Sunday, 9 June 2013

What co-evolves with language?

Consider the following bromide.
'As with flowers and the bees, so too does true poetry co-evolve with what pollinates it.'
The conceit is obvious enough- poetry is like a flower-bed to which the connoisseur returns to gather nectar. In the process, cross-pollination occurs and though the poet dies and the gibbet of his thwarted passions crumbles to dust, yet, his poetry, having reproduced itself, has gone forward, with shifting associations and shiftless associates, aboard a drifting raft of goliard vagabondage, across the ravaged centuries and pillaged wastelands of the heart.

Might there be something more to this hackneyed image? Or, precisely because it is so hackneyed, might that something not be everything? Consider, for a moment, the text, 'Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted' and though what is summoned to our comfort bear but the ashes of our Eden- is not what is Truly Divine the knowledge that this Paraclete began its career as an Athenian  ambulance chaser?

So chastening a reflection naturally prompts the question- what co-evolves with our language such that Reception is canalized whereas Expression accumulates capacitance diversity? Well, abstracting from the brain, presumably we are talking of that portion of our Baldwinianly evolved ethology which militates for an increase in the frequency and salience of mutuality type contexts. The pay off for diverse expression is discharge without costly filtering while the pay off for narrow, canalised, Reception is more frequent reinforcement- bis repetita placent- without costly processing.
This suggests that information isn't being thrown away by the solution to Symbolic Communication's underlying co-ordination problem and that the cost of conserving this information is minimized by the way it is shared between Language and its co-evolved ethology.
Before enquiring what that might imply, it's worth pondering whether Language can without decoherence describe, once again abstracting from the brain, what co-evolves with it, as distinct from the wider fitness landscape. If it can, well and good. Science may be interested in that project for some reason of its own, but surely Philosophy and Poetry aren't particularly affected no matter how that story pans out. 
On the other hand, if what co-evolves with our language is precisely that unthought known which inscribes its limits- towards which words can gesture but no further venture- this is the bizarre limbo of meta-metaphoricity- then we have something interesting and, it may be, comparative literature, or comparative philosophy, can offer us insights otherwise inaccessible- except, of course, literature and philosophy are always already comparative by reason of their co-evolution with what pollinates them- thus what we have here is an owl of Minerva whose abortive flight takes wing with, not the inky seepage of night, but the brisk syzygy of eclipse.
Why this matters is because there is a notion that autonomy consists in regulating one's actions by a principle and that the meaning individuals have- what they signify and, even in absence, illocute or illumine- is precisely the golden thread running through all they suffered and spoke or wrought and rued.
Here, clearly, if the categorical imperative can be named and formulated with more or less fine graining, then it can generate a universalist deontics whose aporias only await some advance in logic or further assemblage of evidence such that something seamless and harmoniously constructed is presented to us. In a sense, to oneself espouse such a principle is to put oneself, if not immediately then sooner or later, in a position superior to Pragmatics-as-Negotiation, or Meaning-as-Work,  albeit by at first incarnating a but 'Noble Lie' yet eventually, and it may be by that very imposture, achieving that Inedia which is Omniscience in that wholly buffered from everything else, one is at last an unmoved mover, and thus the limit of Knowledge which, after all, is instrumental merely.
Currently, as far as I know, people are welcome to believe something along these lines so long as they are cowards or subscribe to a non-aggression principle. This is because a would be unmoved mover, for whom discretion isn't the better part of valour, would soon find himself being moved along by a swift kick in the pants.
This raises the question of whether we, as a Liberal Society, ought to permit, or indeed publicly subsidise, inculcation in an Intellectual Inedia which parallels indoctrination in physical anorexia as, not an outward sign of inward Grace, but a reversal of inward and outward such that what is available to be seen is those inward organs of digestion and excretion which, having nothing to reproach themselves with, can appear in their emptiness as the immaculate sheath of the body's withering stalk from which emerge two famished head lamps- signifying Virtue and Beauty- vomiting a baleful light.
One important reason to say yes, or, going a step further, to become a connoisseur of the hunger artists of the Djikstra deadlocked Humanities, is that, if what co-evolves with Language is its limit, then to us is accorded a destiny higher than that of plunder or propagation because, becoming the earth of that flower-bed, we yet with Meaning aren't done, save that ontologically dysphoric feeling of being alien plants on this planet gaining no nourishment from this Sun.
This gives an ironic twist to-
Guard the Garden, Ghalib, the bees attacks to defeat
The moth too is martyred by the wax they secrete!


  1. There's a lot of work on the coevolution with Language of Moral Sentiments or the Rule of Law. Good summary here-
    I'm not sure what you are getting at.
    What does this mean-'Expression accumulates capacitance diversity?'

      I meant that the domain of Expression is a reservoir of diversity damming up dysphoria. Reception can work in a binary manner to build up a net wide enough to fully parse any Expression but why would it want to? The money is in turning turbines.