History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Language and evolution

December 5th, 2014 · No Comments


The question of language and evolution just took a step backward, perhaps to go forward, someday. I have always respected the Chomsky thesis, which isn’t assent, but at no point did the needed dissent from darwinism create a foundation among linguists. But, in any case we have no real understanding of how man evolved language. The assumptions of natural selection are hopeless here, but noone will give them up.

We don’t have the facts, so we can’t resolve the issue. And that includes natural selection: we have zero evidence natural selection produced language. And the real birth of language is unknown, probably with homo erectus in some primitive form unknown to us.
There are a lot of ways to revise Chomsky’s thesis.

But it would seem that with the onset of homo sapiens a major upgrade emerged, and was connected with a change of consciousness, consolidation of ‘mind’, a complex ethical sense, and a new propensity for art, and from there linguistic art. Could they all be interrelated? One problem is that ‘man’ (current) can’t understand his own function. He can’t understand his own ‘consciousness’ and is prone to mechanized downgrades. Over and over yogis and sufis suggest man’s natural state should be ‘self-consciousness’, that elusive something we get from attempting meditation. The question of consciousness thus revolves around an ambiguity, which consciousness do we mean? The question of ethics is really obscure. It is worth following Kant’s attempt to decipher ethical behaviorism. We still don’t a clear understanding there, its evolution being still more obscure. Kant’ formulation is a bit theoretical: a mental function of ‘reason’ in something like the categorical imperative seems unreastic, but it may be fine as a ‘draft explanation’. But the original form may have been very different, yet essentially related as ‘common ordinary morality’. My point is merely the resemblance of Kant’s project to that of Chomsky. Try to figure out Kantian ethics, and you can see that man has moral behavior, but this like language is culturally diverse. A curiously similar common denominator puzzle. The obvious relationship of ethical thinking and the linguistics of future tense verbs which express a will applied to some kind of choice, which immediately expresses preferment. But the moral level beyond the utilitarian is evidently being born in man, with the ‘future’ tense mixed with the optative, ‘will’, but ‘should’.

In a related way, next to the devolution of consciousness, we might wonder if language hasn’t devolved from a more complex state. The phonemes of the Koisan bushmen were over a hundred in number! Is that a relevant issue/

So the issue of language is beyond our understanding at this point.

Here I can make a suggestion based on the one zone of ‘real evidence’ that we have: the much latter civilizational phases of what I have called ‘evolution of some kind’, in world history, that is.
The model of WHEE shows the stunning way in which a ‘macro’ process is directly related to the emergence of art, more especially linguistic art: check out the issue of poetry in the Greek archaic turning finally into Greek tragedy. Their macro context is highly obscure but a telling indication that if the late phases of ‘language evolution’ are seen in relation to poetic forms, that may have been the case all along. We have to wonder if some of the cultural legacies of music, dance, and (choral) song weren’t vehicles for linguistic and other development.

I think that with darwinism we are completely off the mark, and can’t even find the first step to a theory.

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