The POWER of WORDS
The Tools of Expression
"But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
Both read the
Bible day & night
But thou read'st black where I read white.
"Words must surely
be counted among the most powerful drugs
man ever invented. A writer writes not because he is educated but
because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need
to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is
the need to be understood." .......Leo Rosten
"Words can find their meaning in action, and actions can find their
meaning in words.".....TTC Peter Conn
WHAT IS LANGUAGE ?
The "Language" of Instinct : Non-Verbal Communication
Person to Person Communication : Spoken language
Written Language : Use and Abuse
Advent and development of written language
Language for Internal communication
Language for External Communication
Mass Communication: The Paradox and Challenge
ON THE USE OF WORDS IN COHERENT EXPRESSIONS
The Non-rational use of Language
The Rational use of Language
OUT OF CONTEXT, LIMITED or INFLEXIBLE CONTEXT
COMPLEX instead of SIMPLE
TOUGH WORDS : TRUTH and FACT
So Then : What are facts ?
So Then: What is Truth ?
INTERESTING WORDS :
COMPELLED & Nemesis
THE ART OF WRITING
Improvisation and Innovation
What is Language ?
"When I read great
literature, great drama, speeches, or sermons,
I feel that the human mind has not achieved anything greater than
the ability to share feelings and thoughts through language."
A language consists of a set of words that denote
concepts and the relation between them.
A language is developed as the communication medium between people within a social
setup. That is the foundation of language : as a social communication medium, between
people, primarily to convey thoughts, feelings and experiences that needed to be shared or
expressed. This need for communication arises through two factors : the need for survival
and the need for inner self - expression. The first factor becomes the predominating factor
in civilizations, the second predominates in tribal cultures. In the first case, the requirements
of survival, domination and expansion determine the development of language into a science
and technology driven usage, and in the second case the development of language is more
towards its artistic usage : in songs, hymns, chants, stories etc, and so this language does
not become technically sophisticated, and also that its usage is mostly spoken and not
"Words have their genealogy,
their history, their economy, their literature,
their art and music, as too they have their weddings and divorces, their
successes and defeats, their fevers, their undiagnosable ailments,
their sudden deaths.".......Virgilia Peterson
"Heidegger assigned an importance to language which surpassed that of
the philosophers of language in the English speaking world. None the less
he was not about to confuse the house with it's inhabitants, however closely
they may be related. Language may be the house of being and we may be it's
guardians, we are not it's prisoners.".....Thomas Flynn
The "Language" of Instinct : Non-Verbal Communication
This need for sharing or expressing is a human drive,
although it is not absent in other
animals, but is mostly through instincts and gestures. This communication through sheer
instinct, basic sounds or gestures must have been the original media for primitive man,
before the development of formal languages ( having a definitive form and structure ).
And this was the most effective communication media in a person to person mode
of communication. In the development of social structures, this instinctive mode of
communication devolved to the point of being almost extinct. It was replaced by
definitive, formal and structured set of symbols or language.
Person to Person Communication : Spoken language
exaggerated manners and high-sounding words were
not part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as
insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless.
Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner. No one was
quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed
for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous
way of beginning and conducting a conversation.
--Chief Luther Standing Bear (Ota Kte, Mochunozhin) , 1868-1939
This advent of mass communication killed something
vital in its wake : person to person
communication. A formal language is more of a hindrance than a useful tool in person to
person communication, where body language, instinct, intent, feelings and emotions
play the dominant part, and formal language is only secondary, if at all required. In a
formal and structured language based communication, the advantage of precise
communication is largely offset by the not-at-all-obvious disadvantage of the potential
for miss-communication and deception. Besides, precision in communication is required
only in a scientific context, whereas in person to person communication, an intuitive,
aesthetic and creative use of one's faculties in evoking language is vital and
Even before the development of formal language, most
ancient cultures had a picture
or figure based language structure, with certain shapes denoting corresponding
objects ( physical ) or concepts ( abstractions ) or entities ( spirits or non-physical
Written Language : Use and Abuse
"It does not require
many words to speak the truth"....Chief Joseph
"In the dialog 'Phaedrus' , Socrates criticizes all written speeches
and arguments for two reasons: first you can put a question to a
written argument, but you never get an answer back, you can never
have a conversation with a writing; and secondly, once it is written
down, the argument speaks to all alike, both to those who understand
the matter, and to those who do not. In other words, a written work 'does
not know to whom it ought to speak and to whom it ought not'. Writing,
Socrates thought as a defective kind of communication, he preferred a
one-on-one kind of communication. Writing speaks indiscriminately to
everybody, and some questions, at least, are not suitable to be
discussed with everyone.
Plato was obviously aware of this criticism of writing, after all, he wrote it
down. The peculiarity of this fact points in the right direction: Plato must
have thought that the dialog form, his dialog form, of which he is the
undisputed master, somehow solved the problem of writing. The Platonic
dialog must speak to those who understand, or who might come to
understand, and remain silent to those who don't or can't.
In the dialogs Socrates always addresses these arguments to a particular
person or persons, in a particular settings, in a time and place. These facts
shape in a fundamental ways the exposition of a given argument. Every single
argument in a Platonic dialogs is shaped by the particular circumstance in
which it is told - the setting. Thus it is not enough to rip an argument out
of it's context, and to subject it to some logical scrutiny. We have to ask to
what hope or what concern or what passion of the interlocutor does this
argument respond, how does the interlocutor react to the argument, where
he emphatically agree, where he resists, laughs or gets angry, even walk out.
to read the Platonic dialog, you always have to keep in mind what I'll call,
for lack of a better phrase, the human meaning of a given argument - how
my life be different if an argument or one of it's premises is true.
...............TTC R. C. Bartlett
A developed tribal culture understands the potential
of misuse of the written word and
so instinctively detests the written word, for they also understand that direct and true
communication can only take place face to face, valid between one specific person to
another specific person, in a particular situation, time and context. The first extensive
use of the written word took place when a society or culture became post - shamanic,
and that is : the advent of organised religion, which required scriptures in order to
enact ritual and systematised indoctrination. The original use of language, that for
informal but expressive person to person communication gives way to a formal and
systematic use of words and their inter-relationship ; the structure of that language.
The Indian needs
no writing. Words that are true sink deep into his heart
where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand, if the white
man loses his paper, he is helpless. (Speech, 1891; Native American
Reader: Stories, Speeches and Poems, edited by Jerry D. Blanche)
The first use of the written word was thus for the
purpose of organised religion, that
a religion for the masses, but invariably controlled by an elite. In a shamanic society
( see : social structures and constructs and religions) religion is purely a
personal affair, and has no specific doctrines. It is purely a personal quest, and any
interpretation of the results of this quest are not considered as definitive, as is the
case with organised religion. In a shamanic society, the written word was not only
not needed, and so was also not invented or developed, it was perhaps even
shunned altogether as depreciating to the very process of human communication.
"Of the vision or
sign vouchsafed to him he did not speak, unless it had
included some commission which must be publicly fulfilled. Sometimes
an old man, standing upon the brink of eternity, might reveal to a
chosen few the oracle of his long-past youth."
..........Eastman ( The Soul of The Indian )
Most indigenous languages that did not
become written, eventually go out of disuse.
Apart from suppression by dominating cultures, new developments, new words and
therefore new concepts do not take place.
Unfortunately, any language
develops only by it's usage - by developing a body of
literature through which more and more people participate in it. What was English
And now English has become a sort of global language, and for better or worse, depending
upon each of us, this language has become the focal medium for expressing, comprehension,
communication and understanding. It then rests upon an individual to make use of whatever
linguistic tools are readily available for their own quest. Lamenting the loss of other languages
and having a bias against a language because of it being that of the dominating people
does not help but only hinder.
Advent and development of written language
"The only phenomenon
with which writing has always been concomitant
is the creation of cities and empires, that is, the integration of large
numbers of individuals into a political system and their grading into
castes and classes.
It seemed to have favored the exploitation of human beings rather
than their enlightenment"........Claude Levi-Strauss
The primitive man was a man of action and instinct,
and as few words as
necessary. Language was used in mythical stories to be told to children.
The use of language was imaginative and vision oriented, no hard and fast
rules were required. People spoke from the heart rather than babble with
their minds.( In any case the primitive man did not have a restless mind )
Since definitive from of language was not needed, their languages
remained spoken and not written.
improving our memory, what writing will do is weaken our
memory. Writing is an external device. If we write to remember, we
are not likely to remember it ourselves. We become less reliant on
ourselves, and our intellects weaken.
When I write something it becomes something outside of me. I am no
longer present to protect it. As such, the written work cannot discriminate
amongst its readers. A written work says the same thing to everybody, it is
also always subject to misinterpretation, it is like an orphan that is no
longer connected to its parent. Socrates instead prefers much more a face
to face conversation - which he calls a 'living speech' ( dialog or dialectic ),
which overcomes the limitations of writing. For him writing is a kind of
dead speech. Plato therefore wrote in dialog form, and never speaks as a
character in his dialogs so as to make the reader think for himself.
The dialogs are a kind of living speech that forces the reader towards
self-examination. The reader must enter into these conundrums and be
forced to think for himself."
........ TTC.. D. Roochnik
The written word was developed in post-shamanic societies
by the need for the
priests to indoctrinate the elite in order to perpetuate its own vested interests and
also to control the masses or to enslave the "other people".
Organised religion was the first in need of the written word, and from there the
structured languages of the world arose, ultimately culminating in language
being almost completely seized by science and technology. ( See ART )
"We might possess every
technological resource . . . but if our language
is inadequate, our vision remains formless, our thinking and feeling are
still running in the old cycles, our process may be "revolutionary" but
not transformative"....Adrienne Rich
Language for Internal communication
"We do not write
in order to be understood; we write in order to
"I would like to
underline the importance of writing in the culture
of the self. It is often assumed that personal writing is a modern
discovery. In fact the relation to oneself through writing has been
a long tradition of the west. It is possible to observe the shift from
the culture of memory dominated in the Socratic attitude towards
the practice of writing and taking notes in the culture of the Greko
Roman period. The culture of the self in this period implied the use
of personal notebooks - in which you had to note your readings,
your conversations, the themes for future meditations as also to
write your dreams.
Writing letters was also something important among those practices
of the Self - because in a letter you have to enter into a relation to
yourself as also a relation to somebody else.
