MIND SEEDS: notes on language, representation, and meaning
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
IF a word does not stand for an object, it is meaningless. Every word should be a proposition; and, every proposition should have the power to represent a picture of a potential reality in the mind of the interlocutor. The elements of any picture stand for the objects they depict, and the way the elements are ordered in the picture mirrors the depicted fact. A proposition, composed by words or images, is a description of a potential reality, of its meaning, and of its importance.
Gottlob Frege, the father of analytic philosophy and the author of Foundations of Arithmetic, claimed that the logic of our natural language, “the language of the marketplace”, is vague, imprecise, and misleading and therefore not apt to articulate the true communication program of the human mind. The notorious philosopher of Cambridge, Bertrand Russell, added that the structure of language could only be understood by means of strict logical analysis; his famous sentence “the present king of France is bald” exhibited some of the most important communication transgressions in any language; the trouble with the sentence is that, although grammatically correct, its meaning is deceiving for there is no such thing as “the present king of France”; therefore, he argued, if a component of a sentence is meaningless, the whole sentence must be rendered meaningless as well. The paradox is that the sentence “the present king of France is bald” is not meaningless; we all can understand it. As stated by Russell, if a proposition contains at least one meaningless word, the whole proposition must be rendered meaningless. But, even in the event of a meaningless proposition, like in the case of “the present king of France is bald’, a proposition may also expose possibilities for the existence of probable new realities and, at the same time, these new possibilities may allow us to discover connections and potentialities that could have never been possible had we stayed in the mere world of pragmatism.
To paraphrase Ludwig Wittgenstein, language is either dominated by a game of meaningful words rendering meaningless statements or by a series of logical rules allowing us to distinguish the meaningless from the meaningful. The language of pictures and words is intimately connected. Any graphic proposition (real, unreal, meaningful, or meaningless) is fundamental for our understanding of any discourse about the world. The correct method would be to either say nothing or to say that which can be said to describe the world of the intellect and its numerous potentialities. As mystical as this may sound, I prefer the latter and would hate to be judged by future generations for being morally dead, for selling my intellect to the highest bidder, or for remaining quiet on the verge of chaos.
SEEDS ARE MANIFESTATIONS OF PURE POTENTIALITY
A seed is a manifestation of pure potentiality. A physical seed, in the organic world, produces exactly what it is meant to yield; if one throws seeds of wheat on the ground, one would never expect to yield mango trees: whatever one puts in the ground is what one would take out. Nevertheless, a mind seed, those residing in the depths of the human imagination, may yield an infinite number of images - from the most disparate to the most logical. Pictures of an imaginary world don’t require a physical manifestation to realize their message for they can be held in the realm of the mind, in the realm of written or private languages, or in the realm of graphic illustrations without intellectual inconvenience.
The potential permutations of a mind seed are infinite: I can imagine a horse with a single horn on its forehead and wings on its saddle bones but, this animal does not need to be physically manifested in the real world for its attainment; the short description of my horned/winged horse, or an illustration of the same, may have the necessary and sufficient conditions for my mind to turn it into a reality and to give it an appropriate name, even if it is just a delusional object of perception – a totally unreal object produced by the mere imprints of our imagination.
The persuasive mythological value of these mind seeds is so potent that they may serve to explain difficult moral, ethical, or political issues and, as a consequence, they might inspire people to take action regarding an issue of contemplation i.e.: an illustration of a winged baby, holding an arch and pointing an arrow to a couple, may trigger the realization that these two people are about to enter into some sort of private relationship. The inventiveness of these types of illustrations and the pervasive cultural message of an imaginary object of perception are the cause for the realization of their appropriate meaning(s).
PAPER ARCHITECTURE AND MIND SEEDS
A practicing Paper Architect is constantly searching for that combination of mind seeds which would yield the greatest graphic impact for the explanation of an existing paradox, to move the current discourse of architecture and urbanism into a new direction, or to affect the potential perceivers into immediate action. This is not an easy task; a Paper Architect requires a working human mind, extreme concentration, total mindfulness and, just to keep the mind in check before it surrenders to the spell of the delusions on paper, a rigorous discrimination between what is real and what is an imaginary object of perception.
To paraphrase David Hume, things are not as they seem to be; but, nothing is hidden. If we use our intellect to analyze objects of perception, we will come to the realization that everything that is of any interest to the mind lies in plain view. The real essence of an object of perception is revealed to us when we step below the realm of appearances and analyze - that is, decompose the statements of fact into their actual constituents. We don’t really need to dig that deep to understand the actual constituents of an object of perception for constituents are mainly composed of propositions, meaning, knowledge, ability, intention, number, identity, symbols, etc. These basic notions establish our conceptual framework, the web through which we can understand and obtain knowledge of the world around us.
PAPER ARCHITECTURE: a private matter with public consequences
The act of creating images is a private deliberate act of inquiry into the essence of the world. Because it is a private act, Paper Architects have a unique responsibility to clarify the content and potentialities of their minds. I have learned from my son, Andres, that we are not infallible about the outer world but, we are so in our inner world - simply because the inner world belongs to us and because we can manipulate it in whatever form or shape we want.
Given this unique notion of privacy, I can either invent my own graphic language and my own projects to express outrageous ideas which nobody else in the world would understand, or I can use my imagination to explain mind seeds with infinite potentialities. Humpy Dumpty says it clearly in Alice in Wonderland: “when I use a word, it just means what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less”; images, like words, can become complex propositions; like Humpy Dumpty, we may deliberately use them to mean either this or that.
When I come up with a project, what I am in fact doing is tiding up my basic notions regarding the world around me; by means of rich illustrations, I am making clear that what I think about the world has a definite image corresponding with my private propositions. As Paper Architects, our answers, if they are correct, need to be expressed in the trivial and homely world of illustrations: we are here to establish new forms of moral and ethical authority for the sake of advancing human knowledge, even when this graphic language only shows the tip of a massive iceberg or when it just constitutes a kink in the development of our physical world.
Cities and architecture are manifestations of a particular moment in time; they reveal to ourselves as a system of of complex ideas produced for specific marketplaces; as such, they also participate in a tacit game of meaning and logical rules which should be understood by the trained professionals in charge, those involved in the production visual and sensuous material, and also by those experiencing their objects of perception.
The current professional paradox is that the kind of visual imaginary literacy that I am advocating here is no longer in high demand and, consequently, nothing is truly fundamental, and everything goes.