Getting Beneath Language

So what's really going on?

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Luke
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by Luke » Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:03 am

[quote=creativesoul]Well, for starters - seeing how this is a metaphysics forum, there is also everything that those things are existentially contingent upon.

Agreed?[/quote]
I've already suggested that language is "existentially contingent upon" language users and all of our purposes for using language. You've subsequently said that language is "existentially contingent upon" more than this. Can you please offer an example of what more there is?

creativesoul
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by creativesoul » Sun Aug 07, 2016 6:13 pm

creative wrote: Well, for starters - seeing how this is a metaphysics forum, there is also everything that those things are existentially contingent upon.

Agreed?
Luke replied

I've already suggested that language is "existentially contingent upon" language users and all of our purposes for using language. You've subsequently said that language is "existentially contingent upon" more than this. Can you please offer an example of what more there is?
Language use and it's purposes involve/require much more than just the words "language use and it's purposes". So in the same way that calculus is existentially contingent upon more than just math users and their purposes to measure acceleration/deceleration, so too is language existentially contingent upon more than just language users and their purposes. Besides that - language cannot be rightfully said to be existentially contingent upon language users, unless they emerge onto the world stage simultaneously.

The method I've been employing is one of deconstructing language by virtue of critically analyzing it's individual elementary constituents, which when combined, constitute being a case of language. None of those elements are sufficient for language in and of themselves(without the others), however some of them can and do constitute being something else prior to language - prior to our naming. Thought/belief being one example. Physiological sensory perception being another.

Luke
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by Luke » Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:59 am

creativesoul wrote:Language use and it's purposes involve/require much more than just the words "language use and it's purposes". So in the same way that calculus is existentially contingent upon more than just math users and their purposes to measure acceleration/deceleration, so too is language existentially contingent upon more than just language users and their purposes.
I don't find your analogy helpful, and I disagree that calculus is existentially contingent upon more than math users and their purposes. This just recycles the same problematic assumption that there must be something "deeper," below the surface of language and its use. I note that you have been unable to provide any support for this assumption - except to say that this is a metaphysics forum, but that's no justification.
creativesoul wrote:Besides that - language cannot be rightfully said to be existentially contingent upon language users, unless they emerge onto the world stage simultaneously.
They do emerge simultaneously - you can't have language without language users and vice versa.
creativesoul wrote:The method I've been employing is one of deconstructing language by virtue of critically analyzing it's individual elementary constituents, which when combined, constitute being a case of language.
This assumes that individual words stand alone and have meaning independently of other words and ourselves, and that language is formed by adding all of these stand-alone, independent words together. That's not the case.
creativesoul wrote:None of those elements are sufficient for language in and of themselves(without the others), however some of them can and do constitute being something else prior to language - prior to our naming. Thought/belief being one example. Physiological sensory perception being another.
I'm not sure what you mean by "something else" here. What else are they prior to language? Do you mean something that is not thought/belief or physiological sensory perception?

gurugeorge
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by gurugeorge » Wed Aug 10, 2016 10:17 am

For a long time I thought of language in a later-Wittgensteinian sense, as chess-like use of symbols/sounds/bits etc., according to rules, to do things.

Now, I'm more in the old-fashioned frame of thinking of language as an expression of thought.

Formerly, that idea seemed to be countered by Wittgenstein's arguments, but I think if you have a Direct Realist metaphysics, and think of concepts as an open-ended filing system, you get around the problem that different psychological associations may be happening in different peoples' heads when they use the same words, because the referents can actually be the same if we're all facing the same reality (we all severally put the same particulars in the mental file, which is tagged first with a random symbol and later - when there are lots of such files in our minds - a filing label, the definition).

