Steven Pinker: Language as a Window into Human Nature

This RSA amimate is relevant in connection with Martin Luther King’s speech in the previous post; it is about clarity as a weapon against oppression. All kinds of oppression. 

It is also about the need for unclarity as a social lubricant.

It’s up to each of us to know which of these we are using, and to decide consciously which of these we need in different situations.  

2 thoughts on “Steven Pinker: Language as a Window into Human Nature

  1. Fun to watch!At the very end there, didn't he say: “With overt language you can't take it back, it's out there”. That's his punchline, and he made it clear we can't always speak plainly. We see this kind of thing all the time though, in blogs and forums pertaining to health issues for instances, don't we? People want to speak about themselves, but still prefer some indirectness or are trying to avoid giving away so many details that they could be recognized by those who know them in real life. Then other people want to respond, but they don't want to offend or be too personal and they don't want to drag their their own situation into it the discussion too much. So definitely, we need some kind of buffering in our words to shield ourselves and to offer protection to the other party in case we've misunderstood. Unclarity is therefore helpful in some cases. Most definitely. Obfuscation even if there are more than two people communicating, but only two who can tune into the same signals and language.

  2. i LOVE THE rsa ANIMATES! Oooops – unlocking caps. And I was telling a friend about this one recently … she is in the very first stages of being in love, and that is one aspect of life when indirectness is important.I see what you mean about health issues … for example, as I am not anonymous, I find it easier to hide personal stuff in comments on other peoples' blogs.There is also the extremely impoetant aspect of defuscation, if that is a word, as a tool for liberation … like occupying the word “opportunity” and seeing how it is used against us.

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