe with ours; for example:

ideology—an interpretive template of untenable inflexibility

paradigm—a larger matrix into which a given template fits, and which informs many of that template’s meanings

mythology—an even larger matrix of meanings in which several co-existing paradigms compete and/or overlap.

We note that any particular ideology often functions as a paradigm, and sometimes even as a mythology. We also note that in any given moment, or era, of civilization, there tends to be a multiplicity of mythologies, even when there might be current a socipolitical culture of one dominant mythology. Because of this multiplicity of mythologies, we must posit a wider umbrella term:

cosmology—theoretically the ultimately largest matrix of meanings, although this is, with the pragmatic encounter of multiple ecumenes across the globe (particularly with the expansion of Western exploration beginning in the 15th century), as well as with the unfolding of a historical consciousness by which epochs and their supermemes differentiate, paradoxically refracted into multiple cosmologies.

The paradoxical multiplicity of cosmologies is the mysteriously transcendent context for the problem of the symbolism of Mankind.

Returning to the more delimited (albeit far more dangerous) problem of Islam and its pedagogical communication, we note in closing that these distinctions—particularly the elemental distinction of data and interpretation—must be taken into account, and the two ought not be confused, as they so often are. It’s a lot easier (and more comforting) to simply communicate data than it is to communicate interpretations—since the latter have to be presented along with persuasive argumentation that is more than the mere sum of the parts (the total contents of the available data).

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