Thoughts on ‘fallacy’ of Language: Reiterating the ultimate tragedy of Mankind

Dr. Aniruddha Babar
Dept. of Political Science, Tetso College

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein

Do not talk with people with an intention to understand them. You will be at loss. Human mind is extremely complex, so do the ‘language’ that it invented. Don’t expect that the world will appreciate your reality, your truth, your voice, your perspective, your standing, your vision, your view. Man is born alone, so will die alone too; and between those terminal moments whatever happens is just a drama characterize by the battle of the ‘interpretations’ of perspectives which decides who the judge is and who is the accused.

With the birth of mankind the notional reality of ‘conflict’ was born. With the birth of conflict, wars and battles were born. Animalistic traits of men started dancing stark-naked in the fire of the bloodshed. This is all done at the cost of ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’. This has all been happening when mankind was trapped in the bewitchment of its intelligence by means of language. Words and their assigned meanings have caused havoc and bloodshed for ages. This is what Men have done ever since they roamed around on Earth. They invented Words but the meanings which have been assigned kept on reinvented themselves with the progress of mankind. Man is the cruellestanimal; he invented words and let the meaning go wander on the shoulders of the wind of time.

Since time immemorial I have been pondering upon a possibility to discover meaning of the ‘meaning’ which compel me to raise certain questions as to whether the meaning of a word, sentence constructed during the course of communication will have any constructive, permanent meaning? What if there are multiple meanings of the ‘meaning’ itself?

In the philosophy of language, the nature of meaning, its definition, elements, and types, was discussed by philosophers Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. According to them “meaning is a relationship between two sorts of things: signs and the kinds of things they mean (intend, express or signify)”. One term in the relationship of meaning necessarily causes something else to come to the mind. In other words: “a sign is defined as an entity that indicates another entity to some agent for some purpose”. As Augustine states, a sign is “something that shows itself to the senses and something other than itself to the mind” (Signumest quod se ipsumsensui et praeter se aliquidanimoostendit; De dial., 1975, 86).

The types of meanings vary according to the types of the thing that is being represented. Namely:

  1. There are the things in the world, which might have meaning;
  2. There are things in the world that are also signs of other things in the world, and so, are always meaningful (i.e., natural signs of the physical world and ideas within the mind);
  3. There are things that are always necessarily meaningful, such as words, and other nonverbal symbols.

The evaluation of meaning according to each one of the five major substantive theories of meaning and truth is presented below. The question of what is a proper basis for deciding how words, symbols, ideas and beliefs may properly be considered to truthfully denote meaning, whether by a single person or an entire society, is dealt with by the five most prevalent substantive theories listed below. However, all these theories are not free from ambiguity, self-contradictions, limitations and constructive confusion.

Correspondence theory:

Correspondence theories emphasise that true beliefs and true statements of meaning correspond to the actual state of affairs and that associated meanings must be in agreement with these beliefs and statements. This type of theory stresses a relationship between thoughts or statements on one hand, and things or objects on the other. It is a traditional model tracing its origins to Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Coherence theory:

For coherence theories in general, the assessment of meaning and truth requires a proper fit of elements within a whole system. Very often, though, coherence is taken to imply something more than simple logical consistency; often there is a demand that the propositions in a coherent system lend mutual inferential support to each other. So, for example, the completeness and comprehensiveness of the underlying set of concepts is a critical factor in judging the validity and usefulness of a coherent system.

Constructivist theory:

Social constructivism holds that meaning and truth are constructed by social processes, is historically and culturally specific, and that it is in part shaped through the power struggles within a community. Constructivism views all of our knowledge as “constructed,” because it does not reflect any external “transcendent” realities (as a pure correspondence theory might hold). Rather, perceptions of truth are viewed as contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience. It is believed by constructivists that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, sexuality, and gender, are socially constructed.

Consensus theory:

Consensus theory holds that meaning and truth are whatever is agreed upon, or in some versions, might come to be agreed upon, by some specified group. Such a group might include all human beings, or a subset thereof consisting of more than one person.

Pragmatic theory:

The three most influential forms of the pragmatic theory of truth and meaning were introduced around the turn of the 20th century by Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Although there are wide differences in viewpoint among these and other proponents of pragmatic theory, they hold in common that meaning and truth are verified and confirmed by the results of putting one’s concepts into practice.

However, as Wittgenstein said, “it may be necessary to understand that the more fundamental trouble with the preconception “the meaning of a word is the essence it names” is that most words do not have essential meanings (or definitions), but can only have their meaning explained by examples.” In other words, the preconception is a false conception which cannot be consider as ‘true’ even if the premises upon which it is based or derived from is rock-solid convincing.

Nothing in life stays clear for very long, only for so long as we see no trouble with it. Life is the ever-elusive Proteus, philosophizing the illusion of grasping it and whatever we understand about the affairs of life is through our senses and our preconceived notions of knowledge, perspectives, ideas about the events happening which ultimately comprehended with the help of words and sentences which in themselves have no independent existence than that of humans and if that is the case; then the meaning ‘derived’ from those words, will never have universal meaning.

Our language is a wall that separates us from other people due to lack of its universality. We can’t express our true selves through language alone as I believe; language is the most primitive, barbaric, backward means of communication that would result into nothing but confusions, chaos, misunderstandings, conflicts and wars.We may think that everyone understands us. But they don’t, they needn’t, they can’t. We have a window of opportunity to express with whatever limited means in the name of language that we have, and we think that other people are capable of identifying with the ‘truth value’ of our statements. However, they have no other option but to just look at it from their point of viewwith or without being subscribed to the core reality of our position. When we hear an opinion we interpret it the way we deem fit and that process of derivation of ‘meaning’ and ‘meaning’ itself always by rule turn out to be ‘nonsense’ and maybe that’s the reason, that; in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s writings, the word “nonsense” carries a special technical meaning which differs significantly from the normal use of the word. In this sense, “nonsense” does not refer to meaningless gibberish, but rather to the lack of sense in the context of sense and reference. In this context, logical tautologies, and purely mathematical propositions may be regarded as “nonsense”. For example,

is a nonsensical proposition but that does not mean it lacks sense. Wittgenstein wrote in “Tractatus Logico Philosophicus” that some of the propositions contained in his own book should be regarded as nonsense. Used in this way, “nonsense” does not necessarily carry negative connotations nor should indicate negation.

Further it may be stated that maximum communications turns out to be nonsensical because they fail to grasp the complete picture of reality that the participants are subjected to. Language is a construct that was developed for certain purposes however, it is bound to be remained inconclusive as long as people don’t learn to go beyond the words and understand the cold existence of ‘contextual silence’ underlying it. Without a full grasp of the nonsense that common usage of language generate we cannot understand clearly how or what other people are reflecting their minds. Furthermore, language cannot even fully grasp reality. We are stuck in a room with no windows, trying to communicate with each other, where truly no one can understand or hear each other.

Invention of language is the greatest achievement of mankind; however, unfortunately man has not been able to evolve much to understand what he has invented. Had Man been able to understand the ‘contradictory humour’ and ‘senseless reflections’ that language produces he would have never thought of using it as the ‘conclusion’ of human reason. LANGUAGE