Re: Re: more Re: [unrev-II] Thinking about communicating

From: Peter Jones (
Date: Mon Aug 20 2001 - 13:00:51 PDT

bcl (forwarded) wrote:
>distinction, however, between 'language' and 'idea' is non existant.

I might be grievously misconstruing what bcl meant here, but as I read it I
disagree wholeheartedly with the sentence above. Ideas are often prior and
different in nature. Just because they can be expressed in language does not
mean they are necessarily not distinct.
When I am building a tool, say, creating the first spear ever, is my
thinking visual imagination or verbal?
As someone who has personally creatively solved many a motorcycle rebuilding
problem employing only synthetic visual imagination I argue strongly for
that distinction.

>The idea of a 'meme' can discussed in terms of chunks of language
>which spread around, translate, morph, degrade, die, etc.

Yes, but a 'meme' can also be demonstrated.

Some might say that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is untestable purely because
no two people have the same CPU.

Others might say, "Look not to language but to the world," and emphasise the
power of visual metaphor in crossing the divides of understanding.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Park" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2001 2:41 PM
Subject: Fwd: Re: more Re: [unrev-II] Thinking about communicating

> Forwarded from an Unrev user who has problems with yahoo groups.
> >From: "earth"
> >henry:
> >
> > >1. Steven Pinker, linguist and psychologist, now at MIT, doesn't think
> > > much of the Whorfian hypothesis. Writes he in his 1994 book,
> > >"The Language Instinct," that "there is no scientific
> > >ebidence that languages dramatically shape their speakers' ways of
> > thinking."
> > >(p.58), which is called, I gather, linguistic determinism.
> >
> >Well, sure. Thats why its called the Whorf (/ sapir) hypothesis, not the
> >Whorf Fact ;] Half my undergrad major was linguistics, for context.
> >Its clear that Pinker is reacting against some of the muddled thinking
> >that was constructed around an ill-conceived hypothesis in the 60's,
> >70's and 80s..
> >
> >But 'scientific evidence' is difficult to gather on this topic since
> >decisive experiments are extremely hard to devise.
> >
> >It seems intuitively obvious that language shapes behaviour,
> >but proving that is another matter altogether.
> >
> >I, for one, am certain that in the softer-senses the whorf hypothesis
> >is correct: that language (even diction) shapes behaviour. The
> >distinction, however, between 'language' and 'idea' is non existant.
> >The idea of a 'meme' can discussed in terms of chunks of language
> >which spread around, translate, morph, degrade, die, etc.
> >
> >Meme's (Ideas) shape behaviour and it is quite obvious to me
> >that the language used to describe Ideas are key to the behavioural
> >shifts. A mantra I came up with in college, however, when studying
> >all the various sciences, analytical fields of various flavors was:
> >
> >"Just because there's a word for it doesnt mean it exists."
> >
> >This was in reaction to the absurd proliferation of naming of
> >hypotheses, 'syndromes', literary bits, scientific findings, etc.
> >It was clear that having a word for various things, in itself,
> >changed people's behaviours around things. Self identifying
> >with various diseases is a reasonably good example. People are
> >sometimes presented with a word which describes a syndrome
> >or set of symptoms or disorder and can sometimes decide that
> >it fits them and self identify. Through learning that niche-word, they
> >will often change their behaviour.
> >
> >I've noticed this myself as I've developed a host of words for
> >different types of insomnia :]
> >
> >But, again, building a set of definitions and logical structure and then
> >on to prove the whorf hypothesis is more work than I have time for at
> > the moment :)
> >
> >happy august 2001,
> >
> >bcl
> >----------
> >please do not post my email address on a public website, newsgroup,
> >or similar bot-open location
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