• NOS4A2
    8.2k


    A man can confer the greatest of benefits by a right use of these, and inflict the greatest of injuries by using them wrongly.

    Perhaps you can demonstrate. Inflict upon me the greatest injury by using your words.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k



    You have been extended far more than a little good faith! But no matter how often I point out the contradictions you either cannot see them or refuse to acknowledge them. You deny that words have meaning and yet claim that there is something you mean that you are clarifying with words.

    Your contradictions are not in fact contradictions. The fact that I deny words have meaning does not contradict that I mean something by using them. Can you notice the difference? The words meaning something vs. I meaning something? I have been saying all along that I engage in meaning, that I provide meaning to those symbols. So it appears you are struggling to put together the most basic of logic.

    Why raise objections if words are nothing more than sounds and marks? Why use some sounds and marks to argue against the sounds and marks of others? The reason is because words are not just sounds and marks. The acquiescence of a budding tyrant like Glaucon has consequences. He is prompted to act, just as you are when you object. Despite your denial you admit the

    I am raising objections to the treatment of words as supernatural objects. It's true, I read the words and wanted to write something about them. But none of this insinuates that the words made me do it. Though we may make a text and a reader the subject and object respectively, the grammar cannot alter the physics and biology of the interaction. The dynamics of persuasion has it backwards and a belief in it only leads to censorship, violence, and tyranny.
  • Paine
    1.9k

    From the safety of your nihilistic premises, you can neither be harmed nor helped.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    There is always an excuse.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    The fact that I deny words have meaning does not contradict that I mean something by using them. Can you notice the difference?NOS4A2

    You could not mean something by using them if the words did not have meaning. Your meaning something by using them means that they are not just random, meaningless sounds and marks.

    I have been saying all along that I engage in meaning, that I provide meaning to those symbols.NOS4A2

    Words are not meaningless symbols that become meaningful when you provide meaning to them. And words are not meaningless symbols that become meaningful when we the reader provides meaning to them, as you also claim. If that were the case then when you say "A" you might mean 'X' while one reader might provide the meaning 'not X' and still another reader 'neither X nor not X'. Language would be impossible.

    I am raising objections to the treatment of words as supernatural objects.NOS4A2

    You are objecting to a problem of your own making. It is by separating words and meaning that it appears to you that words must be supernatural objects if they are to have force. You limit the meaning of the word 'force' to physics and biology and wrongly conclude that if words were to have force it would be action at a distance.

    I read the words and wanted to write something about them.NOS4A2

    Your wanting to write something about them is part of what it means for words to have force.

    But none of this insinuates that the words made me do it.NOS4A2

    And yet you did respond. A drop of water has force. A torrent of water has force. But the force of one is not the same as the force of the other. You can resist the force of words, but that does not mean that they cannot be forceful.
  • Paine
    1.9k

    The point I made is that you are asking for me to 'do my worse' as a matter of debate where the wrong argument is made to seem to be the true one. Plato and Aristotle both relegate that practice to be sophistical diversions.

    You brought up the possible harm words can do. Against what measure of benefit is your claim made against? Your response dodges that question.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    You could not mean something by using them if the words did not have meaning. Your meaning something by using them means that they are not just random, meaningless sounds and marks.

    They are not random words. I create them and organize them at my own discretion. But the sounds and marks themselves are without meaning. One simply cannot look at a symbol and find meaning in it, and there lost languages to prove this. The reason someone cannot decipher the meaning of a lost language is precisely because there is no meaning in the words.

    Words are not meaningless symbols that become meaningful when you provide meaning to them. And words are not meaningless symbols that become meaningful when we the reader provides meaning to them, as you also claim. If that were the case then when you say "A" you might mean 'X' while one reader might provide the meaning 'not X' and still another reader 'neither X nor not X'. Language would be impossible.

    That’s not the case. The meaning of A is not the same as the word A. Refer to a dictionary. Word on one side, definition on the other.

    And one can literally mean anything by using any word he wants, such as in cryptography, or by using any number of figures of speech like double entendres, innuendo, allusion, homophones, synecdoches.