The self becomes a field of observation" ...Foucault
"Better to write for
yourself and have no public, than write for the
public and have no self"..........Cyril Connolly
One of the most striking use of language is for
internal communication : as a tool
to sharpen, exercise, reorder and enhance one's faculties, especially that of the
intellect. Most of the knowledge that one holds has to be tested and exercised for
its applicability in order for it to acquire validity and potency, and here language
tends to play a very crucial role, at least in formulated knowledge.
"A word can be
transformed into a colour, light, a smell; it is the
writer's task to use it in such a way that it serves, never fails,
can never be ignored"......Knut Hamsun
There it was perfectly said : that a
spontaneous expression in language, before systematic
thought itself, was the most potent way to initiate thought itself. Even more fundamental, the
very structure of one's mind is shaped by the internal use of language. In the process of
self expression, language becomes even more crucial, for it is then that it acquires
a special potency : that of transforming the mind itself.
"The limits of my
language are the limits of my mind. All I know is
what I have words for." ...........Wittgenstein
"The limits of my mind
are the limits of my expressions in language.
Whatever may be the language, whatever may be the words, it is how
they are related, constructed and finally how they are expressed, is
the process by which I know something." ..Updated ....Nov 2003.
The very limits of one's mind are determined by it's
ability to handle language. It is the
only way the rational process can breakthrough its limitations to launch its counter-
process : the intuitive and creative , which can then lead to experiences as well as
understanding beyond any other means.
"For me words are a form of action, capable of influencing
change. Their articulation represents a complete, live
The ultimate use of
language is the integration of the Self through
written form of Self-expression that brings out the deepest
resources from within into concrete form.
The act of writing is the act of making soul, alchemy.
.....Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua
"The writer is an
engineer of the human soul."
Language for External Communication
"Don't write so that you can be
understood, write so that
you can't be misunderstood."......William Howard Taft
"Words should be a
little wild because they are the assault
of thoughts upon the unthinking." .....John Maynard Keynes
"I have always
wanted to write in such a way that will make
people think, "Why, I've always thought that but never found
the words for it."....Pamela Johnson
The mastery of the internal processes is itself
insufficient unless it reflects
positively towards one's interactive environment, in which other human
beings are the affected entities. It involves not only the articulation of new
and fresh ideas that have a wider applicability, but also to provide a voice
to those who want to be heard, but lack the ability or the articulation.
"Go out and speak for
the inarticulate and the submerged."
...........William Maxwell Beaverbrook
" Undistorted communication : 1 ) try to be relevant 2) try to
make your contribution true 3) try to make a contribution that is
sincere 4) your contribution must try to advance the cause
that is right"……..Rick Roderick TTC
"Austin talked about performatives as
opposed to descriptive
utterances - language doesn't just describe the world - not just
for knowledge and objectivity, but also to make commitments,
make promises and actions.
Language is used not only to describe as to what is the case
or what has already taken place but also to make something to
come into being."...R. Solomon. TTC
External communication can be "real time", that is, face to face or immediate
( ex. internet chat ), or it can be "turn based", for example in the form of letters.
(or E - Mail these days). For "real time" communication to be effective, there has
to be some spontaneity, because if the issue in hand requires depth of thought
more than spontaneity, then it is to be expected that there can be huge gaps in
conversation, something that is rare and not expected these days. Gone is the
time and place where conversations could have gaps of hours, if not days. Since
real time conversation nowadays admits no gaps, it has become extremely
rare to see a meaningful exchange take place that yields a productive outcome.
"Great literature is simply language
charged with meaning to
the utmost possible."........Ezra Pound
In "turn based" communication, since
it is almost certain that it will be of the written
kind, a greater seriousness is expected. The "turn based" form is essential for "deep
thought" communication, where it is necessary for all parties to be concentrated and
focused on the issue at hand, and it should be sacrilege for any one to shoot off
one's mouth ( or hand rather ) without thought.
In the written kind, a dual purpose of first internal and then external communication
becomes not only possible, rather it should be imperative. The written word is not only
more "concrete" sounding, but also longer lasting. Moreover, the written word is more
like a mirror for internal communication, for it serves as a feedback for the writer
to modify, enhance or correct the intended communication.
The most important use of language in external
communication is that
people not only learn from the experiences of others, but also to relive the
experience of others, although with a potentially infinite diversity and
"It is not true
that we only have one life to live; if we can read,
we can live as many lives and as many kinds of lives as we
wish"...S. I. Hayakawa
"The first job of
a novelist is to create a world that is so
convincing that the reader can get lost in it".....Henry James
"Why, when we
have got this fantastic invention, this ancient,
beautiful, complex technology transferring a human being's
mind, heart and soul into an easily digestible form that
anybody else can have a go at, why aren't we using
it more ?...Jane Davis ( Reading for life )
Socrates was the first to acknowledge and develop the
process of "interactive
dialog" between humans as the road to learning, and this can be contrasted to
the Native American "interactive dialog" between humans and other creatures
of nature like plants and animals as well as non-physical entities, as their road
towards learning. The inter-human dialog is a very powerful method for relating
to and connecting people of different backgrounds, contexts and talents.
But there must be something common at stake ( objective truth ) for it to be
effective, or else it can only end up either as a courteous exchange devoid
of any substance or on the other extreme end up in a brawl.
"If you talk to
the animals they will talk with you and you will know each
other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do
not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys."
- Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Canada
"You want to think
for yourself but you do not want to think by yourself.
You want to join the great conversation Suppose that a dozen of wisest
thinkers were alive today - wouldn't we want to dialog with them or insert
them into our conversations. Well we can do just that. Or at least talk to
their ghosts - for they wrote great books, which gives a kind of afterlife
to their thoughts. We can insert them into our conversation by inserting
ourselves into their conversations. They also did the same - enter into a
dialog with their dead predecessors. We all too can do that. They speak
to us and we have to respond - we can't be just passive."
...TMS - Ethics - A History of Moral Thought…..Prof. Peter Kreeft
In a non-interactive communication, the use of
language takes a different
character, for then there is no feedback available for the entities involved.
Thus the initiator or maker of this kind of communication content must take into
account the contexts, motivations and backgrounds of possible and potential
Example of excellence in style of written communication,
excerpts from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kierkegaard :
's central problematic was
'how to become a Christian in Christendom'.
This problematic or challenge for any creative writer is more or less identical in any
rigidly entrenched social or cultural setting, not just the setting of Christendom, and
thus the solution and style in his communication technique/ technology or 'rhetoric'
developed by Kierkegaard has a universal applicability - a powerful technique similar
to that of a combination of dialectic and rhetoric developed by Socrates in a quest
for fundamental and key concepts and universal communication.
The task was most difficult for the well educated, since prevailing
educational and cultural institutions tended to produce stereotyped
members of "the crowd" rather than to allow individuals to discover
their own unique identities. This problem was compounded by the
fact that Denmark had recently and very rapidly been transformed
from a feudal society into a capitalist society. Universal elementary
education, large scale migration from rural areas into cities, and
greatly increased social mobility meant that the social structure
changed from a rigidly hierarchical one to a relatively "horizontal"
one. In this context it became increasingly difficult to "become
who you are" for two reasons : 1) social identities were unusually
fluid ; 2) there was a proliferation of normalizing institutions which
Although there is an acknowledgement here of a relative social change from a
rigidly hierarchical to a relatively horizontal one, a shift that made it possible
for a thinker-writer like Kierkegaard to 'thrive' in writing, an alert thinker would
immediately note the irony in the statement of fact that 'in this context it became
increasingly difficult to become who you are'. This irony is a pointer to a much
deeper social - cultural malaise ( one symptom of which was Christendom ) that
Kierkegaard has an acute sense of and thus goes for the attack.
Given this problematic in this social context Kierkegaard perceived a
need to invent a form of communication which would not produce
stereotyped identities. On the contrary, he needed a form of rhetoric
which would force people back into their own resources, to take
responsibility for their own existential choices, and to become
who they are beyond their socially imposed identities.
In this undertaking, Kierkegaard was inspired by the figure of Socrates,
whose incessant irony undermined all knowledge claims that were taken
for granted or unreflectively inherited from traditional culture.
In his dissertation 'On the Concept of Irony with constant reference to
Socrates' Kierkegaard argued that the historical Socrates used his irony
in order to facilitate the birth of subjectivity in his interlocutors. Because
they were constantly forced to abandon their pat answers to Socrates'
annoying questions, they had to begin to think for themselves and to
take individual responsibility for their claims about
knowledge and value.
Kierkegaard sought to provide a similar service for his own
contemporaries. He used irony, parody, satire, humor, and de-
constructive techniques in order to make conventionally
accepted forms of knowledge and value untenable.
The point here is that meaning ultimately rests upon
the motivations of the interpreter.
The context of the source and the receiver of a communication can never be totally
identical. The context of the source of the communication, i.e., the communicator, also
cannot afford to be oblivious of the context background and likely interpretations of the
target receiver. The best communicator is the one who in the most simplest and efficient
use of language is able to not only express the essence of what one means to convey to
as wide an audience as possible, but also in a manner that benefits and even provokes
a creative response in the receivers of the communication.
tremendously powerful and important and are the
magical property of whoever has them"........C. Castaneda
But there is one area where the intra-human interactive dialog is crucially and critically
important : in the sharing of resources and the limits of inter-human and inter-
species behavior, in other words, in the framing of rules or laws by which
human beings govern themselves and the ecosystem. Here the rational
use of language is primary and indispensable, and where the terms used
to frame ( or reframe ) the rules and laws have to be defined.
It is only in the application of the rules and
laws that when an exceptional
condition occurs where the rule or law is found inadequate, that the non-
rational use of language becomes critical. But that is only when the existing
laws cannot fit the picture to a sufficient degree, and fresh human judgment
is required, that the non-rational or rhetorical use of language takes
precedence over the rational.
In both the rational as well as non-rational use of
the arena of human social management of order or conflict, the
interactive dialog or dialectic is a must. This means that even
in disagreement there must be a limit - a minimal agreement to
disagree, to define that which is agreeable, that which is dis-
agreeable, and the limits of these, or else we have chaos - or
war - or a deceptive sense of fake order enforced by a
tyranny or majority ( as in a democracy ), as the
case may be.
The intra-human dialog is indispensable for the
proper use of language in the
crucial interactions in the arena of law making and implementation, in politics,
where mere rhetoric is insufficient or even dangerous ( for example Hitler's
rhetoric misleading his own people in world war 2 ). In mass communication
the abuse of rhetoric is dangerously high.
