NL VI: “Language,” again

Index to this series

This is about language: language the concept, and “Language,” the sixth chapter of Collingwood’s New Leviathan. We shall consider language in a very basic way, not as a means of communicating what we know, but as the way we come to know things in the first place.

In my first article on Collingwood’s chapter, I officially considered only the first of its five parts. I did summarize all five parts, and now I do so again. Links are to sections of the present article:

  1. Language is an abstraction from discourse. Discourse is an activity together with what is meant by it (¶¶6. 1–19).
  2. Through language, we become conscious of our feelings. Becoming conscious of our language itself is another step, which is taken by artists (¶¶6. 2–29). It will be noted in the fifth part that our normally being unconscious of our language is the reason why we may not see that language precedes consciousness and not the other way around.
  3. A feeling is not “mediated” by the language we use for it, for the reason just given: we are not normally conscious of our language, and therefore we do not normally abstract from it (¶¶6. 3–36). Anything mediated is an abstraction.
  4. It was Hobbes who discovered that language is prior to knowledge (¶¶6. 4–47). The quoted example is counting: you cannot tell time from the chimes of a clock unless you know how to say “one, two, three,” and so on.
  5. Those who dispute that language is prior to knowledge over­look that not all language is rational (¶¶6. 5–59). In fact I quote this fifth section in its entirety below, as being:
    • a fine piece of writing in which Collingwood is particularly excited;
    • a good indication of why he has argued as he has;
    • a foretaste of what is to come in the analysis of the development of reason.

In my earlier article, I suggested that there were three levels of things that could be called language, although Collingwood uses the word “discourse” for the lowest level. What I am creating right now with these words is a discourse. We somehow recognize a similarity between my discourse and certain others, and we consider these discourses together as constituting a language, namely English. There are other languages, as Turkish, French, or Greek; together they constitute language.

Thus, in the terminology of biological taxonomy, language is, as it were, a genus, of which the species are the several languages; an individual representative of one of these species is a discourse—or just a piece of language.

The metaphor suggests that a discourse like this article is indeed a distinct individual, with a life of its own. This may not be correct, if the article ends up being expanded here and there on different occasions, and does not hang together.

Also, the taxonomical scheme may not give a good way to account for baby talk, or for the “language of total bodily gesture” discussed in Collingwood’s Principles of Art and in my previous article. It may be that certain gestures are specific to certain languages, as raising the eyebrows or the head means No in Turkish. But apparently, similar gestures can mean No in Greece and other Balkan countries, as well as in Turkey. Is this an instance of borrowing, like the borrowing of words? Or should we think of the gestures as constituting a separate language whose boundaries are broader than those of Turkish or Greek?

I think we see here an example of the “overlap of classes” discussed in An Essay on Philosophical Method (1933). Philosophy cannot analyze the world as the taxonomist does. The lexicographer must make a sharp distinction between languages, but this distinction is artificial, as is the distinction between language itself and not-language.

I remember a children’s book about a stone-age man living in the midst of a town, on a rocky piece of land that never got developed. The children who discover him understand that he will not speak their language, but there is a universal gesture they can use: raising the hand in greeting. The man responds in the same way. I wish I could consult the book now, if only to see how it justifies the suspension of disbelief required to read it; but it was a library book read to me by my mother, and I have no idea of the author or title. The point of the example is that the raised hand is discourse too.


Agreeing with Collingwood, I say that we become conscious of our feelings through language. I shall elaborate on Collingwood’s example of feeling cold. I think it is possible to respond to being cold without being conscious of the cold. The response I have in mind is not just goosebumps or shivering. Asleep in bed, one might pull up a blanket, or perhaps snuggle up to a bedmate, if there is one. But consciousness of being cold requires something more:

6. 21. …If feeling is ‘given’ to consciousness, what is the procedure by which consciousness receives the gift? How does a man make himself conscious of his feelings?

6. 22. By talking about them, whether in speech or in any other language.

