31 December 2010

Everyone's suddenly a linguist

I there is the odd coincidence of the mind and consciousness that is causing me a potential sea change of perception. I have been thumbing through this book, Maps of the Mind, which in itself is pretty interesting. "Maps of the Mind is an excellent review volume that integrates and condenses many different perspectives concerning the nature of the human mind. Using the metaphor of a map, the author organizes the work of several prestigious authors and theorists into nine different levels, from the mechanistic and physiological to the paradigmatic and mythological." The pages are laid out in what could be an interpretation of conflict, but in fact each perspective is presented as building on the next.
Well, I was on a job and my friend was reading Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness by Julian Jaynes. I inquires about it and skimmed it a bit because it looked interesting. Later that evening I came to the page in my book on the theories of Jaynes. What is more is that another friend at the same time, came to a reference to Jaynes in a book he was reading. Weird.
If not familiar with his theory, reduced to the point of near meaninglessness is that human consciousness is a recent development (appx 3000 years old), and before that, the two hemispheres of the brain did not communicate so well so that one side (left)could be said to be developing man's thoughts and the other side (right) was interpreted as audio hallucination, i.e. god, spirit, daemon etc. and was a thing that, though it did in fact have individual agency within a person, was to that person, a different voice.
Now, here's where I am amazed. immediately after the above experience, I was listening to a radiolab podcast on words. There was a segment on the fact that thought follows language that holds some water but I didn't entirely buy, and then there was this segment. A woman, a neurologist no less, has a stroke that shuts down half her brain. Her resulting experience is oneness, lack of self - she is having a stroke and does not act, because of the whole immersion. Yet she is not mindless, she is there in the experience and can recall it. Only the coming back in momentarily of her other hemisphere prompts her to act and saves her, yet she says that given a choice - she would return to that state.
I also just read an interesting article on the philosophy of David Foster Wallace, as he riffs throughout his career - mostly on Wittgenstein, but there are others. I opened many tabs to examine things mentioned (fitting, given DFW's footnotes upon footnotes). He was primarily a philosopher.
And of course a primary function of Wittgenstein - and much modern linguistical philosophy - is that there cannot be thought without language. two things strike me as odd about this, aside from experience:
Wittgenstein goes on to say that language is a social construct, which seems obvious. Thought, however, is a more solipsistic process. How can that be reconciled?
The other things, and I don't know the name for this specific logical fallacy, is that we can easily identify thoughts had that are not lingual. I have seen the argument that we could not identify those non lingual thoughts without language, but that is an opaque discussion, much the same as Wittgenstein's claim that all metaphysical (and emotional) language is nonsense.
Feel free to correct me, I am less than even a layman and tend to avoid straight philosophy.

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