I had a Bird Pee on my Nipple Earlier…

The experience of walking indoors from taking a view of the Diwali fireworks only to have your shirt smeared with bird is not a nice one. If at all possible. Avoid it.

What I want to do here is just jot down a few of my ideas in case I get swept up and lose track of everything again.

The following points shall most likely make no sense at all and are likely to confuzzle you. Read at your own risk…

Continue reading “I had a Bird Pee on my Nipple Earlier…”

The Last of My Energy

A Daily Moan that some guy tries to relate to the Daily Posts Daily Prompt even though he Hasn’t Looked at it yet and has the title of His post in Awkward Caps

Okay cool, so the prompt for today is Giant. Well then, allow me to moan.

Today was tiring. Yesterday was far worse but I have not been able to dig myself out of this workload. I spent Friday playing Mtg. Saturday trying not to die. And today, Sunday, I both tried not to die in the morning and played magic in the evening.

My sleep (if I even got any) was awful. On Saturday, I woke up with nothing but a towel on. I shivered out of the bed and stumbled across the sweltering furnace that was my room into the pathetic dribble of water that is meant to be a shower. Sunday, I honestly don’t know if I slept. I think I did since time did pass relatively fast at times but I just lay there, in my bed, cuddling my friend’s doorstop all night long waiting for my brain to switch off and go to sleep. (Her name is Vladina and she is gorgeous. The doorstop, not the friend. Friend is gawjus though ’cause I don’t want to be beaten.)

I had more to say here but I have run out of mental processing power. I wanted to watch anime after this though. But I don’t have any more good anime or fast enough internet *_*

So how does ths post relate to the prompt of giant? Well, it doesn’t and I’m not going to make it try to. Sorry not sorry.

Summertime Sadness

Okay yes. I do like this song by Lana Del Rey. For both its niceness and the fact that I can really relate to it but my word have I heard it a lot recently. Wayyyyy to much. I’m very tempted to un-heart it from my Deezer playlist. Although if I get started on that then it’ll probably end up like my facebook. Half cleaned and half messed and with no work done. Okay. I’m done for now. I’d like to come back later tonight and update the site and approve and reply to comments and whatnot. Maybe I’ll ramble on a bit on my new method of getting things done. (insert thinking face here).

The Unforgivable Sin

Okay, yes. I know that some of what I say below is wrong and some of my claims do not follow. I shall write a review on this topic sometime before my exam. Speaking of the topic, this was about something to do with certain unforgivable act. Again, the paper is somewhere on my desk I just can’t find it at the moment.

Sovereign Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a topic that many take for granted. I have an intuitive stance to disagree with most of the literature that tries to define forgiveness in rigid terms and therefore align myself with Garrard (2003) in defending a view of forgiveness as free from conditions and I shall oppose myself with views like Griswold (2007) wherein conditional forgiveness is an assumption. The act of forgiving should be like the concept. There need not be any formalised order in which one has to go through in order to forgive or apologise, but there is a typical procedure that makes it easier for forgiveness to take place. I’m going to argue that forgiveness itself is a ‘forgiving’ thing, in the sense described above, and because of that, there are no moral obligations involving it. It is a virtue and never a requirement.

When starting off with this topic I, as many others in the literature did, assumed that we would need to critically examine the conditions under which forgiveness can be given, however, to do so was a critical error in my initial formulation of a theory. Forgiveness is just not like that. It is a cultural phenomenon which can have significant psychological effects. Two of the obvious objections to any account of unconditional forgiveness is that of a lack of self-respect and an overestimation of self-worth.

In order for a thing to be wronged, it needs to have some set of conditions or parameters within which it is acceptable to act inside of, and unacceptable or inappropriate to act outside of. One simply cannot forgive someone for stealing their car if they had no car for the other to steal or if the other did not in fact steal the car but moved it. The counterpoints raised by Garrard (2003) to these points stand strong. It does not follow that one regards oneself as not worth a moral dime if they forgive another in the act – or, ‘too easily’. If you punch me in the face in a fit of rage and I forgive you, it does not mean that I think of myself as superior to you or that I think that you are not worth moral respect. I can forgive you by excusing your behaviour and saying I understand why that happened.

