• frank
    1.8k
    I think humans have an innate capacity for language that starts out as the creation of random sounds along with mimicry. Interaction with other people selects and refines communication (a fair amount of which is body language).

    I wonder if we also do a certain amount of talking to the world and then expect selection and refinement from it in the same way we expect that from other people. We attempt to command the world and in turn receive direction. We tell the world who we are and in turn ask it who it is by creating hypotheses.

    Thoughts?
  • frank
    1.8k
    An example would be that as I stand waiting for an elevator to open, my body language expresses expectation. When I push the button for my floor, I'm telling the world what I want. When the elevator stops, my glance asks: is this my floor?

    I don't actually say any of these things or even think them, but my body does the talking. Why not?
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    As a cat watches expectantly, but wordlessly by a mouse hole?

    I don't know why you want to call it communication, though. One relates to the world such that one learns to expect, one learns to interpret a smell as mousey, or a lift number as an address of sorts. But it is by great contrivance that we can actually address Siri. Crusoe interprets a footprint to mean he is not alone, but he does not talk to it any more than I am talking to the words you put on my screen.

    But there is a long history of thinking that one can talk to the world, that everything is animate and persuadable. It's very unfashionable these days though - we tend to call it magical thinking.

    That is how I think of communication, anyway, that it is two-way (hence the 'co'), at least in principle, and so one can write to the book author, give feedback to the television, comment on the video, reply to the post. When I get off the bus I thank the driver, but when I get out of the lift I don't thank the mechanism. But perhaps one should give thanks whenever one breaks bread?
  • frank
    1.8k
    As a cat watches expectantly, but wordlessly by a mouse hole?

    I don't know why you want to call it communication,
    unenlightened

    Maybe in the same way a cat is naturally outfitted with claws, fangs, keen eyesight, and instinct to kill, all of which are engaged in the wait for the mouse, humans are naturally outfitted with a capacity for sophisticated communication (thinking of Chomsky), and so engage the world from that innate framework?

    This might explain that objective voice we know about. In science we take possession of that voice, but maybe we first heard it in conversations with the world.

    Thanking is interesting. I have to mull over that.
  • Waya
    925
    I think that in part communication does consist in part of "body" language, and one may tell significant amounts of the intentions of another by this. Usually, the ability to interpret such is intuitive and not really learned, but there are people who cannot do this, even with exposure to others. I believe it is wired naturally in healthy people to read and communicate fluently.
  • frank
    1.8k
    Usually, the ability to interpret such is intuitive and not really learned, but there are people who cannot do this, even with exposure to others. I believe it is wired naturally in healthy people to read and communicate fluently.Lone Wolf

    Yes. And just as people vary in how well they read human body language, people vary in their comprehension of the world's body language. The world's body language is mechanistic as much of human body language is.

    Of course I'm not suggesting that the world actually wants to communicate with us, just that we're hardwired to take in information in a linguistic guise.

    The question would be: do we have the ability to see beyond that linguistic framework?
  • Kym
    86
    As a cat watches expectantly, but wordlessly by a mouse hole?unenlightened
    That brought to mind those short Japanese haiku poems.

    Maybe the kind of background anthropomorphism describes is a way we secretly relate to the world all the while. Although admittedly, I tend to swear more at lifts than compose them poetry.
  • frank
    1.8k
    Maybe the kind of background anthropomorphism ↪frank describes is a way we secretly relate to the worldKym
    I want to say it isn't anthropomorphism. There is something genuine about it even though it's not the way we typically think of conversation.

    What I really want out of this notion is for the relationship between logic and the world to be explained. Plus that question about seeing the world non-linguistically.
  • Waya
    925
    No, I don't think the physical world, such as rocks, want to communicate with us. At least, to me, it seems absurd that they would. They just exist without any thought or emotion. From my experiences, nature is cold. There is no communication or oneness with it, but we can adapt and learn to expect certain things to happen in a certain way. It doesn't seem like a communication, but rather that we just simply observe that things happen that way. Hope that makes sense!
  • frank
    1.8k
    but we can adapt and learn to expect certain things to happen in a certain way.Lone Wolf

    Have to give the problem of induction its due though.
  • Waya
    925
    Yes, true. I have not found an answer outside of circulatory reasoning for the cause of most things. Things work the way they do because that's the way it works. :razz:
  • javra
    698


    Not sure what you have in mind, nor of how well this rough idea might fit. Carl Jung talked of synchronicities wherein one’s mental states of belief and apprehension synchronized with otherwise unusual coincidences in one’s inanimate environment—thereby resulting in new awareness of meaningful and relevant into. Were one to entertain the philosophical hypothesis that all physical reality is itself a near perfectly stable synchronicity between givens, then—I’m supposing—even the most mundane and profane of our interactions with inanimate reality could be deemed a form of communication. The world informs us of things via photons bouncing off of the retina, etc., and we inform the world back via our actions toward it. Thereby resulting in a communication between inanimate and animate. Something like this?

