Monday, December 08, 2014

Five Things for Which I Have No Patience

1. Verbiage
 All terms used in a manner specific to the argument must be thoroughly operationalized, particularly when they are borrowed from a foreign language. The expectation that all of the participants in the argument must be familiar with specific uses of language in advance of the argument is not only unfair; it is also very poor communicative strategy. 

2. Mistaking etymology for argument
The origins of words and their shifts in meaning, while they certainly present an aesthetic interest, are not germane to the argument. All variables must be operationalized in order to avoid speaking at cross purposes.

3. Mistaking word-play for argument
We are not permitted to infer anything about the facts outside of the language-game on the sole basis of the language-game's internal logic (grammar). Word-play is a creative use of language which by itself cannot reveal anything hidden in the world.

4. Mistaking form (convention) for the point
When trends in discourse (or narrative) reach a certain level of sophistication, it is tempting to ascribe more meaning to their form than to their content or context. This is a mistake: meaning is the whole, and more than the sum of its parts. 

5. Philosophical genealogies
An idea's pedigree does not matter. If an idea is to have any worth at all, it must be able to stand on its own merits without relying on reputation.

I should nuance my position by stating I do not object to all theses which call attention to etymology, linguistic or literary conventions -- nor do I take exception to the notion that reading should take authorship into account. The aforementioned variables are all part of the broad situation which comprises "meaning." I only wish to object to the insistence that any single of these (largely extraneous) factors is paramount, or sufficient to argue a point convincingly. Formal logic does not have to be the whole of the argument but it should still be the crux of it under many -- if not most -- circumstances.

I make no reservation concerning my condemnation of verbiage, though. Using "ordinary" language and defining unusual terms is an absolute necessity.

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