My love for Language

<<J’adore les langues>> is an expression that could be translated as “I love languages” or “I love tongues”. Both translations to an eye that is used to the English tongue might find the two statements to be completely different expression but they do mean the same thing.

Language is certainly a beautiful thing. A complex system for which one comes to understand the world and to contemplate its existence. Has this ever happened to you: you are sitting in a rocking chair, in your winter gown, by a fire place and a thought comes to your mind. Where does language come from? It has happened to me -minus the winter gown and rocking chair- I sometimes find myself pondering about the phenomena that is the human language. Whether you believe that the human language like any other language from non-human creatures are just mediums of which we use to communicate with each other so thus, has a social purpose. Or you believe that language is more of an expressive platform that helps us to build our mental faculty so is thus innate.

Any standpoint one takes to define language still does not fully explain the origins of the human language which is forever evolving – the English language has changed so much in the past 100 years. The various human languages can be used to create poetic and meaningful phrases – the mind boggling grammatical systems of the world is yet another example of the beautiful complexity of the human language.

Did the human language come about from a random spontaneous mutation in early primates as Noam Chomsky suggested or did it just develop in primates from animal communication. The answer to these questions are almost very likely to be never discovered however what we do know for certain is the weight that language carries. AJ Ayer states that language can sometimes sway our perception of metaphysical ideas such as God – the faults in the English language deceive people into believing that imaginary things are real.

In Ayer’s book, ‘Language, Truth and logic’, Ayer’s states that a statement does not qualify/has no value unless it can be verified. For example, statement 1 = “There is a Giraffe in the room.”, if there is no way or there cannot be a way to verify statement 1 then it has no value however we know that we can verify statement 1 by looking into the room to see if there is/is not a giraffe in the room. Thus, we can suggest that Ayer believed that as one cannot simply verify the statement “God exists” or any other metaphysical statement then it does not hold any value – unless one can figure out a way to verify these statements which is unlikely.

Ayer also claims that the statement “God exists” is a tautology as attributing existence to God is implying that he already exists so it is a statement that both cannot be verified and does not contain any particular meaning. This is also where, as Ayer put it, believers get mistaken; this is because the statement “God exists” implies that God exists even though it cannot be verified thus, the statement tricks people into believing that such a creature exists because of the way that the statement is set up. Ayer’s argument is weak as many people believe that there are ways to verify the existence of God. For example, religious experiences can be sufficient proof that God exists for someone who has had first-hand experience of God. Also, some say that the teleological and aesthetic arguments for the existence of God proof that there is some sort of God out there. It is hard for me to accept that if things cannot be verified then they have no meaning as we limit ourselves in understanding the world that we live in. There are some things that we might not know how to verify, like the existence of God, but there is a way that we just need to discover.

In contrast, John Hick sides with the idea that religious ideas are verifiable if true but not falsifiable if false. Hick called this idea Eschatological verification which can be defined as verification after death; it states that the existence of God, if true, will be verified after death, through the existence of an afterlife, however if it is false then one will not know that it is false as there would be nothing after death/ no consciousness. Therefore, Hick disagrees with Ayer’s stance that all metaphysical statements have no meaning as most of the statements cannot be falsified so they all contain a possibility of being true. The eschatological verification argument is a strong argument as it accepts the idea that we cannot simply dismiss metaphysical ideas just because we have not figured out a way to verify them or we haven’t come to a stage where they can be verified e.g. after death. Through this one can begin to understand that it is not religious language that is at fault as suggested by AJ Ayer, but it is our understanding of them and the process of verification.

The Human language is a beautiful thing. One that allows us to create and share our beliefs whilst, as Ayer believed, also influencing our thoughts on certain matters such as metaphysics. Although it is unclear where language stems from and there are many disputes on its sole purpose one thing we can all agree on is the immense weight that language carries and how impactful it is on our everyday life.

That is why <<J’adore les langues>>.

LaFortune 

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