When we use words what are we doing?
I have heard a statement that went like this “Propositions just lead to other propositions”. I don’t think it is so. Sure propositions do very often lead to other propositions. You can create a whole formal language which will produce tonnes of propositions from a few propositions. But Propositions don’t JUST come from propositions and don’t JUST produce propositions.
I see language as a tool. It’s obvious use is one of communication but it comes into it’s own when used in philosophy. In my opinion philosophy is nothing other then the pursuit of the perfect phrase – or set of phrases – which describe, encapsulate and maybe even render reality.
By reality I do not mean just the gross reality of our senses but that which is thinkable, comprehensible, conceivable. Really – and this is quite funny – what I mean by reality is that which can be put into words… or at least that which lends itself to being talked about.
By reality I don’t mean that which is true.
So when I philosophize I often have this inchoate pseudo-visual/sensory experience and it is that which I am trying to paint in words.
The fact is that words are wonderful but woefully inadequate for the task. They never seem to say enough, or they always seem to say to much and in their quantity lose something fundamental to the experience I’m trying to render communicable. It’s because words and language are fundamentally symbols and as such they always point beyond themselves to that which they are symbols of.
When we – or at least I – try to express an experience which doesn’t seem to be as communal as say a run-of-the-mill visual experience (say a tree) we are never confident that we have actually communicated it. There is always the thought that we’ve used the wrong symbol or pressed the wrong button on the keypad to the other’s consciousness and now they are seeing cartoons when we wanted them to hear Ave Maria!