Friday, January 21, 2011

The Dialectic of Language

Language is a funny thing. Words, sentences, are integrally bound up in thought, yet they're not the thought itself. Thinking produces expressions of language, which are then used as the basis of new thought processes, or at least are used as reference points for new thought processes to orient themselves by. Language never truly expresses thought, yet thought itself is incomplete without language to express it. Thinking and language, then, exist in a dialectical tension with each other, where thought generates and manifests language as a summation, which is then seen as wanting and which is then overridden by new thought, which in order to try and complete itself is expressed in language, which then is incomplete itself, spurring new thought. Thought and language can be seen to exist both as adversaries that are competing with one another for ultimate expression and perfection, and as friends that are mutually dependent on each other, a sort of tension filled love-hate relationship.

But thought is something that can generate multiple expressions in language, while language itself is much more limited and definite, suggesting that of the two it's really thought that's primary, with language being a secondary moment used by thought in an effort of self clarification, and not the other way around. Indeed, language as an abstract entity does not think, and is static. It only has real meaning on the background of thought process that can take the semantic and semiotic structures and symbols and derive content from them. Language, written or oral, has no meaning in and of itself outside of minds set up to process it except in the sense that a computer program set in lines of code has an abstract, universal, meaning detached from all computers set up to use it.

This in part goes back to the distinction between physical existence and meaning. Many things can physically exist, but meaning is something that only exists because minds make it. A car on an alien planet that was barren, with no life, and with no possibility of ever coming in contact with any life, would be just a physical structure. It would take minds coming in contact with it to actually derive, and in a sense create, the meaning attached to what this physical thing was and is.

No comments: