Language and Civilization
Reality has physical and spiritual dimensions. Indeed, the world civilization that beckons humanity is one that will achieve a dynamic coherence between these two requirements of social life. If reality is more complex than just the physical universe, then a limited description would be inadequate to fully explore and understand it. In recent times, because of the relative success of the field of science, particularly physics, the prevailing thought is that science is adequate to explain reality. The assumptions implicit in this belief are that 1) reality is purely physical or material; 2) science, alone, can explain the mysteries of this purely material reality. But, again, these are just assumptions. There are alternatives as well – equally plausible – that have been advanced throughout this blog. 1) Reality includes levels beyond matter – including social dynamics, human consciousness, and spiritual reality; 2) if reality includes both physical and spiritual components, then both science and religion are needed to understand its mysteries; 3) understanding of reality does not equal reality itself – understanding evolves.
With the understanding that words influence both thoughts and actions, and with the above assumptions in mind – that science and religion are two complimentary systems of knowledge that, over time, gain understanding of our complex reality – the topic of language takes on paramount importance, particularly the language of science and the language of religion. The next few posts will explore this topic.
Language, for the purposes of discourse, must be rich enough to explore issues at a depth that accompanies action. It is the medium through which we communicate observations, create models of reality, articulate theories of dynamics, explore sentiments, describe the world’s operations, and even prescribe relations and behaviors. Crucially, it allows for shared understandings to exist between one individual’s mind and others’ minds. Otherwise, collective knowledge about the objective reality that exists outside of our minds would be tremendously difficult to generate, and our connections to each other would be extremely limited – to the point where we wouldn’t really have society.
To advance civilization is to construct a new social reality, and social reality emerges through language – words are the building blocks of civilization. In other words (pun intended), social reality is the operational expression of words and the meanings of them that society has agreed upon. However, it is important to note that language is itself a social construct – a component of social reality. Thus, like all social constructs and conventions, it can be changed. And a change of language becomes a change of civilization. Therein lies the power of discourse.