Also, it seems to me that we (along with the more intelligent animals, such as apes and corvids) can think without words at a basic level, from perception to pre-conceptual, to basic conceptual. Part of the mental machinery may be evolved and only semi-conscious, but functional, and that's all we need as a foundation to get started (for we can constantly check whatever any mental fairy castles we may conceive predict, against perceptual reality). I remember dimly as a child, noticing similarities and differences between things, long before I had words for them. Likewise as an adult, we can perceive subtle distinctions that have no words (e.g. recurring and recognizable sensuous qualities of extraordinary subtlety during sex, particular kinds of natural aspects and familiar looks to things), but can be alluded to in poetry.

creativesoul
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by creativesoul » Thu Aug 11, 2016 8:33 am

creative:

Language use and it's purposes involve/require much more than just the words "language use and it's purposes". So in the same way that calculus is existentially contingent upon more than just math users and their purposes to measure acceleration/deceleration, so too is language existentially contingent upon more than just language users and their purposes.
Luke:

I don't find your analogy helpful, and I disagree that calculus is existentially contingent upon more than math users and their purposes. This just recycles the same problematic assumption that there must be something "deeper," below the surface of language and its use. I note that you have been unable to provide any support for this assumption - except to say that this is a metaphysics forum, but that's no justification.
Calculus requires arithmetic. Arithmetic requires numbers. Numbers require quantities. Quantities do not require being named. Quantities are beneath calculus. I find it quite misleading to talk about something being 'deeper beneath the surface' of language. Language isn't the sort of thing that has a surface.

You could easily read the entire thread to see supporting arguments and/or delineation of what I'm arguing.




creative:Besides that - language cannot be rightfully said to be existentially contingent upon language users, unless they emerge onto the world stage simultaneously.
Luke:

They do emerge simultaneously - you can't have language without language users and vice versa.
Of course, however you can have people who have yet to have created and/or used language. You can also have that which has yet to have become a symbol, that which has yet to have become the symbolized, and an agent capable of drawing a connection, association, and/or correlation between those things. These are the kinds of things that can be said to be beneath language. If that doesn't count, nothing will.


creative:The method I've been employing is one of deconstructing language by virtue of critically analyzing it's individual elementary constituents, which when combined, constitute being a case of language.
Luke:

This assumes that individual words stand alone and have meaning independently of other words and ourselves, and that language is formed by adding all of these stand-alone, independent words together. That's not the case.
No, it doesn't. In fact, I would and have argued against that notion.



creative:None of those elements are sufficient for language in and of themselves(without the others), however some of them can and do constitute being something else prior to language - prior to our naming. Thought/belief being one example. Physiological sensory perception being another.
Luke:

I'm not sure what you mean by "something else" here. What else are they prior to language? Do you mean something that is not thought/belief or physiological sensory perception?
Something other than language constructs. I mean something that is existentially prior to language creation and/or usage.

creativesoul
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by creativesoul » Fri Aug 12, 2016 4:36 am

gurugeorge wrote:For a long time I thought of language in a later-Wittgensteinian sense, as chess-like use of symbols/sounds/bits etc., according to rules, to do things.

Now, I'm more in the old-fashioned frame of thinking of language as an expression of thought.
Seems to me that those are not mutually exclusive options. On my view, it's both depending upon the context of the utterance.

Formerly, that idea seemed to be countered by Wittgenstein's arguments, but I think if you have a Direct Realist metaphysics, and think of concepts as an open-ended filing system, you get around the problem that different psychological associations may be happening in different peoples' heads when they use the same words, because the referents can actually be the same if we're all facing the same reality (we all severally put the same particulars in the mental file, which is tagged first with a random symbol and later - when there are lots of such files in our minds - a filing label, the definition).
Well, there are indeed different psychological associations happening between different people using the same words, and that is not so much a problem that need gotten around. Rather it needs to be properly taken account of, for it is exactly how thought/belief works...



Also, it seems to me that we (along with the more intelligent animals, such as apes and corvids) can think without words at a basic level, from perception to pre-conceptual, to basic conceptual. Part of the mental machinery may be evolved and only semi-conscious, but functional, and that's all we need as a foundation to get started (for we can constantly check whatever any mental fairy castles we may conceive predict, against perceptual reality). I remember dimly as a child, noticing similarities and differences between things, long before I had words for them. Likewise as an adult, we can perceive subtle distinctions that have no words (e.g. recurring and recognizable sensuous qualities of extraordinary subtlety during sex, particular kinds of natural aspects and familiar looks to things), but can be alluded to in poetry.
Well yeah. I wouldn't even require the animal to be "more intelligent" in order to be perfectly capable of drawing connections, associations, and/or correlations between 'objects' of physiological sensory perception and/or itself(it's own state of mind). Invoking consciousness or the conscious aspect adds unnecessary confusion. Drawing and maintaining the crucial distinction between thought/belief and thinking about thought/belief is all that's needed in order to take proper account of non linguistic thought/belief.

