Abstracts for Akadeemia 3/2007

Juri Lotman

The reminiscences begin with a flashback to the author’s schooldays from sixth grade until receiving a certificate of secondary education with red covers, i.e. with distinction. The “red covers” allowed young Lotman to enter Leningrad University without exams. In 1940, when he began his second year at the university, he, like his peers, was conscripted into the army. His war memories, told with slight irony but without embitterment, are a real chef-d’oeuvre of memoir writing about World War II.

Lotman served at the front from the Caucasus to Berlin as an artillery communications sergeant whose task was to secure liaison between his battery and the command post. The published excerpts depict everyday life at the front with all its dangers, hardships, and joys – told by an academic who is able to analyze and assess situations and people. It does not matter whether he speaks about the atmosphere before the war, his first acquaintance with lice, soldiers’ argot, hard-drinking officers who, eager to receive decorations, sent soldiers to senseless death, advantages of serving at the front line in overcoming the fear of death, or painful memories that caused quite a few suicides when peace arrived. In the wording of the wise, tolerant, honest, and witty observer, all of this provides a unique cathartic experience.

This chapter has been taken from the last volume, Soul education (Vospitanie dushi), of Lotman’s nine-volume collected works published by Iskusstvo in St. Petersburg (2003). In this volume, the lecturers of the Chair of Russian Literature at the University of Tartu have gathered short articles, memoirs, and television talks.

The chapter will continue in the next issue.

Ülo Lumiste, Leo Võhandu
On three artificial languages created in Estonia and their creators

Three Estonian mathematicians – E. Wahl, J. Linzbach, and J. Sarv – created three artificial languages. E.Wahl’s Occidental (Interlingue) has received a lot of attention in the world. J. Linzbach’s Philosophical Language Theory (1916, 1921) was so deep that nowadays Linzbach has been recognized by U. Eco, J. Kristeva, and the late J. Lotman as one of the creators of the theory of semiotics. J. Sarv’s language (1943) has remained unpublished. In this article we describe the main properties of all three languages and give the biographies of their authors.

It is especially interesting that deeper analysis shows J. Linzbach to be a very strong forerunner of the modern information theory – notions of redundancy, compression, and binary representation – as early as 1916.

Martin Ehala
Principles of ethnolinguistic ecology: Theses

Ethnolinguistic ecology is a discipline that studies the ways how linguistic and cultural practices and the corresponding collective identities are intergenerationally transmitted, and how they might get transformed through cultural contacts. One of the central questions for ethnolinguistic ecology is how groups survive or get assimilated.

The first part of the paper gives an outline how collective identities are formed through the process of communication. It is argued that collective identity is a tripartite connection between the token of the identity, the meaning of the identity and the human agent. The token or feature can be either physiological (race), demographical (sex, age) or social (language). It can also be engagement in a practice or a discourse (religion). The member of the group must have both the tokens and the meaning of the identity. The stronger is the bond to the tokens, the more important (central, salient) is the particular identity for this agent. The stronger his/her link to the meaning, the more emotionally attached is the agent to this group. The establishment of collective identity is a communicative process by which this tripartite connection between the elements is established.

It is argued that ethnolinguistic vitality is greatly influenced by the ways how the group communicates its collective identity. Crucial here is the understanding that communicating collective identity requires economic resources that are created in the society. It depends on the willingness of the society whether these resources are allocated to the communication of the group’s identity or not. Groups who purposefully devote intellectual energy and economic resources for communicating their collective identity have better chances to survive in the changing world.

The second part of the article analyses the impact various types of cultural contact may have to the structure of the collective identity. It is argued that a cultural contact with a group that has higher military, economic and/or cultural power is potentially damaging to the weaker group. This contact may have various outcomes, from cultural borrowing to total assimilation, depending of how different strata within the group react to the dominating culture.

