Sunday, February 26, 2006

What does it say, what does it mean, is it true?

I'm writing a paper on Wittgenstein (later) at the moment, and this quote from Chesterton's the Ball and the Cross keep popping to mind:
"Well, we won't quarrel about a word," said the other, pleasantly.

"Why on earth not?" said MacIan, with a sudden asperity. "Why shouldn't we quarrel about a word? What is the good of words if they aren't important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn't any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn't there be a quarrel about a word? If you're not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about? Are you going to convey your meaning to me by moving your ears? The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only things worth fighting about. I say that murder is a sin, and bloodshed is not, and that there is as much difference between those words as there is between the word 'yes'and the word 'no'; or rather more difference, for 'yes' and 'no', at least, belong to the same category. Murder is a spiritual incident. Bloodshed is a physical incident. A surgeon commits bloodshed."

I don't know how apt this quote is, as it is rather difficult to figure out what Wittgenstein means by what he says, but I do know that I vehemently disagree with what he says about certain things (metaphysics, for example).