"All of the other Ways of Knowing are controlled by language"

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Maxi, Nov 23, 2004.

  1. Maxi Registered Senior Member

    Hi everyone! I have an assignment which I would like some help with to discuss my idea on:

    "All of the other Ways of Knowing are controlled by language" What does this statement mean and do you think it is a fair representation of the relationship between perception, emotion, reason and language?

    I believe that it isn't neccesarily true, because all the ways of knowing are somewhat dependent on one another. Language doesn't control emotions, because in my opinion language whatever form may be (body language, signs speech, words), is triggered by an emotion. For example take a little child that is touching an hot iron not knowing of course the effect this will have. The child will most likely be set to cry, and from having felt pain and agony. So the emotions of agony here trigger the body language of crying. But then again, emotions cannot be expressed without language, because we need language to express our emotions through words, signs or body language. For example this child who burnt himself on the iron would not be able to let show his pain or agony had he not cried or screamed. In conlusion you can say that every action is caused by a triggered emotion in our minds that uses our knowledge of language to express these emotions. Whether it a man who is writing a novel because of passion, or a protestant debating because of anger etc.

    Moreover, perception and langauge, are also dependent on eachother. We cannot percieve things we don't know the language for. For example take a boy who is staring at the sky. He sees clouds, but one is shaped like a teddybear. But the boy cannot percieve this if he doesn't know what a teddybear is. So our language limits the amount of things we are able to percive in life. However in my opnion language and perception doesn't always have to be linked together. The idea which I believe can justify this is the idea of extentialism. If we are unable to accept the outside world of our minds and belive that it is all an hallucination. Then the language in this outside world must be an illusion. Thus we use our instinctive minds of perception and reason to ackowledge so.

    But there are also times when we reason with our emotions and not language. For example a woman has the difficult choice of either letting her son live or a scientist who knows the cure for aids. The woman will most likely have a lot of tormenting emotions going around in her body, since she can either let her son grow up and live or she can let many people around the world live as a result of letting the scientist live. Her choice therefore is based only on the reason of emotions.

    These are some ideas that I have thought about. Since I never have studied philosophy I dont know any theories or to support my evidence if by any chance they are sensible (philosophical or psychological). So if would very much appreciate any help to improve arguments, examples and definitions. I want to structurize my essay so that it begins with a statement or a theory from someone, and then develop my essay with argument and counter arguments relating to that specific theory which obviously has to make a point concerning this topic.

    As said I appreciate any help given, and I would be delighted to discuss any further observations.

    Thank you on beforehand, Max

    P.S the reason that i post this is because people here seem to know how to discuss well, and engage passionatly so. And if this topic is to be re-directed somewhere else where it fits better please tell me so, for I am new here.
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  3. cato less hate, more science Registered Senior Member

    This is a little bit off what you are getting at, but I think it would be a decent piece of info for your discussion.

    There was a tribe off in some rainforest that only had numbers 1 and 2, everything else was "many” the did test over a long period of time and found out that they had no sense of "fourness" they could understand 3 even though they didn't have a word for it but anything beyond that was lost. This would imply that things that us humans take for granted, like being able to count, are a product of language and not of our natural ability. I could be mistaken on some details, I read the article a while ago, but you may want to look into it.
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  5. Maxi Registered Senior Member

    yeah, thanks I think we discussed something like that in class not sure. But yeah I think I get what you mean byt this. That basically the human mind is controlled by language, and so for exmaple emotion and perception is also controlledby language? For it's important that I link and refer to these ways of knowing... however it was a good example of how the human being is controlled by language.

    I did some research on the net on Noam Chomsky, since someone told me I might be able to find something in his theories. Well I found this statement he made about language : "Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation."
    However I can't manage to get what exactly it means and how I can relate it to these different ways of knowing. Help would be appreciated. If it is of any relevance to what I'm doing i suspect that it might be a good quote to base my essay on.
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  7. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    What about animals? They don't seem to have any real language, and they unquestionably know things.
  8. TruthSeeker Fancy Virtual Reality Monkey Valued Senior Member

  9. teguy Registered Senior Member


    You have to pay heed to the word "control" here. It means to limit or regulate. Some of the general usages include: Arms Control, Self Control, Quality Control, etc. A point I am making here is that the one of the functions of language is to regulate/limite whatever phenomena one wants to elaborate. If one emotionally feels something and wants to 'communicate' that emotion with someone, language becomes the only means with which one can rationally do so. For instnace, if you feel pain in your stomach and go to a doctor, you probably describe your symptoms as linguistically objective as you can possibly elucidate. Here, the initial primordial feeling/emotion about your painful stomach sensations (feeling) is 'controlled' (read: regulated/limited) in the course of the linguistic translation. In that, whatever the feeling you might originally have (i.e., probably ineffable as it resonates to your sensory nerves), gets lost in translation. So insofar as you get to express something via language, it does indeed 'control' virtually anything.

