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How does language influence reality?

 
 
Reply Tue 19 Dec, 2006 12:08 am
Some questions I've had about language:

Recently, some American news organizations have decided to start calling the war in Iraq a civil war. While the language to describe the war may have changed within certain boundaries, the reality of what is happening for both the soldiers and Iraqi citizens remains what it is, regardless of what it's called.

In another example, a friend of mine's son was recently diagnosed with Autism, however, in the official diagnosis it wasn't called Autism. Her health insurance company considered Autism a mental disorder, and therefor would not cover it, which accounts for the different language use in the official diagnosis. Her son has Autism and will be treated for it, but essentially a second reality exists for the insurance company.

Does language drive reality(s)? To truly observe reality, shouldn't one develop some immunity (consciousness) to language?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 11,187 • Replies: 48
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Baloo72
 
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Reply Mon 19 Mar, 2007 10:07 pm
@chad3006,
I do believe that language drives reality. Language is the way that we convey thoughts to other beings. Using certain words can conjure up certain feelings in one person, and completely different feelings in another. You should check into the whorf-sapir hypothesis and weak linguistic determinism.
boagie
 
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Reply Mon 19 Mar, 2007 10:45 pm
@Baloo72,
Baloo72 wrote:
I do believe that language drives reality. Language is the way that we convey thoughts to other beings. Using certain words can conjure up certain feelings in one person, and completely different feelings in another. You should check into the whorf-sapir hypothesis and weak linguistic determinism.


Baloo72,Chad3006,Smile

Yes,I am not very knowledgeable about it,but I do think language does form the reality we experience,certainly it is at the very least,conditioned by it.Another aspect of the same idea would be to discuss how we often create reality with the fictions that we put out there.What is fiction today may well be tommorow's reality,particulary if we are talking human behaviour.Interesting topic,thanks for posting it Chad.
Dexter78
 
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Reply Tue 20 Mar, 2007 08:50 am
@boagie,
Language is interesting in that even what it is not used to communicate between others, we still use it when we think to ourselves. Even when one is experiencing a moment, the instant they attempt to interpret it language comes into play. Even forms such as painting, body language etc. involve interpreting symbols. Since reality can be a continuous spectrum of experiences while language is discrete jumps in meaning, when we hear a word we have to fill in the gaps with our interpretation of the range of meaning that word actually represents, and in effect create the previous experienced reality for ourselves. I wouldn't say language drives reality, it appears to be more of a feedback.
speakerchef
 
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Reply Sat 20 Oct, 2007 10:39 pm
@Dexter78,
Dexter78,

Nice one.

Although I do agree with you that language does not drive reality, I would say it drives truth.

Truth, if thought of as a line graph, is where understanding (human) intersects with being, that is reality. Since one of the most common systems for understanding is language, truth is driven by language.

As a result, one might think that language therefore drives reality, but of course this is not possible, because language bears no influence on being (that which is). Language only influences understanding.

Also Dexter78, I don't understand what you mean by 'previous experienced reality'. Are you saying that this 'experienced reality' is real? Or merely perceived? Furthermore, what do you mean by 'feedback'?

Cheers!
-sc
Dexter78
 
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Reply Tue 13 Nov, 2007 10:41 pm
@speakerchef,
Quote:
Also Dexter78, I don't understand what you mean by 'previous experienced reality'. Are you saying that this 'experienced reality' is real? Or merely perceived? Furthermore, what do you mean by 'feedback'?


I would say that the experience was real, but to be more clear I probably should have said "their interpretation of their experience" instead of "previous experienced reality," and therefore yes, would be a perception. By feedback I mean that when we interpret an experience, we use some sort of symbology, usually words, to "capture" the experience for interpretation, which then influence our interpretation of our next experience, which we fill in with words, and so on.
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Seeker phil
 
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Reply Wed 14 Nov, 2007 09:07 am
@chad3006,
Words are a very poor means of communication. The two most misunderstood words in any language are the words god and love.

However we use words to communicate and we translate the meanings of words according to our understanding of them. Even simple words like yes and no are misused and / or misunderstood. Actions can some times speak louder then words.

Language can only be used to try and express reality. In Truth reality must be experienced!
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chad3006
 
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Reply Wed 14 Nov, 2007 10:11 am
@chad3006,
Upon further pondering:

I suppose language drives reality only for those most removed from reality. Political language to describe the war in Iraq is not for the soldiers or Iraqi citizens, it's for approximately 35% of Americans who, we are told, still support it.

Frank Luntz makes his living selecting language to drive reality for some people. In an interview I heard, he suggests using "exploration" rather than "drilling" to describe extracting oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The language is for those who will never go there. Furthermore, I suppose, he selects language to convince his clients that his services will make a difference, and once again, I suppose it will for some.
GoshisDead
 
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Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 10:57 pm
@chad3006,
Language cannot effect an ultimate reality, if there is such a thing, it can influence perception of reality/belief of what is, mainly in the area of semantic domain. Although one person's physical receptors and translators are on average equal to another, their system of reference is not necessarily the same or even too similar. Some people, I think in error, assume that language is about communication, and granted communication is a by product of language, however, language is about referencing reality. Language creates a meta-reality through which you can virtually navigate the perceptions which the physical body receives. So in the realm of domain outside influences have sway on your meta-reality which ends up influencing your cognitive interpretation of the physical world.
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de Silentio
 
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Reply Wed 12 Mar, 2008 06:40 pm
@chad3006,
I would like to reply, buy my reply wouldn't mean much since I am not well versed in the philosophy of language.

