“Euthyphro”-type Dilemma of Language Ability and Learning

I want to keep this as short, sweet, and simple as I can, so here’s the Euthyphro-type dilemma up front… but we will return to it below: Does what is encoded (the pious/good) get our attention, or is it that what we attend to (the loved/valued) gets encoded? This very condensed post basically shows we are hardwired for language/signal ability and learning in an irreducibly complex and very specified way.

I inferred it from what I gleaned from chapter 9, Language, from Radvansky and Ashcraft’s “Cognition” textbook put out by Pearson in 2018. It is a kind of agent/patient homeostasis in the brain that requires the system of communication between agent (self) and patient (other) already be in place, complete–that it could not have been “arrived” at (implying a whole that is third and subsumes self/other as an us/them). Think of agent and patient like actor and reactor, sender and receiver, source and sink, or subject and object of an active (not passive) sentence or signal. So this is a tripartite homeostasis, or a [harmonic triad] The Harmonic Triads - Philosophy Forums / Philosophy - I Love Philosophy): source, sink, and signal.

These interlocking “separable but interactive aspects of normal language” involving parts of the intact (A) or damaged/disordered (B-K) brain show an “innate basis for language … specifically … to learn and use language … as opposed to simply being able to do so” (244, Cognition). Notice F through I involve seeing but leaves hearing intact, but J involves hearing and leaves seeing intact–and even if hearing (spoken) and seeing (reading) comprehension is impaired, production of audible and written language is not:

A. Dissociation (separableness, though interactive) of syntax (order) and semantics (comprehension) in the intact brain: The brain’s event response potential (ERP) patterns show that syntactic (P600) and semantic (N400) anomalies (exceptions to expectations) are detected independently during language comprehension [239, Cognition, citing Osterhout and Holcomb (1992)].

B. Broca’s (Expressive or Production; Syntactical) Aphasia affects Broca’s area of the brain towards the rear of the left frontal lobe: Written and spoken comprehension are unaffected, but there is impairment in grammatical markers, phonemes, morphemes, and sometimes just verb inflections. Persons may say “I don’t know” or give one word answers a lot.

C. Wernicke’s (Comprehension; Semantic, Lexical) Aphasia affects Wernicke’s area of the brain in the junction between the temporal and parietal lobes, posterior left hemisphere: Syntactic aspects of speech are unaffected, but there is impairment in comprehension, repetition (saying back what was heard), naming (lexical system), reading, and writing.

D. Conduction Aphasia affects the arcuate fasciculus pathway connecting Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, which are left intact: The link between comprehension and production (order) is broken, so persons cannot conduct the message/signal between these areas and express it by repeating what they just heard/comprehended.

E. Anomic Aphasia affects the left temporal lobe: The impaired automatic retrieval shows the separation of semantic (concept) and lexical (naming) retrieval systems. Semantic retrieval can be preserved (intact) while lexical retrieval is blocked.

F. Alexic/Dyslexic Aphasia: Disrupts reading, but not spoken language production or aural comprehension.

G. Agraphic Aphasia: Disrupts reading what one has just written.

H. Written (but not Spoken) Verb Retrieval Aphasia

I. Anomic Aphasia for Visual Stimuli Only

J. Pure Word Aphasia: Disrupts comprehension of spoken language, but not its production, and not written language (production or comprehension).

K. Right Hemisphere Damage: Results in deadened triggering of connections/inferences between concepts.

From that^ we can infer these questions:

  1. Is there such a thing as unmodulated “actual” meaning (raw/pure “bottom/concrete/analog” data/signal untouched by the skewing/biasing grasp of “top/abstract/digital” conceptualization)? (If analog/digital are misused here – throw it out, and recalibrate or synchronize back to source, sink, and signal.)
  2. Does what is encoded (the pious/good) get our attention, or is it that what we attend to (the loved/valued) gets encoded? You could say this is related to Sapir-Whorf: Do we think about it because we have/learn a word for it, or do we have/learn a word for it because we think about it? Follow up question: What makes it a meaningful positive or negative difference/similarity (why does it get our attention/love/value) if there is no real/”actual” (ontic) point by which to compare the difference/similarity (piety or goodness)? Go back to question 1.
  3. You need the language learning ability to already be in the genes in order to attentionally activate it. If declarative memory gets in (sticks) with repeated attention and practice, but is not genetically remembered (partly because epigenetic changes are reset with every sexual reproduction, and DNA transcription has error correction built in, but more because brain/embodied memory is not genetic memory), how was human language ability (which requires attentional volition to activate) “arrived at” (in order for the ability to be sexually reproduced) genetically? [For that matter, how did vervet monkeys genetically acquire the animal language that encodes different sounds for eagles, snakes, and leopards? Go back to the bold question in 2. Note the key distinction between animal and human-animal language is flexibility/volition.]
  4. Since such an ability requires so many parts of the brain to be functioning separately and together (a kind of irreducibly complex homeostasis)…how was this functional system/ability something that could be arrived at piece by piece (in order to then attentionally activate it)? Could it be they, &/or the wholeness they imply, have always been?

Reference: chapter 9, Language, from Radvansky and Ashcraft’s “Cognition” textbook put out by Pearson in 2018.

Related: [Towards a JTB Ought-Is-Value Litmus]( Towards a JTB Ought-Is-Value Litmus - Philosophy Forums / Philosophy - I Love Philosophy)

Evolution implies everything can and must be made gradually over many, many years.

But some things wont function unless they are all or mostly present and each piece put together already. For example, a lighter is a simple thing, but if even one key part is missing, there will be no fire, and the fire is what gets it selected or is considered a success.

I remember hearing that the brain has facial recognition built into a very specific part of the brain. It’s like, hardware. Not really learned, but learns. There is probably some things like that in language capacities too. So children learn a language in a few years naturally / automatically. Seems built-in.

Yeah built-in. Kind of like a lighter is built.