Philosophy of Language Reality and Human Development

I’ve begun to think about language in a sense that is to some extent, removed from culture and linguistics. There has been large amounts of thought produced on the role of language in philosophy (conveniently called The Philosophy of Language). I’ve started to peruse the writings of philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Cavell, Searle, and JL Austin and others who are proponents of what is known as Ordinary Language Philosophy. Much like the more famous Existentialists many of their views do not mix and match.

My readings of the those thoughts and works and my reading of the modern writing on these ideas at this point is very cursory, so much in fact that I’d rather not define any of their ideas here, what I will do is define my learning and thinking objectives and then touch on my thought and understanding of those objectives at this point before delving into the pool of intellectual knowledge that has preceded me.

My objectives as always involve the general human condition, and my attempts at answering questions about it through thought and study. My objectives are:

Learn and think about language and its relation to reality.
Learn and think about language and its role in human evolution and future human development.

The following is my understanding and thought about language in the context of the above objectives, mostly taken from my basic overview of Wittgenstein, although I’m sure it divulges quite a bit:

Language interacts with reality in a way other things and concepts cannot. Language defines reality, it gives it form and meaning. When objects and concepts have definition then logic kicks in and we’re able to develop ideas based on the things we can define (logic “kicking in” is a bit of a non sequitur that will have to be fleshed out later). For example: “That object is a four foot by six foot rectangle, therefore perhaps five foot by nine foot rectangles can also exist, even though I’ve never seen one.”

Since language has defined reality as it can be experienced by a human and has also defined some things nonexistent (like purple elephants), we have been able throughout human history build knowledge through the following linear explanation:

the apparent existence of reality > defining it with language > thinking about it with language > the passage of time

It’s knowledge of the world around us that has helped the overall development of the species, all facilitated first by the existence of reality as we know it and then by defining that idea with language.

A dog that is hungry and looking for food does not have any ideas, he is riding on instinct, he is interacting with his environment casually. He knows nothing of the idea of hunger, as we’ve defined it, or food, as it is defined by us, or how his food is processed or created.

Humans as a species have defined the concept of hunger, they’ve also defined the idea of a negative feeling, they realize not only through instinct, but also through simple logical reasoning that they need sustenance to quench their hunger, and as a population they’ve built a system of trade (imperfect as it may be at this point in the human journey) to be able to better facilitate avoiding that negative feeling.

This is were I stand now, I’m sure that I will hate this explanation later and either think it wrong, completely stupid or utterly simplistic, but we all have to start somewhere right? Thoughts? Comments on the subject? Don’t hesitate to start an argument, discussion, or thread of insults….


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