Thursday, March 21, 2013

P or O

GF: Okay, I have a blog for you to write, it's gonna be a good one....

Which letter is superior P or O? I think my entire approach to ethics and aesthetics can be illustrated by this question, not that I really need to illustrate it again, but it is a joy for me to do so and it's my blog so I can illustrate it as many times as I want, damnit!

At first blush someone is likely to ask 'what does it matter?' This is not as frivolous a response as it sounds, we'll come back to it shortly. Secondly someone will probably shrug and say 'which one do you like better?' This response sets up a criteria for superiority, implying that whichever letter fulfills the criteria is the superior letter. If you happen to like P more than O then P is better than O and vice versa. You could then apply this criteria in passing judgment on the entire alphabet if you so chose.

The question that can here be asked is, why should be use that criteria? Or, more properly, what is it about that criteria that makes it the criteria for absolute superiority? Because the question was not 'which letter is superior, relative to your personal feelings,' but rather, 'which letter is superior' – question mark, full stop. The question does not provide us with a criteria or a schema in the context of which we can measure the two letters superiority to some goal or desired virtue.

Perhaps instead of saying, 'which one do you like better?' we could instead ask 'which letter is simpler?' In this case O is clearly superior to P because O consists of a single rounded shape whereas P is a rounded shape attached to a vertical mark. Now perhaps we ask, 'which letter most clearly makes itself known,' in this case P is superior to O because an O can easily be mistaken for a 0 whereas a P is pretty clearly a P.

In the light of both of these criteria the question of which letter is better is not subjective and it is not arbitrary. The matter can be studied and the conclusion can be demonstrated with rigorous proof. It is not my opinion that O is simpler than P, it is a fact; it is also not my opinion that O is more ambiguous than P, this too is a fact given the existence of the number 0 as a feature of human communication. What is my opinion is the fact that we should utilize the criteria of maximized simplicity or minimized ambiguity to determine superiority. That we should use this criteria can not be shown with any kind of proof and likewise can not be critiqued by any kind of counter-proof.

Now suppose that someone comes along and says, 'language does not simply exist – it exists for a reason. And upon recognizing the reason for language's existence we will also recognize what makes for excellent language and what makes for poor language. In addition we will see which signs within the language excel as signs and which signs serve their purpose poorly. The extent to which P and O fulfill their role in language's purpose will show their absolute quality.' Perhaps the person saying this will appeal to God's intention in creation, or he will appeal to humanity's collective intention in creation, or perhaps he will point to the workings of the universe that necessitated the creation of language. It does not matter, what matters is that he identifies absolute quality as being bound up with purpose and intention.

As a brief aside, one could say the same thing about human lives relative to the meaning of life.

So now the question is simply what purpose does language serve? Language serves to communicate. This is why we make speeches and write books, to communicate with others. Therefore the absolute superior between O and P is whichever most aids in communication, in this case, P, because P is a consonant and its usage needs to be made clear whereas O is a vowel and situations wherein it is used can be roughly inferred from the consonants surrounding it, so P is absolutely superior to O.

Perhaps a neuroscientist, an anthropologist, a linguist, or an analytical philosopher might critique my statement on language's purpose, but on the whole I think most would get on with the idea that language originated as a method of communication. However, just because it originated as a method of communication does not mean that it can not be used for other purposes. Suppose a man comes along and says that he uses language to build a reflection of the world and he does not give even a wedge of a rat's ass if anyone, himself included, can understand the reflection he can created. Then suppose another man comes scatting along and says that he just pours nonsense into a microphone to make people feel things, he doesn't really communicate any ideas with his use of words.

Communication loses its claim as the sole use of language and along with it goes the claim that aiding in communication is the absolute quality distinction of signs. It becomes another available criteria to be chosen or disregarded.

To be chosen or disregarded – on what basis? I imagined earlier that someone's first response to the P or O question would be 'what does it matter?' Now I have imagined up some possible criteria that people could propose to judge between P and O, but the choice of criteria has always been arbitrary. That remains the case, but even if we allow for that arbitrariness, what in practice determines what a person would choose as his criteria? The answer is, of course, what matters to him?

What is his mission? What does he care about? What is he pursuing? Now, which criteria helps him attain the object of his game? So poets will say O, because O is symmetrical and can be used in their poetry to indicate wholeness or, in some cases, vaginas, and their criteria is whatever allows them to enrich their works with meaning. And pub owners can say P because they own pubs and they want to use alliteration in naming it, such as Patty's Pub or Pete's Pub; their criteria is whatever is most likely to stick in people's minds. Political memorabilia manufacturers can say O because our president, whose support and detraction among the populace is their meal ticket, is named Obama; their criteria is whatever allows them to develop quick ways for people to tell the person driving behind them who they voted for in 2012. People racing to the restroom while texting would surely say P because it's just that much easier to type “i have 2 P” than “I have to pee” and their criteria is whatever allows them to remain connected to their circle of friends without creating a warm wet spot on the front of their pants.

In situations where people are largely indifferent, then a judgment on the two is impossible. But oftentimes a person who is nearly always indifferent to the question will on occasion find himself in a game where the difference between O and P actually matters to him. The question does not contain the criteria for determining superiority, which may lead one to believe that it is asking for absolute superiority. It may ask that question, naturally, but it shall get no adequate response because human beings do not have a means of determining absolute superiority. In actually the criteria for determining superiority is found in the recipient of the question in his present situation with his present needs.

So when a person responds with, 'what does it matter?,' you know that he does not have a criteria according to which he can think about the question. But if you ask and the man thinks for a moment and then gives you an answer, you know that he may have real genuine reasons for answering the way that he did.

So we return to the question: which is better, P or O?


Because P looks kind of phallic and I don't want to carry the connotations of choosing a phallic letter over a vaginal one.

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