Words Do Not Cause Evil

I have been told to be cautious with words. But why? Words are not deeds, at least in the simple meaning of the term. They are not even remotely like what goes by the name of deeds. Deeds, as are commonly understood, have clear intentions and clear consequences — physical consequences. Words have no clear intentions and no clear consequences — they are merely psychological. Unless we take the air-borne sound waves of words to be some form of physical violence, we cannot accept the tenet of ‘linguistic philosophy’ (surely, on its own, a contradiction in terms) that ‘words are deeds’, at least without qualification. Let me explain.

Bernard Williams, who once discussed ‘the spell of linguistic philosophy’ and its mystical magisterium.

Words mediate between ideas and deeds, but they are not either of these things. Realising this contradiction and embracing it is the first step to turning our current frenetic culture war of linguistic politico-philosophical nonsense on its head. Words are words. And violence is violence. People are dying and we are worrying about what musicians say on Twitter. Get a grip, guys.

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