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[cdt-l] Re: the concept of the CDT

well, not to get into too deep a philosophical point here, but it seems like
you are on a slippery slope here of sorts. if you want to call ephemeral
things like rainbows or the wind just as real as trails, rocks, or trees,
then surely something like the Divide is also real, according to the same

things we can touch are real, but you are also saying that things we cannot
touch are also real. we cannot touch a rainbow, nor can we put it down on
paper - but you think it is real nonetheless because you experience it -
visually, emotionally, whatever. a "rainbow" is also an abstract,
intellectual concept we use to give a concreteness to a set of phenomena
that we think we "know" exist - the Divide seems to be the same - why is it
less real?

social phenomena can be thought of similarly. without disagreeing that they
are difficult to pin down, i would be hesitant to say that the United States
does not "exist" for example. the US is not just the land mass within
geographic boundaries, but it is a nation-state with a government, a
culture, and so on. how do we know that these things are real? the same way
we know a rainbow is real. there is a correspondance of our terms with the
realities we understand and observe.

eventually, we are lead towards questions of how we ascertain that reality
exists at all. the Western consensus ever since Descartes has been that
there is an "objective" world out there that humans can know through
application of the scientific method - this worldview is breaking down
though in the face of 20th century discoveries (quantum mechanics esp), and
there are clearly ways we can "know" that reality exists that do not conform
to Cartesian methods of knowledge - these are ways that do not separate the
structures that human intelligence use to order the universe from that
universe itself but sees those two as inextricably intertwined. lines on
paper are of course just representations of the Divide and we shouldn't
confuse the map with the terrain - but I'm not sure we can separate out
human constructs from reality and be left with anything other than an
ultra-relativist view of the world that doesn't even leave us sure that we
exist. not that this isn't a perfectly acceptable worldview, but none of us
seem to live as though it is true...


>Message: 8
>From: "Brett Tucker" <blisterfree@earthlink.net>
>To: "Continental Divide Trail" <cdt-l@mailman.backcountry.net>
>Cc: <farmboyman@hotmail.com>
>Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 00:16:07 -0500
>Subject: [cdt-l] Re:  the concept of the CDT
>Reply-To: cdt-l@mailman.backcountry.net
>Nope, vehement discord from this corner of the room. The Continental Divide
>is not a "very real entity." Again, it is a concept.
>The geographer's equivalent of a mathematical proof, the Divide is true
>in as much as a pre-existent set of rules allows it to be true. Even then,
>it is a line that appears on a map, not in the field; political boundaries
>are the same, and by my definition are not real either. (I hear the current
>administration is set to declare that Four Corners National Monument is
>actually a monument to nothing, and should be open to oil and natural gas
>exploration.) Anyway, none of these interacts with the environment in any
>way. A rock, a mountain, a river, a hiking trail, a pumpjack - these things
>do, and so they are real. We can point to each of these, touch them, maybe
>know them in some way. But can we point to the Divide? Really?
>Even if we know for certain that we are standing on a ridgeline - let's
>it a knife edge - which "is" the Divide, we cannot say for certain how that
>ridge would drain in microcosm. Which sounds like an absurd argument, but
>the point is, this line on the map we call the Continental Divide occupies
>only two dimensions, and our world has three.
>Like the North Pole, the equator, or the International Date Line, the
>Continental Divide is almost real. It is a product of human intelligence,
>designed to assist us in understanding our world or organizing it to best
>advantage. Meanwhile, the aurora borealis, the wind, a rainbow - even these
>ephemeral things I would argue are as real as the earth we walk on. And we
>can never replicate them on paper.
>(A rainbow, real? Sure it is. If a rock can exist without the human mind to
>ponder it, then a phenomenon of refracted light and visual perspective
>exists even if the rock is oblivious to it.)
>- blisterfree
>Right, Ed?
>From: "mike elliott" <farmboyman@hotmail.com>
>To: cdt-l@mailman.backcountry.net
>Date: Tue, 03 Dec 2002 03:39:26 +0000
>Subject: [cdt-l] Re:  the concept of the CDT
>Reply-To: cdt-l@mailman.backcountry.net
>the Continental Divide is a very real entity (more or less obvious
>upon the spot)
>the Contental Divide Trail is a concept which is on its way to becoming a
>reality, though to keep free thinkers happy i hope there will continue to
>"multiple realities" :)
>go out and see for yourself...

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