My first impulse would be to say "nah," but the more I think about it, the more central they are -- beginning with the more general idea that this is not just a logocentric cosmos but a grammatical one, because words are of limited use if they aren't ordered. My dogs, for example, know a few words, but they don't know any sentences.
Now I'm in the wayback machine, remembering when I used to work the graveyard shift in a supermarket. While stocking the shelves I'd listen to an esoteric radio program that was on from midnight to 5:00 AM, that broadcasted lectures by a spectrum of eminent spiritual, psychological, philosophical, and scientific cranks and geniuses. One of my favorites was Terence McKenna, and he used to go on about how the universe was not made of atoms, electrons, or quarks, but of language. It seemed daring and revolutionary at the time, but now strikes me as duh!
Let me see if I can find an exact quote. Speaking of downloading posts, McKenna writes of his own experience, "as though my ordinary, rather humdrum personality had simply been turned off and speaking through me was the voice of another, a voice that was steady, unhesitating, and articulate..."
Indeed, sometimes I understand something only because of a kind of "unhesitating authority" with which I say it. In other words, the authority doesn't come from me. Rather, I myself assent to this authority, whatever or whoever this "Petey" is. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Often you don't know what you really believe until you blurt it out. When you do, it is as if it comes from your center, and vanquishes -- at least temporarily -- all doubt.
[T]he normally invisible syntactical web that holds both language and the world together can condense or change its ontological status and become visible. Indeed, there seems to be a parallel mental dimension in which everything is made of the stuff of visible language... (McKenna).
A syntactical web that holds both language and the world together. Before you ask yourself if there could be such a thing, ask yourself how there couldn't be. Moreover, being that the grammar is universal, "organisms have enfolded" in their structure "a message about the structure of the larger universe" (ibid.).
In a very real sense, this is completely uncontroversial, for if the human intellect can accurately describe the nature of reality, it means that this nature is in us. Animals certainly can't do anything remotely similar. It brings to mind the words of Schuon:
Being total, the intelligence takes cognizance of all that is, in the world of principles [vertically] as well as in that of phenomena [horizontally].... Every man can do so in principle, whereas animals cannot.... To say that man is endowed with a sentiment capable of objectivity means that he possesses a subjectivity not closed in on itself, but open unto others and unto Heaven...
These are such key ideas that we could spend the rest of the post unpacking them. Perhaps the Key of keys, however, is that while all living beings have a subjectivity, ours is not -- or should not be -- closed in on itself. To the extent that is closed, then it is or becomes dead -- either horizontally or vertically.
This is the deeper principle to which "free speech" appeals. Both freedom and language are nothing if they do not converge on something higher, and they cannot do so unless they are open. Which reminds me of some good news I saw at Ace of Spades this morning:
Indeed, if you went to commit cognitive, spiritual, and civilizational suicide, just ignore this important study. In Civilization: The West and the Rest, Ferguson writes of how this befell both Asia and the Islamic world, and not just "in a manner of speaking," but quite literally, for they deliberately chose vertical and horizontal closure.
China, for example, by 1500 "became willfully hostile to other people's innovations," thereby condemning itself to centuries of stagnation and shrinkage. Likewise, so fearful were the Ottomans of opposing points of view that in 1515 Sultan Salim "threatened with death anyone found using the printing press." Ultimately, the willful "failure to reconcile Islam with scientific progress was to prove disastrous."
"Horizontally," writes Schuon, "the Truth concerns the cosmic, hence phenomenal order," while vertically "it concerns the metaphysical, hence principial order." The world is a tapestry -- a vast area rug -- of principles and phenomena. This is true for believer or unbeliever, clued in duddhist or dead-end clueless alike; it's just that the latter either reduces the vertical to horizontal, or elevates the horizontal to vertical. Both approaches generate incoherence and absurdity. Immediately, if you're paying attention.
Put conversely, the only way to pull this off is to not pay attention to what you're doing: to pull the wool over your own eyes, or to pull the rabbit out of your own head. To what, for example, is the leftist appealing by the desire to shut down free speech? Free speech? No, that can't be. Likewise, to what does the left appeal in its objection to a SCOTUS judge who pledges to be constrained by the plain meaning of Constitution? The Constitution? No, can't be either.
Speaking of witch, to what principle does the "democratic socialist" appeal, democracy or socialism? That's easy: "free stuff" (AKA bribery) before the witch has fifty percent, "democracy" afterwards. Then democracy can be deployed to deny and overturn our liberal order, i.e., private property, the rule of law, and unalienable rights.
It has also occurred to me that the free market economy, a la Hayek, is actually a giant information processing system. Everything we need to know about this system is encoded in the price mechanism, which tells us in an instant about supply, demand, scarcity, availability, etc. Therefore, perhaps the biggest reason why we should object to socialism is on free speech grounds, since it absolutely prevents the economy from transmitting accurate information about supply and demand.
Consider the three areas of the economy most distorted by socialist policies: medicine, college, and housing. Why is a house, of all things, so freaking expensive in California? Because the Democratic socialists who run the state will not allow the economy to speak freely about the subject.
Here is the quote I was looking for, but now we're out of time:
I don't believe that the world is made of quarks or electromagnetic waves, or stars, or planets or any of these things. I believe the world is made of language (McKenna).