Some academics would like to produce a permanent verifiable truth, like propositions which contain only factual meaningful speech, a physicalistic language as it were. Languages are part of an evolving conceptual organic event which grew with the evolution of Homo sapiens – grammar isn’t foist on the structure – it is internalized in the living growing language that is ever-changing. It’s an important sub-event to humans in the whole ongoing evolution. (For example, see, The Unfolding of Language, G Deutscher or The Language Instinct, S Pinker).
In the past, some philosophers such as C S Peirce have claimed that reason was reliant on language, and therefore real truth lied beyond everyday grasp. Possibly truth was in the hands of word-masters–the word philosopher kings as it were. People who have these designs on language, are often Platonists, sometimes they are also Cartesians.
Ludwig Wittgenstein’s claim that the root of most philosophic misunderstandings is language itself, was about as silly as academic philosophy ever gets, trading real philosopic challanges for solving verbal problems; nonsense. The root of most disagreements in philosophy are ideas, and ideas expressed vaguely, precisely or somewhere in between, where the gap of difference is earthshaking doesn’t come down to language alone but also specifically to significance. For instance, whether there is a supernatural order or not? Whether reason is superior to other forms of comprehension or not? Whether Descartes was fundamentally platonic or not? Whether Platonic and Aristotelian views are in the main opposites or not? Whether Continental Philosophy and the Analytic Movement have any respect for reason left whatsoever? Whether philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language or not? Whether what we see and the really-real are ever in agreement or not?
Language is not a spyglass to see the really real. It is a tool of greater reasoning like logic, deduction, induction, mathematics, science, self-criticism, intutition pumps, affect theory and so forth. The brain runs an expensive simulation application from its sensory inputs, so doubt, scepticism, falsifiability, double-blind lab-work and open-spirited science is in constant need. Discreet commonsense can see that we shouldn’t rule over thought through language. If thoughts could be restricted to a new straight-jacket language-therapy, we see quite plainly that preciseness like this, is produced by the soul of a half-wit. Continental philosophers can call Ryle and Dennett -- although I did refer to him as Santa Claus in I Am Paleo Man -- all the names they want. We’re no machines, and no ghost resides there, only human consciousness and the self of a complicated living organism. If you’re a philosopher writing about language and obfuscate so much that no one but other philosophers who agree with you could understand it, then how can we take it seriously? General truths can often hold out over time. Philosophical communication, as any other kind of language, must be of poetry, prose, metaphor and symbol. Sometimes it will be a folly paraded as a noble idea, and often it will be a fraud, only once in a long while will it ever be a truth, but truth is there; it’s just sometimes hard to find.
Despite Noam Chomsky, without the ideas of semantics, analyticity, semiosis and syntax ever existing, language would be exactly the same as it has always been as an organic self-adjusting and living event. Of course there is a component of the theory of universal grammar that appears not to be falsifiable although it certainly seems to me that children learn to speak by themselves so that Chomsky's insight is valid. Philosophically dissecting languages add to our knowledge, I don't disagreed with that, but there are 600,000 words in the English language with 25,000 more a year. Rules of grammar have a logic in organic mind ingrained into the mammoth ongoing evolving event of life. Upright posture in humans occurred a million years or so before we talked, likely freeing our hands for more and more sophisicated gesturing and signalling. It is certainly plausible that we have a genetically-based instinctive structural apparatus of language, (or perhaps not: see V Evan's article on Real Talk). It is also likely that like our sensory input registers, the brain still operates as an up-front blank-state with a back-loaded design, (Chomsky's innate universal grammar). This is probably automatically activated with the proliferation of proper incoming human syntactical sounds in the same way that incoming sensory data is organized in a common human pattern or formation given a proper human development. This is, all in all, a subpart of the structure of the brain.
Why this seems a reasonable explanation for the physical brain, and is on the other hand, completely inadequate for the theory of mind, is quite plain. If mind is somewhat analogous with personality, the problem with physical cognitive structure is at once apparent. Having an actual spacial situation in the brain for mind is trying to make a thing clear in a very muddy water, probably an ideological attempt to dismantle the metaphysics of mind by philosophers affecting to be scientists but who are really Platonists practicing scientism. Mind is a theory based on brain and consciousness (which in turn is identified as self, I, ego, soul etcetera). It is an entity reflecting on itself – no magic, no hidden mystery exists in this – only a psychic phenomena that is varied, complex and difficult to critique. Human consciousness is too vast for the brain to comprehend all the working parts at the same time. So mind, this subjective illusive self-created enterprise produces folk legend about itself, that is, the idea of spiritual immortality and paranormal psychology, both myths of the social mind.
The teacher claimed it was so plain,
I only had to use my brain
She said the past of throw was threw.
The past of grow -of course- was grew,
So flew must be the past of fly,
And now, my boy, your turn to try.
But when I trew,
I had no clue, if mow was mew -
Like know and knew
Or was it knowed
Like snow and snowed
The teacher frowned at me and said
The past of feed was - plainly - fed.
Fed up, I knew then what I ned:
I took a break, and out I snoke.
She shook and quook (or quaked or quoke?)
With raging anger out she broke:
"Your ignorance you want to hide?
Tell me the past form of collide!"
But how on earth should I decide
If it's collid (Like hide and hid)
Or else - from all that I surmose,
The past of rise was simple rose,
And that of ride was surely rode
So of collide must be collode?
Oh damn these English verbs, I thought
The whole thing absolutely stought !
Of English I have had enough.
These verbs of yours are far too tough.
Bolt upright in my chair I sat,
And said to her "That's that. I quat!".
Quoted in The Unfolding of Language. See also, Through the Language Glass.
© 2021 - E. A. St. Amant