Installment 1:1

Many of our confusions and disagreements are complex versions of this simplified example: Let’s pretend that I have a job sorting paper with colored swatches into two piles – blue and red. All papers must go into one pile or the other. This job is simple and mundane for awhile. Soon, though, I come across a color sample with a blend of red and blue, something like this:

red blue swath

Some of our most subversive problems with language occur when we are incapable of creating new piles. If I must be confined to either of only two choices, when we come across new examples of something, it will be impossible to come to a consensus. I could ask hundreds or thousands of people if this color sample would be best in the blue or the red, but I will never get 100% agreement if I must keep the options to the two original ones.

If I ask a question such as, “Is there free will?” I am doing something similar. I am ignoring the possibility of creating new ways of describing that may be more accurate than the old. You can say, “Yes there is free will,” or you can say, “No there isn’t free will,” but you are ignoring that there are other ways of describing reality. This is critically important. Language is a tool that belongs to people. There are no words or concepts that themselves exist independently of people, and a frequent failure to realize this too often becomes a pause on the potential progress of human thought. These are more than just fallacies of false choice; they are linguistic shackles on human intellect.

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