PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOLOGOS
Hugh M. Lewis
When a cultural group suddenly notice an eclipse of the
moon, they all respond to the same belief that a dog is eating the moon in the
same manner, even though no words of instruction are exchanged between them. A
western observer sees the same phenomena and rationalize it as an eclipse of
Simultaneous invention of the same theory or machine occur
independently of one another in the same cultural context.
Though many people may realize that the social system they
are working within is doing harm, they consistently fail to see the very roles
they themselves are playing in the promotion of harm, and so continue to do
How do we explain culture historical synchronicity of the
same kinds of behavioral phenomena, even though there may be no active
communication or deliberate intention between the participants.
How do two strangers have immediate recognition of one
another even though they may have never met each other ever before.
In such ways we can say that understanding is embedded in
the environment and that people may act upon such silent understandings
without having to exchange words or communicate their intentions except by
their actions. In such ways do we say that experience is embedded in the
environment and that our environments are always symbolically mediated.
Wisdom is expressed by words but imperfectly even though
words are always encompassed by wisdom. But without our words wisdom must
remain mute and limited to the narrow range of organic experiences in our
relation to the world. Words are the only other ways we have of understanding
our world, and allow us to communicate this understanding in a way which is
independent of the contexts in which organic experience is always situated.
Words 'lift' wisdom from the contextual relations of the real world and allows
a more general range of understandings and a more inclusive view of the world
to be transmitted.
But words also have a morphological history of organic
experience of their own, and do not come un-situated within their own
linguistic environments. Words embody their own kind of wisdom, usually left
implicit in their etymologies and hermeneutical definition.
When we speak of history of ideas or a history of
consciousness or a culture historical understanding of mind, we are referring
to the kind of wisdom embodied in words--the understanding of the organic
experience which they have come to symbolize and represent in the world.
The problem of language and understanding is central to the
study of culture history and is at the heart of human symbolization. Language
is the principle mechanism of culture historical transmission--it allows the
communication of experience and thus its 'stimulus generalization' in the
world. Without it experience would perish with the passing of each person and
each generation. The only other mechanism available for the transmission of
culture would be the thin and fragile line of imitative learning and of course
genetic transmission, what comes with the overlapping of the generation.
Language may facilitate the understanding of experience and
allow its transmission, but language may also be used to distort such
understanding and to prevent its transmission. Words are deliberate and are
integrative while experience is automatic and undeniable. Words are subject to
the whims of the speaker and listener while wisdom remains imperviously rooted
in the ground of experience. To the extent that words and wisdom overlap in
their dialectical middle ground, such that wisdom is difficult to think at its
extremes without words, and words without wisdom appear nonsensical and
trivial, we can say that wisdom becomes relatively manipulable by the words of
its expression and that words become to some extent 'non-arbitrary' by the
experiential understandings which 'embed' them in the ground of the
It is this 'middle ground' of meaning between the
arbitrariness of words and the essential non-relatively of wisdom rooted in
organic experience that we find the relative 'non-relativity' and the
non-relative 'relativity' of our culture historical and scientific
understandings of the world, as somehow stable and enduring through the many
preparations and as the focus for the dialectic between our words and our
It is upon this more or less stable middle ground of
meaning that we find the convergence of both our philosophical interests in
both the words of wisdom and the wisdom of words. It is in this region of
interrelationship between philosophical and philological concerns that we are
to find the central methodological fulcrum of the study of culture history as
a 'third culture' bridging the sciences and the humanities.
This set of essays is entitled 'Philosophos and Philologos'
instead of 'Philosophy and Philology' to de-emphasize these as fields of study
and to emphasize the general subject of such study. This is to avoid the
influence of many preconceptions surrounding the terms of philosophy and
philology and the traditions (both western and eastern) which these terms
In a sense, it is the philosophos of philosophy (and the
philosophy of philosophos) as well as the philologos of philology (and the
philology of philologos) with which these essays are most concerned and even
more importantly, the middle ground of meaning between these areas of mind, or
the philplogos of philosophy and the philosophy of philologos and the
philosophos of philology and the philology of philosophos.
There is another way of understanding this set of common
interests between wisdom and words, and this is in the attempt to
systematically elucidate the semanticity of language and how language comes to
embody the 'truth' of real experience and how wisdom of the ways of the world
comes to be dependent upon the expression of words for its sense of
experience. Without language and wisdom, we cannot be fully human in our world
of experience. As human beings , we cannot have complete wisdom without words,
and we cannot have words without wisdom.
If we drop the prefix 'philo' meaning 'love for' and just
consider the Greek etymology of the roots 'sophos' and 'logos' we can perhaps
come to a closer understanding of the implications and paradoxical twist, of
their interconnections. 'Sophos' originally meant clever, skillful and wise,
and has come down to us in the forms of 'sophism' and 'sophistry' which means
'a fallacious argument…an ingenuous statement and arrangement of
propositions devised for the purpose of misleading' and 'fallacious reasoning,
sound in appearance only'. 'Logos' meant 'speech or reason' or 'ration or
proportion' or 'word or discourse' and is related to the forms 'logos' or the
'word by which the inward thought is expressed, the inward thought itself' and
meaning 'reason thought of as constituting the controlling principle of the
universe and as being manifested by speech' and as 'logic' or 'the science
which deals with the criteria of valid thought, correct reasoning, way of
reasoning' or 'the system of principles underlying any science or art'. What
is a twist of fate is that philosophy has come down to us today as embodying
more the original meaning of 'logos' while philology has generally become
associated with the skillful play of words, or the logodaedaly and sophistry
Logos, in Greek thought, designated the ordering of the
cosmos, even the cosmos itself, making possible human understanding of the
world and of human relations within it. Philology, (the love of words) before
the advent of scientific linguisticality, was passed down as the study of
'logos' or 'mind', especially as this is expressed through words and texts.
Textuality was the state or condition of mindscape which was the domain of
philologists. 'Sophos' was a Greek term for cleverness' skillfulness and being
wise, and has come down to us in terms of 'sophistry, sophism, sophistication
and sophomore'. 'Sophia' skill or wisdom, was the combining from meaning
'knowledge or thought'. Philosophy (philosophos, or 'the love of wisdom') has
been received as the study of thought and mind in terms of understanding the
relations between ideas. Philology and Philosophy combine in the
'understanding of mind' and the 'mind of understanding' forming a critical
dialectic (from the Greek dialektikos or dialect) fundamental to the workings
of the western 'rational mind' or 'rationalism' which is believed to inhere in
science as 'world view'.
Linguistics, as a science informed by such rationalist
world view, has become the modern substitute for the traditional form of
philology, which had become widely regarded as an esoteric and pedantic
exercise in epigraphy, classical scholasticism in the idiom of dead languages
and literary minutia and trivia without scientific relevance. Exegetical
hermeneutics became a matter of trying to mine texts to uncover hidden
associations between different texts and to reveal the 'essential' structure
of spirit which informed these texts. The loss of culture historical studies
has been an unfortunate one to the modern western world, as it leads to a
collective blindness of the modern world view to the interpretative importance
of such study, incapacitating the modern mind in its ability to encounter
adaptively new earthbound environments.
Not to denigrate the importance of scientific linguistics,
the loss of philology has meant more than the loss of dead languages or
trivial pedanticism, it has meant the permanent loss of a hermeneutical and
culture historical world view which provided the dialectical counterbalance to
scientism in our appreciation of the contextuality of words and the basic
linguisticality of mind. This has resulted not only in a collective myopia or
blindness of general relevance, but in sanctioned 'forgetfulness' of the
collective mind (mind comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'gemnyd' or 'memory') which
has served well the ideological principle of 'progress' as the scientific
substitute for 'logos'.
