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Thread: What was Reasoning like before Language existed?

  1. #1 What was Reasoning like before Language existed? 
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    Hi,

    This blog is based on a thesis presented for an MSc in Industrial Design at a School of Engineering. It used medieval heraldry as a source to study the birth of a simple and early 2-dimensional system of representation. The main idea was to create a sound methodological basis for the analysis of visual semantics in order to be used later with images and objects.

    It incidentally helped to know better some unsuspected features of the concept of communication as a code and its interaction with acknowledgement and reasoning in man. How human beings reasoned before the emergence of spoken languages when only beings, things, materials or phenomena were available as signs? The answer could be metonymization, but research proceeds. The present analysis studies the arms of the medieval kingdom of Jerusalem at:

    www.leeuween.com


    Thanks,

    Carlos


    Last edited by 5x11; September 29th, 2012 at 11:03 AM.
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  3. #2  
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    Einstein once said that he did not think in language, and found difficulty in translation what he thought into words.

    Many (most?) people think in language---which though a valuable tool is also a limiting factor.

    It seems that many of the ancient stories/myths/religious texts/ etc... were metonymies, or metaphores
    which I suspect is also true of pre-literate societies.

    If, however, by "metonymization" you mean thinking in (and utilizing) analogies, and the interplay of set and subset, message and metamessage, being more sensitive to one's environment, etc...
    Then any assumptions based on language oriented thinking may fall short of the mark of understanding?


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    A lot of people just assume people that can't put things into words lack metacognition--this topic comes up in teaching. While that's probably true sometimes, it's also true that many people use both language and other mental abstractions such as pictures, sounds or even a hard to describe combined impressions to think. Thinking in other ways are common and not so hard to imagine for those who rely on their inner language voice. I imagine my cat picturing himself jumping on the paino bench, than jumping to the top of 5 foot book shelf and finally jumping to the high 7 foot shelf--all without thinking a "word." I, and I'm pretty sure many other people, personally go through a similar process when trying to figure out many wood working task, or when drawing a picture--words just get in the way and waste time and energy. The strangest phenomena is reading without the inner voice that many of us do--since the page obviously uses words.
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    All we humans have experienced this before reading, isn't it? Also, in a lesser degree, those that aren't able to speak and hear simultaneously or individuals that have some specific impairment. But it never leaves us completely. You may, for example, experience some disorientation in an exotic country.

    The question is that nobody has found out how reasoning worked before spoken language appeared, as much as I can tell. There is a fresh component inside each of us but we miss that "total immersion" of our first infancy. There is an early component that affected all society and, presumably, greatly affected culture, as we know it. But culture may have evolved from observation: by watching someone hunting or carving flint for tools. We can't date speaking before culture.

    Thirdly, there is an external component that includes animals, as you mentioned it, where we could learn a lot by observation. The cat jump, in my view, works through a series of metonymizations. He is able to see his goal and sense his position; then he also may see what is in between, taking each part for the whole. I watched cats doing that and returning back when feeling that one of the jumps was unfeasible. These metonymizations, of which onomatopoeias are a well-known example, may have been at the inception of the vocabulary of every primitive language. So much for the arbitrariness of language, anyway.

    Up to this time I had no need to use pure metaphors in my study of heraldic images. Many figurations appear from what I called diverging or converging metonymies, besides simple metonymies. In the analysis of the attributed arms of Salerno, for example I took: [salt > evaporation > heat > Sun] together with: [desert > hot > heat > Sun] to justify the drawing of a Sun departing from sal [Latin for salt] and eremum [Latin for desert or wilderness]. Both join again in Salernum ~ Sal eremum.
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    I once watched a nationall geographic program in spanish about human history. I can't remember what it was called though
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