Henk Tuten – Limits of our Language

Henk Tuten - Limits of our language
Henk Tuten – Limits of our language

Henk Tuten – Limits of our Language

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see” –Arthur Schopenhauer


A former Dutch Engineer and trained mathematician, Henk Tuten retired (he drives a wheel-chair) and became a layman philosopher that is heavily influenced by Eastern thought. Inspired by the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Kuhn, Kitaro Nishida and other Eastern thinkers, Tuten draws from his rich life experience, his exceptional memory and observation skills, and thus helps to revive and refine the ‘philosophy of language’, an all-too-often (I think) neglected philosophy which, in the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein, claims that the limits of our language is the limits of our world.

Master Tuten sees the world differently than most of us (check his excellent and startling website here) – he perceives our contemporary world as enslaved by the forces of our cognitive limitation that can be demonstrated by the limits of our language(s): For example, the Chinese language with its pictographs (Hanzi) has some unique features (like its etymology, sounds, experiences, histories etc.) that the English language lacks and vice versa. Either language or the culture it mediates is evidently limited to itself against all others – even “handicapped”; and so are the language groups that speak in those languages. This is certainly the case for those educational facilities such as schools and colleges that promote any single language and only that language and no other.

Tuten explores the subtleties of languages intuitively: What if Western society went down the rational, linear path of reasoning (leading to its modern authoritarian rationality) without redemption; that would also mean there are other paths, for example a more holistic path of reasoning found in Eastern languages like Hindi and Chinese, which then leads to the possibility that Western culture may not be the only ‘Culture’ (in the Hegelian sense of World History dominated by the West). Western culture may be the most successful one at this moment in history in the development of humankind – but not necessarily the last one nor the truest one.

Henk Tuten on Chinese language:

“While doing so I found that many notions in Western languages didn’t exist in Chinese language, or were invented to match Western notions. Diving a little bit into Chinese language and their interpretation of Western notions was an eye opener. Notions like ‘mind’, ‘consciousness’ etcetera clearly where a western ‘language invasion’. Chinese seemed much more descriptive, and evaded abstract notions.”

More than meets the eyes - image from Henk Tuten
More than meets the eyes – image from Henk Tuten

Henk Tuten on the crusade against pure (Western-style) rationality:

“Since Enlightenment Western leaders had themselves advised by ‘christian’ scientists wo considered own fantasies as THE reality. Not surprisingly the rigid dream of their foremen. ‘Leaders’ started to hide behind science, while scientists ‘only’ executed their wishful thinking.”

“That brings me to another point. Most resistance against replacing the western human-made onewayroad ‘thought’ (ratio) with the highway common sense (in social ethics) may be expected from subtop-politicians, subtop army-officers, subtop-managers and subtop-scientists. Because these people profit most from the present ‘rational’ way of life (paradigm). As subtop they nevertheless play top. As highpriests of ‘rationality’ they only receive ceremonial respect, but many of them have huge influence and earn gigantic wages.”

“Two cultures start ‘getting the feeling’ of each other AFTER mixing. Then starts the slow process of tuning languages and myths. To presume that a rational compromise, designed by politicians, army-officers, scientists and managers, is necessary to start mixing is acting fundamentalist (rational reasoning). UNconditional love and respect combined with patience should do the job.”

Henk Tuten on the paradigm shift in world history and language studies:

“Now I understand that both Wittgenstein and Kuhn wrote using the wide angle logic ‘common sense’, while their scientific surrounding thought in the focus logic ‘rationality’ (lead by formal philosophy). And that this seemingly partial ‘blindness’ was not a matter of intelligence or alertness, but of straightforward parallel thinking. Thomas Kuhn would have spoken about ‘incommensurability’.

Like confronting English speaking people from ‘modern’ countries with an Arabic speaking quite original Islam culture, both languages inherently suppose an ethics. English generally supposes ‘absolute’ rational behavior and Arabic generally supposes a mix of ‘absolute’ Koran rules and relative common sense. Here trying to clone a minorly egoistic Muslim culture into a copy of the totally egoistic USA culture. The war in Iraq shows that trying with force to join these 2 essentially different ethics causes bloodshed similar to the Israel-Palestine Conflict.”

Henk Tuten on the limits of (Western) philosophy:

“Human view had become narrowed to what I call ‘computalism’, and in philosophy and sociology that had resulted in ‘tunnel view’. Formal philosophy is still awfully rational , but its influence has sunk TREMENDOUSLY. Philosophy for instance failed to notice extremely dubious tendencies in Western politics.”

Henk Tuten on computalism:

“The ideology ‘computalism’ is a mix of communism and capitalism and is trying to express everything in (rational) numbers. But feelings can’t be expressed in absolute numbers, they are relative. That’s why not everybody loves the same person, and not all vote for the same leader”