- Language - Religion - Science Discourse Knowledge

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.



Words, Thoughts, Actions

The advancement of civilization – the theme of this blog – is achieved through action.  It occurs through building capacity in individuals, institutions, and communities to work towards a prosperous world civilization characterized by a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual aspects of social existence.

Why type, why talk, why think? Why read?  Why not only go act?  Plenty of reasons.  Some, like the relationship between action, reflection, and consultation, have already been discussed.  Along the same note, and key to the field of discourse itself, is the relationship between thoughts, words, and actions.  The way we individually and collectively speak influences the way we individually and collectively think, which influences the way we individually and collectively act.  And vice versa.  Each affects the other two – and a transformation of one can lead to a change in the others.  Discourse shapes thought, action, structure, and relationships.

What led to your conceptions of the nature and purpose of a human being? Of a community? Of education?  Where did you get your speech about the idea of health care? Of politics? Of the role of parents?  Why do you do whatever it is you do on Friday nights? On Wednesday mornings? On the first of the month?  How did you learn what to do at a baseball game? A church? A hospital?

Most of this develops on an unconscious level – at the level of assumptions – as a result of all the complex social forces and implicit environmental factors that constantly surround us.  Existing social structures and patterns of community life think, act, and speak a certain way, all of which bears upon how we think, act, and speak.  In turn, however, the thoughts, words, and actions of individuals make up the thoughts, words, and actions of the communities and institutions of which they belong.  Furthermore, words, thoughts, and actions all influence each other.  And this is just one glimpse of the interconnectedness that governs the universe.

Discourse is indispensable in the process of civilization-building.  Speak to your friend about the underlying oneness of humanity, and he will think about it.  Then he will see others’ actions in this framework.  And then act upon this assumption.  Others will see this action, and express the oneness of humanity in their speech.  What the world needs now is for more and more people to openly, consciously, and intentionally think and speak about our shared collective destiny – at the level of principles, at the level of assumptions, and with a real and foreseeable optimism.  And of course this requires courage – any effort to champion the cause of justice does.


- Oppression - Religion - Science Knowledge

Crisis of Knowledge

The advancement of a civilization aiming to achieve a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual dimensions of reality recognizes that science and religion are the two reciprocal knowledge systems that impels its advance.  History gives rare, yet significant instances when these two systems have been complementary in their practice, and the resulting productivity of that society has been immense.

What is the state of these two systems today?  Few would argue that they are in crisis.  For religion, obvious signs include an almost endless fragmentation into irreconcilable factions and sects; the spread of religious intolerance, prejudice, and violence; the increasing corruption of its institutions; and its close-minded rejection of science.

For science, signs are less obvious, since it has brought humanity accelerated rates of technological advance.  However, science, too, has experienced a severe fragmentation as competing fields and disciplines view the world through their increasingly reductionist perspectives; it has created prejudice against anything associated with spirituality or religion, in a blind and close-minded fashion; it has disempowered most of humanity, who now view the generation of knowledge as exclusive to specialists and experts; it disproportionately serves the interest of a privileged minority by being directed by concentrations of wealth and power; and the priorities and values imposed on it have produced efficient methods for mass manipulation and weapons of mass destruction.

Clearly, fresh conceptions of each are overdue, conceptions that recognize their complementarity and coherence.