The burden of understanding in and of the world has fallen
to philosophers, exclusively relegated to the scientifically unimportant world
of the academic humanities. Philosophers substitute 'logic' for 'logos' in the
vain hope of recover their relevance to a world predominated by scientific
rationality, and the central hermeneutical 'raison d'ętre' of the humanities
is lost in the modern age of the machine.
Traditional academic scholasticism focused tuition around
the three Aristotelian subject areas of logic, dialectic and ertistic (or
rhetoric). It is interesting that the traditional curricula of 'logic' has
come down to us in the form of mathematics and scientific theory, while the
study of ertistic has lead to the humanities--speech, literature, philosophy
and history. Dialectic as a formal respondent-questioner question and answer
forum for debate, has largely fallen by the wayside in academic praxis. This
is noteworthy because it is precisely in the kind of dialogue set of up in
such dialectic that the kind of understanding which informs the middle ground
between words and wisdom is to be found. Between the sciences and the
humanities, between the logic of the former and the ertistic of the latter,
exists a third culture based upon the philosophical/philological efficacy of
linguistics. This third culture might be referred to as culture history, and
today is occupied primarily by those fields identified generally as the
Understanding the middle ground between words and wisdom
has something to do with the difference between formal syllogistic reasoning
of logic, and the kind of formal fallacies based upon two value truth theorem
logic, like modus tollens or ergo hoc, ex post propter hoc, and the many kinds
of informal fallacies rooted in common sense preconceptions of normal
linguistic praxis--fallacies of deriving an ought from an is, of
anthropomorphizing or overemphasis, of hypostasis. Many of these kind of
fallacies are rooted in the difference between the parole of 'natural
linguistic discourse' and the 'language of formal linguistic syntax' that are
rooted in the organically derived pre-understandings of a 'folk psychology'
and 'folk taxonomy of the world'. Furthermore these are differences between a
primarily oral mode of linguistic transmission and a literate mode of
Linguistically speaking, part of this central problematic
is the difference between descriptive and prescriptive grammar, or more
precisely, basic selective difference of linguistic style and design which
maximize the efficiency of communication of important information while
simultaneously optimizing the individual interest of stylistic
expression--accentuating the 'unique' and the 'unusual'. Elements of style and
features of design stand as basic paradigmatic examples of 'good' linguistic
praxis versus 'poor' linguistic performance. While there are no absolute
standards for such roles, there are general 'working' rules and their
From the standpoint of pragmatics, or linguistic function,
this middle ground is apparent in which statements stand ambiguously in two or
more functional categories or between such categories--as when statements may
be both descriptive and performative, or when a statement may be by its
structure simultaneously a command or a request, or statement of logical
conclusion and a prescriptive principle or a directive statement.
Another dimension which tests the boundaries of both
'normal' language and reason is the occurrence of linguistic code switching
and code mixing, and the overlapping or mixing up of different speech styles
within a single context of performance. This may lead to differential
'densities' of switching points and to mixing up of different values of marked
or unmarked or covert and overt values of language.
In this way we may refer to the overlay of different
experiential 'topographies' of mindscape which creates a dynamic tension or
conflict of basic significance between different values of metaphorical
salience or metaphysical relevance or importance of interest.
This becomes a basic problem of interpretation and
translation and the hermeneutical 'distanciation of surplus meaning'. Two
speakers may be talking to one another about the same central subject, and
each may be interpreting the other in each's own way and yet both may
simultaneously be talking past one another or through one another to an
idealized or projected sense of self. Such discourse is reflective, but
non-reflexive, as it does not turn the meaning system of each speaker upon
itself in testing it or contrasting it against the meaning system of the
In all instances linguistic communication is never
unmediated by a process of interpretation of different topographies of
metaphorical and metaphysical salience. There are not objective standards or
criteria for determination of such salience, and there can be no purely
neutral, scientific, 'etic' language or 'meta' language which can adequately
serve the function of inter-linguistic translation.
All linguistic encoding of environmental experiences is
'institutional' within a culture historical context, and all involve some
arbitrary measure of linguistic interpretation and translation of events.
Cultural constructivism by discursive praxis (and critical
destructionism by discursive analysis) depends upon, indeed, even demands, the
definite delimitation of 'contexts', but fails to resolve in any constructive
manner the concomitant 'dilemma of context'--how much or how little 'context'
is necessary and sufficient to 'describe and explain' an 'event'. (Ben-Ami
The related dilemma of interpretation involves the question
of who's translation of metaphorical salience and metaphysical importance of
distinguishing between 'loaded' and 'unloaded' meanings (Roger Keesing, 1985)
in the 'taken for granted' definition of inference, reference and transference
of meaning in particular metaphors and statements and in generalized 'codes'
and 'schemas'. Are inferences and implications about 'invisible' or
'entangled' or 'hidden' realities the speaker/actors own or may they in fact
be the listening/interpreter's own invisible presumptions. One must only
consider the possibility of multiple translations to reveal the hidden
ambiguities of determining the necessarily 'correct' or best or only
translation possible. (Daniel Rosenberg, 1990)
Rendering visible the apparently 'invisible', revealing
'hidden' feelings (and enlightening 'back regions' and 'deep structures') and
the consistent transparency of cultural codes presents an antinomial paradox
shared by both participants and observers, speakers and listeners and this
'invisibility' of shared contexts and connotations tends to undermine the
whole 'hidden' agenda of superimposing rational order upon apparent empirical
disorder. This is a dilemma far greater for the observed than for the
participant, because the former must successfully disentangle at least two or
more differing, but equally invisible cultural codes, entailing a deliberate
estrangement (distanciation, critical indifference, objectification,
disinterested inquiry) divorcing or divisively sundering the 'dialogical
betweeness' or intermediacy or 'togetherness' of the dyadic relation. In
allusion to the notion of scientific psychology's 'epistemo-pathology'
(Sigmund Koch, 1981) I will refer to this inherent antinomality of cross
cultural, cross situational, and inter-personal realities and the existential
predicament of the 'participant observer' as 'anthropology'.
Precise statistical description helps to precipitate the
rarefied and invisible and fixes inferences and frames and thus brings
enhanced resolution and clearer 'visibility' to the inherently invisible and
apparently ambiguous, but statistical realities often depend upon superficial
one to one correspondences between the term and the thing, a frequently
fractitious precision between the fact and the act, and its presumed facticity
and precision may only be spurious and superfluous. In the process of
rendering the abstract concrete and the concrete abstract, transforming
cultural schemata into statistical data, and vice versa, statistical
measurements may hide more than it reveals, obfuscate more the disambiguate,
rendering invisible the possibly visible, saying nothing about intentions,
meanings, emotions of purposes behind its silent facts, and in the process
providing the ultimate reification of human reality--turning 'beingness' into
the 'thing-ness' of non-being by transforming real people into abstract
numbers. Then statistical descriptions and their superficial realities become
the defense of the insecure and their authoritarian status quo.
