“ 23And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes:
28Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.
30And he said unto him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
31And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.
32And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
33And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.”
Genesis 18, 23 to 33.
Abraham’s conversation with God can be seen as a model for the function of language.
As long as there are some people around telling the truth, using the brains God gave them, it remains worth while to sort the liars from the truthful, even when the liars are in a vast majority.
What happens, however, when almost no one is telling the truth, when all one can hear are clearly deliberately false statements? The famous healthcare bill has nothing to do with healthcare, which trundles on as before; it is an insurance bill, forcing every one to buy insurance, and already preparing to seize their tax rebates to pay their fines if they have no money to buy it. Afghans are not helped by sending in Blackwater to kill off as many Afghans as possible; the claim is absurd.
The answer, as suggested by Abraham’s conversation with God, is that as long as some truth tellers can be heard, language still has a raison d’etre; there is still some purpose to sorting out the liars. In the passage from the Christian bible above, ten is suggested as the minimum number; in other versions, it goes all the way down to one. What happens if there is not even one? Language itself becomes pointless. There is no reason left to listen or to speak.