Empty Words and Euphemism

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posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 12:38 PM
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Empty Words and Euphemisms.


Having a discussion with someone can be difficult—especially when you have no clue what they are talking about. Try talking to someone about God, or consciousness, or the soul, or the afterlife. Every single word and idea they use is like the ethical intent of the argument—quite empty.

In any rhetorical conversation, the best way to convince someone of an idea is to employ the logos, ethos and pathos of Aristotle’s Modes of Persuasion. Only in a combination of all three modes can someone even hope to persuade anybody of anything. One needs only read the brilliance of Letters from a Birmingham Jail to see this, as only pure ignorance could remain unconvinced of King's arguments.

But what happens when one employs too much of one mode and not enough of the others? We get no agreement in any argument.

Although purely logical arguments (logos) are quite beautiful in the realm of mathematics, as rhetorical arguments they are cold and without the humanity of emotion. One is likely to fall asleep before being persuaded in any way.

Likewise, and more commonplace, we see the overuse of pathos in rhetoric, the appeal to the listener’s emotion in the hopes that making them feel a certain way will lead us to the same conclusions. This is not only unconvincing, but dangerous to those who are emotionally motivated.

However, the worse effect of the misuse of rhetoric is the amount to which it rots the brain of those that speak and hear it. It is a hinderance to the understanding.

Take for instance this random quote from the mystic Thomas Merton:



If I penetrate to the depths of my own existence and my own present reality, the indefinable am that is myself in its deepest roots, then through this deep center I pass into the infinite I am which is the very Name of the Almighty.


Are we any closer to understanding anything he is talking about? That quote is pure pathos, forged and designed to appeal to the readers desire to feel good. There is no logical or ethical reasoning here, even though it smells of divine understanding and infinite truth. It leads us further from understanding. But worse, it leaves us empty of meaning and imagery, resulting in a necessarily imaginative, and therefor fabricated meaning.

Every single abstraction in Merton’s rhetoric is without the meaning that aids in conjuring certain imagery. What imagery pops in the head when we hear about things such as “the depths of my own existence” or the “indefinable am”? What experience do we picture when he says “through this deep center I pass into the infinite I am”? This whole statement is guilty of begging the question. Under the feather-like weight of these words, this is all he can convey:


Nothing.

What we may be witnessing in this technique is an attempt to disguise the non-existence of something in political euphemism, best described by George Orwell in his iconic essay Politics in the English Language (a must read for everyone).


In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.


When we remember “God”, “consciousness”, or “souls” or any other non-entity, we picture nothing. When we remember “bliss”, “revelation” or “life after death”, we feel nothing. We must imagine them. This is the result:




In these cases, all we can ever refer to is some artist's depiction, because if we were to refer to our own experiences we get this:


This is the imagery they are trying to disguise, the appearance of nothing, the facts that are “too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties”.

Be wary of those who speak in empty words and euphemism. They're trying to sell you something you already have enough of—nothing.

Thank you for reading.





posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 02:08 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 



I disagree with some of your views.

The kind of speech you refer to as expressing or communicating "nothing"...
I believe you when you say that these phrases communicate nothign to you.

But they intend to refer to an experience- if one has not had that experience, than no words will communicate the experience. Try to explain to someone a color, when they have never seen that color.

Refer to the taste of apple, try to describe what it is like, to someone who has never tasted an apple.
It is not possible.

To someone who has tasted an apple, or seen the color, the words will not make them taste or see those things right now, but they might stir the memory of the experience.




I have an argument often with my husband over certain fruits- like Kiwi's and strawberries- he loves them and buys them all the time, and (unless it is the height of the season and they are very ripe) I find them sour/acidic.

He does not, however. So we argue on that- his point of reference seems to be different, he eats a lot of sour stuff. I like spicy foods-pepper, chili peppers.... that which I find not spicy, he finds terribly spicy.

