Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The power of words

It's amazing the things that words can do.  From a short, sweet philosophy paper by Rachael Briggs on how exactly S may not know that p:
Annabella Milbank believes that she is decent and upstanding. And indeed she is; her belief flows from her decent and upstanding character. She could, however, be easily corrupted. If corrupted, she would become so desensitized to decency that she would continue to believe she was decent and upstanding (albeit unfairly maligned by puritanical society). So Annabella’s belief is not sensitive to the proposition that she is decent and  upstanding. Nonetheless, Anabella appears to know that she is decent and upstanding.
I have to admit that I hated logic, even the tiny bit I had to know for studying pragmatics. But so far, this Introduction to Logic has been refreshing. Words are able to capture such complex thoughts!

But --
I thought about writing today, and how strange it is that I very often write without meaning to communicate to others. Surely this is a recent phenomenon in the history of language. I write fiction and poetry, I journal, I write songs -- and no one (or very, very few people) ever read or hear these things. For me, writing makes my brain organize a mess. I don't like the sound of calling it therapeutic, but it gives me the same feeling that really thoroughly cleaning my kitchen gives me: control. dominion. power to define.

Very often I write to process emotions, but here I want to undermine what exactly words are capable of. Today I had the distinct feeling that the words were not enough, that I was stuffing my emotions into little wordboxes even though they weren't quite what I was feeling. (Maybe I'm just not the kind of writer I want to be.) Instead of the storm of thoughts and feelings, I named the temperature, the speed and direction of the wind, and the barometric pressure. I didn't do the storm justice, but everything seemed a little more manageable.

I guess I'm not undermining words at all. It's just that, instead of capturing reality, right now, for me, the power of words lies more in simplifying reality, cutting it up into bite-size pieces so I'm able to swallow. Is this what I've always done? How complex would my world be if I only had thoughts instead of words? Does this make any sense?

1 comment:

  1. Words are usually a weak (but sincere) attempt to communicate the myriad of thoughts, impressions, emotions and simple electrical impulses flying through our brains. If only telepathy were possible, words themselves would pale in significance. --except for those whose only shared communion with us was their written (or otherwise recorded) word.