Taking Language at its Word?

Taking Language at its Word? May 4, 2009

Here is a quick question that befuddles me: Why do we invest so much into our preferred terminology? In other words, why don’t we stop to wonder if our “different” words really mean different things and, if so, then, set to figure out what those differences are? Until then I see arguing as a bit fruitless.

I feel that many of the issues I come across regarding the polemics that we are used to here at VN and elsewhere are because we are too quick to take language (e.g. liberal, conservative, socialist, Catholic) at its word, when the fact may be that we don’t really know what we are talking about.

My criterion is this: I try and understand words at the level of belief. I ask myself, “What does the person who says that believe it to mean?” Most beliefs are self-identified as for the good, even when they are wrong, so, starting at that point can transform what we mean and understand others to mean by this or that flimsy term and other linguistic affections, I think.

It makes for hard work, but I think it is worth it. How about we give it a try?

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