Language And Reality: Can Language Illuminate Reality? - Eastern Mirror
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Language and Reality: Can Language Illuminate Reality?

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By EMN Updated: Oct 25, 2023 12:33 am

In the words of the American neuroanthropologist Terrance Deacon, humans are homo symbolicus, uniquely using highly symbolic language. The question arises: Why did language come about? Philosopher and neuroscientist lain McGilchrist believes that language evolved to apprehend reality. But does Language truly capture reality?

Language encodes our perceptual information, yet not all aspects of perception are represented. Consider the phrase “in the bucket.” While it conveys containment, it lacks full geometrical information, omitting details like the bucket’s depth and width.

However, language extends beyond encoding perceptual information. Phrases such as “a chair,” “the chair,” or “some chairs” contain perceptual elements to some extent. However, the term “chair” itself lacks perceptual details. Language communicates not only what can be perceived by the five senses but also abstract concepts.

A key question emerges: Are linguistic distinctions inherently ontological? Words like human, man, person, and soul vary linguistically. Are they also fundamentally different in reality? If so, what about unicorns? Unlikely. However, the term “soul” isn’t merely a linguistic construct; it is grounded in reality. Philosopher Roger Scruton has argued that humans possess unique cognitive capacities, including reflection, imagination, morality, theory of mind, and complex emotions absent in other animals.

The concept of a soul may signify that we are more than our anatomical and physiological components and configurations. This doesn’t imply adding the soul to our physiological makeup but rather acknowledging an intrinsic feature within our unique physio-anatomical structure. In other words, this specific structure inherently possesses this particular feature. Therefore, distinctions like soul and flesh partly reflect reality.

In summary, language is our tool for making sense of the world. While it may not offer a direct, comprehensive picture of reality – as it doesn’t encode all five-sense perceptual information – it provides a glimpse into realities that extend beyond the immediate senses.

Franklin Daniel

(Writer: Linguist & culture)

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By EMN Updated: Oct 25, 2023 12:33:46 am
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