Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The ethics of language and its use

The crisis that Lord Chandos runs into is that of language, in a sense. As he describes in the letter, it's not that he can not use language (he hasn't gone mute), but he can not use language to discuss truth in life. Therefore, since what he says can not be truth, it is then a lie (at least according to his thinking); this is unacceptable to him. So Chandos decides that it is better to not speak at all rather than to speak lies. This is where the ethicality of the usage of language comes into play for Chandos. It does raise a good point/question though, if you can not speak truth, why speak?

As far as what Ulrich would say... I imagine it would be a very long discourse using the largest, least often used words that Ulrich could muster, and in the end Ulrich would summerize and say something like "Chandos had qualities, but would not allow himself to speak of them."

1 comment:

Lasica said...

I love your summary of: "Chandos had qualities, but would not allow himself to speak of them." I wonder if that is how Ulrich would think? Perhaps Musil would sum up Chandos in that sentence, but I am not sure about Ulrich. In some places he knows that something needs to be said to someone else, but does not act on this knowledge, choosing to say nothing. Ulrich is not the same as Chandos, he does not have an aversion to using language, sometimes he is just too lazy or selfish to speak. Chandos, on the other hand, wants to speak but cannot rely on language to convey what he wants to say. Language in unreliable, limited, and faulty. It is a question of morals/ethics to him because he relied on language to convey truth. When he realized that language had failed, he also knew that he could no longer convey truth.