On wording the world


“Words establish our relations to people, and place us, and do many other things, as well, though how well they do the things we want them to do is not always, perhaps never, in our power to tell.7 if it helps, the harvard philosopher Stanley Cavell has described the issue as one of, “Word[ing] the world.”8 The expression is awkward, perhaps, though by no means is it arcane. it recalls our sense of the world’s being given by language, and so at the same time our giving words to the world, or a world to words. if we allow “Word” to translate the Greek logos, then to word the world is to make it, to make the world (intelligible). in an old story, God gives sound to his breath, and speaks the being of the world: he gives us the power of speech, through which we can participate in (the intelligibility of) creation. either we keep faith with the power that is bequeathed us, or we do not. To lose faith in the power is to despair of (knowing) the world.” – Soul of a Nation, 7.

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