"Language is the armory of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests."
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This remarkable French mathematician has written extensively on what he considers the fundamental spiritual problem of our day, the perversion of language, which he believes is related to the perversion of mathematics, a topic that he explored in an earlier book. In the present work, Upinsky's thesis is simple: Since the days of the Greek philosophers. Western intellectual history has been marked by a clash of two different languages, "true language" and "strong language." True language is the language of the real or—in Upinsky's terminology—of realism, the goal of which is to impart a truthful view of reality. Strong language is the language of nominalism, a language in which words are merely nomina—names or symbols designed to influence belief and behavior.
While the conflict between true and strong language is age-old, in our era strong language is being effectively honed so that its dominance becomes ever more complete. The result is that we who listen have "our heads cut off: That is, we are unable to use them for the purpose to which they were designed—namely, to think. Upinsky's insight is kin to that expressed by George...