Re: Posthuman Language

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Wed Nov 28 2001 - 00:07:27 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Damien Broderick" <>

> At 08:59 AM 11/27/01 -0800, Mark Walker wrote:
> >To make the issue more tractable it is usually resolved to the
> >question of whether all natural languages are intertranslatable. So if
> >posthuman's language is translatable into say English then big deal--we
> >express any of their thoughts, although perhaps not as efficiently.
> Two problems: a `natural language' in this sense is one used by humans,
> using our specific linguistic capacities, so the issue is being avoided.
'Natural' language here is meant to contrast with 'formal' languages. In the
Rorty paper I cited he discusses the possibility that Galactic
time-travelers speak a language that is as far beyond ours as ours is beyond
that of a Neanderthals.

> And even if a posthuman utterance of stupefying complexity and depth were
> translatable (by the posthuman, of course) portion-by-portion into
> it seems to me perfectly possible that no human would be able to construe
> the utterance. We might not be able to hold its several assertions or
> simultaneously in our heads long enough, or at a sufficient level of
> comprehension, to unpack meaning intended by the posthuman (supposing that
> implies *super*human).
I agree. This is actually one of the reasons that Davidson moves from
Quine's notion of radical translation to that of radical interpretation. It
is really not going to help matters if we have a translation manual for
Martian to Jupiterian and back if we don't understand either language. For
Davidson, interpretation is (roughly) translation with understanding.

> I have enough trouble with Proust.
Refresh my memory, did he play union or league?
> Damien Broderick
> Damien Broderick
Have you been cloned?

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