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The Failure of Language

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Chopsifer, Dec 31, 2009.

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  1. Chopsifer

    Chopsifer Regular Poster

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    I've noticed that many of us talk of objective and subjective truths. I lately have faced a lot of paralyzing anxiety concerning my ability to communicate with the written word. The two contributing factors to this belief are rather related to each other -- it is clear that one of them is the cause of the other, but I am unsure which it may be.

    I do have the tendency to doubt myself when it comes to understanding and communicating ideas. This tendency could either feed, or be fed by, the abstract notion of subjective and objective truth. I am aware that I can understand things from a subjective lens, and that I, myself, have a certain number of fixed traits that objectively exist. How could I ever know or have faith that my writing style or my language in general could ever be something that could accurately objectify something which clearly is not?

    Furthermore, suppose I could accurately objectify my own subjective thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences... I have no assurance that the others that objectify me could be doing it in such a way that takes my previously mentioned translation into consideration.



    The big question: Is there a failure of language? What can be done, if anything, to aid one's ability to translate an idea into something that can be accurately replicated by all others? Also, how much of this problem could just be the subject, rather than the abstract idea itself? (In other words, is it just me [or some other assortment of individuals] or is it really this abstract idea that causes us all to fail at language?)

    I look forward to hearing people's thoughts!
     
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  2. Moxie

    Moxie Absent-Minded Professor

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    I can't answer your questions, but I can say that I know where you're coming from. I stopped writing for a long time, because I realized the failure of language. There are no words that can truly express the big things. The word sorrow cannot encompass the sorrow and suffering that happens in this world.

    On the other hand, it's the only option we've got. I'm glad you have had similar thoughts. :)
     
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  3. jlynnr

    jlynnr Community Member

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    "Whereas the truth is that fullness of soul can sometimes overflow in utter vapidity of language, for none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows: and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which to tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars."
    --Gustave Flaubert — Madame Bovary

    I am way into structuralism and post-structuralism (literary criticism theories) as ways to look at language - structuralism more or less says that nothing exists unless it's been put into language, and post-structuralism says that language masks what really exists. (As far as I can recall, in any case.)

    Language is just inadequate.
     
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  4. rainrise

    rainrise Community Member

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    i'm not sure how much this relates to your post, but a lot of eastern wisdom tends to sound paradoxical when expressed in language and it so seems that an intellectual understanding of the language used this way then becomes a barrier to truly understanding what means to be said. as many teachers have noted...the words are only signposts on the road or maps that guide us and are not themselves the destination.
     
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  5. Outside

    Outside Regular Poster

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    Language has continually been breaking down. You see it everywhere. Words have crumbled into the now widespread use of images (compare print ads from the seventies to now), and those will become exclusively subjective to the interpreter.

    I have had this same predicament with my art and daily life as well. It seems everything needs a prologue these days to get that intended point across. My best friends and I communicate as much through impressions as through word.

    Its funny, every time I think about the future of communication, I see the communication of experience. Technology seems to be heading in that direction. Pop culture is in this direction. We want to do it all. People rush, and therefore, we make free associations. This is what leads to that subjective experience.

    There has to be some sort of merging coming. Of ideas, of reality and our minds. It feels like we have broken down so much, and are waiting for the next big ideas to slowly bring it all back to unity. Especially with the exponential growth in technological advances. It seems akin to the cycles of stars. It is very very exciting and overwhelming.
     
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    #5 Outside, Dec 31, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  6. Norton

    Norton XXXX

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    I imagine that, moment to moment, you use language to communicate effectively and it works well. So, despite the pretentious concerns of the post-modernists/deconstructionists, you should conclude that words do have generally accepted meanings.

    To some extent, everything is subjective because we can only know things through our senses. But, over time and through the efforts of many thinkers, we converge to the truth, that is, a truth that works even if it's not THE TRUTH. We do know things.

    By the way, Chopsifer, you write well.
     
  7. jlynnr

    jlynnr Community Member

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    I would encourage everyone to seriously consider reading about literary theory, if you're interested in this kind of thing...it's very enlightening. Here is a link to the textbook I used when I took a class about this (google books limited preview; you can still get to a lot of the book, though) - changed my view on a lot of things, and is probably the most influential class I've had so far in college.
     
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  8. Top cat

    Top cat Permanent Fixture

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    Definitely when you study graphic design, the idea is, less is more
    The simpler you can get it, the faster the communication.. The meanings are all hidden in there, in the colours, the shape of the text, the texture of the paper, everything that seems to be nothing is really conveying a message...

    Even myself online I think I portray myself better using imagery or sound.. but it doesn't work in these text forums.

    I think language can mean lots of things.. like to say "speak his/her language"
    There was a conversation I saw posted online --it was about the language of love
    and people have different ways of conveying love.. you have to learn their language for it to work, for them to understand you. Some people see love as a form of gift-giving, believe it or not, and some need touch more often, and words of appreciation... There were several other variables
     
  9. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    The words I use have rich meaning for me in that the words flow out of the reality that is within me....it's the best I can do at the moment. I am never sure the words will mean the same for another though. It is a constant stuggle...but the effort must be made.
     
  10. ec3khrl

    ec3khrl Community Member

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    Languages are only proxies of our minds.
    I personally do not see failures in it.
    Proxies are not made to be perfect.
     
