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Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  107 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
One of the great Catholic philosophers of our day reflects on the way language has been abused so that, instead of being a means of communicating the truth and entering more deeply into it, and of the acquisition of wisdom, it is being used to control people and manipulate them to achieve practical ends. Reality becomes intelligible through words. Man speaks so that throug ...more
Paperback, 54 pages
Published March 1st 1992 by Ignatius Press
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Jan Rice
Nov 16, 2014 Jan Rice rated it really liked it
September 27, 2014:
In 1974 Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote an essay in his native German called Abuse of Language--Abuse of Power. I came across it when a friend of a Goodreads friend commented it on one of my friend's reviews. The subject is sophistry (Plato's battle with it)--a subject which the author asserts is pertinent to any time and any place. Pieper quotes Neitzsche as having said, "The era of the sophists? Our time!"

On the second page the author quotes Hegel on sophisticates.
Jul 21, 2013 booklady rated it it was amazing
Recommended to booklady by: Nancy Carpentier
In Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power Joseph Pieper begins building his case against sophistry by showing what Plato most deplored about the sophists of his day: their wealth (no surprise) and physical beauty and how the former is gained through the corruption of the latter as well as the manipulation of language. Pieper includes quotes from Hegel and Nietzsche – both separated from the Father of Philosophy by more than a millennium – which assure us of the pervasive continuity of sophistry from ...more
Jan 02, 2009 Abe added it
This short book is worth the hour it takes to read. It makes two great points: First, true communication stops and propaganda begins the moment that words are chosen to influence people rather than to accurately represent reality. Secondly, a good definition of freedom is “to exist, not in dependence on anything ‘without’, but by and for reasons entirely ‘within’.” So, we use words and science freely when we ponder and learn for its own sake. The more “practical” our studies, the less free they ...more
Dec 15, 2013 Ann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-books
Josef Pieper is not for the faint of heart! I had to read and reread these essays in order to wrap my head around the truth conveyed ! Yet, his works hold some of the most concise words of truth for our generation ... demonstrating that "truth" does not lose its relevance over time. In this small but powerful book there are two closely related essays ... the first titled, "Abuse of Language --- Abuse of Power" and the other "Knowledge and Freedom".
In the first essay, the author starts out by
I read this strictly for school in my Language and Power's not a bad read, but it's not something I would pick up on my own. It's essentially an essay by Pieper that discusses the problems with language when used as a tool for propaganda and persuasion.
It mentions the Sophists of Socrates' era: they were people paid to educate others in the use of rhetoric. It also talks about how flattery is lying and lies are essentially a complete lack of communication.
It's a very powerful and pers
Jul 22, 2008 Jerome rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
This 54 page book consists of two essays, the titular one being an extended meditation of Plato's animus towards the sophists. The key idea for Pieper is a quote from The Sophist, "the sophists fabricate a fictitious reality." The irony of the pot calling the kettle black is entirely missed by Pieper, writing in a time when the democracy/communist binary guided Catholic thought, and before the "end of metaphysics", the rehabilitation of the sophists, etc. To truly appreciate this author, read in ...more
Nov 04, 2009 Charles marked it as to-read
This book is tiny.
Apr 13, 2012 Jenn rated it liked it
Recommended to Jenn by: OLGC Library
He had some really insightful and thoughtful things to say about language, communication, reality and truth, and power. What struck me in particular was when he said that if you are not speaking of what is true, what is in accord with reality, then you really aren't communicating at all. And if you are speaking thusly so as to manipulate others into a certain pattern of thought or action, then you aren't respecting the dignity of that person.

These are great insights that I think everyone should
Jan 26, 2015 Gyoza rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, philosophy
Two thought-provoking essays on how using language to manipulate others rather than to communicate truth amounts to nothing less than a denial of the other person's humanity and status as your equal, and how perversion of language can be used by the unscrupulous to gain power over others. Pieper discusses how well established this idea is--it's in Plato, Aristotle, and the early Church fathers, and how it has been pushed aside, not only in totalitarian states, but even in our modern, pragmatic s ...more
Apr 01, 2014 Steve rated it liked it
'One of the great Catholic philosophers of our day reflects on the way language has been abused so that, instead of being a means of communicating the truth and entering more deeply into it, and of the acquisition of wisdom, it is being used to control people and manipulate them to achieve practical end.'
Miss Clark
Pieper's arguments against sophistry and his attempt to demonstrate how language is our means of both naming our reality and communicating with others was well-written, with some very keen insights, but not as persuasive as a more in-depth work may have been.

Recommended for anyone interested in language and its relation to societies throughout history.
Mar 29, 2008 Erik rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent introduction to Josef Pieper, with some great insights on academic freedom, true human freedom, the (mis)use of language for an end, and the innate human desire to Truth. Also, it is short (can be read in an evening), well-written and well-translated from the German.
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Josef Pieper was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster/Germany; he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.

Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of c
More about Josef Pieper...

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“Public discourse, the moment it becomes basically neutralized with regard to a strict standard of truth, stands by its nature ready to serve as an instrument in the hands of any ruler to pursue all kinds of power schemes.” 0 likes
“This lesson, in a nutshell, says: the abuse of political power is fundamentally connected with the sophistic abuse of the word, indeed finds in it the fertile soil in which to hide and grow and get ready, so much so that the latent potential of the totalitarian poison can be ascertained, as it were, by observing the symptom of the public abuse of language. The degradation, too, of man through man, alarmingly evident in the acts of physical violence committed by all tyrannies (concentration camps, torture), has its beginning, certainly much less alarmingly, at that almost imperceptible moment when the word loses its dignity.” 0 likes
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