The implicit critique of 'structuralism' and the
description of its terminological rationalism as spurious, Euro-centric
categorical coherence superimposed upon apparent indigenous inconsistencies of
'other-ness', poses the final question of whether the authoritative
ethnographer, as textual translator, might not yet be substituting one brand
of 'struktur' for yet other, opposite kinds of 'structures' (schematas, codes,
frames, events) smuggling into the 'hidden agenda' of making the strange
familiar, the invisible visible, and the concrete abstract, yet one mode of
information to replace of another, yet one form of fixed purpose for another,
superimposing yet another arbitrary, transparent, and categorical sense of
organization, order, constraint and purpose upon other people's subjectively
constituted and shared realities. Analytical destruction of 'common senseness'
whether strange or familiar, self or other, always begs the question of 'whose
common sense categories'.
Might not the native's hidden inconsistencies and cultural
contradictions and apparent arbitrariness be our own, and might not our own
invisible inconsistencies and contradictions and arbitrariness become theirs
in the process of disentangling our shared realities. I suggest this is always
so. Human reality is always entangled, our meanings remain always invisible,
submerged like ice bergs beneath the surface, our motives always hidden, and
intentions always transparent.
The kind of linguistic problem in understanding the middle
ground of meaning between words and wisdom is to understand the basic problem
of description and definition in the fitting of limited words to virtually
unlimited contexts of reality--descriptions are always simplifying models of a
larger more complex reality of experience. If many profiles of possibility
within a given objective experiential horizon present themselves, then that
many more possible descriptions of each profile also must be available. No two
descriptions of the same event will be the same, and all descriptions of even
a single event will not exhaust the complete picture of the profile, much less
the whole horizon, of understanding. There is thus an optimum value in
description between expressiveness, interest, detail and communication, such
that beyond a certain threshold of reiteration there are diminishing returns
of the value of added descriptive accuracy.
No non-arbitrary rules exist to guide us in the process of
selecting elements in our descriptive designs. We may formulate rules of thumb
to guide our descriptive practice, founded in our fund of experience. As we
grow in experience, we gradually come to modify our 'rules' to better suit us
in the process of description. We come to rely upon our sense, sensitivities
and sensibilities in guiding us in our choices and judgments as to what
elements of design are important to select and what to eliminate. Similarly,
we rely upon our judgment to help us to interpret and translate the wisdom of
the descriptions which others present to us. To a certain extent, our own
wisdom is at the mercy of our ability to deploy and manipulate words in ways
that seem to fit or frame our experiences of reality.
In a sense, the middle ground of meaning between our words
and our wisdom in the world is a function of the embeddedness of 'common
sense' in our experiences. It is the embeddedness of common sense which makes
it normally invisible and left implicit in our understandings of the world and
in our descriptions of the world. We can say that our words of wisdom and the
wisdom of our words are always 'situated' by a tacit context of 'common
senseness' in our selves and in our social environments with which, if we are
able to eliminate its effects upon our understandings, we must excoriate and
bring to conscious awareness and come to terms with the basic preconceptions
and presuppositions, value orientations and prejudices, in which such common
senseness is always embedded. Common sense informs our pre-understandings of
the world both unconsciously and contextually in or environments and if we
cannot control for its pervasive presence and persuasive influence in our
words and wisdom, then it will control our words and our wisdom in ways which
prevent us from ever really transcending the narrow ethnocentric horizons
which they reinforce. The horizons of common sense are the culture historical
horizons of world view and power in the world. They are the non-reflexive
reflection of our own value and prejudice, and more important of our own
ignorance in the world.
Philosophos and Philologos are an attempt to excoriate and
reexamine our common sense pre-understanding and the ignorances that render us
blind to new experiences and to seeing the world in different ways.
Philologies is concerned with words and their definitions, such that they
reflect the reality of experience from which they came and which they
symbolically, ideationally represent. Philosophies is more concerned with the
'relations' between words which we attribute to them or which we find
attributed to them in our culture historical contexts of understanding and to
render the patterns of these relations in a way which corresponds to the ways
that the things that the words purported represent are also related. To some
undetermined extent such definitions and their relations are non-arbitrary in
that their basic referents are always grounded in experiential realities--but
the ways that these are so grounded are never obvious and never direct to our
Our own experiential horizons are bounded by our
pre-understanding which precondition how we experience the world. The
linguisticality of our understandings is rooted in the experiential structure
of the world in which our lives are situated. Our descriptions are drawn from
experiences which themselves are rooted in the common senseness of our world.
Culture history always frames the world in which we
live--it creates the cultural contexts and the symbolic experiential
environments by which we configure our constructions of reality. Unless our
language and our constructions are situated within a symbolic field of culture
history, unless the culture historical contexts surrounding our understandings
are present, then our understandings will be unavailable to us and our efforts
to make them will come to nothing.
It is critically important to understand our culture
history provides the environment which must always situate and render
relevant, our descriptive understandings of the world. This environment is
always composed of many interrelated symbolic elements which become more or
less available for our use. In a sense, these culture historical environments
are evolving. They create possibilities of expression and patterning and
provide the selective sanctioning for the determination of the success and
survival of ideas of mind. The horizons of the profiles of our understanding
are thus created by the environments in which we find ourselves always,
inescapably situated. Culture historical contexts can be construed as the
normal 'institutions' of our symbolic experience and linguistic expressions.
We must learn to see the world in such a way that our
environments which always surround us and predetermine the linguisticality of
our experiences are changing very rapidly in ways which we cannot control but
yet which exert a measure of control over us by defining our existential and
experiential possibilities. These changing environments are rapidly and
irreversible altering every dimension of our lives--or identity, our
linguisticality, our ways of seeing and understanding and relating to the
world. As our world changes, so it also changes us.
Always being situated within and by the culture historical
contexts of our pre-understandings we are thus confronted with an irresolvable
dilemma that, though we must exercise our normative capacity to make choices
in the world, in a sense all of our possible choices are always pre-selected
for us and are indirectly constrained by the very symbolic environments in
which we are acting. If we fail to choose wisely, then the selective forces of
our environments will work against our choices. If we choose wisely, the
environments of our choices will provide the necessary elements for their
success. We cannot choose possibilities which lie outside the experiential
'event' horizons of our culture historical contexts--even if we could, we
would be wiser not to want to, because they are predetermined to end in our
failure. The selective forces of our culture historical environments situate
us with in a web of contextual relations and determinations which function as
indirect constraints upon the possibilities of our normative development in
life. They are our existential horizon as well as our experiential and
linguistic horizon of understanding.
Though we may never step outside of the horizons of our
culture historical environments, or escape their existential imperative in our
lives, we can consistently and constantly enlarge and expand these horizons by
challenging them and seeking to always 'comprehend' them through the
discursive activity of our question and answer dialectic. It is in such a way
that we may augment the fund of our common experiences in the world, and
enlarge our experience of the world, and thereby create more possibilities for
our own choices. By expanding our horizons of experience we can become more
aware of the world and more 'wiser' of it--that the relations encompassed
within our horizons in better measure reflect the relations of the unknown
world beyond them.
We can say that the linguisticality of our culture
historical environments is the very fabric of our collective consciousness and
unconscious, of our universal 'mindness' and pan humanness. We may have wisdom
and understandings and experiences which cannot be put into words, but they
are therefore not part of this culture historical fabric by which the
understandings in the world are constructed and by which its environments
It is by the word, by the linguistic enactment of
communication, that we gain relationship with the world, that we are rendered
relevant in the world, from which experience and our wisdom of the world come.
Through our deceit and our deliberate distortions we may rend this fabric into
tattered pieces, but only by the honest and open use of our words in the
service of or wisdom can we mend it and reserve it into a single meaningful
Our dialectical praxis of our language to express our
understandings, through question and answer dialogue, is the enactment of our
language in the weaving of this fabric of both our consciousness and our
experience. Words and wisdom are the worf and weft of the loom of life.
