1.12 linguisticness and its consequences

The philosophical term ‘linguisticness’ is the translation of Heidegger’s concept Sprachlichkeit. In the work of another hermeneutic philosopher it appears even as ‘linguisticality’[1], but for humanosophic purposes the word ‘linguisticness’ suffices. However, our definition is not exactly the same as Heidegger’s.

In the humanist/philosophical view on human nature linguisticness is the mental condition of an ape who has begun to use names for the things, gradually finding himself in a named world, in a virtual ‘words-world’. The definition of linguisticness in this context (in another sense than just ‘the ability to use language’) is obvious: with ‘linguisticness’ we mean the mental predisposition to experience the world in concepts. This is the characteristic that makes us humans unique among all animals.

Our linguistic consciousness, the grasping, comprehending understanding of the world, started with the first gestured name (‘the first word’[2]). In the beginning, communicating with names for the things – and also thinking with it – was still rather inadequate. Nevertheless, eventually the humans had to rely on it: they had to make instinct secondary (no two captains on the ship of your decision making). When you no longer use an organ it will shrink, and something similar happened to our instinct.

Because the humans began to understand their world with a linguistic understanding that was still weak and unreliable, they fell prey to incertitude. Therefore, this is a major consequence of linguisticness: it made us into worrying apes’.

By itself, incertitude is not a new phenomenon in the animal world. When an animal comes upon a situation where his instinct cannot give an adequate impulse, it may feel uncertain. But for humans, incertitude became a more permanent part of daily life experience.

One cannot live with constant incertitude, so the early humans developed two anguish allaying mechanisms: repetition and believing.

Repetition: rhythm, dancing, singing, rituals: I already mentioned some scholars who suggest that human ritual behavior reduces anxiety. Tradition has the same effect: doing things the same way they had be done since many generations. Consequently, the early humans were astonishingly conservative. Especially the females: the most real humans.

Over more than a million of years, the form and material of their hand-axes (female tool) showed virtually no change. In their named world, the most important tradition and ritual was the danced singing of the creation story (females were leading in religion[3]) every night around the camp fire.

Believing: a firm inner conviction that things are the way we want them to be, or at least are the way somebody with status and/or authority says they should be.

In primitive times humans were not yet acquainted with the concept of authority: in the group, they were strictly equal. Therefore the most important parts of their belief were not based on some kind of authority, but rather on magic (fear allaying ritual actions) and myth (tradition-based elucidations of the world).

Until our scientific times, it was never important whether a story was true. It mattered only if it was a good (useful) story, a story which people wanted to be true, which was felt to be relevant to their existence. Just like in a later era, in the time of patriarchal society, the story of the birth of Eve out of a rib of Adam became a good story because it was just what the men wanted to hear, as a reinforcement of their supremacy. Such stories had to be true.

 

The thus acquired certitude enabled our ancestors to intervene in their environment.

As I said before: names for the things also gave them (a feeling of) power over the things. linguisticness created a distance between the understanding brain and the object, the understood thing or phenomenon. Humankind became a factor in nature that mastered a mental but also an instrumental power over the world, the first critical intervention in the natural environment being the control of fire.

The inner conviction that some ritual words – such as incantations, charms or spells – evoke magical forces that can create or destroy, is just as ancient. Knowing somebody’s name gives a feeling of power over him. Naming somebody can be felt as disrespectful, or even be understood as violating the named one’s integrity (which is why in several traditional religions, including Judaism, the actual name of the feared powers (be it natural elements such as a tiger or a volcano, or the gods, or a single God) may not be spoken aloud.

As another consequence of having names for the things, the ability to exchange complex thought scenarios with each other became a powerful new strategy: two know more than one, and people now could share their thoughts and overcome the biggest problems. Essentially, this is the power of democracy.

Some other consequences need to be mentioned here. Between the linguistic beings and their environment, an apparatus of thousands of concepts (the sign language codes associated with representations in the brains) arose, which created a ‘virtual’ world.
All things in our world are named things (things only exist as far as we have a name for it), but how can we know if there are no things that we do not (yet) have a name for? Many philosophers (Plato with his cave metaphor; Kant with the thing as representation and the thing in itself) wrestle with the feeling that, besides the world we know, there is a another or even more real world, but one which slips out of our hands as soon as we try to name and know it: talking about it is by definition not possible. Perhaps this philosophical ‘second’ or ‘real’ world exists in the larger part of our thinking: linguistic consciousness takes only 20% of our actual thinking.

A last important consequence was the emergence of the bastion of holiness. Our ancestors kept their incertitude at bay with belief and magic rituals. They believed when and where they couldn’t know for sure: these beliefs were imagined certitudes, pseudo-elucidations, not based on hard evidence. Deep in their minds, incertitude lived on. So the necessary elucidations were canonized into holy elucidations. Holy is unassailable, untouchable: something holy may not be doubted or called in question. But this runs counter to the progress of our linguistic consciousness, our knowing, our rationality. To the path of ever better grasping (understanding) things. To the only ability which can really free us from incertitude.

Fortunately, we now live in the time of the free market economy. It frees us out of the bastion of holiness. It is a blessing for mankind. At least, when it got the bad dog of the finance capital, who has been biting its leg since the 1980s, back to the chain of government. Perhaps the humanosophic project as developed in Part Two could help.

  1. Gadamer Europa und die Oikumene (1993)
  2. title of Christine Kenneally’s book The First Word (2007)
    40 even the San Bushmen already have male dominance; but to get into a trance their trance dancers (healers) still need the dancing /singing of the women (Lee / DeVore, p 297)

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Used abbreviations

GHs: gatherers/hunters (the phase from 2 million years ago to 10.000 years ago)

AGRs: agriculturers (the phase from 10.000 years ago till now)

NT(s)Neanderthal people

MSA(s): Middle Stone Age people (African NTs)

AMH(s): Anatomical Modern Humans (H sapiens people), like we are

(m)ya: (million) years ago

ANBOs: Ancestor Bonobos (ape-men), our earliest human ancestors

Paleos: all scientists that are important for our story.

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