The power of thought : An argument in favor of humans

Essay by sierralayla_University, Bachelor'sB+, January 2008

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Just because gorilla's can use sign language to communicate with humans does that mean that they have the mental capacity to 'think'? Over sixty years ago, Susanne Langer revealed her substantial intelligence in thearticle "Language and Thought" as she proposes the power of thought to be the absolutedividing line between humans and animals. I agree with Langer as she says "The birth oflanguage is the dawn of humanity…" (37), and without it, 'thought' is impossible. But whatis the disparity between the way humans process thought and the way animals processexperiences? Although brilliant in its own time, Langer's article reveals a philosophy thatnow is at odds with recent research with animals. Nevertheless, Langer's points still standstrong to this day for these irrelevant discoveries include rare and weak cases; just becauseanimals have found a way to interact with humans does not mean they also have themental capacity to use language symbolically and therefore 'think'.

Langer's three central ideas can be summed up as: the distinct difference between asign and a symbol, how only humans have the mental capacity to use symbolic language,and the human ability to conceive thoughts in order to think in the abstract. While a sign isrooted in the present reality - brought up or learned from the past - a symbol may beseparated from reality overall, referring to what is not the case but an idea, fragment ofmemory, or dream etc. (35). With that, I believe that even though common domestic petsmay use signs to represent their emotion or emotion towards an object, the way humanshave further elaborated signs using symbolism is what proves us unique. As Langer wouldsay, the way humans conceive symbols "liberates thought from the immediate stimuli of aphysically present world…" (35).

I agree with Langer as she illustrates how human kind has...