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<<Gargoyles as well can type on keyboards and relay thought. Lexington with very little experience in terms of years and could only practice at night, was able to punch a keyboard judging by the "clicking" sound of the keyboard at nearly 129 words per minute, without looking and locate Coldstone in MacBeth's mansion. Quite impressive really.>>
<<Yet his thoughts were in English.>>
No. They were not. Look. Mental concepts (especially highly abstract concepts) do not emerge from language. It works the other way around. Concepts are formed internally. We can use language to describe them but we don't need to. That's the important distinction.
Consider the acquisition of tool use. A tool you have never used before. Lets consider something like a construction crane. You see it's controls. By experimentation you might begin to discern the function of each control. But none of this is the product of some mental narrative. Pretend you've never seen a crane before. Maybe you're an aboriginal who has never seen western devices. Better yet, pretend you're Lexington. You're a gargoyle transplanted from 10th century Scotland into contemporary America. Lexington has never seen a lever. He's never seen a gas pedal or a start button. If you sit him in a crane and point to controls and tell him what each one _is called_ what do you think it would mean to him? Nothing. Simply calling something a gas pedal gives it no context. You have not imparted anything about it's function. Lexington has no concept that these structures in front of him have functional relationships with the larger device. However, if he experiments, he can begin to observe that if he pushes the lever forward, the crane rotates clockwise. If he pulls it backwards, the crane rotates counterclockwise. He can make associations now, and he can begin to detect patterns. He can anticipate that if moving a control in one direction corresponds to one function, then moving it in the other corresponds to the opposite function. This process of observation, association and anticipation is an example of conceptual thinking. In order to understand the crane, he would have needed to think about it in concepts. Not in English.
The corollary to the computer should be clear. Lexington simply could not have considered the novelty of the computer in words. He would have no words to describe it's properties, it's function or it's nature. If you were transplanted 1000 years into the future and someone handed you a solid metal sphere and told you to use it to write words, how would you contemplate the thing they handed you? It's surface is smooth. No obvious control mechanisms. No obvious surface features of any kind. So how the devil do you write with it? Speculating about it's functionality is a highly conceptual and visual process. If handwriting and typing are both lost arts in 1000 years, then you don't even have words to describe this thing's function.
Think about how Lexington would actually interpret a computer. You have a conceptual understanding of what a keyboard is, but Lexington doesn't. He's never seen a typewriter. He's never even seen a printing press. Do you suppose that when Lexington ponders this device, his thinking takes the form of mentally spoken instructions? Instructions to do what? To type? He has no concept of typing. He would be as mystified by this thing as you would be by the sphere.
However, if he can observe the device in use, and if he can experiment with it, then just as with the crane, he can begin to infer the functional relationships of the keys. He can form a mental picture of how this device works. At that point, he's certainly free to attribute words to the concepts if he want's to communicate them to someone else, but he doesn't need to. His ability to think about the device is not contingent upon his ability to describe those thoughts linguistically.
Proponents of the idea that thought is a purely linguistic process cling to this fantasy that thought is a perpetual little personal narration providing us with instructions. As though a little person were sitting on our shoulder whispering to us. Even if this ridiculous picture of the thought process were verifiable, consider that it would be useless as a medium for thought. Instructions mean nothing without concepts. Even simple concepts.
What about Bronx...
The point of my original thesis on sentience was that it is frequently treated in an uncritical and mentally lazy way. It enters popular culture, not as anything analytical, but as an imagined distinction between those we have to respect and those we don't have to treat with any kind of consideration.
So, is the mental world of Bronx (or Cagney) diminished by their not being able to articulate it? It should be evident that the notion their thought hinges upon language is ridiculous. Can we say they are sentient? Can we say they have the ability to observe, make inferences and anticipate? Can we say they are aware?
Of course. It's not just a matter of our having significant evidence for the ability of non-humans to have this type of mental experience. It's profoundly unreasonable to maintain that they are not aware and intelligent when we consider the emergence of intelligence in pre-history. It's often supposed that these mental abilities just suddenly appeared in homo sapiens, as if by magic, once we passed a certain threshold in our evolution. Nothing compels this feature to emerge, according to popular mythology. It just shows up unannounced. And it renders homo sapiens capable of language and tool use in a single second of evolutionary history.
Now, evolutionary psychologists have realized for a long time, that this picture of the development of intelligence was as silly as they come. Highly ordered structures like awareness and intellect don't just appear all at once. They emerge over time from more primitive systems. Intelligence evolved under the pressures that all species face in nature.