Language and experience are the interwoven threads which create the tapestry
of meaning in the world.
Our linguistic activity, the very linguisticality of our
world and our lives, is always functional in orientation--it always serves a
purpose or intention of human enactment in the world--even if this is only
passive perception or symbolic suggestion. Language, even in its play and
nonsense, always serves a human purpose in the world, whether it is prologue
or epilogue, precursor or postscript, justification or obfuscation. It is the
communicative functionality of linguistic activity, its pragmatic purposes,
which provides the middle ground between words and wisdom.
As symbolization, language functions to intermediate our
experiences of our environments in selective ways which allow us to cope with
and respond to changes in the world.
The functionality of language entails that linguistic
activity is always framed by 'intentionality structures' which inform and
direct the selectiveness of our experience and our understandings of the
world. Intentionality structures situate our linguistic activity within the
culture historical contexts of their pre-understanding, and are also situated
by these very contexts. Intentionality structures pre-structures and directs
linguistic praxis in way which serve human interests in the world.
It is through language that humankind is able to live
simultaneously upon more than one level of meaning, of experience, of
understanding. Besides the natural environments which are presented to our
senses, we have to deal with the symbolic experiences of our culture
historical environments as well, as well as with the psycho-geographic
environments created by our own individual minds. The problem becomes a matter
of how to order these parallel worlds of experience such that they articulate
with one another and make sense, rather than contradict with one another and
create noise. These parallel worlds of experience are not independent of one
another, but are reflexive of one another and interrelated in many ways such
that change in one world creates reverberations and resonances in the others.
It has fallen to the functionality of language to inter-integrate these
different sets of realities into a reasonably coherent and consistent whole.
It achieves this through its on going dialectic which continuously brings the
different worlds of experience to focus and 'tests' them for their degree of
All on going dialogue between the speakers, whether casual
conversation or more formal debate or even literary jousting, consists of the
same basic pragmatic structure. In informal, casual conversation, there is a
stringing together of set of five or seven syllable phrases paratactically.
The conversation as a whole will be arranged into
'syllogistic sets' headed or concluded by a key statement--a general statement
of truth--which then becomes 'tested' or evaluated by the shared experiences
of the speakers. At some point, a metanymically related idea will be turned
up, at which point the direction of the conversation will turn and a new set
of examples of experience will be elucidated. In such a 'chain link' fashion
an entire dialogue between two speakers may exhibit quite a great deal of
drift, twisting and turning in many directions such that the final topic of
the conversation is not even remotely related to the original subject. If two
speakers are wanting to establish symmetrical rapport in the conversation, the
drift may be quite unrelated. If two people are trying to maintain a neutral
distance between each other, the conversation may touch only briefly on topics
which are of neutral relevance to either speaker. If a person is attempting to
establish dominance or is clearly superior, they will attempt to control the
overall directionality of the conversation in a way suitable to their own sets
of experiences and interests. More formal dialogues proceed in the same way,
but generally their topic and developmental framework is more rigid and has
less natural drift, such that the concluding sets provide a conclusive
understanding to the opening topics of the dialogue. More formal syllogisms
following fairly precise principles of syllogistic reasoning may also
constrain such formal discourse and these principles may provide criteria for
the evaluation of the relevance of such discourse.
But whatever the context of the dialogue, there always
occurs a calling up of general ideas or statements of some relevance or
interest to the speaker, which then becomes tested in the course of
conversation by the relating of different or shared experiences. Such
'testing' sooner or later exhausts itself, or reaches a point of diminishing
returns during which some alternative general statement of interest is touched
upon and turn the direction of the conversation. If a problem is especially
important, it may be reiterated and explored at some length, exhausting may
different dimensions of its experiential understanding, or it may provide a
sense of center of gravity from which the conversation may drift in its
exploration and 'reality testing' but to which the conversation eventually
rebounds when it stretches to far from center.
Such is the dialectical structure of all discourse as it
attempts to integrate the different levels of reality in which we live.
In referring to intentionality structures embedded in our
everyday discourse and in the linguisticality of our experiential realities,
it may be said that such structures are rigid and inflexible, then they will
result in a strong tendency to direct or dominate and control linguistic
praxis in ways which suit its purposes, but it will also result in many
frustrating and failed attempts at the pragmatic and functional integration of
reality. But if such intentionality structures are not so rigid and more
flexible and open to varieties of experience then it will result in the
capacity to linguistically 'transact' and negotiate experience in reality and
will eventuate in establishing compromises with experience in which its
interests are served in a limited way but which does not end in frustration
Via our intentionality structures--the deliberate,
arbitrary sense of purpose or design--which we bring to our linguistic praxis,
the functionality of our language 'transacts' our realities in directive ways.
The kind of normal syllogistic structure of discourse, of
question and answer dialectic, as being that which informs and expresses our
'intentionality structures' whether formal or informal, are basically 'frames
of reference/inference' by which our ideas about reality--our statements,
words and their relations--are tested and evaluated against our sets of
experiences in reality, our wisdom, our knowledge, our understandings. Frames
of reference and inference work in two general ways--either 'deductively' by
the posing of a general opening statement to be regarded as the central
'problem' of subsequent discourse. Which then becomes referentially regarded
in relation to relational sets of experiences or understandings, or
'inductively' by 'searching' or questioning a general set of inferentially
regarded experiences or relationships which then becomes open to a concluding
'general statement' which summarizes the sequence of evaluations. Such
inferential frames create 'gaps' of information which then must be filled n by
reason or generalization in order to be completed. Frames of references tests
general ideas against sets of related experiences, leading to the reevaluation
of ideas. Frames of inference tests related sets of experiences against
preconceived ideas, resulting in the reevaluation of experiences to fit
ideational structures. Actual discourse always contain elements of both kinds
of frames in either tandem oscillation or working both ways simultaneously.
Conversations may open as a general statement posed as an open problem but
which in the process open up another problem of experiential 'gaps' of
understanding, which then become resolved by general concluding evaluations
drawn from implicit pre-understandings. Such is the general dialectical
structure of all linguistic discourse between two or more speakers, whether
formal or informal, two way or one way.
It can be said that the general syllogistic structure of
discourse as a whole is basically adductive in working both ways at once, and
that depending upon the contexts or environmental 'situatedness' of the
discourse, different sets of criteria may be working in the evaluation of
experiences/statements. In casual conversation the criteria may be somewhat
loose and basically 'relational' in an analogical or metaphorical way, whereas
in more formal dialogue the criteria become more stringent in a rationalizing
and analytical way following principles of two value causal logic.
Such a discursive structure is general and flexible enough
to account for either 'magical' or 'mythical' thinking and for 'scientific'
rationality and method, as well as for the full gamut of legalistic, artistic
and religious structures of meaning in-between these extremes and yet it is
particular enough not to be irrelevant and to provide evidential
substantiation for the consistent differences and similarities of linguistic
patterning and structure between different 'modes of discourse'.
Within such a general dialectical structure, many different
kinds of linguistic strategies may be pursued, whether cultural, bureaucratic,
small group or individual idioms of expression, whether code switching,
standardization, euphemization, formation of argots and jargons and slangs,
exaggeration of speech styles or dialectical differences, etc.
In such ways the basic discursive structure of linguistic
praxis may be manipulated in many different ways to serve many different kinds
of interests, to fit many different sets of intentionality structures and to
articulate many different experiences and ideas about reality.