Here we are led to assume that being conscious is something that we do to ourselves. There is no giving of a feeling to us without a taking of the feeling by us. I do not suppose that Collingwood is belying his assertion in the previous chapter, “The Ambiguity of Feeling,” that feeling is neither active or passive. He is rather putting the assertion in positive form. Feeling is both active and passive. As far as the mind is concerned anyway, if we are passive, so that something is being done to us, still we are having it done, and this is an activity, as is reflected in the verb-form “are having,” which is active. (It may however be recalled that having is not grammatically an activity in Turkish, where having can only be expressed as being an owner.)

The qualification or disclaimer at the end of ¶6. 22 is a reminder that not all discourse can be classified as an instance of Swahili or Korean or one of the other tongues that are commonly thought of when we speak of language. Collingwood goes on to say that we become conscious of being cold by naming the feeling; but the name that we give to the feeling need not be “cold” or soğuk or froid or ψυχρός or one of the other words that are found in the dictionaries of the world. The name could be, as Collingwood puts it, “an expressive shiver,” from “gesture-language”; I imagine the gesture as accompanied by the utterance, “Brrr!”

In becoming aware that one is cold, I do not suppose that one need say it out loud with the voice, or visibly with the arms. One can say it to oneself. This raises the question of whether what one says to oneself is readily converted to a discourse that others can understand. It may not be. Possibly this happens because one’s private language is too undeveloped, and thus one’s consciousness is too undeveloped.


It occurs to me that confusion about language may arise from considerations like the following. Others’ experience of dreaming may be different from mine, but before thinking about the matter more carefully, I imagine my own dreams as being visual. I see things in my dreams. But I seem not always to use language in dreams. And yet a dream is pure consciousness: there is nothing in a dream of which one is not conscious. If one is not conscious of it, there is no way to say that it is part of the dream.

Seeing things with the eyes is different. Everything in the visual field is really there, whether we take note of it or not. At least, I think we make some such assumption. We can look carefully at an object and see its fine detail. Here we are using the “selective attention” introduced in ¶4. 33. We assume that the fine detail was there all along. I think this assumption does not normally disserve us, although Collingwood writes in ¶¶4. 56 and 4.6 as if selective attention itself creates the detail that we see. I suppose he has in mind making a painting. The scene does not tell the artist what to paint, but by painting it, the artist creates the scene. In a dream, this must be what happens. The fine detail is not there unless we put it there. If I see a book in my dream, I normally cannot open it and start to read it. I cannot focus on a page and see actual words. If I try, the difficulty will probably wake me up.

I said a dream was pure consciousness. Perhaps a dream should be understood as pure language. If I hold a book in my dream, what I really hold is one of my words, whose full imaginative content is only hinted at by the four letters of the English word “book.”


I return to Collingwood’s example in Chapter VI. It may be possible to say “I am cold” without actually being conscious of being cold. One might be talking on one’s sleep. But what reason is there for saying that talking in one’s sleep is unconscious? If we are talking, we must be becoming conscious of something: that is what talking means. If we are not conscious, we cannot be talking: we must be doing something else, something that has but a superficial resemblance to talking, like the emission of a synthesized voice from a mechanical doll.

Thus might one argue. What is interesting to me is that I can be told by my bedmate that I talked in my sleep when I have no memory of doing so. How could I have done the deed, if it is so recent, but I retain nothing of it?

Our philosophizing requires us to have access to our own past states of mind. We must be able to remember what things are like, even if we are not experiencing them at the moment. Collingwood will start to consider how this is possible in his next chapter, “Appetite.”

I make all of the notes in this blog out of a wish to retain all of my thoughts, so that I might achieve the kind of universal vision that is attributed to a deity. I do not expect to achieve this vision; but it seems I believe implicitly that the vision is a possibility. There is a relevant passage from Collingwood’s first book, Religion and Philosophy, published during an earlier war, in 1916. Here are three paragraphs from §5 (“Application to Religion: doctrine cannot be severed from its historical setting”) of Chapter III, “Religion and History,” of Part I, “The General Nature of Religion”:

An illustration may serve to indicate the necessity to theology of its historical aspect. In view of the criticisms often brought against the records of the life of Jesus, many are inclined to take up a sceptical attitude and to declare that our tradition is hopelessly incorrect. But, they go on to ask, what then? We learn many valuable lessons from the Good Samaritan, though we do not believe him to have existed. We learn, too, from Homer, even if Homer never wrote what we ascribe to him. We have the tradition in black and white; it bears its credentials on its face; all else is a side-issue. Is there anything we learn from the Christ-history that we could not equally learn from the Christ-myth?

