Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power PDF/EPUB ¾ Abuse

Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power One of the great Catholic philosophers of our day reflects on the way language has been abused so that, instead of being a means of communicating the truth and entering deeply into it, and of the acquisition of wisdom, it is being used to control people and manipulate them to achieve practical ends Reality becomes intelligible through words Man speaks so that through naming things, what is real may become intelligible This mediating character of language, however, is being increasingly corrupted Tyranny, propaganda, mass media destroy and distort words They offer us apparent realities whose fictive character threatens to become opaque Josef Pieper shows with energetic zeal, but also with ascetical restraint, the path out of this dangerous situation We are constrained to see things again as they are and from the truth thus grasped, to live and to work This short book is worth the hour it takes to read It makes two great points First, true communication stops and propaganda begins the moment that words are chosen to influence people rather than to accurately represent reality Secondly, a good definition of freedom is to exist, not in dependence on anything without , but by and for reasons entirely within So, we use words and science freely when we ponder and learn for its own sake Thepractical our studies, the less free they This short book is worth the hour it takes to read It makes two great points First, true communication stops and propaganda begins the moment that words are chosen to influence people rather than to accurately represent reality Secondly, a good definition of freedom is to exist, not in dependence on anything without , but by and for reasons entirely within So, we use words and science freely when we ponder and learn for its own sake Thepractical our studies, the less free they are, because they are serve external purposes Thus theology and philosophy, which try to represent reality for its own sake, arefree than political speeches and business plans, which are pursued with an agenda in mind September 27, 2014 In 1974 Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote an essay in his native German called Abuse of Language Abuse of Power I came across it when a friend of a Goodreads friend commented it on one of my friend s reviews The subject is sophistry Plato s battle with it a subject which the author asserts is pertinent to any time and any place Pieper quotes Neitzsche as having said, The era of the sophists Our time On the second page the author quotes Hegel on sophisticates September 27, 2014 In 1974 Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote an essay in his native German called Abuse of Language Abuse of Power I came across it when a friend of a Goodreads friend commented it on one of my friend s reviews The subject is sophistry Plato s battle with it a subject which the author asserts is pertinent to any time and any place Pieper quotes Neitzsche as having said, The era of the sophists Our time On the second page the author quotes Hegel on sophisticates According to Pieper, when it comes to sophists the issue is perfectionism, not perfection where perfection means completion or wholeness So one must consider the relationship between sophistication and sophistry Hegel reportedly also said such sophists could find a reason for justify anything without breaking a sweat That s how I understand the sophists, too, as rhetoricians for whom there is no truth, who for a price could speak on any subject and who had the tools, rhetoric, to influence their hearers For a price Pieper goes into a spiel on the difference between honorarium and wages He goes on to say that Bertrand Russel was contemptuous of professionals because they, too, accepted payment Pieper seems a little defensive on that point I m not sure he made a convincing counterargument.This little paper begs for dialogue On reading it you want to be in dialogue with the author Plato also characterized the sophists as handsome, says Pieper, who cites Theaetetus on true beauty Again, the surface beauty of the sophists was part of their armamentarium Pieper then goes on to explore what Plato had against the sophists, and his answer is that they are corrupting the language Instead of using words the sea in which human beings swim and the air we breathe for communication and truth, in fact for the communication of truth, they use language for power And they are doing so deliberately Pieper then goes on to the language of advertising as sophistry, focusing on the use of flattery Sophistry, then, has an ulterior motive Supply and demand making one want a product In short order he jumps from that to Schadenfreude, slander, the destructive urge, and going for the final solution, still focusing on flattery as the tool, which isn t quite clear but Pieper explains that s because he s trying to get from how Plato translates to ugly picture we have today He cites Plato s admission that the sophists are masters of the corrupting art, affecting not just single institutions but the commonweal of all people, so that public discourse becomes unmoored from truth and reality The word pollution comes to mind a word that has becomeresonant with time People could be said to be in bondage to misinformationThe process elevates entertainment over communication, and by its nature is hidden so that the sophist looks like a true philosopher Can similar techniques be used to bring people back to truth, seduce them to the truth Pieper quotes Kierkegaard, Cajole them to the truth, but it seems that would still be corruption of language Propaganda, ideological cliques, using word as weapon, the language of rebellionthose for whom the menace is intended must nevertheless be eased into believing and that is the true art that by acquiescing to the intimidation, they really do the reasonable thingLanguage becomes a receptacle of latent violence Pieper says rape.In sum, all of us, not only philosophers and intellectuals, are nurtured by truth We need a sanctum of truth protected from propaganda and special interests not just protected from