LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.
The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”
We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #6 & #7.
Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #6 & #7 – Consciousness is Based on Language (Calvin, Dennett)
WILLIAM CALVIN, neurobiologist, University of Washington and author of A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond and DANIEL C. DENNETT, philosopher, Tufts University and author of Freedom Evolves believe that consciousness is based on language, in the case of Calvin, that consciousness is structured intellect with good quality control, especially in preschoolers, and in the case of Dennet, that human language is a necessary precondition to consciousness.
We definitely disagree.
Although language surely plays a great part in structuring modern consciousness, we must ask the chicken and egg question: Which came first – language or human consciousness? We would argue that human consciousness gave origin to language and not vice versa. Language could not have originated in a vacuum. Hence, language develops in concert with consciousness.
Indeed, as a parent having seen the development of an infant from day one, it would appear to us that it is the human consciousness of an infant which permits him or her to learn a language in the first place. It is a different consciousness which prohibits animals from learning that same human language. This does not mean that animals have no consciousness, but rather that this consciousness is not human.
Furthermore, as someone who has seen first hand a human being recovering from a brain operation over time, it is quite clear that individual human consciousness is based on a sense of individual identity, which is a function of memory and recognition. A person recovering from brain surgery can for a time not know who he or she is and also not recognize close loved ones, even when the language facility is still clearly present. One can speak like a human, but still have human consciousness greatly impaired.
The corollary theory to those of Calvin and Dennett would be that the most verbally language-adept humans would have an elevated consciousness over their fellows, a theory which would be negated by a deaf-mute painter and which is also simply negated by experience. Many people have been taught a human language and still have remained primitive brutes. Just view the daily news of events. Other people have been nerds at language, for example Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton (via Shark Blog), but have demonstrated exceptional “human” abilities.
We would argue that language can be used to structure existing human consciousness – that, yes. But that human consciousness must be there to begin with, which we think is a function of genetics and the way the universe works, and not just of the acquisition of language.