The simple religious mind would, I believe, emphatically reject such a suggestion. And this would be perfectly right. It is easy to say that the “Christ-myth” embodies facts about God’s nature which, once known, are known whether they are learnt from one source or from another. That is by no means the whole truth. The life of Christ gives us, conspicuously, two other things. It gives us an example of how a human life may satisfy the highest possible standards; and it puts us in contact with the personality of the man who lived that life.

The whole value of an example is lost unless it is historical. If an athlete tries to equal the feats of Herakles, or an engineer spends his life trying to recover the secret of the man who invented a perpetual-motion machine, they are merely deluding themselves with false hopes if Herakles and the supposed inventor never lived. The Good Samaritan’s action is the kind of thing that any good man might do; it is typical of a kind of conduct which we see around us and know to be both admirable and possible. But if the life of Jesus is a myth, it is more preposterous to ask a man to imitate it than to ask him to imitate Herakles. Any valid command must guarantee the possibility of carrying it out; and the historical life of Jesus is the guarantee that man can be perfect if he will.

For Collingwood, it goes without saying that if you emulate Hercules, you implicitly accept that he actually lived. Your actions are not a proof that Hercules did live; they are a proof that you believe it. And yet your belief may be mistaken. Myself, I am not aware that I emulate anybody in particular; but the example of Robert Pirsig comes to mind, in his novel Lila, where his persona keeps his ideas on slips of paper, which he arranges and rearranges, looking for the best pattern.

A unified vision is my aim, a vision that encompasses all that can be thought, or at least all that I can think. If I can be conscious in the night, to the point of speaking out loud, and yet be oblivious in the morning, this is frustrating. In fact I am not aware that such nocturnal consciousness happens much, because my spouse rarely reports that I have engaged in somnolent speech.

Now, we are said to dream every night, and I believe I do. Dreaming is a kind of consciousness; yet I usually remember little or nothing of my dreams. Is this a problem? I know that it is possible to remember more of dreams, and in the past I worked at it. I kept dream journals for a while. I am not aware that the exercise was particularly beneficial. Reading the journals now, I do not find them very interesting. Without the journals, I still remember some interesting dreams—interesting, if only because they tended to corroborate Freud’s account of symbolism in dreams.


I have drifted away from Collingwood, but it does seem worthwhile to keep in mind the varieties of experience. Collingwood may make things so simple that one wants to ask, “Oh yeah? What about this example?” Actually he has forestalled such criticism, saying at the end of his first chapter:

1. 88 …I offer you the fruits of my own reflection, so that ‘the pains left another, will onely be to consider, if he also find not the same in himself…’1

1 Leviathan, p. 2.

According to Collingwood’s reflections, we become conscious of our feelings by naming them. But naming feelings is problematic, as Collingwood himself must know. An organism changes over the course of its life, but its name, if it has one, is usually permanent. As discussed in my previous article on this chapter of Collingwood, a word in the strictest sense is used once only. If I am cold, and I say so, my word “cold” is not a string of four letters that can be used over and over and recorded in a dictionary; it is a string of sounds that hang in the air and are gone, together with their meaning, which is that I am cold, but cold with a particular coldness that I shall never feel again.

In fact I am indeed slightly cold at the moment of writing these words, because I am lightly dressed; but I do not bother to cover up, because the morning sun is streaming through my window, bringing with it the excitement of spring, which tends to dispel the lingering frigidity of winter.

By saying “I am cold,” I become conscious of it. I become conscious that I am cold, though not conscious that I am saying it: this would take another step.