outside but from within academia as well fromevery partisan simplification, every ideological agitation, every blind emotionality, against seduction through well turned yet empty slogans, against autocratic terminology with no room for dialogue, against personal insult as an element of style, against the language of evasive appeasement and false assurances, and not least against the jargon of the revolution, against categorical conformism and categorical nonconformismHistory has shown the consequences otherwiseC orruptio optimi pessemi, the best corrupted becomes the worst In reading this I saw that the author s heart was in the right place, from the words he has chosen, threading a path between extremism of the right and of the left But the complications are even worse than he recognized He says sophists are those who are acting deliberately to corrupt words and truth Going beyond the field of advertising and ordinary politics into thefraught terrain of ideological language, there may be those who are acting deliberately, in other words, because they can At the same time, the lines between what is deliberate misleading and what is the fervor of certainty are often, maybe usually, blurred A propagandist first progandizes him or herself It works better if one believes one s own words and in what one is doing In the private sphere of consciousness one awards one s own perceptions a sacrosanct reality not accorded to the opponent or enemy which is why diverse religions all contain versions of loving the neighbor as the self and not treating others in ways oneself doesn t like From within the space of self, it is oh so easy to perceive the opponent s behavior as deliberate and his or her motivation as venal or otherwise despicable Doing so greases the path to opposition or enmity, and, in fact, to being or becoming what one fights I am not saying I disagree with what the author has written or that there is no truth I don t believe that I am allergic to the manipulation of language he has described I am just asking how we get from the advice to the reality Diverse people with diverse opinions, some of which are in error, can put on his language just as I am doing, and they, too, can say they are the possessors of truth And they will believe it I almost want to say, We have met the enemy and he is us The quote about dialogue don t forget that In this enterprise we have got to have the dialogue.November 15, 2014 Knowledge and FreedomIn addition to the 32 page Abuse of Language Abuse of Power this short book includes a second essay, a 14 pager After reading it the first time, I thought I d skip the review Aristotle, not Plato, was cited I hadn t been studying Aristotle But on last night s second reading it came clearer.Josef Pieper s main concern remains the totalitarian state Here he s asking what freedom has to do with knowledge He concludes that philosophical knowledge is higher than any sort of practical knowledge In other words, knowledge that is an end in itself rather than a means to something else is the higher knowledge according to which all technology is lesser He traces that line of thought back to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas All that changed with the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution, after which the practicality of knowledge was elevated Pieper cites Descartes He says that reversal shows up in American pragmatism and reaches its apex under communism Any scientist who concerns himself with abstract problems must never forget that the purpose of all science consists of satisfying the needs of society from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia So, according to Pieper, for freedom in knowledge we must return to the older point of view that is, reverse the paradigm shift that occurred at the inception of modernity.But there is a problem here, the problem of elitism the same problem that came up in discussing Plato s dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living, in connection with my review of Plato at the Googleplex Why Philosophy Won t Go Away Goodreads friend Dolors found me this helpful article by the philosopher and writer Julian Baggini In the 19th century, university was a luxury most people couldn t afford Josef Pieper acknowledges as much when he writes that the academic philosophical faculty in medieval times used to be called the faculty of the arts, and in the 19th century the university was to provide a liberal education a gentleman s knowledge the latter quote attributed to John Henry Newman It was only in the twentieth century that, in consequence of the paradigm shift that had occurred, the standard of living had risen high enough forpeople to seek an advanced education.This is a big subject, one I ll have to think a lotabout when it s time to review The Mind and the Market Capitalism in Western Thought But for now I m hypothesizing that the loss of freedom Pieper fears doesn t come so much from avoiding practicality as it does from over control of one s direction and aims, whether by a totalitarian state, by a theocracy, or by excess rigidity of social s When there are lots and lots of individual seekers, some will make unimaginable discoveries As with the genetic engineering of seeds, there is no government agency or other agency of control that can play God well enough to substitute for the exploratory initiative that will be found within masses of individuals.Or, as Barack Obama said in his Myanmar speech yesterday, The future of this region your region is not going to be dictated by dictator or by armies It s going to be determined by entrepreneurs and inventors and dreamers. In Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power Joseph Pieper begins building his case against sophistry by showing what Plato most deplored about the sophists of his day their wealth no surprise and physical beauty and how the former is gained through the corruption of the latter as well as the manipulation of language Pieper includes quotes from Hegel and Nietzsche both separated from the Father of Philosophy bythan a millennium which assure us of the pervasive continuity of sophistry from In Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power