Re: The "Great Synthesis"

mike shupp (ms44278@HUEY.CSUN.EDU)
Mon, 29 Apr 1996 20:34:15 PDT

Ronald Kephart writes:
> "... we are simply another species of animal, like a dog, aarvaark,
> zebra, whatever, and that we differ from all of the others...
> by a simply preposterous adaptation, Language, that allows us to categorize,
> classify, and make statements about the world, using (for the most part)
> arbitrary symbols which vary impressively but nevertheless do so within
> parameters that are a part of our genetic endowment. This preposterous
> adaptation also makes it possible for us to symbolically represent, both within
> ourselves and to others, the world and what we think about it, and what we do in
> it, including our non genetically acquired beliefs and behaviors; in other
> words, it gives us Culture."

This is a gallant effort to define the difference between man and other
species, but I am not convinced that there really is just One Great
Difference. Our early ancestors, after all, may have been
crafting stone tools for several million years with very little
speech. Language is important, yes, but maybe more is going on in our
heads than abstract symbol manipulation.

A hypothesis: as infants, humans develop notions of causality, number and
magnitude, order, and other phenomena that other species do not. That
deeper understanding of how the unverse works and can be manipulated is as
much to be credited with our existence as culture or language.

Mike Shupp California State University, Northridge
A humble (but correctly attributed) graduate student