A difference exists between the natural functions and
natural 'structures' of a natural linguistic praxis, versus more 'rational'
functions of rational 'structures' of rational linguistic praxis.
Natural linguisticality in general follows an open
structural patterning with a general non-fixedness of its frames or a
non-standardness of its structural variations. Such natural praxis may only
serve very vague or general purposes, rather than specific purposes associated
with rational praxis. In the most general sense, natural linguisticality
serves the purpose of the expression and articulation of beingness in the
The idea of linguistic boundary is inimical in natural
linguisticality--boundaries separating speech styles, dialectics, languages
and codes with the rationalization and standardization of language. When no
single 'correct' way of linguistic patterning exists, people are much freer to
pick and choose between different codes, dialects and languages and even
surface 'structures' of language in way which fit their individual capacities,
interests and personalities. It was possible that before the rise of
'standard' languages, associated with the stratification of classes within a
society, and the functional classification of languages along ethno-national
lines, and the superimposition of corporate bureaucratic controls over
linguistic praxis in the preservation of the legalistic and ideological
'nomos' of societies, that natural languages were a lot less rationally
structured and neatly boundable--that continuous variation among languages was
more the rule than discontinuous boundaries between languages, and that there
was much more give and take, borrowing and structural free-play than is
evident today with the political-territorial superimposition of rigid borders
separating peoples, their cultures and their conversations.
If this were the case, then the history of language must
reveal an evolution and development of linguistic praxis which is much more
open minded, more flexible, self organizing and 'environmental' in the same
way that natural evolution and the development of human civilization can be
said to be--it happened around and to different linguistic groupings, creating
the indirect constraints, degrees of freedom and choices for linguistic
change. linguistic change may have been much less systematic than modern
comparative linguistics believes, and the principles and structures underlying
linguistic change may be a lot less 'universal' and basic and much more
epi-phenomenal and ex-temporaraneous in the patterning of linguistic praxis.
As a process of development, once it was inaugurated in the world, its
functionality and patterning began happening in many different way which were
essentially beyond the control of any group or individual.
The boundaries separating different languages and speech
patterns may have been more of relative culture historical distances of
differences/similarities between speakers or groups or of 'betweenness' or
relative proximity to competing 'centers' of linguistic civilization such that
the linguistic identity could be easily changed given changing contexts of its
instanciation. Linguistic contexts were not frozen and inflexible but were
culture historically fluid and dynamic. Similarly, linguistic structures were
not indefinitely fixed and forever embedded within the human psyche, but were
variable and relationally interdependent with changing contexts.
This argument emphasizes the relativity, the
instrumentality, intentionality, the experientially and the functionality of
linguistic praxis, and sees cultural and linguistic competence as generally
behavioral, acquired and performative--skills of wisdom of words--rather than
as innate, universally the same, deep structure of 'logos' which follows a
definable, scientific set of principles or a basically 'deterministic' model
of understanding language in the world. The acquired skills of linguistic
performance becomes like typing, reflexive coordination and organically
embedded in human experience such that its remarkable speed, agility, capacity
cannot be explained by rationalistic or cybernetic models.
Given the chance interaction between two 'mutually
unintelligible speakers' we see the basis for the evolutionary beginning of
linguistic praxis itself in the Creololization of pidgin languages, in
linguistic 'syncretization' and the synthesis of a new independent language.
And this beginning is rooted in the environmental experiences--such that these
hypothetical different speakers share whole frameworks and environmental
contexts of their normal linguistic praxis which are basically different from
one another, such that their 'native speaker intuition' no longer adequately
function in the 'culture historical clash'. But the beginning occurs in
signing and in non-verbal, paralinguistic behaviors which expresses overtly
the individual's intentionality structures. From this there is an
inferential/referential exchange of words and meanings, of experiences and
understandings and in the process of translation and inevitable distortions
new words are coined to replace old words and to serve new relational
functions of a newly emerging culture historical environment. In such a way, a
new language is slowly built up out of the ashes of old languages, beginning
with its roots in environmental experiences, in pragmatic and paralinguistic
praxis, and working up through the metaphorical hierarchy of words and wisdom
to embrace new metaphysical understandings and orientations in the world.
The process of linguistic emergence can occur quite rapidly
given the appropriate culture historical circumstances of consistent contact
and interaction--it can occur within the space of two or three generations and
even within a single generation and this can be quite rapid from a larger
framework of historical linguistics.
This process can be referred to as natural linguistic
integration. It is rare in a modern world of historical civilization because
the power structures and paradigmatic processes have lead to patterns of
domination, subordination between groups such that linguistic segregation,
extermination or assimilation become 'normally' evident and process of
Creolization and integration become exceptionally evident. The kind of
relational reciprocity and structural symmetry necessary to the development of
such integrative process are normally absent in a world of nation states
preoccupied with power and domination and control of historical and cultural
change such that integration as a natural process of linguistic praxis and
development has lead instead to an overlay and substitution of other kinds of
But even in the process of linguistic assimilation the
rapidity and relative completeness of substitution of one language by another
one can be seen, such that if strongly reinforced it can be effected within a
This has dramatic implications for the understanding of
linguistic change and historical patterning challenging the current status quo
of the morphological structural conditioning of language which is held to be
steady, continuous and which downplays the role of inter-linguistic contact
and diffusion, in other words, which stresses 'evolution' of languages as a
homogeneous, corporate 'systems', like 'species', rather than the actual
'history' of relations between languages.
Natural, original language had a fundamental 'extensive'
orientation and functionality in the world, in that it was without any
necessary 'center' or locus of power of its change, and that it served
primarily the function of individual and group adaptation to changing
environmental circumstances which were themselves more or less random and
'unstructured', rather than an 'intensive' orientation towards a
socio-structural incorporation and reinforcement of social interrelations of
The basic difference between an extensiveness of natural
linguisticality and the intensiveness of derivative, rational linguisticality
can account for many differences and theoretical problems in the understanding
of language change, history and structural or patterning dynamics, between
language of competence and parole of performance, between etic of the speaker
and the emic of the listener, in basic problems of translation and
In this we must also see that hierarchical structures of
relations are always situating and situated in the larger, encompassing
environmental contexts of our experiences--there is nothing necessarily or
sufficiently innate in hierarchy, structure, dominance or power which makes it
an inevitable feature of the human world of experience. Social relations of
hierarchy reinforcing and emphasizing non-beingness and difference in the
world are always contextually situated in the environments of the world, and
are only secondarily, subsequently internalized into our own organic
experience. We learn how to become hierarchical and structured through our
relations with our world.
In this we can find cultural and linguistic features of the
patterning of such cultural historical dominance and hierarchy of human
interrelations between people and groups of people. We can see the long terms
effects of subordination of a group in real, experiential terms of a
'collective inferiority complex' which has many negative, socio-pathological
problems associated with it. We get a 'poverty of culture' complex which comes
to be reflected in a 'poverty of language'--linguisticality may continue to
serve extensive, general functions, but cannot be deployed to serve special,
rationalistic functions which are instrumentally effective in the realization
of 'intentionality structures' in the world, when the contents of relations
are always working to frustrate, inhibit, and prevent such realization.
In such ways do the relations of violence and inequality
and the socio pathological patterns, and the complexes of acquired inferiority
become culture historically embedded in the contexts, the environments and the
experiences of people, in such a way that it gains the power of common sense,
of innateness, implicit givenness, which makes a 'self fulfilling' prophecy
seem like a law of natural evolution. This becomes a vicious, regenerative
cycle of cultural 'degeneration' and regression which becomes, if
structurally, intensively reinforced, virtually impossible to escape.
