Thursday, January 31, 2008

To coin a useful word; to expand the scope of thought


“Point,” “hope,” “fear,” “rest,” and “life”—none tangible things, all abstract ideas, “life” the most abstract of all, for its attributes cannot be identified except in the absence of those attributes.

“Knowledge”—also intangible, abstract. But has a writer coined a word if every reader, upon first encountering the freshly minted word, knows exactly what it means? Or, rather, is immediate comprehension a test of the value of a new word? If “knowledgelessness” is truly a new word, then dictionaries can begin listing it, and cite The Steppe (2007) as its first usage in print. But I feel that “knowledgelessness” is not much of a new word, for the fact that its construction (from an abstract noun joined to two suffixes in a standard grammatical manner) is routine and readily understood. (Homologs continue floating into my mind as I write this: mercilessness, recklessness, listlessness, worthlessness, facelessness, joylessness...)

“Acatalepsy” or “acatalepsia” might have sufficed in place of “knowledgelessness,” but those words carry connotations of formal and ancient philosophy, whereas “knowledgelessness” is serenely and attractively accessible to a casual reader. Further, and more importantly, “knowledgelessness” is more precise in its meaning than those old Greek words, and its meaning must be precise for its juxtaposition with “unknowability” to correlate properly with the mantra of Baatar/Baatarism: “I do not know, and I cannot know.”

(The entire preceding argument applies equally to “unknowability,” which, as a partner to “knowledgelessness,” also first appears in the aguulga of The Steppe, with likewise flowing homologs: unaccountability, uncontrollability, incontestability, inconceivability, indomitability, indemonstrability, incommutability, irresistibility, irreconcilability...)

More interesting to me than “knowledgelessness” or “unknowability” as new words introduced into English by The Steppe are the loan words from Mongolian, for instance “aguulga,” a loan word with particular value because it is used to mean not merely the “table of contents” of a book, but the “subject matter” of a book: what the book is about, what matters of life and thought the book deals with.

Most significant to the English language, and to philosophical thought in general, is The Steppe’s introduction/coining of “ukhaan,” which can be used a simple synonym for “consciousness,” but also (and these usages are beyond the word’s original usage) “the lone consciousness of certain existence,” as well as “the seemingly material universe composed of immaterial thoughts that exists within the consciousness,” and which is, in fact, “the only knowable universe.”

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