October 1, 2012

Language is a tool. Only a tool.

In class we discussed the notion that language can be used to construct our reality. It has been said that language is the means in which the human world is constructed and it is because language that things, either working at a high-level or a low-level of abstraction (e.g. high: honor, love; and low: tree, tire, hands), can exist and make sense to man. I believe this notion to be highly problematic. I have heard Dr. Fleckenstein's, one of Florida State's very own, best and brightest, advocate for this notion. Fleckenstein has said, and please someone correct me if I am wrong, that things do not exist in our world into they are spoken into existence, given a term that will work to be universally accepted, and categorized into one of the many categories in which man has constructed through language.

I find great fault with this theory. To me, it can be relayed to the theory of Presentism, that things or occurrences only exist if someone is in the presence of those occurrences. Both theories have major faults. I offer an example: The Great Coral Reef contains a vast number of species of plant life, animal life, etc. and it has been said that there are over 500,000 species that are living within the reef that have yet to be identified, given name to, and categorized. If these species can exist, and undoubtedly have existed in the reef for many decades, possibly centuries, nameless, does that not constitute that these species do not require a term in which to be called to very much exist? Perhaps you are thinking that this is not a sufficient example because these species are physical objects in which we can observe with our hands and our eyes and that an item working at a much higher level of abstraction such as "love" or "happiness" can only exist or make sense if given a term in which to be called and a category in which to be placed.

I offer you this: define the term love. Once you have a concise definition, because undoubtedly using more words in which we have learned from John Locke are not sufficient enough or accurate enough to represent anything, regardless the level of abstraction of the item for which the sign is signifying, use that definition to explain to a non-believer of the existence of love, or being "in love," or a person who is deaf, blind, and mute and has no ability to reference the idea of love to any prior experience with a sign, such  as the drawing of a red heart, has a working definition of the term because they have never read it, and has never heard the actual word used in a sentence. Does this person not still feel love when it given to them? When their mother cares for them, feeds them, does that person not receive love whether they know of the term in which to call it or not? My final analysis is that language is simply a tool in which to categorize and make sense of our reality. It does not construct our reality, reality exists on its own. Language has no ties to nature, as stated by Locke. Words only serve as symbols, and we know that, because of Kenneth Burke, that man is a "symbol using animal."

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