How would you put together a reasonably short sentence, in order to describe everything?

By everything, I mean that the sentence would be broad enough to cover any possible subject by recursive substitution (with a longer text) of any of its components.

Think of it as a kind of "root" sentence on Wikipedia, with links on all its components.

If any subject can then be said to lie completely outside of the bounds of the components of the original "root" sentence, then the sentence fails to meet the requirements. How would you put together such a sentence?

closed as not constructive by Michael Dorfman, Mitch, Joseph Weissman Jan 30 '12 at 22:16

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    Klaatu barada nikto. – stoicfury Jan 30 '12 at 2:52
  • Welcome! So the question is asking for a method to construct a universal description? Can you be a bit more specific about the format? :) ...I guess what I'm getting at is that it's a little broad, perhaps -- is there any chance I might be able to persuade you to specify your question somewhat by telling us a little bit more about your context and motivations? What might you be reading or studying that has made this concern an urgent or important one for you? What might you have found out so far? – Joseph Weissman Jan 30 '12 at 3:19
  • Everything that is anything is something – hanzolo Jan 30 '12 at 19:40
  • I am closing this for the time being to give OP a chance to develop the problem a bit further. – Joseph Weissman Jan 30 '12 at 22:16
  • 1
    @Magnus: You flagged your own question recommending a deletion; you can do that yourself as the question author. We typically don't typically delete questions this soon unless they're grossly unsuited for the site to give the OP or others a chance to improve the question. – stoicfury Feb 14 '12 at 15:55

I'd argue that it's not possible to do so.

Language, when describing the world, by very nature, is a tool that sacrifices elements of reality to fit very specific needs.

For example: "The sky is blue." If you're painting a very basic landscape, this is all you need to know. However, if you want to understand what the sky is, why it's normally, from where the color originates, what the color is during a sunset, etc., this sentence will not suffice.

Maybe this isn't the greatest example, but the point I'm trying to make is that language is a poor tool for understanding the universal nature of something, because all language can do is provide specific information (related to the task at hand) on a topic at the cost of other information on that same topic.

As I stated before, language is a tool for a specific purpose. The extent to which this is true becomes more apparent as you compare the grammatical structure and vocabulary of various world languages; being a specific culture's tool for expressing ideas, you can start to see major differences in how cultures think just by analyzing their language. For example, in Western culture, we emphasize individuality and personal identity. Japanese culture, by contrast, views people more as a collective community -- in the Japanese language, it is considered rude (or, at best, impolite) to use the words for "I" or "you", instead using expressions which translate roughly to "in this direction" or "in that direction."

As you can see, language is very fitted to the culture that uses it, with different languages having very different abilities and limitations. The important thing to take away here is that there will always be great limitations in any language.

Buddhism (and perhaps other Eastern philosophies with which I'm not as familiar) takes this idea very seriously, using it to condemn Western philosophy as being impractical because of its dependency on language when describing reality. Buddhism stresses meditation, not dogma, as a means of understanding the universe and reaching enlightenment, because it realizes that language is too limited a tool to fully express an all-encompassing model of the universe.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.