Language is a critical tool in the humanities and social sciences. It would be impossible to study communication arts, history, philosophy, religion and the classics if one will deprive himself of this tool. Language is the key that opens the door in the study of humanities. However, the same thing can be said when it comes to the social sciences.
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It would be impossible to understand human society, how it was formed and how it is being sustained without the use of language. It is the code breaker that will allow a student of the social sciences to understand the complex communication systems used by human beings. Language is the backbone for both humanities and social sciences.
Benedict Anderson had a brilliant insight when it comes to the purpose of language and its link to the creation of social classes. He said that printed language is the reason why democratic nations were formed out of kingdoms ruled by tyrants. At the same time he also implied that prior to the rise of nationalism verbal language was used primarily to build communities.
With regards to the rise of nationalism he was convinced that it would have been impossible to achieve it without a way for the common people to connect beyond family or tribal loyalties.
Anderson argued that in the past there was no other means of establishing communities but through the rituals associated with kinship, clientship, and personal loyalties (Anderson, no date).
These rituals can only be accomplished by the use of verbal communication and therefore the expert use of language to bind people together in marriage, treaties, and other forms of personal transactions. It is language that facilitated the knitting together of families, friends and neighbors. Language is the primary tool that brings people together.
It is important to master the verbal language and even the written language as a means of communication. But language should not be limited to the building of communities and societies. Language must be fully maximized because it can provide more than a set of symbols and sounds for communication purposes. Language is the only thing that can express what is deep within the spirit of man.
Walter Benjamin said that storytelling is the best way to experience life to the full (Benjamin, 2003). Storytelling is different from the usual use of language such as a means to organize a community to compel them to action.
Storytelling compels the soul of the storyteller and the audience to soar in regions inaccessible by the physical body – a place beyond this present reality. It can only be accessed by the spirit of man. The means of transport is the use of language.
Time on the other hand does not contain symbols or even sounds. It does not have anything that can be perceived by the five senses – taste, smell, hearing, sight, and touch. It is some sort of an idea that can only be imagined but there is nothing tangible about it. This is perhaps the reason why some philosophers tried to argue that time does not exist.
However, the invisible does not mean that it is not real and it is not present in this world. It may be that the invisible cannot be captured by human hands and human strength but nevertheless it is as real as the invisible air and the invisible power that binds atomic particles together.
This is perhaps the reason why at the end, critics of time like Jose Luis Borges were forced to accept that time is real and that time is needed by all especially when it comes to the study of humanities and the social sciences.
It is impossible to begin to understand the complexity of the humanities without the element of time. It is difficult to fully understand what Borges tried to say when he quoted Shakespeare. If he meant to say that Shakespeare shared his enthusiasm to negate time then he is wrong. The works of Shakespeare is one of the proofs that time exists.
This is because there is no way to understand his sonnets and his plays without the element of time. This is obvious when one studies the eternal Romeo and Juliet it is impossible to miss the terms Act I, Act II, and Act III and so on and so forth because this is a way to delineate time. It is contrary to what Borges tried to prove that there is no linearity in life (Borges, 1947).
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At leas it is linear in the plays of Shakespeare. It would have been impossible to enjoy or even to understand Romeo and Juliet without the use of time because events had to be in proper sequence. The scene where the Montagues and the Capulets tried to kill each other must come first before the scene wherein Romeo fell in love with Juliet.
The scene wherein the messenger took a long time to deliver the message to Romeo must come first before Juliet took her own life. The sequence of events must be in order to make sense of the love story. But without time these events floats into the air, without order and no one has the power to bring it to a discernible pattern.
It is also impossible to understand the social sciences without the element of time. History is possible through a chronology of events. In other words a linear succession of events explains the present because of the things that occurred in the past.
The United States of the 20th century is an impossible concept without the occurrence of the American Revolution that in the 18th century. The United Nations would never have been created without the horror of two World Wars. The social scientists could never create a solution to the problems that he encountered without using the tool we call time.