But I can suggest some reading. You might enjoy Foucault or Derrida. Their work towards deconstruction and postmodernism are facinating regarding the philosophy of language.
Doobah47
 
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Reply Fri 14 Mar, 2008 03:01 am
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
Baloo72,Chad3006,Smile

I do think language does form the reality we experience,certainly it is at the very least,conditioned by it..


Surely reality conditions our language. Lets say that some unknown un-named x were to enter your perception, what would you do?
GoshisDead
 
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Reply Fri 14 Mar, 2008 11:31 am
@Doobah47,
I would say OMG what the heck is that THING, aren't pro-forms wonderful
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Doobah47
 
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Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 05:52 pm
@chad3006,
Ok, I would say that language, or more specifically physics conditions the way we perceive and think about reality, and if you want to be strange you could say that reality only exists inside the mind of the individual so language conditions parts of reality in some context. But really its utterly preposterous and absurd to say that language conditions reality.
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Ciana5
 
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Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 09:10 pm
@de Silentio,
I do not believe that "language" is the culprit here, the person using it is conveying thoughts and ideas. The real culprit would be "interpretation" which is at the receiving end of the language.
GoshisDead
 
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Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 05:27 pm
@Ciana5,
Interpretation is also on the production end of language, interpreting prototypical concepts and non linguistic thoughts into language that may or may not adequately describe them. Interpretation is not really the culprit as I noted in a previous post. The Culprit is assuming that language has anything at all to do with hard reality. Language creates a meta-reality in which abstractness can be present in order not to communicate but to negotiate.
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chandler phil
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 12:28 am
@chad3006,
Language does not influence reality but influences the perception of reality (as Goshisdead has said).

There are stories about people remember car accidents differently than the car accident actually happened. For instance, a car accident happens: head-on collision with no shattered glass. But when questioners use certain words in their questions (like, crash, smash) it ends up that many of the victims will remember glass breaking. In these cases the language used influences the person's memory of the incident and so his/her own perception of reality.
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Arjen
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 01:27 am
@chad3006,
I am going to be really annoying and contradict Chandler and GosHisDead (even though I really agree with them in the sense they ment their posts). Try to look at things this way:

Language is not only words and form; it is vibration. When we look at it all physical reality is vibration: sound, light, matter....everything. Does that not mean that any sound (language?) we make really does influence reality?
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chandler phil
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 01:41 am
@chad3006,
I suppose if I yell loud enough it might have some affect on reality (shattered glass, bleeding ears, all that jazz) and in the same way in relation to what I say the world is going to change to some extent (say if I convince someone to do one thing rather than another). Maybe I'm misreading what you're saying but if not then I think you might be missing the point. Sure in the sense that language is a part of reality and thus has a bearing on reality (just like any action someone performs will have an effect) it influences reality. But I was making the point that language influences the way we perceive reality.

I'm not sure if I can get at the difference between our points but I feel there is a fundamental difference that, when realized, will actually make what appears to be a problem a non-issue.

To the extent that language is simply vibration it can only have effect in relation to its magnitude. For example, a loud blast may cause reality to change by causing me to go deaf. This is what I thought you were saying and which I agree with but isn't the point of what I said earlier.

To the extent that language is a SOUND that signifies something it also effects reality. For instance, a siren blaring automatically makes me think that I need to get out of the way. Contrary to the loud blast, the siren actually references something in the real world. (I know that a siren isn't language but just humor me Smile)

In this sense, language as vibration can certainly influence reality by having natural effects (like the loud blast) or tied up in the usage of language it can influence reality by having effects on people which lead them to do things they would not otherwise do.

But in the sense of changing reality as far as the meaning of a word changing the way the world actually is, I think it's false. Reality is the way it is regardless of the words we choose to use. In the car crash example, the glass is NOT broken. But the words used can influence people and change their perception of the accident so that they will believe that the glass IS broken. This isn't changing reality, it's changing perception.

Hopefully that clears up what I meant. I hope it makes sense. Very Happy
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Arjen
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 01:53 am
@chad3006,
I mentioned that I agreed with you (and GosHisDead) on the part that language changes the way we understand things. I back that opinion fully. I am merely bringing into the discussion a point of view which has not been "voiced" yet: that vibrations are what is "real" and that our voices can indeed create vibrations. If I would be able to form the right vibrations; would I not influence reality to a great extent? And if this is indeed true; would not my language be instrumental in that?
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chandler phil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 01:56 am
@chad3006,
Maybe I'm missing your point. When you say vibrations what do you mean? vibrations to effect physical reality? vibrations that mean something and so cause people to do something which in turn effects physical reality as well? or vibrations that cause people to understand the world in relation to those vibrations and so influence the perception the people have of the world? or do you mean something else entirely?
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