Philosophical Language

I’ve long admired the epiphany created by the Enlightenment and its gallant sallies against the boundaries of understanding, confident that all manner of things could be systematized as tidily and unerringly as Newtonian physics. One of the enterprises undertaken at that time was the creation of the Philosophical Language, inspired by Descartes, Newton and Liebniz’ development of algebra and calculus.

Mathematical statements could be proved to be true or false by the nature of the statement itself. If the mathematical statement didn’t work, if was false. Faulty mathematical logic could be revealed by showing that it did not conform to the system of mathematical rules. It was thought that perhaps language could be constructed along the mathematical model so that only a true statement would be grammatical and better still a false statement could be identified by grammatical irregularity.

Can you imagine such a language! Lie detectors would be replaced by grammarians. Diagramming sentences in grade school would be like an introduction to metaphysics. In conversations our misstatements, untruths and and prevarications would be nakedly apparent to the listener. In my profession juries would be composed of English teachers, if not grammar books.

What would this do to politics? It no doubt would radically transform society, but from what I can discern it would have little effect on politics as we know it. On the eve of our invasion of Iraq for the first time in history there was a massive world wide demonstration against a war before it occurred. It was a demonstration of unprecedented size and scope. Nothing like this had occurred before. There have been demonstration after the fact, but never anything of this scale before the action. The reason it occurred was that accurate information was widely known. Millions of people understood that the war was being justified on trumped up charges. But to the extent that this demonstration is not entirely disregarded, it is shrugged off as meaningless coincidence that an unprecedented global demonstration preceded an invasion about which our leaders at the time claimed moral certainty and now claim to have been misinformed. Accurate information, however, was also available and known to many who supported the invasion, not just those who opposed it. At the very least there was abundant reason to be skeptical of the rush to invasion.

It was deemed politically inadvisable to oppose the invasion and that consideration, and considerations of that sort, determined decision-making at all levels from much of the media to our commander guy. It was not a revelation when it was recently documented that nearly four hundred lies were told by the administration in its pre-invasion build-up. It was simply irrelevant at the time and remains of no consequence.


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