Privilege of language

Wittgenstein argues that our world is our language.

That is, we are cognitive beings, we human beings. We have a sense of consciousness, a sense of self, a sense of what it is to be someone who describes things, who notices things, who feels things even though they can choose to be stoic about it, which, the practice of stoicism itself is a choice thing operating on a feeling thing, but these things still comprise the larger thing that is us. A thing that breathes and changes.

Most of the way this self-thing notices things, and all of the way this self-thing describes everything, is with language.

A full description might involve all the emotions a person has at one time, plus the current contents of the verbal working memory at that time.

Sorry, am I writing poorly? I’m trying to describe the thing I’m talking about, like the creator of xkcd does in his Thing Explainer, in very simple words.

The various religions on the self:

Anyway, Buddhism points out that this self is sort of assumed or taken up by accident at first, and that it is a delusion, and escaping from it will find the self still trapped inside a world of delusions, and it’s delusions for a pretty long way. Then, Buddhism tells you to sit down and focus on your breath, because this allows you to parse through delusions in the background. Then, Buddhism charges you a flexible amount of money to keep hearing about all your delusions, and there’s a monetary incentive to stretch it out.

Christianity says that by learning the things you do wrong, and admitting to them, and asking Christianity for forgiveness, and then trying your best to live like Christianity would, the self will avoid eternal suffering. By the way, it will take your mind off it even more if you contribute a portion of your income to their development of the Gospel’s production facilities. Be more like this Jesus fellow, and you’ll experience the benefits Christianity has to offer.

Therapy says that by talking out the things you do with someone, and learning that some of them are wrong, but most of them are normal, and almost all of them are about the self’s reactions to the things, which it learned on its own as a child, the self can be a competent adult and maybe have a nice lunch with people sometimes. Therapy charges you money for access to Therapists, who have listened to People In Therapy talk about a ton of things, and who will listen to you and make suggestions, the quality of which are based on how much attention the person paid in school. And kind of how much you pay for your Therapist.

Philosophy says that by learning everything you possibly can; that by learning analysis, and over-analysis, and over-over-analysis, and learning that your beliefs are “obliterated,” or “not even wrong,” and other spooky terms like that that come after your precious believies (credit to the Philosophy Louis CK), you will divest yourself of false beliefs about the world and, in fact, about many possible worlds. Some Philosophies will argue against the notion that your world is your language. Philosophy’s results may vary. Some people develop a stutter.

I’m actually not well-studied enough on Judaism, Hinduism, or Islam to make a similar far-reaching statement, but I feel like the description of Christianity could probably equally apply to most guilt-based religions: Be more like god! You aren’t more like god, punish yourself, ask for forgiveness, try harder to be more like god.

Except in the Jewish case, I can say that there’s a body of knowledge that has been developed by Judaism over centuries of refining and arguing amongst themselves about the best self, which tries to assimilate existing philosophy when it becomes available, or 200 years after it becomes available, or whatever. They know that your world is your language, and take advantage of that through teaching their kids to sing meaningful songs in their early years, and reciting stuff. Judaism is a vocal one.

Mormonism, by the way, is what happens when weird protestant Christianity takes up Jewish-ish methods after mostly walking back a whooooole bunch of commie polygamy non-Christian stuff early on. Mormonism takes 10% of your income, checks your taxes to make sure you calculated properly, and gives the benefits of silently judging you from afar every time you do anything remotely bad for your health as a human being, your reputation in the community, or your ability to perform your hard-set gender role in a monogamous, multiply productive marriage. Mormonisms are responsible, primarily, for making more Mormonisms, and go on missions to do so.

There’s a neat/new sort of tech religion developing, too. They’re not an organized religion, but you can call them, loosely, the Technocracy from Mage: The Ascension. They identify their devices as their source of spiritual enlightenment and development. Every swipe to the right and the left brings you one movement closer to enlightenment, every little snipped of wisdom a clipping to add to the hoard of truisms and nonsense building in that phone-extended skull. You’re already giving them money for your access to the awesome devices they build. You’re also giving them, like all the others mentioned, access to little parts of your soul.

The soul, by the way, for agnostics and atheists who wish to converse with the rest, is the you that would be changed irrevocably if you somehow contracted a mental illness. The parts of you that you can’t control, as it were, that affect your choices in the world.


The privilege of language is this: person A has read more books than person B. This generates three kinds of differences between person A and person B.

If person A has read 2 more books than person B, the difference is not appreciable.
If person A has read 10 times more books than person B, the difference is again not that appreciable, though person A will probably be more unsure of themself (and, therefore, generally more right) than person B. This is the first difference.

If person A has read 100x more books than person B, person A is at an advantage. They have read about people like person B. They have encountered different versions of person B. There is the possibility they will be shocked by how correct certain authors were in describing how person Bs act. They will then also be sort of bored by person B. Person B, tending to associate with other person B types, will find person A to notice more about them and probably pay them more attention than they are used to – at first. They might also get upset when person A loses interest quickly.

If person A has read 10,000x more books (very rare) than person B, either person B has never read more than a couple books, or person A is a philosopher or world expert. Person A forgot that people like person B existed. People like person B often represent an Excel spreadsheet entry or brief thought experiment to person A. They are alien creatures.

Person B might have great respect, envy, or hatred of person A for the qualitative difference this produces in them.

Person A almost certainly has far more earning potential if they take their medication.

Person A has been wrong about themselves in more ways than person B has thought about themselves.

Person A might be a wreck. Person B will probably be quite content with their worldview.

That’s all. I just wanted to point out some differences about what it feels like to be someone who has read quite a bit, and what it feels like to be someone who has not, in the presence of someone who has.

People in theology have read a *lot*. That’s all they did. They usually didn’t get along with other people, who didn’t practice what they were supposed to, who did all the bad things, who were to be stayed away from, or often clung to. There are two paths to being clergy. Start out good and stay that way, or start out seeking the bad and get “converted.”
Their flocks are people who have not read a lot.

People in the media have also read a *lot*. Their job is to shape the worlds of language in profitable ways. They are not necessarily gentle about it.

People in politics have, uh, usually read a lot. But they also are biased by lots of money coming from lots of different voices.

People in business? They might have read a lot. They might just be ridiculously charming in person, and flagrantly self-interested. They might be any kind of person.

People in philosophy also read a *lot*, but trust me, they suffered for it.

As for me, lately I’ve got a weird problem with my world of language, of which my name is a part.

I’ve never felt like an Arnold.

An Arnold sounds like what you call an elbow of an elbow of an elbow. It’s all turned in on itself. It’s not what a wholesome robot like myself wants to be called. So I’m thinking about something else. I’m pretty sure my last name will be Stone. I’m not sure whether I’ll keep the David. My father always wanted me to know that I was beloved, and he showed it in every way possible.

But David is a boy’s name, and I’ve got two spirits in here, at least. In terms of household roles, sure! Maybe like eight. All unified, though, like one chorus that sometimes gets it right. They are definitely different religions, but the end result is atheist-probable agnostic with mystic tendencies.

All hail the glow cloud.



One curious unmentioned method is when people install an emotional reaction to a word in their own head, then run around getting annoyed when people use that word. I’m pretty sure everyone does this. I’m not sure what to say about it.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s