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Words Have Meanings



On his Twitter page Dr. Haidt recommends the idea of restoring the word ‘liberal’ to it’s rightful place, and correctly calling people on the left what they really are; leftists, or progressives, or governmentalists, but not ‘liberals’.

Now that I’ve had a few days to read up on the idea ( here, here, here, here, and here ), I have to say I like it.  It fits with my thesis, and apparently with the theme of The Village Square, which, as I see it, is twofold:

But, you know?  Live by the sword, die by the sword.  If we’re going to insist that words have meanings then we must be prepared to accept the true and proper meanings of all of them, not just the ones that happen to fit our narrative.

For example, on liberalismunreliquished.net I found THE EXACT SAME ARGUMENT (and/or intuition) used to defend the word “liberal” that was used by many people to defend the word “marriage” for which the marriage defenders were labeled hateful, or bigots, or homophobic, small minded, or all of the above, or worse.

To be clear, my position on gay marriage is this: Life is hard.  We all do the best we can to find peace and happiness.  If two people of the same sex find that with each other then more power to them.  There should be legal means through which they can declare each other life partners and enjoy all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of traditional marriage.

But, if you agree with Dan Klein’s statement on liberalismrelinquished.net (quoted below) about the word “liberal,” and if you agree with the goals of The Village Square, then you must also agree that the same logic applies equally to the word “marriage” and that therefore a union between two people of the same sex is not, and cannot ever be, marriage.  Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Sam Bowman interviews Dan Klein on LU at adamsmith.org.

The word liberal is powerful. It relates to liberty and toleration, reflected in to liberalize. Words have histories that a generation or two cannot undo. A word has cognates and connotations that make our language cohere, more than we know, more than dictionary definitions can tell.

That same logic applied to the word marriage might go something like this: 

The word marriage is powerful. It relates to the unique union that can exist only between a man and a woman, and to the unique emotional and psychological dynamic that exists between them, their families, and society, reflected in matrimony. Words have histories that a generation or two cannot undo. A word has cognates and connotations that make our language cohere, more than we know, more than dictionary definitions can tell.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Words Have Meanings

  1. Doesn’t “the unique union that can exist only between a man and a woman” also include a declaration to each other to embark on a life of partnership in order to enjoy all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with marriage? You state “The word marriage is powerful” and then limit the definition. You say words have histories, which means, like history, that change occurs. We use a word in a broader context than its traditional use intended.

    You could construct a Venn diagram with an encompassing of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with a relationship and include two smaller circles for traditional marriage between a man and a woman and another circle for people of the same sex.

    Like

    Posted by Richard van Pelt | August 4, 2015, 6:47 pm
    • I love your Venn Diagram example. Yes!

      The small circle around male/female relationships is marriage. The small circles around male/male and female/female relationships – while I respect them and agree there should be legal means for them to enjoy the rights, privileges and duties of marriage – are not, nor can they be, marriage.

      I don’t limit the definition. I restore it from those who would try to change it.

      Like

      Posted by The Independent Whig | August 4, 2015, 6:59 pm

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Venn Diagram of Liberal and Conservative Traits and Moral Foundations

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