Miles R. West
MWEST1 at ETCV01.ELD.FORD.COM
Fri Jun 9 07:34:41 MDT 1995
A friend posted this to me and I think it's relevant to any discussion lists.
It also underlines what I've been saying about the MAJOR misunderstanding
between conservatives and liberals.
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Subj: wendell>> thought you might find this interesting...
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 1995 22:59:34 -0400
From: WS62186 at aol.com
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To: MWEST1 at etcv01.eld.ford.com
Subject: wendell>> thought you might find this interesting...
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Date: Wed, 7 Jun 1995 12:43:14 -0400
From: Jim Harrison <Alethinos at AOL.COM>
Subject: The Metaphysics of Truth
I find it odd that various people continue to insist that *truth* is
essentially a product of language. This leads to some strange conclusions and
The first conclusion, it seems, is that somewhere along the line humans
*invented* language. And that somehow this invention was the outcome of some
powerful idiosyncratic desire to communicate, perhaps found initially in
small family units. Of course there is no evidence for this - linguists are
still in the process (and arguing) over language *origins*. And I would
suggest that this assumption of invention of language is similar to the (at
the time) useful theories of the *original state of man* in arguments for
natural rights. It is a wonderful and indeed powerful fiction - but a fiction
The following conclusion, based on the above, is that language is, in the
end, truly idiosyncratic; that any apparent unity in thought and definition
is to some degree always illusionary. The bases for this belief, as expressed
generally here on this list seems to be as follows:
Because we all recognize the difficulty in having our thoughts, as expressed
in language, clearly understood, this is a *proof* that, even as *advanced*
as language seems to have become it is still, essentially, idiosyncratic.
Each individual is constantly reshaping language within their mind to satisfy
their particular *world-view* - and then finds that the communication of this
*world-view* must be compromised to suit the prevailing standard definitions
that the group accepts.
The counter-view is that our thoughts are overwhelmingly shaped and
determined by language - hence there is no real way for an individual to
determine what might be considered a *pure* thought. This view seems to
suggest that language is equivalent to a virus for which we have no immunity.
It is also assumed that humans are _only_ capable of thinking via the use of
Consequently (it seems to be assumed here) since language is idiosyncratic,
both in communicative construction and in its effect on thought processes,
any reference to perception of reality must be assumed to also be
idiosyncratic. So, in the end, any reference to a *truth* is simply a
temporary *pact* between any number of individuals because this *truth*
satisfies a particular need among those individuals.
If this is the case, then we have to also assume that all perception is
essentially illusionary - since there is no possibility for confirmation of
our perception with anything or anyone outside ourselves. Simple agreement
with others such as ourselves would be no guarantee that we were perceiving
correctly. Indeed, we have no bases in which to judge what (if there is such
a thing) a *correct perception* is.
This essentially is how such arguments by those espousing *truth is a product
of language* theory appears to me. I am sure there are all sorts of
exceptions, and I would invite them please, since I am trying to get a clear
vision of what exactly you all are trying to say.
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