R5 winning arguments t those categories and the

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r5
WINNING ARGUMENTS t Those categories-and the "realities" they name-emerged only after scholars had carved history up at the joints, joints · that were not there before the carving up; they are produced ·by words, not by brute fact. Even when we think through pictures as Orwell advises, what we picture will have assumed its shape as a consequence of the linguistic differences that mark out and bringinto being a "this" which is different from a "that." The difference doesn't precede its notation in language: language's system of differ- ences creates it. We don't know what a spoon is by looking at it directly; we know what a spoon is by knowing that it is not a knife or a fork, and we know what a knife or fork is by knowing that it isn't a spoon. Items do not emerge singly, but in a package or unit- like the unit of eating utensils as dis- tinguished from the unit of gardening utensils-that is itself linguistically established; eating utensils and garden utensils are not natural kinds in the world. Knowledge of things is relational, not frontal, and the relations that matter because they are constitutive are tpe rela~ions between signs, between words . We don't see first and tl1e11 bring in words as a supple- mental. secondary tool; we see through the lens of whatever vocabulary fills our consciousness, and items in the world emerge in the form permitted and demanded by that lens. It follows that we can't "go around" language to get at things directly; we can only pass from one vocabulary that delivers the world to us in a particular shape to another vocab- ulary that will deliver the world to us in another particular shape. So while Orwell is right to link the deployment of a polemical vocabulary to the assertion (and perhaps imposition) 16 Livilli i11 a World of A~~11111e11t of a political vision, he is wrong to think that there is a vocab- ulary that embodies no political assumptions at all, a vocabu- lary that just tells the truth, a vocabulary that will, if we attach ourselves to it, allow us to escape angled seeing and thereby neutralize politics. Orwell believes that we can arrive at that vocabulary (called by the historian of science Thomas Kuhn a "neutral observation language") by subtraction, by excising all words that "do not point to any ... object," all words that refer to abstractions rather than concrete things, all words that are not Anglo-Saxon monosyllables. If we do this, if we dean up our Janguage-rid it of shadings, colorings, preferences, hidden biases, and foreign influences-we will have taken, he promises, "the first step to political regeneration ... . If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy ." We can disarm the siren songs of fascism and communism by hewing to a vocabulary that immediately registers them as nonsense .

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