All spoken and written languages - current or extinct - have things they express poorly or can't express at all. Art can be used to fill in the gaps of the inexpressible. How many languages would a person need to know to express everything, and by being able to express everything, would they be more capable or less capable of art?

But are there thoughts that language cannot express? I know many peoplewrite as if there were many thoughts, many valuable ones too, thatsimply can't be put into words. But are there any? Can anyone give mean example? Of course, many things can't be put into words — the cup ofcoffee I had this morning can't be (though the thought that I drank itcan). But is such an inability on language's part a failure to express something?

Can a question be a question without an answer?

Confession: I badly wanted to leave your question without an answer (hence making it not a question?)! Butit was too good a question. Or two good questions: (1) could there bequestions to which there are no answers? And (2) could there bequestions which have answers which we will never know? Ifyouthink that it makes sense to say that reality isn't always determinate,isn't always a particular way, then the answer to (1) would be Yes.There are some questions in mathematics, for instance, to which some(but not all)mathematicians believe there is no correct answer; the ContinuumHypothesis is a famous example. Some (but not all) physicists hold thatsomefeatures of the physical world are indeterminate as well, for instancethat there simply is no right answer to the question of what preciselyaparticle's position and velocity are at a particular moment. On theother hand, if you believe that if a question is fully meaningful, thenthe relevant reality it concerns must settle the matter one way or...

A friend and I were debating recently the proper classification of the word "nearly" in the following sentence: "I was studying until nearly dawn." We both thought it was an adverb modifying "until," which was modifying "studying." But he was more convinced than I was, and I'm still not sure. Rearranging the syntax makes the word's adverbial qualities more clear, but it also changes the meaning of the sentence (if only subtly). Could somebody clarify exactly what the word is doing in the sentence above?

To my ear, your sentence means "I was studying almost until dawn". So Itake "nearly" to be an adverb that modifies the adjectival phrase"until dawn", to create a new adjectival phrase, "nearly until dawn", which in turn applies to your studying. Thus, I take thesentence to be structurally parallel to "I was running very fast",where "fast" plays the role of "until dawn" and "very" that of "nearly".

What are the limits of language in determining the truth of things? Is Philosophy going to be reduced to equations and answering questions no one cares about? Thanks for your time, Frank

Often when people talk about the "limits of language" they have in mindthe claim that there are some truths that cannot be articulated intheir language, or perhaps even in any language at all. There aretruths, some contend, that transcend the expressive capacity of some,or even of all, languages. This is a hotly contested claim. I am notsympathetic to it. If you claimed to have got hold of such aninexpressible truth, how would I know? You certainly couldn't convey itto me (if you could, it wouldn't be inexpressible). It seems like the world would look just the same whether youhad actually got hold of such a truth or whether you were under themistaken belief that you had. And that shakes my confidence that I evenknow what's being claimed when you say you have got hold of aninexpressible truth. Imagine that a friend of yours tells you that hehas a parrot on his shoulder with the special property of beingcompletely and forever undetectable. How would you respond to such aclaim? Two rather recent books that...