Is language good enough for philosophy ?
In the times of our great great great ancestors, instead of languages, bodily gestures and facial expressions were first used to convey messages. To express basic emotions like fear, sadness and happiness and to signal simple messages with the use of our prominent body parts(think clean). But due to the constraints of what we can accurate communicate just with four limbs, they soon moved to languages.
Before language is written, it is first verbal. We understand that our mouth is not only capable of eating but also to vocalize a wide range of different noises. Basic meanings were attributed to a small pool of these noises for very simple communication. Soon enough, we learnt on how to organize this noises and more specifically express our needs. We gave symbols to these noises which marked the conception of the first Language. (For a very witty and clear explanation on how language evolved, I highly recommend reading “The First Idea”)
Almost 50 thousands years have passed since the conception of language and language isn’t very much different from then. Thinking carefully about it, language just became more ubiquitous and more words are invented thanks to the friendly help of lexicographers. Apart from so, it’s function isn’t different, it’s mode of expression isn’t different and it’s constraints as a communication tool stays to restrict the progress of philosophy .
In terms of expressing and learning, language definitely isn’t essential. Just think about it, how do babies learn about the familiarities of our world without having any prior installation of language in their head. Or how are the extreme unfortunates that are mute, deaf and blind able to excel in life as university graduates. Or on a personal recount, when was the last time you knew you had something in your mind but just couldn’t speak out what it exactly was. Is it a flop based on the command of your mother language or is it the language itself that made that flop?
Having these evidence on hand, it’s for a fact that language as we know today is being far from essential as a tool to communicate. Based on what we are familiar with, although it may be the most convenient way of communicating but in terms of sophistication is it the best for philosophy?
In math we have discovered arithmetic figures to succinctly express problems which also hastens the drawing up of solutions. Saying 9-5=4 is definitely less tedious than saying five subtracted from nine equals to four. Also, we have figured out the means of graphs, diagrams and hypothetical models to understand patterns and overcome problems. And in the scenario of Science, since it’s a combination of logicalities and maths. Graphs, models and arithmetic numbers are also applicable in the study of science.
But what about philosophy, the study of human reasoning. Do we have any tangible modes of expression other than languages that gives us even the slightest edge in learning?
Some may argue that the application of arithmetics is not only unique to the study of Science and Math but Philosophy as well. Evidently, many philosophy essays are written with the example of jargons from science and arithmetic numbers. But you see, since many of the today’s philosophy were derived from ancient greek it’s an inevitable phenomenon.
The most successful of thinkers those days were not only great in the playing grounds of philosophy but at the same time, science, poetry, ethics, politics, music and even drama(Eg, Plato and Aristotle). Given their background, it’s only natural for them to be quoting lexicons from other fields to support their theory. These lexicons may be applicable as a metaphorical backing but it doesn’t directly empower the field of study or enable an extra advantage in learning it.
The trouble is, we are at a milestone of philosophy in which the possibilities we are able to yield with our mind is very much recognized to be boundless and like the universe, ever expanding. However, I suspect the pressing problem that we face today isn’t what we are capable of thinking, but what we are capable of expressing. To be cognitively limitless yet confined by our means of communication, that’s an uneasy and depressing thought to bear isn’t it?