I had never thought of the private language argument in terms of cross-species interaction. I had instead thought of it as an argument for the social qualities of human language. When a creative writing student tells me that she writes "only for myself," usually ask, "then why are you taking this class?" A class is, after all, a public forum. A poem that has never been read by a reader other than the author is not really a poem, though it can of course become a poem later, when it aquires readers (as in the case of Emily Dickinson). Since language as a system of meanings flows from our form of life, to use Wittgenstein's term & our form of life is fundamentally social, meaning only emerges from i-behavior. Or that's how I have always thought about W's private language thought-experiment. An animal such as a chimp or a dolphin could in principle derive meanings out of i-behavior within its form of life; still, as close as we are genetically to chimps, we do not swing from trees. The problem of cross-species language (as opposed to simple communication--I communicate with my dogs every day) remains profound.

Bodies: to have a human body circumscribes a form of life. Just so with dolphins. Perhaps because mammals all seem to like to play, we can share the form called play with dolphins; but is dolphin play, or even chimp play, similar to human play? The distances are vast & I am still inclined to think my student--& like you I am ever-grateful to my students--was being sentimental when she claimed that "animals have language, just different from our own." Look, I've just returned from a year in Vietnam & I can tell you that even within the human species, forms of life differ so greatly as to make mutual understanding at least difficult.


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