language and mind

May 9, 2011

David Bohm and definition – the routine divorce of thought from language

Filed under: language processing, language use — teresapelka @ 10:39 am

David Bohm was a theoretical physicist to try to offer some insight into human thinking. ‘Thought as a system’ is a book based on his seminars in Ojai, California. His instruction would be divorcing thought and language run-of-the-mill: no cohabitation, case closed.

David Bohm wouldn’t have been the first entrepreneur in the fields of Perfection and the Absolute. There were others before him to attempt producing something perfect and absolute following the same path – separation of thought from language. Language would just express thought; thought would be a standalone term. However, not only ‘perfection’ and ‘absolute’ are words. ‘Thought’ is a word, too. Could there be thought without language really?

I am not a physicist. I am a linguist majored in language psychology. To me, the human perspective on the Cosmos remains bound to the constraints on human cognition. What if we use the phrase ‘the fish tank’ instead of the phrase ‘the Solar system’? Words, terms, and phrases do not contain the phenomena they denote. A ‘fish tank’ may be labeled an ‘aquarium’. A Greek, that is, a human being not as confined to Latin etymologies, would use labels such as ‘enudreio’, ‘ichtuotropheo’.

Well then, the humanity would be staying in a fish tank the humanity themselves name the Solar system – I have no idea what a legal UFO would say. You might picture this fish tank as contained in another that the humanity themselves again name the Cosmos, the Universe. However big, many, or new the fish tanks and their labels, the simple fact about human perception is that the human is able really to operate actually only ‘fish tanks’, that is, spatially finite concepts. Anything literally like infinity in space remains outside human perception, as another physicist, Stephen Hawking, admits.

Importantly, ‘infinity’ is a word. It has been coined. The ‘in’ is a negating morph added to a term denoting something finite. You might say that what is ‘infinite’ is ‘not finite’. The guess here might be that the infinity could be cognitively more of a metaphor to refer to time rather than space, as Einstein happened to joke comparing the time a male would be spending with an attractive woman versus that with ‘not so much of a catch’. By the way, David Bohm’s use of language remains outrageously sexist[1].

Substantially, the notion of infinity might have never come to be without language. The thought might have never occurred without the word. David Bohm’s comprehension of the lexical item ‘thought’ itself would be questionable here. To David Bohm, ‘thought’ was a ‘past particle’.

As for language sciences, a particle might be a unit of speech serving almost as a loose affix, expressing some general aspect of meaning or some connective or limiting relation, and including the articles, most prepositions and conjunctions, and some interjections and adverbs’, or ‘an element that resembles a word but that is used only in composition’[2]. Which would be the ‘thought’ as to be used in the predication ‘thought IS a particle’?

‘Thought’ could be clearly strictly a nominal in the structure, that is, a noun and not a verb. Without making storm and thunder, contemporary language use would not define nominals as past verb forms. Should this be any ‘etymological approach’, would ‘understanding’ impose low status on comprehension as ‘standing under’? Whoever would discuss their credit card details with a banker despising comprehension…

When you think about predication in anything like a defined context, you might think about one of the most famous examples in history, namely the Letter to the Corinthians as by the Paul, who said, ‘(Love) bears everything, believes everything, hopes everything, endures everything’. I am not a preacher and I do not have any preaching rights. Again, I am a linguist. Simply as for common sense, you could find this a very unpleasant misunderstanding if someone would try to have Paul’s words literally for the ars amandi on yourself. The people of the Antiquity were probably not much different with the regard.

As for the language of Paul’s correspondence, Paul is reported to have used commercial terminology[3]. Corinth was a trading city. Think about a guy to go a city to meet a merchant. They both agree to trade sugar as they have found they both have more or less the same taste for it. Then the guy to have visited the merchant writes a letter saying, ‘Those who have sugar, feel bitter. Those to have sugar for whom or what they love feel salt in their mouths’. Sugar doesn’t become redefined as bitter or salty. The lexical item is used in a defined context, in which sugar is definitely sweet.

Paul might have been giving a warning to the early Christians to have to live with ancient Romans round, and especially anyone like the mercenaries could be not your favorite. Those ancient guys are long gone and are not expected to be back. Most importantly now and here, Paul used a lexical item with a predication (a verb) in a defined context – he had visited Corinth before writing the letter.

David Bohm’s work obviously would not fit in the context of building an early community. However there would not be any sense in advocating thinking as literally a past capacity, there is no defined context for David Bohm’s use of the term ‘thought’ in his seminar. The same happens to other of his most used lexical items, ‘coherence’ and ‘system’ – they become used with varying and unspecific reference.

Language is part the substance in thinking, not just an epiphenomenon. Overlooking language as part the thinking substance might be the intrinsic flaw to any attempt to build a system of thought.

Bohm, D. 1992. Thought as a system. Routledge, New York. ISBN 0-415-11030-0. The book is a transcription of a seminar held in Ojai, California.

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[1] David Bohm makes his personal pronoun reference always a ‘he’, not a ‘he or she’ as in contemporary English use.

[2] Citation: “particle”. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.

[3] Please see the ‘First Corinthians’ by Raymond F. Collins. Sacra Pagina series, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1999. ISBN 0-8146-5809-1.

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