Unless Deceived, Or Intending To Deceive, Effective Communication Requires Words Have Universal Meaning.

Following are a few excerpts  from “The Road To Serfdom” by F. A. Hayek concerning “words”

From page 174:

The people are made to transfer their allegiance from the old gods to the new under the pretense that the new gods really are what their sound instinct had always told them but what before they had only dimly seen. And most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning.

And continuing on page 175:

If one has not one’s self experienced this process, it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this change of the meaning of words, the confusion which it causes, and the barriers to any rational discussion which it creates. It has to be seen to be understood how, if one of two brothers embraces the new faith, after a short while he appears to speak a different language which makes any real communication between them impossible. And the confusion becomes worse because this change of meaning of the words describing political ideals is not a single event but a continuous process, a technique employed consciously or unconsciously to direct the people. Gradually, as this process continues, the whole language becomes despoiled, and words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, as capable of denoting one thing as its opposite and used solely for the emotional association which still adhere to them.

Clarity, unlike obfuscation, is not only required for discourse it is medicine for the deception that ails.



Filed under Economics, Politics, Worldview

6 responses to “Unless Deceived, Or Intending To Deceive, Effective Communication Requires Words Have Universal Meaning.

  1. Cults change the meanings of theological words, while liberals change the meanings of words in society.

    For an example of the theological words, think about how the Mormons define God, Christ, atonement, salvation, etc.

    For words redefined in society, think of “gay” or “marriage.”

  2. Reblogged this on clever nicknames and commented:
    RE-definition of words (and terms) is a favorite of the ‘political classes’

  3. Here is a related quote from the foreward to the 1956 American paperback edition of “The Road to Serfdom”:

    “It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country, helped by the muddle-headedness of many who really believe in liberty, that “liberal” has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States
    who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservatives.”

    That’s why I never say “liberals” — only “leftists”.

    • There is so much to be learned by delving into the changing of the meanings of words. Anyone who reads old books must quickly learn that “liberal” hasn’t always meant “leftist”. I would wager that a majority of Americans don’t know the true meaning of either.

  4. Listening is a great act of communicating effectively.

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