    You are objecting to a problem of your own making. It is by separating words and meaning that it appears to you that words must be supernatural objects if they are to have force. You limit the meaning of the word 'force' to physics and biology and wrongly conclude that if words were to have force it would be action at a distance.

    Words don't have any force or energy or anything, so I see no problem refusing that silly metaphor, and the justification for censorship and violence that arise from it. I am open to any characterization that doesn't utilize action at a distance and magical thinking to describe speaking and listening. We need not pretend that meaning is sitting in the text, or that it is riding on a sound wave, only to jump into the soul when it finds an eye or ear, only to animate a listener or reader to this or that action. So perhaps we can work on revising this ancient superstition.

    Your wanting to write something about them is part of what it means for words to have force.

    Can you describe this force and how it works?
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    The point I made is that you are asking for me to 'do my worse' as a matter of debate where the wrong argument is made to seem to be the true one. Plato and Aristotle both relegate that practice to be sophistical diversions.

    You brought up the possible harm words can do. Against what measure of benefit is your claim made against? Your response dodges that question.

    If you can injure someone with words, why wouldn't you demonstrate it? Because it's tantamount to sorcery.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    They are not random words. I create them and organize them at my own discretion.NOS4A2

    You do not "create" words. You make use of words, most of which have been around long before you. Whatever discretion you use in organizing them follows rules of syntax that have also been around much longer than you have.

    But the sounds and marks themselves are without meaning.NOS4A2

    We have been over this before. Words get their meaning from within a shared language such as English, which you did not "create" By ignoring this you end up hopelessly confused and wanting to drag others down with you.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    You remain so self-assured while every response has been so disparaging of your views... Free thinker? Or just as stubborn as a goat?

    But refusing to use them is difficult, only possible through a sheer act of willNOS4A2

    I'll be impressed if you manage to convince even a single person that they should try to avoid using verbs that don't refer to a literal act. This is basic English you're arguing against.

    The words on a page become a subject, while the reader is relegated to the status of a passive object.NOS4A2

    "The reader is relegated to the status of a passive object", language isn't that impractical. For words to inspire, clearly, the reader needs to be inspired, it's a pre-requisite.

    So no, an orator cannot incite a crowd to violence and create a violent situation with words.NOS4A2

    How impractical and obtuse. To incite a crowd to violence requires the crowd to be incited, indeed, if you refuse to be incited then the orator cannot incite you. To be an accomplice in my crime, you need to agree to assist me.

    If an orator incites you to violence, and you are incited and act violently, then you were incited. Yes, you acted of your own free will, but you were still incited, because that's English. Is your only criticism a concern that people are being treated like passive objects?
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    You remain so self-assured while every response has been so disparaging of your views... Free thinker? Or just as stubborn as a goat?

    I'll let you know if a disparaging view ever makes sense. Until then the over-use of figurative language to describe states of affairs is inadequate and superstitious.

    I'll be impressed if you manage to convince even a single person that they should try to avoid using verbs that don't refer to a literal act. This is basic English you're arguing against.

    I wouldn't. Knowing that descriptions of these interactions are metaphorical, not to be taken literally, ought to be enough. Unfortunately sometimes it isn't.

    "The reader is relegated to the status of a passive object", language isn't that impractical. For words to inspire, clearly, the reader needs to be inspired, it's a pre-requisite.

    The question is who or what inspires him. Your own suggestion puts words as the agent of inspiration, capable of animating the reader. That's magical thinking. It's sorcery. The point is to try and avoid magical thinking, to describe the interaction literally and accurately.

    How impractical and obtuse. To incite a crowd to violence requires the crowd to be incited, indeed, if you refuse to be incited then the orator cannot incite you. To be an accomplice in my crime, you need to agree to assist me.

    If an orator incites you to violence, and you are incited and act violently, then you were incited. Yes, you acted of your own free will, but you were still incited, because that's English. Is your only criticism a concern that people are being treated like passive objects?

    I'll leave the question begging to the side, for now, because it stands on its own as a good example.