We have at hand an alternative framework of understanding
culture historical processes of development other than the structural dynamic
understandings which are currently predominant. In this language and culture
is always constructed and contexted within larger environments, constituted
symbolically as 'corporate' ideational and ideological entities, and composed
of many basic elements of schemas, frames, 'strips', and the patterned
relations between such elements. These basic elements form a mosaic or
tapestry in the active weaving of the cultural fabric of on going
experientiality. People borrow, pool, and construct these elements on a day to
day basis, deconstruct and reconstruct cultural life in a manner which
preserves customary consistency yet which also accommodates environmental
changes. Discursive practice, whether verbal or non-verbal, is the basic
functional means of such construction, deconstruction and reconstruction.
Symbolisms serve the basic function of paradigmatic exemplaries as basic
representational models for stimulus generalization and diffusion of such
re-constructive activity. Change occurs through the individual variations and
modifications to the basic elements--new elements may be created and old
elements may be selective discarded or re-employed. Syncretization of elements
is continual and unending. Culture as 'environmental contexts' and frameworks
for such recursiveness, reiteration and redesigning, are relatively stable and
self organizing in their overall robustness--individual components may be
altered, but the whole system and super organic whole exerts a 'whole
relational' influence which serves to constraining such changes in
conservative yet flexible ways.
People regularly configure and reconfigure their worlds,
their experiences and their environments from the elements which are available
to them in their culture historical contexts. In the process of such
reconfiguration they create consistency of a shared constructions. This
process of dialectical construction is fundamentally experiential,
interpretive, symbolically mediated and linguistically articulated.
This process can become rigid and inflexible when over
determined. It becomes then pathological. Part of the linguistic praxis of
reiteration and reformation of experience and ideas can become ideologically
'blind' as a closed system which perseverates inspite of environmental
changes, or which continues to maintain long term structural relations of
dominance of control over change through many sets of environments or
In this role, we must understand the potential for
prevarication of language, and for linguistic patterns of denial and
ideological illusion which reinforce the status quo, which dichotomizes the
world into front regions distinguishing hidden back regions in which there
occurs a vicious degenerative circle of deceit. The circle of deceit rends the
fabric of natural linguisticality because it fosters distortion and illusion
of non-being in the world and leads to greater deceit and distortion. The
natural function of linguistic praxis in making sense and experiencing the
world, then becomes deviant and perverted in the promotion of intentionality
structures rooted in dominance and power of control over change in the world.
Ideological diatribe, disguised as 'truth', hides the dishonesty and
distortion of reality which is involved and begins to 'embed' this kind of
pathology of non-being in our environments and our experience.
In the functional pragmatic view of linguistic parole as
discursive praxis in the construction and reconstruction of culture historical
environments of experience, we can see that the automatic, reflexive function
of 'native speaker intuition' in filling in inferentially the gaps of
understanding between words in conferring a consistency and coherence to the
encounter with the world. It accounts for the unspoken synchronicity and
non-verbal communication between actors within shared environmental contexts.
This process is basic to the instrumentality of 'frames of
reference/inference' in interpreting, reinterpreting, translating and
transacting 'intentionality structures in the world'.
We can say that there are available 'working rules of
thumb' which generally guide and serve to render such discursive praxis
relevant, interesting and functionally pragmatic in a shared social reality.
These rules of thumb are the acquired fold wisdom which confer performative
competence to individual behavior. They are practical 'rules' rooted in
experience and are usually, customarily left implicit or tacit in their
directive function of discursive praxis.
These rules are not structurally so much as they are
historical--inductively, inferentially derived rules based upon the
consistency and efficacy of their functioning. They may not be learned or
explicit understood so much as 'worked out' and understood from a standpoint
of their experiential and adaptive success and proficiency in operating them.
They are derivative and operational rules, rather than basic and primary. If
asked to reiterate or explicate these rules, their best performer might be
wholly unable to do so except by relating actual experiential examples of
their function or general rationales for their strategic purpose. They are
relational rules of general historical efficacy.
The study of culture history aims at such generalistic
rules of understanding based upon experiential efficacy of their patterning.
It is the central dialectical problematic of understanding and explicating
such working rules which is the middle ground between wisdom and words.
In distinguishing between natural and rational forms of
linguisticality, it is apparent that we are touching upon examples of basic
linguistic relativity as this culture historically rooted in contextual
environments. There are several basic kinds of linguistic 'orientations' which
are related to this kind of relativism. One is the basic difference between
'vulgar' orality and derived literacy. Another is the difference between
concrete and abstract relations, between analytical and synthetic languages.
Another basic difference is between 'verbality' of a language which elaborates
the transitive, performative verbal relation in its sentence structure rather
than the modification of nouns, or basic nominality, predominant in other
languages. Verbality confers a basic 'time like' orientation to a language
which makes sense of change. nominality confers a 'space like' orientation to
language which reveals structure and synchronic system, but hides the
understanding, or coming to terms, with change. Hopi is regarded as a language
emphasizing verbality and is very different from English which is regarded as
a language of nominality.
Another kind of difference is that between languages which
stress direct subject-object relations, and which emphasizes the difference
between subject and predicate, and languages which are 'flat' and which
emphasize the relation between subject and object. In this regard we may refer
to 'active' languages versus 'passive' languages, and to 'direct' languages
versus 'contextualizing' or indirect languages. Similarity, tonality and
homophony may confer a kind of spontaneous word play to some languages--a
musicality which can translate into 'languages of love' and which exaggerate
the basic paradoxicality of its meanings, while other language may promote a
nomothetic and monothetic, rationalizing view which is intolerant of paradox.
Again, Vietnamese and German are two fitting examples of such differences.
Understanding these basic kinds of differences rooted in
the functionality and environments of languages bring us upon the thorny
theoretical dilemmas of understanding linguistic change and how languages
change through time. In this regard we again have a contrast between
comparative views of relatively stable, systematic changes of all languages in
terms of consistent allomorphic shifts and morphological conditioning which
views language as internally homogeneous in structure and as 'species' with
their own evolving dynamics of change. this kind of viewpoint supports a
structuralist understanding that views all languages as having the same,
universal deep structure and that this structure is the innate to all
speakers. This has yielded some very systematic and consistent scientific
results, and has enabled scholars to build a 'phenetic' structure of
linguistic evolution based on relatedness between languages.
Contrasted with the view is the semantic emphasis of
socio-linguists who view language shifts dialectically and historically as
being rooted in social structural patternings and which sees language
primarily as 'situated discourse'. This viewpoint de-emphasizes a strict
dichotomy between spatial language and temporal parole, and sees structure as
intrinsically embedded in learning and culture historical
environments--language is not so much as it is 'structured' or enculturated
behaviorally in linguistic environments.
Neither view of language is wholly correct or complete, and
both viewpoints from the extremes of a basic dialectic in linguistic
understanding and thus are dialectically complementary to one another in terms
of a rational, scientific discourse about the problematics of language and
Related to this dialectic is the contrasted between
relativistic and deterministic perspective of language and the general 'world
view' problem. How much does language influence thought, and how much is
language influenced by culture?
