Saturday, September 21, 2019

History is Littered With Deceptive Words

Words, like appearances, can be deceptive. The words that historians use to describe the intellectual and social aspects of the past often foster a false impression in modern minds. Words like “humanism,” “renaissance,” “feudalism,” “dark ages,” “enlightenment,” “dialectic,” are modern innovations—they reflect today’s sensibilities and not that of the past. The scholars in 15th century didn’t use the term “humanism”—they were not even aware of the concept of “humanism.” They didn’t think of their period as the Renaissance. Between 9th and 15th century, the politicians and intellectuals didn’t see their social system as feudalism or dark ages—they had a different conception of their society. The term “enlightenment” came into being in the middle of the 19th century and it quickly acquired a meaning that is different from the way the French Enlightenment philosophes saw themselves. Aristotle uses the word “dialectic,” not in the modern Kantian sense, but for the science of what happens when, instead of thinking by ourselves, we try to convince others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The literary fiction writer, Clarice Lispector, one of my favourites, a Wiki aside here, (Clarice Lispector was a Brazilian novelist and short story writer acclaimed internationally for her innovative novels and short stories. Born to a Jewish family in Podolia in Western Ukraine, as an infant she moved to Brazil with her family, amidst the disasters engulfing her native land following the First World War.) Deals with the epistemology of words and the emotional/mental states/narratives they can create. Narratives that branch out from the direct meaning of the word into subjectivity and/or create new definitions with elaborate theories. Lispector's fiction and her bio by Benjamin Moser relays this obsession almost she had with definitions and their consequences. The blur between subjectivity and objctivity.