David McNeill, a pioneer in the ongoing study of the relationship between gesture and language, here argues that gestures are active participants in both speaking and thinking. He posits that gestures are key ingredients in an “imagery-language dialectic” that fuels speech and thought. The smallest unit of this dialectic is the growth point, a snapshot of an utterance at its beginning psychological stage. In _Gesture and Thought,_ the central growth point comes from a Tweety Bird cartoon. Over the course of (...) twenty-five years, the McNeill Lab showed this cartoon to numerous subjects who spoke a variety of languages, and a fascinating pattern emerged. The shape and timing of gestures depends not only on what speakers see but on what they take to be distinctive; this, in turn, depends on the context. Those who remembered the same context saw the same distinctions and used similar gestures; those who forgot the context understood something different and changed gestures or used none at all. Thus, the gesture becomes part of the growth point—the building block of language and thought. _Gesture and Thought _is an ambitious project in the ongoing study of how we communicate and how language is connected to thought. (shrink)
Adults and children spontaneously produce gestures while they speak, and such gestures appear to support and expand on the information communicated by the verbal channel. Little research, however, has been carried out to examine the role played by gesture in the listener's representation of accumulating information. Do listeners attend to the gestures that accompany narrative speech? In what kinds of relationships between gesture and speech do listeners attend to the gestural channel? If listeners do attend to information received in gesture, (...) how is this information represented— is it 'tagged' as originating in the gestural channel? In this article research is described that addresses these questions. Results show that listeners do attend to information conveyed in gesture, when that information supplements or even contradicts the information conveyed by speech. And information received via gesture is available for retelling in speech. These results are taken to demonstrate that gesture is not taken by the listener to be epiphenomenal to the act of speaking, or a simple manual translation of speech. But they also suggest that the information conveyed in a discourse may be represented in a manner that is neither gesture nor language, although accessible to both channels. (shrink)
Empirical studies of gesture in a subject who has lost proprioception and the sense of touch from the neck down show that specific aspects of gesture remain normal despite abnormal motor processes for instrumental movement. The experiments suggest that gesture, as a linguistic phenomenon, is not reducible to instrumental movement. They also support and extend claims made by Merleau-Ponty concerning the relationship between language and cognition. Gesture, as language, contributes to the accomplishment of thought.
Many bilingual speakers believe they engage in different forms of thinking when they shift languages. This experience of entering different thought worlds can be explained with the hypothesis that languages induce different forms of `thinking-for-speaking'-- thinking generated, as Slobin (1987) says, because of the requirements of a linguistic code. "`Thinking for speaking' involves picking those characteristics that (a) fit some conceptualization of the event, and (b) are readily encodable in the language" (p. 435). That languages differ in their thinking-for-speaking demands (...) is a version of the linguistic relativity hypothesis, the proposition that language influences thought and that different languages influence thought in different ways. (shrink)
Aristotle claims in the Metaphysics that in order to be resourceful in first philosophic inquiry it is useful to go through perplexity well. In this essay, the author argues that that perplexity plays a parallel role in Aristotle’s account of practical, deliberative inquiry in the Nicomachean Ethics. He does so by offering an interpretation of the relation between Aristotle’s account of akratic ignorance in Nicomachean Ethics 7 and his emphasis on the necessity of going through perplexity when inquiring into akrasia. (...) Along the way, the author tries to shed some additional light on Aristotle’s conception of endoxa, his account of the so-called practical syllogism, and the distinction between ethical virtue simply and “authoritative” virtue. But the intention throughout the essay is to examine the role that perplexity about the phenomena of ethical life plays in Aristotle’s account of the kind of thoughtfulness required for excellence of character. (shrink)
Abstract Sophocles' Antigone contains the first recorded instance of the word α?τ ? ?????, the source for our word ?autonomous?. I argue that reflection upon the human aspiration toward autonomy is central to that work. I begin by focusing on the difficulty readers of the play have determining whether Antigone's actions in the play should be considered autonomous and then suggest that recognizing this difficulty is crucial to a proper understanding of the play. The very aspects of Antigone's character that (...) seem to militate against understanding her actions within the play as autonomous?her rejection of life, her intimacy with death and the way she seems defined by her incestuous heritage? serve to illustrate the inherently problematic character of a moral ideal that we can provisionally call Antigone's autonomy. I show how the movement of the play can be understood in terms of Antigone's progress from what Kant would characterize as a heteronomous representation of her irremissible duty to bury her dead brother, to a self-conception defined by a recognition and embrace of her autonomy understood as, in Kant's words, ?a respect for something entirely different from life?. Antigone's autonomy is exemplified by her choice to be dead, the choice to bear the burden of responsibility to her own. This choice, I argue, must be understood as the choice of herself as defined by her obligation to her own. Sophocles' Antigone suggests that the moral ideal Antigone represents is unliveable, but that this ideal is nonetheless essential to human moral aspiration. (shrink)
