On further exploration, he would probably throw a stick in front of the creature; if the creature runs and gets it, then he would know more about its locomotion traits. If the words from the English language don’t suffice, then he would coin new words, invent new symbols or carve out pictorial representations. Eventually, the use and invention of new language words, symbols, nomenclature is inevitable and along with sense perception and logical reasoning, plays a key role in communication as well as shaping up new knowledge in the areas of Science.
In other areas of knowledge like Ethics, one primarily depends on intuition and emotion, rather than logical reasoning. Famous American Novelist Ernest Hemingway once said, “I only know that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after” (2). In fact, according to Harvard professor Marc Hauser, humans are born with innate ‘moral machinery’ (3). In that sense, ethical knowledge falls in the second branch of knowledge called ‘Innate ideas’ which do not require any proof of experience because they are already present at the time of birth.
Do we read a book to realize that killing another is bad? Don’t we already ‘know’ that stealing is an unpleasant habit? In fact, trying to communicate such knowledge might be counter to the intended enlightenment of the individual and lead to larger scale havoc in society. E. g. – In Islamic countries, curtailment of individual freedom by the religious police has bred a hypocritical peace that breaks down quite often. Riots, strikes, arrests, public sentences are common place and instead of the intended purpose of peace being achieved, the opposite is truer (4).
All his life, Lao Tzu would say, “Those who speak, do not know; those who know, do not speak” and “The truth that can be said is not the eternal truth” (5). Can language then, which is a product of thought, be used to convey ‘truth’ which seems to be is beyond the mind? The area of knowledge where language plays its biggest role is History. “Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he’ll have to touch it to be sure” (6).
Since most historical facts are beyond our actual experience, one will generally have a tendency to believe anything that is put on the table. Judging from archeological data on the extensive fortification of early settlements and the widespread existence of weaponry, it has been shown that warfare was prevalent by the time of the Neolithic period, which is the last part of the Stone Age. But, can we be sure that these weapons definitely came from that period? Can’t the Archaeological data itself be flawed?
On the other hand though, there have been multiple cases where discovery of confidential documents have re-shaped history and clarified unexplained mysteries. Without old historical documents, cultural artifacts, literature books, there would be no ‘History’, hence the communication of written and spoken language plays a major part in shaping up our current knowledge of History. Having said that, one should be wary of the veracity of such knowledge and should use logical reasoning to construct a more accurate account.
Taking a broader perspective, deeper analysis opens up broader knowledge issues like “Can the ‘word’ ever truly represent the ‘real’? ”, “Can one identify new experience without prior knowledge? ”, “Can we ever truly know anything at all? ” and so on. It is quite clear that the ‘representation’ is not the real. The word ‘dog’ has nothing to do with the real dog. It is a mere label for the sake of communication. We can conjure up a never ending list of labels like ‘black eyes’, ‘fluffy tail’, ‘round nose’ but the accumulative meaning imparted by these labels will never capture the real essence of the dog, will it?
Generally speaking, one’s mind seems to instantly stick labels of ‘scary’, ‘fun’, or ‘exciting’ to capture the experience in terms of its vocabulary of emotions and feelings. If one goes through a new experience for which one doesn’t have any words of description, how will one identify this new experience? It seems that actual experience is possible without prior knowledge, but the knowledge and identification of the experience requires familiarity with a rather strong vocabulary of feelings, emotions and other knowledge concepts.
E. g. – If I go to the restaurant and eat a hot, medium rare steak but do not possess the definitional knowledge of ‘salty’, ‘soft’, ‘hot’, will I be able to identify the experience in terms of enjoyable or bad or even ‘taste’ the steak ? In almost all probability, I wouldn’t be able to place this experience in my experience spectrum since I didn’t have the prior conceptual knowledge to identify with it. My experience is similar to giving a chilly to a baby who still hasn’t reached the age of learning language.
The baby will undoubtedly start crying because the hotness of the chilly would fire a response from the neurophysiological system but it wouldn’t be able to identify or label the experience. As a knower, what conclusions can one draw from the above discussion? Accepting the worldwide uniformity in the grasp of vocabulary, language, symbols, and nomenclature, one can’t deny that vocabulary does indeed aid in the effective communication and shaping of knowledge in the areas of History, Arts, Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
On the other hand, it has a weaker and in some cases detrimental role to play in the communication of ethics. In either case, what one can know should be not be shaped by vocabulary and language alone, but should also allow for intuitive, emotional, logical reasoning and perceptive tendencies. Total word count: 1599.
List of References 1. “Samuel Beckett. ” 1-Famous-Quotes. com. Gledhill Enterprises, 2011. Sun Aug 21 12:09:17 2011. <http://www. 1-famous-quotes. com/quote/1219765> 2. ThinkExist. com Quotations. “Morality quotes”. ThinkExist. com Quotations Online 1 Jul. 2011. 21 Aug. 2011 < http://thinkexist.com/quotations/morality/ > 3. ”
Is There an Inherent Basic Sense of Morality Shared by All Humans? ” Being Human. Web. 21 Aug. 2011. < http://beinghuman. blogs. fi/2010/01/25/is-there-an-inherent-sense-of-morality-shared-by-all-humans-7873171 / > 4. “BBC News – Saudi Religious Police Probe MTV Programme for ‘sin'” BBC – Homepage. Web. 21 Aug. 2011. < http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/10216116 > 5. Laozi, Jane English, and Gia-fu Feng. Tao Te Ching. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print. 6. Bloch, Arthur. Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong! Los Angeles: Price/Stern/Sloan, 1977. Print.