VOCAB: Philosophical / Abstract

Here are some really interesting words to describe abstract, hard-to-define concepts.  Several of them are very introspective, and I like them all because I’d experienced them but not known how to describe the emotion.  Yay for precision terminology!!! 😀

  • Metanoia
    • The journey of changing one’s mind, heart, or self
  • Videnda
    • Things that should be seen or visited
    • lit. “what is to be observed”
    • For example, everyone should at some point be out in the middle of the ocean with no land visible on any horizon, or seing the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids of Giza, or the Aurora
    • If you spend all your time inside, you’ll never experience the videnda that makes one realize how incredible life really is. 
  • Yūgen  (Japanese; not an English term… yet.  We are a language known for stealing words 🙂 )
    • An awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and mysterious for words.
    • A profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe and the sad beauty of human suffering.
    • Yūgen suggests things beyond what can be said, but it is not an allusion to another world – it is about this world, this experience.  All these are portals to yūgen: “To watch the sun sink behind a flower-clad hill.  To wander on in a huge forest without thought of return.  To stand upon the shore and gaze after a boat that disappears behind distant islands.  To contemplate the flight of wild geese seen and lost among the clouds, and the subtle shadows of bamboo on bamboo.”
  • Gnossienne   (taken directly from the French; naw-see-enn)
    • A moment of awareness, signified by the acknowledgement that no matter how close you feel you are to another person, they will always have their own separate, private life of which you will never be entirely privy.
    • The knowledge/realization that you will never truly know another person, ultimately because you are not them.
    • Phillip was struck by the heavy weight of gnossienne from an early age, and never truly trusted other people.
  • Sonder
    • The profound, individual realization that each person you meet is living their own life, that each person has their own world filled with personal worries, plans, pains, pleasures, ambitions, routines, etc. – the same as yourself, in a sense, but also as intricate and different as could be imagined.
    • The idea that there are millions of stories happening all at once, all around each other, oblivious and contained from one another.
    • The idea that YOU, with all of your importance of being the star in your own personal play, aren’t really that important at all, in the grand scheme of things, and more often than not you appear as nothing more than an overlooked extra sipping coffee or walking across the road in the background of all the separate, equally precious inner productions of strangers.
    • If you want to get through life without bruising, here’s what you need to do – Don’t read books; you might learn and understand new things.  Don’t listen to music; you might become aware of sonder and seek connections with other people.  Don’t speak to anyone, ever.  Don’t leave your house; don’t leave your bed.  Don’t live. 
  • Qualia
    • This term is used to represent the subjective quality of the individual conscious experience.
    • lit. “what sort” or “what kind”
    • “a term used to describe the things that could not be more familiar to each of us”
    • Qualia is the perception of our world – what pain feels like, what color looks like, how things smell.  More specifically, qualia is the very nature of how experience the world might not, due to the limits of language and brain chemistry, ever truly be explained or understood by people third party to what is happening in our own intimate minds.  How you see the color red might not be how I see the color red.  We’ll never know.  We could both agree on a word for what is known to be “red,” understand each other’s language, and go about our days in mutual logical understanding – but the fact that there is no possible way for us to determine just exactly how a red apple is perceived in my head means that you will never know if the color that you think is “red” is what my brain thinks is “red.”
    • The things that seem so mindlessly basic to us as human beings – emotion, pain, pleasure, sight, smell, though – are actually individual interpretations of how we interact with our world.  Language makes us feel close and provides a sense of community as a result of understanding one another, but even for all our words and ways of phrasing an idea, we cannot make a blind person understand the color “red.”
    • Even worse, just because you are sure you “love” someone who mutually cares for you doesn’t mean they “love” you back – or even that what you recognize and perceive as “love” is the same sensation and emotion that the other person recognizes to be “love.”
    • It’s so important for human beings to feel united in togetherness, similarity.  It’s so subconsciously agreed upon in importance that there are many who cannot and will not believe how they individually experience the qualia of their world is not the very same experience happening in another person.  This is what causes the ‘disbelief’ of natural disorders like autism.  Not to say that autistics are ‘wrong’ or even truly ‘disordered’ – they are merely built differently, and their reception of qualia in their worlds is different.  But the general unease of the layman to allow himself to be taught the truth that not all human beings’ brains react to their environment in the same way as his is what bolsters the conclusion that anything not matching up with the accepted ‘norm’ of how to react is ‘wrong’ or just cannot exist. 

And last but not least, the weirdest/funniest one…

  • Resistentialism
    • The theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behavior toward us; “seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects”
    • Ex. If you ever get the feeling that the copier can sense when you’re tense, short of time, or need a document copied before an important meeting, and right then it decides to ‘take a break’… or searching for keys when you’re late for work, or a ball that stays in the yard right up until there’s a car coming down the road…
    • “Resistentialism has long been used in our family to explain the inexplicable:  why light switches, fixed in place in daylight hours, elude groping hands in the darkness.  Why shoestrings break when we’re in a hurry.  … The explanation for these and many more daily occurrences is that there is no such thing as an inanimate object.  Seemingly inanimate objects actually resist those they are intended to serve. “
    • Sidenote: the term was coined by a humorist, Paul Jennings, as a spoof of existentialism in general, but it’s still a useful word when those ‘coincidences’ occur in everyday life. 
    • “A convenient point of departure is provided by the famous Clark-Trimble experiments of 1935. Clark-Trimble was not primarily a physicist, and his great discovery of the Graduated Hostility of Things was made almost accidentally. During some research into the relation between periods of the day and human bad temper, Clark-Trimble, a leading Cambridge psychologist, came to the conclusion that low human dynamics in the early morning could not sufficiently explain the apparent hostility of Things at the breakfast table – the way honey gets between the fingers, the unfoldability of news-papers, etc.

      In the experiments which finally confirmed him in this view, and which he demonstrated before the Royal Society in London, Clark-Trimble arranged four hundred pieces of carpet in ascending degrees of quality, from coarse matting to priceless Chinese silk. Pieces of toast and marmalade, graded, weighed, and measured, were then dropped on each piece of carpet, and the marmalade-downwards incidence was statistically analyzed. The toast fell right-side-up every time on the cheap carpet, except when the cheap carpet was screened from the rest (in which case the toast didn’t know that Clark-Trimble had other and better carpets), and it fell marmalade-downwards every time on the Chinese silk. Most remarkable of all, the marmalade-downwards incidence for the intermediate grades was found to vary exactly with the quality of carpet.The success of these experiments naturally switched Clark-Trimble’s attention to further research on resistentia, a fact which was directly responsible for the tragic and sudden end to his career when he trod on a garden rake at the Cambridge School of Agronomy. In the meantime, Noys and Crangenbacker had been doing some notable work in America. Noys carried out literally thousands of experiments, in which subjects of all ages and sexes, sitting in chairs of every conceivable kind, dropped various kinds of pencils. In only three cases did the pencil come to rest within easy reach. Crangenbacker’s work in the social-industrial field, on the relation of human willpower to specific problems such as whether a train or subway will stop with the door opposite you on a crowded platform, or whether there will be a mail box anywhere on your side of the street, was attracting much attention.”


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