The Mythology of Language

On the (mis)use of our most fundamental skill

Nathan Smith
Interfaith Now

--

“An entire mythology is stored within our language.”

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein

We use language as a spider does a web: it’s not about “objectivity” or mere description, but engaging our inner and outer world. New terms, concepts, beliefs can introduce new ways of engaging that world; they’re not so much descriptions as they are ways we regulate experiences. A term like “language” can encompass grandiose concepts like “meaning” or the seemingly otherworldly propositions of religion. At the foundation of every belief (just a cloud of words, really) is an axiom, a proposition which we cannot empirically verify but which we take as a foregone conclusion nonetheless. In this way, they may actually be quite lousy descriptions of the universe — but that’s assuming that was their purpose at all. Perhaps more accurately, language is not our way of merely describing the world but engaging it.

Just as spiders must always repair or even altogether replace their webs, we must allow our language to be just as fluid. If language were just about description, it could arguably never change; but if it’s about how we engage the content of our lives — the “games” we play — then it must…

--

--

Nathan Smith
Interfaith Now

Writer, therapy student, queer; interested in psychology, philosophy, literature, religion/spirituality. YouTube.com/@MindMakesThisWorld @NateSmithSNF