September 24, 2012

The fallacy of wordplay

It has long been recognized that words retain an influence which prevades their actual meaning and outlast their usage, but there is very little regard to the reasons for which words are endowed with such value, or from where this value is derived. John Locke seeks to tackle this discrepancy head on in his philosophically framed empirical observations on the influence and effectiveness of words, and largely language in general, in providing the medium of communication between different people. Lock proposes that words in themselves are an imperfect means for communication between people, particularly those of whom have established drastically different or opposing structures through which reality is perceived, due to the uncertain and often subjective nature of the value of the words themselves.

Lock orients his analysis from the same empirically flavored brand of philosophical thought which is is renowned for, and begins his observation by deconstructing language to analyze the distinct functions of words themselves and the supposed origins of their value. Lock holds true to his philosophical character when describing what he believes to be the two fundamental functions of words, which are to records one's own personal thoughts for reflection, and to communicate one's thoughts with those of others. Locke believes that Words themselves are given value by the subjective perception of them by the individual interpretor, which is influenced and determined by the individual's constructed structure of archetypes. Archetypes are certain fundamental characteristics regarding the nature of existance which are more or less universal throughout human civilization, such as the value of life, and Locke believes that these archetypes provide the fundamental basis by which an individual interprets his or her life experiences.

Lock takes issue with the ability of words to accurately communicate due to both the subjective interpretation of the words by the individual listener and the subjective way in which the speaker or author chooses to use the words.

In this way, lock proposes, words which are identical may not retain an identical meaning whatsoever, rather they are granted their authority and value by the instance in which they are used and the individual using them. Locke states that there are two basic ways in which words are used differently: the recording of personal thoughts, and the communication of these thoughts. Because the actual true meanings of words are largely uncertain, as lock believes, words themselves are in imperfect method of communicating with other people. In this way, words acquire a new dimension of meaning beyond the the literal implications of their context, which is the primary cause for their ambiguity. More complex concepts, such as the ideological structure of orthodox religions or moral codes, are provided by lock as examples of how a certain interpretation of language by one individual may not necessarily be mirrored by the interpretation of another, due to the various constraints of language itself as a method of communicating across cultural and ethnic barriers.

Lock uses his philosophical empirical analysis of language to emphasize the subjective value of words, and their imperfection as a method of communication. Lock believes that the only true faculty of knowledge that we have access to as individuals are our own ideas, which are developed through adherence to archetypes, but that there is a definite world with absolute truths that exists to be discovered. Lock views language as the manifestation of ideas, and ideas are seen by locke as the "signs of real things", therefore words may be used in order to discover absolute truth, but their ambiguity largely negates their effectiveness.

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