The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by wegs, Apr 27, 2022.

  1. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Philosophy-wise, it seems to jibe in a rough manner with Wilfred Sellars' argument (further down). Having a term (word-label) and its underlying concept for an often neglected feeling or experience would facilitate cognitive discrimination of it with respect to future encounters. Or, if it's not a wholly "new or exotic" item, then enables apprehension of finer connections and "details" subsumed by a known, existing category.

    From the video:

    "... the right word can help you capture the moment, so you can keep your memories alive, and string them together into a story. And when you find yourself struggling to connect, the right word can transcend the distances between us, and remind us of our common humanity hiding in plain sight. It makes you wonder what else is possible. Because if a single word could do all that, just imagine all the words we might be missing. That’s why I started this channel. And that’s why I wrote this book. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of new words for emotions. that we all feel but don’t have the language to express."​

    The above thinly echoes Wilfred Sellars' idea (below) that we require a concept (summed up or mediated a by a word, term or phrase) to often identify or become of aware of an _X_. Or at least to be able to manipulate, explore, understand, and be affected by _X_ more than what we normally would. (As I consider it a bit extreme to assert that one could never notice _X_ in even a disinterested way without a refined concept for it and its linguistic label; but possessing the latter can definitely lead to all the rest.)

    Wilfred Sellars' Philosophy of Mind: "The thesis of Psychological Nominalism claims that to be aware of something, x, one must have a concept for x. But there is a flip side to this. If one has a concept of x, one can be aware of x’s. With the concept of x in hand, that is, you can notice all sorts of things you didn’t notice before you had that concept. For instance, a physicist looks at a puff of smoke in a cloud chamber and sees an electron discharged. She comes to have non-inferential knowledge of something we might not, as she has certain concepts we don’t as laypeople, as well as an ability to apply them directly to her experience. In other words, perception is concept-laden, and depending on what concepts you have, you can perceive different things. (Sellars wasn’t the first to articulate this connection, but his development of it made for a revolutionary understanding of thinking and perception)."

    Kant was actually the first to graze it, in a somewhat different context: "Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind."

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    Last edited: Apr 30, 2022
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  3. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Unfortunately, true. lol I think he should have been more mindful of that but in one of his interviews he commented that “if you love a word or the idea behind it, then use it.” He feels that dictionaries are “abstractions,” in other words, a word isn’t “more real” just because it’s listed in a dictionary.
     
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  5. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I see your points - it’s funny you bring up Kant as in my opinion, he seemed to push the idea that we simply can’t know everything and some things are “unknowable,” in a way. But we are our feelings, intuitions, perceptions. If we lived isolated, alone on a deserted island, would words even matter? We could still process our own experiences however way we chose, but words make us relatable to one another.

    I haven’t given all this much thought but running across this book has helped me see why we need words, and why we may not. Life doesn’t become more meaningful through words, but they become a way to convey our experiences to others. Even through fictional tales, we see ourselves. That’s what words can do.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2022
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  7. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    Words/language also speeds up the passing of knowledge/information so that we don't have to constantly reinvent the wheel much in the same way that libraries do that (and now the internet).
     
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