Over on Dalrock, I’m getting some heat about my allegiance to what the brainiacs would call the S-Structure in literature. For example: Richard P writes:
Of all folks who populate this corner, Boxer has surprised me the most with immediately going to the Old English of the King James instead of the original words in the original languages in the original cultures.
Not to be outdone, Swanny River writes:
You brought out a side of Boxer I don’t remember seeing. You seem similar to Art Toad or Dasgamer and Boxer was defending one or both of their logical validity and sourcing, but not so you. If you care to say Boxer, and if my summation is agreeable, could you say why the more rough handling of Derek?
Most linguists and philosophers of language agree that there are two (or more) grammatical structures at play whenever we communicate. The guy who wrote the definitive text on this, in the beginning, was Gottlob Frege, back in 1891. I believe (and it has been a good long while since I’ve read him) that his example in Sense and Reference was ‘the morning star’ and ‘the evening star’.
If I were to speak those two noun-phrases in succession, the listener would realize instantly that both of them had the same referent: the planet Venus. Even so, they are two different senses of the same thing. The first one is Venus when we see it at sunrise, and the second is Venus at night.
The next big name who tried to come along and unify this strange dichotomy was Bertrand Russell. Uncle Bert was big on uncovering the grammatical nature of truth claims, so he unified Frege’s ambiguity, but in the process, he created one of his own, by differentiating between language and metalanguage. Russell was into logicism, and so we’ve got an S-Structure when I speak a sentence, and we’ve got a D-Structure underlying it, that is written in unambiguous logical language.
S and D stand for ‘Surface’ and ‘Deep’, respectively.
This was not the end of the story. Saul Kripke overturned Russell, and he was himself overturned by guys like Quine and Field and Chomsky. No matter the argument, there will always be a difference between the words we use when we say something, and the meaning we express with them.
And so the nice Christian gents find themselves on Dalrock, arguing with the Southern Baptists, who have recently re-written the Bible, to make the words of great philosophers like Rabbi Saul of Tarsus seem like they were endorsing gay marriage and dyke priests. This in itself is irksome to many Christian dudes, who have grown up with a particular conception of God, which doesn’t include him being a weird purple-haired tranny, the likes we would find in a dive bar in San Francisco.
Of course, the baptists will excuse their changes by citing the D-Structure. The original word for God in the Greek, they’ll tell us, is properly translated into the word “trans-sexual weirdo.”
The problem with all this from my perspective is that, even if it were true, it still doesn’t matter. Christian guys in 20th century America grew up with the King James Version. That’s a book written in plain English. Moreover, this book, written in English, has already proven itself worthwhile.
It doesn’t matter if one discovers the English differs from the original Greek. Hell, it doesn’t matter if the English is not technically true. Someone could come along with conclusive historical evidence that there was a historical Jesus, and he was a flaming homosexual, or that he was a militant feminist, or that he was a bull dyke. There is, in fact, no evidence that any such person as Jesus ever existed at all. That’s all irrelevant. The Christian dudes in contemporary America aren’t reading the bible as history (even if they claim to believe in its historicity). They’re reading it as a manual for the self-organization of their society.
Jesus and Moses are, in fact, a lot like the numbers five and ten. Guys like Hartry Field will tell us that numbers don’t exist. This is hard to argue with. If the number five existed, someone would have to tell us where it is located, what color it is, etc.
Hardcore students of semantics will often argue, then, that mathematical statements like ‘five plus three equals eight’ are not true. Five, three and eight do not refer to anything, and thus they can’t have a truth value at all.
These are, of course, interesting little debates; but, to guys who merely want to solve problems, none of it matters. The bible is full of stories that are quite useful… same as your real analysis textbook. These things may be fictions, but they help real people solve real problems in the real world.
The Southern Baptists have a con-job that’s only a little way removed from this. They are telling you that five isn’t really five, it’s actually eight. And ten isn’t really ten, it’s actually thirteen. In fact, all those numbers you learned, they’re actually three units less than their “true” values.
Of course, one could make all these changes, and all the familiar arithmetic he learned would still work perfectly. That’s not the point, claim the Baptists. The point is that you need to buy all new books (from the Baptists, coincidentally) and give us yet more money. We have the way, the truth and the light.