In this book, David McNeill illuminates Plato’s distinctive approach to philosophy by examining how his literary portrayal of Socrates manifests an essential interdependence between philosophic and ethical inquiry. In particular, McNeill demonstrates how Socrates’s confrontation with profound ethical questions about his public philosophic activity is the key to understanding the distinctively mimetic, dialogic, and reflexive character of Socratic philosophy. Taking a cue from Nietzsche’s account of “the problem of Socrates,” McNeill shows how the questions Nietzsche raises are questions that, in (...) Plato's depiction, Socrates was aware of and responded to. McNeill also shows how the Republic provides a view of Socratic moral psychology that resembles Nietzsche’s account of human psychology: it deals with the internalized ethical narratives and justificatory schemes through which human beings orient themselves to their world. McNeill argues that this moral psychology not only determines Socrates’s explicit account of different character types and political regimes but also crucially informs his dialectical engagements with his various interlocutors in the dialogues. In addition to contributing a unique perspective to current debates about Socrates’s philosophic methods and the significance of the literary character of Plato’s dialogues, the book offers a far-reaching interpretation of Plato’s presentation of the theoretical and practical activities of the fifth-century Sophists. And in showing how Plato responds to “modern” theoretical challenges, McNeill provides new evidence to question standard views of the differences between ancient and modern conceptions of the self, society, and nature. (shrink)
In Freedom's Right Axel Honneth seeks to provide a theory of justice by appropriating Hegel's account of ethical substance in the Philosophy of Right, but he wants to do so without endorsing Hegel's more robust idealist commitments. I argue that this project can only succeed if Honneth can offer an alternative, comparatively robust demonstration of the rationality and normative coherence of existing social institutions. I contend that the grounds Honneth provides for this claim are insufficient for his purposes. In particular, (...) I argue that Honneth's claim that “justice and individual self-determination are mutually referential,” even were it to be accepted, would be insufficient to underwrite his more robust identification between the normative foundations of justice, autonomy and reciprocal self-realization. In the final section of the paper, I turn to Honneth's analysis of the “social institution” of friendship, which he, following Hegel, holds up as a paradigmatic instantiation of social freedom understood as, in Hegel's words, “being with oneself in another” . I argue that an analysis of the normative import of friendship wholly in terms of mutual recognition misses an important aspect of the kind of self-realization that friendship makes possible. (shrink)
Did protolanguage users use discrete words that referred to objects, actions, locations, etc., and then, at some point, combine them; or on the contrary did they have words that globally indexed whole semantic complexes, and then come to divide them? Our answer is: early humans were forming language units consisting of global and discrete dimensions of semiosis in dynamic opposition. These units of thinking-for-speaking, or ‘growth points’ (GPs) were, jointly, analog imagery (visuo-spatio-motoric) and categorically-contrastive (-emic) linguistic encodings. This discrete-global duality (...) was a new mode of embodied cognition that enabled thinking and acting in new ways: the dawn of protolanguage. Where did this mode of cognition come from? We have some suggestions based on the hypothesis that gestures gained the power to orchestrate actions, manual and vocal, with significances other than those of the actions themselves, giving rise to cognition framed in the proposed dual terms. Note, however, our proposal is not one of the ‘gesture-first’ theories of language origins. Such theories predict what did not evolve: a language of pantomime; rather than what did evolve: an integrated system of synchronized gestures and spoken forms. GP theory is an account of the cognition underlying such an integrated system. A scenario for the evolutionary selection of this cognitive mode is ‘Mead’s Loop’, a model in which one’s cognition is enriched by one’s own gestures, insofar as they are objects in social interactions. (shrink)
Early humans formed language units consisting of global and discrete dimensions of semiosis in dynamic opposition, or ‘growth points.’ At some point, gestures gained the power to orchestrate actions, manual and vocal, with significances other than those of the actions themselves, giving rise to cognition framed in dual terms. However, our proposal emphasizes natural selection of joint gesture-speech, not ‘gesture-first’ in language origin.
IN BOOK 9 OF THE REPUBLIC, Socrates tells Adeimantus that the “tyrantmakers” manage to defeat the relatives of the nascent tyrant in the battle over the young man’s soul by contriving “to make in him some eros, a sort of great winged drone, to be the leader of the idle desires.” This “leader of the soul,” Socrates claims.
Although Arbib's extension of the mirror-system hypothesis neatly sidesteps one problem with the “gesture-first” theory of language origins, it overlooks the importance of gestures that occur in current-day human linguistic performance, and this lands it with another problem. We argue that, instead of gesture-first, a system of combined vocalization and gestures would have been a more natural evolutionary unit.