11
   

if a lion could speak, we couldn't understand it

 
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 06:57 am
If a LION would ROAR would let Cool INN

Surprised oops
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 06:59 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

Im Confused wrote:

thanks to all for the fascinating input

I've never got to grips with Wittgenstein, but he does know how to get a debate going

it is fascinating that despite being surrounded by humans for hundreds of years now that apes,
be they in zoos or safari parks or wherever, have shown no progress in picking up our language AFAIK

although i believe under 'laboratory conditions', some types of communication have emerged
with some chimpanzees

it seems to defy common sense that we could never understand a talking lion, but 'common sense' is far from perfect in its understanding of the world.


I don 't see a problem:
if the lion coud speak, then he 'd express his desires,
e.g. for food n water, reasonable temperature, etc.

We know that he is interested in these from observation
of his behavior in Nature.





David


And I don't see how what you say is relevant to Wittgenstein's question. Wittgenstein does not deny that a lion can speak, and he does not say anything about what what a lion would speak about. Whst he says is that we could not understand what a lion was saying. And nothing you say is relevant to that.
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 07:26 am
@kennethamy,
Im Confused wrote:

thanks to all for the fascinating input

I've never got to grips with Wittgenstein, but he does know how to get a debate going

it is fascinating that despite being surrounded by humans for hundreds of years now that apes,
be they in zoos or safari parks or wherever, have shown no progress in picking up our language AFAIK

although i believe under 'laboratory conditions', some types of communication have emerged
with some chimpanzees

it seems to defy common sense that we could never understand a talking lion, but 'common sense' is far from perfect in its understanding of the world.


OmSigDAVID wrote:
I don 't see a problem:
if the lion coud speak, then he 'd express his desires,
e.g. for food n water, reasonable temperature, etc.

We know that he is interested in these from observation
of his behavior in Nature.





David
kennethamy wrote:

And I don't see how what you say is relevant to Wittgenstein's question. Wittgenstein does not deny that a lion can speak, and he does not say anything about what what a lion would speak about. Whst he says is that we could not understand what a lion was saying. And nothing you say is relevant to that.
OK. Upon what reasoning has it been decided that "we could not understand what a lion was saying"
if he coud speak English ?





David
0 Replies
 
mickalos
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 10:27 am
I do not think that Wittgenstein is saying that if a lion could talk, we could not come to learn and speak his language. I dare say that the possibility of a language being learnable is a necessary condition of actually being a language. At present, lions other animals, and babies make noises, but there is no regularity in use that gives their noises a meaning, thus we do not say that their noises are words, or part of a language, they are merely noises.

In order to discern what Wittgenstein is saying with his lion aphorism, we need to set the context. The comment comes in Part 2, section xi of the Investigations, where Wittgenstein talks about seeing an aspect and experiencing the meaning of a word. Seeing an aspect, is like seeing an apparently unfamiliar face and then, all of a sudden, recognising it as the face of an old friend; it the thing that happens when we see the figure below as a duck or seeing it as a rabbit:
http://vis.berkeley.edu/courses/cs294-10-fa07/wiki/images/d/da/Duck_rabbit.jpg
Wittgenstein then discusses the possibility that somebody might be "aspect-blind", that he lacks the ability to see something as something. Now clearly, this is not the same thing as being actually blind, he would still be able to see the figure above, he would simply not see it as a duck or a rabbit.

Wittgenstein then moves on to talk about "experiencing the meaning of a word". This is the sort of thing most of us do when we read poetry, or when we look through synonyms in a thesaurus for "the right word". The analogous phenomenon to aspect blindness, here, is meaning-blindness. A meaning-blind person would not understand the difference in what "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" and "I will scare you with a fistful of dust" mean to us, the sort of meaning that poets manage to conjure up with words. He would not understand if we ask him to say "party" as a verb, and then the next moment as a noun? He simply says party, he is incapable of saying it as anything. Yet, as in the case of the aspect-blind person still being able to literally see, the meaning-blind person will still be able to know what words mean the sense that he will be able to use the language. This is because, for Wittgenstein, meaning is use, and one doesn't need to have a particular experience, or indeed any experience, to grasp a sentence.

