Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

The Extended Mind and the Emergence of Language and Culture

Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

The Extended Mind and the Emergence of Language and Culture

Article excerpt

1. Introduction: Lessons from the Study of Notated Language

A model for the emergence is developed making use of complexity theory and recognizing the difference between percept-based thinking and concept-based thinking. We also make use of lessons learned from the study of the evolution of notated language. We begin with our former studies of notated language. In McLuhan and Logan (1977) and Logan (1986) the effects of the phonetic alphabet and literacy on the development of deductive logic, abstract science, codified law, and monotheism were revealed. We showed that these five developments, which emerged between the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers and the Aegean Sea between 2000 and 500 BC, formed an autocatalytic set of ideas that supported each other's development. The alphabet not only served as a convenient way to notate speech it also taught the lessons of analysis (breaking up words into their basic phonemes), coding (writing), decoding (reading) and classification (alphabetization).

This work led to the realization that language is both a medium of communication and an informatic tool since the structure of a language influence the way in which people organize information and develop ideas. This work led to the hypothesis that speech, writing, math, science, computing and the Internet represented six independent languages each with its own unique semantics and syntax (Logan 1995; 2000a). It was shown that these six forms of language formed an evolutionary chain of languages with each new language emerging from the previous forms of language as a bifurcation to a new level of order à la Prigogine in response to an information overload that the previous set of languages could not handle.

Schmandt-Besserat (1978; 1992) showed that writing and mathematical notation arose in Sumer as a response to keeping track of the tributes farmers paid to the priests in the form of agricultural commodities. This gave rise to formal schools to teach the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic (the 3 R's), which in turn led to scholars and scholarship giving rise to an overload that science (organized knowledge) was able to deal with. Science gave rise to its information overload, which in turn led to computers and computers gave rise to its information overload, which in turn led to the Internet.

2. How the Bifurcation from Percepts to Concepts Led to the Emergence of Language

How did the first language, speech, from which the other languages evolved, arise in the first place? It is from this consideration that my interest in the origin of language problem and literature arose. My earlier work with the evolution of notated language was based on the premise that a new form of language evolved in response to the chaos resulting form the information overload associated with the previous forms of language. In light of this we should anticipate that the origin of speech was also due to a response to chaos and information overload.

We will assume that before the advent of speech hominid thought processes as inherited from our earliest ancestors were percept-based. Donald (1991: 226) makes a similar assumption about the perceptual basis of mimetic culture, the culture of hominids that existed just before the emergence of verbal language. "The principle of similarity that links mimetic actions and their referents is perceptual, and the basic communicative device is best described as implementable action metaphor (Donald 1998: 61)."

Our hominid ancestors emerged in the savannas of Africa, where they were an easy target for various predators. To defend themselves from this threat as well as to increase their food supply they acquired the new skills of tool making, the control of fire, group foraging, and coordinated hunting. These activities resulted in a more complex form of social organization, which also increased the complexity of their lives. At first, this complexity could be handled through more sophisticated percept-based responses, but at some point the complexity became too great. …

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