Friday, August 24, 2012

Does language imprison thought?

In Saas-Fee a couple of weeks ago a young charismatic and very scholarly American, a new friend of mine, told me that there is no thought outside language and wondered why I could think otherwise. That was a crazy night and between discussions about Blanchot's neutral and Badiou's set theory, our discussion about the ineffable was erased. Nevertheless, in a state of mind not altogether sober, I thought about his question and spoke the following into my trusty Phillips MP3 player whilst looking for that friend, who had gone missing. I am not sure if it is 'any good', but I think it provides some kind of an answer (or at least position) - but if you disagree, do let me know:

"If it is accepted that there is no thought outside language, it nevertheless seems that language is inadequate for thought. But to know this, to sense this, that language is inadequate for thought raises the question: how do we know that language is inadequate for thought if that knowing is not in-itself a kind of thinking? Perhaps it is a kind of thinking, but a different kind of thinking. In which case we could then re-formulate our original position and say not that there is no thinking outside language but that if there is thinking outside language, it is of a different kind.

And we can readily ask the question, what do we mean by thought? Is thought the same as awareness, is thought the same as sensation, is thought the same as a certain cognitive sensation? A sensation not in a physical sense, a sensation not in an emotional sense, but a sensation that wishes, that seeks, to manifest itself as a kind of awareness that seeks the concept, that seeks articulation in the form of the abstract. Sensation that seeks articulation in the form of the abstract: is this what we mean by the thought that is outside language? The thought that while it remains outside language cannot be crystallised, cannot be communicated because it lacks language, but a kind of thought that seeks incarnation and seeks crystallisation in language; and that if it were to achieve that would then alter the nature of language-encapsulated thought, of language expressed thought.

For what is it that we are really talking about here? We are talking about a desire, a felt imperative to bring to light and share in the community a sense of life that, as of now, the discourses of the world do not encompass, do not express, do not communicate. This is what is at stake."