It is argued that the contact with a higher-status group brings in new technologies, social relationships and ideologies. Often these technologies are adapted first by the economic elite that acquire a positive attitude towards the new intruding culture. Cultural elite usually stands for traditional values. The position taken by the political elite is crucial for the outcome of the contact. If political elite prefer the new language and culture, cultural and language shift becomes inevitable, as the whole elite abandons their old culture. This is the “elite escape” scenario which leaves the group virtually no chance but to follow their leaders.

If the political elite support the cultural elite, this will ultimately change the attitudes of the economic elite. This leads to the maintenance of the heritage culture. It is possible that the political elite do not take a stand on identity issues. In this situation the lifestyle of the rich economic elite will gradually trigger a shift in the general population. It is possible that the political elite will finally awake and mobilise the group. This is the traditional “national awakening” scenario where the upper classes attempt to reverse the ongoing assimilationist processes. The paper suggests that the discipline of applied ethnolinguistic ecology should be developed in order to provide theoretical knowledge and tools for groups to engage in the communication of their collective identity that is the main tool how to improve the chances of collective survival if the ecological conditions change rapidly as they do in our globalising world.

Jaanus Raim
Price level of Estonian urban flats in 1991-2006 and its comparison with that in Finland

In the 1990s huge divergences in purchasing power parity emerged between the former Soviet republics (e.g. Estonia) and other countries. The purchasing power of money is still much higher in Estonia than in developed market economies. The present article studies the price level of urban flats, which are the dominant form of dwelling in Estonia.

The aim of the article is to assess the price level and dynamics in both absolute and relative (to Finland) dimensions. The analysis reveals many interesting facts. Firstly, the flats in smaller Estonian towns are still disproportionately undervalued. Secondly, from 1995-2006 the total rise in the price of Estonian urban flats (6-9 times) has been much steeper than the rise in average consumer price level (2 times) and even the rise in Estonian average wage level (3.5 times).

The results of the analysis have the following conclusions for Estonian economic policy. (1) The rise in Estonian wage-earners domestic purchasing power has not been as fast as the traditional measure – the rise in the average wage level in relation to the average consumer price level – suggests. (2) The difference in the 1990s between the Estonian and Finnish wage-earners domestic purchasing powers was not as large as the traditional measure – the difference between our average wage levels in comparison with our average consumer price levels – suggested.

Bertrand Russell
On relations of universals and particulars

The article discusses one of the central questions of metaphysics – whether there is an ultimate difference between universals and particulars. Russell describes four main oppositions: (1) percept and concept; (2) entities existing in time and entities not existing in time; (3) substantives and verbs; (4) entities which can be at one place, but not in more than one, at a given time, and entities which either cannot be anywhere or can or can be in several places at one time. This opposition has certain affinities with the three earlier oppositions, which are examined in detail.

(1) Owing to the admission of particulars in the fourth sense, we can make an absolute division between percepts and concepts. The universal whiteness is a concept, whereas a particular white patch is a percept. If we had not admitted particulars in the fourth sense, percepts would have been identical with certain concepts.

(2) For the same reason, we are able to say that such general qualities as whiteness never exist in time, whereas the things that do exist in time are particulars in the fourth sense. The converse, that all particulars in the fourth sense exist in time, holds in virtue of their definition. Hence, the second and fourth senses of the opposition of particulars and universals are co-extensive.

(3) The third opposition, that of substantives and verbs, presents more difficulties, owing to the doubt whether predicates are verbs or not.

In order to evade this doubt, Russell introduces a new opposition – between substances (in their logical sense) on the one hand, and predicates and relations on the other hand. This substitution reveals that substances are identical with particulars in the fourth sense, and predicates and relations with universals.

Further, Russell shows that, according to the theory which assumes particulars, there is a specific relation of subject to predicate – predication, which involves a fundamental logical difference between its two terms. Thus, the question whether predication is an ultimate simple relation may be taken as distinguishing the two theories (the other theory does not recognize particulars); it is ultimate if there are particulars, but not otherwise. And if predication is an ultimate relation, the best definition of particulars is that they are entities which can only be subjects of predicates or terms of relations, i.e., that they are (in the logical sense) substances. This definition is preferable to one introducing space or time, because space and time are accidental characteristics of the world with which we happen to be acquainted, and therefore are destitute of the necessary universality belonging to purely logical categories.

