Re: talking of tools...

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Fri, 17 Feb 1995 10:52:02 -0500

Yes, I now agree with Mr. Ottevanger, that 'homologous" is simply too
strong a term for cognition in tool-making and language, but I still
think there is something that links the two, and that our best glimpses
of hominid cognitive functioning will come out exqamining much more
closely what is involved in tol-making. Homology is probably pushing it
too far.
R. Holloway
On Thu, 9 Feb 1995, Mr J.M. Ottevanger wrote:

> This is very interesting and I must look this paper up. It will be good to
> see something of yours without the dread name of Dean Falk turning up! I
> won't ask you of your views on Vygotsky, Luria et al as yet. However I would
> take issue with you as regards the homology of language and tool-making.
> It seems to me that language provides the basis for various operations upon
> which other aspects of intelligence depend, rather than sharing a process. My
> thoughts on the matter have been tested by Stephen Pinker's recent book, which
> contains persuasive arguments against a one-to-one mapping of cognitive
> processes onto the grammatical structures of language. It does not seem to me,
> however, to damage the idea thatcertain types of concept formation etc. are
> linked to the presence of a structured communication system.
> I'm with you on the significance of chimp tool-making, though. Their degree of
> abstraction and complex formation may be paralleled in the development of their
> communication system, but this is ot well enough understood to really say.
> It would be great to know whether Kanzi would have been so adept if he had not
> learnt some sort of a language. Damned cause and effect.
> regards all, Jeremy
> In the last mail Ralph L Holloway said:>
> >
> > I tried this back in 1969, in Current Anthropology, in an article called:
> > "Culture: A human Domain". It grew out of a research paper I wrote for
> > Desmond Clark when I was a grad student in the early '60's. What i wanted
> > to do was use Shannon/Weaver communication theory to quantitfy stone
> > tools (and thus making) in terms of information theory. I failed. But it
> > did lead me to examine all the models of language available at the time
> > and see if there were possibly homologous processes in tool-making. I
> > thought that starting with Hockett's old design features would be a good
> > start. In essense, I concluded that language and tool-maing (not using)
> > were possibly homologous cognitive processes, and I concluded that
> > tool-making did depend on language , at least to some degree. I'll never
> > forget working in an aircraft factory and having the problem of getting
> > sheet metal workers to describe how they got complex shapes so that it
> > could go in some SOP manual. The response was that it wasn't possible to
> > describe the procedures in words...
> > I still think that what humans do with stone tools, i.e., the making
> > of implements having a standardised form from a precursor in which
> > that
> > form is not apparent is a hallmark of cultural behavior, and that it is
> > NOT the same as a chimp stripping leaves off a twig to make a stick for
> > the termite nest. That is an iconic transformation, whereas the former is
> > an arbitrary one.
> > Ralph L. Holloway.
> >
> >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> >