Book Review: The Tyranny of Words, 5 University of Chicago Law Review 702 (1938)
Here in "his most important book" (so the jacket informs us) a tired reformer finds new magic. Korzybski, Ogden and Richards, Bridgman, Hogben, Frank, Arnold, Robinson and others too numerous to mention have introduced Mr. Chase to the "science" of semantics. His theses, borrowed from so many sources and offered without pretense of originality, are oversimple, obvious, old, inadequate, often superficial, sometimes contradictory, and somewhat useful.
Failure of communication is Mr. Chase's devil; his heaven, the sweet reasonableness into which men relapse when communication breaks through. "The world outside has a natural pattern, order, structure." So does our nervous system. But "language has not been reared to correspond to" these structures. It "has grown on a more devious pattern." Two "besetting sins" dominate our use of language. "One is the identification of words with things. The other is the misuse of abstract words." "Hot," "cold," "good," "bad," "capitalism," "communism," "fascism," "interstate commerce" and "due process" are treated like objects; "unwarranted identifications and high order abstractions run riot." Men talk, argue, and fight without knowing what they are talking, arguing, or fighting about.
Date of Authorship for this Version
McDougal, Myres S., "The Tyranny of Words" (1938). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 2497.