6. 28. Until you name it, the feeling is preconscious. When you name it, it becomes conscious. This does not mean that the act of naming it becomes conscious; it does not, either as an act of your own or even merely as the sound of your voice or the like. It remains preconscious until you reflect on it.

6. 29. This is the difference between linguistic activity in general and that reflective, critical form of it which is called ‘literature’ or ‘poetry’ or in general ‘art’. The artist or poet, like other men, achieves consciousness of his feelings only so far as he finds words for them; but he is conscious not only of the feelings but of the linguistic activity, and works at performing this activity as well as he can.

To use the language of The Principles of Art (1938), the artist does not betray emotion, that is, “exhibit the symptoms of it”; he expresses it. This is from §7, “Expressing Emotion and Betraying Emotion,” of Chapter VI, “Art Proper: (I) As Expression,” in Book I, “Art and Not Art”:

The characteristic mark of expression proper is lucidity or intelligibility; a person who expresses something thereby becomes conscious of what it is that he is expressing, and enables others to become conscious of it in himself and in them. Turning pale and stammering is a natural accompaniment of fear, but a person who in addition to being afraid also turns pale and stammers does not thereby become conscious of the precise quality of his emotion. About that
he is as much in the dark as he would be if (were that possible)
he could feel fear without also exhibiting these symptoms
of it.

…The artist never rants. A person who writes or paints or the like in order to blow off steam, using the traditional materials of art as means for exhibiting the symptoms of emotion, may deserve praise as an exhibitionist, but loses for the moment all claim to the title of artist. Exhibitionists have their uses; they may serve as an amusement, or they may be doing magic [i.e. arousing emotion for its practical value]. The second category will contain, for example, those young men who, learning in the torment of their own bodies and minds what war is like, have stammered their indignation in verses, and published them in the hope of infecting others and causing them to abolish it. But these verses have nothing to do with poetry.

It does not, of course, follow that a dramatic writer may not rant in character…

I suppose a rant is like the “turning pale and stammering” in fear: it does not contribute to the understanding of the emotion being expressed. Criticism, critical words, can be rant in this way, as when one goes on and on about what is wrong with the world and everybody in it; but there is also the possibility of constructive criticism. In The Principles of Art, art is constructive. It represents an addition to our understanding of our emotions. By constrast, ranting is a way to avoid our emotions, or to fight them, to get rid of them.

The emphasis in The New Leviathan is different. Anybody’s words are a way to become conscious of a feeling; the artist’s words differ by being themselves composed consciously. It sounds as if now, for Collingwood, the artist as such must be conscious of being an artist, or at least conscious of being a producer of language, which is what an artist is. In The Principles of Art, it would seem that art can be produced before one is conscious of it. This is from §3, “Breakdown of the Theory,” of Chapter II, “Art and Craft,” of Book I again, “Art and Not Art”:

(2) The distinction between planning and executing certainly exists in some works of art, namely those which are also works of craft or artifacts; for there is, of course, an overlap between these two things, as may be seen by the example of a building or a jar, which is made to order for the satisfaction of a specific demand, to serve a useful purpose, but may none the less be a work of art. But suppose a poet were making up verses as he walked; suddenly finding a line in his head, and then another, and then dissatisfied with them and altering them until he had got them to his liking: what is the plan which he is executing? He may have had a vague idea that if he went for a walk he would be able to compose poetry; but what were, so to speak, the measurements and specifications of the poem he planned to compose? He may, no doubt, have been hoping to compose a sonnet on a particular subject specified by the editor of a review; but the point is that he may not, and that he is none the less a poet for composing without having any definite plan in his head. Or suppose a sculptor were not making a Madonna and child, three feet high, in Hoptonwood stone, guaranteed to placate the chancellor of the diocese and obtain a faculty for placing it in the vacant niche over a certain church door; but were simply playing about with clay, and found the clay under his fingers turning into a little dancing man: is this not a work of art because it was done without being planned in advance?