Thus, wherever an agreement between humans is required ( ex. laws ) the
process of dialog is indispensable, and poetic or rhetorical use of words
is only supportive. The clear difference is that in the dialectic or dialog,
the terms used must be defined, or at least, those that cannot be defined
demarcated as such, and in a rhetorical exchange no definitions are
required, and so its domain is not in the framing of laws but in their
application in exceptional or unusual situations where the law or laws
are in a grey area.
The human condition demands that the areas of
the rational and non-
rational use of language or interactive communication be mapped intra-
society as well as inter-society
One of the greatest challenges of the use of language is its use in the
defense of law, order and justice. Language is the only tool for upholding
the basic rights of all living creatures, for upholding the basic dignity of
The ultimate challenge of language is to prevent, block, and attack the
abuse of language in justification of oppression, suppression and
exploitation. Only language can undo the abuse of language. Only
language can break down the wall of deception behind which tyrants
hide by hiring "sold out intellectuals" to justify or deflect from their
misdeeds. Only language can anticipate and cut off their
ultimate escape route.
"A word carries far --
very far -- deals destruction through time
as the bullets go flying through space"......Joseph Conrad
Mass Communication: The Paradox and Challenge
"Thinking and saying
exactly what you want to say requires untold
amounts of energy".......C Castaneda
The modern world is now connected not only by TV, and
print media as the major mass
communication media, but also by the internet, and so, mass communication media has
become the wholly dominant means of communication. This has tended to make people
behave like mass organisms, that is, a popular piece of information or writing is the one
which evokes the maximum "favorable response" in the maximum target audience, which
then tends to promote that piece to a wider and wider audience:
thus leading to a vicious circle.
Thus a TV program with a high initial viewer response gets more and more popular by the
viewer response data acting as a promoting stimulant both for the producer, the media
and the audience. Thus the media is hogged or clogged only with that content that has
a high favorable audience response and that which does not evoke an initial mass
response is drowned or obscured or killed altogether.
In this process people have easy access only to already determined popular contents
and the rest is blocked or not accessible, making people behave more and more like
a mass organism rather than free thinking individuals.
"Plato was the first critic of the mass media"....TTC C Mathews
“The media's the
most powerful entity on earth. They have the power
to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and
that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
― Malcolm X
The challenge of communication in a mass
communication era is to create content
that not only evokes a favorable response in masses but by its inherent quality of
hidden meanings has a provocative response in free thinking people also.
ON THE USE OF WORDS IN COHERENT EXPRESSIONS
masterpiece of literature is only a dictionary
out of order".....Jean Cocteau
Words by themselves are nothing. They are merely the
tools and materials by which we
mould our thought process, as also the medium by which we communicate or give expression
to experiences, abstractions and imaginative endeavors. It has been repeatedly emphasised
in this work that language and its underlying, related concepts are to be used as tools for self
expression in the process towards self realisation in which both our creative as
well as rational faculties are exercised.
"Work on good prose
has three steps: a musical stage when it is
composed, an architectonic one when it is built, and a textile
one when it is woven"...........Walter Benjamin
The idea is to find the
right balance between the artistic use of
words ( poetic ) to trigger the synthesis process and the
intellectual use of words to develop the rational process.
"The writer must
be able to revel and roll in the abundance of words;
he must know not only the direct but also the secret power of a word.
There are overtones and undertones to a word, and lateral echoes, too."
The ideal expression is that which accomplishes both
these simultaneously. That is why
sometimes a novelist can have a greater and wider impact than a poet, because a poet
very rarely has an impact upon the rational process. The thrust of this work has been a
development of the rational process, so that it gains a necessary amount of flexibility
and fluidity in its working, so that it can, whenever required, be able to make a space
for the initiation of the synthesis.
"Language is a process
of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed,
but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free
and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves
a process of free creation.".....Noam Chomski
The Non-rational use of Language
Although language in itself has no
inherent meaning, its use provides meaning in the
sense that words are the most powerful means for self-expression and communication.
And serving as means to a purpose provides meaning
in the process.
"What they were
doing implied : use your voice to make an object. After I did
it I wondered then what it all meant and why it felt so good if it didn't mean
anything. I thought about it few years actually and I decided that meaning and
language are two different things and what the alien voice in the psychedelic
experience wants us to reveal is the syntactical nature of reality.
That the real secret of magic is made of words and that if you know
the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever
you wish." .......Terence McKenna
The Best Example of Non-Rational Use of Language: Poetry
"Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language"......Lucille Clifton
The function of poetry (or rhetoric) is
to obtain for everybody, one kind of success
at the limits of the autonomy of the will to affect its purposes by other means.
The limits of the autonomy of the will to which the practice (expression) of poetry
(or rhetoric) corresponds are in the most general sense – death and the barriers
which prevent access to other minds. Such limits of the human will become our
fundamental concern and drive our turn to poetry, become the mortal reasons why
writers begin writing, speakers in poems begin speaking, and readers become
readers of poetry in a particular class of situations. Very concretely, the turn to
poetry is driven by the collapse of fundamental communicative systems (dialectical)
of other kinds –“London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”
Poetry (or rhetoric) is driven into existence and conserved because they address and
to some extent constitute the reconstruction of the human world – the restoration of that
rejoicing in communicability fundamental to our or any humanity after catastrophic
destructions figured as the collapse of communicative systems. Poetry (or rhetoric) is the
communication system of the last resort. The Muses as principles of poetry are the
daughters of great memory, the mother of the Muses, or meta-text in which
the poem is an actualization
The poem begins after history, after the civilizational systems of the social world have
ceased to be intelligible. The principal bridge of the central city is falling down. The poem
begins before experience, after history, before experience which the capacity to choose
the game prepares. The poem constructs experience – the tug of war. “London Bridge
is falling down” is a construction that establishes the failure of the construction of
another kind – the bridge, and then supersedes it. The poem is built as a sequence
of imperatives which intend building. These imperatives constitute
a series of histories of the testing of reality.
Pre-civilization man did not need
poetry, for his relation to nature was a harmonious one.
And so, the artistic use of language was redundant. The artistic forms of expression
were mostly in the form of chants. The exercise of the synthesis process was mostly in
the form of visionary excursions. ( the vision quest in Native Americans ) that was so
personal that it's linguistic expression was not required, only the conditions were to
be sought whereby that vision would be realised meaningfully. This often meant a
battle or conflict for the warrior where his skills and instincts would be tested and
sharpened : more importantly an exposure to death as the rare chance that would
lead the warrior to a higher degree of knowledge and power.
. Poetry was first
used in religious texts, originally written as an expression of a religious
experience, then in worship and prayer, but quickly lost its creative potency because it
became more of a doctrine in institutions of worship - in temples, where one and only
one form and interpretation was to be accepted and perpetuated.
With civilization came
mankind's alienation from nature, and the inner anguish of the
creative artist, disillusioned by religion, found expression in the form of poetry.
Poetry arose from the desire, the
need to express the depths of abstract feelings and
emotions that could not be expressed rationally. Poetry therefore does not follow any
rules of language and yet its domain covers the whole range of human feelings.
"As a poet and
writer, I deeply love and I deeply hate words.
I love the infinite evidence and change and requirements and
possibilities of language"....June Jordan
This does not imply, however,
that poetry could not be abused. Rather it was one of
the first of the arts that was abused. It was abused by those in power - political or
religious to further their own interests as well as to amuse themselves. And if the
tyrant did not possess this art, as was usually the case, he simply "bought it ".
Again, the "selling" of art was not confined to poetry alone but also to all other
arts : acting, singing, dancing, painting and sculpture. And part of this commerce
were the schools that "taught" these arts. In the Greek civilization, the Sophists
were the "teachers" of the art of speaking and persuading called rhetoric, but
made it into a commercial activity by charging a hefty fee ( naturally from the
rich ) for this "teaching of virtue", which was almost equated with the art of fine
speaking, so that the pupils could further their political carriers, or become
lawyers in the courts ( and thereby themselves charge a hefty fee from their
"The broad masses of a
population are more amenable to the
appeal of rhetoric than to any other force"....Adolf Hitler
people who had command of words were respected
and feared as people who manipulated magic. In latter times, I
think artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down
the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art and
writing are merely forms of entertainment. They are not seen as
transformative forces that can change a human being, that can
change a society. They are seen as simple entertainment, things
with which we can fill up twenty minutes, half an hour while we
are waiting to die."....Alan Moore
The Rational use of Language
Socrates and Confucius were the first few ones to make extensive use of the
the rational faculty in discourse, by attacking and exposing the limitations
of the non-rational use of language especially the teaching of "rhetoric".
This practice of rhetoric came for almost immediate attack by Socrates who
questioned whether "virtue" that rhetoricians equated with fine speech can be
taught at all, and that the very concept of "virtue" was was an antithesis to
commercial value and money. He was correct in pointing out that the primary
motivation in this practice then became wealth and so "virtue" itself became
subject to wealth, thus corrupted and lost in the process. However, his own
method of the dialectic ( a questioning dialog between people to arrive at
"truth" ) as contrasted with rhetoric, whereby one person tries to persuade
another as to what is "virtue" or "truth", itself only demonstrated that the
"search for truth" leads to contradictions that cannot be resolved by the
process of dialectic agreement. Surprisingly, even Socrates did not fully
realise the significance of his having stumbled upon a "fundamental truth".
This "fundamental truth"
that "what is true" for one is not necessarily "what
is true" for another was itself lost to the Greeks and the entire West by
the imposing or persuading "science of Aristotle" ( a quest for "objective"
truth ) until its resurrection by Kierkegaard, thousands of years later.
Socrates did realize however, quite clearly, that " virtue" or "goodness" or
"justice" could not be "taught" or remain as a mere art, can only come about
in an engaging interaction or dialectic in which it must undergo rational
examination as well. Moreover, he implied, these qualities cannot be evoked
by "persuasion" or "teaching", but from within by first of all initiating a
rigorous examination of one's own motivations and values.
"That which is moved from without is soulless"...Socrates
Both Socrates and Confucius were deeply interested in the social and
political implication of virtue or morality, and these were the first steps
of man in an examination of the crucial relationship between subjective
truth and the social, political or objective truth. For the first time both had
hit upon a fundamental objective truth : that unless men of impeccable
integrity were in charge of the political arena, widespread social
degeneration was the inevitable consequence. Another significant
point that they raised was that institutionalized religion had lost all
moral authority, and therefore should not have a political role. And yet
another truth they insisted upon was that in the social, political sphere
basic terms like "justice", "virtue", "piousness" can only be properly
put to use if they have a defining parameter, and can no longer be
talked about in the vague abstractions of a poet's lingo. The place
for poets was outside the city walls, inside the wall, these terms
must be defined in order to govern properly.