To hear us disagree, you'd think we have each different food in mind! Even if we just each took a bite from the same plate! But no- it is just our experience of the same thing is vastly different, and our description of it will come out different. I think it might be something like that with some of these topics.

(-says the woman who started a thread on ego and spent three days with people disagreeing and arguing with her on what ego is!
)


For me, in such discussions, there is no reason to "convince" though- that would be counter-productive!

In a spiritual matter, the intent is for each to express and stand by their own personal subjective experience-
so though struggle to understand what the other is saying can happen, the worst scenario would be if the other said- "Okay, I guess my experience of what ego is (or God, or whatever the subject is) was wrong.
I will reject it and embrace YOUR experience as the CORRECT experience!"


That is like me one day saying, "Okay dearest, I reject my experience of this fruit being sour- I cannot trust my senses. Yours must be superior, because you have a better structured argument for it- the fruit is not sour, because you said so."

Being able to construct a good argument does not invalidate others experiences. It helps communicate more effectively what your experience is- but "convincing" is not for the discussion of subjective experience.

That is only for facts of the physical, objective world.
edit on 28-4-2013 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 02:27 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 


Damn good job sir. This will surely knock a few off the fence.

I would argue that making people angry is sometimes to only way to make them say what they are really thinking.



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 02:39 PM
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I am colorblind red...describe the color red to me...

A99



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 02:49 PM
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Originally posted by akushla99
I am colorblind red...describe the color red to me...

A99


I assume you still have the senses of temperature? If so I would describe that red is the temperature that comes out of the hot tap. You know that blue represents the cold and red the hot.



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 02:58 PM
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Originally posted by woodwardjnr

Originally posted by akushla99
I am colorblind red...describe the color red to me...

A99


I assume you still have the senses of temperature? If so I would describe that red is the temperature that comes out of the hot tap. You know that blue represents the cold and red the hot.


You can assume as much as you like...neither the assumption, nor the comparison used describes the color...incidentally, using terms such as temperature to describe are a form of euphemism...please describe without euphemism of any sort...to convince me the color red exists...

A99



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 03:25 PM
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reply to post by Bluesma
 



But they intend to refer to an experience- if one has not had that experience, than no words will communicate the experience. Try to explain to someone a color, when they have never seen that color.

Refer to the taste of apple, try to describe what it is like, to someone who has never tasted an apple.
It is not possible.

To someone who has tasted an apple, or seen the color, the words will not make them taste or see those things right now, but they might stir the memory of the experience.


I agree with this. But then again, imagining something and holding it to be real is also an experience. The simple act of creating a notion can be referred to and remembered, but it is still nothing more than a creative notion, not something that exists as it is described and promised.

Words such as "ego", "soul" or "God" are euphemisms for gaps in understanding, much like luminiferous aether, the flat earth, phlogiston, and miasma were used to fill in the holes of knowledge at the time.
edit on 28-4-2013 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 05:09 PM
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LesMis, have you considered that perhaps those words such as consciousness, God, etc., do not convey meaning to you because you have not experienced anything about them? I understand that quote from Thomas Merton, so for you to generalize that NOTHING is conveyed by such a quote is untrue in my experience. So too with that picture of the esoteric anatomy of the human being - a bit tacky looking, but if you understand something of human esoterica, you might see that the picture does convey meaning.

Your lack of knowledge and experience in various areas may be the main reason you get NOTHING from those examples, though I will agree that there is always room for improvement in one's communication skills.
edit on 28-4-2013 by bb23108 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 05:36 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 


What struck a cord with me is the section with the image of God. Coincidentally, or possibly not, I was reading the wiki-page of theologian Paul Tillich and his views just a few days before I read your thread...

