Many years ago, one “Voltaire” wrote Dictionnaire philosophique. I have not read it in full, owing to my hope to learn and read it in its original language. What I did read is a work intended–commissioned by Harvard University Press–as a sort of sequel, Robert Nisbet’s Prejudices, an imperfect work that remains delightfully fitting to many contemporary phenomena decades on. Those who hope, endure in waiting.
This is meant to be an English blog, and in its current form is a placeholder. A particular interest of mine is criticism, or to produce a study in “words”. e.g.:
Christians often remark upon the fact that the Greek for “word” is “logos”, which can mean much more than a form on the page or a certain sound supposed (wrongly) by its users to be connected to one concept or “meaning” or “mean” “one thing”, e.g. like “cat” or “mother”"; that Greek word is also used to suggest a message and teaching that is a doctrine, or system of thought and understanding, which unwelcom’edly (in our day) is rather strict, or rather imposes consequences upon the actions of those who hold it, thus a “teaching”, which in English now unquestionably evokes a scope far broader than “cat” or “mother”; I mention the Greek word because such comparisons are the way of linguistics (moderna), and for good reason: the “word” in English written as “word”, is also used…very similarly to the Greek one, often without anyone realizing it!
We can see such a usage–as “saying” or “teaching”–in such idioms as “let me have a word with you”, or in religious circles, the reverend declaring that he “has a word”. There is another word in English capturing this sense, and it is my special interest …doctrine. Because surrounded by so many voices, there is a lot of doctrine, and the consequences to society of the habits and acts of those who hold it, are no good. It seems to be as the preachers says,
“none doeth good”,” there is none righteous, not even one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh for God; all have turned aside, together they have become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they keep deceiving,” the poison of asps is under their lips”; “whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; “their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace have they not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
What a mouthful, hugh? One might say, So negative! or How ‘religious’! and these too would be words also worthy of criticism: so doing, they become meaningful–and so the language in which they are found expressed, by which far better teaching is achieved than merely teaching by rote some set associations of words and simplified descriptions of their meaning!
And there is a common mistake made in the teaching of language, that learning a language is learning a way to think: from this there are fears that teaching a language is like hegemony, but it is not so: that is, if we criticize “language” as we ought do: we do not now consider Attic to be Ionic (though the former comes from–or extends–the latter), or Attic to be Doric, or either of these to be Koine, yet ancient Greeks considered these separate (to us) “languages” as merely dialects: so much so that all epics were written in Ionic (“Homeric”) even centuries A.D., because Epics should be in the language of the ultimate Epic teller. The various schools extant within given languages are evidence of this: whether the ancient interpreters of Confucius fighting for official approval of their interpretation of his take on human nature, or the modern American contending across “the” political divide over the meaning of “justice”, even within what is–far more evidently than the ancient dialects of Greek–a “single” “language”, there are many possibilites for how one, within that system or set of conventions, can think: the reason being, to put it too simply, that different people attach different things to words and modes of expression, and right or wrong, associational thinking is a large share of the human experience.
My interest is not to teach English. My interest is in the study of ideas and transmission of how people interpret and consider things, myself learning about (in English) then transmitting this “English” so that what is opaque and foreign can become–to many different stripes–relateable and intelligible. What is hard about this, of course, is that in various jurisdictions perhaps some idea or another is not official–so unwelcome–or else consider dangerous (to whom? I hope they say, and why) and/or harmful (do they consider these the same thing?)–and an idea may be. So in seeking to teach English this way I have to…tread carefully, because the intention is not to offend or peturb unnecessarily, but simply to make the [subject] matter of interest come alive such that it can be acquired effectively: giving the best bang-for-buck, whether the dime is from the government or from the students or their parents. Then, of course, schools have their own materials and methods to follow…so this could get interesting.
Wish me “luck.”