Humans learn language mainly through exposure from social settings. This can prove a problem when emotional signals become associated and attached to the words which are used instead of their true meaning.
WHAT, EXACTLY ARE SOCIAL DEFINITIONS?
A social definition is a process used in memorization of language and substitution for meaning within language. It is mostly an unconscious process.
The process starts with the subject hearing a word used within a social setting (TV, video games, and YouTube all count as social settings in this case.) The word has a connotation attached to it (stigma, merit, disapproval, approval, etc,) which the subject unconsciously adds as the definition of the word.
The context is then added to the value of the word, just as the connotation was, and now serves as the mechanism for association (If you ever had a teacher tell you about finding context clues to figure out what a word might mean, then you understand what I’m talking about.)
Instead of associating based off of meaning within context, the subject searches for similarity of context and then inserts the connotation as meaning. This is will always end up with a misunderstanding, unless both the speaker and listener are using the same connotation as definition–though that is an effect of chance, and not sentient communication.
As I’m sure you understand, this is a very shallow and inaccurate way to learn new words, but nevertheless, I would wager that this is one of the most popular methods by which people learn language.
I believe some may argue that all language, no matter what, is learned through this method because all language comes through other humans. I’m not going to bother going down that path of argument. It’s wrong. Let’s continue with an example to clarify my aforementioned definition.
Jane said “The federal banks are printing money because it becomes a hidden tax through inflation. There are people which control this system in order to keep us in a form of slavery.”
John laughed, waved his hand dismissively and said “That’s just a conspiracy, Jane. Don’t be silly!”
“Conspiracy” is a very loaded term (infused with emotion through connotation,) which is exactly why I used it. Let’s look at what the word really means, and not what some people think that it means.
Although I am not here to argue on the particular point of conspiracies, let’s say for arguments’ sake that Jane is correct; the government and banks knowingly use inflation as a means to extract a hidden tax on the unsuspecting, dumbed down populous–which will very gladly print more money to “create jobs” (or whichever fancy slogan happens to work at that particular time.)
We can then logically derive that she is, by definition, talking about a conspiracy; a group of people (the banks and government) acting toward a harmful end. Why is it that John seems to think that he can dismiss her statement on the basis that it is a conspiracy, as if there was something intrinsically wrong with the word conspiracy?
He is implicitly affirming what she is talking about: “I understand that what you’re talking about is a conspiracy.” But then decides that she is being silly on that very basis.
It should be blatantly obvious to anyone that a government is based on conspiracies. Do governments not, by definition, conspire?
Now that we’re done understanding what a social definition is, let’s look in to my previous two questions.
THE UNDERLYING PSYCHOLOGY
It is clear that John doesn’t understand the word he is using. He has probably never looked it up in a dictionary, and probably doesn’t bother looking up any words at all. He’s the type of person that just believes he ~gets it~ without putting in any work at all.
Nevertheless, let’s say that he did look up the words which he used. Would he still be capable of misusing them as he does? In other words, are we dealing with a simple misunderstanding from a simpleton, opining in ignorance through a bloated sense of pride, or are we dealing with something more malevolent? It is clear that, either way, there is a malevolence behind such action.
The first case is very straightforward: Jane is dealing with a complete idiot that thinks rhetorically. In other words, John thinks by way of his emotions. If the word is infused with a connotation within a social circumstance, then John would rather listen to the connotation’s emotional/rhetorical content than the word’s true meaning.
He may do this as a result of peer pressure (others have connoted or alluded to that conspiracies are stupid and non-existent, and therefore he also feels compelled to believe that conspiracies are all stupid and non-existent,) or simply because he enjoys the feeling of superiority he gets when he guffaws and dismisses a person; my point is that he could do it for any multitude of reasons. In any case he does it because of his emotions: pride, fear, hatred, etc.
The second case is more difficult for me to put my finger on because I haven’t had too much exposure to such a mind, but I will do my best to describe what may be lying behind the more malevolent sort. In order to describe this as accurately as possible I will resort to two anecdotes.
I once knew a guy that said he “flowed in and out of definitions.” He was a very intelligent man, apparently registering at 127 IQ–and I definitely believe he was somewhere around 127 IQ based off the conversations we had. At such a high IQ you would assume that he was fully capable of grasping logic, and I believe that he was; as he said, he flowed in and out of definitions, meaning that he was at least sometimes bound by them. This suggests that he could, at will, stop caring about the definition of a word–but it could also be a case of wordnesia? Probably not.
If this doesn’t strike you as a more complicated form of saying “I lie when I feel the need,” then I don’t know what you’re smoking–but it’s probably green and reducing your IQ by at least 30 points, ~maaaaaan~.
The second time I came in contact with such a blatant display of linguistic abuse was when I was in a debate and someone said that Sweden was a very nationalist country. I immediately told them that they’re producing verbal excrement. I gave the definition of the word and pointed toward Sweden’s social policies. It’s fair to say that Sweden is the antithesis of a nationalist country in it’s current state as it is sacrificing it’s own culture for immigration which disproportionately outnumbers that of any surrounding country–except perhaps Germany? Either way, compared to the rest of the world it is one of the least nationalist countries.
The person in question simply responded with “well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” This isn’t an argument of any kind, and it certainly isn’t an admission of being wrong. But more than this, it is telltale sign of the psychology of the individual in question.
You see, to them facts or arguments are just opinions. Opinions have no factual basis, no external standard of right and wrong.
If you have ever heard anyone say “my truth,” then you can be very sure that they are on a road of opinionated opinion-ness, floating about in the aether of “Whatever, man, that’s just, like, your opinion, dude.” Apart from being a very cowardly way out of an argument from a debate–yes, it was a debate, not just a social gathering–it is intellectually dishonest.
Both the guy with 127 IQ and this latter, opinionated person have at least one thing in common: they are both asserting their wills over what is external to them. They are narcissistically choosing their own opinions in favor of what is external and true. The malevolent factor, I find, grows with the amount of intelligence a person has. With great power, great responsibility is expected.
I am going to hit you with an incredibly anti-climactic ending. I must confess that I made this all very, very complicated. But at least it was very fun, right? Right?
Basically we have intelligent and deceptive people lying through the use of emotional content in words. When their lies get spread, they become absorbed by the dumber, yet also deceptive people. The intelligent kind are intellectually deceptive. I don’t know whether they are as emotionally governed as their dumber counterparts, but they certainly have no problem governing their dumber counterparts by way of emotion–perhaps the intelligent are just better at hiding it behind weighty rationalizations.
This is one reason why I believe that truth has nothing to do with intelligence. The acquisition of what is true isn’t based solely off intellectual rigor, but also off the intention of one’s heart. But that’s a topic for another time.