Does Meaning Reside in Facts—or Our Descriptions of Those Facts?

I bet you can guess my vote. I think that our languages never perfectly correspond with the world “as it is” and so we derive our meanings from our eccentric descriptions of “the facts.”

Here’s an example. Since the publication of Richard Dawkins’s book, The God Delusion, some atheists within the “neo-atheist” movement have adopted Dawkins’s way of talking about God, philosophy, humanism, and science. In other words, they SPEAK DAWKINS. It is a very, very interesting language, and cuts down a lot of other languages beautifully, and is a very eccentric language to speak (and I think it is a wonderful language).

I myself like to “speak Dawkins” sometimes.

CALL IT DAWKINS-SPEAK.

But Dawkins-speak, like any other language, reveals and conceals aspects of reality from its speaker. Sometimes other languages need to be spoken (just so that one does not fall under the spell of a singular language and miss a lot what, say, Dawkins-speak, doesn’t adequately cover). This is why I wouldn’t be happy to see the extinction of all religious languages (anymore than I would be happy to hear of the extinction of the Mandarin language, or the French language). Languages are inherently interesting in and of themselves, and often see things that other languages miss.

Let’s try to keep as many languages in play as we can. Diversity, not mono-atheism (or monotheism).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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