In the case of the lion, it is preceded by this passage: "We also say of some people that they are transparent to us. It is, however, important as regards this observation that one human being can be a complete enigma to another. We learn this when we come into a strange country with entirely strange traditions; and, what is more, even given a mastery of the country's language. We do not understand the people. (And not because of not knowing what they are saying to themselves.) We cannot find our feet with them. " Wittgenstein is using "understand" not in the sense of being unable to understand his language, but being unable to understand lions and their practices. If lions could talk we would be able to understand their words, but that does not mean they would be anything like the characters in The Lion King; imagine having a conversation with a lion in its natural habitat, it would not be wise or proud, it would just be weird.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 11:38 am
@mickalos,
mickalos wrote:

I do not think that Wittgenstein is saying that if a lion could talk, we could not come to learn and speak his language. I dare say that the possibility of a language being learnable is a necessary condition of actually being a language. At present, lions other animals, and babies make noises, but there is no regularity in use that gives their noises a meaning, thus we do not say that their noises are words, or part of a language, they are merely noises.

In order to discern what Wittgenstein is saying with his lion aphorism, we need to set the context. The comment comes in Part 2, section xi of the Investigations, where Wittgenstein talks about seeing an aspect and experiencing the meaning of a word. Seeing an aspect, is like seeing an apparently unfamiliar face and then, all of a sudden, recognising it as the face of an old friend; it the thing that happens when we see the figure below as a duck or seeing it as a rabbit:
http://vis.berkeley.edu/courses/cs294-10-fa07/wiki/images/d/da/Duck_rabbit.jpg
Wittgenstein then discusses the possibility that somebody might be "aspect-blind", that he lacks the ability to see something as something. Now clearly, this is not the same thing as being actually blind, he would still be able to see the figure above, he would simply not see it as a duck or a rabbit.

Wittgenstein then moves on to talk about "experiencing the meaning of a word". This is the sort of thing most of us do when we read poetry, or when we look through synonyms in a thesaurus for "the right word". The analogous phenomenon to aspect blindness, here, is meaning-blindness. A meaning-blind person would not understand the difference in what "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" and "I will scare you with a fistful of dust" mean to us, the sort of meaning that poets manage to conjure up with words. He would not understand if we ask him to say "party" as a verb, and then the next moment as a noun? He simply says party, he is incapable of saying it as anything. Yet, as in the case of the aspect-blind person still being able to literally see, the meaning-blind person will still be able to know what words mean the sense that he will be able to use the language. This is because, for Wittgenstein, meaning is use, and one doesn't need to have a particular experience, or indeed any experience, to grasp a sentence.

In the case of the lion, it is preceded by this passage: "We also say of some people that they are transparent to us. It is, however, important as regards this observation that one human being can be a complete enigma to another. We learn this when we come into a strange country with entirely strange traditions; and, what is more, even given a mastery of the country's language. We do not understand the people. (And not because of not knowing what they are saying to themselves.) We cannot find our feet with them. " Wittgenstein is using "understand" not in the sense of being unable to understand his language, but being unable to understand lions and their practices. If lions could talk we would be able to understand their words, but that does not mean they would be anything like the characters in The Lion King; imagine having a conversation with a lion in its natural habitat, it would not be wise or proud, it would just be weird.


But you write just as if you understand what is would be like for a lion to talk, and go on to draw implications from that. I am stuck at the start. I can certainly imagine a human voice emanating from a lion, may like what is depicted in the Wizard of Oz. I can even imagine Gregor in Kafka's famous story of the man transformed into a giant cockroach talking, but like Gregor (the man) of course. But what would it even be like to hear a lion (or cockroach) talking, and not a human voice coming our of a lion or cockroach? What do you think it would sound like? It is not just that lions don't talk. It is that it makes no sense think of lions talking. And I think that Wittgenstein, in his elfin way, is trying to make that thought occur to you.
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 02:14 pm
@kennethamy,
mickalos wrote:

I do not think that Wittgenstein is saying that if a lion could talk, we could not come to learn and speak his language. I dare say that the possibility of a language being learnable is a necessary condition of actually being a language. At present, lions other animals, and babies make noises, but there is no regularity in use that gives their noises a meaning, thus we do not say that their noises are words, or part of a language, they are merely noises.