This may be argued to not be forgiveness at all. Or that, if it is then it is not taking the wrong act seriously enough. Typically, there is a clear reason that separates forgiveness of an act and excusing one of an act. There is a further distinction between forgiveness and mercy in that if you crash into my car, I can forgive you but still demand that you pay for the repairs (Garrard, 2003). When we excuse someone of an act we acknowledge that they had understandable reason for doing what they did. It is not because they had a valid reason for what they did. This is where the respect for persons theory intertwines with the excusing of ones behaviour. Govier (1999) states that unconditional forgiveness undervalues the respect that we ought to have for our fellow man. However, she emphasises that we ought to think of the wrongdoer as capable of doing virtuous acts (Govier, 1999), it follows then that if we are to hold wrongdoers in a neutral light because of their potential to do right then we ought to hold moral saints in the same neutral light because they are still human and are just as capable of committing moral wrongs as said wrongdoers (Garrard, 2003).

And so, when I excuse you for punching me in the face while angry, I am not supposing any kind of a moral difference between us. Instead, I am acknowledging that we are both human and susceptible to acts that we will regret in the future.

Now the question can be thrown in: is repentance necessary for one to forgive? And again, my answer would be no. But it sure does make it easier.

As I see it, the best way to understand the concept of forgiveness is in terms of gratitude. When someone does a great deed for you, you, traditionally, wish to repay them in an equal amount. There is a sense in which you want to clear any debt you may have to that person. When you do me a great service, I am grateful and wish to repay you. When I do you a wrong and realise it, I feel guilt and wish to repay you for the wrong I caused you. And, if I have repaid you in a sufficient quantity, I may expect to be forgiven but unless you feel the same way, I cannot demand forgiveness. This point complicates things as if I have cleared my debt to you and have not yet been forgiven by you then there is a sense in which it is now you that owes me. For, if I have cleared my debt to you then I do not owe you anything and I do not need your forgiveness. Yet, we consider forgiveness as taking place only if it concludes in one expressing their forgiveness in whatever matter. This doesn’t make sense to me. Forgiveness is an overcoming of one’s own feelings of resentment and anger, if the wrongdoer expresses remorse then it will no doubt help us to forgive. Yet, even if they do not, it is not impossible for us to overcome our feelings towards them in another manner and therefore repentance does not qualify as a necessary condition for forgiveness.

The conclusion that I have come to involving forgiveness is that there are no obligations involving it. This is because it is a virtue that we can (and seem to) desire to achieve and not a moral law that we all agree on; i.e. do not harm or bear grudge to your neighbour (Leviticus 19:18 New International Version) (Mill, 1869) (Johnson, 2016)The wrongdoer may or may not show signs of repentance but if it has significant negative consequences on them (such as a society that ostracizes wrongdoers) then even if they do not even repent, moral theories like Utilitarianism demand that we forgive them to stop the society from increasing the amount of negative happiness. We must do whatever we can to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number (Mill, 1869). So forgiving someone else is always demanded if it brings about good consequences. On such a theory, the opposite is also true, if the victim is suffering intensely due to the wrong that they suffered then they ought to forgive the perpetrator to supersede the pain even if the perpetrator is in jail or not even alive to apologise. Both of these instances are a case in point against my argument. This view shows that forgiveness is obligatory, this is counter to my intuitive stance on the topic and I am simply not convinced by these arguments. Forgiveness necessitates a forgiving demeanour and therefore Utilitarianism does not provide a satisfactory answer here, nor does a deontological view that supposes forgiveness to have to have certain conditions to be met.