    Gotta warn you, this roundabout sort of thing gets relative close to the notion of logos as interpreted by Heraclitus. The world’s logos, our individual logos of subjectivity, and so forth, all of it being different parts of the cosmos/uni-verse.

    Generally though, I too tend to limit “communication” to meanings intentionally transferred from one sentient being to other sentient beings. For example, bees communicate to each other, but saying that sun communicates location to the bees seems to me a bit off mark.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k

    I'm on board. I think this could be a really fruitful idea to explore. Couple points:

    1. Sometimes you can find that a metaphor or an analogy works because the things compared share an underlying mechanism that is literally, not figuratively, the same. This is always worth investigating.

    2. From the other direction, there is Grice's theory that grounds "non-natural meaning", the way the English word "cloud" means [[cloud]], in "natural meaning", the way dark clouds mean it's going to rain. Most folks shy away from connecting those directly as he does.

    3. Some of us do speak to things regularly. (When I find something where it shouldn't be, there's a fair chance I'll speak to it --"You're not supposed to be there," "What are you doing here?" -- that sort of thing.) Why do we do that?

    4. There are lots of idioms that recognize what you're talking about: listen to what your body is telling you, numbers don't lie (i.e., they tell the truth), etc.
  • frank
    1.8k
    For example, bees communicate to each other, but saying that sun communicates location to the bees seems to me a bit off mark.javra

    The idea was that our innate capacity for language influences the way we interact with our environment. But the sun is an example of a part of the world people have spoken to for many centuries in the form of prayer.

    1. Sometimes you can find that a metaphor or an analogy works because the things compared share an underlying mechanism that is literally, not figuratively, the same. This is always worth investigating.Srap Tasmaner

    Could you say more about this?

    2. From the other direction, there is Grice's theory that grounds "non-natural meaning", the way the English word "cloud" means [[cloud]], in "natural meaning", the way dark clouds mean it's going to rain. Most folks shy away from connecting those directly as he does.Srap Tasmaner

    This sounds kin to it. Is natural meaning supposed to be a translation of direct experience into meaningful statements? Do you have a Grice reading recommendation?

    3. Some of us do speak to things regularly. (When I find something where it shouldn't be, there's a fair chance I'll speak to it --"You're not supposed to be there," "What are you doing here?" -- that sort of thing.) Why do we do that?Srap Tasmaner

    Maybe it flows freely out of a sense of world as a friend or companion?

    4. There are lots of idioms that recognize what you're talking about: listen to what your body is telling you, numbers don't lie (i.e., they tell the truth), etc.Srap Tasmaner

    Exactly!
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    Could you say more about this?frank

    For an easy example, languages actually, literally evolve. No metaphor.

    Do you have a Grice reading recommendation?frank

    Studies in the Way of Words.
  • Hanover
    4.1k
    I think humans have an innate capacity for language that starts out as the creation of random sounds along with mimicry. Interaction with other people selects and refines communication (a fair amount of which is body language).frank

    The only difference in types of communication you refer to (uttering "I am annoyed" versus looking annoyed) is that one is an intentional communication and the other not. A leaf turning brown is unintentional communication of Autumn coming. A dog bark could well be intentional.

    Our intentional communication is more complex but not a distinguishing characteristic of humans. If you wish to call the intentional sort "language," you may, but I see no basis for separating out the intentional from the unintentional when trying to decipher meaning.
  • frank
    1.8k
    I see no basis for separating out the intentional from the unintentional when trying to decipher meaning.Hanover
    Is there something self-conscious or self-reflective about intentional communication that's missing from non-intentional?

    I'm having trouble putting my finger on the real difference between the two. If its true that we have conversations with the world, the more intentional they are, the more they would be like religious acts. And maybe that is part of what religion is.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k

    I think you'll also want to be able to distinguish between your dog telling you she wants to go out and your dog telling you to kill the president.
  • frank
    1.8k
    I'm not sure what you're getting at. Humans and dogs have been been in communication for thousands of years.

