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Re: [ontolog-forum] Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

To: "'Pat Hayes'" <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "'[ontolog-forum]'" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2013 11:03:48 -0800
Message-id: <53ABA0EDFED14BF4B2A7551A99850225@Gateway>
Dear Pat,    (01)

That explains some of our posts on the forum.
Your inclination and history is based on using
math and figures foremost, and language
secondarily.  Mine is based on language and
figures, with math secondarily.      (02)

So re Sapir-Whorf, our customary choice of media
for thought has led to the divergence of our
preferred methods for thought.  That is somewhat
the opposite of Sapir-Whorf; our mental
apparatuses differ, and that leads to our use of
different languages as primary media - you with
math, me with language.  Both of us can do the
opposite - you with language, me with math - but
our preferred, and therefore more developed
subjective choices conformed to our preferred
skill use.      (03)

Very interesting!  Thanks for explaining your
history versus mine.     (04)

-Rich    (05)

Rich Cooper
Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2    (06)

-----Original Message-----
From: Pat Hayes [mailto:phayes@xxxxxxx] 
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2013 9:17 AM
To: Rich Cooper
Cc: '[ontolog-forum]'
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Sapir-Whorf
Hypothesis    (07)

On Feb 23, 2013, at 6:33 PM, Rich Cooper wrote:    (08)

> Dear Pat,
> Good question.  My response is below,
> -Rich
> Sincerely,
> Rich Cooper
> EnglishLogicKernel.com
> Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
> 9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Pat Hayes [mailto:phayes@xxxxxxx] 
> Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2013 4:01 PM
> To: Rich Cooper
> Cc: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Sapir-Whorf
> On Feb 23, 2013, at 3:39 PM, Rich Cooper wrote:
> Simon Spero wrote:
> > the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux
of impressions which has to be organized by our
minds-and this means largely by the linguistic
systems in our minds.
> Note the use of the word "largely"
> Does it mean that? I find this claim to be
highly doubtful, myself. I have, at many times in
my life, had to think and act while my mental
linguistic system was not functioning at all, and
found that my thinking was unimpaired by a
temporary (epilepsy-induced) total aphasia.
> Could you enlarge on this please?  Do you mean
you had an epileptic seizure while in action, but
were unable to verbalize?     (09)

Not exactly. For about 25 years I had chronic
seizures (largely controlled by medications)
arising from a head injury in childhood. Their
focus was my left temporal lobe, and their result
was that I was totally aphasic - "word-blind", no
language abilties at all, either speech or
comprehension - for periods varying from a few
seconds to about half an hour, while fully
conscious and functional in every other way (as
far as I and anyone else could tell.) So I know
what total aphasia feels like and, more unusually,
can tell others about it. And guess what, it feels
like nothing, until you try to speak (or read - my
own test to see how well I was recovering was to
see if I could read a newspaper. The only way to
find out was to try it, and see how well it
worked.) It feels perfectly normal. Until you hear
other people speaking gibberish, or try to say
something and realize you have no idea what to do
with your mouth to make those extraordinary
noises, you would not know you had the condition.
I could think without language in exactly the same
way, and just as effectively, as I can with
language. Language is irrelevant to (my) thinking.
Even without the seizures, most of my thinking is
best described using diagrams or mathematics,
rather than verbally. All my academic life I have
had a sharp distinciton between having the ideas,
which is the thinking part, and writing them down
in language, which is a tedious chore almost
entirely unrelated to the thinking, and one that
requires completely different kinds of effort. To
write English prose does require thought, of
course, but it requires thought *about English
prose*, not about the topic being described. I
have to worry about repetition and assonance and
paragraph structure and keeping to the topic and
all that English composition stuff that I had to
learn in grammar school. I couldn't be doing all
that crap while I was trying to prove a theorem or
trying to figure out where the bugs are in my
code. Expressing myself in language is serious
extra work, and increasingly, with age, I find it
not worth the effort.     (010)