"It takes two to
speak truth -- one to speak, and another to hear."
Thus another "Truth" they had stumbled upon was that in the social, political
affairs of men, reason and intellect had to be employed ( rather must take
precedence ), especially in the rational use of language through the dialectic
by firstly defining the key terms to be used in the process - terms that were
to become crucial in everyday discourse of men in the public domain - in
social and political institutions.
This search for the relation between
objective truth and morality and the ideas
about them by these two great thinkers who incidentally existed around the
same time in this world, was not taken up or developed further seriously by
The obsession of Aristotle for a quest for "objective truth" through the
study of the physical world also killed the Socratic quest for the study
of "virtue" or "goodness" in its social and political implications.
One of the greatest ironies for the West was the death of Socrates
who was accused of being " impious" and corruptor of youth. (and
for asking too many uncomfortable questions ! )
In the East the concept of
"goodness" and morality in public life was never
given any consideration. Everything was supposed to sort itself out by the
concept of "karma", ( actions of past life ), a doctrine of fatalism that man's
destiny is predetermined by all past actions. Probity of man's actions in
public life was never a priority, and things like justice and accountability
were all trivial matters.
In the East, while "truth is
relative" was well understood from a long time,
there was no quest for an "objective truth" only a quest for "ultimate truth"
or "ultimate reality" (so much for terminology !) which was all beyond any
words ( except sacred religious scriptures ! ) and beyond life itself,
to be realised by the escape from the cycle of life and death. Thus in
the East, the rational use of language never developed. In the Indian
subcontinent the entire energies went into meditation, and in the
Chinese culture the obsession with martial arts became the ultimate
frontier. The irony of the East was the denial for the value of life itself
in the quest for " ultimate reality ". Even Buddhism got entangled in
The rational use of language then
became the exclusive domain of the
West, without any idea of its potential for abuse by those in power and
those with an insatiable greed for wealth.
"Therefore is the name of it
called Babel ; because the Lord did
there confound the language of all the earth : and from thence
did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."
.....King James Bible, Genesis 11 : 9
" A lot of people have died because they read a book the wrong way.
This is evident in the History of world's great religions - in reading
a religious book and interpreting it can get you in a lot of trouble.
Similarly in the matter of law, simple reading of a constitution
In the field of instrumental reason, human labor advances the world
technologically, and in the field of interpretation humanity advances
itself through conversation in an ethical and aesthetic way - human
liberation ( liberation from unnecessary constraints) for our full
.....Rick Roderick ( TTC Self Under Siege )
The development of the rational use of language
resulted in the formation of two
crucial social institutions that then became the foundations of societies : the school
and the church or temple. Both these institutions were institutions of indoctrination of
the so called "truths" that had been discovered by that society. ( or rather "objective
truths, since now the concept of truth had become wholly objective or ultimate, thanks
to people like Aristotle and the Priests or preachers of religion )
Some of mankind's most terrible misdeeds have been committed
under the spell of certain magic words or phrases...James Conant
"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only
one you have." - Emile Chartier
The first step is therefore to develop an awareness
of the pitfalls involved with words.
One of the major pitfalls that very few people realise is the over-emphasis on the use
of a particular word, that then becomes so catchy that it includes everything, and then
it becomes so meaningless that it becomes almost a religious icon.
"In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God."..... King James Bible John 1 : 1-4
"The entire creation, the entire universe is contained in the
primordial word or mantra 'om'".......Hindu doctrine
Thus the word 'word' itself is the first
candidate for widespread abuse, by the
religious doctrinal insistence of it being the creator's primordial utterance !
The notion of a creator/ God and any understanding of the process of creation
is thus perverted and thwarted at the outset through religious indoctrination.
Plenty of other examples can be given : Love, Faith, and now the latest , Matrix. I
have just finished reading an article on the abuse of this word that has become a
word that every kid not only knows, but also believes that we are living in a matrix
world run by a computer. This is not to say that the concept depicted is totally
irrelevant or misleading, but to literally believe in something that is clearly meant
to be a metaphor is a symptom of concept perversion. What can you expect
when there is no other space for thinking except in scientific, mathematical terms,
which were some few hundred years back religious terms like God, Holy, Nirvana ?
And I really feel like blowing my brains out when some moron makes smug
statements of certainty like : 'reality is pure mathematics' or 'all is love of God' or
some such sweeping statement that completely demeans a certain word and thus
the concept that the word signifies. People rarely see that when a concept is used
to imply 'everything', it becomes not only meaningless but also misleading to those
who become 'infected' by it. Such kind of abuse is common and widespread in
"People glom onto
words and stories that are often just stand-ins for real
action and meaning. Advertisers look for words that imply a product’s value
and use that as a substitute for value itself. Companies constantly tell us about
their commitment to excellence, implying that this means they will make only
top-shelf products. Words like quality and excellence are misapplied so relentlessly
that they border on meaningless. Managers scour books and magazines looking
for greater understanding but settle instead for adopting a new terminology, thinking
that using fresh words will bring them closer to their goals. When someone comes
up with a phrase that sticks, it becomes a meme, which migrates around even as
it disconnects from its original meaning.
To ensure quality, then, excellence must be an earned word, attributed by others
to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves. It is the responsibility of good leaders
to make sure that words remain attached to the meanings and ideals they represent."
Ed Catmull (Creativity)
WEB Int.2013: When certain words are
used so extensively that they are mechanically injected
into every discourse, especially so in mass culture, they tend to lose their meaning and significance
This is true not only in organized religion use of the word 'God' ( primitive or un-organized religion was not
so word-trapped) but also in science, where the use of the word 'evolution' has now become so extensive
and spread into every possible nook and corner of every discourse that verbal wars have now erupted,
not unlike the religious wars. Science (read scientists here - the high priests of the mass culture), have now
laid claim and authority to interpret and define almost every word in the English vocabulary by making the
preposterous claim that it is the only way to interpret all of reality. One example of such obfuscation is by
defining 'evidence' as that which is completely devoid of individual experience and interpretation.
"Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which
we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute".....J. G. Ballard
"God made a mistake in his calculations at the Tower of Babel : nowadays
everybody speaks the same Technology".......Elias Canetti
The art of language however is the last resort, the final and ultimate communication mode against this
obfuscation and dumbing of the human mind.
" I do not want
to limit Nietzsche's arguments to a set of Christian
values specifically, but to certain duplicitous ways in which words
of value are used in general. The way that a bomb can be dropped
'lovingly' or 'surgically' - see when you cut someone surgically is to
heal them, right ? That's what a surgical strike is - cuts the cancer
out, leaves the patient alive. A surgical strike may not be surgical
with Dr Kildare. Reading Nietzsche makes us suspicious of people
who purport to do 'good' to us and use words like 'love' . Nietzsche
says that the Christian doctrine of loving everyone does not work
because love is meaningless without discrimination. In what way do
I honor you and love you if I love everyone else too ? For Nietzsche
it is absolutely duplicitous for someone to say ' I just love everyone'.
The thematic underneath the Christian doctrine of love was
resentment and hatred. That made it all the more important to cloak
those motives in a dialog of love, just as if one has a ( underlying )
political agenda of greed - best to cloak it in a doctrine using the
words freedom and choice. Greed doesn't sell as well as freedom
……..Rick Roderick ( TTC – Philosophy and Human Values)
OUT OF CONTEXT,
LIMITED or INFLEXIBLE
The second kind of misuse of words is when they are
used out of the context in which
they are valid. This is usually done either because the person has a deliberate intent
to mislead or just being frivolous or one of the most common reason is to divert the
issue or responsibility that is apparently confronting the person. Another simple
reason is lack of talent in recognising a valid context. Or the context may be so
limited that many words become meaningless within that narrow context and thus
reducing the entire exercise into a farce.
As an example, the entire field of Psychology became redundant and misleading
when it was insisted by John Watson and subsequently by others that psychology
must discard all references to "consciousness", "mind" and all such subjective
sounding words, thereby reducing the entire field of psychology to that within the
narrow context of the physical sciences.
This is fairly common in academic circles to narrow
down the context of
expression and communication into specialist categories or 'isms and then
treat everything within the narrow bounds of that speciality. This is so even
within the arts where there are sub-categories of paintings, music, poetry,
etc. This inflexibility of context is a particularly modern malady that is no
longer confined to the academic world, but has also spread to professional
simplest questions can turn into philosophical ones,
usually in frustration, like 'what the hell does that mean?' and so the
philosopher takes that kind of question and puts it in a foreign context.
In a particular context a remark has a home and a meaning, but in the
other context, it doesn't have any purchase. In metaphysics, Nietzsche
thought it to be pompous to ask those kind of questions that were in
a way binding for all - a kind of dogmatic sort of imperialism against
which Socrates was fighting. Its the kind of imperialism found in the
educational institutions of today like the Cambridge accent
(terminology) that discusses in detail the problem of relativism.
……..Rick Roderick (
TTC – Nietzsche and the Post-Modern Condition)
The usage and therefore the meanings of words undergo
changes when a culture uses a word
borrowed from another culture or time. Sometimes the changes that take place, instead of
enhancing the proper use of that word, the signifying meaning of the word in this cultural context
is demeaned or even perverted.
background as a philologist warned him that certain words that were
important in a particular valuation, underwent very interesting semantic shifts
between the Greek period and the Christian period. Example : the Greek word
for excellence 'arete', comes to be translated in a Christian medieval period as
virtue or piety. The semantic terrain has almost reversed. This signified a shift
in values from 'master morality' to 'slave morality' and this shift he calls it 'life
denying as opposed to 'life affirming' "
……..Rick Roderick ( TTC – Nietzsche and the Post-Modern Condition)
A third kind of misuse of words are when they are
applied mechanically, as a jargon to
hide one's ignorance, as well as lack of originality. This abuse of language has become
most widespread these days both in professional life, religion as well as philosophy.
Instead of using words for clear and original expressions, certain words that are high
and sophisticated sounding are hurled in order to score points. The most affected are
the academic circles where there is no originality of thought or expression and people
become PhD's just by permutations and combinations of technical words that even
the writer cannot comprehend, but zaps everyone else.