Further along the line of understanding forgiveness and the chalky boundaries it has, is the idea of entitlement to forgive. Can anyone but the victim forgive the wrongdoer? Here, I agree with Benn (1970) on his account that something like quasi-forgiveness can be given but I do not think he gets the point just right. To my understanding, we can only forgive the wrongs that are done to us because only we are the ones who feel wronged by that act. It is nonsensical to say that I can forgive the wrongs that Hitler did to the Jews. Secondary and tertiary victims may forgive a perpetrator of the wrongs they did to them but they may not forgive for the wrong that were done to the primary victim. The only way in which quasi-forgiveness can take place is when the secondary victims give reasons to the perpetrator for why they think that the victim, although unable to, would forgive them if they could. If you steal the eraser of someone who dies shortly later and you go to their family and apologise, there is no doubt that they would forgive you and, all else being equal, they would give you reason to believe that the deceased would forgive you. Quasi-forgiveness is better defined as the assisting of the perpetrator to reconciliation with one unable to forgive for circumstantial reasons.

This account of forgiveness implies that there is nothing that can cause one to be an unforgivable person. Conditional unforgivability is not appropriate as quasi-forgiveness as defined above and not as Benn (1970) has it, means that Govier’s point of conditional unforgivability is not appropriate either (Govier, 1999). I conclude then that the main flaw in my argument is that by arguing for unconditional forgiveness, I am unable to accept views like Utilitarianism or Kantian Deontology due to the conflict caused. If we are unwilling to accept this, then more work needs to be done on this topic.

 

Bibliography

Benn, P., 1970. Forgiveness and Loyalty. American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 7, pp. 246-252.

Garrard, E. a. D. M., 2003. In Defence of Unconditional Forgiveness. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 103(1), pp. 39-60.

Govier, T., 1999. Forgiveness and the Unforgiveable. American Philosophical Quarterly, 36(1), pp. 59-75.

Griswold, C., 2007. Self-forgiveness. In: Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 38-59.

Mill, J., 1869. On Liberty. s.l.:Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.

 

On Herodotus’ Egypt

The thingy that was set for this assignment was to examine two case studies from Herodotus’ Histories.

On Herodotus’ Egypt

I find it ironic that Henry Ford’s claim on history is debunked thousands of years before he even made it. Ford claimed that the only history that matters is the history that we make today. To me, this seems ridiculous. If the history that we make today does not matter to tomorrow then it seems absurd to say that it is the history that we make today that matters. Nevertheless, Ford was a car manufacturer and someone that can be forgiven for making this kind of a claim. History matters. We as a species could never have made it this far if we had no history on which to build on. Learning from past mistakes is great and all, but using all the knowledge that we have accumulated over the years to work towards a better future is one of the prime reasons why history genuinely matters. Herodotus wrote many wonders about Egypt and many attribute him to be the first historian in the modern sense. He may not have been the first person to commit to an ‘unbiased’ and ‘truthful’ account of what had happened, but he certainly gave us this archaic tradition.

I do not think that Herodotus is deserving of all the praise and glory he is given. I am convinced by the arguments laid forth by Armayor (1978) in Did Herodotus Ever Go to Egypt, in which he calls forth reasons to doubt the truthfulness of his account for Egypt. However, I think that Herodotus really was genuine in his desire to account for what he is told and not necessarily believe it (Hdt, 7.152) because of the inconsistency within his text. It is a very difficult thing to tell a lie (Kornet, 1997) and Herodotus is too consistently inconsistent in his telling of Egypt for it all to be an elaborate story. However, elaboration on such a claim would need to be done by someone far more learned than I, but is in need of further examination as it has dire implications on how much of Ancient Egypt we really knew.

The behaviour of the Nile and the Egyptian’s treatment of animals are two very different topics covered in the same text by Herodotus. These are the topics I will be discussing here. The mere fact that Herodotus speaks of both of them shows us that he wanted to shed light on Egypt using his own account and his own methods. By covering a wide range of aspects he is able to paint a broader picture of Egypt and the Egyptian way of life than he would if he only spoke of one aspect. One of the most admirable features of his work is that he claims to take the objective approach mentioned earlier. After laying out an argument, it is not uncommon to find Herodotus expressing his disbelief in the idea, but the fact that he still states those reports are good reasons for us to take his account as ‘mostly true’. As mentioned above, I do not believe that Herodotus saw as much of Egypt as he claims to have seen, but I am inclined to believe that he was genuine in his attempt to do so. This view implies that Herodotus simply made up a large portion of what he says. What follows then is an account of Herodotus’ Egypt and not a claim of what really happened in his time.

