Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How Does Meaning Connect with Truth?

"How does meaning connect with truth? One language can be more potentially truth-bearing, more precise, more beautiful, richer in concepts than another. Tyrants destroy language, diminish vocabulary. A language is enlarged, improved ..., by truthful utterance. People suffer and are damaged if prevented from uttering the truth. Assent, general agreement, has a background which must be scrutinised. ... Truth and falsehood are in a perpetual engagement with meaning. Meaning is slippery and free, language is a huge place.... [L]anguage depends very generally upon areas of 'agreement', but is also continuously lived by persons. Fine shades of behaviour, imponderable evidence, looks, glances, gestures, tones, whistling. Such modes of human communication are everywhere fundamental, defeating general 'exactness', but performing precise jobs in individual contexts. Thinking, communicating, must admit the individual, the moral, the aesthetic. ... Language is full of art forms, full of values, we rely daily upon intuitions and distinctions, life passes on, we have to trust our memories, we have to trust the truthfulness of other people. ... Our private reflections, or 'inner lives', are soaked in values. Do we not therefore need to inspect and evaluate our own private thought-being, that inner which is so different from our lived outer? A sense of that separation is one of our deepest experiences. We know very little even about the people who are closest to us. We depend upon intuition and rightly accept many things as mysteries."

--Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992)

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