On 4/5/2010 8:33 AM, Phil Murray wrote:
PM> It would be hard for me to prove, but I have the strong suspicion
> that basic logic *precedes* language. Or perhaps they evolved
> concert, with language being the vehicle necessary to transfer vital
> information to a larger group of people [more efficiently].
I would extend that point to note that *all* of the higher animals
have very effective (and logical) reasoning methods. But they don't
use a language-based kind of logic. They are more likely to use
a method of building and checking mental models.
My cat, for example, is very good at detecting subtle warning signs
of impending disasters, such as a trip to the vet. Cats are very
good at planning escape routes and hiding places. But their mental
models usually omit their tell-tale tails. That's probably because
the grass and underbrush in their ancestral homeland would have been
sufficient to hide the tail -- but it sticks out from under a bed.
Monkeys, apes, and ravens can invent and use some very sophisticated
tools and techniques
to solve problems for getting food.
PM> Assembling the elements required to start a fire -- flints,
> flammable shavings, wood -- appears to be a moderately complex
> set of if-thens.
I strongly suspect that a proto-language preceded the discovery
of how to start and manage fires. Whether it included an if-then
construction is not clear.
In any case, if-then constructions are most useful for explaining
plans to other members of the tribe. The actual reasoning can be
done (as it still is today) by imagining, elaborating, and checking
mental models -- which can involve more images than words.
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