COMPLEX instead of SIMPLE
Most expressions do not demand complicated and
entangled use of words. Rather
only those expressions are powerful that use simple words to convey ideas and
feelings. Complexity of words and symbols may be required in scientific and
mathematical works, but as a rule is not applicable in the arts, literature and
humanities. If an idea or concept is a totally new one, some complexity may be
required, but even there the rule of thumb should be to use an inter-relation of
simple words, so that the concept or idea to be conveyed does not become so
abstract that it takes ages for another to go through a few sentences which
invoke the concept.
" Habermas posited
that systematically distorted communication
had become the hallmark of modernity. Undistorted communication
would have a symmetry condition i.e. everyone would have an equal
opportunity to talk and to listen. In other words everyone would have
an equal right to question and to answer. Communication is always
distorted by relations of unequal power. A boss seldom gets an
undistorted truth about his situation ( from an employee). This is
not because of any personal considerations but is systematic.
An undistorted communication is a dialog between equals.
When Socrates argues with an interlocutor he never holds the
argument that he is more powerful or wiser than the other and
so the other is wrong. The only force that Socrates expects
you to recognize is as Habermas says that a free human
being can ever recognize and that is that peculiar, strange
unforced force of the better argument."
…..Rick Roderick ( TTC Self Under Siege)
ENIGMATIC or PARADOXICAL WORDS :
CASE Study : Resilience and Paradox
Resilient : now that's a word to ponder upon. I have
never used it before but that's
because I am not a writer. At least not professional or even trained. And I have only
rarely seen it used. Perhaps because resilience itself is in short supply these days. I
had presumed that it meant a certain strength of character of a person : an ability to
withstand adversity. My dictionary says that it means " bounce back" or "spring
back" or "recover quickly from a setback".
This itself does not say much about this word. It is
when you check the thesaurus
carefully, that the word really jumps at you, and then you realise that it is one of those
enigmatic words that signify a paradox that is hidden and not at all obvious.
A thing appears paradoxical when it shows up
two contrary qualities that
seemingly contradict "and yet" are undoubtedly and simultaneously
present in that thing.
"Take away the paradox
from a thinker, and you have a
( For example light, or electromagnetic rays have two
contradictory properties :they
behave both as particles ( discrete) as well as waves ( continuous ) .)
The hidden paradox in this word becomes clearer when
you look at the synonyms
as well as the antonyms of the two sets of alternate words in the thesaurus
( from Encarta thesaurus ) :
1st set : hardy, strong, tough, robust, buoyant, irrepressible, spirited, resistant
antonym : defeatist
2nd set : elastic, pliable, flexible, supple, resistant, tough, durable, sturdy.
antonym : rigid.
A paradox is best represented in language by the "yet" or "and yet" or
"but still" or "as well as" logic.
"Sorcerers have a
peculiar bent. They live exclusively in the twilight
of a feeling best described by the words "and yet.....". When everything
is crumbling down around them, sorcerers accept that the situation is
terrible, and then immediately escape to the twilight of "and yet.."
When we use this logic of "and yet" to describe the word resilience we get :
Something that is "hardy" and yet "elastic".
Something that is "strong", yet "pliable".
Something that is "tough", and yet "flexible".
Something that is "robust", yet "supple".
Something that is "buoyant" yet "resistant".
Something that is "irrepressible" as well as "tough"
Something that is "spirited" as well as "durable"
Something that is "resistant", yet "sturdy"
Now if you include all this it gives the image of a
character who is a cross
between Christ and Superman ! And the opposite ?
Both defeatist and rigid are antonyms of resilience
but between the two of them,
quite contrary to each other. However, I think both of these words don't quite
convey an opposite of resilience.
To concieve an appropriate antonym ( which should be
a picture of the opposite
of resilience ) :
Something that is "crafty" and yet "slimy"
Something that is "smart" as well as "stupid"
Something that is "stubborn" as well as "weak"
Something that "only shows change" but still "remains same inside".
Something that is "docile" and yet "treacherous"
Something that is "inflexible" as well as "soft"
Now try to picture a person with all this. I am
sure this is not beyond many people's
imagination. Anyway, the word that comes closest to the above is as I find it :
"One of the
misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false shame
we have killed off so much real shame as well"....Louis Kronenberger
As with any other word, the word resilience too can
just as easily be abused.
And just as there can be a thin dividing line between "evolved" and "dominant",
there can be a thin dividing line between "resilient" and "shameless", for
Just as an oppressive and dominating people can call
themselves "evolved" and
develop a philosophy around it, a shameless people could well call themselves
resilient and develop a religion around it.
The point of this exercise is to show that a single
word by itself is very likely to be
abused, and at best only useful in religious worship. The use of a single word,
or even a small set of very few words used in a definitive relationship with a
definitive emphasis on them, can only lead to a situation that looks like a
religion's or cult's iconography or ritual.
TOUGH WORDS : TRUTH and FACT
"I often wish . . .
that I could rid the world of the tyranny of facts. What are
facts but compromises? A fact merely marks the point where we have
agreed to let investigation cease"........Bliss Carman
"The belief that there
is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of
it seems to me the deepest root of all evil that is in the world"....Max Born
" Say not that ' I
have found The Truth', say instead ' I have found a truth'".
Some words are so commonly used, and yet are
so difficult in comprehending the
meaning behind the use of that word, and the context of the author. A classic example
would be the word : Truth and its relation to the surprisingly confusing word : fact.
"The telephone book is
full of facts, but it doesn't contain a single idea".
"Nothing is more common than
for men to think that because
they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they
stand for"....John Henry Newman
So common is its usage and so baffling is its
meaning, specially so because most of the
time even the user is not sure what it means. The safest meaning of the word is : Truth is
that which conforms to facts, or that which does not contradict the facts of an event that
occurred. The opposite of Truth is falsehood : that which contradicts the facts of an event.
But the real falsehood occurs when these words are used to deliberately obscure the
the very meaning that these are supposed to communicate.
be recounted; much less twice over, and far less still by
different persons. I've already drummed that thoroughly into your head."
..............Augusto Roa Bastos
Let's look at the meaning of the word
"fact". It is an event that occurs and is recorded in
the accuracy of its occurrence by the witnesses to the occurrence and agreed upon as
to its description. If someone says "Tom is tall", he is simply describing what he has
observed and interpreted according to a convention or standard, which in this case is
the average height of men. But if he says "Tom is a good man", he is stating that which
seems to be true from his point of view, or conversely, he could well be "untruthful" in
the sense that he actually believes Tom to be a bad man, but either wants to deceive
by saying the opposite of what he believes, or is just being sarcastic, or is lying for
some reason that compels him to do so ( for example, Tom may be threatening to
kill that person, unless that person announces Tom to be a good man ). As we can
see in this example, a simple statement like "Tom is a good man" can only mean
in terms of "facts" that some person, say Dick, has uttered these words and that
at least one other person, say Harry, has heard these words.
"There's a world of
difference between truth and facts. Facts can
obscure truth."............Maya Angelou
"In this world truth can wait; she's used to it".....Douglas Jerrold
But what is the "truth" in this
case is not at all simple and there is no way to
for anyone to be sure of the "truth". And if we say that the "truth" is again
nothing more than Dick making a statement about Tom, and this being
heard by Harry, then we are back to square one by equating "truth" with
"fact", there being no difference between the two.
"Truth knows no color; it appeals to intelligence".....James Cone
So for "truth" to be a meaningful
concept it has to be more than just "facts".
In the example above "truth" is likely to be very different for all three persons,
but if they all willingly agree, it becomes an established "fact".
Thus it is possible to establish "facts" in the limited domain of science, but in
the process of linguistic communication between living entities, "facts" are
very difficult, if not impossible, to establish. It is only possible to establish
"facts" if all entities involved in the communication have the same purpose
and objective, and the fundamental premises or assumptions of all are the
same. The only domain in which this is possible is science. The domain of
linguistic communication cannot therefore be subject to the methods of
"Two elements are
needed to form a truth -- a fact and an
abstraction".....Remy de Gourmont
"His aim was to provoke the individual so as to become an individual
in the truth. The last thing Kierkegaard wanted to do was to leave his
reader the same – intellectually enlightened yet inwardly unchanged."
......Provocations - Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. (Plough Publishing)
So Then : What are facts ?
A Fact is nothing except in relation to a desire ( motive ), it is
not complete except in relation to a purpose and a whole "
"Facts come to us
through the nets of interpretation, which itself determines
what counts as facts and facts do not overthrow interpretation directly.
Interpretations set the range in which facts can be appealed to.
The most insidious interpretations are those which we have forgotten that
they are interpretations. Certain interpretations can outlive their usefulness
for life - can become unfortunate ways to continue to interpret"
……..Rick Roderick ( TTC – Nietzsche and the Post-Modern Condition)
" Even so called
facts can be determined by our attitudes. To a considerable
extent our values determine the facts. Each individual, to a certain extent,
is a creator of his own world - he creates it by the values that he holds.
"A concept is stronger than a fact".....Charlotte Gilman
"Facts are stupid
until brought into connection with some general law."
Thus facts themselves are only those that are
established by consensus in a social
context by a set of individuals who are supposed to have witnessed the event, and then
recollecting it from their respective memories, agreed upon the details and interpretations
of the event. Now here is where we are bound to run into trouble. That in this elaborate
process of establishing the facts, even if one of the individual disagrees with the details
or interpretations of the witnessed event, we have a major problem on our hands :
what happens to the "Truth" ? "The Truth" is commonly understood as something that
is independent of the opinions or interpretations of anyone. Science is based upon this
premise. The laws and equations of Science are considered as "The Truth", at least by
the scientists. These laws are taken to be absolute and unchanging. Most religions even
treat the concept of truth as referring to the absolute : even God.
Most religions consider God and "The
Truth" as synonyms. Some insist that "The Truth"
and "Ultimate Truth" are the same. So much for religion.
"Let the facts speak for
themselves" is a common rhetoric that the factologists
resort to. But the "truth" is that facts never speak for themselves - someone
or another is always speaking for them and it is in this process itself that any
event actually becomes a "fact" - a process that is nothing more than an
agreed upon interpretation of a witnessed event.
"Facts and truth
really don't have much to do with each other."
"I'm not afraid of facts, I
welcome facts but a congeries of facts is not
equivalent to an idea. This is the essential fallacy of the so-called "scientific"
mind. People who mistake facts for ideas are incomplete thinkers;
they are gossips."........Cynthia Ozick
“Questions of fact
must be distinguished from questions of value.
Is there intelligent life in the universe? is a question of fact
falling squarely in the realm of scientific exploration. It is the
scientific inquiry that we rely on to give us the facts.
