What we know and how we know it

This is a small enjoyment of something I think is funny. It can be taken seriously, too, (in which case, of course, it is no longer funny) but it is clear to me that these two fully instances point to larger categories that might help us.

Screen Shot 2019-01-07 at 7.43.43 PM.pngI happened across this sign recently when I was looking for examples of the idea that when you “know” what something is about, it is hard to notice that other people might think it is about something else. I put it in that post, even though it didn’t fit as well as some others I had found, because I kept laughing at it. It still tickles me.

So here is an unreconstructed nerd who hears his girlfriend say that she needed more time and more distance (away from him) and translates it instantly [1] into velocity. She needs…um…velocity.

I think it is his confidence that engages me over and over. Sure. “I knew what she meant.” Needing “velocity” is the most reasonable meaning; physics is the most likely background for such a remark from his girlfriend. Sure.

In the other instance of this process, I am the clueless person.  I found this is notation in a piece music we were singing for a Vespers service. It was, of course, a religious service, but I think that, given time, I would have seen Gsus as “Jesus” anyway.

I knew it didn’t mean that. But I think that if I had known what it did mean—and I didn’t—it would never have occurred to me to see the appearance of a word rather than the meaning of it. So here is the meaning of it. [2] Just for the fun of it, I showed the mgsususic to the man who directs our choir at church. I asked him what he saw there on the page. He told me about the suspension and after it is resolved it winds up in the key of G and all that. I said, “That doesn’t look like Gsus (I pronounced it Jesus) to you?”

I think he was a little startled. The idea that it sounded like something that had nothing at all to do with music came from so far away for him. It reminded me of a lovely scene in Frank Conroy’s book, Body and Soul. The young boy, Claude Rawlings, takes a piece of music out of his piano bench and takes it to Mr. Wiesfeld, who runs the local music store. He points to a dark blob on a stick. “What is that?” he asks Weisfeld. It’s takes Weisfeld a little while to locate the question and finally it is only the boy’s earnestness that brings an answer. “It’s a note,” he says. “But,” says Claude, “what does it mean?”

It is the distance from the blob to the note that I was asking our director the jump and when he did, he laughed out loud. And then I laughed. I saw what it “said,” and he saw what it “meant.”

[1] d=d0 + vs(t-t0) after all.
[2 In these chords, the third (the second note in the chord) are being replaced with either a major second An interval consisting of two semitones or a perfect four An interval consisting of five semitones . The sus4 chord includes a perfect four and the sus2 chord includes a major second.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
This entry was posted in ways of knowing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.