    Here's another English word: "figurative". And the English etymology of the term "incite" displays its figurative upbringing.

    incite (v.)
    mid-15c., from Old French inciter, enciter "stir up, excite, instigate" (14c.), from Latin incitare "to put into rapid motion," figuratively "rouse, urge, encourage, stimulate," from in- "into, in, on, upon" (from PIE root *en "in") + citare "move, excite" (see cite). Related: Incited; inciting.

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/incite

    In other words, you use figurative language and magical thinking to describe a literal crime. To do so suggests that an orator or his words are somehow responsible for a listener's activity. To do so furthers the belief in oneself and one's children that words have some sort of efficacy over other human beings, resulting in bullying and a general weakness and fear towards language and words.

    My concern is what I wrote in the opening post, that these words are used to justify censorship and tyranny.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    The question is who or what inspires him. Your own suggestion puts words as the agent of inspiration, capable of animating the reader. That's magical thinking. It's sorcery. The point is to try and avoid magical thinking, to describe the interaction literally and accurately.NOS4A2

    To give some other examples "That sight terrifies me" - Are we saying the sight is responsible for terrifying me, and I'm just the thing "being terrified"? "This fantastic weather makes me want to go surfing" - Is the weather manipulating/influencing me to go surfing? Like I have no say in the matter? Genuine questions, your arguments are that foolish.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    To give some other examples "That sight terrifies me" - Are we saying the sight is responsible for terrifying me, and I'm just the thing "being terrified"? "This fantastic weather makes me want to go surfing" - Is the weather manipulating/influencing me to go surfing? Like I have no say in the matter? Genuine questions, your arguments are that foolish.

    What terrifies you may not terrify me. The difference is not in the sight, but in he who beholds it. The question is not "why is that sight terrifying", but "why are you terrified it"? The answer ought to be personal because you are responsible for being terrified of it.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k


    If someone holds a gun to your head and threatens to kill you, what if anything is terrifying you? Would it be the same if you knew it was a toy water pistol?

    I will repeat your question:

    why are you terrified it"?NOS4A2

    The answer ought to be personal because you are responsible for being terrified of it.NOS4A2

    This is easy for you to say since no one is holding a gun to your head. It may be that different people will react differently, but that is only part of the dynamic. You are not responsible for the fact that someone is holding a gun to your head.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    The consequences of having a gun pointed at your head could be fatal. Of course one would be terrified, at least if he knew what a gun was. You are responsible for being terrified at someone holding a gun to your head.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    You are responsible for being terrified at someone holding a gun to your head.NOS4A2

    So, the bank teller and not the bank robber should be held responsible for the money being stolen at gunpoint since the bank teller handed over the money.

    Those who are terrified and not the terrorists are responsible for doing what the terrorists demand at gunpoint.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    If he didn’t hand over the money, is that the responsibility of the robber? Maybe he just wasn’t good enough at frightening people?

    The teller handed over the money because the robber had a gun to his head. Most would have done so, and that’s why people are advised to comply with robbers. That’s why we forgive him and the gunman is guilty
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    Maybe he just wasn’t good enough at frightening people?NOS4A2

    He can frighten them but they are responsible for being frightened?

    The teller handed over the money because the robber had a gun to his head.NOS4A2

    Right, the robber with a gun frightened the teller. The teller did not frighten herself. She is not responsible for being terrified.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    The teller is the one who becomes frightened, or calm, or whatever the case may be. What she is frightened at, or terrified of, is the robber and the potential harm that may come to her. Would you say the gunman is responsible for the teller remaining calm should she remain calm?
  • Lionino
    849
    Inflict upon me the greatest injury by using your words.NOS4A2

    No.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    What she is frightened at, or terrified of, is the robber and the potential harm that may come to her.NOS4A2

    Right. He is responsible for holding a gun to her head. He is responsible for frightening her.

    Would you say the gunman is responsible for the teller remaining calm should she remain calm?NOS4A2

    I would say that he failed to do what he set out to accomplish.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    I would say that he failed to do what he set out to accomplish.