gurugeorge
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by gurugeorge » Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:15 am

creativesoul wrote:
gurugeorge wrote:For a long time I thought of language in a later-Wittgensteinian sense, as chess-like use of symbols/sounds/bits etc., according to rules, to do things.

Now, I'm more in the old-fashioned frame of thinking of language as an expression of thought.
Seems to me that those are not mutually exclusive options. On my view, it's both depending upon the context of the utterance.
In practice yes, but I now think the chess-like aspect is derivative of the expression-of-though aspect.

Whereas it formerly seemed to me that you have to have (pre-determinedly-logicked) thoughts to express (i.e. you pick up and pass around counters that have rules for use independent of you), now it seems to me that while that can happen later, the fundamental thing is the development of concepts in a pre-verbal way, on a foundation of recognizing similarity and difference at a perceptual level.

That's what gives the words meaning for each individual in the process of development, the amount of work they've put into categorizing the world; that's what makes Mummy giving the child the word for a thing an "aha!" moment for the child, because the word latches onto and becomes a symbol for the pre-verbal work of categorization they've already done.

And the logic of concepts at that level comes from the world - the similarities and differences noted really are out there, in a consistent way. It's the world that's logical, not language, and language is only logical insofar as it tracks the world.

Both happen, yes, but whereas formerly I thought the priority had to be that the logic was in the language, and one "picks up" on that (i.e. one picks up on the use of symbols in a consistent patterned way that's pre-established by "language game" rules), now I think that the logic is in the world (i.e. one picks up on consistencies in nature by noticing similarities and differences, and this is a pre-verbal knack that bootstraps conceptual thinking into reality, and then subsequently gives meaning to language).

Another way of saying this: philosophy has gone wrong by completely ditching "psychology", development, etc., from its account. The turn away from logic as an understanding of the rules of thought about things, to the study of formal logics as purely formal systems of moving symbols around in patterned ways, has been a huge mistake. Going back even further: Hume's fork, the analytic/synthetic distinction, etc., etc. are all mistakes.

creativesoul
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by creativesoul » Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:05 pm

gurugeorge wrote:
creativesoul wrote:
gurugeorge wrote:For a long time I thought of language in a later-Wittgensteinian sense, as chess-like use of symbols/sounds/bits etc., according to rules, to do things.

Now, I'm more in the old-fashioned frame of thinking of language as an expression of thought.
Seems to me that those are not mutually exclusive options. On my view, it's both depending upon the context of the utterance.
In practice yes, but I now think the chess-like aspect is derivative of the expression-of-though aspect.

Whereas it formerly seemed to me that you have to have (pre-determinedly-logicked) thoughts to express (i.e. you pick up and pass around counters that have rules for use independent of you), now it seems to me that while that can happen later, the fundamental thing is the development of concepts in a pre-verbal way, on a foundation of recognizing similarity and difference at a perceptual level.

That's what gives the words meaning for each individual in the process of development, the amount of work they've put into categorizing the world; that's what makes Mummy giving the child the word for a thing an "aha!" moment for the child, because the word latches onto and becomes a symbol for the pre-verbal work of categorization they've already done.
I want to first say that I appreciate the quality of your engagement here.

There seems to be much agreement between our views. I suspect that I agree that the chess-like aspect is derivative of the expression of thought aspect, although I'm not keen regarding what counts as being derivative. I'm wondering how much work can be put into categorizing the world when it is the case that the creature has no language. I mean, there's much to be said regarding what counts as non linguistic thought/belief(the entire position rests upon that), but I'm not sure that we can rightfully say that that includes categorizing, at least not as it is normally conceived.