Joseph Pieper begins building his case against sophistry by showing what Plato most deplored about the sophists of his day their wealth no surprise and physical beauty and how the former is gained through the corruption of the latter as well as the manipulation of language Pieper includes quotes from Hegel and Nietzsche both separated from the Father of Philosophy bythan a millennium which assure us of the pervasive continuity of sophistry from then until now, as if we needed any Human words and language accomplish a two fold purpose First, words convey reality We speak in order to name and identify something that is real, to identify it for someone, of course and this brings us to the second aspect in question, the interpersonal character of human speech We are then led to look at lies, the crafting of well reasoned arguments and whether the author is seeking to convey the truth or deceive his audience When such is the case, from that moment on the author artist no longer considers the other as partner, as equal In fact, he no longer respects the other as a human person Plato, through Socrates, calls this flattery Pieper says this becomes a speech without a partner, since there is no true other such speech, in contradiction to the nature of language, intends not to communicate but to manipulate The rest of the essay goes on to examine the loss of character in our language through slogans, advertising, propaganda, and mass media just different forms of deceptive trickery and mental bondage Plato s three statements about the necessity of truth to the health of human society are summarized and as true today as ever 1 the good of man and meaningful human existence consists in perceiving, as much as possible, things as they really are 2 all men are nurtured by the truth 3 the natural habitat of the truth is found in interpersonal communication.Pieper calls for an area of truth, a sheltered space for the autonomous study of reality, where it is possible, without restrictions, to examine, investigate, discuss, and express what is true about anything a space, then explicitly protected against all potential special interests and invading influences, where hidden agendas have no place, be they collective or private, political, economic, or ideological His mentor, Plato, would no doubt agree with this necessity, recognize the description of his own Academie and be proud Who indeed would disagree And yet, where can such a place be found Recent events in our country made me think of this essay and want to reread it Josef Pieper is not for the faint of heart I had to read and reread these essays in order to wrap my head around the truth conveyed Yet, his works hold some of the most concise words of truth for our generation demonstrating that truth does not lose its relevance over time In this small but powerful book there are two closely related essays the first titled, Abuse of Language Abuse of Power and the other Knowledge and Freedom In the first essay, the author starts out by Josef Pieper is not for the faint of heart I had to read and reread these essays in order to wrap my head around the truth conveyed Yet, his works hold some of the most concise words of truth for our generation demonstrating that truth does not lose its relevance over time In this small but powerful book there are two closely related essays the first titled, Abuse of Language Abuse of Power and the other Knowledge and Freedom In the first essay, the author starts out by explaining the pitfalls and dangers Plato saw in the practice of the sophists of his time These sophists were those highly paid and popularly applauded experts in the art of twisting words, who were able to sweet talk something bad into something good and to turn white into black Plato s contention with the sophists lay in their corrupting of the meaning and dignity of words The underlying theme of Plato and Pieper is that words convey reality He further explains that when we speak we do so in order to name and identify something that is real, to identify something for someone When we lie or twist the meaning of words to manipulate or convey something that is less than the truth, we actually cannot participate in true communication We then withhold the other s portion of reality When this withholding of reality takes place we are corrupting the other person s relationship to reality and no longer look on them as a partner or equal and in fact we no longer respect the other as a human person We have ceased to participate in dialogue or communication Pieper states what happens here is speech without a partner such speech, in contradiction to the nature of language, intends not to communicate but to manipulate Pieper goes on to show what this corruption of language does to public discourse He says that when public discourse is separated from the standard of truth, it creates an atmosphere of proneness and vulnerability to the reign of the tyrant This is so evident in today s political culture Pieper then shows how the abuse of language spells the end of true learning and the corruption of our institutions of higher learning In defining academic he says there must be an area of truth reserved in the midst of society where it is possible, without restrictions, to examine, investigate, discuss, and express what is true about anything where hidden agendas have no place In discussing the task of all institutions of higher learning, Pieper says that they must sustain and nourish the free interpersonal communication anchored in the truth of reality the reality of the world around us, the reality of ourselves, and the reality of God as well We live in a culture where our institutions of learning have become institutions of propaganda rather than places rooted in truth and reality In his second essay, Josef Pieper tackles the subject of knowledge and freedom as it relates to science First of all Pieper states that knowledge must have as its object the whole of reality, the fundamental reasons of all that is Here Pieper reinforces the notion that knowledge is first of all intrinsic He states , We are dealing here with the intrinsic power of cognition as such, the power moving within all concrete experiences