I Am Right, You Are Wrong by Edward De Bono

I Am Right, You Are Wrong by Edward De Bono

Author:Edward De Bono
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780241336892
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Published: 2017-07-07T04:00:00+00:00


As an exercise I sometimes ask youngsters to put down the consequences they foresee if dogs could be taught to talk. They foresee that dogs could then work and might be enslaved by their masters to work for them. They foresee tittle-tattle about the dogs’ owners and problems with secrecy, ‘doggy rights’ movements and a demand for a political vote. One even foresaw a dog going to a doggy restaurant and asking for a ‘people bag’ to take the remnants home.

In the minds of the youngsters the ability to talk would virtually turn the dogs into a new class of people. There is the underlying assumption that talking without any thinking would be no different from teaching a parrot to talk, so that in posing the question I must have meant more than this – which I did.

There is mathematics, there are computers and there are pictures, but the bulk of our communicated thinking is done with language. I do not believe that language is essential for thinking, though it may be for extended thinking. But in society the communication of thinking is through language. Culturally language has come to dominate our thinking – and this is a grave defect. Language is a communicating system, and not a thinking system. Thinking and communication are quite different, and we run into serious trouble when we confuse the two. I believe it was Wittgenstein who said that the function of philosophers has always been to protect the truth against language.

Language is marvellous as a describing system but that does not mean it is excellent as a thinking or even a perceiving system. When you come across a beautiful stained glass window in a medieval church in France do you look ‘at’ the window or ‘through’ the window at the meadow outside? Most people would look at the window rather than through it. One of the basic problems with language is the divide between those who treat words as windows through which we look at the world and those who treat words as important and defined symbols in their own right.

All thinkers have envied the neat constructed systems of mathematics. Take a steel ball two feet above a table. You release the ball. How long does it take the ball to hit the table? A mathematician says: let x represent the height of the ball above the table, y the acceleraton of gravity and v the initial velocity. So v is zero, since the ball starts at rest; x is two feet, since we were told this; and y is an acceleration of thirty-two feet per second every second (we know this to be the acceleration of gravity). We plug all these values into a known formula and get the answer. Why cannot language be like this?

Philosophers have always yearned to treat language as a strong symbolic system where each word has a constructed meaning which allows no deviation. They have often believed they have succeeded. They have often acted as though language


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