Punctuation

David Cowles

Jul 26, 2021

Classical Western languages (e.g. Hebrew, Greek and Latin) for the most part lacked anything we would recognize today as ‘punctuation’. When marks did appear in texts, they were merely to guide actors and orators in their declamations. The same is true of Medieval languages (e.g. Old English, Old French and Old Norse).

Classical Western languages (e.g. Hebrew, Greek and Latin) for the most part lacked anything we would recognize today as ‘punctuation’. When marks did appear in texts, they were merely to guide actors and orators in their declamations. The same is true of Medieval languages (e.g. Old English, Old French and Old Norse).


What we recognize as punctuation today, marks in the service of meaning rather than rhetoric, did not become widespread until the invention of the printing press. Ever since then, punctuation has been the bane of every schoolboy’s and schoolgirl’s existence.


Today, most writing happens on a cell phone or tablet. The typewriter’s single keyboard gives way to the multiple keyboards (screens) characteristic of electronic devices. The inclusion of punctuation marks in a text is no longer a seamless process; it requires the writer to switch screens which is inconvenient and time consuming. I predict that in a generation or two our written language will revert to the punctuation poor style of the ancients.

The intrinsic value of every being lies in its potential to enter into an I – Thou (or Thou – Thou) relationship. The extrinsic value of every being lies in the actual Thou – Thou relationships it enters into.


It is not obvious that beings in a cosmos would automatically have the potential to form Thou – Thou relationships. Such relationships are only possible in the context of transcendence and eternal values are only possible in the context of such relationships.


Thomas Aquinas offered 5 proofs for the existence of God (transcendence). The only one that is still of interest to modern philosophers is the fourth, a proof based on the existence of values in the world. Aquinas was on to something!

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