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Re: [existlist] on choosing words....wisely?

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  • George Walton
    Some conversations generate little in the way of disagreements or disputes. In large part because the gap between the words used and that which the words are
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 25, 2004
      Some conversations generate little in the way of disagreements or disputes. In large part because the gap between the words used and that which the words are said to represent are minimmal or nonexisting. If, for example, Bob says to his brother, "our sister had a miscarriage yesterday morning on the way home from church" the words either delineate objectively what is, in fact, true or they do not. And this can be confirmed in any number of ways. Sure, there might be logicians or epistemologists or linguists etc who take it apart with a fine tooth comb and argue over this or that "technical" aspect of the words. For example, was it really a church she attended if the service took place in a friend's apartment? Was it really Bob's sister if Bob was just informally "adopted" by the family and thought of her as his sister? If a congregation thinks of the apartment as a church and if Bob thinks of her as his sister than, for all intents and purposes, this denotes "the truth" for many.
      But maybe not for others.

      But if Bob says, "our sister just had an abortion and that's murder", can this be said to reflect "the truth" because Bob believes abortion is murder? Here a conversation would generate many disagreements and disputes. Some quite heated. Can the gaps then be closed "wisely"? Can philosophers close them logically? Can scientists close them methodically? Or is this the function of God and religion and mystics? A leap of faith that does not rest on rational discourse? I don't believe in God myself. But just because I don't believe in him does not mean he does not exist. Anymore than Bob believing in his existence [and using that belief to condemn his sister's abortion as murder] means he does.

      But the paradox is always the same: what motivates us to actually behave as we do is not necessarilty what is true...but what we think is true. So, it would seem that if philosophy is defined as the love of [or search for] wisdom its function would be to grapple with how close words can come to encompassing that. What can we all agree is "wiser" than something else?

      Whatever that means?

      Anyway, in respect to all this, I think it is important to always remember that, regarding big chunks of human interaction [the most important ones, perhaps], philosophy can denote nothing at all wisely. But this will never stop many philosophers [and assorted gurus] from insisting it can. Then what? Who has the wisdom to resolve that?

      In my opinion: no one.

      Unless, of course, they think they have. Which is why having the belief is often so much more important than whaterever the belief actually is.

      george



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