and insights and giving them consistency and unity, as it is oriented toward its proper object, the totality of all that is This kind of knowledge is alone truly free He sites Aristotle who said, free means the same here as nonpractical the kind of knowledge oriented toward the fundamental reasons of the world , and thus not serving any practical use at all To exist, not in dependence on anything without but by and for reasons entirely within this, Pieper says, is what human language calls freedom Here Pieper relates this concept of human freedom to science and talks about the tendency of modern man to look at science only as a means of understanding our world for the purpose of using or mastering it for the purpose of practicality alone Pieper, however, says that to detach science from its intrinsic or metaphysical nature is to cause science to lose its connection to freedom Pieper states that man s true enrichment does not derive from the technical exploitation of nature s wealth but rather from the purely theoretical cognition of reality Having said this, the author makes it clear that while science does indeed accept tasks belonging in the field of practicalities, at its core, there is an element that cannot be taken into service a purely philosophical element directed toward truth and nothing else If one leaves out the intrinsic quality of science, he leaves out the heart of true science A wonderful pair of essays on the importance of truth as intention, in language and in science The titular essay is very good In it, Pieper lays his ground rules for the conditions under which communication is possible Use of language to do anything other than convey truth is flattery or, as you might expect, an abuse of power , the power of the ability of language to convey reality and truth A couple quibbles first, he suggests language is THE way to convey reality Body language and soci A wonderful pair of essays on the importance of truth as intention, in language and in science The titular essay is very good In it, Pieper lays his ground rules for the conditions under which communication is possible Use of language to do anything other than convey truth is flattery or, as you might expect, an abuse of power , the power of the ability of language to convey reality and truth A couple quibbles first, he suggests language is THE way to convey reality Body language and social cues, however, are powerful and nonverbal methods of communication depending on the truth intended, they are farpowerful, nuanced, and precise Second, he seems to present truth communicating and flattery language abuse as the two options of a binary I think this fails to account for the reality that our brains are not wired for truth, but for consistency and survival How I communicate a truth depends on to whom I am speaking, and some formulations are necessarily less precise than others Delivering brute truth is rarely an effective means of communication, if one s goal is for the listener to accept truth Admittedly, Pieper isconcerned with replicating the conditions under which communication is possible, rather than the conditions under which truth is best accepted But I have to think the intended end, consensus on truth, must influence the means to some degree Finally, he doesn t address situations where there is disagreement or ambiguity about what is true Does this matter for an essay concerned with a priori conditions of communication rather than a successful outcome I m not sure But I keep thinking about it.His second shorter essay concerns the need for freedom in science, based on the stifling of science in the totalitarian regimes of his day I mostly agreed with his claims, other than the claim that once philosophy starts being practical it stops being philosophy What about ethics Aristotle wanted to know how best to live, how humans can be their best, most flourishing selves How is that purely theoretical I wasn t sure why he stuck the landing there The definition of freedom was also missing which Pieper acknowledged and that s a bit unfortunate But I felt comfortable assuming his intent.The first essay in particular is worth reading for the lens with which it gives us to evaluate our consumer, political, and educational realms It doesn t solve the thorny issues of what is true, but its focus on intent in communication is helpful and could be a corrective for some Word and language form the medium that sustains the common existence of the human spirit as such The reality of the word in eminent ways makes existential interaction happen And so, if the word becomes corrupted, human existence itself will not remain unaffected and untaintedJosef Pieper Using the ancient debate between Plato and the Sophists as a starting point, philosopher Josef Pieper explores the relationship between language and power Pieper s first premise is that words convey reaWord and language form the medium that sustains the common existence of the human spirit as such The reality of the word in eminent ways makes existential interaction happen And so, if the word becomes corrupted, human existence itself will not remain unaffected and untaintedJosef Pieper Using the ancient debate between Plato and the Sophists as a starting point, philosopher Josef Pieper explores the relationship between language and power Pieper s first premise is that words convey reality, and his second that human speech is always interpersonal If one, for instance, lies, Pieper would go so far as to suggest a lie is not communication, as it creates an asymmetric power relationship between parties, and withhold s the recipient s share and portion of reality, to prevent his participation in reality As George Orwell would likely agree I m thinking 1984 here , who controls language controls reality In our age of hashtags, fake news, and arguments over the words we use e.g pro life v anti choice v anti abortion , this is a very real issue to contend with, and we seem to be in a world where public discourse has become detached from the notions of truth and reality A relatively quick read for philosophy the slim book also includes, in addition to the titular essay, an essay entitled Knowledge Freedom This 54 page book consists