Thinking and language

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    Ciprian Begu

    In your writings you mention that there is a natural language in nature. Is that language also the language of our thoughts? Do we think in that language or in the primary language that we are taught in this life?
    And if the language of our thoughts is the natural language, how does that translate into our learned language when we express ourselves in speaking and writing?

    Ashish Dalela

    Our thoughts are also phenomena, just like sense perception. This means that just like we try to find an explanation of all that is real behind the sense phenomena, similarly, the thoughts are also phenomena underlying which there is a reality. Just like a scientific theory is incomplete if it doesn’t explain all the sense observations, similarly, the theory is incomplete if it doesn’t explain all the thoughts. It naturally follows that all kinds of thoughts — such as scientific theories, musical compositions, literary works, computer programs, and even architectural designs — are phenomena that have to be explained by an underlying reality. Also, just like there are the five senses of perception, similarly, there is the intellect which is a sense for perceiving thoughts.

    Howard Gardener proposed a Theory of Multiple Intelligences in which he recognizes the different categories of intellectual perception such as musical, visual, logical, etc., and claimed that some people are good in one type of intelligence while others are good in other areas. This is pretty much like some people have a good eyesight but relatively poor hearing. However, there is an important difference here, namely, that, unlike the five senses which are indeed five different faculties, intelligence is a single faculty rather than many independent faculties. Therefore, it is much harder to measure the presence or absence of one type as opposed to others.

    Returning to the question of language, the processing of language is also an intellectual function. But the language we hear and understand is a phenomenon rather than reality. That means it is a construction out of some even more fundamental language. In fact, all the different languages of the world (and even those which may have existed in the past) are simply modifications of a more fundamental language. When we treat language itself as a phenomenon and seek a language that creates other languages we enter into the realm of linguistic analysis in which there are attempts to draw a diversifying tree of languages and dialects.

    In structuralism therefore a distinction between langue and parole is drawn, where parole is the phenomenal language whereas langue is the underlying system of rules governing that language. Noam Chomsky had a similar idea where he draws a distinction between ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ structure in grammar, arguing that the deep structure is universal. These structuralist ideas have been used to claim that since there is a latent underlying structure that crosses languages and cultures, it must have something to do with the idea of humanity or even consciousness. We can of course agree, and say that this original and universal reality is sabda-brahman.

    However, there is still much to be done by way of describing what this original language is, and how it first creates myriad forms of domains, then a domain-specific language (e.g. the language of physics), and then different kinds of ideas in each domain. The final step of this expansion involves the tokens by which ideas are expressed. But the fundamental ideas in terms of which we think, and the language in which we think are also expressions of a deeper language. To know sabda-brahman is very difficult because you have to know the language that creates thought.

    While our individual thoughts may be true or false, manifest or unmanifest, the language in which these thoughts are created is eternal, unchanging, and universal. And the elements of this language are not impersonal ideas but different eternal, universal, and unchanging forms. Jung recognized this quite well in treating the psyche as comprised of myths populated by personalities like the hero, the mother, the teacher, etc. So, ultimately, even the study of language must lead us to the understanding of these eternal, unchanging, and universal personalities.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 4 weeks ago by Ashish Dalela.
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