> I had an experience as a ten year old where
someone had pulled out the board that bridges a
ditch.  While riding my bike over the (missing)
board, I took a tumble.  For the next hour or so,
I acted normally at my sailing class, went out in
a boat, participated in a race, returned to the
harbor, returned the boat (a pram) to the storage
stack, and then finally became conscious again.
Either I had lost consciousness but kept in
action, or I just lost my memory of the actions.
I will never know which.  But my sister was at the
same sailing class and told me I had done all
those things, even talked and listened properly,
during the lost time.     (011)

Interesting experience, but not like mine.     (012)

> So in my case, I had both rational action and
rational language during the missing hour. 
> But in any case, this idea that thought somehow
*is* language seems unlikely on a variety of
grounds. I know I am not alone in being able to
think many thoughts that I find it hard to utter
in language - in some cases, impossible to do so.
Why would this be true, if thought simply were
language, or if it used the "linguistic system" in
our minds?
> I agree that actions can be performed and
thought can be performed, but not always together.
I can ride a bike, but I couldn't explain to my
kids HOW I ride a bike.  They had to learn by
doing, the same way I did. 
> But we could define thought as linguistic, and
use a different word for actions.  So I suppose
its really a matter of how you define "thought".
Does it really have to encompass nonlinguistic
actions like riding a bike?    (013)

I was talking more about mental effort such as
planning a complicated construction task
(recently, in my case, a kitchen remodel), doing
mathematics, or writing programs. None of these
seem to me, subjectively, to be even slightly
connected with language. If asked what I am doing
when doing this kind of thing, or asked to
describe my thoughts, I am completely unable to do
so. It feels more like drawing elaborate internal
pictures than anything linguistic (but even that
is only a metaphor, as I couldnt draw it either
:-)     (014)

While apahasic, one task I figured out was how to
convince my wife that I was OK (and not have her
call the paramedics), which I did by standing up
and dancing for her.    (015)

> Again, I can often time-share thinking and
language use, for example following a chain of
thought while listening to spoken instructions or
even holding a conversation.
> Psychologists say we have at least two brains,
as shown by the surprising results of split corpus
callosum patients show in their experiments.  It
seems normal to have one part of your linguistic
brain listening, while another part talks.  Which
task is "thinking"?  The listening part, or the
talking part?  Clearly we need both to participate
in a two way conversation, whether spoken or, like
this one, typed and read. 
> And, it is known that linguistic functionality
is localized to comparatively small areas of the
cortex (the left temporal and prefronal lobes), so
if our minds *are* the linguistic system in our
minds, what is the rest of this (biologically very
expensive) neural tissue for?
> Broca's area and that other guy's area are known
to participate in linguistic actions, but that
doesn't mean that the rest of the brain isn't also
participating - the cochleae are hearing
simultaneously, though we think not symbolically.
Other parts have their dedicated functionalities,
but they also are part of the thought process.
There are people who can talk and talk about some
mundane story, but the story isn't true, didn't
happen, and has no meaning other than the jabber
produced in valid English. 
> Does Spero give any evidence for this very
strong, and I think extremely implausible, claim
that it is our mental linguistic system which
provides the categories for thought?
> It would be better to ask Simon Spero than to
ask me.    (016)

He answered. He doesn't have any evidence. .    (017)

>  But I agree with him in a fuzzy way (very
little is known about our language and brain)
until more detailed explanations are available in
some future day. 
> In my opinion, we call "thought" the
communicable description of experience from
observer to observer    (018)

If that's the definition, then whatever it is that
I do with my brain must be something else. I would
define thought as the process that figures out how
to solve problems and achieve goals in the face of
difficulties. It is how we decide what to do.
Communication is very important, but is not the
defining characteristic of thought. Robinson
Crusoe wasnt communicating anything, but he was
doing a lot of thinking.     (019)

> , and we each identify with the other through
our memories, both action memories and language
memories.  So in finale, I think language is the
symbolic and communicable portion of what we call
> Pat Hayes
> I hear its 84 degrees in Florida.  I grew up
there, and I miss it, but I love California better
even with the crazies in political office here.      (020)

My dear fellow, Florida has the lock on crazies,
in or out of political office.     (021)

Pat    (022)

> -Rich
>      (023)

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