Pictorial Language

In 2010 fMRI imaging of brain activity during word recognition or emotional response is old news. What these images accurately describe is what is happening in a brain that is focused on a specific thought or feeling.
Pictures such as drawings of animals on cave walls in France probably preceded any written or oral language. From our 21st century perspective we often speculate that pictorial language was an advance over communication by grunts, gestures and pheromones. This may or may not have been the case.
For a picture to be “worth a thousand words” it must be able to evoke meanings and values that can be intersubjectively communicated. Doctors “read” fMRI images in order to diagnose certain ilnesses. Neuroscientists “read” the images in order to track stimulus/response in healthy brains.
The fear that these experimental results will abet whoever uses these findings to exploit others is good sci-fi; but, it is due to making a special case of one type of language. Other pictures, words, sounds and gestures can be used in the same way. A dictionary or catalog of fMRI images no more threatens me than does the "Oxford History of the English Language, which one prof delightfully told us already intimidated students can be abbreviated as “Oh Hell!”.

This reminds me of a paper by a woman named perini about the truth bearing status of images. Nice stuff really. I think it was called “the truth in pictures” or something like that.

Thanks. One could argue that illusions refute truth in images; but I don’t thnk so, at least not for communication as necessity. Do you think Chinese pictorial language gets closer to the truth of what we see and do than does Western, linear sentence structures?

I dunno about one language representing reality better. But David Lewis has a paper called “veridical hallucinations and prosthetic vision” which addresses the problem you mentioned about illusions. I love David Lewis. The man literally answers every philosophical question I’ve ever heard of in a clear and highly structured way.

I’d not heard of him before today, and this is the second piece of high praise in as many hours. Any pointers to a good introduction/overview?


Here is something from wiki on David Lewis. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_of_al … ble_worlds)

His possible worlds don’t really have much to do with a hierarchical perception of which one is better, so much as they serve as a means by which his kind of descriptivism can be universalized, (albeit through the common way of becoming more and more vague).

There’s a good book called, “papers in ethics and social philosophy” which is a compilation of some of his more grounded work. Lots of examples of applying game theory to socially relevant arguments. He has a tendency to lean toward clarity more so than to try and pick a side and prove a point.

Then there’s “papers in metaphysics and epistemology”, and “Philosophical Papers” 1, 2 and 3. Then of course there’s a great book called convention for which he won some big award, and it starts of by saying that the job of any good philosopher is to question platitutes, which I think is kinda neat.

Oh and we can’t forget that lovely “on the plurality of worlds”, which is kinda the point at which all his opinions come together to form a nice general theory of pretty much everything.

Also, there’s a book called “Lewisian Themes” which is a compilation of papers that other people wrote about things that Lewis liked to write about, or something like that…

I’d start off w/ the papers in ethics and social philosophy because in some of the stuff he writes it can be impossible to get a feel for his personality or real overall point of view, but in this one most of the papers are fairly user friendly.

I have shit tons of papers of his, probably most of the ones in that book if anyone is interested.

2 great ones that I can think of right now are “desire as belief”, and “reduction of mind”. I think I’m gonna go read some David Lewis right now.

Also, he does specifically address the problem of evil in a paper called “evil for freedom’s sake?”. He argues against what he calls “plantinga’s free will theodicy” and gives a formal game theoretical treatment of like 20 different ways you could try and use this free will defense.

I’ll need a little time to bone upon Lewis. Meanwhile, I’m into the theory that considers the structure of language as an extension of the physical trajectories of motion in body construction and maintenance. One such trajectory is linear, eg., individuation, neural routes, etc. Another has to do with the circularity of feedback, eg., sense data and both internal and external environmental influences. The straight line is extension; the circle of the whole is inclusion.
I do not consider Pinker an authority on language. Oliver Sachs refutes him admirably. Language is not a prerequisite of consciouness. Philosophical problems with language appear to have to do with what is expected of a symbol. No symbol can be expected to provide absolute or exhaustive meanings or values. They are devices that evoke what is needed at the moment.
The philosophical problems with language (Nietzsche’s for example) probably come about from our difficulty with reconciling the line and the circle. Oddly enough, genetics does this reconciliation well.

I would think that while I’m trying to figure out how Lewis is relevant here others would consider the organic, natural sources of language.