Tagged: language

Ideas, Language, and Communication

The classic cartoon image for discovery is a light bulb appearing above a character’s head. This is perfectly apt, and the use of light, especially a source of light, as a metaphor for the actualization of the mind, including the divine mind, is standard throughout the history of figurative expression. It must be remembered, however, that an idea as such brings light only...

Reflections on Thinking For An Audience

Public Intellectual.— Your mind shrinks to the size of your audience. The more frequently you accept the artificial self-reduction of speaking to please the smallminded — or rather the more you invite the spiritual diminution of needing to please them — the more likely it is to become a permanent condition, such that you gradually become less able to expand your thoughts back...

Reflections on Language and Thought

If a man just can’t stand metaphors and wishes to ban figurative language from the marketplace of ideas, one should approach that man’s own words and thoughts — especially his best and most interesting ones — as having been conceived and expressed under the peculiar misapprehension that his own metaphors (including and especially his most extraordinary ones) were literal statements. Paradoxically, some of...

On Shrinking

The more uniform and repetitive the conversation, the more any alternative or outlying opinion sounds like irrational extremism.

The more everyone is encouraged to speak, the less most people have to say — and the less audible above the din is anyone who does have something to say….

Literal and Figurative Language

If you speak as though being understood were your primary concern, then you can only say common things. For language, insofar as it is a tool of clear and straightforward communication, is by definition common, which is to say it is limited to common meanings. Nothing uncommon may be said by common means, unless those means are explicitly used against their primary function,...

Reflections on Language and Tyranny

There is a bias today in favor of simpler, easier-to-understand language. We see it in education systems, in word processing programs’ auto-correct protocols, and in the rise (clever business in an age of school-indoctrinated illiteracy) of for-profit proofreading companies such as Grammarly. Though seemingly apolitical in nature, this ubiquitous impulse to verbal and written simplicity comes from the same ultimate source as the...

Thoughts Out of Season

The only thoughts that ultimately matter much are those which we may, following Nietzsche, call “thoughts out of season.” This is true in part because seasonal thoughts, by definition, do little to advance the discussion, and tend to merely amplify the ambient noise, but mainly because such thoughts, being reflections of one’s time and surroundings, are often difficult even to classify as thoughts...

Empty Verbiage Alert

I just read the following headline from Reuters — one of the world’s largest and most widely-read news agencies — related to the Hollywood gossip story of an actor’s accidental shooting of a cinematographer on a movie set: “Gun not thoroughly checked before Alec Baldwin fired fatal shot.” Really? It wasn’t thoroughly checked. Well, who could have guessed? I mean, prior to this...

Reflections on Infinity and Meaning

If the universe were infinite, everything of which it is comprised would by necessity be infinitesimal, and a universe of incalculable vastness thus comprised of an array of incalculably small components — with both the incalculably small components and the incalculably vast whole becoming increasingly so (small and vast, respectively), without end. In such a condition, everything — both the world and its...

The Enlightenment Against Reason: Two Cases

Plato presents his teacher, Socrates, as the foremost expert on love and the most erotic of all men, on the grounds that Eros is at base the longing for immortality, thus defining a natural hierarchy of human fulfillments, at the peak of which resides the search for eternal truths, i.e., philosophy. Aristotle, taking the cosmic view, explains the relationship between the world of...