(But) to consider purely as fact, all facts have exactly the same status
(of importance), and if some facts are more interesting or more
important, then that is because of our values, not because of the
facts themselves. You could know all the facts about execution like
hanging or lethal injection, all the history of execution technologies
and still not know a thing about whether the death penalty is justified.
Why? Because justification is not a question of fact but a question
Values show up inexorably when we deal with facts, how we handle
facts, what facts we seek, what facts we call attention to - that itself
is a matter of value.
Even in the use of science we look for important facts regarding some
end that we value, something of importance to what we are trying to
bring about. Science as we know it is guided by our values. How can it
be otherwise? Science is a human endeavor, and our human endeavors
are guided by what we value.
The naturalistic fallacy is the attempt to deduce values from facts alone
- a failure of logical reasoning. You cannot get values from facts alone.
Similar distinction can be made between the descriptive and the
normative approaches. Decisions can never be arrived at from facts
or statements of facts, although they pertain to facts. The making of
a decision, the adoption of a standard is a fact, but the norm which is
adopted is not."
.......TTC- Questions of Value - P. Grim
So Then: What is Truth ?
"Tell the truth,
and so puzzle and confound your adversaries."
"You must speak
straight so that your words may go as sunlight into
our hearts. Speak Americans. I will not lie to you; do not lie to me."
-- Cochise, (Hardwood) Chiracahua Apache (1812-1874)
"Such is the irresistible nature
of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is
the liberty of appearing."...Thomas Paine
"I tore myself away
from the safe comfort of certainties through my love
for truth - and truth rewarded me".............Simone de Beauvoir
"If a person is to get the
meaning of life he must learn to like the facts
about himself -- ugly as they may seem to his sentimental vanity -- before
he can learn the truth behind the facts. And the truth is never ugly."
A 'Truth' is no more than the correct interpretation of the sum of all the
facts and circumstances or events of one's life ; it is what one makes of
the facts and what they mean - it is what one has to believe about what
the facts are pointing towards.
"The dream begins with a teacher
who believes in you, who tugs and pushes
and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick
called 'truth'.".......Dan Rather
"To take what there
"is", and use it, without waiting forever in vain for the
preconceived -- to dig deep into the actual and get something out of that
-- this doubtless is the right way to live".....Henry James
A falsehood is an incorrect interpretation of the facts of one's life - an
underestimation or an overestimation of what these facts add up to
or a misinterpretation of their
significance or meaning.
"Good writers define
reality; bad ones merely restate it. A good writer turns
fact into truth; a bad writer will, more often than not, accomplish the
Gurdjieff quotes his father's saying 'Truth is that from which
conscience can be at peace'
The worst scenario is avoidance or evasion or simply indifference towards
truth. This is the most common scenario, and it happens because the truth
is usually painful, scary, terrifying or even horrible. Most people therefore
hold evasive beliefs in order not to confront the truth and even devise
elaborate, evasive philosophies to deflect from it.
"People do think that if they
avoid the truth, it might change to something
better before they have to hear it"......Marsha Norman
stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves
up and hurry off as if nothing had happened".......... Winston Churchill
"Our society finds
truth too strong a medicine to digest undiluted. In its purest
form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach"
"Truth is a
well-known pathological liar. It invariably turns out to be Fiction wearing
a fancy frock. Self-proclaimed Fiction, on the other hand, is entirely honest. You
can tell this, because it comes right out and says, "I'm a Liar,"
right there on the dust jacket.”― Alan Moore
SUBJECTIVE TRUTH/ OBJECTIVE TRUTH
2013: Does it make sense of talk about a “subjective” truth?
The only meaningful sense in which truth can be talked about is by a ‘subject’ ( a ‘subject’
of nature/reality/cosmos) – meaning: an ‘existing individual’. Truth is primarily subjective –
which means that even an objective or absolute truth is meaningful only if subjectively
related to, realized in one’s own life and actions, and articulated in a unique or creative
The mass of men/women and society or culture are not concrete entities that can ‘realize’
or articulate even a single truth because the locus of any realization and articulation of ANY
truth is an existing individual. A ‘truth’ has no meaning, no sense, without an existing Being
‘for Whom and for What’ it is true. Subjective truth is the answer to the question one asks
about what one’s life is all about, and Objective truth is the answer to the question that one
asks about what human existence is all about – the Telos of the cosmos. No one is ‘born’
into the truth (although the potential is latent), nor can it be really imposed or acquired from
society and culture. It has to be necessarily sought BY the individual, is realized through
knowledge and action FOR the individual and it becomes OF the individual, and finally
articulated BY the individual.
All life forms are sentient (having sense perception or feeling) in the sense that they are
capable of ‘feeling’ at least, even if not having sense perception. (It has been demonstrated
that even plants have ‘feeling’). From a very pragmatic perspective in relating to the concept
of truth, a human being is indeed the “existing individual” insofar as that particular human
being is aware of his/her individuality as an autonomously thinking and acting individual,
that is, not wholly dependent upon social, cultural norms of thought and behavior.
"Two ways in general are open for an existing individual - either he can do his utmost to forget
that he is an existing individual - by which he becomes a comic figure since existence has the
remarkable trait of compelling an existing individual to exist, whether he wills it or not - or he can
concentrate his entire energy (or awareness) on the fact that he is an existing individual."
As I understand it, "dread" arises from the intense awareness of individuality that is yet to
be fulfilled. It arises from the awareness that this individuality comes with a responsibility that
must be fulfilled through action or creativity - and the way to do it must necessarily come
from within (subjective) as no other authority will suffice, and that the action or creativity must
relate to and be contributive to the objective truth - that is, capable of relating to and
contributive to "humanity"
The "collective" from the Christian core teaching essentially implies and must be understood
as "humanity at large", that is, the collective human quintessence, rather than that of a
certain society (even Christian societies) or of a certain nation or a particular culture or race.
"One cannot say that, again with the help of the press, "the truth" can
overcome the lie and the error. O, you who say this, ask yourself: Do you dare
to claim that human beings, in a crowd, are just as quick to reach for truth,
which is not always palatable, as for untruth, which is always deliciously prepared,
when in addition this must be combined with an admission that one has let oneself
be deceived! Or do you dare to claim that "the truth" is just as quick to let itself be
understood as is untruth, which requires no previous knowledge, no schooling, no
discipline, no abstinence, no self-denial, no honest self-concern, no patient labor!
No, "the truth," which detests this untruth, the only goal of which is to desire its
increase, is not so quick on its feet. Firstly, it cannot work through the fantastical,
which is the untruth; its communicator is only a single individual.
And its communication relates itself once again to the single individual; for in this
view of life the single individual is precisely the truth."........Søren Kierkegaard
If something is true, then it can be recognized as true by everyone, can’t it?
Not at all! On the contrary, the mass of men are busy in distorting the individually articulated
truths since there is no perfect expression of truth that can ‘force’ it’s realization in all possible
‘subjects’ of the cosmos or ‘subjects’ of the objective, absolute Truth. Rather, the general mass
of men by distortion or misappropriation of an individual’s expressed truth pose the supreme
challenge to a genuine individual towards better expression of a truth. Kierkegaard expresses this
‘truth’ thus: “The crowd is untruth”. Once again the ‘crowd’ is incapable of recognizing this truth.
" We are so disabled by the state of untruth that we need both the truth
and the ability to accept (recognize) it to be given it. This is different from
simply saying that we don't know the truth or that we have forgotten the
truth. It is like saying that we live in such a way, that even if the truth was
in front of our noses, we could not see it, or even more radically: that we do
not want to see it. Thus Kierkegaard says that we are polemical against
the truth. It's not as if we are hanging around waiting for the truth with
open arms, but that we actively resist it myriad ways, conscious and
........TTC T. Roberts
Why is Kierkegaard so interested in subjective truth and what does this mean?
Kierkegaard is interested in subjective truth because that is the only valid and primary truth as
well as the only means to relate to the objective truth – without which an individual’s existence
has no meaning, (in the larger context) without which the very existence of the cosmos
itself has no meaning.
" Subjectivity - inwardness is the truth. That is my thesis. What good would
it do me if the truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether
I recognized her or not, and producing in me a shudder of fear rather than
a trusting devotion? Must not the truth be taken up into my life? That is
what I now recognize as the most important thing."....Kierkegaard
A 'Subject’s Truth' is no more than the correct interpretation of the sum of all the facts and
circumstances or events and experiences of one's life; it is what one makes of the facts and the
experiences and what they mean - it is what one HAS to believe (and act upon) about what
the facts and experiences are pointing towards.
This becomes possible by 1) An intense and sustained examination of one’s life 2) The realization
and development of one’s Will as a result of such an examination – which gives an indication
of one’s predilection, talents, interests, capabilities and purpose.3) Commitment towards fulfillment
of the indicated purpose. 4) The exercise and test of one’s Will in actions and expressions that
lead to a state of Integrity which leads to freedom and responsibility.
The facts or 'the way things are' don't mean anything by themselves, the facts never speak for
themselves, they are always interpreted or valued by someone. So 'Truth' has to do with what
value an individual associates with the facts - that is, given the facts - what does one make of
them to mean or imply. Facts are inert, whereas 'Truth' is 'alive' and in action or creative
expression is capable of becoming good (transcendental).
Therefore the concept of 'Truth' is closely related to the concepts of 'correct interpretation',
'meaning', 'assessment', 'examination', 'evaluation', 'knowledge', 'implication', 'responsibility'
Isn't all this moving towards relativism?
It is not a move towards relativism - because relativism denies any Objective/Absolute truths,
whereas what I am stating is that 'truth is primarily subjective' by which I mean: If one has no
sense of what one's own life is all about (subjective), how can one make any meaning or sense
of what human life in general is all about (objective).
Sometimes another person or external sources ( for example some work of literature/poetry) can
well be in position to give oneself the necessary cues or directions towards subjective truths - and
that is what art is essentially all about - it is this relation of learning between human beings through
the medium of art forms that trigger synthesis in the target subject. But the experience of art, however
deeply related to another, is still subjective, and yet somewhat objective insofar it's essence
is shared in what is abstracted as 'humanity' (objective).
For example the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was one (amongst others) that brought into common
consciousness in the 'civilized world' an objective truth (objective truth means that which must
be valid in any existence - any world) and that is : slavery is immoral. But this became possible
when this first became a subjectively realized truth for writers and activists in the 'civilized' world.
Even now this objective truth is not a subjective truth (not lived as a truth) for many people in the
world (even though they may give lip service to it or even acknowledge it as objective truth)
especially so when the form of slavery has changed in appearance and become more insidious.
