One reason why describing language as a third reality can be helpful, is that it can reduce linguistic confusion. A lack of realization of belief’s influence on language frequently leads to confusion. Whenever you comprehend the words of another you are always doing so through the filter of their beliefs. You can never remove this filter, though you can take steps to remove the distortions of its influence.
A gap seems to exist between our understanding of language and our potential to understand language, particularly for large swathes of people isolated and intimidated by the manner in which language is currently explained. Additionally, a greater realization that language is a way of depicting our beliefs rather than reality itself seems to lend itself to a potential of resolution of conflicts more due to differing definitions and concepts than people currently realize. My choice in words is not affected by truth as much as I would like to believe, but rather by my belief in the words’ correspondence to reality.
Perhaps the lesser-haired man was wanting to climb the mountain, but after hearing of it’s description, he changed his mind. Some obvious means exist of clearing this confusion, such as the asking for more detail, and the seeking out of other sources. There are other ways too, but they all share the quality of first realizing the risk of equating words with reality rather than belief.
Concepts could be thought of as being utilitarian by nature. They are also subject to a sort of natural selection. These concepts exist, and ultimately persist or fade, based upon how well they serve us. Democracy, as one example, is nothing more than an idea, melded together of other ideas, such as, that leaders should be chosen based upon the will of the people those leaders serve. This one concept, though, draws upon, and lends characteristics to a multitude of other beliefs and concepts. That people vote is only one of a vast number of these potential characteristics. As is how they vote, and who exactly gets to do so – and what is an election, and a campaign, and how does campaign finance reform play into this? And what are the characteristics of a dual party system versus a multi-party system? You could list examples of good democracies, and you could even list examples of bad monarchies which led to revolutions, which led to the good democracies. Why doesn’t everybody automatically advocate democracy? What is the role of the media? What is a hanging chad?
Every person has his own idea of democracy, just as every person has his own idea of apples, and chairs, and a “good economy.” And when I speak of any of these things, I must be aware of these differences. Otherwise, I risk assuming that mine and someone else’s concepts are more similar than they really are. Though difficult to quantify, concepts such as democracy are comprised of more concepts than concepts such of chair, allowing for more opportunity for one person’s ideas to diverge from another’s.
All of these concepts are based physically in our brain. And as with belief, their shared purpose is to help us navigate our future world. Understanding the complexity and the potential differences can help us to take care not to assign one-to-one correspondence between them.
We Control Language
Another critical reason for this trichotomy is is that it gives us control over language, rather than the other way around. Instead of thinking that we have basically reached our maximum potential at around four years of age (as was thought and taught for decades, even recently), we can do better at looking at how we actually use language compared to how it can be used, with the points being not only to more accurately convey our thoughts, but to better harness the power of this human-language combination.
We control language completely and utterly. We’ve all been born into a world in which language has already existed, and this fact along with the sometimes misguided efforts of prescriptive oriented educators has caused us to see this system of symbols as something more mysterious and eternal than it actually is. Too often it intimidates. Too often fear and apathy content us to restrict our syntax and vocabulary to the lowest common syntaxes and vocabularies of those around this.
There are many ways of improving our language use, many of which do involve isolating parts of language after understanding their specific functions, and practicing those parts found to be individually deficient. In this manner, language is much like other complex systems, such as learning to play the piano, or baseball, or origami. More detail of this will follow later, but it is important now to note that there are large differences between the language of an average four year old, and even an average eight year old. There also could be equally huge differences between your average twenty year old and your average forty year old. Sometimes there are. But often, people prematurely believe that there is some language ceiling, usually that they’ve hit themselves.
Every word is man-made. This entails creativity and flexibility, but also an inherent degree of separation from a language independent reality. Because language conveys representation of belief, which itself only portrays representation of reality, our words can’t themselves possibly be true (or false). They can only succeed (or fail) at putting our beliefs concerning reality into the minds of others. Although we seem to be engaged in an eternal search for truth, precisely because of our reliance on language, we are doomed to come up short. This doesn’t mean that “truth” doesn’t exist. It just means that are words can not be equivalent to it.
An acceptance of this, though, frees us. It allows to do what people have done for so long in taking the reigns of this powerful tool that allowed us to get the upper hand over the rest of the animal kingdom, and gain so much control over our world. Thus, we can create any concept we want, and any word we want, just as we have with all words and concepts that now exist. And when words and concepts lose their usefulness, we are free to discard them. The only thing necessary for any of this is consensus, and that’s not even always required.
Understanding Language’s Limitations – Another Reason for This Distinction
A third key reason for making the distinctions that I do is that it allows us to understand language’s limitations. There are many problems that we can’t solve simply by hammering away at them with words. Words can so often serve as only crude and much less effective replacements for actions.
Also, all words are accompanied and filtered by belief. All belief is subject to bias. Belief is inherently selfish. The evolutionary purpose of belief is, in fact, to do that which best serves it’s creator. All words have a (selfish) purpose beyond the words themselves. Every utterance could be rephrased with some form of, “I believe that…,” or “I think that…,” or “I want…”, or “We think that…”. All of my words then are nothing but a reflection of my beliefs. This means that not only are they subject to my desires, but they are also under my control.
Every concept is affected by multiple beliefs, some of which are difficult for us to perceive. More complex concepts are influenced by a very large number of beliefs which all then branch out to other influential beliefs. Thinking that something is good draws upon beliefs both of what is good, and divergent beliefs of whatever that something is.
This bias affects creations in multiple areas, from our biological creations to the paintings of painters, to the theories of theorists. Ideas that we think are our own seem inherently superior to similar ideas thought up by others. Although we attribute truth conditions to what we say or write, in fact each sentence, each utterance, is more akin to a work of art. Each one is a creation. Consequently every word to this point has been a creation of mine, and thus, subject to creation bias. Too often we hear or read something, immediately believe it to be “good,” or “true,” and the words themselves then take on identities of their own. It is extremely easy to do this of our creations, or even in the words of others that we’ve decided to believe as if they were our own. There is good news here, though, which is that once one truly understands this, that person begins to more critically examine his words, and becomes better at discarding ideas – even his own – that do a poorer job of comporting to, or conveying reality rather than his belief.