The Inadequacy of Language

There is a certain philosophical perspective I’ve been reading about lately that maintains language is the basis of all thought. Not only can one not think without a language structure, but, on this view, one experiences in terms of language; to know the empirical truth before you is to be able to formulate what you see, hear, smell, and taste in language. In fact, on this view, all cognitive activity of any value is language based.

I have no doubt there are nuances to philosophical thinking that are beyond me, but this view seems just wrong. I don’t know how, exactly, these thinkers determine what is valuable but it seems to me there are plenty of thoughts and experiences that precede language and to my mind are pretty significant. For instance, if I tell a story about an experience I have, if I tell it well, it may provide insight, even be elegant but the story will never be the experience or get at all the experience, whatever it may be, means to me. In any experience I, and I would think anyone else, has beside the sensory input from all of my senses occurring simultaneously, memories, relationships, and various connections come into play. My story, being necessarily linear can do little more than summarize.

And, as far as thoughts go, when I’m making a sculpture or painting the thinking I’m doing having to do with structure and color or whatever certainly precede any language that may later be applied to them. I think this is true for most people; consider how inauthentic, ridiculous even, artistic statements made after the fact often appear.

So, I will continue to enjoy the complexities and depth of my experiences and activities, and, although there will be much I experience of an ineffable nature I will always know of the reality they hold.



3 thoughts on “The Inadequacy of Language

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