[Marxism] human origins

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Wed Aug 3 10:48:39 MDT 2005

Nick Halliday 
The exchange between AA and CB

Maps aren't limited to presenting information isomorophically.

CB: However, they do present information isomorphically and
homeomorphically, and in that regard are not symbolic.

I have no problem with the notion that maps in toto are kinda half way
between symbol and picture - emblematic maybe- but words are more completely


order to understand and interpret a map for a real world task, one
must grasp the transformative relationship between points on the map
and points in the known landscape. For example, one must grasp
'scale'--that something much smaller represents something
true-to-life. That is rather arbitrary. Also the reader of the map
must somehow take a three dimensional landscape and accept it in a
two-dimensional plane. Again, a somewhat opaque symbolic leap.

Even if much of the key information isn't 'arbitrary and
conventional', it is still textual. And that takes quite a leap in
reasoning to understand (that information is to be got from written
form as opposed to face-to-face spoken encounters).

CB: Well, the chimps who can follow maps aren't getting this leap from
following something in writing.


Most maps that humans use are in fact a mix of the arbitrary and
conventional with the motivated and iconic presented in highly
compressed, textual form.

Even human language has elements of iconicity to it. Many languages
have words or somewhat meaningful sounds that are imitative and quite
suggestive of the sounds of nature or actions or processes
otherwiseperceptible outside of language--even states of mind or
expressibleemotions. So the relationship between the language and what it
isbeing used to represent in the process of trying to communicate is
notwholly arbitrary.

CB: Onemotapoeia is specifically not like the rest of language in breaking
this non-imitative principle.



This doesn't mean other animals can't use symbols or think
'symbolically'. Consider remembering what a tool is used for. The
sight of that tool evokes the memory of what that tool is used for.
Which is in some way and to some extent symbolic. However, as for
evidence that other animals have somehow converged their symbolic
abilities with their visual-gestural-phonetic abilities in
phonologically, lexically and grammatically embed meaning in
controlled systems in order to communicate and produce linguistic
speech or text--well, that evidence is lacking, however interesting
some forms of animal communication are. Still, we might be reminded
that Wittgenstein said something to the effect: if a lion could speak, we
wouldn't understand what he was saying.

CB: Did Wittgenstein use anthropological evidence ?

NH (with input from and in interaction with a web reader of marxmail)

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