Thursday, 10 November 2011

An argument for solitude

Have you ever wondered about how accurately language allows us to describe our experiences? Of course, those less limited in their vocabulary have a broader inventory with which to convey their thoughts and emotions, but aren’t we all limited by this to some extent, even those of us articulatorily skilled enough to fabricate convincing-sounding adverbs?

The last time I felt dejected, down or depressed I began to think that none of these words quite properly conveyed the experiences I was undergoing. It is here I turn to Wittgenstein:

‘How could descriptions of experiences, if these are genuine reports, get a foothold in language? For any rule of language must have public criteria for its correct application.’

The point is that experience is an entirely subjective phenomenon; my experience can only correctly be understood by me, but language is necessarily inter-subjective; a word that only means what it means to me is of no linguistic use whatsoever. Thus we are perennially required to use words that mean something to others, even though no individual word from the entire possible set of these words may match up accurately with the experience we are attempting to describe.

Maybe this is the phenomenon that explains why there always seems to be an unbreakable barrier in every conversation, forcing me to accept that I’ll never quite be able to express exactly what I intend to. Then again, maybe it’s just me.

(Photo Credit: Xander Lloyd

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