[3.] A further thought on "communication": Fifteen years ago now I had an extended after-dinner conversation with a roommate who believed that it wouldn't be long before we humans were having conversations with dolphins & whales. This was out in California & the conversation took place within a couple of hundred yards of the Pacific, so it was an attractive enough notion, especially given the setting. I hadn't yet read Wittgenstein's remark, in Culture & Value, that "If a lion could talk, we wouldn't be able understand him." Nevertheless, I had a gut feeling that the matter was somewhat more complicated than my roommate thought it was. I tried to make clear this distinction about the difference between communication & language, but also to suggest that by language, I meant something specifically human. I said, before the meal broke up with some ill-feeling, that I was willing to grant that dolphins might have language, but that it would be dolphin-language & that translating between dolphin-language & human language was qualitatively different from translating between human languages. Come to think of it, my roommate's point of view was profoundly anthropocentric: he wanted to treat Dolphinese as if it were equivalent to, say, Vietnamese. Translating between human languages is difficult enough, to say nothing of translating between the languages of different species, if they exist outside human evolution.


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