(Now it is more exploitative in nature and no so blatant).
By what authority is any truth to be accepted? and whether it is subjective or objective?
yourself must find some 'truth' in any articulation which appeals to you and
can incorporate in your own life or understanding or intuition, and then it is up to you to figure out
whether it qualifies as objective or not. The authority here is the (if) attained responsible
and integral (your very own) self.
" The purpose of
my life would seem to express the truth as I discover
it - but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of all authority.
By having no authority - by being seen as all as utterly unreliable, I
express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where
they can only save themselves by making the truth their own."
Kierkegaard first of all you have to maintain a distinction
between subjectivity and objectivity. And if you are thinking of subjective
truth as a funny kind of truth that is objectively not objective, then that of
course doesn't make any sense. But if you understand subjective truth as
something unique to, as Kierkegaard puts it 'objective uncertainty', that is
instances where there is no way to get an objective answer to the question
you are asking, then the idea of subjective truth at least doesn't run directly
opposed to the notion of objective truth.
Secondly, and more profoundly there is a sense in which we can understand
subjective truth not as something that corresponds to reality or something
that can be proven in a scientific way but subjective truth rather as that
can be referred to as (worthy of) a commitment."
Subjective truth is to make a promise, make a commitment and most central
for Kierkegaard to make a 'leap of faith' itself - deciding to believe in something
- deciding to participate in something or live your life in a certain kind of way
with passion. The combination of commitment and passion are what most
of what can be characterized as subjective truth."
.R. Solomon TTC
" Objective truth
such as History and science are related to the external
world - can be confirmed by reference to outer criteria. Objective truth
depends upon what is said. Subjective truth is how it is said - and how
something is said has no objective criteria. Kierkegaard's notion of
subjective truth is akin to sincerity. Only more so - it involves a
passionate commitment. Subjective truths are more important for
Kierkegaard, for they are fundamentally related to our existence - to
the very foundations of one's values. Not so much as they are correct,
but in the nature of one's commitment towards them - they are what
remain when all objective criteria have been analyzed away.
Thus no morality can 'originate' from objective fact - 'ought'
cannot be derived from 'it'."
.............Paul Strathern on Kierkegaard
Once a person has found and realized the truth ( essentially related to one's will ) of
his own life, he may then come to the general realization that truth is essentially
and primarily subjective. Once this realization becomes commonly acknowledged,
will then become one instance of objective
OBJECTIVE FACTS vs TRUTH
The commonly understood notion of objective truth has been seized by science
in this age. Objective and scientific have become synonymous. In this work
however, science has to be decoupled from truth altogether and science
should be understood as the domain where objective facts in the form of data
about the material universe are collected, classified, analyzed and theories
or hypothesis made about these objective facts about the material universe.
Unfortunately, scientists have yet to define their domain of valid authority and
presume that their authority ( of course without responsibility ) extends to any
any and every happening in the universe. Individual experience is irrelevant,
subjective and therefore of no consequence. This typical scientific stance or
attitude is rejected here as worthless for individual purpose and existence,
and therefore considered here as the opposite of truth, that is, as falsehood.
Interactive 2013: The word objective in the scientific context: the consistency
of the data about the properties and attributes of the physical cosmos, independent of any individual
interpretation. Through this verifiability by experimentation or mathematical formulation, this data is
established as a ‘physical fact’ (or scientific truth if you want to call it that) that is generally agreed
upon by consensus amongst peers. General consensus cannot take place if the fact cannot be verified
consistently, although ‘peer pressure’ is a psychological fact that can generate a pseudo general
consensus in ‘grey’ areas of science.
E=mc^2 is an established objective fact/relationship about the conversion of
in the physical cosmos. The Hiroshima bomb is a verifiable truth, through consistent records of a
factual, physical occurrence – thus the Hiroshima bomb was an objective fact of recorded history
- and not merely an interpretive one. The psychological effects of it and the moral implications
are not objective scientifically, but are interpretive.
That which cannot be consistently verifiable through experiment/mathematical formulation, cannot
be called an objective physical fact, for example, the hypothesis about evolution of life from inorganic
matter through random chances and mutations, since that was neither observed as happening by
any human, not is demonstrable. (A limited demonstration of ‘speciation’ – is just that – limited to that
range.) Thus the underlying principle of life – which is not physical – will remain absolutely elusive
in the objective scientific domain.
The ‘earth revolves around the sun’ is an objective physical fact about the solar system, even though
almost no one experiences the rising and setting sun in that manner. Thus the experiential perspective
is a different realm than that the objective paradigm of the physical cosmos. This paradigm is generally
considered, as of today, as the only relevant paradigm of reality, but the over-importance of this
paradigm will eventually implode on itself. This was anticipated even by Einstein who said:
“The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this
problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”
"We want to see
things now as they will seem forever - in the light of
this as a kind of conformity (philosophical imperialism)
that was not connected to truth, but he does not offer a positive theory of
truth, only a refutation of relativism. Socrates in fact comes up with
such a refutation - namely, lets take the view that all views are as true
as any others. A strong relativist way of stating this is : any proposition
or statement is as true as any other, therefore there is no 'Truth'. So
what's odd about the sentence ' there is no 'Truth'' ? That it is a self -
contradicting statement, that cannot be true. What can be called as
a self - referential paradox, namely that the relativist cannot state
his own position because in stating it they must appeal to the notion
of truth, which their own position undermines.
……..Rick Roderick ( TTC – Nietzsche and the Post-Modern Condition)
rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than
the majority because the minority is generally formed by those who really have
an opinion, while the strength of the majority is illusory, formed by gangs who
have no opinion - and who, therefore, in the next instant ( when it is evident
that the minority is the stronger ) assume its opinion.....while Truth again
reverts to the new minority."......Soren kierkegaard
The above explanation of "So Then, What is Truth?" mostly applies to what
can strictly be called as subjective truth, which also is the most important
truth for an individual's life in the proper development of an individual.
However, once an individual reaches a stage of self realization, in the larger
context of the world, and then finally in the face of eternity, another truth
takes precedence : objective truth - a more encompassing notion of truth :
that which tends towards universal validity and applicability : a notion
or conception of which was first propounded by Socrates.
The first conception of Objective Truth was in terms of an anti-thesis to
the absolute relativism of the Sophists - that which would have to be
independent of mere opinion and subjective or particular situations.
One such Truth that Socrates repeatedly emphasized, and which has
already been suggested above was : If competent people with integrity
were not compelled to lead in the affairs of the state, a degeneration
of the state and that society itself was unavoidable, even inevitable.
Thus "Truth" for Socrates was not that which was merely his own
opinion, like the one stated above, but that which, although presented
by him would have to be realized by society at large through an
interactive dialog or "dialectic", rather than a forced doctrine by
some authority, however "persuasive sounding" ( especially by
rhetoric ) it may be ( Ex: Hitler ).
Objective Truth was to be therefore established by an interactive
process ( dialectic ) within a society and then among societies in
the wider context of the world, so as to enhance the rule of just
law and establish a ascending moral order in society and then
in the world.
Objective Truth is thus the judicious application of universal
percepts and ideas within a particular society and then within
Truth, whether subjective or objective is meaningless without its
testing and applicability in a given personal and/or social situation
or context, in the case of Socrates it was through the inquiry of the
application of basic concepts like justice and virtue and truth itself
in the process of finding the right and best way to live for himself
( subjective ) and in the judicious affairs of the state (objective ).
Very soon, however, the very notion of Truth itself was reduced
into mere data collection about the directly observable and
measurable physical objects of the world and universe.
The perverse notion of Truth that started with the pre-Socratic
cosmologists ( everything is air, water, atoms ...etc ) returned in
a new, non-speculative, deadly form : Science, whose concrete
filled, irrefutable mountains of data about the physical cosmos
would bury all other notions of Truth.
Only the unleashing of the full destructive potential of Science
would challenge this supposedly eternal and unshakable idea
of Truth in Science... but that too for only a very few - truly
human, only too human, not to be confused by those studying
Humanities in some University.
" I shall go away
convicted by you and sentenced to death, and my
accusers will go convicted by ( objective ) truth of felony and wrong"
"In the light of Eternity", therefore, what stands out as Objective Truth
is the realization of our true nature as human beings - a realization
that reflects as affirmative actions in the present, living world, and
"In the light of Eternity" what stands out as Subjective Truth is the
knowledge of the worth of one's own actions and whether these
place or significance in the Absolute and Eternal.
"Every once a while humanity is called upon to give a report card."
From the Movie : SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS
Science seeks the truth because it feels it does not possess it. The church
possesses the truth and therefore does not seek it. ~~Carl Jung
desperately wants to know the 'truth', but it becomes more and more mired
and drowned in with what it really finds - data about physical objects and processes
that actually obscure or obstruct the 'truth' because the 'truth' is not a property or
attribute of the physical cosmos, and science has yet to realize that the 'truth' cannot
be found in data or 'evidence' or in physical objects or processes, and therefore will
never find in there or in the scientific methodology. The church deludes itself that it
possesses the truth and therefore does not seek it......Updated 2014
Posted on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/56536297291/
There is a certain kind of dogmatism here that Nietzsche wants to root out in
its origins. The dogmatism that is a kind of control over what counts as true and
false. "What then is truth ? A mobile army of metaphors and anthromorphisms -
in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed
and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem
firm, canonical and obligatory to our people. Truths are illusions about which
one has forgotten that they are illusions - metaphors which are worn out and
have lost their sensuous power. They are like coins that have lost their
pictures, and which now matter only as metal, no longer as coins."
A sum of human relations deployed over many fields, in short - mutually
agreed upon fictions, which after long use seem obligatory. This is so
in the History of our own country - I have heard ad-nauseum that the US
is a democracy - because after long use and herd like obedience to
this word, we have come to believe it. What is the greatest threat to
our democracy is the overwhelming majority believing that we do
have one. If we question deeply what a democracy is - a govt in which
the power really does come from the people, when we question the
metaphors for their origins in power and who deploys them, it might
become interesting to see that this is an illusion, about which we have
long since forgotten that it is one.
It is important to look at these words not in order to destroy their
employment but to point out how they have become worn out after
……..Rick Roderick ( TTC – Nietzsche and the Post-Modern Condition)
" Truth is not majoritarian. True things are true for the simple and tautological
reason that they are true. And votes don't count. George Bush can get 98%
of the vote but that does not mean that he's telling the truth. True things are
true because they are true, not because people believe them - even if over-
whelming number of people believe them."
