Well, of course if you *name* it...

Here is a researcher who claims dolphins aren't uniquely intelligent among non-human animals. And perhaps he is correct! I have no reason to doubt him, in any case. But along the way, he makes a bold claim: that human language is "limitless in its ability to discuss subject matter." And he backs this up by noting: "But humans can talk about anything—abstract ideas, concrete ideas—you name it and we can discuss it."

Well, yes, I have no doubt that anything we name can be discussed using language... in fact, I have no doubt that once you have named it, it already is being discussed using language!

Wittgenstein was not so confident: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

10 comments:

  1. That is absolutely hilarious. Was the writer being intentionally ironic?

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    1. I don't see any evidence that he was, but in a short quote, it is hard to tell.

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  2. Gene, I find that when I write, one post quite often leads into the next -- not by design, but simply because I was thinking along certain lines.

    You quote Wittgenstein: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

    I was wondering if the Andy Borowitz post led you to Wittgenstein :)

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    1. I don't *think* so: I think it was just my web browsing sequence!

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  3. Wittgenstein was not so confident: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

    Such as? What does Wittgenstein mean here?

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    1. So, you want me to *speak* about the things that cannot be spoken of?

      Please see the original post.

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    2. Do you agree with him?

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    3. Yes, I think there are realms of experience where words fail us. The Zen koan is an attempt to expose these areas with words.

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  4. I've always liked that quote, even though I don't believe it is quite correct. It seems to me that any limits of discourse are not essential limits inherent to language itself. For instance, it is true that you can't intelligibly discuss the subjective experience of color with a person who was born blind...but you could do so, in principle, if you could find a way to make him see. This analogy applies, I think, to other things that one might be tempted to think cannot be spoken of. Sometimes you must unlock the listener's ears before speaking.

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    1. I don't think Wittgenstein would have rejected your statement, "Sometimes you must unlock the listener's ears before speaking."

      I certainly don't!

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