‘The Bewitchment Of Our Intelligence’


In the beginning was the Word’. The World begins in Vac [Sanskrit]; Vox [Latin; Voice].

As Ludwig Wittgenstein summarily put it: ‘Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.‘ The limits of my Language are the limits of my World.

‘Philosophy’ he declared ‘is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by language.’


It can take a lifetime of observation to appreciate how much of our World is based on Language. It fits us like a snug set of contact lenses. We view the World through them.

And we don’t remember that we have them on until something hits us in the eye.

The World is divided into Subject and Object, Noun and Verb, Gender and Tense. Words like ‘of’ and ‘for’, ‘to’ and ‘from’, ‘and’ and ‘or’, create a sanctioned and structured web of associations and divisions.

And we are to be forgiven if we take this synthetic structure as intrinsic to the way the World is, the way the World works.

Language maps the World in it’s own image. It draws the boundaries, shades the colors. And it is a self-sufficient mapped World that is very good at explaining itself to itself.

‘The World outside makes no sense. But come into my parlor and I will serve you a fresh helping of Words that will make everything nice and cozy’.

The language you ‘think-in’ is the unexamined repository of a millennia of influences. What ideas and things did the culture see as worth labeling? What distinctions did the culture see as worth marking?

Eskimos famously have a dozen names for Snow and the modern Investment-Banker a dozen names for Money.

Language creates the convention of legitimate distinctions that allow discourse. It draws the lines in the socio-linguistic matrix.

Reality carved in familiar ways is ceaselessly reinforced. A self-created line, repeated, entrenched, is now seen as a self-evident divide. Distinction, as Difference.

Universities will love you unconditionally if you are good at Numbers and Words. Math-Verbal skills: an ability to express in Words and figure-out in Numbers.

A primary service of a modern university is training in the ability to build advanced models. And great math-verbal skills, the ability to take-apart and put-together using signs and symbols is the most desirable raw-material for training in advanced model-building.

As the level of intricacy and sophistication of subjects increase as in Academic Philosophy or Theoretical Science [my favorite though remains ‘Post-Modernism’] their content becomes a complex mix of abstraction and reification, an intricate cross-referencing play of sign upon sign.

Signs that refer exclusively to other signs. Thoughts that refer exclusively to other thoughts. Words defined entirely using other words. Every untied knot revealing a new knot.

Sign-world. A hall of mirrors. A closed, contained world of abstraction and analogic expression, layer upon layer, in a self-referential interweaving of sign and symbol.