My skepticism is based upon the necessary and sufficient conditions for being able to categorize things. Categorization necessarily presupposes abstraction(placing things into the category). The category is not equal to the things within it. So we're talking about different things sharing some common denominator and that much being taken note of(obviously Witt's argument about the word "game" is inapplicable) and then taking it to the level of abstraction by virtue of creating some place-marker in thought/belief that somehow 'binds' all the different things together(for lack of a better expression). Placing something into a category requires not only taking note of differences and similarities, but also some sort of abstract place-marker in thought that serves the purpose of a name(the recognition of commonality). Not sure that that's possible for a creature to do without it's having a name for the category.


And the logic of concepts at that level comes from the world - the similarities and differences noted really are out there, in a consistent way. It's the world that's logical, not language, and language is only logical insofar as it tracks the world.

Both happen, yes, but whereas formerly I thought the priority had to be that the logic was in the language, and one "picks up" on that (i.e. one picks up on the use of symbols in a consistent patterned way that's pre-established by "language game" rules), now I think that the logic is in the world (i.e. one picks up on consistencies in nature by noticing similarities and differences, and this is a pre-verbal knack that bootstraps conceptual thinking into reality, and then subsequently gives meaning to language).

Another way of saying this: philosophy has gone wrong by completely ditching "psychology", development, etc., from its account. The turn away from logic as an understanding of the rules of thought about things, to the study of formal logics as purely formal systems of moving symbols around in patterned ways, has been a huge mistake. Going back even further: Hume's fork, the analytic/synthetic distinction, etc., etc. are all mistakes.
I've said much the same thing for many years. Such strong claims require strong justification though. I'd like to get into exactly how philosophy has gone wrong.

Belinda
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by Belinda » Sat Aug 27, 2016 8:42 am

Concepts cannot be manipulated without the use of symbols of some sort. Language happens to have more creative potential using symbols than any other communications medium. Language is one variety of social behaviour.

I say "symbols". Signs are used by all animals that can learn(one may watch a dog using signs for communication but those are not creative but specify facts about the other dogs etc.); and signals are specifically intended to apply to one set of behaviours and are not creative.

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Trajk Logik
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by Trajk Logik » Sat Aug 27, 2016 1:00 pm

creativesoul wrote:As the thread title indicates, this is meant to spark discussion about what language itself is existentially contingent upon. Many folk have said and maintained over the years that we cannot get beneath language. I personally disagree. However, hearing the arguments either way ought be interesting enough for a thoughtful thread.
I would say that language is existentially contingent upon the existence of minds as information processors. Communication is the the transfer of information. Brains, like computers, process information, or more specifically sensory information. Brains can only process sensory information which is why language comes in the form of visuals (scribbles or body gestures) and audibles.

Communication can happen on a subconscious level and on the conscious level. We all know how people can give away their inner feelings and thoughts through subconscious body movements and behaviors. We tend to learn these of the people we interact with the most. And of course, there is the conscious level where we convert sensory information into scribbles and sounds for other minds to access. For instance we convert a certain olfactory sensation into an audible sound "stinky" in order to transmit this information to another mind.

The conscious level of communication requires the understanding that other minds, or other perspectives, exist, and that these other perspectives don't have the same information as you do, or else why communicate something already known to another? It would be redundant and a waste of energy.

A perspective is simply a model of all sensory information at that moment. You could say that it is an information architecture that is constantly updated with new sensory information, which includes the sounds and scribbles of language. Because we are all members of the same species, most of us experience the world in a very similar way. We can make the same kinds of distinctions between colors and sounds and smells, etc. which then enables us to share these experiences. If we didn't have shared experiences, there would no way for us to communicate what one is experiencing. It would be like trying to communicate colors to a congenitally blind person.

ken
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by ken » Sat Aug 27, 2016 2:03 pm

creativesoul wrote:
gurugeorge wrote:
Another way of saying this: philosophy has gone wrong by completely ditching "psychology", development, etc., from its account. The turn away from logic as an understanding of the rules of thought about things, to the study of formal logics as purely formal systems of moving symbols around in patterned ways, has been a huge mistake. Going back even further: Hume's fork, the analytic/synthetic distinction, etc., etc. are all mistakes.
I've said much the same thing for many years. Such strong claims require strong justification though. I'd like to get into exactly how philosophy has gone wrong.
I would like to congratulate both of you here. You have shown how by just the simple act of working together things can actually be accomplished. You have shown what philosophy actually is, I.e., you have both become wiser, and by doing that the way you have you have made others wiser also. I would like to join in to the discussion about exactly how philosophy has gone wrong also if that is okay.