  11. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    Good point! I remember the day when I realized that words were completely dropping out even of my prayer....there was just no need (or limited need) for them. It kinda weirded me out at first 'til I realized this was just fine...over time I began to delve more deeply into the great traditions of silence (various forms of this). That opened up great new avenues for me in that the tradition was so rooted and "normal."

    Hmmm...that was 30 years ago. Scary.
     
  12. Gaze

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    bump!
     
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  13. deadred

    deadred Community Member

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    What I see lacking is a lack of precision in using language, not a problem with language, per se. Language skills are just like any other skills, they have to be developed in order to be used. Most people think they are too busy to read anything much, let alone take the time to develop their skills. Instant gratification is not part of this equation. If you want these skills, patiently develop them. It's as much your fault as language's fault if you can't communicate as well as you like.
     
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  14. magister343

    magister343 Permanent Fixture

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    How can you have a lack of a lack of precision in using language?
     
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  15. deadred

    deadred Community Member

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    Mag, think about it...let's use as an example an author writing a piece of fiction. He/she will describe a certain scene, the people involved, etc. Depending upon the authors skill with language, these things will be described a certain way. Some skilled in using language precisely can describe things in such a way as to give insight to the people and events in a way that allows the readers mind to have a strong sense of exactly what is taking place. A lesser skilled writer can describe things, but in a less remarkable way. This would seem particularly so for a psychological, mental, or emotional description of a character in the story.
    Poetry would seem to also describe one's ability to express meaning in a precise way. It would be like focusing a camera, the better the focus, the more accurately the scene is depicted.
     
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  16. Poetic Justice

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    You can never really be sure that your words have the desired effect.

    We take in information via our five senses and this information is "corrupted" with the process of deletion, distortion and generalisation. When you retrieve this information from memory it is corrupted again by your language centres in order to convert it into words. The listener then corrupts this information for a third time using the same deletion, distortion and generalisation process.

    By the time the listener gets the information it is very different to how it started.

    Observing body language helps the listener to more accurately judge the speakers intention but with the written word this is missing.

    How people interpret your written words is all but guaranteed to be at least slightly different to what you intended.

    There is very little you can do about this. Especially on a forum where your audience has many different types of strategies for sorting information. When dealing with an individual you can match their sensory preference and use similar predicates if you are able to notice them but in this setting there is no point. Trying to fit every sensory channel into every sentence is a little ridiculous.

    ONe thing you can do is to be aware of the source of the words you are writing and whether or not the reader has access to the information needed to understand it.

    For example if i wrote this: it only works if you press is twice.

    There is missing information that the reader doesn't have access to. What only works if you press it twice? You have this information but it was deleted when it was translated into words. Just be aware of this.

    It is exceptionally complicated but if interested Google the meta model for more on this
     
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  17. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    No, we can never go beyond the confines of language. Sorry.
     
  18. just me

    just me GONE

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    The OP mentioned communicating with the written word, which makes things rather specific. However, I would like to add as a side note it was never meant to be our only form of communication. It is a challenge to write down our emotions and feelings in a manner we personally feel may express what we wish to share. As close as we may come, those same words can be taken many different ways from those reading the words we may have written.

    Artists and painters have the same frustrations as do authors. The challenge is met with a great appetite at times, and the products of such can be masterpieces understood many ways. Is it our failure to use words, or is it a failure to understand the mind of another fully? We endeavor to try and understand each other, but I think there is a certain beauty in that. I see what others may feel a weakness in communication as a fingerprint of humanity. I see it as a means of communication itself, letting us know we need to share our minds in more ways than just with words. As the fingerprints we have show how unique and different each of us are; so, too, are our minds and thoughts.

    We may not be able to portray with words our feelings toward someone else, but the touch of a hand or the hug given to someone in need is an integral part of humanity and communication. The mere allowing of an elderly person to enter an elevator first, the offering of our seat to a woman on a bus, the wiping of sweat from a sick man's head in the hospital, the playing of Taps at a funeral with the folding of a flag; we communicate through our actions and inactions.

    Bin Laden issued a tape asking for more help from Muslim nations in the Swat Valley flood zone days ago. He has seen the human compassion coming from his enemies he has chosen or that were chosen for him to far outweigh the help of those he thinks he represents. The world goes on alert because of the tape, but I see a more understanding Bin Laden all of a sudden. He is reading the words from the nations and is seeing what he did not expect to see. Are these people really my enemies? Why are they helping more than the others? Those actions he is witnessing are touching him where words have not touched before. That is what I see. Maybe others see it differently.

    Language is a means of communication not merely measured by words. The more we strive to communicate what we really are all about, the more people can better understand our hearts. Of all the miracles in life, it is the heart of man that intrigues me even more than DNA or the universe. It is the ability we have to communicate in many different ways we should hold fast to.

    We must strive for understanding, for we will all be better suited to endeavor a life of hope and love instead of killing and maiming. We fight now; can we understand tomorrow?
    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnV0uoOfBDM&feature=related"]YouTube - Final Marine Tribute[/ame]

    Dedicated to the Marines and others that lost their gift of life to the first act of Radical Islamic terror in Beirut in the early eighties. May the fighting come to an end, no matter the price.
    [​IMG]
     
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    #18 just me, Oct 3, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2010
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