Are words inadequate to describe human experience?

Asked by: MasturDbtor
  • Words cannot explain emotion.

    Have you ever had an experience that words just could not describe? Perhaps you have the words to express a glimpse of what you are experiencing but are unable to describe the full extent of what you have been through. Sometimes there are no words that can describe what needs to be said. This is why there are not adequate words to describe the human experience. Regardless of how eloquent one speaks, it is impossible to explain some things in a way that others will understand.

  • I don't like to call words 'inadequate' because they've been doing such an outstanding job for so long,

    But yes, that is why we have other means of expression, alone they do not capture everything.

    Language is such a phenomenal development in our collective history, our cognitive abilities, and the language which emerges from that, is one of the things which most notably distinguishes us from other species and I should not like to denigrate it.

    Having said that, I am positioning myself in the 'yes' camp because I do often feel that words can only get us so far, that's why we have music, painting, sculpting, dancing, touching, gesturing, screaming, crying, laughing, numbers, codes and so on.

    The human experience, in my experience and opinion, goes beyond words. I think this because as someone who was raised in three languages (although I am now rusty in two of them, as English has decided to take the biggest room for itself in my head, lol!), I have felt those limits and boundaries in a very real sense. I have felt the frustration, as I'm certain so many others have, of sending concepts/ideas/thoughts out into the world, in clothes that were either far too tight, or simply too loose, clothes which could not possibly contain all that I meant. Obviously, I realise that it can be argued that this is just a lack of linguistic resourcefulness on my part and that, with a bit more talent, or a few more IQ points, I may have been able to convey my exact meaning but I still think there's always the potential for a leak in meaning, always the potential for misinterpretation and mistranslation in communication.

    I think it's important to accept that there are many kinds of minds in this crazy beautiful world of ours, some of them experience the world more profoundly and accurately in pictures (for an example, see the link to the TED video), some think better and faster in numbers, others are fluent in music, whilst others may find their expression at its most true and genuine through movement.

    Also, (I just thought of something else) when we meditate, for instance, we do try to go beyond words and it becomes possible to reach new echelons of abstraction which remain inaccessible when we are busy tangled up in words... That might be an example some of you can relate to.

    Anyway, if anyone's interested in how words we hear and words we speak shape the way we think, how our mother tongue dictates what we will be paying attention to and what we will be neglecting, how we orient ourselves and much more, there's a couple of articles you might like to take a peek at:




  • This question itself is hard to answer.

    This is such a broad question, and one that's not easy to find a definite answer for. Overall, the answer is yes. It can be hard to put something into words. It is usually impossible to tell whether someone is really and truly experiencing the exact same thing that you are.

  • Yes, they are.

    Words can be inadequate to describe the human experience. No matter how you word something, or do your best to describe it the words will never do justice to the actual experience. Some things in life need to be lived out and felt on there own and not described to understand it.

  • Some things just can not be put into words

    There are things which I experience, that I observe, things like happiness that I know but which can not be put into words. For a long time in my life whenever I had a problem I tried to explain it to myself in words, obsessively even and it put me in a confused state of endless depression and anxiety. When I finally allowed myself to come to solutions without having to put them in a verbal format then I got over it. I got into the routine of trying to put every problem I had, every response/fix to problems in words because people are always asking "why", or "how" about everything. Sometimes there are problems that are best solved by not coming up with reasons for why they happened and just moving on with your life. Trying to put every single experience good or bad into words will just trap you in a verbal prison.

  • Not at all.

    The human experience can be summed up as "I am." These two simple words describe everything. I could do one better and sum up my life as "Yes." The limit here is not in the words or the language because language is simple the static expression of fluid thought and feeling. Words mean what WE decide they mean. (This applies to racial slurs as well as every day words, there is NOTHING wrong with any given word. It's just a word. The people who put something negative behind it are to blame and it's incredibly likely that in a few generations, it will mean something else entirely.) The flaw is in perception and reception - we take things at face value and cannot move behind the obvious, commonly accepted definition of the word, regardless of the meaning conveyed in its utterance.

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fractaldreams says2013-06-28T10:45:43.787
Extremely interesting topic :)