[percy-l] animal communication and consciousness

Ken Armstrong armstron at ohiou.edu
Thu Dec 12 14:48:26 EST 2002


I'm with you. It was Percy's take on language that first attracted my 
attention to him

Percy's example of the young child just learning to speak, who points at a 
ball and say's, face lighting up with recognition, "Ball!", really says it 
all. Human beings don't just know; they know that they know. This is a huge 
difference between us and animals. We take delight in knowing and speaking 
and we  know that we do that. Walter Ong points out that baby human beings 
don't exactly have to be taught language (tho most parents encourage that 
process); rather, it takes a concerted effort to prevent a (healthy) human 
child from learning language, which is symbolic in nature, not a system of 
signs (despite the confusion our printed words visit on us).  Percy 
understood the significance of our symbolic language. Those who want to 
equate animal communication with human speech haven't made that discovery, 
i.e. it is not just animal communication that they don't grasp.

Ken Armstrong

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