In order to discern what Wittgenstein is saying with his lion aphorism, we need to set the context. The comment comes in Part 2, section xi of the Investigations, where Wittgenstein talks about seeing an aspect and experiencing the meaning of a word. Seeing an aspect, is like seeing an apparently unfamiliar face and then, all of a sudden, recognising it as the face of an old friend; it the thing that happens when we see the figure below as a duck or seeing it as a rabbit:
http://vis.berkeley.edu/courses/cs294-10-fa07/wiki/images/d/da/Duck_rabbit.jpg
Wittgenstein then discusses the possibility that somebody might be "aspect-blind", that he lacks the ability to see something as something. Now clearly, this is not the same thing as being actually blind, he would still be able to see the figure above, he would simply not see it as a duck or a rabbit.

Wittgenstein then moves on to talk about "experiencing the meaning of a word". This is the sort of thing most of us do when we read poetry, or when we look through synonyms in a thesaurus for "the right word". The analogous phenomenon to aspect blindness, here, is meaning-blindness. A meaning-blind person would not understand the difference in what "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" and "I will scare you with a fistful of dust" mean to us, the sort of meaning that poets manage to conjure up with words. He would not understand if we ask him to say "party" as a verb, and then the next moment as a noun? He simply says party, he is incapable of saying it as anything. Yet, as in the case of the aspect-blind person still being able to literally see, the meaning-blind person will still be able to know what words mean the sense that he will be able to use the language. This is because, for Wittgenstein, meaning is use, and one doesn't need to have a particular experience, or indeed any experience, to grasp a sentence.

In the case of the lion, it is preceded by this passage: "We also say of some people that they are transparent to us. It is, however, important as regards this observation that one human being can be a complete enigma to another. We learn this when we come into a strange country with entirely strange traditions; and, what is more, even given a mastery of the country's language. We do not understand the people. (And not because of not knowing what they are saying to themselves.) We cannot find our feet with them. " Wittgenstein is using "understand" not in the sense of being unable to understand his language, but being unable to understand lions and their practices. If lions could talk we would be able to understand their words, but that does not mean they would be anything like the characters in The Lion King; imagine having a conversation with a lion in its natural habitat, it would not be wise or proud, it would just be weird.
kennethamy wrote:

But you write just as if you understand what is would be like for a lion to talk, and go on to draw implications from that. I am stuck at the start. I can certainly imagine a human voice emanating from a lion, may like what is depicted in the Wizard of Oz. I can even imagine Gregor in Kafka's famous story of the man transformed into a giant cockroach talking, but like Gregor (the man) of course. But what would it even be like to hear a lion (or cockroach) talking, and not a human voice coming our of a lion or cockroach? What do you think it would sound like? It is not just that lions don't talk. It is that it makes no sense think of lions talking. And I think that Wittgenstein, in his elfin way, is trying to make that thought occur to you.
U r satisfied to ASSUME that lions r not talking,
from the fact that u do not understand their words.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 03:01 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

mickalos wrote:

I do not think that Wittgenstein is saying that if a lion could talk, we could not come to learn and speak his language. I dare say that the possibility of a language being learnable is a necessary condition of actually being a language. At present, lions other animals, and babies make noises, but there is no regularity in use that gives their noises a meaning, thus we do not say that their noises are words, or part of a language, they are merely noises.

In order to discern what Wittgenstein is saying with his lion aphorism, we need to set the context. The comment comes in Part 2, section xi of the Investigations, where Wittgenstein talks about seeing an aspect and experiencing the meaning of a word. Seeing an aspect, is like seeing an apparently unfamiliar face and then, all of a sudden, recognising it as the face of an old friend; it the thing that happens when we see the figure below as a duck or seeing it as a rabbit:
http://vis.berkeley.edu/courses/cs294-10-fa07/wiki/images/d/da/Duck_rabbit.jpg
Wittgenstein then discusses the possibility that somebody might be "aspect-blind", that he lacks the ability to see something as something. Now clearly, this is not the same thing as being actually blind, he would still be able to see the figure above, he would simply not see it as a duck or a rabbit.

Wittgenstein then moves on to talk about "experiencing the meaning of a word". This is the sort of thing most of us do when we read poetry, or when we look through synonyms in a thesaurus for "the right word". The analogous phenomenon to aspect blindness, here, is meaning-blindness. A meaning-blind person would not understand the difference in what "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" and "I will scare you with a fistful of dust" mean to us, the sort of meaning that poets manage to conjure up with words. He would not understand if we ask him to say "party" as a verb, and then the next moment as a noun? He simply says party, he is incapable of saying it as anything. Yet, as in the case of the aspect-blind person still being able to literally see, the meaning-blind person will still be able to know what words mean the sense that he will be able to use the language. This is because, for Wittgenstein, meaning is use, and one doesn't need to have a particular experience, or indeed any experience, to grasp a sentence.