    Now, also you must pay heed to the word "knowing" here. Knowing means to have knowledge of through observation, inquiry, or information. The key here is that any 'knowing' presupposes 'knowledge'. Knowledge is a fixiation of what is flux, such as your emotion, feeling, etc. When you tell your docoor about sympoms of your painful stomach, you inform him via langunge provided you are 'knowledgeable' about the conditions you are imposed. Thus the statement you provided here can be read as: all of the other [ways of] knowledge(s) are controlled by language.

    Irrelevant. You can percieve things you don't know the language for. Perception or an act of perceiving, unlike knowing of what is percieved, does not require any linguistic aid. A boy can perceive a teddybear-like cloud visually, while he is, provided he doesn't know what a teddybear is, unable to associate the image with the word ('teddybear') by virtue of the fact that he doens't 'know' (i.e., no knowlege of) a thing called teddybear: Just as much as if you don't know appropriate words to describe your painful stomach to your doctor, you still perceive/feel the very pain to which you are exposed.

    Irrelevant. There is no such thing as the 'reasons of emotions'. You either have emotions or reasons. When it appeared to be both emotions and reasons, usually you are rationalising your emotions via reasoning with logic. According to the example you provided above, the woman has to pick one choice out of two. If she happens to choose to let her son live at the expense of doctor who knows the cure of a desease, her decision is most likely based upon her emotions. If, on the other hand, she let the scientist live at the expense of her son, she is making a rational decision based upon logic/reasoning (of utilitarianism: here, by letting the doctor live, the mother is saving the greatest number of people while only one person, her son, is to be sacrificed). Although you cannot decisively say which one of the decisions is more 'rational' than the other, insofar as your goal is of utilitarianism, the latter choice is definitevely more 'rational'.

    Irrelevant. Any reasoning presupposes language. To reason is to form judgements logically. Emotions are not logical thus they have to be 'rationalised' with the aid of language. When the mother chooses one of the two options above, she, either choice, is rationalising her decision: If former(to save her son) - She can justify/reason her action by saying that it was her emotions that overweighed the utilitarian goal of saving the greater number of humans. If latter - She can justify/reason based on the utilitarian principle. Either case, she is 'rationalising/justifiying/reasoning' in order to assert her circumstances. Again, laguage is the solo means to convey her justification here.

    [quoting from Chomsky] It means that any language/sentese has its definite basic structure on which entire communication relies upon, such as: a subject, a verb, a noun, an object, etc. But the contents of those elements (i.e., vocabularies) of language/sentence vary, hence infinite. For instance, you can come up with thousands of different ways to convey your painful stomach to a doctor while you would still have to rely upon the general grammatical rules.

    Irrelevant. Insofar as knowing presupposes knowledge (i.e, a conscious fixation of what is flux), animals cannot 'know' things in the way humans do. By and large, therefore, we don't get to 'communicate' with them with the same efficiency as we do among humans via language.

    In any event, the nature of language resides upon the very structure of it. In that it inevitably classfies things in, at least, the binary oppositions such as I (a subject) and you (an object). The diffculty, thus, arises when metaphysical phenomena, such as one's feelings, emotions, or god(s) are dealt. This is the reason why no one can adequately describe the sensations one finds in music/visual arts (both resonates to senses) via linguistic expressions. Nevertheless, again, 'knowing' something does require, and relies upon, linguistic (however 'limited' (read: controlled) it might be) expressions.

    For further readings: Chomsky is entertaining at times (or pathetic if you include his political writings), but I suggest:

    Martin Heidegger: On the Way to Language
    Friedrich Nietzsche: Will to Power

    Both books deal with the limitations of language/knowledge and I find far more entertaining than what Chomsky has to offer.
    kind regards,

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