The Power Of Words Essay

2008 words - 8 pages

The Power of Words

Language has an irreplaceable role in our lives as mankind has grown
to depend on it as an important way of acquiring Knowledge. But how
valid is language as a way of knowing? French philosopher Jean-Paul
Sartre answered this question with the quote: "Words are more
treacherous and powerful than we think." Words do indeed lie. It is
precisely because of its role as an indispensable tool of
communication and thoughts that words have the power to mold our
values, emotions and perception. We encounter large amounts of hidden
implications and deceptions embedded in words on a daily basis, from
the books we read to the news we hear. Language can be a powerful
instrument of expression when effectively applied or that of deceits
when abused. Thus, the objective of this essay is to evaluate the
impact of language on our perception and illustrate its "treacherous
and powerful" nature using examples from Areas of Knowledge including
human science, ethics, history and mathematics.

Linguist Edward Sapir's theory holds the view that language has the
power to shape people's views. Peggy Rosenthal in her book Words and
Values concurs with Sapir's philosophy that words have the power to
lead people's behaviour and thoughts. Words can have both a positive
and treacherous influence on our way of intellectual pursuits and
personal life. The word "development" acquired its significance from
the Darwin's Theory of Evolution, highly regarded by men as a positive
concept because of the Evolution Theory's success (Rosenthal 51). Once
"development" earned its validity in science, it becomes a dominant
and powerful term that motivates the desire in men to move forward in
other areas such as the bloom of multitudes of art movements. Thus the
word "develop" reinforces society's goal to move in a positive
direction. However its ubiquity can also create an illusion that
"development" is a must (Rosenthal 77). Let's illustrate this with a
personal example from the human sciences. A man began an affair and
put his marriage at risk. After all the pain and tears, the couple
reconciled and only remembered the good. While they tore each other
apart during the affair, saying that they've "developed so much" from
the affair suddenly put the experience into a positive light. Such
positive terms are frequently employed in our society to justify our
actions. Thus we should be careful where words lead us.

Furthermore, because our understanding of the world is, as Sapir puts
it, "to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits
of the group", it's easy to commit the misconception that we are
interacting directly with reality as opposed to a world of words
describing reality. In human sciences, this excessive trust in the
validity of language and the direct linkage between thoughts and...

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