Language, Meaning, and Ethics
Language is the fundamental institution and constitutive medium of any social order. Through language, the world and our experience in it is named, classified, and evaluated and is thus made comprehensible and meaningful. Through language sociality is made possible, for it is the medium by which we relate to each other, form bonds with one another, and engage the world together. Through language, it is possible to imagine alternatives to the present world, to imagine a future. Language, then, is constitutive of lives, communities, and civilizations.
One of the hallmarks of our time—a feature that may be unprecedented in human history—is a widespread skepticism about meaning itself. It is not that such skepticism cannot be found in the past. The sophists of ancient culture, for example, had such a view. What may make it unprecedented is its totalizing reach, including its penetration into the consciousness of large numbers of ordinary people.