Case study 1: The Source and behaviour of the Nile

Herodotus speaks of a great deal of things in relation to the Nile. From the way in which it assisted the Egyptians’ in trade, to the battles that were fought near it (de Selincourt, 1959). In the passage concerned, he lists three Greek arguments for its origin and why it is that it floods so regularly. The first two theories are rather amusing. The idea that it would be the winds that cause a body of water to rise is understandable by a less scientific people but we must not assume them to be stupid. If they are able to rationalise that two forces acting in opposite directions act upon one another causes resistance and the body of both slows down. Such is the law of friction which our world has always been subject to. If one exhales deeply above a pile of sawdust then they will notice that the dust is moved in the direction of the airflow. This event would have easily been visible to those of Herodotus’ day and before – and the same applies to water.

This can easily be seen if you skate your hand across the water like so many of us used to do as a child. When we do this, we can feel the water pushing back upon the tips of our fingers and we can see the water around our fingers rising above the average height. If some Greeks really did believe that it was the etesian winds which caused the river to rise then they must have had some understanding of the forces of friction and the concept of the air being a substance rather than a lack of anything. In this short passage, without even intending to, Herodotus is able to give us strong insight into the scientific understanding of the era. However, Herodotus rightly dismisses this theory due to his observing (be it through his own eyes or the eyes of an informant) that the Nile floods even without the wind.

The second theory he mentions is slightly less remarkable. The belief that the Nile flows from the sea is an absurd one if it literally assumes the river to flow upstream. However, the idea that the Nile can’t flow north because there is something about the earth that makes rivers flow south is still found to this day. Judging by an overview of questions posted in online forums, there are many that are of the belief that the Nile flows backwards. To me this seems like it is essentially saying the same thing as the Nile flows from the ocean. But I am not willing to say that I fully understand what Herodotus means by this. If we look at the geographical relationship between the Nile we can see that it flows from the high south to the lower north and empties into the Mediterranean. Greece, where said scholars presumably came up with the idea in question, has the Mediterranean at its low south and its rivers flowing from the high North. The rivers that empty into the ocean there are south flowing as are many of the well-known rivers today. It is not uncommon to overgeneralise what we know and say but for me to think ‘because all swans that I have seen are white, swans can only be white’ would be wrong. This is a flaw in human reasoning, and that, I believe, is what has happened here when the claim is made that the Nile flows from the ocean. More south flowing rivers are known and so it is falsely presumed that all rivers flow south.

The last theory which Herodotus mentions, he accepts as plausible but denies as real. The idea that there could be a cold place in a desert such as where Egypt was, is a completely understandable notion. It takes a great stretch of the mind that thousands of years of exploration have taught us that biomes can blend into one another. The idea that there is a great heap of frost in the desert is one that even I refuse to believe. However, knowing how inconceivably long the Nile is I can imagine it extending into a region more tolerable to ice and snow. Herodotus claims to have walked up the Nile to a point where there was nothing but desert (de Selincourt, 1959). This I do not believe he would have done. However, he uses this as the main reason for his refusal to believe that the Nile really does flow from mountains.

If Herodotus wanted to make an historical account of Egypt then why bother to include topics like this? In Croix (1977, p. 138) he mentions that some scholars believe that Herodotus wanted to write a geographical and ethnographical work and much of what we see here agrees with that. On accounting for the Nile and, as we shall soon see, the treatment of animals, Herodotus moves out of the realm of history and more into the realm of anthropology and geography just as he intended.