It is part of the measuring rod that determines success and failures. Time tracks movement, without it there will be no action that resulted in meaningful work and in turn those activities resulted in a body of work that benefited people. There is no way to understand the evolution of a society without time. It is much easier to refute Borges refutation of time rather than to find a way to support his claim.
It is easier to criticize his analysis on how to negate time than to seek a philosophically accepted framework to defend his ideas. Even Borges at the end has to concede that perhaps his desire to refute time is borne out of desperation. He is perhaps fearful of his impending demise and so he tried his best to make time go away but alas there is no escaping time.
Human beings are obligated to evolve into a higher state. It is their destiny to become better, stronger, faster, and wiser. There is no evidence to show that mankind is regressing. There are societies that demonstrate its capability to resist change but they only succeeded in resisting but not in the total apprehension of change.
There are only a few tribes and communities that can actually say that they prefer to stay the same and that they are doing their best to maintain what they currently have. The rest of mankind proves the opposite. It can even be said that there is an eagerness to change, to improve and to enhance what is at present.
The majority looks at the future because it is there where their hope lies and they know that a better version of themselves can only be achieved through movement. It is only possible through human progression.
Humanity must move forward, it cannot afford to look back. A society must learn to use everything that it possesses in order to reach the next level of progress. It is good to treasure memories of days gone by but an obsession with the past will only pull that particular community backwards instead of moving forward. Mankind’s destiny is to become a better species and by doing so he will be able to transform the planet.
Visit a classroom and listen to what children say. Go to a place where the children are not yet tainted with malice and sarcasm and they will tell you that they want to be an instrument of positive change.
This is the reason why they dream of becoming a doctor, an engineer, nurse, police officer, and fireman because deep within – without anyone telling them – they know that they have a mission to fulfill.
Unfortunately, when they are all grown up and exposed to the rough and tumble world they began to doubt if they are really destined for something bigger than trying to pay the bills or working hard for someone who does not appreciate their efforts.
Mankind must make commitment that there is no other way to go but to move forward. Progress is its savior. Technological breakthroughs had proven to be a major catalyst of change and indeed made life easier. It is now easier to grow food, store them, and transport them as compared to the hunter-gatherers of ancient times.
It is now easier to acquire clothes and build homes as compared to a tribe’s struggle to acquire materials and process them. However, technology has also proven to be the source of today’s problems such as pollution, deforestation, garbage, climate change, overcrowding etc.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that technology should be blamed and that it is time to take a step backwards and revert to the medieval mindset of yesteryears. This simply means that mankind must keep moving forward because as human beings continue to clamor for change and for self-improvement then they will be able to solve these problems. It is not technology per se that is the culprit but the lack of knowledge.
The knowledge that we have is enough. Scientists, explorers, and mavericks must rise up to take up the challenge of pushing the boundaries of progress and change.
Future progress assures mankind’s survival but also its improvement as human beings. This is made evident when it comes to the humanities and social sciences. In the study of the humanities a person who seeks improvement will have a better capacity to absorb, appreciate, and teach the profound lessons contained in the humanities as a subject matter.
This means that personal development will enable man and woman to unlock the secrets of philosophy, religion, history, and even the classics so that it can be used to improve the community in particular and the world in general.
Aside from using the humanities as a tool to build better and stronger communities there is another way to improve the lives of people and it is through the correct application of the wisdom and knowledge that can be gleaned from the study of social sciences. However, social scientists must also long for the same thing and it is the desire for growth and progression in their field.
It is not enough for them to know a certain amount of information and then proceed to change the world. Social scientist must discover new methods and new techniques of doing things and this can only be achieved if they learn how to increase their capacity. There is therefore a symbiotic relationship between the study of the humanities and social sciences and human progress. One needs the other.
Anderson, Benedict. Old Languages, New Models. Borges, Jose Luis. A New Refutation of Time. Walter, Benjamin. The Storyteller.