A little rant about spellings

originally written Jan 2, 2016

A while back I spent a few years reading a lot of classics from China and India, and trying to figure out how to pronounce things. I’m not saying I was successful or anything, but I noticed a few things along the way.

The nice thing about transliterations (Western alphabet equivalents) is they tend to be fairly consistent.
• In China (pinyin), a hard ‘c’ is always spelled in English with a ‘k’. In India, a hard ‘c’ is always spelled in English with a ‘k’. In the West, not so much.
• In China, a soft ‘c’ is always spelled in English with an ‘s’. In India, a soft ‘c’ is always spelled in English with an ‘s’. In the West, not so much.
• In China, ‘c’ is pronounced ‘ts’ as in tsar. They use ‘ch’ for a soft ‘ch’ as in ‘church’. (Also, the Chinese ‘q’ is pronounced ‘chyu’ or something like that.) In India, ‘c’ is pronounced ‘ch’ as in ‘church’. In the West, it could be anything. Or at least it seems that way.
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Art outside the West: nothing to report

To recap, I’ve been looking at paintings and drawings in the West before and after transitions to linear logic, since I wanted to see when true perspective (which occurs in the late concrete operational stage in children) appears historically. True perspective (e.g. receding train tracks or the equivalent) only seems to appear in periods where a significant portion of the population is literate and educated. It appeared in Classical Greece and Rome, and it appeared in the Renaissance, but is not a human universal. Continue reading

European art after the Roman Empire

Art between the Roman period and the Renaissance.

The Romans portrayed three dimensions properly in two dimensions in their paintings. They had receding lines and a sense that things further away are smaller. But this did not persist in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, at least not in Western Europe. And I haven’t seen any evidence for it in the Christian, Constantinople-based Roman Empire that persisted into medieval times. Continue reading

Art in the transition to the Classical era

So far all the art I’ve looked at is primitive and flat – there is no sense of portraying three dimensions in two.

Things get more interesting as people start living in cities. (I’m looking here at the Mediterranean and Middle East.) There’s still a lot of flat art, but also a lot of people portrayed in detail in organized scenes. You may get people or animals directly behind or in front of others, but it’s a simple layering that says one is behind the other, not a true sense of depth. Continue reading

Primitive art: Wall and cave paintings

What I’m looking for here is how sophisticated art is. To begin with, how good are artists from any given period at portraying three dimensions in two dimensions? Receding train tracks, or the pre-train era equivalent, indicate a minimum of late concrete operational (linear logical) thinking. So I will only be looking at drawings and paintings, not sculptures. My main source for art history is Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A global history. (Thirteenth edition, by Fred S. Kleiner, 2009. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, but also some earlier editions, depending on what was on the library shelf at the time.)

The oldest paintings we have are from caves in Europe and the Middle East. These date from the early creative explosion (circa 30,000 years ago). Continue reading

Art and Cognitive Development

Representational Art

Early Childhood
Drawing is rarely present in children younger than 2-2.5 years old (Piaget, 1962). Before about age 4, children draw scribbles. At first they are just scribbles, then they evolve into different types of scribbles to represent different things. By age 4 they are drawing recognizable shapes. Continue reading

Virginity, Celibacy, and Religious Purity

This is more about how literal concrete operational faith can be.

The Quest of the Holy Grail (thirteenth century CE Britain, written in Norman French) tells the story of the knights of the Round Table, followers of King Arthur in Britain, who go out on a quest to find the Holy Grail after seeing a vision of it in Camelot. This is a spiritual quest rather than a literal adventure. Everything that happens to them is an allegory. Most of the knights fail to have very many adventures, mostly because they are not spiritual enough to find them. Some of the more famous knights do have adventures, but fail to achieve their goal because of their sinfulness. Only the purest of the knights, Galahad, Perceval and Bors, can succeed. Lancelot comes close, but his sinfulness in having had a twenty-four year affair with Guinevere the wife of King Arthur has tainted him beyond redemption, so even the most sincere repentance only allows him a partial vision of the Grail.
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Concrete mysticism and sacred objects

The following examples are taken from works (The Song of Roland, Records of the Western World, The Travels of Marco Polo) that are written at the level of concrete operations (Cerridwen’s stage 3a) and Kohlberg’s stage 3 of social and moral development. They would also fall into Fowler’s stage 3 of faith.

Concrete mysticism found its expression in the veneration of sacred objects (many of which were probably bogus tourist souvenirs), and sacred sites (many of which were probably also bogus).
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Stages of faith

Along with the cognitive developmental stages of Jean Piaget and the social/moral developmental stages of Lawrence Kohlberg (and also of Robert Selman), there is the research of James Fowler on stages of faith. Fowler’s stages of faith are not limited to people who follow an organized religion, or even any religion or spiritual practice at all. They’re more about the way a person sees the world, the way they go about believing in things—religious, spiritual or secular—than anything.

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