Case Study 2: Animals in Egypt

Typically, when one thinks of Egypt the first things that come to mind are grand pyramids and Pharaohs who were kings and gods, next is their mighty empire in desert sands. One thinks of the Egypt of today and not of what Egypt would have looked like to those living there at the times. It was still dry and arid but not as harsh as it is today (Shaw, 2004). Having a climate more accepting of life in general made it possible for the limited variety of species to inhabit the Nile along with the Egyptians. I suspect that the climate has a large role to play in the Egyptians’ reverence of animals but that is a topic I shall have to put to the side as it does not greatly affect our purpose here. All we need to conclude from the difference in climate is that life in Egypt was rare, and when something is rare, it is perceived to be valuable. This explains why gold has such a high price and why the Egyptians attributed religious significance to animals like the hawk or the ibis.

In the passage concerned, Herodotus speaks of the reception of the animals and certain laws and customs towards them. He speaks of the significance in Egyptian religion. The most obvious explanation for why they held animals in such high esteem would be the fact that their gods were therianthropic, meaning they had human features as well as animal features — typically animal heads and human torsos (Shaw, 2004). I wish to propose that rarity of animals is also a large part of that reason and perhaps even explains why their deities had animal features.

The rarity of the animals in Egypt and the religious significance they played must have had some connection. We can easily infer this by looking at folklore or even any of the pop-fantasy icons. One need only to scratch the surface of the fantasy genre to know the legendary status attributed to dragons. To take one example, Bethesda’s 2013 game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; here, dragons are coming back from the dead and it is the role of the player, the Dragonborn, to defeat them and save the world (Bethesda Softworks, 2011). The reception of these mythic beasts in fantasy shows us how a creature that is rare has significant religious importance placed on it. In the case of the aforementioned game, the dragons are prophesised to be the bringers of the end for man (and rightly so) (Bethesda Softworks, 2011). Others in this world, worship these creatures as avatars of the gods or even a god or goddess themselves (Bethesda Softworks, 2011). Many would rightfully argue that this modern rendition of rarity and reverence is based upon tales of old. This supports my view even more. If the connection between reverence and rarity is one that did indeed come from the generations of old, then it is more of a direct link between the rarity of animals in Egypt and their reverence by the Egyptians.

Whether Herodotus used what he knew of Egyptian sculpture and art or whether he inferred the high esteem that the animals were held in from what he had heard from others, he was accurate enough for us to look further into what he reported on. Herodotus reports that cats especially were revered by the Egyptians. In the passage in discussion he speaks of how the Egyptians would try to prevent the cats from jumping into the flames (de Selincourt, 1959). To most readers, this situation would sound bizarre. It certainly would not happen often, and, if at all, the only rational explanation I can think of would be if their kittens were still inside. Had the Egyptians known of this if it were the case then perhaps it may have been them running into the burning houses to save the precious offspring and not the cats. Nevertheless, such an act shows the importance of the cat to the Egyptians.

Elsewhere in book two, he speaks of how the Persians used the Egyptians’ culture against them. By using cats as shields or having pictures of cats on their shields, the Persians manipulated the Egyptians into believing that their own gods were against them harming their enemy as the ‘holy’ animals stood alongside their foe. To an Egyptian, to cause the death of one of these animals was a penalty punishable by death (de Selincourt, 1959).

Most of our knowledge about what Herodotus has said agrees with this. We are unable to confirm the specifics of that which Herodotus wrote about purely due to the lack of archaeological and literary evidence to cross check the claims he makes. Herodotus speaks of a city (Chemmis) that we have not yet found (Armayor, 1978). He claims to have spoken to Graeco-Egyptian priests in fifth century Egypt (Armayor, 1978, p. 66) and elsewhere claims how xenophobic the Egyptians are (de Selincourt, 1959). Neither of these two items help Herodotus’ view. Both are (at a stretch) plausible, but extremely unlikely. Herodotus could have gotten a nobleman’s aid, through bribery perhaps, to translate for him and get more than just a tourists account of what happened. Such a city could have existed in more than just Herodotus’ Egypt only to be uprooted by some other group. Like the repurposing of bricks and stone like we have seen elsewhere in Egypt with Akhenaten’s temple being stripped (Spence, 2011). Or maybe it was even a complete wipe out due to some foreign power that burnt all memory of Chemmis into the winds.

