The Evolution of Language

We’ve been talking about ‘invariances’, as opposed to ‘strength’, as that which sustains history. This can be attached to a broader effort to tell an ‘ideological’ history (as opposed to a physical, physiological, biological one). There are a lot of fancy non-fiction books out there with catchy titles (and I say this with the air of an unassuming Southern lawyer here) but all those books, well, they kind of reach the same sort of conclusion. I was reading wikipedia yesterday, about pepper (as in, salt and pepper), and the article claimed that the age of exploration could have been set off by this spice — do we even call it a spice anymore? This may be true, but not really what were after, I mean, it seems a bit too random, even if undeniably true.

Well actually we mean, not really ideological, but ‘narrative’, or ‘fractal’ — the fractal is an interesting metaphor, it suggests at once a kind of randomness in details but an overall order. But this metaphor is also insufficient since it suggests a … well, let’s not try to unnecessarily extend this metaphor — what I want to say is, we went on to suggest the ‘figure’. The figure is something *in addition* to the fractal — the fractal we associate with survival, humanism, sustaining (‘invariance’) — the figure is its counterpart: we associate it with change.

The causa prima in our story of language is the figure. The invariance has been around forever: it’s certainly around today and, I suspect, it was around before language. Note that we are not taking the ‘liberal’ or the ‘mind-expanding’ view here: we’re not saying invariance is a bad thing, even if we despise humanism. We dislike humanism because it is *wrong* (morally, or dishonest maybe) and not because it is historically stagnant. Remember, we associate the invariance with man’s defense mechanism against nature, even the women (which we associate with absence, and the figure — always the figure of absence) are stagnant. Reading the same thing everywhere, reaching the same conclusions everywhere is not a *bad* thing, whatever people want you to believe — and dogmatism does not necessarily mean being unreasonable. I never really know why people so easily accuse others of being narrowminded when they themselves know how enormously difficult it is to have any convictions at all.

… sorry for prosletyzing there, but — as we were saying, the *figure* is the causa prima. Even animals, the higher animals, experience invariances and figures. I suspect that the figure is the original way of in which we are able to find consistency in the world by reducing the mnemonic overload of the world. Understanding a book, as I realized a few days ago, is negative: it means suppressing to stimuli of a book, it means focusing, which also means, suppressing everything else. The figure is some unifying, recurring element in our reality that allows us to deal with the information overload. With the figure, we can in fact reach a new stability or a new invariance, it becomes like an organizing thing.

The implication here is that language developed only around culture or even around power and religion. Language can almost be conceived of as, perhaps, culture’s first brutal act of engineering, which was how Nietzsche understood it. Actually, let me rephrase the last paragraph, since as it stands it sounds like the figure is part of our defense mechanism. The invariance is the means by which we survive the onslaught of sensual or mnemonic activity, but it need not involve the figure. The figure is this cultural thing (it need not be one thing for all, it could be, say, the mother) this cultural thing that then fundamentally changes the ‘phase’ of the invariance, as if from a liquid to crystal — the metaphor here including the ‘seed’ of the crystal as the figure itself. It forms around stable cultural structures. We can also include *transmission* (which recalls what we called last time, ‘exportability’) as a component in this formation, especially the transmission from parent to infant. There is a coevolution of mind and culture…

But as we were saying, the figure fundamentally changes the form of the invariance. … well, this is what is so odd. I always want to say, that there is no *psychological* difference between, say, men and women, or between the invariance without or with the figure — and there isn’t. Well, morally, there is something unbearable about the ‘totalizing’, but the difference is not essentially moral. The difference is essentially ‘cultural’, and yes, women do tend to live in their own world, just as motherhood is its own sphere. The figure, from last time, is the possibility of *reference*, which means that, conversely, it also supports that power in culture …

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