Tagged: language

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...

Sentimental Man Expresses Himself

Oscar Wilde wrote that “a sentimentalist is simply one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.” Wilde’s century was rife with the luxury of unpaid-for emotion, which is the special indulgence of the comfortable class. Our own time, however, has elevated this romantic weakness for claiming unearned emotion to an artform — and then, as is typical...

Seven Billion Voices

If everyone in a crowded room were speaking at the same time, who would be the audience? Would each person not merely be speaking to himself? Would each person not therefore be failing to attend to anyone else? In such a condition, would not each voice beyond one’s own be reduced in one’s awareness to the status of background noise, a distraction? In...

The Self-Government Machine

How much of the challenge of political philosophy is rooted in deficiencies of available language? How many essential truths have failed to reach the ears they needed to reach at the critical moment, merely because the individuals who saw those truths lacked universally familiar points of reference with which to communicate their lightning bolts with sufficient precision, or at least with the shattering...

Preferences

I prefer feeling anxiously alone to feeling safely swaddled within a crowd. I prefer ideas that leave me uncomfortable in my weakness to ideas that satisfy my weakest inclinations. I prefer looking at things squarely to rounding off the edges of my vision for the sake of stability. I prefer the constant hum of disquiet that comes of acknowledging the vast unknown to...

Language vs. Thought

A note on Derrida and the postmoderns.– Difficult language is sometimes necessary to communicate thought. However, difficulty, in the sense of varying degrees of opaqueness or indecipherability, must never be the goal, for the simple reason that language must never be the goal. To make language itself the goal of writing is analogous to making pots and utensils the goal of cooking. This...