Discourse and gibbons

Celso Alvarez Cáccamo lxalvarz at udc.es
Fri Nov 15 01:28:09 UTC 2002


So, sure, animals are able to deceive. But:

At 11:19 14/11/02 -0500, P. Kerim Friedman wrote:
>But, I do think we should also be careful about equating "agency" with
>"language". Just because animals don't talk, and don't code-switch,
>doesn't mean that they don't have higher-order cognitive functions
>(planning, deception, etc.).

To me "agency" is only human agency. "Behavior" encompasses what other
animals do (and ourselves) well enough. I won't even try to define "agency"
either, but to me it has to do with reflexive, goal-oriented ability to
transform social contexts. As for the second part of your statement, I
never denied that some animals have complex minds, but that's not (I
believe) what we're talking about.

>A more interesting question (for me) is why we believe that language=thought.

Well, who believes that?  Language is one of the products of the mind,
which is the set of abstract properties of brain processes. So, it seems
quite logical to me (and empirically supported) that the human mind
produces human language, the non-human primate mind produces non-human
primate language, and so on. Six milion years of independent evolution (or
200,000 years of humankind, same difference) attest to this, right? It
would be simpler to view the threat to bomb Iraq as just a sophisticated
type of chest-beating, but I think it misses the political point. Discourse
enters here, precisely, to establish the link between dismembered bodies
and oil politics.

Celso Alvarez Cáccamo
lxalvarz at udc.es

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