What is important to understand is that language change is
inevitable and unpreventable because language is a natural, self organizing
system of 'making sense' from the nonsense of random entropy and chaotic
disorder. If there is an over determined, dynamic structure to such change--a
theory of linguistic 'genetics'--it remains to be either explicitly understood
or precisely proven. On the other hand, from the socio-linguistic perspective
of the long run, it makes more sense to view the 'structure' of language as
social discursive activity, as a corporate, super organic social phenomena of
communication, as itself changing in different ways. We can hypothesize that
humankind's organic capacity, or 'biological basis' for language evolved only
once, or even emerged slowly, but that it eventually stopped evolving with the
substitution of human culture historical development for the process of
natural evolution. Language as a social, intensive phenomena of discursive
praxis then emerged and acquired its own sense of 'structure' as a genuine
system of symbolic communication.
Innate human linguistic capacity has remained rather
limited. Social language and its 'distanciation of surplus meaning'--created
potentially unlimited reservoirs of terms and concepts with which to give
virtually unlimited expression to our open ended imaginations and
possibilities of patterning.
The hypothetical structure of language, as a preeminently
social and culture historical phenomena of communication is not synonymous
with the genetic and behavioral structure of thought. Though the other two
realm of reality must overlap and must be interrelated in important ways, they
are not isomorphic with one another. Thought may work beyond the experience of
language, and language may work beyond the experiences of thought.
Though linguistic change is contextually constrained, it is
through the active process of imperfect interpretation and the exercise of
linguistic choice, that we create the possibility for changing the linguistic
contexts by which our choices are situated in the world.
Linguistic change is perhaps inevitable, but the structure
of its patterning is not changeless or inevitable, or over determined or
innate to human consciousness. Our shared realities are the long term
consequence of the kinds of mutual understandings and agreed upon meanings as
part of a pan human social contract which we implicitly make during the
history of our linguistic praxis and performance. We inherit our language
culturally and historically not genetically. It is so ingrained in our
experience and so embedded in our environments that it appears to be organic,
innate and non-arbitrarily, non-relativistically inevitable.
A wolf child grows up without the possibility of human
language because its existence is situated outside of any normal contexts of
this linguisticality. Though it may miss important stages of its growth and
development, and thus remain irreversibly linguistically retarded, this by
itself cannot disprove the presence or absence of an innate predetermining
structure of human language. It is clear that gazelle boy grew up learning a
very different kind of language with perhaps a very different kind of basic
structure, unless we want to also posit a species nonspecific structure of all
We can define and enumerate the basic 'design features' of
any or all communication systems, but we are not thereby explaining or
revealing of the eidetic, a priori, Cartesian structure of any particular
language occurring in nature. Definition and understanding of such design
features of communication systems are themselves rooted inextricably in the
very linguisticality of our own very human language.
It is not entirely clear that language acquisition is too
rapid and complex to be explained by behavioral/environmental acquisition.
Surely, the basic organic and biological capacity for speech is already there
to be developed. Perhaps if follows certain inevitable natural sequences or
stages of development. But the several years of basic primary language
acquisition is not faster than the similar amount of time it is required for
complete immersion in second language acquisition. And the ten or more or
lifetime it requires for linguistic mastery of a first language is no
different from the same necessary involvement in the mastery of other
languages. It has been documented that socio-linguistic differences in
language acquisition emerge as early as the twelfth week of neonate. Learning
a first language from scratch, without any prior experiential reference
points, but with complete, natural intuness and attentive focus upon the
environment, may follow the same basic steps and rely upon the same basic
kinds of working 'meta-rules' as any process of secondary language
acquisition. The differences may in fact be more the inherent or acquired
skills or talents for 'code switching'--the flexibility and reflexiveness of
automatic linguistic praxis. Rules require time for working out and are
learned through trail and error. Certain kinds of rules and attendant skills
must be learned before other, more complex rules and skills can be acquired.
We might rationalize the entire process but this is not the same as the actual
organic process of acquisition.
There may be innate individual differences in linguistic
capacity such that some persons perform or learn languages better than others.
It is like typing, though it occurs with great speed and accuracy in most
people who learn how to do it, it can be better learned by a select few who
have a greater capacity for it.
Similarly, there may be basic differences, as previously
mentioned, between different languages--differences of relativity which make
it more difficult to express some kinds of understandings or to even embody
some kinds of experiences, in some languages rather than in others. Such
languages may have different basic orientations or overall 'structures' from
one another. Similarly, some languages, situated as they are in either more
natural or more rational contexts, may have different capacities or
competencies for expression of experience in the world. The hypothetical
equality of languages in the world is more ideological than it is empirically
validated. Nevertheless all languages share a general evenness and similarity
in that they all function with equal facility in their respective linguistic
environments to articulate and intermediate with the world. All languages are
equally natural, equally symbolical, equally pragmatic in their functionality.
While it is extremely philosophically problematic and yet
scientifically unproven, the hypothetical 'deep structure' of human language
has proven itself to be ideologically unifying of a linguistic paradigm which
sees itself as primarily scientific. It is ideologically satisfying as it is
theoretically simplifying of the problematics and realities of language. While
it is yet unclear whether there is a structure, and if so, than exactly how it
functions, it is not unclear that no human language occurs or can occur,
outside of its culture historical contexts and experiential environments as a
natural and social phenomena of inter-human communication.
Noam Chomsky's generative grammar has become the
predominant orthodoxy of American linguistics. It holds that all speakers have
universally the same competence for language, that all languages have
equivalent capacity and complexity of expression, and that all language
acquisition is too complex and too rapid to be easily explained in terms of
environmental conditioning--the structure of language is innately programmed
in the human brain in terms of transformational rules. This theory depends
upon the Saussurian dichotomy between language (competence) and parole
(performance). This theory has promised a great deal more than it has actually
Linguistic heterodoxies come from socio-linguistics, the
ethnography of speaking and Marxist theory, and hold that all languages are
structurally the same. Languages are not only functionally different and
historically separate, but languages are structurally different in
morphological conditioning--agglutinative, compounding or isolating--and in
grammatical sentence structure (SVO or SOV, etc.) and also in terms of
'verbalization' as with Hop, or 'nominalization' as with English. Not only
does emphasis upon language lead to ignorance and devaluation of parole, but
stress upon a hypothetical universal grammar leads to systematic indifference
to important differences between languages. Not only do not all linguists
agree that there really is a fundamental dichotomy between language and
parole--that language as it is experienced and expressed is universally
integrated and undichotomized--but that the discursive practice of language
always occur within a larger culture historical context which can account for
the 'structural' nature of language and language change. Focusing upon the
language centers of the brain explains the human capacity for speech
production, but does not fully explain language as a social phenomenon. The
distinction between understanding the 'structure' of the engine of a car and
the skilled performance of a car's operation does not account for the fact
that the 'engine' itself is a by-product, and an extended instrumentality, of
It is interesting to note that the primary contexts of
intercultural contact in which primary and secondary language acquisition is
understood has yielded both the principle evidence in support of a generative
structure in the form of the process of 'Creolization' but also it is in such
multi-lingual contexts of code switching/mixing that the principle evidence
for the refutation of 'generative structure' may be found.
The paradox of tracing the history of language to a single
common ancestor or 'proto language' runs into the same kind of paradox of
human evolution--the question of an 'Eve'. This paradox is more apparent than
real, stemming from a failure to view the process of evolution of an entire
species as an on-going process of continual selection, differentiations,
diffusion, etc. Language and culture did not evolve from a single 'ancestor',
to be revealed in the excoriation of its hidden structure. Rather, the
structure of language and culture evolved from a 'base-line' and from its
beginning exhibited phylogenetic diversity and variation. While major language
families are found to exist, among the 3,000-4,000 extant languages some
important categorical anomalies exist, and there are many more 'in-betweenies'
whose cladistic or phenetic position of the tree of language cannot be
precisely determined--a residue no doubt of the tremendous amount of
borrowing, acculturation, Creolization. Diffusion between different languages
throughout human prehistory and history. Language is yet evolving today in
more subtle and complex ways than we yet understand. Not only is the substance
of language changing continuously, but its very 'structure' has also been
evolving in both the brain and in the ways it becomes articulated in social
It remains a moot point whether there is in fact a
'universal' generative structure underlying all languages. It also remains a
moot point whether exact translation is in fact an impossibility.