    Language capacity may be innate, but language specifics result from negotiations between speakers (and other things like creativity and something like genetic drift, but I want to focus on negotiation).
  • Hanover
    4.1k
    Is there something self-conscious or self-reflective about intentional communication that's missing from non-intentional?frank

    The difference between intentional and non-intentional is in the former you meant to and the latter you didn't.
  • frank
    1.8k
    Lol. Thanks.
  • Hanover
    4.1k
    What does meaning mean?
  • frank
    1.8k
    Good question.
  • Hanover
    4.1k
    Surely meaning means something else there is no meaning and nothing means anything. If, though, meaning does have meaning, but you can't just put your finger on it, then you're saying it's ineffable. Now that's a problem for some, right?
  • frank
    1.8k
    I have this thought that logic is an aspect of the language humans use in conversations with the world. I didn't want to say that out loud, though.

    I hadn't thought much about meaning, but I think maybe it's a multi-faceted concept. One aspect of it is a product of reflection. For instance, I may respond to your look of anger without consciously translating it into English. Later at the trial, I would explain what your look meant.

    In the same way, we read the world's body language and later translate it into English. Since the same situation can be translated multiple ways, the idea of the proposition is born.

    I think I need to go read some Russell.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    I want to focus on negotiationfrank

    So start there. One way of thinking about a person's interaction with the rest of the world, is to note that the rest of world resists and surprises. If you falsely believe that boulder will never roll down the hill onto your house, when it does your belief becomes untenable.

    So to keep with your approach, you tell the world what you're thinking and it might agree, disagree, or say nothing. Or something else. It has some input, and you revise your belief to take that input into account.

    David Berkowitz believed his neighbor's dog told him to kill. Something has gone wrong in the negotiation here.
  • frank
    1.8k
    Oh! We start with raw interaction. Just spontaneous behavior. We find ourselves surprised and reflect on events. From this proceeds a proposition, which is a translation of what we believe the world's body language is telling us.

    Subsequent events may reinforce or diminish our confidence that we understand. More later...
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    We start with raw interaction.frank

    Well that's a question, right?

    Your OP was based in part on the idea that this is something we do, that we're wired to do, to structure our experience as conversation. That leaves room for the idea that we more or less project this structure onto the rest of the world (or our experience of it). Projecting structure in this way is a mainstream issue for epistemology, most especially from Kant forward. And in this particular version, there are people we can point to who do project voices onto the rest of the world: we call them schizophrenics. That leaves a choice for how you proceed: do you propose a view that encompasses "hearing voices" as a variation of some kind on what we all do?
  • Galuchat
    482
    Generally though, I too tend to limit “communication” to meanings intentionally transferred from one sentient being to other sentient beings. For example, bees communicate to each other, but saying that sun communicates location to the bees seems to me a bit off mark. — javra

    And yet, to say that homoeostasis, gene expression, neural stimulation, endocrine signalling, and immunomodulation are types of biocommunication, doesn't seem so far-fetched to me.

    So, should the notion of communication pertain only to organic objects? And if so, at what level(s) of abstraction (i.e., physiology and/or psychology)?

    For those who would appropriately refer to the etymology of the word "communication" from the Latin "communico" (share, impart, make common), I would suggest that what the process of communication shares between informer (transmitter, sender) and informee (receiver, recipient) is code, given:

    1) Communication: the process of encoding, transmitting, conveying, receiving, and decoding, data (form).
    2) Code: transformed, translated, or converted data (form).
    3) Information: communicated data (form).
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    When a cat feels threatened it will stand sideways, raise its hackles arch its back, and try to look big and fierce. Intentional or not, one can argue it, it looks like an attempt to communicate - 'I'm more trouble than I'm worth'. It is because it is a communication that it is funny when the cat does it inappropriately - to one of those automatic hoovers for instance. It is inappropriate because the hoover is incapable of receiving or responding to anything but the press of the off button.

    Martin Buber makes the distinction between I-thou relations and I-it relations, and it seems to me that communication is predicated on the latter, whether thou art a human or an animal. Communication is an attempt to persuade, engage, affect, another awareness.
    So, should the notion of communication pertain only to organic objects? And if so, at what level(s) of abstraction (i.e., physiology and/or psychology)?

    For those who would appropriately refer to the etymology of the word "communication" from the Latin "communico" (share, impart, make common), I would point out that what the process of communication shares between informer(transmitter, sender) and informee (receiver, recipient) is code, given:

    1) Communication: the process of encoding, transmitting, conveying, receiving, and decoding, data (form).

    2) Code: transformed, translated, or converted data (form).

    3) Information: communicated data (form).
    Galuchat

    Sure, there is a sense in which my computer is 'communicating' with your computer, but I want to put some scare quotes around such usage precisely because neither of our computers has any idea what they are doing. It is I and thou that are communicating, in the same way that if we were sword-fighting, it is not the swords that would be trying to kill each other.
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