In the case of the lion, it is preceded by this passage: "We also say of some people that they are transparent to us. It is, however, important as regards this observation that one human being can be a complete enigma to another. We learn this when we come into a strange country with entirely strange traditions; and, what is more, even given a mastery of the country's language. We do not understand the people. (And not because of not knowing what they are saying to themselves.) We cannot find our feet with them. " Wittgenstein is using "understand" not in the sense of being unable to understand his language, but being unable to understand lions and their practices. If lions could talk we would be able to understand their words, but that does not mean they would be anything like the characters in The Lion King; imagine having a conversation with a lion in its natural habitat, it would not be wise or proud, it would just be weird.
kennethamy wrote:

But you write just as if you understand what is would be like for a lion to talk, and go on to draw implications from that. I am stuck at the start. I can certainly imagine a human voice emanating from a lion, may like what is depicted in the Wizard of Oz. I can even imagine Gregor in Kafka's famous story of the man transformed into a giant cockroach talking, but like Gregor (the man) of course. But what would it even be like to hear a lion (or cockroach) talking, and not a human voice coming our of a lion or cockroach? What do you think it would sound like? It is not just that lions don't talk. It is that it makes no sense think of lions talking. And I think that Wittgenstein, in his elfin way, is trying to make that thought occur to you.
U r satisfied to ASSUME that lions r not talking,
from the fact that u do not understand their words.


Sorry, I do not understand computers when they speak either. (By the way, what words do you mean?)
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 03:17 pm
@kennethamy,
He just implied that lions may speak a language we cannot understand. But that's of course not true, since lions do not speak a language; lions do not use words, David!

When we say that animals "have their own language", we are using the term "language" loosely. We are just saying that they have a means to communicate with one another. But their means of communication is nothing like the languages humans utilize.
0 Replies
 
mickalos
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 06:03 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

But you write just as if you understand what is would be like for a lion to talk, and go on to draw implications from that. I am stuck at the start. I can certainly imagine a human voice emanating from a lion, may like what is depicted in the Wizard of Oz. I can even imagine Gregor in Kafka's famous story of the man transformed into a giant cockroach talking, but like Gregor (the man) of course. But what would it even be like to hear a lion (or cockroach) talking, and not a human voice coming our of a lion or cockroach? What do you think it would sound like? It is not just that lions don't talk. It is that it makes no sense think of lions talking. And I think that Wittgenstein, in his elfin way, is trying to make that thought occur to you.


I understand what it would be like for a lion to have a language in the same way that I understand anything else to have a language. There must exist a regular pattern to, a certain degree of complexity and uniformity, between the sounds one emits and one's behaviour. I do think, based on lion behaviour that we observe, that it would be impossible to envision this to a certain degree, during fights within a pride, for example, or perhaps certain mating activities. Perhaps we might even imagine lions speaking in monologue, just like the people Wittgenstein discusses at the start of the private language argument (PI243); however, certainly, the idea of a lion having a conversation does not get off the ground.

I think Wittgenstein is trying to get us to imagine a human voice coming from a lion when he says "If a lion could talk..."; for, surely that is the difference between roaring and talking. To hypothesize a talking lion is necessarily anthropomorphism, but only to a minimal degree; for example, even if we do imagine a human voice coming out of a lion, does this mean that a lion could be a hypocrite or could be sincere?

I think there is plausibility in the idea that there is no possibility that lions could have had language, on the grounds that language is something only human-like creatures can possess (though I'm not sure exactly what it would be about human-like creatures that make them the only candidates for language speaking). However, I don't think the text supports this particularly strongly. Wittgenstein, I think, wants to say that we could learn how to speak lion in a very mechanical, unnatural manner, in the same way that somebody begins to learn a second language, but we would not be able to "find our feet with them". Their behaviour would seem somewhat otherworldly to us, we would not "get it".
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 06:15 pm
I'm pretty sure Wittgenstein never saw The Lion King
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 07:10 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead wrote:

I'm pretty sure Wittgenstein never saw The Lion King


So am I. W. died in the early 1950's. But he might well have seen The Wizard of Oz with the Cowardly Lion jabbering away. So what. That would be a lion with a human voice. What difference would that make? It would not be a lion speaking.
0 Replies
 
 

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