May I start by suggesting that understanding the rules of thought about things is found in the studying of thinking itself. Within society there is the study of almost all things, except, i think it will be found, in the study of thinking itself. All people use thinking to study with and use thinking to back up what they say is right, but people rarely, if ever, really stop to just look at thinking itself.

Philosophy once meant the love of wisdom, this love is done naturally by learning, so with the love of learning any person can become wiser. However to learn anything a person has to be open, to learning. The trouble with how some people see philosophy now is not to become wiser nor even to learn any thing more or anew, but rather to fight (to the death) for what they believe is right. It is this believing that is actually what has caused philosophy to go "wrong".

Obviously a person is not open when they are believing, therefore they are not open to learn anything new and become wiser. People, nowadays, instead of stopping and looking at, and thus studying, their own thinking, they will use all of their thinking that they can, to fight for or back up with all the evidence that they can muster to try to prove what they believe is right.

If people just remained completely open to absolutely any and every new idea, and just worked peacefully together, then philosophy will take place once again. That is all will become wiser much quicker, much simpler, and much easier than they are now. This is all based on the presumption, however, that becoming wiser is what people here actually want.

To me philosophy, itself, has not gone wrong and it never could not. The only thing that could and does go wrong in Life is human beings, themselves. Anyway, i agree that when human beings ditch anything at all, turn away from understanding thinking, itself, and started believing and/or assuming that they already knew truth BEFORE truth is actually discovered and agreed upon, then that is where human beings have gone wrong and thus did not become any wiser.

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Terrapin Station
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by Terrapin Station » Sat Aug 27, 2016 3:36 pm

creativesoul wrote:As the thread title indicates, this is meant to spark discussion about what language itself is existentially contingent upon.
Having thoughts that one wants to express, social interaction, the ability to make a variety of consistently distinguishable sounds . . . those are three of the main things (but not an exhaustive list) that language is existentially contingent upon.
Many folk have said and maintained over the years that we cannot get beneath language.
I have no idea what that would even refer to, to "get beneath language."

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Terrapin Station
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by Terrapin Station » Sat Aug 27, 2016 5:32 pm

creativesoul wrote:Agreed. Language is existentially contingent upon shared meaning.
I don't remember if it was you that I had started a conversation about regarding this, but I don't agree with this view. Meaning is "incorrigibly mental" on my view and can't be made external-to-mental. Yet we have language, so language isn't contingent upon shared meaning. We can't know (by acquaintance, at least) that we have similar meanings in mind (it can't literally be the same, because of nominalism).

creativesoul
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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by creativesoul » Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:10 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
creativesoul wrote:Agreed. Language is existentially contingent upon shared meaning.
I don't remember if it was you that I had started a conversation about regarding this, but I don't agree with this view. Meaning is "incorrigibly mental" on my view and can't be made external-to-mental. Yet we have language, so language isn't contingent upon shared meaning. We can't know (by acquaintance, at least) that we have similar meanings in mind (it can't literally be the same, because of nominalism).
If this is anything similar to not being able to step into the same river twice, I reject it for the same reasons...

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Re: Getting Beneath Language

Post by mickthinks » Wed Aug 31, 2016 10:13 am

Like Terrapin Station (and no doubt, others) I have no idea what "getting beneath language" might refer to. The OP glosses it as discussing what non-language phenomena language is "existentially contingent upon", and assuming ""existentially contingent" means "would not exist without...", my response would be these:
  • an enduring and somewhat consistent environment, among whose repeating phenomena are ...
  • ... a community of language-capable beings,
  • and passage of sufficient time
Am I at least on the same page as you, cs?

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