Archive for March 2008
Philosophy of Language
In today’s editorial page of the New York Times (A18), it speaks of “a redundant background check” in “Citizenship, Thwarted.” “Redundant” has always been used for words and here it has spread to cover action, “an unnecessarily duplicated action.” Language has a way of becoming elastic as words become used in many diverse ways. Here the word was first used for other words and now it is being used for actions, specifying the meaning of the word further. For example, you pet a pet. I wonder if the word came from the action or the action from the word-name. Then we speak of a “teacher’s pet” as the word lives on.
My favorite is the word, “thing.” My high school English teacher said, “Don’t use the word, “thing.” It doesn’t mean anything.” She showed how ubiquitous the word is in our language, because she used it right in her protest unconsciously.
Meanwhile it is so deeply embedded in our language because it designated an old Icelandic or Scandinavian legislative assembly called the “Thing” or “Ding,” (like a Duma or Diet), which passed decrees called “things.” [The words “think” and “thank” seem to be related to the word “thing.” (Denk, Dank, and Ding in German.)]
I wonder if “things” as matters gave the name “Thing” to the meeting or assembly, or if it was vice versa? If Emil Durkheim is right, the sociological sense abstracted into the epistemic sense of the word. (Words have a historical career from the time they are coined to all the senses and associations they accumulate, when remaining useful, or dying out of usage, when not.) But if words are primitive or pre-historic in their origin, then they could always have gone in the other direction.
March 11th 2008
See my page on Blogging my thoughts. I have a new entry for March 3, 2008 on the social psychology George Herbert Mead about conservative institutions and narrow selves.
Then another entry for February 28, 2008 about the late William F. Buckley, who called himself Jr., but really a priest did not allow him to be called “Frank” so he had to be called “Francis.” Later, disobeying the priest, I guess, he changed his name to Frank in order to be a Jr.
In Germany when my mother and father wanted to name us in the Third Reich, the NAZI officials would not allow Rhoda, because it was not a German name. We had to call her Ursula. I guess they did not realize that was a Latin name. We called her Uschie until we arrived in America and then we called her Rhoda. Imagine interfering with the parents’ choice of a name!? Some officials go out of bounds.
Note on my symbols in the Philosophy of Language lectures. The arrows and other symbols do not come into wordpress, so I don’t know how to put in accurate symbolism. Perhaps I’ll have to write up the symbols with words. I’m working on performative declarations and God’s creation, action, and world-change, but I have not worked with the material for over ten years and I am relearning it.