Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Corrupted Morality

In John Locke's piece, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the philosopher tackles the complex subject of words and word signification. There is an emphasis placed on matched interpretations as representing truth and agreement, and how speakers and listeners function together in making sense of a presented idea. Locke illustrates this by saying, "Where shall one find any, either controversial debate, or familiar discourse, concerning honour, faith, grace, religion, church, &c., wherein it is net easy to observe the different notions men have of them? Which is nothing but this, that they are not agreed in the signification of those words, nor have in their minds the same complex ideas which they make them stand for"(819). Locke discusses hear the complexity of thought as translated through words and how difficult it is to get a listener to be in complete agreement with a speaker. From this thought, there is a question of morality. Can something be true without being factual?

Locke sets up the basis of understanding as a matching of ideas, essentially; but this becomes complicated when speakers are corrupted and attempt to pass on ideas that are not inherently moral. Locke touches on this interesting subject as he writes, "Men that do not perversely use their words, or on purpose set themselves to cavil, seldom mistake, in any language which they are acquainted with, the use and signification of the nam of simple ideas"(823). Locke posits that men who speak on the side of morality also have the advantage of clarity, but there is still a window left open for those clever enough in deception to clearly convey ideas that are perverse. Audiences are left then to the conclusion that there is room for truth even in lies, an interesting concept to consider in the scope of morality because if a corrupted truth is considered to be a moral trait, morality is left merely to semantics and what others are able to convincingly portray to listeners. This connects to the overall theme of signification because as thoughtful creatures, we have been trained to look more favorably on "truth" and give it more signification.

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