What OUGHT we say: ethical linguistic modality


Recently I’ve been reminded, in quite a helpful way, that we need to guard our hearts and guard our speech. As many of you know, my personality lends itself quite well to hyperbole, humor, and strange words. This is not a bad thing, I hope, but I must also be careful to guard my tongue. Just because we can say something does not mean we should.

This in turn raises a very interesting problem of the ethics of language, not just here, but in all possible worlds (hence the HT to modality). How shall we speak, what is our context here, in all spheres of life, who is listening, how is meaning tranferred, where is objectivity, if at all, and how can the subject know the object at hand (a word in this case), if at all.

To answer these difficult questions we turn inward, focusing less on specific words and more on motives, intention, and ‘overflow of the heart.’ Although we may never be able to distill a logically perfect (much less ethically) language, a la wittgenstein, we should still aim to honor our objective loving creator in the words we say. To this end, forgive me if my speech has offended, and may God help us all to be ‘blameless and gentle’ in the ‘answers’ we give for the solid reason behind our wavering hope.


3 responses to “What OUGHT we say: ethical linguistic modality

  1. This is an important question. I don’t think we can find hope in not saying “certain” words. This is more of a sociological, economic, and political function than anything else. I am sure that God can handle all the words we say. On the other hand, the motivation with which we say words, the way that we react to certain ordeals, and the power of the spirit is so important when considering how we speak.

    If we would only for one day consider these things, and meditate on the power of words, we would be very different people. Once we say certain things, we can never–as much as we try–to take them back. And this is a serious matter for the kingdom of God.

  2. Gregers,

    I am about to get JT on you. Edit your title!!!!

  3. done, thanks z…wow, thats pretty funny in a post on words. God has a dry sense of humor…

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