Why do I always have the best thoughts right when I'm settling in to bed? Oh well.
"Best" is probably a relative term here. I was thinking about thought, and language, and how we think to ourselves, and how other creatures must think to themselves, and what impact language and perception has on that. And I feel like sharing my conclusions. So here we are.
Let us pretend for a moment that telepathy is a thing, and that we are capable of bridging the gap between one mind and another with pure thought. With that axiom in place then, let us assume we want to communicate with our beloved pet cat.
"Simple," you say. "I'll just beam the words 'I am your friend' to my cat, and she'll come running."
But would it actually be that simple from a communications perspective? I was pondering this, and more than likely it would not be, because I believe that humans and other creatures are limited not only by a lack of common language, but of common perception.
What do I mean by this? Well, right now, take a moment and think to yourself about something like the weather. I'm willing to bet, in your head, you constructed a complete sentence-- something like "I wonder what the weather's like"-- and you did that in your native tongue.
Consider what has happened here. You made a sentence, in a language, where concrete words-- "the weather"-- represented an abstract concept-- the climatic conditions outside.
Now mind you, I just used one set of words to explain another set of words. My explanation relies on you knowing the second set of words and the context and meaning being them. It's wordception-- words all the way down. Words = conceptual reference points.
Without words, how do you experience the world and communicate that experience?
Think about it. Try to imagine the world around you without being able to describe it. I bet you can't. You HAVE to fall back on a word-concept. Without the words, as Orwell pointed out, you can't imagine the concept if you haven't experienced it firsthand.
Now your cat-- as far as we know-- has no words. Without words, they can't articulate concepts in the same way we do. Now maybe they do have a cat-language we have not been able to detect or decipher, but for now I'm going to assume they don't-- or if they do, it's so radically different there's no common ground.
So, knowing what we know about word-concepts, let's loop back to telepathically sending a mental message to kitty.
"I am your friend."
The cat probably has no idea what these concepts mean. "Friend? "Your"? Does it have a notion of ownership and camaraderie? Anthopomorphising for a bit, I do see closeness and protection in cats, but I think it stems from a different conceptual wellspring.
We as humans have "Friends" and "Acquaintances". We define ourselves in the context of a web of relationships.
I think a cat, being a bit closer to the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, is more concerned with concepts such as "Safety" and "Danger", being more instinctual beings.
If you think about it, we perceive the world somewhat meditatively, using words to parse the experiences we have and translate them into something intelligible. We can mediate our responses to certain stimuli in this way.
A cat, on the other hand, is 90% instinct-- it's how it survives. If you observe one that's not very comfortable with its surroundings, it reacts quickly to anything around it, almost in a paranoid fashion. It doesn't have the time to stop and meditate / mediate on a stimulus. That time could cost it a meal-- or its life. So, I wager, its thought processes are more efficient and sparse compared to a human's.
Thus, to bridge the communicative gap (again, pretending we can telepathically contact a cat), we would have to be very simple and direct, because that's how cats see the world. So not "I am your friend", but rather one concept:
As in "[you are] SAFE [with me]".
You'd probably also have to be loading that communique up hard with the concept of safety and security, because just using the word will probably not do much for a cat unless it knows English.
So, as you can see, if you think about it for a bit, the way our minds work and how we experience the world is rather fascinating. Language really does colour the way we perceive the world.
I wonder if, as Orwell surmised, we lose out on perceiving certain things because we have no words-- and thus no concepts-- for them. Do animals one-up us by being a bit less enculturated?
As the Time Cube Guy said famously, are we, in fact, "Educated Stupid?"
Just my oddball thought for the night.
Having successfully invaded both America and Canada from her home base in Windsor, Paisley has become horribly corrupted by the world. She hates active voice and wishes to god Twitter had an edit button. Dedicated to "creating the greatest 'Ship of them all", she ponders horribly terrible, idiotic things for your amusement.