Three distinct agencies of words

In the previous post, I argue that time is created as we use words. We perceive a sense of temporality without a watch or a clock. Then, we do not have to have a watch or a clock to account for time. So understanding is important because clock time appears to constrain in significant ways how we act or think. If we obtain alternative ways of conceptualizing time, it is possible to act and think in different, hopefully positive, ways.

To account for time by words, it seems necessary to know better what words can do. Words denote reality. They also command others’ reading by presenting denoted reality. More important is, however, the fact that we see certain substantive qualities in words. Put differently, words can be seen as quasi-substances that are of particular forms/styles as well as meanings. Because of this substantiveness of words, we are allowed to have alternative spaces by imagination. We can think of what is not present in front of us, such as distant places and even people whom we have never seen in person.

In order to re-conceptualize time, the substantiveness of words that allows us to expand our reach to what is not present holds a critical stake. Put simply, words are belated images of human actors as well as tools with which to represent reality and communicate it to others. Each word does not actually have any definitive meaning. Meaning is always produced through interactions between two or more actors. Words, first and foremost, provide human actors with a kind of open space in which each of them is allowed to mediate substantive aspects of reality and varying contexts in which s/he is situated into particular meaningful wholes. In other words, since human ways of knowing is hypothetical and inferential, one naturally examines one’s encounters both in terms of permanent attributes and temporal and spatial contingencies. Words are developing in accordance with such practical necessity to manage ongoing present and indeterminate future with hypothetical inferences. The key in this examination of a variety of encounters is almost intuitively learned skills and knowledge with which to associate myriads of events and phenomena with one another in particular temporally irreversible sequential orders. Such skills and knowledge can be understood as imaginatively remembering one’s and/or others’ actions. They also can be understood to be learned by mimicking others’ actions. Because of these skills and knowledge, we are able to obtain a sense of temporality by tracing backward the irreversible sequential orders. Although the making of the irreversible sequential orders does not wait for words, we normally manage them in the form of words. As such, words allow us to see ourselves by reference to both permanent and transient aspects of reality.

With respect to the diversification of possible alternative plots, seeing words as our belated images is important because of the two irresistible constraints that we each voluntarily impose on us: the flow of time from the past to the future and the definitive ontological boundary between individual actors. As for the former, although it is assumed that there is no such thing as time, most of us do not ignore time’s passing from the past to the future. This is simply because we are capable of perceiving a variety of changes. Such nearly natural sense of temporality is convergent rather than divergent between different actors, thus, it is liable to be affected straightforwardly by particular power relations: The more powerful can take advantage of it to impose their narratives on the powerless simply because the powerless are unlikely to resist the thesis: ‘Time flows from the past to the future via the present’.

As for the definitive boundary between individual actors, it is almost impossible for them not to attribute actions, words, reasons and purposes to each individual actor. Holding oneself accountable for one’s actions and words is no less ethical. But, as will later be elaborated in subsequent posts, it is actually impossible to do so. Put simply, people inevitably intend to be morally good such that they impose the impossible prescriptions on themselves and others. Therefore, in order to diversify possible alternative plots, we should know that it is virtually unnecessary to worry about the seeming unruliness that many of us are naturally concerned about.

Because of these two almost irresistible constraints voluntarily imposed on each other, we should understand that possible alternative plots are never infinite even if they may appear unruly. Rather, as the first constraint of the nearly unanimous sense of temporality that flows from the past to the future indicates, alternative possible plots are unnecessarily constrained by the more powerful as we are observing discourses that emphasize the ever accelerating speed of time, and that obviously build upon the powerful’s preferences for efficiency in economic and financial terms.

With regard to ethics or norms that are supposed to maintain social orderliness, although each one attempts to be good rather than bad, and such should impose particular constraints on each other, some additional constraints are usually prescribed, such as particular ethical guidelines in the context of academic research or business organizations, i.e., corporate social responsibility (CSR). Obviously, such additional ethical standards are invented and authorized by the more powerful. And more critically, many of the powerless hardly ignore such additional prescription of standards simply because of their innate orientation towards moral appropriateness.

Simply, possible alternative plots are overly constrained. This is caused by our ability of imagination. Each of us naturally makes assumptions about others’ possible responses to her/his actions and words. Through the imaginative interactions with others, we cannot but get more and more faithful to the symmetrical reciprocal relationships which are supposed to be managed by our faculty of reasoning, or more specifically, rational scientific logic based on objective empirical facts. What is missing is the awareness that diegetic and alternate successions between reading and authoring. One may attempt to be morally good, and this is no less venerable. However, when it comes to the moment of acting and onward, reasons, intentions and goals are reconstructed by others with their imagination.

Words are, in other words, because of their certain substantiveness, regarded as instrument. Words, however, are actually not a mere tool but carrying more profound information. The sense of temporality that time flows from the past to the future is irresistibly convergent and ontologically independent individuals are struggling with indeterminate and uncertain ongoing present and future. We know that every life should end but there are virtually infinite possibilities towards the finitude. The next post will focus on the diegetic and alternate successions between reading/observing and authoring/acting in order to explicate the importance of developing our ability of reading from what we encounter in everyday life.


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