Monday, September 20, 2004


In a recent post, I think I mentioned the tribe of natives who didn’t have concepts for the numerals one, two or three. They were unable to perform tasks which required that they be able to count. For example they couldn’t tell when a box was empty of things even though the experimenter counted aloud the items put into a box and counted them as they were removed. They couldn’t tell the difference between a box with two fishes painted on its lid and three fishes painted onto its lid. The story was in our local newspaper, the Spokesman Review.

I must have personally had this insight something like 15 or 20 years back as I struggled to understand why more people were incapable of understanding the current facts of evolution or the implications of the evolution of consciousness and many other things. Now you may ask why I should credit myself for having these insights when I don’t seem to have the words or concepts of religious fundamentalists.... Can’t they charge me with the same failing?

But I have had their insights, and they are the old facts in the human machine we call the brain. I’ve already incorporated them into the mix and moved on from them. They were given to me with my mother’s milk and to graduate into the modern world, I had to comprehend them and move on from them. It’s how a person comes to live in the modern world and not in his mom or dad’s outmoded world. I sense myself already being transcended by that literate guy and gal with the body piercings so profuse that it hurts me to look at them. My daughter for one....

Also in the recent movie, "What The Fuck Do We Know?", we are told that the natives who first experienced the arrival of Christopher Columbus’s ships couldn’t see the ships because they had no concept for them in their minds. Hard to believe? For me too. Supposedly, one of their shamans went to the beach and stared for a long time and finally saw the ships. Then he communicated to his tribe what he saw and they could then see the three ships. This tale is related as gospel truth in the flick.

Hard to believe, yet I don’t think people can understand the concept of the unconscious and what it means for humans if they really don’t have the language for it. They can hear the words, but until enlightened understanding, comes, they are almost unable to understand the import of the concept. My own education has been a process of struggling with new ideas, sometimes for years and decades, until they finally come alive in my brain. Then I truly SEE! O, yes, now I see.... Without that “Ahaa!” the brain remains dark.

Now to add an appeal to authority to my personal experience, the example from a movie and the scientific experiments for this idea, I go to Nietzsche and a passage from his “Ecco Homo”. He writes, “In the end, nobody hears more out of things, including books, than he knows already. For that to which one lacks access from experience, one has no ears. Let us imagine an extreme case; that a book speaks of all sorts of experiences which lie utterly beyond any possibility of frequent, or even rare, experiences—that it represents the first language for a new sequence of experiences. In that case, simply nothing is heard; and the people have the acoustic illusion that where nothing is heard there is nothing.” (From Existentialism From Dostoevsky to Sartre, edited by Walter Kaufmann, p. 132)

Unlike the fundamentalist with his mere appeal to authority, I’ve brought evidence from science, example, authority and personal experience. If this were an English composition essay, I’d get an A for evidence.

"Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow." —Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)


Anonymous said...

Seriously, if that article about the "so-called" numerically-challenged natives was true, then, in MY opinion, the sociologists running the "tests" or "experiments", definitely had 'no ears, eyes or tongue for' understanding WHY these particular persons (these natives? heathens? pagans? aboriginals?... historically labeled "idiots" by the anglo-european culture, is it not true?) had no need of or use for the concept of numerical empiricism. A dollar to a donut, these particular "natives" (if they still exist) have convoluted concepts pertaining to areas of their particular culture, which, the sociologists would, in turn, find so foreign and strange, as to be totally alien to THEIR understanding.
Such as: the idea that Inuit peoples, for example, have something like two hundred different words for snow.
Even our most passionate skiers might only come up with,what?...10 terms? describe snow conditions/types?
If, by the same rationality, an Inuit person would have "tested" a visiting sociologist on their understanding of the various "snow"s...wouldn't it be logical to say, that "those nimcompoops" sure have 'no ears, no eyes, no tongue' for something so common, so everyday, so REAL as the VERY WORLD itself! for walrus's sake! How dumb can those eedjit's be?

Anonymous said...

The natives of the Pacific NW saw 'big white birds' and 'thunderhead clouds' in chieftain's canoes coming across the water towards them. As these natives had great skill and knowledge of seagoing canoes, they were more impressed by the great size (certainly it must be a high chiefs' canoe) and by the billowing layers of sails. The natives of Columbus' New World (how droll a name for such ancient civilizion), being island folk, must have understood the concept of canoes and boats, and just were amazed and awed by the great sails. Maybe, like the PNW natives, they thought they were birds or clouds at first.