Language and Thought: A Rational Enquiry Into Their Nature and Relationship

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Intellect Books, 1999 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 91 pages
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"The author seeks to show that modern linguistics presents a false picture of the nature of language itself and of humans, and he exposes elementary but basic flaws in the account of language and thought in Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct. Gethin argues that language is not a wonderful biologically inherited asset but an artificial device that constantly misleads and harms all humanity. The way language is studied today is itself harmful because it enhances the reputation of language and sustains corrupt ways of thought. We need to try to recognize reality directly, without the intermediary of words." "Gethin also contends that linguistics is typical of the unaccountability of academic experts. He insists that if economists, sociologists, psychologists and linguisticians believe their work is important and intend it to influence the rest of the world, they have a duty to share and debate it with the general public."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Want to strap a jet-pack onto your logical reasoning ability? Want to see through the pervasive errors in semantically-entangled philosophizing, political theory, and even science? Seen one of those huge lists of common logical fallacies, and want to learn the fallacy that underlies them all so you can spot all those errors - and more - while scarcely batting an eye? Then this book is for you.
In fact, the smarter and more rational you are, the more you need this book. Even the smartest, most careful thinkers frequently get confused by words. Confusing words with thoughts is what underlies most logical errors that otherwise highly intelligent people make. The hints are all around us, but we miss them because we are social creatures and in some sense we are taught from an early age that only what can be communicated matters. Hence we are imbued with the superstition that in some sense the wording we use to express a thought is the thought itself.
Many philosophers and other thinkers have commented, usually parenthetically, about the corrupting nature of words, or how words have led people astray. But no one understands the scope and magnitude of these problems like Amorey Gethin.
Words are just communication; they are not thoughts. We may use words in our thought process, but words are not the "stuff of thought" - nor is Pinker's mentalese. Gethin spends perhaps a little too much time bashing the linguists, but his points usually ring clear and true. His few missteps are completely outweighed by the gems of insight sprinkled liberally throughout this layman's plea for common sense.
The summary provided on this book is misleading: it is really about thought, not language. Language is just something people have confused for being thought itself, when it is in fact merely an expression of thought, or a memory aid used internally to label one's thoughts. From there spring myriad errors that remain persistent eyesores in every academic field. You can tell one of these eyesores is present by seeing what people argue about the most: ethics, rights, free will, string theory, healthcare, general relativity...all the major debates in these fields where much gets said and little gets clarified are situations where the underlying definitions have not been fully articulated, or some other semantic error is causing people to miss the obvious key that would show the whole debate to be nothing more than a word game.
If you internalize the ideas in this book, after a while you will see such debates for what they are: mere child's play, the result of the most insidious kind of sloppiness in reasoning, just a bunch of smart people being made into fools by letting words overwrite their actual thoughts so that they gradually come to believe something entirely different - and defend it vehemently!
The bottom line is that words are not thoughts. That is the obvious fact that most everyone misses, especially the intellectuals who are most in need of recognizing it and updating their whole system of beliefs with that knowledge. This book will not let you get away with the conflation of words and thoughts, and will show you just how deep the errors resulting from that conflation cut.
If you want to think circles around very intelligent people, get this book, read it slowly, consider the implications carefully. Eventually you will be able to instantly identify how misuse (and deliberate abuse) of language leads people astray in every field. You will also recognize that errors previously attributed to other causes frequently have their root in semantic error.
If the arguers or thinkers are very smart and careful in their analyses, the probability that their errors are mostly based on conflating words and thoughts approaches 1. They have been careful not to let their emotions take over, they have compensated for a whole slew of cognitive biases, and they even believe they are being careful to clearly define their terms. This book will disabuse them of such notions.

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Oddly and unnecessarily religious.


The mirage of linguistics
Being able to use language
at least what it isnt
Language the corrupter
Trying to speak the truth
Slavery to authority and the word

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Page 8 - is it, then, that little kids can learn it? His answer was that, in a sense, they already know it. It is a mistake to suppose that the mind is a blank tablet. What happens is that the form of all natural languages is programmed into

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