There is something to be said about linguistic determinism, and in particular relativity. Linguistic relativity says that the form or structure of a language influences the way people think, or world-view. The often quoted example is the Inuit people and the words for “snow”. Whereas in English we have snow (and perhaps sleet and slush) the Inuit have at least nine different words for different types of snow. Because of this the Inuits have a “greater” understanding and knowledge of snow and their conditions.
But is this absolutely necessarily true?
The idea that language reflects your thought is better described as relative rather than absolute. If the relationship is absolute then all people of a language will think in exactly the same way. But this is not true. A talk to two people from the same culture will quickly reveal that people do think differently. And you would be hard pushed to even say there are two people who are exactly identical in their way of thought. Even biological twins who are genetically the same are different in their thoughts and likes. Experience from a first-person or one-person point-of-view will guarantee that we will be different no matter what.
English is a language which takes pains to highlight “one over many”. It is one of the languages which have difference morphological form for the singular and the plural (or not-singular). Is it natural to give the singular priority? Arabic has forms for “one”, “two” and “plural”. And Japanese does not differentiate between singular and plural at all. Nor does Chinese for that matter. So grammar is really a creation of the mind, of people, to make communication possible. The rules are not set in stone or in the mind as some would like you to believe. As humans we make do with what we have – the physical world – to do things like communication.
In fact all we can do is ‘make do’. But it is important to see that making do with something does not mean it is the only way to the same thing. There is no reason for ‘one’ to be given priority over not ‘one’ … except for may be it is the first thing in an order.
Rationalism assumes that reason gives us all knowledge. It overrides emotion and belief. It also override the senses as the path to truth. It is directly opposed to empiricism.
Reason takes on a mysticism similar to that of the soul, whereby a body is unnecessary. So it is part of the mind-body problem in Western philosophy, culture and thinking.
Sensory knowledge is not perfect. But neither is rational knowledge. Both should be considered inseparable. And both should be considered necessary to any knowledge.
Rationalism and Empiricism should not be considered opposing ideas. There should be a philosophy of Rational Empiricism or Empirical Rationalism.
(This was supposed to have been posted on another blog.)
There isn’t a day that each and everyone for us doesn’t use language in some way. We need it to communicate and interact with people. Unless you live by yourself in a remote forest or island we will use language.
Languages are not made equal. What I mean by this is that languages, like everything else, follow patterns. Some language patterns are more common than others. SOV (subject-object-verb) and SVO (subject-verb-object) are the two most common sentence patterns across languages. Together they make up about 90 percent of all language types. The remaining four possible patterns (OVS, OSV, VSO and VOS) make up the other 10 percent.
Having the subject come first makes sense since it is the most important part of the sentence – what the sentence is about. The verb – what the subject is doing – then should come next. I stress should because SOV is actually the slightly more common type. By enclosing the object maybe just as effective, then.
Continue reading What I have learnt from linguistics
Within the mind we tend to think of things as universal or generic without relating it to the wider world. We say things like, “the sun rises from the east”, without seeing it in context that which it occurs. We probably even have a perfect literally unclouded image of a singular sunrise that represents all sunrises in our heads.
But the sunrises from the east with a frequency and regularity that is often not taken in account when it should be. It rises once a day. Or to be more precise the earth, covered in an protective “lubricating” atmosphere, turns once a day to give the illusion of the sun rising. We are so easily duped and we’re duped on a daily basis by all kinds of illusions.
The reliability of this event like all other events is what gives us our understanding and our rhythm. We often choose to have a rhythm in order to have a regularity to help us through the day. So in this sense frequency is something important. It may be everything.
As I get older things are no longer a singular mental object but repeated objects with a certain frequency. Understanding that frequency is what gives sense to the world. Otherwise there are only perfect mental objects, which is not true at all.
Yes, frequency is everything.
There are two “facets” to the numbering system of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. One is to show the logical importance the comments to propositions/comments. The other is to show to which of the propositions/comments are they a comment of.
Two “problems” immediately come to mind when I look at the system:
- In certain parts the less important comments come first before the more important ones.
- There can never be more than ten comments to a comment.
Continue reading Some thoughts on the numbering system of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus