“When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.”
admire and enjoy Goethe very much. It goes against my taste to disagree with him, but in this case I must.
A word, a single word, could never be used to manifest an idea, because a word on its own means nothing. Hear me out...
Lets take the word “love.” First, let’s speak the word out-loud to ourselves.
Now lets examine what we meant by speaking the word. What meaning or understanding can we derive from what we just conveyed?
After a few minutes of introspection, it becomes apparent that no meaning can be derived from our previous statement. Why is this? It’s fairly
simple, and one only needs to remember his 4th grade english to arrive at an answer. “Love,” a verb and a noun, means nothing without context.
A verb is nothing if there is nothing doing it. A noun is nothing if it doesn’t have a context to exist in. A subject needs its predicate.
“Love,” as a word, is the name we’ve bestowed upon a group of many different feelings. Like every word, it is an attempt at
—a desire to group many things under one banner for the purposes of optimizing how we convey and understand our concepts. Its
meaning is apparent, but undefinable, simply because it cannot exist without context.
If we add “I” to the word “love” we get “I love.” Now
the word can finally burst to life and it begins to display meaning.
“Love,” in this context, is what “I” is doing. “I” is in the process of “loving.” We can derive from within the context of this
statement that “love” is at this point positive and holds value to us, but there is still not enough meaning to arrive at any fact-based
conclusions as to what its intended usage will be, unless this “I” is simply declaring that he possesses the ability to love.
If we add another word, and our statement becomes “I love to hate,” we begin to see the word in a brighter light, and we are able to start placing
value not on the word love, but on its context and intended usage. In this case, we discover the usage of “love” is entirely negative, and no
longer worth our time.
“Tongue,” on its own, means nothing. The word “God” means nothing. The word “Being” means nothing. The word “Love” means nothing. And
although the meaning of the word may be apparent to ourselves, there is no way we can convey or understand the single word without context. Meaning
can only be derived from a sentence, a subject with a predicate, or at the very least a clause.
(It could be argued that words of acknowledgment—ok, yes, no etc.—can have meaning on their own, but the line between word
is blurred. Also, saying “pigeon” means nothing, although one could say “Pigeon” and point to a pigeon, but this is putting it
into context. )
So why do we spend so much time finding meaning in a single word when we know there is none? Is metaphysics the study of the word or the study of the
idea? I suggest we explore the context and intended usage of the word, before we explore the word itself.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading.
edit on 23-5-2012 by LesMisanthrope because: grammar sucks