Friday, November 18, 2011

In the Beginning was the Word

I have dreamt about this line before. But it is no falsifying dream that is expressed in this phrase; rather, it is truth of a specific kind. It is Greek truth. En arche en ho logos, as they say.

And here I must make a key digression. In Latin, truth is veritas. The flavour of truth thus described is one involving 'verity' — truth that can be verified by faith or by epistemology. In Greek, truth is aletheia — 'that which is not lost', or 'that which is not forgotten'. It is a Holmesian kind of truth. [1]

The main thing is that truth is established by words. The use of words fixes structure, logos. The use of words creates a kind of baseline from which the degree of truth can be measured because the datum (Latin: 'that which is given') remains fixed. It is the reason why this blog is pretty sparse on graphics, pictures, videos — I think that they are less assessable for truth than words are.

Of course, that's a debatable idea. But again, the fact of debatability establishes the primacy of the word. You can debate in words, you can argue in words — it is harder (though not impossible) to argue with graphics, pictures and other visual material. Even in sign language, the signs stand for words.

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Note: [1] — in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of the Four, Sherlock Holmes says, "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth." He says five chapters later, "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" This kind of truth is thus truth by elimination — aletheia.

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