Wednesday, 25 February 2009


We take words for granted. Everyday, they become demystified with common use. We also tend to repeat ourselves. I can not think of anything said to me today, that has made me step back and re-think my attitude. Perhaps I have not been listening hard enough.

Words do have a magical quality. I am not just thinking about the witches and wizards of lore and legend, that are able to turn princes into frogs with words uttered in the right sequence. Though such myth is probably a symptom of their power.

The written word does have imense power. This was especially evident in the past when fewer of the population could actually read and write. Being literate, was a gateway to something great. It distinquished one from 'the herd'. In religion as well, Christain's have spoken of "The Word"- when referring to The Bible. This therefore gave 'the clerics' the power of interpretation in respect of the word of God.

Even in a more secular sense, we treat words like sacred entities. When we talk of beauty, we assume that their is some hidden essence behind the word to be discovered or explored. Indeed, Wittgenstein's critique of the history of philosophy came down to the judgment that the problems of philosophy resulted from this very misunderstanding. When the ancients tried to deceipher the meaning of beauty or the good, they were mistakened about how we used language.

Still, trying to imagine human beings without language is impossible. We live in a language community, we understand our environment through language and tackle technical as well as ethical problems through this medium. In this sense it is impossible to move beyond language.

However- we can not treat words with too much respect. We must remember that words are always under-determined. A sentence will always be open to various interpretations. And this is part of the fun. Language is constantly being subverted. The ability to joke and poke fun stems from this subversion.

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