It is a fascinating thing to ponder. All the ‘what ifs and ‘could it bes’. Such a wondrous thing it is that we often forget just how dangerous our assumptions are. The conclusions that we come to from reading Herodotus’ Histories and their implications that we so wish to be correct is a strong enough reason for us to take extreme caution when dealing with Herodotus. His methodologies are inconsistent, we are unable to tell from where he gets his information and just how much of it is built on what he and his audience wanted to hear.

Taken together, the two case studies give us greater insight into the mind-set of Herodotus and his desires to account for Egypt as it was. He is inaccurate in some parts, inconsistent in his telling of others, and spot on in many places. Accounting for the animals of a region and one of the defining geographical features of an area show us that Herodotus really did wish to paint as much of Egypt as he could. I cannot say that we can trust him in all regards but I am convinced that he really was genuine in his attempt to carry out an account of Egypt as he was told and not as he originally believed it to be.

 

Bibliography

Armayor, O. K., 1978. Did Herodotus Ever Go to Egypt. Journal of American Research Centre in Egypt, Volume 15, pp. 29-73.

Bethesda Softworks, 2011. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda: Bethesda Game Studios.

Croix, G. E. M. D. S., 1977. Herodotus1. Greece and Rome, 24(2), pp. 130-148.

de Selincourt, A., 1959. The Histories by Herodotus. s.l.:Penguin.

Kornet, A., 1997. Psychology Today. [Online]
Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199705/the-truth-about-lying
[Accessed 7 October 2016].

Shaw, I., 2004. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Spence, K., 2011. Akhenaten and the Amarna Period. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/akhenaten_01.shtml
[Accessed 01 September 2016].

 

Meditations on Mentalese

Question: Cognitive Scientist Steven Pinker states that “People think in a language different to any spoken language”. Discuss.

(Alright it was a little moe specific than that but I can’t quite find anything on my desk at the moment. I’ll clean it one day. Promise.)

Introduction

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” If I had to choose one sentence to represent my argument then it would be this quote attributed to Flannery O’Connor. Mentalese exists across the board, that much is necessary. What we humans have is a ‘levelled up’ form that uses human languages to help to represent abstract terms like love and lust, emotions and ideas, things in faraway galaxies that we have never even seen but we know that they exist from what we know of mathematics and physics. I agree with Pinker that there is mentalese. But I disagree that it is ‘different to any natural language’ in the case of humans.

My argument is against Pinker’s claim that “we think in a language different to any spoken language” because to phrase it as such is deliberately misleading. There are two potential interpretations that we could conclude from this statement. At first glance, Pinker seems to be saying that this thing we call ‘mentalese’ is a language in the sense that it obeys the properties of Universal Grammar, this would be a false assumption as mentalese is not an ‘acquired’ thing, it is how we represent propositions in our molecular minds (Pinker, 2004, p. 82).

The other possible interpretation that one conclude, would be that spoken languages and the language of thought, are fundamentally different things. I agree with the view that language and thought are different things, but not that they are so different that they cannot affect one another as this interpretation of Pinker’s claim suggests.

My stance is closer to that of Nativism than Linguistic Determinism but denies that language and thought are independent systems. I shall be basing my claims off the works of Keith Chen (Could your language affect your ability to save money?, 2012), Monique Fleckon (Flecken, et al., 2014). They, state that the feature of a language to portray the future as a distinct and separate state has an effect on the way in which we perceive the world (Fleckon) and the way in which we spend (Chen).

