The boundaries of thought

This is a very shallow rendition of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ideas, but my impression is that he believed that language forms the boundaries of thought. The words we know—and the meanings we attach to them—dictate how we think, what we think, and why. An example of this is the difference between Western and Eastern languages, and thus, Western and Eastern philosophy. Western language aims at precision. For every thing, there is—or should be—a corresponding word. Eastern language has as a central feature—typically interpreted as a bug by us Westerners—vagueness and ambiguity. Its characters assume many meanings, all of which are dependent upon the context in which they are spoken and heard. Symbolically, I like to represent Western language and philosophy as a crosshairs, and Eastern language and philosophy as a question mark.

After considering this, I realised why people get so uppity about the struggle surrounding gender pronouns. I won’t get into it here, but the general issue is that “he” and “she” are seen as inadequate, that they no longer cover the gender spectrum adequately. As such, groups are trying to force the adoption of words other than “he” or “she”. Others are pushing back on this attempted imposition upon language use. Originally, I thought it was a furore over nothing. Conflict over the inconsequential. But now I see the deeper problem, and why it matters. As I noted above, language forms the boundaries of thought. Thus, attempting to enforce rules regarding what a person can and cannot say is analogous to attempting to enforce rules regarding what a person can and cannot think. Thus, the struggle is about more than language use; it is about the censorship of thought.