Just a brief excerpt:

Arguments for and against the existence of God presuppose such an understanding of God. Tillich is critical of this mode of discourse which he refers to as "theological theism," and argues that if God is a Being [das Seiende], even if the highest Being, God cannot be properly called the source of all being, and the question can of course then be posed as to why God exists, who created God, when God's beginning is, and so on. To put the issue in traditional language: if God is a being [das Seiende], then God is a creature, even if the highest one, and thus cannot be the Creator. Rather, God must be understood as the "ground of Being-Itself". The problem persists in the same way when attempting to determine whether God is an eternal essence, or an existing being, neither of which are adequate, as traditional theology was well aware.


I'm just going on a tangent of what you are touching upon.



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 05:45 PM
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Originally posted by akushla99

Originally posted by woodwardjnr

Originally posted by akushla99
I am colorblind red...describe the color red to me...

A99


I assume you still have the senses of temperature? If so I would describe that red is the temperature that comes out of the hot tap. You know that blue represents the cold and red the hot.


You can assume as much as you like...neither the assumption, nor the comparison used describes the color...incidentally, using terms such as temperature to describe are a form of euphemism...please describe without euphemism of any sort...to convince me the color red exists...

A99


The color red...anyone?...I'm not asking for a description of a religious experience!...the experience of the color red...

A99



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 06:07 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 



Originally posted by LesMisanthrope
Words such as "ego", "soul" or "God" are euphemisms for gaps in understanding,


A gap in whose understanding? Humanity's in general? Those who have a sense for or experience spirituality (however we define that)? Yours? I would say each of the words you list are loosely defined at the moment for lack of something external to study. However, if I was asked to provide a definition for the concept of God. I think one is possible. A God (as differentiated from god) is something that can overcome all cardinal, ordinal, dualistic, and reflexive relations of reality.

Does that mean that such a things exists? No. But if it did, that's what it would be able to do.

God could make 2 apples into 3 (overcoming cardinal limitations). It could make a planet orbit an electron (overcoming ordinal limitations). It could make a black hole emit light, or turn hate into love (overcoming dualistic limitations). And last, the most impossible to fathom, it could make 1 not equal 1 (overcoming reflexive relations).

Now what do these each have in common?

Each and everyone is a contradiction.

So the question we have to contend with then is are all contradictions necessarily false?

Not if we accept dialetheism.

And what is a possible veridically true contradiction?

When all things change. (e.g. x ASSIGNED ¬x rather than x IS SIMULTANEOUSLY EQUIVALENT TO ¬x)

Interesting thread as usual Les Mis. Thanks for the food for thought,
-Xt
edit on 28-4-2013 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 07:17 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 
I also know from several of your threads and our conversations therein, that you have deep materialistic beliefs which motivate you to discount anything that cannot logically or scientifically be proven. So of course when you attempt to understand a mystic such as Thomas Merton, it would be like listening to a foreign language for you - at least it seems to me.

There is no convincing a materialist of any spiritual matter because it is outside their materialistic frame of reference - it must be revealed as true or false based on one's own discovery. At best, a conversation may point to something to consider further, a different approach perhaps, various considerations about what even materialistic belief systems assume (and sometimes not so logically), etc.

But no one can convince a materialist logically of matters that transcend the materialistic, and its rules of logic, until the materialist releases their fixed hold on their own idealistic belief systems. Then perhaps such words as consciousness, ego, etc., can become meaningful, and such quotes as Thomas Merton's as well.

edit on 28-4-2013 by bb23108 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 08:10 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 


"If one wants to give an accurate description of the elementary particle. . .the only thing which can be written down as description is a probability function. But then one sees that not even the quality of being. . .belongs to what is described."

~ Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum physics.

Could you please explain to me what this means, exactly?



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 08:15 PM
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edit on 4/28/2013 by jiggerj because: eh, never mind.



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 08:58 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 


Some folks, when presented with things they just can't understand, are incapable of simply keeping their mouths shut. Brilliant overview, as always.

edit on 4/28/2013 by NorEaster because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 09:08 PM
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Originally posted by mysticnoon
reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 


"If one wants to give an accurate description of the elementary particle. . .the only thing which can be written down as description is a probability function. But then one sees that not even the quality of being. . .belongs to what is described."

~ Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum physics.

Could you please explain to me what this means, exactly?


Kind of like "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it" - a paraphrase of Justice Potter Stewart's concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, Heisenberg is admitting that the elementary particle can only be detected as a result of the influence it has on that which can be detected. This makes the actual particle itself impossible to describe, but he knows when he's detected its presence. in the same way that Justice Stewart knows pornography when he sees it..



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 10:47 PM
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reply to post by bb23108
 



LesMis, have you considered that perhaps those words such as consciousness, God, etc., do not convey meaning to you because you have not experienced anything about them?

I've never claimed to experience anything about these words save for their emptiness and their use as euphemisms. I can define these words as everyone else defines them. If you can paint a better picture, by all means, the brush is in your hands.

Except, we must remember, no one has been able to define these words, even by the ones who claim to know them most. They can only be explained by more emptiness in a vicious cycle of begging the question.



posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 11:17 PM
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Originally posted by LesMisanthrope

I agree with this. But then again, imagining something and holding it to be real is also an experience. The simple act of creating a notion can be referred to and remembered, but it is still nothing more than a creative notion, not something that exists as it is described and promised.

Words such as "ego", "soul" or "God" are euphemisms for gaps in understanding, much like luminiferous aether, the flat earth, phlogiston, and miasma were used to fill in the holes of knowledge at the time.


Perhaps to some people. For me, such words describe an experience- I do not bother with belief. (not in anything- not scientific matters, not commonly accepted matters, not in my own existance. I think in terms of probabilities, based on available data).

I will say I have experienced what is commonly called an "alien abduction". When I say that, it is not the same thing as saying "creatures from another planet abducted me in a flying craft"- literally. I make no such claim. I do not believe in aliens. Though the experience was as real-seeming as this moment right now, and my freshly poured coffee experience, that doesn't mean any of these things exist objectively.

But I still use words to refer to the experiences, no matter what I figure the probability of existence might be- the coffee has a higher probability factor than the aliens, simply because the number of people who share the experience is higher.

But I was raised (in adolescence at least) by shrinks so speaking of internal or subjective experiences, without any need for outside confirmation, comes quite easily for me. I was conditioned to have a certain amount of respect for the subjective world and it's influence.

I don't follow the euphemism logic, I'll have to re-read.
-Okay euphemism for "gap in understanding". Hm. Perhaps. You could say that about anything though. Like gravity, for example. Understanding is never completely 'done"- we are cosntantly learning more about things, even ones we thought we understood all there was to know.
Science is obligated to constantly keep an open door on that, and ready oto acknowledge honestly evidence that previous theory might be incomplete or flawed.

I guess with your logic, every word we use is an euphemism.


edit on 28-4-2013 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 12:20 AM
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reply to post by Bluesma
 


I am not saying every word is a euphemism. An apple is not a euphemism because it always conjure an image on an apple. It is not disguising anything.

I am arguing that some words, the words that are constantly begging the question, what basically amounts to defining a term circularly using its own synonyms, are actually used to disguise the absence of what they claim is there. Because it cannot be described using concrete terms shows that it hasn't been experienced concretely.

For instance, if we are blaming something called "the ego" for our evil natures, we are blaming a euphemism instead of the guilty party, which we are often too fearful to admit. Not once have we experienced something called an ego; we have only ever experienced ourselves.



posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 12:37 AM
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reply to post by akushla99
 


If it makes you feel any better, I don't believe qualia exist either (the debate of whether qualia exist or not still rages on in the philosophy of mind). There is only one electromagnetic spectrum of light. There is only one color perceived differently.

If I were to describe a red apple, I'd only be describing the apple, and not any sort of separate quality. The apple is the only thing that exists; it's qualities don't.





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