Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23 2014: Do we really need the written word—or will we go back (or forward) to pictograms?

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein

“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”
Edward Hopper

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one's vocabulary and the greater one's awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one's thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.”
Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science

I have long pondered the ever increasing importance of the visual compared to the written word—and am not exactly happy with my conclusions.

The visual seems to be winning out even though it can’t do the same job—and can scarcely handle nuance and complexity at all. The visual appeals primarily to our emotions—with intellect scarcely getting a look in. It also distracts from the writing—which is one of the reasons why enhanced books have not been more successful (except in niche areas). People naturally gravitate to the easy—so, if there are plenty of pictures, they will tend to focus on those. In contrast, reading takes effort—sometimes considerable effort.

Strange how we talk about reading as if it was the complete skill. Doubtless, we don’t mean to because we do also teach comprehension—but my sense is that, all too often, we pay lip service to the latter. Reading—in the sense that one really understands both meaning and context—is a major skill and less than common.

I love the visual—but I love writing more. How to reconcile this? I seem to spend my life dealing with such conundrums? Throughout my life, I have had people telling me I think too much.

They really mean “question too much.”

Since I have great respect for the intellect I have been gifted with, I am of the opinion that the truth is that I think—and question—far too little.

Your brain is there to be used!

Focused thought is a force of extraordinary power (because the logic of such thought tends to lead towards execution as well since an idea left unexecuted is of limited utility), but the trouble is that it means facing up to much that is unpalatable—both about oneself, and elsewhere. Of course, that assumes intellectual honesty.

On the other hand, how can one really think without intellectual honesty—which means focusing solely on the best information available, bypassing your own prejudices, recognizing your own weaknesses, and ignoring your own beliefs (unless those beliefs are supported by the evidence). The answer is that you can’t. Which may explain a great deal.

No comments:

Post a Comment