Language as the Essence of Conflict

(Pictured Above: A litany of cheeses for sale to temporarily distract us from the inevitability of death).


Conflict is the most unpleasant of occurrences when it takes the form of relationship disintegration between two people. It leads to the loss of affection, long term bonds and unconditional love. Therefore, it’s worth hypothesizing what the root of conflict itself is.

My argument is that conflict arises from meaningless misapprehensions of misunderstood and misapplied words and language.

The following is a short argument I constructed in support of the conclusion that all conflict arises from language. I assume the position of many previous philosophers of language that it (language, words) is generally lacking in the ability to address complex problems. Many words used in conflict (politics, for instance) have no intrinsic or agreed upon social meaning (we could take the word “Honor” as an example”).

With this in mind, the presumption that we can and should use or expect the English language, or any other, to adequately solve human relationship problems, is flawed. In point of fact, language is the original and on-going cause of conflict.


  1. Words are the elements of thoughts.

  2. Ideas (collections of thoughts) are constructed with language (the collective interrelationship of words in a single communication system, i.e. English).

  3. Understanding the nature of language (its limitations), what can and cannot be said, is the fundamental basis for all pragmatic thought. It is also the basis for judging the truthfulness of thoughts (which are constructs of language).

  4. If reactivity is the enemy of serenity, and language is the veil under which all thoughts and actions emerge … reactions (and reactivity) are the misapprehension of language itself.

  5. Language is deceptive and constructs conflict. It does not reflect the ideas we initially possess, which seldom survive the journey between inception, transmission and reception.

  6. More often than not, then, disagreements are the result of inaccurate transmissions of thought via the transport of language and words.


What does this mean??

This sort of argument is by no means new. Wittgenstein makes a similar one (much more protracted, detailed and finished) in his book “Tractatus Logicus-Philosophicus”. He uses a point by point format to show that language is flawed and can’t explain much.

It’s a short way of saying, in proof format, that I believe we never truly articulate “thoughts”. I can’t really articulate what these “thoughts” are – they are primordial in nature and mainly made up of subconscious (unwanted) sensations.

We are conditioned to take these packaged sensations turned “thought” into systemic things we call “language” – which take the form of words (even before we speak them, they take their form in the mind).

By the time we finally utter them (the time it takes from the initial sensation to thought to language to word to spoken uttered comment can be seconds), our communicated thoughts often have no intrinsic meaning. Usually this is benign – but, taken seriously, it is also the underpinning of conflict in all its forms.

Just a thought.

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