Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/501

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LANGUAGE AND LOGIC

LANGUAGE AND LOGIC
By Dr. CHARLES W. SUPER

ATHENS, O.

WHETHER language is coordinate with thought and merely a phase of it; whether it may be used with a very slight admixture of thought; or whether thought is possible without language, are problems that have engaged the attention of thinkers from the dawn of philosophy. That articulate speech is possible without thought, at least to a limited extent, is evident from the lingual activities of children. They talk almost incessantly during their waking hours either to themselves or to others. That thought precedes speech seems to have been the general belief until comparatively recent times. That this was the view of the writer of Genesis, who probably followed an older, perhaps a much older tradition, is evident from the words "and whatever the man (or Adam) called every living thing, that was the name thereof." The author of this statement clearly believed that the first man was fully endowed with the rational faculty and that speech was merely the utterance of a regulated mental activity. The close connection that was supposed to exist between words and thoughts and their potency in the realm of matter is also shown in the account of creation when the different objects were called into existence by the words of the Lord. Probably few persons of the many millions who have read the first chapter of Genesis have taken note of the naïveté of the record. No living being existed except God; yet he is conceived as uttering his purpose every time he performs a new act of creation. He can therefore have talked only to himself. So we have the oft repeated, "And God said." To what extent our common modes of speech are dominated by the spoken word is evident from such expressions as: "What does the book say?" "What does the law say?" "The newspaper says nothing about it." "He can't tell the difference between black and white," "The heavens are telling." "My conscience tells me." "Money talks" and many more. In one of the South African languages "to think" is expressed by "to talk in one's belly." In this primitive way of looking at the problem the utterance of a thought is taken to be of more importance than its genesis. The Logos doctrine that was so fully elaborated by the later Greek and the earlier Christian philosophers is clearly related to the same underlying conception. "In the beginning was the Logos" are the first words of John's Gospel, by which he means the divine reason. This idea is dwelt upon by Goethe in his Faust. When the hero begins to read he says: "In the beginning was the Word,