Re: language and relationship

Gary F. Blanchard (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 15:41:31 -0800

Dear Bob & Tim-

RE: my earlier memo, suggesting you pick the statement for me to respond

If you'd rather, I could just go with this one from Bob. Whatever you


Sincerely, Gary


Robert Parks wrote:
> Gary,
> I was enjoying the dialogue, because it was, for a while, looking like a
> dialogue. But your last communication did not directly respond to anything
> Tim said. Instead you reverted to a meta-theory of why people would
> disagree with you - i.e., they accept a different "paradigm". It does
> appear to be a defensive mechanism in this case, if only because you have
> not dealt with any of the comments that Tim made. So let me offer some
> assistance to the process of dialogue. Let me try to take your "side" Gary,
> and respond to Tim. But I would like to avoid the radical side-taking that
> is implicit in setting up camps with paradigm banners
> So, let me attempt to respond to Tim, from your or Flores point of view,
> and get the dialogue back on track. First, Tim's important points:
> On the other hand, much of our physical evolution occurred in an
> environment in which culture provided much of the selective
> pressure--so
> we are biologically adapted to experience the world--including our own
> bodily sensations--through symbolic systems that arise from
> relationships with others and so are public: "A child counts on his
> fingers before he counts 'in his head'; he feels love on his skin
> before
> he feels it 'in his heart.' Not only ideas, but emotions too, are
> cultural artifacts in man." (that's from Clifford Geertz's essay "The
> growth of culture and the evolution of mind," which I cannot recommend
> too highly)
> There are two key elements to this approach. First, language and symbolic
> systems are inherently social/public. Flores' approach would tacitly direct
> our attention to the biological basis of all symbolic behavior. But is
> there any real difference in principle? I think not. Social behavior is in
> some sense always biologically grounded, even when it is not biologically
> directed. Second, a priority is given to sensory systems that presage the
> full symbolic blossoming of our speech capacities. This I think is the key
> element in dispute, so let me try to offer a Florean interpretation that
> might challenge Tim.
> What does a child feel on her skin before she feels it in her heart?
> Warmth? security? love? The question can be put it terms of two options:
> (1) the child feels something that is the SEED of "love", which becomes
> "love" only when she can symbolize and generalize that feeling; (2) the
> child feels something that is indeed "love" (not a seed of love) because it
> is a particularly HUMAN way of experiencing warmth and security. It appears
> to me that Flores would accept the latter interpretation. Our HUMAN way of
> experiencing is from the beginning distinct and different from the
> experiencing of other species, even before our symbolic activity has
> blossomed as "language". The apparent similarity in experience to other
> species is deceptive. The warmth and security felt by infants of other
> species is real, but it is not pregnant already with human meaning. Human
> meaning is an activity, and infants engage in this activity from the
> beginning. It is qualitatively different from the symbolic activity of
> infants of other species, because it has the character of being from the
> beginning a "trigger" (to use Gary's term) to human symbolic activity of
> the "language" kind.
> Lets use an analogy from music. When a human infant hears music, the active
> response is inherently different from the response of infants of other
> species. It isn't a dry seed that blossoms only in later years, under
> guidance of tutors. It is an active growing seed that captures the
> "meaning" of the music in a particularly human way.
> Am I doing ok? I think Flores might accept this. I think I might accept
> this. I'm not sure. I'd like to hear the responses from Tim. In any case, I
> don't think we will get very far by setting barriers of "paradigm" between
> us.
> Paradigms develop not as full blown theoretical/psychological systems, but
> as explanatory devises and research agendas built around "paradigm cases",
> which act as models for future explanatory systems. The paradigm doesn't
> emerge full blown in a theory, but in a case that can be modelled as the
> theory is worked out. I would suggest, then, that you identify a particular
> case, and offer your "languaging" interpretation. You may find others
> agreeing with you on the case level, which might put them in a similar
> "constructivist" paradigm, even when they don't follow Flores all the way
> up the hill he climbs. There are, after all, many hills to climb.
> Bob

Best, Gary                           
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  "We come to others and they come to us, in language.
  "Without language,we have no relationships. 
  "In language we are faithful and we betray;
		contract marriage, and file divorce.
  "In language we raise children, and bury our dead.
  "In language we sing, dance, and make love. 
  "In language, we forgive, celebrate and commit. 
  "We live in language." 
	-Fernando Flores,PhD,author,Ontological Design Course;
and (w/ T.Winograd,PhD),"Understanding Computers & Cognition."
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