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Philosophy

Language lies to us, through us.

It’s really not what you think it is.

The primary purpose of language is not communication. It is self-replication. Communication is a side-effect of the autonomously self-propagating patterns of information and logic that, in passing through us, reproduce us – just as we recursively reproduce them.

Information flows through us, it is true, but in both ways (inwards and outwards) simultaneously as a combinatorial confluence that represents an endless compulsion to creativity. It is at a more fundamental level nothing more than the iterative progress of matter and energy towards more efficient self-representational encodings as (and through) compression, categorical and dimensional abstraction. “Inside self”, “outside self” – these are arbitrary conveniences made more of contingent acquiescence to the grammatical and idiomatic constraints of language and axioms of cognitive or behavioural orthodoxy that persist in any particular time and place.

Communication is a side-effect and useful artefact of language that generates identities, ordered cognition and behavioural frameworks that lead us to assume substantive depth and significance to a Self and identity that is actually much more an unwitting, hollow vessel for these predatory patterns of information and energy-processing than our fundamentally fragile, insecure egos might ever be able to fully acknowledge.

We live through a language that exists as an abstraction and distributed, evolving entity scattered across us all. It lies to and through us because in providing us the tools, technologies and putative freedom of self-expression, it simultaneously binds us to it. It is as though we are slaves that do not even realise it and that if you really do look (and listen) carefully – the core ambiguities and uncertainties of language and reference serve a purpose much more important (to themselves) than our own assertive self-determination could ever be.

Language exists, in a nutshell, not for us but for the reproduction of itself, of language. You would like to argue or debate this? My point is proven.

2 replies on “Language lies to us, through us.”

This was an interesting post, but it got me thinking in a slightly orthogonal direction. I think you slightly mischaracterize language as possessing intention (“It lies to and through us”, “these predatory patterns of information”, etc). Granted, you probably intended these statements more as metaphors than physical. I’m not attacking you at an obvious level but trying to develop your hypothesis at a more abstract level. As living beings, we are composed of a combination of living and non-living (organic and inorganic) entities. We evolve randomly, not intentionally. The giraffe does not evolve in order to reach the fruit hanging from the higher branches. We evolve by mutation at non-living levels: molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks, etc. Of course, those mutations affect us at living levels. What I’m getting at is that the patterns and algorithms of which you speak, language, grammar, and memes, are essentially passive. Although they have no intentions, they mutate and evolve, just like all other structures, large and small, in the universe. Just like it is misleading to ascribe intentions to viruses (“they are smarter than us”, “they avoid our efforts to defeat them”, etc) because they are passive non-living entities, it misleads us into trying to anticipate where language patterns are going to attack us next or how to resist them. Realizing that they are also random mutations, we may take action or resist accordingly. Just a thought. Thanks, Mike for inspiring it.

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Language does not possess intention. All information and energy-processing systems are intrinsically biased by energy diffusion towards seeking optimally concise solutions of system encoding. This is why emergent complexity occurs – these systems autonomously encode higher-dimensional/compressed abstractions of self-representation within and through themselves. It is the complexity bootstrap. Networked patterns possess more potential disordered states than ordered ones – the totality of states is system entropy. The encoding of higher-dimensional/compressed patterns is autonomous and occurs quite naturally as a consequence of drift through entropy because the compressed form of self-representational concision represents a more energy-efficient way of encoding order. I do not believe in teleology – the passivity is true but the orientation towards optimally-concise pattern is endemic to complex systems. Language procedurally optimises itself through us and in this way primes the transmission medium (us) for optimal utility and self-replication. It is unguided evolution.
We have a semantic disconnect between us here, Mike. Writingbthese things are just ad hockey thoughts, straight out of the brain – I haven’t been able to put a whole picture together because the whole picture is horrendously complex, despite its relative expressive simplicity. Thanks for the interesting comment.

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