Jul 20 • 59M

The Problem With Language | Ray Ison

How language frames reality

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Rachel Donald
Planet: Critical is the podcast for a world in crisis. We face severe climate, energy, economic and political breakdown. Journalist Rachel Donald interviews those confronting the crisis, revealing what's really going on—and what needs to be done.
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“We are too seduced by the ideas of certainty and objectivity. What Covid showed, but certainly what climate change demonstrates to us is that no nation in the world understands what has to be done, really. We are learning our way into a future, which has never existed before. And to use our understandings and our institutional arrangements that we invented for a world that we no longer inhabit is a rather foolish thing to do in my view.”


What to do when words get in the way?

We see the world through language, reality shaped by the words we use to signify concepts, systems, relationships and even knowledge. This surreal layer over the world then becomes more true to us than reality itself, shaping desire, hatred, ideology and conviction. Yet, we have evolved with language, we need it to make sense of the experience of being human. So, how do we reimagine our relationship to language so it may reveal the real instead of hide it?

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This is what Ray Ison and I discuss in today’s wonderful episode. Ray is a Professor in Systems at the Open University who has been investigating systems and language for decades. We discuss relational dynamics, metaphor theory, knowledge creation, governance, meaning and obfuscation. Ray also explains other forms of signification and communication being explored in the systems community, and how we can participate with language to deframe the world as we see it and reveal its true complexities.

© Rachel Donald

Planet: Critical investigates why the world is in crisis—and what to do about it. Support the project with a paid subscription.