Discussion

Our brains are too big. We, as a species, would have a greater success rate if we had a smaller head, and smaller brain, simply because birth would not be as traumatic and life threatening (The Science of Dank Memes, 2016). So why is our brain so big? Human intelligence is the obvious answer here but I wish to look at a more specific aspect of human intelligence. One of the functions that our big brain has is that it seems to set us up for language (Pinker, 2004, p. 32) . Be this through general purpose learning strategies or through something like Steven Pinker’s Universal Grammar. Yet, even though the vast majority of our brains have this remarkable ability to acquire language, there are those who have either grown up without the input needed or are suffering from an aphasia. If language and thought are the same thing then those who have either never acquired language, or have lost language, should not be able to think. The fact that they can proves that there is something like a mentalese. But to say that is not to state the whole story. Mentalese does not account for abstract thought. This is another equally possible conclusion that we could draw from the tip of the tongue phenomena that Pinker claims to be layman proof for mentalese (Pinker, 2004, p. 57).

Language and thought being fundamentally different things implies that there can be one without the other. Although thinking about the nonsense that certain politicians sprout, it really does seem like they can manage without it. Language does require thought. What we say is certainly shaped by our thoughts and to some degree, what I wish to discuss is that our thoughts are aided by our language.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that there is a Language of Thought. We’ll take Pinker’s idea of mentalese as a name for this ‘language’. What properties and features would such a ‘language’ need to have in order to actually exist in a world beyond our hypothetical imaginings? How does it relate to languages as we know them? Any mature human being able to understand/produce a sentence must have some kind of mental representation of what they said. This follows by necessity. In order to be able to impart meaning to what it is that I say, I need to know that what I am saying has some kind of a meaning, even if I do not know exactly what that meaning is for you, I at least have some preconceived idea that is just so automatic that it is quite possibly innate.

This means that mentalese has to be more inclusive than human language. It needs to be able to account for the recursive ability of language and the simplest explanation for this would be that it too has a recursive system (Aydede, 2015). This is not the only similarity between a Language of Thought and human languages. But recent arguments have been laid forth that suggest that it may just be the recursive ability of our thoughts that allow us to construct grammar and language (see Corballis, M.C., 2014). But this supports Pinker’s claim that language is a universal feature of the human aspect (Pinker, 2004). But, so must a system of representation which acts as a medium of thought be present in all thinking life. Humans have mentalese in common with the likes of dogs, and cows, and wolves, but dogs, cows and wolves cannot do abstract mathematics, so if we have the same kind of mentalese then what makes us able to do more with it than the rest of the animal kingdom?

Taking a closer look at what Fleckon, von Stuterheim, and Carrol (2014) have found, we see that their findings support the claim of a ‘weak’ form of linguistic relativity. This helps to explain how, with mentalese aided by human language, we have a far wider range of possibilities of thought. Their study showed that speakers of German were more likely to focus on the potential end points of a motion event than Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) speakers were (Flecken, et al., 2014). They attribute this to the different aspectual markers found in each language. The speakers of German have greater focus on endpoints in both their expression of the event and for the duration of time that their eyes dwelt on the potential endpoint.

Their findings oppose Pinker and gives support to the gentler version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which states that our language and our thoughts are directly interlinked (Kay, P. and Kempton, W., 1984). Such a theory of Linguistic Determinism is commonly supported by the supposedly massive array of words for snow that Eskimos supposedly have. This originally comes from Franz Boas’ text Introduction to the Handbook of North American Indians (Boas, 1911)and has escalated out of proportion since Whorf himself misreported on Boas’ findings in an MIT technology review (Whorf, 1940). Time and time again has the reported number of Eskimo words for snow been changed and misreported, even by lecturers meant to be perpetuating evidence and not what it has been falsely cited as (Pullmum, 1989, p. 280). Despite the untrustworthiness of some of its claims, the idea that our language determines our thought is a possible one, but not on as strong a level as Sapir and Whorf suggested.

To make the claim that our languages shape our thoughts is to make the claim that one without language is one without thoughts. This is what the strictest version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis entails. We have observed feral children being taught languages (Long, M.H., 1990). We saw how difficult it was for them to learn language but to assume that they have no thoughts because they have no language to shape it is absurd. That very idea seems absurd to me. That’s why we have this thing called mentalese.