    So he is responsible for making her calm?
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    So he is responsible for making her calm?NOS4A2

    I don't know how you could draw that conclusion, but it is indicative of the futility of trying to have a deliberative reasoned discussion with you.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    I’m drawing the opposite conclusion: that the teller is responsible for her emotions. I’m trying to understand why you think the robber is responsible for her emotions, but you get all pissy and evade. Oh well.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    What terrifies you may not terrify me. The difference is not in the sight, but in he who beholds it. The question is not "why is that sight terrifying", but "why are you terrified it"?NOS4A2

    Sure, but that wasn't my question. The point is that nobody is claiming that the "sight" is the "agent of fear" capable of instilling fear into the viewer of the sight.

    Why not just apply what you've said here to words on a page? "What inspires you may not inspire me. The difference is not in the words, but in he who reads them. The question is not 'why are these words inspiring', but 'why are you inspired by them'?"

    The answer ought to be personal because you are responsible for being terrified of it.NOS4A2

    One thing at a time, I'm dealing with this "magical" element you keep referring to. If you agree that there's nothing magical about sights terrifying or words inspiring, then we can move onto your next point.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.8k


    I am confused by this interchange. Is your claim that words cannot play a causal role in people's actions or that this would amount to magic?





    The assertion that a person pointing a gun at another person and threatening them plays no causal role in their state of mind or actions would be bizarre. Does sense perception ever play a determining role in behavior or belief? If so, why are threats or words different? If not, how does this not entail that communication is impossible, the external world irrelevant, and solipsism?

    How do you explain cars stopping at red lights if what is communicated by the red light cannot play a determining role in their behavior? But if sense perception can determine behavior, and words are experienced through sense perception, I fail to see what the difference is.

    In particular, here the confusion seems to come from the idea that if a threat has not totally determined the threatened's actions and state of mind, it cannot play any role in determining their actions and state of mind.

    A counterfactual analysis might be helpful here. Would the bank teller have been afraid and given the robber the money if the robber had not threatened them and demanded the money?



    dynamics of persuasion has it backwards and a belief in it only leads to censorship, violence, and tyranny.

    Why is censorship bad? If words cannot be responsible for how anyone acts or how they feel, then what does censorship change about the world? How does censorship even work? If the state says, "do not speak about the merits of communism or we will shoot you," according to your claims, it is solely the threatened populace who is responsible for any actions or feelings vis-á-vis these threats. If the bank robber isn't responsible for the bank teller's fear or for their handing the money over to them, then I hardly see how the state's censorship efforts could be responsible for people not talking or writing about banned subjects.

    It would seem your claims about the inefficacious nature of language, and communication more generally, along with your claims about were responsibility rests for actions, undermine your claims re censorship.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    I am confused by this interchange. Is your claim that words cannot play a causal role in people's actions or that this would amount to magic?

    Yes, words cannot animate other human beings, and to believe they can is magical thinking.

    The assertion that a person pointing a gun at another person and threatening them plays no causal role in their state of mind or actions would be bizarre. Does sense perception ever play a determining role in behavior or belief? If so, why are threats or words different? If not, how does this not entail that communication is impossible, the external world irrelevant, and solipsism.

    How does one explain cars stopping at red lights if what is communicated by the red light cannot play a determining role in their behavior? But if sense perception can determine behavior, and words are experienced through sense perception, I fail to see what the difference is.

    All causes, responses, motivating factors, knowledge and understanding regarding guns and red lights and words, and how to react to them and why, lie within a unique point in space and time—in the agent. Absolutely none of it exists in guns and red lights and words. Agency belongs to agents, is the main point, which should not be a controversial statement, but when it comes to words it is.

    The agent (the driver), not the light, determines whether a car stops at a light (or not). The driver operates the brake. The light is designed to indicate when it is appropriate to stop and go, it wasn’t designed to stop cars. One just needs to assume the agency in the appropriate spot in order to avoid the magical thinking.

    In particular, here ↪NOS4A2 the confusion seems to come from the idea that if a threat has not totally determined the threatened's actions and state of mind, it cannot play any role in determining their actions and state of mind.

    A counterfactual analysis might be helpful here. Would the bank teller have been afraid and given the robbed the money of the robber had not threatened them and demanded the money?

    Yes, one considers the nature of any threat or circumstance and how to respond. I’m not saying the environment has no role to play in one’s decisions. One is situated within any given environment and tries to act according. I am only saying that the agent is the sole discretionary and causative force behind his own actions.