Frank Plumpton Ramsey

The purpose of the paper is to consider whether there is a fundamental division of objects into two classes – particulars and universals – as stated by Bertrand Russell.

Ramsey shows that the distinction between particular and universal was derived from that between subject and predicate, and it can be found only in atomic propositions. Then he examines three theories of atomic propositions or of atomic facts: Johnson’s theory of a tie, Russell’s theory that the copulation is performed by universals, of which there must be one and only one in each atomic fact, and Wittgenstein’s theory that the objects hang in one another like the links in a chain. Ramsey emphasizes that only Russell’s theory assigns a different function to subject and predicate and so gives meaning to the distinction between them. Russell has two possible answers to Johnson’s criticisms; one being to argue that his theory alone takes account of the difference we feel between “Socrates” and “wisdom” in the sentence “Socrates is wise”, the other that his notation is far more convenient than any other, and must therefore correspond more closely to the facts. To dissect the first of the arguments, Ramsey examines the difference between “Socrates” and “wisdom”. This consists in the fact that whereas “Socrates” determines only one range of propositions in which it occurs, “wise” determines two such ranges, the complete range “f wise” and the narrower range “x is wise”. Then Ramsey examines the reason for this difference between the two incomplete symbols “Socrates” and “wise” and decides that it is of a subjective character and depends on human interests and needs.

Then the author asks whether the difference between “Socrates” and “wise” has any such bearing on the composition of atomic facts as Russell alleges it to have. Ramsey finds justification for Russell’s practice, but it is also the refutation of his theory, which fails to appreciate the distinction between those functions which are names and those which are incomplete symbols – a distinction, though immaterial for mathematics is essential for philosophy.

When analyzing the second edition of Russell’s Principia Mathematica, Ramsey finds that this work is based on Russell’s theory of constitution of atomic facts, that each must contain a term of a special kind, called a universal. Ramsey, however, proves this theory to be utterly groundless.

He acknowledges that of all philosophers Wittgenstein alone has seen through this muddle and declared that we can know nothing whatever about the forms of atomic propositions.

Piet Nijs, Peter Petersen
Psychosomatics: Human integrity and therapy of the future

The article attempts, using an example from gynaecological psychosomatics (“Woman with abdominal pains”), to explain the essence of present-day psychosomatic thinking and psychosomatic practice.

Psychosomatics rests on the new paradigm of salutogenesis. Until most recent times, the medicine of the past concentrated on pathogenesis – establishing the causes of diseases. By now, this kind of medicine, subjugated to the laws of natural science, has reached its critical end-point: the human as a subject and individual is no more taken seriously; only statistically provable facts count – such medical care has lost its credibility in Europe. In the new paradigm, the attention of the therapist or the doctor is not directed at the illness but at health. The crucial question will be: which curative powers, which resources can be found and mobilized in the sick person or in social conflicts? Namely this is called salutogenesis.

The aim of psychosomatic therapies is mobilizing the curative powers of the person. In addition to talks, these forms of therapy primarily include art therapies.

As Leo Nefiodow predicts, the basic innovation in the sixth Kondratieff cycle that begins about 2020 is health, and by that, he means mainly the psychosocial aspects of health. Art therapies form an excellent prerequisite for psychosocial health as a basic innovation – in this sense, they may contribute to a remarkable cultural breakthrough.

John Locke
The second treatise of government. I

Originally published in 1689 as the second part of an anonymous Two Treatises of Government, Locke’s concern here is “the true original, extent and end of civil government'”. The book contains Locke’s original doctrines on topics such as private property and political authority. Locke holds that the origin of private property is in the mixing of one’s labour with the objects, independently of agreements with others. According to Locke, each individual has a right to life, liberty and property, and it is the job of the political authority to protect these rights. This is what legitimizes political authority. If the political authority no longer fulfils that function, then the people have the right for resistance and even revolution.

Published 13 March 2007
Original in English

Contributed by Akadeemia © Akadeemia Eurozine


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