I was never very good at philosophy, especially its modern version which I had chosen to study at Oxford as part of the two-year “Greats” (classics) degree course.
But although I found it hard, sometimes impossible, to follow what clever men such as AJ Ayer were saying, I think I did gain the useful habit, particularly for a journalist, of questioning what people mean when they say certain things.
It is particularly helpful today when so many of our problems are caused by the careless way in which words are used.
Take, for example, the widespread use of the word “victim” in the never-ending coverage of sex abuse. Ever since the topic was raised long ago by pioneers like Esther Rantzen, the assumption was made that if a child brought a charge of abuse then he or she must be telling the truth. The same principle came to be applied to adults.
Incredible as it may seem to anyone brought up to believe that a person is innocent until proved guilty, this principle has been adopted by the police currently investigating abuse.
Hence the emergence of the word “victim” now universally used to categorise not an actual victim but someone who claims to be a victim.
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