    Why is censorship bad? If words cannot be responsible for how anyone acts or how they feel, then what does censorship change about the world? How does censorship even work? If the state says, "do not speak about the merits of communism or we will shoot you," according to your claims, it solely the threatened populace who is responsible for any actions or feelings vis-á-vis these threats. If the bank robber isn't responsible for the bank teller's fear or for their handing the money over to them, then I hardly see how the state's censorship efforts could be responsible for people not talking or writing about banned subjects.

    It would seem your claims about the inefficacious nature of language, and communication more generally, along with your claims about were responsibility rests for actions, undermine your claims re censorship.

    It depends on the kind of censorship, but wherever one is removing words from the world he is stealing from their creator in particular and from posterity in general, and violating a number of human rights while doing so. It is both a theft and a vandalism of a sort.

    The censor removes words, or otherwise becomes incensed at other voices, because he thinks the words are effective. He sees them as dangerous or corrupting or the causal factor in another’s emotion. That’s why speakers ought to be punished and their word’s extirpated. Censors have little other argument for censorship, so I believe it undermines their position and not mine.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    One simply cannot look at a symbol and find meaning in it, and there lost languages to prove this. The reason someone cannot decipher the meaning of a lost language is precisely because there is no meaning in the words.NOS4A2

    Oddly, this seems to show the opposite of what you intended. The symbols of an ancient language do have meaning even without knowing the language. We have no choice in recognizing the symbols as a language, for one thing, and depending on the context they could have much more meaning. For a symbol to be meaningless it would need to be completely unrecognizable as a symbol or anything else and not attract attention. Only then could it not affect us.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    The word “Influence” and its various synonyms are words I’m going to try and avoid from here on out, if such a feat is possible. Perhaps if we recognize their figurative and metaphorical upbringing, we can avoid the pitfalls, but otherwise we reduce ourselves to magical thinking by using them.NOS4A2

    Maybe the problem here is the failure to understand what "word" refers to in the context of persuasion. A quick image, so to speak: we stand on opposite sides of a still pond. I stir the water with a stick, and soon enough the ripples arrive at your side of the pond.

    In this analogy, of course, the ripples are the words: real physical things. And again of course, spoken words are real physical things. (Writing a different matter.) Think this through and the connection of speaker and auditor is clear. In a quite literal sense, my speaking is putting a stick into your brain and stirring it around creating ripples. And in this sense words cannot be innocent, nor the speaker.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    1.8k


    I am only saying that the agent is the sole discretionary and causative force behind his own actions.

    If agent's actions were actually determined by "nothing outside the agent," then it should be the case that agent's actions have no relation to the world. You seem to be engaged in a strange sort of variation of Ryle's Regress.

    It depends on the kind of censorship, but wherever one is removing words from the world he is stealing from their creator in particular and from posterity in general

    So, if someone spray paints "eat shit," across the front of your house and you paint over it, you are "stealing"?

    and violating a number of human rights while doing so. It is both a theft and a vandalism of a sort.

    Why is sharing words a human right? Not everything is a human right. Presumably, access to water is a human right because people suffer and die without water. The same is true for food, or being free from summary execution. But what would make the ability to share words a human right? Words, if they do nothing, seem completely irrelevant to human flourishing, so I can hardly see why we must have a right to them.

    Further, since words cannot motivate action, and neither can threats, I still don't see how the state telling people not to speak about certain topics, or threatening them, can have any bearing on as to whether people speak about those topics. So, is censorship only bad when it erases words, but fine if it limits itself to telling people not to say certain things and threatening them?

    Hell, even if the state shot someone over speaking, it would seem that, since the sole causative force behind actions can never lie outside the agent, the victim's falling to the ground afterwards could not be attributed to the state. Or perhaps this only applies to intentional actions? Even still, if that's the case, then the state torturing someone can never cause them to avoid speaking about certain things. This being the case, it's unclear if most forms censorship are even possible.

    And, we certainly can't blame dictators for atrocities carried out by the states they run. After all, they only use words to ask that those atrocities be carried out, and such words cannot cause actions.
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