The Next Wisdom

Elis AisyahWisdom 2: You are What You Say
(The writing is what I learn from third chapter entitled “Misteri Bahasa: Dari Makna ke Teori”)

by E. Elis Aisyah

What do you think of famous proportions of popular philosophers below? Do you think what they are saying reflect their mind, believe and their way of life? Are their proportions understandable? How many times do you read their proportions to get comprehension? Do their statements change your way of thinking or give you impression? What is that?

“Man is nothing else but his plan: he exists only to the extent that he fulfils himself; he is therefore nothing else that the ensemble of his act, nothing else than himself” (Sartre 1905-1980)

“I felt the stillness of death grew around me when I saw in my father, unhappy man who was to outlives us all, a cross on the tomb of his hope” (Kierkegaard 1813-1855)

“What is good?” you ask. “To brave is good” (Nietzsche 1844-1900)

“One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.” (Nietzsche 1844-1900)

“…it is man that makes history…and that it is to be supposed that he makes history for his own sake.” (Berdyaev 1874-1984)

“To be a man is to become a man” (Jasper 1910-1969)

I am particularly hard to gist the meaning of them. I should read them repeatedly, explore my mind and think deeply again and again. Finally I come to the self-reflection that to understand sentences indeed depends on your mind ability, the way you think. Moreover, the ways you think reflects who you are.

In page 46 Alwasilah (2008) states “the real problem in language mastery is meaning mastery. And since language is a tool of thinking, the true problem is mind’s work”. Directly I think does one’s language influence one’s way of thinking, also? Does the nature of one’s first language reflect the culture of one’s thought? Does one’s language reflect one’s culture? Is there any relation between thought and culture? Again, many silly questions arise in my head. Allah answers in Qur’an:

“See you not how Allah sets forth parable? A goodly word as a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the sky. Giving its fruit at all times, by the Leave of its Lord, and Allah sets forth parables for mankind in order that they may remember (think). And the parable of an evil word is that of an evil tree uprooted from the surface of earth, having no stability” (Q.V Ibrahim: 24-26).

Be a Meaningful Person

Learning a language is delivering meaning through words. Meaning is always the topic of our daily philosophy. Spontaneously we always ask to ourselves or others what exactly the meaning of all we’ve done or we’ve learnt is. In the first encounter of learning language philosophy (this course), my best friend said “this is beyond my knowledge, metaphysics. I really don’t understand it at all”. I just could respond her by smiling. In my heart I said “I don’t understand either”.  Later on I conclude that her and my statement basically reflected our restlessness in searching the meaning of this course. Both of us were worried that we finally will not gist the essence.

The theory of meaning, firstly, was introduced by John Locke (1633-1704). Locke basically argued that our words stood for such ideas. Language could be considered as a kind of tool that we use to convey ideas one another. On this view the meaning of words resides in speaker’s heads and truth may be understood in terms of correspondence.  Ideas are considered true if they accurately represent objects in the external world. Nevertheless, John Locke’s theory had been disapproved by Wittgenstein (1953).

He said meaning is not private but rather is essentially public, social or inter subjective in nature. Human beings are better viewed as being socialized into linguistic practices that actually enable them to perform cognitive process. Meaning is thing that is always negotiated between people and arrived at in practice in response to the demand of situation (  The question is how about the word “cosmic”. How to represent it? Or how to represent word “miss or love” in object form? Which come first, ideas or language? Do we think first then speak? Or speak first then think?

In page 58 Alwasilah states there are three kinds of meaning in communication. First is speaker meaning. It refers to speaker’s intention. Second is receiver meaning. It is related to the comprehension of receiver to the massage he heard. Last is sign meaning. It is inherent in sign itself. Principally, three of them are interrelated. We can not communicate without paying attention with whom we communicate. Furthermore, we should distinguish sympathy to empathy, hear and listen, book and paper, etc. in other words they are interconnected to create meaningful conversation.

The next question is how can you verify a word based on the meaning the word has? Alwasilah said this is domain of semantics (2008:65). He mentions three major factors to verify a word to be meaningful. They are sense, reference and truth. In my comprehension, a word is said meaningful if it has truth conditions. A word is said having truth condition if it refers to reference. The last, a word is said refers to a reference if it has sense whether speaker’ sense or linguistics’ sense. Am I Confusing? (Read: I am confused).

I get another point from this chapter. The last question for this chapter: “How is to be a meaningful person?”  I like to say: first, find and understand your and other’s senses. Second, show your best reference to other. Third, say and do the true things.

In religious term, a meaningful person is someone whose present time is better than his yesterday (Hadits). He is changing gradually to get better and better. This concept is similar with learning theory. In previous chapter, Alwasilah said learning language is delivering meaning and changing behavior. Learning is not considered successful if our behavior is still stagnant. If you are you were, you will be looser for the rest of your life. Be meaningful even for yourself!

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