Awareness and thought did not emerge from nature as a means to get us into college or to allow us to write resumes. They emerged as a means to avoid large predators and distinguish things we can eat from things that can eat us. Living beings need to be able to distinguish between these two things in order to survive. The ability to contemplate concepts of things in our environment is just the natural product of species adapting to interact beneficially with it. All of our mental abilities are inherited from our earliest ancestors and were developed as an instrument for them to survive. The development of these faculties simply could never have delayed emerging until after we developed language.
If you consider it, you will discover that abstract concepts frequently defy linguistic expression, because our ability to think abstractly developed independently of language. You can't really describe a sophisticated mathematical concept or a work of music in words. They can only be contemplated conceptually. In fact very common things defy linguistic expression. Try this experiment.
Describe the color red.
The reason we cant is because the linguistic structure to describe it does not exist. It didn't emerge because it does not serve to benefit our species survival in any way. Yet you can picture red mentally. Or any number of colors. Doubtlessly, a variety of hues, which you might not even have a name for, exist in your mind. They exist as concepts. Mental pictures. And their inability to be defined linguistically does not diminish them. You can picture red. You can apply it to various forms. You can anticipate what would happen if you mixed it with another color. But you don't need language to do that. The imaginative process, the conceptual process, has nothing to do with language.
<<Eskimos have something like seven words that really just mean "snow". Yet an Eskimo thinks like an Eskimo and can judge the minor differences in the type of snow they see and to them one kind of snow is not "a" snow but a "d" snow and ect.. >>
This anecdote about Eskimo's having such a plurality of words for snow is often referred to in arguments for the dependence of thought on language. I don't know why. It does not appear to lend anything to this position. I guess the idea is that the way Eskimo's think about snow is supposed to be structurally different from the way english speakers think of snow. If they do, then it's not evident that it follows from their having more words for snow. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are at least a dozen words for snow in the english language. Flurry, Slush, Hardpack, Frost, Powder, IceLens, etc. And if we include all the descriptive lexemes that we count when we talk about the Eskimo words for snow, then there are probably dozens more in english.
This really is not an indicator that thought is contingent upon language. I can provide an analogous example though, which begins to demonstrate that thought takes place in the absence of language. Colors end up being a good example again, because they are such a large part of our visual world.
In Swedish, there are probably as many words to describe various colors as there are in English. Possibly more. I know they have a special word for light gray. Linguistic relativists would take the position that the Swedish or English must be thinking about colors in a way that is fundamentally denied to people of other cultures, who do not have all these words for colors.
There are many, such cultures. For instance, the Tiv language of New Guinea, where there are only two words for colors, equivalent to light and dark. A Swedish scientific study done years ago sought to test the theory that thought must be absent where language to describe something is also absent. However, when tested, it became apparent that Tiv speakers were able to recognize as many colors (and with the same facility) as Swedish speakers. This is certainly an indicator that thought exists without the benefit of language.
<<Luckily for us I suppose that as humans we all relatively think alike even with our differing way of thinking.>>
I find some arguments for deep structure very persuasive Vanity, but you treat the concept in a way which is very far removed from those arguments.
<<This allows for learning multiple languages each human no matter his language that language has the ability to "learn" or adapt to the use of another language and that is quite a remarkable thing. Almost too remarkable to be chance. >>
Has this become a prescription for theology now?
Punchinello, I agree with everything you're saying... and yet....
Language, once created, does not then exist in a vacuum. Language itself INFLUENCES thought, influences one's thinking about even the most abstract of concepts -- including Red.
Learning a birth language must wire the brain a certain way. At least out of habit. Not hard-wired of course, but non-survival laziness dictates that a birth language must influence thought. That the learning of a new language (in any depth) must also influence thought.
That introducing new words to a human being may in fact on occasion introduce new concepts not discovered.
In 1984, Orwell posited that the destruction or dissolution of words underlying concepts like "Freedom", etc. would result in a population with less awareness of the concepts themselves. Of course even in that novel, he didn't posit that this was enough to completely WIPE OUT the concept of Freedom. Thus individuals like Smith are intentionally awakened by Ingsoc out of their stupor in order to push them down various roads to "Freedom" while under constant observation. These roads are then cut off -- along with the road-takers -- in order to prevent Freedom from, well, ringing.
Yes, concepts exist independent of language. But language, once created, takes on a life of its own (says the writer -- so take it with a grain of salt). Language has, as I'm sure you'd agree, a power of its own.
I'm not at all sure, but that may be where Vanity was heading.