One can find that one has produced art without having meant to, without having been conscious of it. But to emphasize this point in The New Leviathan would be a distraction. What should be understood is that we are not always conscious of our words when we utter them. Through our words, we become conscious of something, but not those words themselves. The point is made now by saying simply that we are not all, or at all times, artists.


The next part of the “Language” chapter of The New Leviathan is also a continuation of the previous part.

6. 3. ‘If a man becomes conscious of a feeling only through finding a name for it, is not that a way of saying that his consciousness of the feeling is not immediate, as you said (4.22), but mediated through language?’

6. 31. The consciousness of B is mediate if you can only be conscious of B as an abstraction from something else, A, of which you are conscious.

The view that Collingwood argues against is reminiscent of the James–Lange Theory, whereby you do not turn pale and stammer because you are afraid, but you are afraid because you have turned pale and are stammering. On the contrary, argues Collingwood plausibly in The Principles of Art, you do indeed turn pale and stammer because you are afraid. Likewise, I suppose, you say you are cold because you are cold, and not the other way around. Being cold is not an abstraction from the utterance that one is cold. On the contrary, the utterance is an abstraction from the feeling, or at least the artist considers it this way.


“It is a commonplace with us,” says Collingwood in ¶6. 41,

that language is not a device whereby knowledge already existing in one man’s mind is communicated to another’s, but an activity prior to knowledge itself, without which knowledge could never come into existence.

6. 42. To discover this truth was one of the greatest achievements of Hobbes…


Unfortunately I have the idea that, for most people, language is indeed a communication device. Before reading Collingwood, I may well have said language was a means of communication. At the moment, the Wikipedia article on the subject begins:

Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system…

…Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli—for example, in graphical writing, braille, or whistling. This is because human language is modality-independent…

Human language has the properties of productivity, recursivity, and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning…

Here are many questionable assertions. At least the article makes the distinction between “language” and “a language”. I tried to introduce to this distinction to the article years ago, but my changes were reverted by another editor. The article is still too restrictive in saying language is human, is complex, is a system of communication, and can be written down. Language is commonly assumed to be these things, but it need not always be these things.

The assertion that language is modality-independent: I suppose this comes from experimental findings. Perhaps spoken language and sign language are found to exercise the same parts of the brain. It may also be that language is called modality-independent, just because the linguist wishes to study only those aspects of language that are modality-independent. This does not mean that when in ordinary life we talk about language, we talk about something that is modality-independent.

In Chapter I of The New Leviathan, Collingwood leaves it to the chemists and physicists to decide what matter is, and to the physiologists to decide what being alive is. Why not leave it to the linguists to decide what language is? Well, linguistics is, at least in part, a science of mind, and as Collingwood also says in Chapter I, “The answer to any question in any science of mind is provided by reflection”—anybody’s reflection.

Actually, it does not matter what kind of science linguistics is. If we leave it to the linguists to decide what language is, what is it that we are leaving to them? We should have an idea what language is, if we are going to give it to somebody to investigate in the first place. Maybe that person will not take all of the gift. On Wikipedia, it has been left to the physicists to decide what the Sun is. According to their decision,

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields…

These opening sentences of a long technical article give no way to connect the ball of plasma being described with the thing that we refer to when we say the sun is out. Or does the reference to the Solar System help identify this ball? Look it up:

The Solar System is the Sun and the objects that orbit the Sun. These are a planetary system of eight planets and various secondary bodies, dwarf planets and small Solar System objects that orbit the Sun directly, as well as satellites (moons) that orbit many planets and smaller objects.

There is no indication that we actually live on one of those eight planets of the Solar System. Does this go without saying? I am afraid it does not. In my third-grade class, our teacher taught us the constituents of our solar system. One of the constituents was stars. I was pretty sure that was wrong, though I did not make a scene in class. Presumably the teacher could have parroted—as she taught us to parrot—the information that we lived on the planet Earth, which was third from the Sun; but she did not understand what this meant, if she thought there were also stars sprinkled about the Solar System.