One final question remains. We are left to speculate on
whether mind itself may not have some kind of historical relational structure,
if not basic evolutionary or universal structure. Asked another way, is human
consciousness itself pre-structured in some important, definite ways, or are
its general patternings reflective of a fundamental isomorphism with an a
priori, noumenal structure of logos or mind.
It is evident that the patterning of mind may follow
certain relational rules of historical efficacy which tend to cross cut and
undermine the traditional academic boundaries and distinctions between
different fields of inquiry. There may be a more or less general
'metaphysical' and 'epistemological' structure of mind, such that its criteria
of validity and truth are translated empirically into criteria of ways of
'knowing' human reality.
From a culture historical perspective, it is interesting to
speculate that there are five interrelated 'meta-paradigms' of mind, all
sharing the same basic truth criteria. These five 'meta-paradigms' may be
referred to as the philosophical, the aesthetic or artistic, the scientific,
the religious or ideological, and the 'humanistic' which would include studies
of culture history itself, the histories, literature, as well as the social
'sciences' of anthropology and sociology.
It is possible that these five 'meta-paradigms' are all
interrelated in different, but definite ways and that each offers a
fundamentally different way of knowing and 'translating' human reality based
upon alternative translations of basic truth criteria for human understanding.
Whether this kind of meta-paradigmatic patterning of mind
actually reflects the order of a 'psychic unity of humankind' or is merely an
epi-genetic, epi-phenomenal patterning of the culture historical development
of mindness--the long term consequence of our collective history of
consciousness-remains to be finally resolved.
What is clear is that the universality, if any, and the
structure, if there is really such a thing, of the patterning of mind is to be
found always 'situated' within given culture historical environments of
experience and contexts of linguistic understanding. If it evolved, it evolved
as a history of changes of such contexts and environments.
THINGING AND THINKING
'Thing-ness' might well be defined as 'the state of quality
of being a thing'. Thingnessing might mean 'the act of making a state or
quality of being a thing'. Such a term designates well the imperfect fit
between our words and our meanings, if not knowing the right word for what we
may intend to mean, or not knowing the right meaning for the word we may want
to use. It denotes the vague mismatch between an indefinite 'thing' and its
proper term. 'Thinging' might well designate the appropriate and approximate
substitute for the process of mind we normally refer to as 'thinking' which we
define as '…1. To have a thought; formulate in the mind. 2. To ponder. 3. To
reason. 4. To believe; suppose. 5. To remember; call to mind. 6. To visualize;
imagine. 7. To devise or invent. 8. To consider. (American Heritage
'Thinging' is the kind of 'thinking' we normally engage in
when our thoughts are unclear, vague, loose, imaginative or especially
difficult or slippery. We engage our minds in indefinite meanings, metaphors,
similes, analogies, 'as if' 'suchness' when we cannot remember the appropriate
word or put our finger upon an exact meaning. Most of us, most of the time,
engage our intellects in 'thinging' throughout our normal lives, complicated
as it usually is by so many subtleties, innuendoes, uncertainties, vagaries
and vicissitudes. We only like to flatter ourselves and one another that we
are really 'thinking' clearly, even when we seem to be hard at it.
But thinging is a nice and often necessary place to begin
in our thinking--bringing the chaotic to a sense of order is a matter of
bringing the thingness of thoughts to the thoughtness of things. Thinging
between words and definitions and their interconnections and connotations, in
lieu of more precise and ratiocinative 'thinking' is what human thought and
language has been about. In thinking, we point to 'things' and say we have a
thought. In thinging, we point to thought and say we have a thing. Thinging is
a prerequisite process in clarifying our thoughts prior to their reformulation
as clearer, more concise, 'thinking'. This is a preliminary step towards both
'an ecology of mind' and an 'economy of words'.
Thinging is also a nice designation of our first enactment
of 'defining' or of definition, as we are concerned primarily with the
approximate correlation between words and their denotations and connotations.
Our thinging about some problematic topic is our 'defining' of that topic to
render it more 'definite'. Thinging thus is an enactment of basic translation
and description of our experiences. From thinging we then proceed to thinking
as basic interpretations and explanations or our understanding of our
environments and our world.
Thinging though our definitions of 'what is human reality'
involves putting a clear, sharp outline of what that vague thing is by a brief
description of the meaning of words.
'Thinging up' our definitions of 'what is human reality'
involves literally and figuratively the very 'meaning' of that reality to
DIALECTICS OF CHANCE
The paradox of change is that our understanding of it is
always relative and non-arbitrary. Our baselines by which to measure change
must themselves be the product and function of change. change relativizes our
world, rendering our understanding of it fundamentally imprecise and
Even so, the paradox of change is also that it is the
principle logos of the natural universe. Everything changes--evolving
entropically from order to disorder and evolving systematically from chaos to
The paradox of change is that we have no fixed reference
points for its comprehension. We have no ground for coming to terms with its
understanding in our lives. In a sense, it is a priori to our own existence
and understandings. It just happens to us and around us.
The dialectics of change revolve around this paradox, as
all dialectics revolve around the resolution of paradox. In order to
understand change, it must be viewed from the standpoint of hypothetical,
isomorphic structure. To understand 'structure' entails concomitantly an
understanding of change in terms f such changes 'making a difference'.
"Cultural change can be studied only as a part of the problem of cultural
stability; cultural stability can be understood only when change is measured
against conservatism--perhaps the basic difficulty arises from the fact that
there are no objective criteria of permanence and change…"
The dialectics of change involve us in the relative
understandings of identity, or similarity, and difference. This understanding
is fundamental to our understanding of 'relation' in the world--the
explication of difference and similarity.
THE DILEMMA OF STRUCTURE
The dilemma of 'structure' is the paradox of change. we
cannot understand the natural process of change in reality without the
superimposition of some sense of structure and yet such 'structure' cannot
always 'capture' change in the world in non-relative ways. Change happens to
structure, around structure and through structure.
Our words provide structure to our wisdom of the world.
Without such structure, without such coming to terms, things must remain only
silently understood as experience and 'happening'.
Structure can mean any sense, order, meaning, significance,
idea, system, non-random pattern, process, direction, limit, boundary,
organization that we superimpose upon our experiences by which to configure
and arrange them in ways which are then understandable and communicable.
"Patterned structure, regularized form, we recognize, can be described as
can any structure, since all structures has form and every form has
describable limits." (Herskovits, 1947: 202)
The dilemma of structure is that though we need it to
configure change, change must inevitably 'happen to it' to 'destructure' it as
it is itself a relative part of the process of change. So we are led by the
dialectics of change to construct, destruct and reconstruct the linguistic
structures of our understandings such that our newest 'interpretations' better
reflect the changes and 'fit the facts' of changes.
The dilemma of structure is that we need it in order to
make sense of our reality--we cannot live well without it, and yet it must
always be partial, imperfect, imprecise and in the act of its creation,
destructive of the very meanings, of the very change, which it seeks by design
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of
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Last Updated: 08/17/06