October 7, 2010


GW - The language of understanding is necessary to a rational being.


In December last year, I started GW, that abbreviates Golden Words in English (some - not many - are Dutch). Since I am physically not well and had promised someone two fine quotations from Hazlitt, here they are, the first in this Nederlog, the other one in the next.

The language of understanding is necessary to a rational being. Man is dumb and prone to earth without it. It is that which opens the vista of our past or future years. Otherwise, a cloud is upon it, like the mist of the morning, like a veil or roses, an exhalation of sweet sounds, or rich distilled perfumes; no matter what - it is the nerve or organ that is chiefly touched, the sense that is wrapped in ecstasy or waked to madness; the man remains unmoved, torpid, and listless, blind to causes and consequences, which he can never remain satisfied without knowing; but seems shut up in a cell of ignorance, baffled and confounded. Sounds without meaning are like a glare of light without objects; or, an Opera is to a Tragedy what a transparency is to a picture. We are delighted because we are dazzled. But words are a key to the affections. They not only excite feelings, but they point to the why and wherefore. Causes march before them, and consequences follow after them. They are links in the chain of the universe, and the grappling iron that binds us to it. They open the gates of Paradise, and reveal the abyss of human woe.

' Four lagging winters and four wanton springs
  Die in a word; such is the breath of kings. '

But in this respect, all men who have the use of speech are kings. It is words that constitute all but the present moment, but the present object. They may not and they do not give the whole of any train of impressions which they suggest; but they alone answer in any degree to the truth of things, unfold the dark labyrinth of fate, or unravel the web of the human heart; for they alone describe things in the order and relation in which they happen in human life. Men do not dance or sing through life; or an Opera or a ballet would 'come to the bosoms and businesses of men,' in the same manner that a Tragedy or Comedy does. As it is, they do not piece on to our ordinary existence, nor go to enrich our habitual reflections. We wake from them as from a a drunken dream, or a last night's debauch; and think of them no more, till the actual impression is repeated.

William Hazlitt: The Plain Speaker (*)
        Sir Walter Scott, Racine and Shakespear, p. 337

This then is what makes human animals human: Language, arbitrary sounds with arbitrary agreed upon meaning, namely for the depth and refinement of understanding it provides.

Past and future, possibilities and chances, and causes and consequences of whatever happens, can for the most part only be known to the human mind by representing them mentally and symbolically.

Only or mostly by language can a human being learn most of the things that a human mind can understand, just as such understanding can only or mostly be conveyed to another human being by a human language.

And most of men's conscious life is tied up, expressed by, and considered with language, that extends man's grasp and understanding of things from immediate impressions here and now to all manner of possibilities and eventualities that may inhere in reality anywhere at any time, and to all manner of explanations for them, by symbolic linguistic representation, and also of all manner of dreams and illusions about them, for these too are waved and unravelled for the most part in the human mind by language.

P.S. As I said, I am taking up a theme I started in December last GW. The links in my comment are all to my Philosophical Dictionary.

It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.

(*) p. 337 in my Everyman's Edition of The Plain Speaker.

Maarten Maartensz

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