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Grand Theories and Everyday BeliefsScience, Philosophy, and their Histories$
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Wallace Matson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.001.0001

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(p.30) Chapter 3 Language
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Wallace Matson

Oxford University Press

A natural vocable, such as a warning cry, causes the recipient to imagine the situation encountered by the utterer and to react suitably. But a true language requires arbitrary symbols, syntax, and semantics from which new sentences can be formed. This achievement opens up a new way of forming beliefs: by being told, enormously increasing the scope of beliefs. Since for this to work the default state of the receiver must be BELIEVE, it opens up the dangers of lies and misinformation also. And stories can be told, apt to ‘escape’ and become legends. People can believe for indefinite lengths of time what has never been rubbed up against reality, and is in fact not true. Language makes possible speech acts, which in turn create institutional facts that largely constitute the structures of human societies.

Keywords:   language origin, speech act, institutional fact, rub up against reality, story, believe, symbol, syntax, sentence

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