Artful Deception, Languaging, and Learning—The Brain on Seeing Itself


Despite having named ourselves Homo sapiens—a designation contingent on word/reason (logos) as our chosen identifier—recent evidence suggests language is only a small fraction of the story. Human beings would be more aptly named Homo videns—seeing man—if percentage of cortex area per modality determined the labeling of an organism. Instead, the sentential ontology of language philosophers and linguists persists in spite of the growing body of cognitive research challenging the language instinct as our most defining characteristic. What is becoming clearer is that language is palimpsestic. It is like a marked transparency over visuospatial maps, which are wired to sensorimotor maps. The left lateralized interpreter uses language to communicably narrativize an apparent unity, but people are not the only fictionalizing animals. This examination looks to cognitive and psychological studies to suggest that a prelinguistic instinct to make sense of unrelated information is a biological consequence of intersections among pattern matching, symbolic thinking, aesthetics, and emotive tagging, which is accessible by language, but not a product thereof. Language, rather, is just an outer surface. Rather than thinking man, playing man, or tool-making man, we would be better described as storytelling animals (narrativism). Like other social mammals, we run simulation heuristics to predict causal chains, object/event frequency, value association, and problem solving. The post hoc product is episodic fiction. Language merely serves to magnify what Friederich Nietzsche is rightfully identified as an art of dissimulation—lying. In short, the moral of the story is that we are making it all up as we go along.

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Preston, A. (2015) Artful Deception, Languaging, and Learning—The Brain on Seeing Itself. Open Journal of Philosophy, 5, 403-417. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2015.57049.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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