In Politics There Is No Nonsense

Nonsense makes us laugh because it strays away from meaning. There must be some meaning to a word, however derived, as there must be something to stray away from. To make no sense is to purposefully misuse words. If words had no meaning, there would be no nonsense.

Habermas’s language pragmatics builds on Searle and Austin to show how words act in the world and how seeking mutual understanding presupposes meaning. We may never have experienced fairness in human communication, for example, but we certainly know its opposite.

Thucydides claimed that Ancient Greece fell because ‘words lost their meanings.’ The same calamity befell the Tower of Babel and our own postmodern world. Nowadays, words are so distorted by money and power - there is so much advertising, spin, silly legal signs, ridiculous bureaucracy, bullshit, bluster, managerial jargon, post-structural incantation, filler, waffle and downright lies - it is no longer possible to make no sense whatsoever. This is a profound and tragic loss to human hilarity. It is also of much help to those who would keep their power forever and conceal its illegitimacy.