One academic says to another, “We are language animals, as the Greeks taught us”. The reductionist counters, “not all thinking thought has language as its incipit wellspring.” Pointing to exceptions shouldn’t discredit the L.A. theorem, only clarify our speaking and the thinking that should precede it.
I was dipping a chip in some seven-layer-dip. Crack. The chip snapped. Crap! A poignant feeling of frustration and disappointment for losing, what should have been, a momentous chip-dip union. No words crossed my mind at any point during this feeding frenzy. Articulating this experience is well within the skills set of my inner language animal. What is that moment? The point in which the instinct for articulation surfaces in our stream of consciousness. I am not certain whether William James considered this perspective in his Pragmatism. We don’t think in language, although we do have an innate language ability, we articulate thought through language. Emotions are the de facto example of “felt” experience, sadness isn’t thought of in prose or poetry, anger doesn’t bubble up in a moral outrage. Language aids in the translation of thought and emotion, giving forme to abstractions and the absolute.
Differentiation is the key to the next point, we are different than other mammals because we have language. Well this pulls me back the other way, (if only for a millisecond) because language can be thought of as information, and many species communicate information (ants and bees for example), an apparent contradiction needs to be reconciled. Unique to humanity is the cumulative and viral nature of our information accumulations. Combine the efficiency of information with rapid acceleration in technology and the result is the current stage of modernity. Even better, we are aware of this accumulation of information, we call it knowledge! Does it really matter? The rubric we call life is obviously deterministic if our starting point is birth and the next data point is death. Once born we all die (at least for the time Being). So is the deterministic law of the land. When we go deeper, defining time, not by a lifetime but by felt experience, determinism yields to randomness, our minds function as a pattern seeking marvel. Evolution gave us this innate ability, a depth perception of past, present and futurity. The points of propagation are abstractly articulated in a timeline akin to kin bias. Eat, sleep, repeat with the varying opportunities for reproduction. Making sense of the world through perceptions, the cumulative nature of human knowledge structures require strong foundations to evolve and flourish, becoming apparent when we frame the cognition in our familiar frequency. Utilizing a time scale is effective for the mapping of consciousness. More on the relationship between time and Being is discussed in Chapter 8. Moment-to-moment experiences are phenomenological, experiential and physiological. Reason requires patterns, a string of some relational data and runs counterpoint to the cadence of language. When we reason, the validity of the language animal perspective takes forme. Storytelling, fictions and fantasies are only reproducible because of language. More must be said about the influence of time in our cognition. Consider an atom. We can’t experience an atom any more than we can feel infinity, yet we can imagine both. Are we the only living creature aware of futurity? Some animals go away to die. Is this instinct or a consciousness we don’t yet fully understand? I am reminded of labeling “instinct” as a catchall for alternative thoughts of futurity not experienced. The discussion shouldn’t be a rejection of anthropomorphism or pure instinct. René Descartes vanquished animals to the mechanistic. By doing so he isolates humanity and marginalizes the beastial. Futile identity Polis silencing the voices of animals. Domesticated and dominated.