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TheUnspeakable

Wittgenstein is reputed to have remarked, "We must not speak of that which we cannot say." What can't we say?

Some things can't be talked about because discussing them would be incredibly hurtful to others. Such themes might include skeletons in a friend's closet, foolish past behavior, former lovers, and subjects on which earlier conversations have revealed irreconcilable differences of politics, religion, or other cherished belief systems. Hashing those things out yet again would be counterproductive --- though at some indefinite point in the future they likely will be viewed with joint amusement as youthful indiscretions, "water over the dam", or excusable naivete and high spirits.

That stands in stark contrast with speaking and writing on certain other topics, particularly ones involving eros, human sexuality. Almost without exception, attempts to discuss sex go in the opposite direction --- momentarily entertaining (if well done) but increasingly embarrassing to both orator/author and listener/reader as time goes by. Energetic advocacy of extreme political or philosophical positions also tends to appear stale and silly after a few years, attractive as it may seem when fresh.

The exceptions are those conversations, oral or on paper, which treat critical topics with generosity, openness, magnanimity, thoughtfulness, honesty, and love. Much can be forgiven, and much is forgiven, for those who speak thus from the heart, even when they say that which perhaps they should not have.

Monday, May 31, 1999 at 15:43:12 (EDT) = Datetag19990531

TopicPhilosophy


What the quote at the top makes me think of is the limitations of our vocabulary. How do we talk about things if we are without words for them?

RadRob 4/15/2002


"How do we talk about things if we are without words for them?"

That's just it, its not possible. It would be non-sense to try.


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