of two essays, the titular one being an extended meditation of Plato s animus towards the sophists The key idea for Pieper is a quote from The Sophist, the sophists fabricate a fictitious reality The irony of the pot calling the kettle black is entirely missed by Pieper, writing in a time when the democracy communist binary guided Catholic thought, and before the end of metaphysics , the rehabilitation of the sophists, etc To truly appreciate this author, read in This 54 page book consists of two essays, the titular one being an extended meditation of Plato s animus towards the sophists The key idea for Pieper is a quote from The Sophist, the sophists fabricate a fictitious reality The irony of the pot calling the kettle black is entirely missed by Pieper, writing in a time when the democracy communist binary guided Catholic thought, and before the end of metaphysics , the rehabilitation of the sophists, etc To truly appreciate this author, read instead Leisure The Basis Of Culture or the excellent About Love When this book arrived in the mail, over 2 years ago, I was a bit annoyed because the paperback, I had paid 9.65 for, turned out to be a tiny booklet containing nothan 35 pages The booklet landed in one of my many boxes with unread books While trying to get my unread books a bit sorted and organized, I, yesterday, came across this little booklet again I had just watched the news and was still infuriated about the way our new President as well as his spokespersons and several of his su When this book arrived in the mail, over 2 years ago, I was a bit annoyed because the paperback, I had paid 9.65 for, turned out to be a tiny booklet containing nothan 35 pages The booklet landed in one of my many boxes with unread books While trying to get my unread books a bit sorted and organized, I, yesterday, came across this little booklet again I had just watched the news and was still infuriated about the way our new President as well as his spokespersons and several of his supporting political analysts are abusing the language by avoiding to properly answering questions and instead twisting the truth and spitting out propaganda So I picked up this booklet and read it within a few hours.Joseph Pieper 1904 1997 was a 20th century philosopher, and this book or rather essay was first published in 1974, in German language titled Missbrauch der Sprache Missbrauch der Macht Pieper quotes and summarizes what philosophers of the past, especially Plato, had said about the use, or rather abuse, of language I am very short of time Therefore, please forgive when I do not write a real review but only list a few passages that stood out Here they are Summing up Plato on this topic Public discourse, the moment it becomes basically neutralized with regard to a strict standard of truth, stands by its nature ready to serve as an instrument in the hands of any ruler to pursue all kinds of power schemes Public discourse itself, separated from the standard of truth, created on its part, theit prevails, an atmosphere of epidemic proneness and vulnerability to the reign of the tyrant Serving the tyranny, the corruption and abuse of language becomes better known as propaganda A common element in all of this is the degeneration of language into an element of rape The abuse of political power is fundamentally connected with the sophistic abuse of the word, indeed, finds it in the fertile soil in which to hide and grow and get ready, so much that the latent potential of the totalitarian poison can be ascertained The degradation, too, of man through man concentration camps, torture has its beginning when the word loses its dignity The place of authentic reality is taken over by fictious reality a pseudoreality, desceptively appearing as real the general public is being reduced to a state where people not only are unable to find out about the truth but also become unable even to search for the truth because they are satisfied with deception and trickery that have determined their convictions Opposition is required, for instance, against every partisan simplification, every ideological agitation, every blind emotionality against seduction through well turned yet empty slogans, against autocratic terminology with no room for dialogue, against personal insult as an element of style, against the language of evasive appeasement and false assurance Quoting Hegel You need not have advanced very far in your learning in order to find good reasons even for the most evil of things All the evil deeds in this world since Adam and Eve have been justified with good reasons Quoting Aristotle Whenever someone, oblivious of possible usefulness, disadvantages, or even death, is able to say, So it is this is the truth then we witness, in an eminent degree, human freedom in action Into this quote, Pieper had inserted, e.g., the Emperor has no clothes , which, of course Aristotle had not said In regard to our present political situation, here in the U.S., I leave it up to the reader to come to his or her own conclusions.My own humble opinion Humankind hasn t advanced too much since Plato.For a very elaborate description of the above booklet, I recommend reading Jan Rice s review Here is the link This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here In the first essay, Pieper shows that words exist to communicate reality with a subject The sophist is not interested in communicating with another subject, but in manipulating others as objects, abusing words to do so In the second essay, Pieper shows that knowledge possesses freedom to the extent that it is not practical, but theoretical, and man is most free when contemplating the highest, theoretical realities.


About the Author: Josef Pieper

Josef Pieper was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of M nster Germany he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of cultural forms of secular totalitarianism and of its philosophical foundations through a rehabilitation of the Christian concept of man that is related to experience and action Plato and Thomas Aquinas in particular were the inspiring sources of a constructive criticism of contemporary culture.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top