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Ineffability

Ineffability

[in-ef-uh-buhl]
To say that something is "ineffable" means that it cannot or should not be expressed in spoken words (as with the concept of true love or some taboo). It is generally used to describe a feeling, concept or aspect of existence that is too great to be adequately described in words, or that inherently (due to its nature) cannot be conveyed in dualistic symbolic human language, but can only be known internally by individuals.

Quotations

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." — Ludwig Wittgenstein
"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name." — the Dao De Jing
"What can't be said, can't be said. And it can't be whistled, either." — F. P. Ramsey
"What cannot be spoken in words, but that whereby words are spoken." — Kenopanishad
"We shall grapple with the ineffable, and see if we may not eff it after all." — Douglas Adams in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
"I'm in the business of effing the ineffable." — Alan Watts
"You can't second guess ineffability, I always say." — Aziraphale in Good Omens

Things said to be ineffable

Things said to be essentially incommunicable

Things said to be incommunicable due to incomprehensibility

  • The pre-big bang universe
  • The size of the universe
  • Pre-birth
  • Post-death
  • The concept of Infinity
  • A square with 3 sides or any other illogical proposition

Phrases considered too great to be spoken

References

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