Keith Chen gives us more ground to stand on with the claim that it is human language that enables us to think abstractly. He matched families on as many levels as he possibly could with the only difference being their language. What he found was that the concept of a future in our mother tongue has some impact on the way in which we spend and save (Could your language affect your ability to save money?, 2012). A handful of families with this difference would mean little as it could be the case that those families who saved more and spoke a futureless language just had a tradition of saving more. But if we replicate this study on more and more groups of people then we can find out just what it is that causes the difference in their saving habits. If it really is the case that futureless language speakers are better savers because their concept of the future is an extended form of the present (Could your language affect your ability to save money?, 2012), then we can conclude that our language definitely has an impact of abstract thought.

Outlook

Pinker definitely seems to be on the side with the stronger arguments for base thoughts. Thoughts which must be present in animals and language-less people alike. On some level, Pinker and those who stand beside him must be right when they say that there is this so-called mentalese. Where I disagree with Pinker is the level to which this occurs. In my personal experience, I have never been able to ponder about abstract concepts such as love versus lust without formulating my ideas in strings of words. Mentalese exists. It is a base system of representation that enables thought. But this is limited in its capabilities. What studies like those conducted by Fleckon, (Flecken, et al., 2014) and Chen (Could your language affect your ability to save money?, 2012) can tell us is that our language does at least have some impact on the way in which we perceive the world. There is some extent to which our language shapes our thoughts.

However, not enough evidence exists yet for us to conclusively say this. We need more studies along these lines investigating the connection between language and abstract thought. We also need to conclude that it is indeed true that non-human animals are incapable of abstract thought. I stand with Chen, von Stutterheim, Fleckon, and I disagree with Pinker and the schools of Nativism and Linguistic Determinism. ‘I do not think that I think in the way that he [Pinker] thinks I think. (Cole, 1998).

References

Aydede, M., 2015. The Language of Thought Hypothesis. [Online]
Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2015/entries/language-thought/
[Accessed 30 August 2016].

Boas, F., 1911. Introduction to the Handbook of North American Indians. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin.

Cole, D., 1998. I Don’t Think So: PInker on the Thinker. [Online]
Available at: http://www.d.umn.edu/~dcole/pinker.htm
[Accessed 15 October 2016].

Corballis, M.C., 2014. The recursive mind: The origins of human language, thought, and civilization. Princeton University Press. Vancouver

Could your language affect your ability to save money?. 2012. [Film] Directed by Kieth Chen. Edinburgh: TED.

Flecken, M., von Stutterheim, C. & Carrol, M., 2014. Grammatical aspect infuences motion event perception: fidings from a cross- linguistic nonverbal. Language and Cognition, 6(1), pp. 45-78.

Kay, P. and Kempton, W., 1984. What is the Sapir‐Whorf hypothesis?. American anthropologist, 86(1), pp.65-79.

Long, M.H., 1990. Maturational constraints on language development. Studies in second language acquisition, 12(03), pp.251-285.

Pinker, S., 1994. Mentalese. In: The Language Instinct. s.l.:Harper Perenial Modern Classic, pp. 55-82.

Pinker, S., 2004. The Language Instinct. s.l.:Harper Perennial Modern Classic.

Pullmum, G. K., 1989. The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, Volume 7, pp. 275-281.

The Science of Dank Memes. 2016. [Film] Directed by SciShow. s.l.: YouTube.

Whorf, B. L., 1940. Science and Linguistics. Technology Review (MIT), 42(6), pp. 229-231, 247-248.

Apologies About the ‘Spam’

Dear readers,

No. I am not the one sending you spam if you are getting any. But if you are, what are they asking for and have you replied? I think the best way to deal with people who try to waste your time is to waste their time right back. What I am apologising for is the trifecta of the three assignments that have kept me so far away.

I plan on updating here more regularly but I don’t want to speak of where I came through. Yes, I fully acknowledge that this is me running away from the past but I am not ready yet. See that? The keyword yet. That is meant to portray that I have hope. At least some. And I do. Just not a lot.

But alas (love that saying) I shall now fill your inboxes with my research assignments so that you may openly judge my work.