……..Rick Roderick ( TTC – Philosophy and Human Values )
"If Hegel had completed his logic and then said in the preface that the
entire thing is merely an experiment in thought, where he had even made
a number of unwarranted assumptions, then he would have been the
greatest thinker of all time. As it is, he is merely a joke."
TOUGHEST WORD : JUSTICE
"I am for truth,
no matter who tells it. I am for justice, no matter who it is for
or against. I am a human being, first and foremost, and as such I am for
whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole."...Malcolm X
" It is fitting
that the conversation which follows, which will probe the character
of justice takes place in this atmosphere of foreign things. In order to take on
seriously this question: what is justice?, we have to be willing to look at it in
new or foreign ways and not simply what we know from habit.
The first point about Socrates as a teacher of justice is this: the question or
the problem of justice is absolutely of fundamental important to us as human
beings. We are deeply attached to something whose precise character or
definition is surprisingly elusive. That is the predicament each of us finds
ourselves in. More than that, we are attracted to an understanding of justice
that involves dedication to others and devotion to the common good. At the
same time we hope or believe that any such self-sacrifice is good for those
who are willing to undertake it. And the greatest sacrifice is somehow also
the greatest reward for those who undertake it. But if we undertake that
sacrifice in the conviction that it will be profitable, then with what right we
will speak any longer of sacrifice and hence of earned or deserved rewards?
The suggestion of the Republic, I believe, is that for all the genuine goodness
of justice, of the justice that is the distinguishing feature of the healthy soul,
only the activity of philosophy permits those who engage in it to benefit
others even as they benefit themselves. It is philosophy that most truly
consists in helping friends, and harming no one.".....TTC Bartlett
"The Republic is Plato's masterpiece. It is centrally about ethics, it is only
secondarily about politics. The bottom line of all four hundred pages is a
thesis about ethics : that justice is always more profitable than injustice.
And what he means by justice, the Greek word is 'decae' is much broader
than what the English word conveys. Justice is almost the whole of ethics.
IT is the key virtue. The other virtues are parts of it. It meant not first of
all getting your rights or giving people their rights, that was a secondary
connotation, but it meant right order. A kind of cosmic harmony, or music.
A music of the spheres. When a Greek heard the word, it was as if someone
had sung a beautiful note, whereas when we here the word justice, we feel
like an accountant calculating debts and payments.
In the Republic, politics is there as a means to the end of ethics. The politic
is a mirror image of the ethic. He believed that there is no double standard.
Moral values for the state and moral value for the individual had to be the
same pattern in two different places. Politics meant the social ethics - the
good community. Plato thought that there had to be a common pattern
between the good individual and the good community, because communities
are made by individuals, of individuals and for individuals."....TMS P. Kreeft
"Justice is the
key virtue for Plato and contains the other three cardinal virtues:
moderation, courage and wisdom. So if you know justice, then you also know
the other three cardinal virtues. All other virtues depend upon these four. But
there is also something greater than these four and even greater than justice
and that is goodness itself - the Platonic idea of the Good. The Platonic idea
is not an idea in somebody's mind, but the eternal essence, the eternal truth
that can be known by a mind. We can't define the idea of the Good because it
is infinite - like the nature of God without the person - absolute perfection; the
perfect ideal. Plato can't define this perfect ideal but can say something about
it through parables and analogies. Plato says that the Good is like the sun : you
can't stare at the sun without going blind, you can't see the sun directly but it is
by the sun's light that you see everything else. So you can't know the absolute
Good as you can know finite definable things, but it is by that light that you can
know whatever you know. The sun is not a lit object but the source of light, so
the absolute Good is not intelligible, knowable or definable, but is the origin of
all that is intelligible, all order, both physical and spiritual. Everything is in-
telligible ultimately by its purpose, it's design, it's end - what it is good for."
..TMS P. Kreeft
injustice fearing that they may be the victims of it,
and not because they shrink from committing it.”
INTERESTING WORD : COMPELLED
personality betrayed itself in some such way, or whenever
I recalled the warm and unstudied talk of the great prophets themselves,
I noticed how far more near was their approach to my own feeling than their
written word. Their vision and mine of hills clicked suddenly into the same
focus, like the two eyes of a glass, and I saw the men themselves differently.
It reminded me of the feeling when my father, after the sixty five years of
silence about the alps which followed his Mont Blanc accident and the death
of his brother, one evening began to talk of his first tour, in the Dolomites, and
how, crossing a low pass, he had seen a white slope hanging far above in the
gathering dusk and had felt compelled to leave the others, and, racing the
darkness, had reached it, and so stood upon his first perpetual snow.
As his deep musical voice stressed the word 'compelled', I understood
him suddenly as I never had before." G W Young.
Responsibility and Blame
There is a very significant difference
between the concept of responsibility and blame.
Responsibility is very closely related to freedom, sobriety, awareness, morals and intent
whereas blame is not closely related to these. Responsibility must reflect in not only thought
but also action - that is, right action is mandatory for there to be responsibility.
Acceptance is more closely related to blame, whereas you have to 'take on' or 'assume'
responsibility and then proactively manifest it in your deeds or expressions.
To 'bear responsibility' means that you
acknowledge that the burden, the legacy of wrongs done by
people in the past that are in some way related or connected to you, are now for you to deal with.
You can choose to not take on the responsibility or choose to take it upon you - entirely your call. And
once you take it on, reality will give you an opportunity to test how true you are to yourself, so that you are
redeemed and are free from the bearing weight of that legacy.
Responsibility is very serious and profound
because it cannot be given; only taken on. Genuine
responsibility - the really effective kind, is when it is assumed. This means that even if you cannot
directly associate a cause that clearly originates from you, you sense ( a sense of responsibility)
that it has devolved upon you as a legacy, even in the smallest measure.
Even more important is the bond
between freedom and responsibility. Freedom and responsibility
are inseparable in both directions. One will always go with the other, one enhances or
depletes the other, either way.
Notice when you use the concept that fits better in your expressions of the interpretations,
you get a much better and wider perspective, so good expressions must involve not only
the experimentation with different concepts but also different angles or view points of looking
at a situation or story. That is the potential and power of language.
Another interesting word with several
equally fascinating connotations. As a noun,
Nemesis is the name of the mythical Greek goddess that represents divine justice
and delivers final and just punishment to those that so deserve. Also known as the
goddess of retribution and vengeance.
Nemesis in a more general sense thus
implies the fateful end of arrogant beings :
the final conditions in which they face their inevitable doom. A situation where the
results of the consequences of the misdeeds of beings are made known to them
as also the fate that awaits them as a result of their actions.
The third but less common meaning of
nemesis is "ultimate and invincible adversary"
but once again for those who deserve to be confronted and consumed by an invincible
adversary, one that counters every move with a devastating blow.
THE ART OF WRITING
"The act of
writing is the act of making soul, alchemy."
.....Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua
"Write what you like; there is no other rule"....O. Henry
"The writer who
possesses the creative gift owns something of
which he is not always master- something that at time strangely
wills and works for itself."............Charlotte Bronte
A writer needs three
things, experience, observation, and imagination,
any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of
the others....William Faulkner
Language is a potent medium for a person's search for expressions, especially
internal expressions : those that reveal an internal truth ( talent or predilection )
and its possible directions. The art of writing is the bringing together of all that
is good within oneself with the truth of one's life's conditions.
"I am convinced that
anyone can be a great writer . . . if he can only . . .
tell the naked truth about himself and other people. That, a little
technique with words and the willingness to bare heart, soul and
body are really all it takes".........Clive Barnes
The art of writing it, is no simple matter, nor is it easily condensed. The truth of
one's capabilities and talents cannot be capped or limited or constrained by
oneself by coming to a conclusion that these are complete or final and that
nothing more needs to be said. As long as there is life there is the never
ending possibility of finding new truths, new talents and to synthesize them
with one's essence or goodness.
"He neither walks with the
multitude nor cheers with them. The writer
who is a real writer is a rebel who never stops"......William Saroyan
It is not only impossible but also misleading in this search for personal truths
to use a single word, or even just only a single sentence by which one can
totally relate to ( for example, enlightenment ).
Sometimes a sentence or a set of sentences may seem to perfectly account
for one's situation. But such clarity should be deliberately defied, for else one is
very likely to be stuck in such a clarity for a long, long time. The same goes for
a particular technique, style or method of expression. A method or technique
that works well for a given condition will not likely work well in a different or
changed situation. This is particularly so if the method is applied in a routine,
mechanical and repeated manner. The end result is not only stale but also
that which leads to degeneracy.
"There is a point at which methods devour themselves". ....Frantz Fanon
IMPROVISATION and INNOVATION
"The question is whether words can be made to mean
so many different things"...Lewis Carrol
The constant flow of life again and again
demands fresh adaptation.
Adaptation is never achieved once and for all. ~Carl Jung
resound with all the harmonies of music.
The writer must always, at all times, find the tremulous word which
captures the thing and is able to draw a sob from my soul
by its very rightness"......Knut Hamsun
Very few statements are powerful enough to be used repeatedly to reinforce an
internal truth. And that too the repetition is only warranted when the conditions
demand it. Else it becomes a religious chant, a ritual. One of the conditions in
which a repetition is warranted is "command" statements that have to do with
one's purpose. Since expressions in language essentially reflect one's Will and
purpose, it should be obvious to any explorative individual that limiting oneself
to one set of definitive statements about oneself or reality automatically limits
one's entire being. And yet, not using any language whatsoever puts one in the
mystical domain that turns everything into a meaningless drama or at best an
abstract mystery. In that domain, no further development of the physical,
social and environmental is possible. The limits of these domains are then
unexplored. And it is here that language is indispensable. And it is here that
continuous innovation in language expressions is indispensable. The
limits are then only limits of our ability to innovate, firstly by the its
application in internal exploration, and then inter-human
communication in a social system.
"The writer's ultimate purpose is
to use his gifts to develop man's awareness
of himself so that he, man, can become a better instrument for living together
with other men. This sense of identity is the root by which all honest creative
effort is fed."......J. S. Redding
Expressions in language take a person to his limits only if these are first of
all internally meaningful, and then these expressions are tested for their wider
implications, which then provides the feedback for further improvisations,
innovations and developments. All this is possible only if first of all the basics
have been cleaned and hammered out. If the basics have not been clarified,
needless and debilitating conflicts will just keep repeating on and on.
"The most ordinary
word, when put into place, suddenly acquires
brilliance. That is the brilliance with which your images must shine.
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