A Wikipedia article on the Solar System or the Sun ought to build on what understanding my ignorant teacher did have. This teacher did after all know what the Sun was: it was that blindingly bright light in the sky. Actually the Sun article does acknowledge this:

Humanity’s most fundamental understanding of the Sun is as the luminous disk in the sky whose presence above the horizon creates day and whose absence causes night.

I believe this is based on a sentence that I once wrote for the article. I thought the sentence should be at the beginning of the article (perhaps without the introduction about “humanity’s most fundamental understanding”). But the sentence is now buried deep in the article, in a section called “Early understanding.”

You can read my own words because I type them and upload them to the WordPress website, and your computer downloads them from there. I think language itself is often likened to the process by which these words make their way from my computer to yours. But how did the words get into my computer in the first place? I typed them. It might be thought that this typing is itself like sending an electronic file (or an old-fashioned letter). There are words in my head, and my nerves and muscles translate these into letters on the keyboard. But where did the words in my head come from? I think it is the production of these words that is the essential part of language; and yet this is overlooked in the Wikipedia article on language, at least in its introduction.


Let us return to Collingwood, and to Hobbes whom he quotes:

6. 46. ‘But the use of words in registring our thoughts, is in nothing so evident as in Numbring. A naturall fools that could never learn by heart the order of numerall words, as one, two, and three, may observe every stroak of the Clock, and nod to it, or say one, one, one; but can never know what houre it. strikes.…So that without words, there is no possibility of reckoning of Numbers; much lesse of Magnitudes, of Swiftnesse, of Force, and other things, the reckonings whereof are necessary to the being, or well-being of man-kind.’2

2 Ibid. [Leviathan], p. 14.

6. 47. Since mathematics, for Hobbes as for Descartes, is the basis and type of all science; and since the word ‘science’, for Hobbes as for Descartes, refers not to knowledge of the natural world alone but to knowledge of any kind so long as it is knowledge not of isolated ‘facts’ but ‘of the Consequence of one Affirmation to another’; his doctrine is clear. From being an indispensible means to the diffusion of knowledge, language has become the precondition and foundation of knowledge, so far as knowledge is scientific.

In The Principles of Art, a basic example of language is the child’s exclamation, “Hattiaw!” as it throws its bonnet out of the perambulator. Now the basic example, taken from Hobbes, is counting. I can remember not being able to read, but wanting to. I cannot remember not being able to count. We assume counting is efficacious: we assume that, no matter how we count the same collection of objects, we shall always get the same number. This assumption can be justified as a theorem, although almost no mathematician ever thinks to prove it.

I think of being in Ravello, Italy, last June, and hearing the chimes of the clock in Scala on the next hill over. I might not decide to count the chimes until a few had already passed. I might still be able to learn the correct time, because the few bells that had already chimed still hung in my mind, so that I could pick up the count at the correct number. But I could not wait too long to pick up the count. I could probably tell without counting if it was three o’clock. I could not tell without counting if it was eleven o’clock.

In the Phaedrus, Socrates condemns written words as a drug that compensates for forgetfulness. We might criticize counting out loud in the same way. I need not hold eleven chimes at once in my imagination, if I am able to count them one by one as they pass.

Irrational language

The conclusion of the chapter is worth quoting in its entirety. I note how the first paragraph contains a careful reference. I emulate Collingwood in his practice here, as I would encourage all others to do. The brackets and the dots of ellipsis in the second and fourth paragraphs are Collingwood’s.

6. 5. Notice has been taken of Hobbes’s innovation in the theory of language, a notice more significant for being unsympathetic, by an accomplished scholar, the late W. G. Pogson Smith, in his essay on ‘The Philosophy of Hobbes’, prefixed posthumously to the Oxford type-facsimile reprint of the Leviathan (1909).

6. 51. ‘Hobbes emphatically asserts that it is…reason…which marks men off from brutes.…And yet if we look more narrowly we shall find that this marvelous endowment of man is really the child of language.…

6. 52. ‘This bold paradox is a masterpiece of tactics. Speech is ushered in with the fanfaronade, and lo! reason is discovered clinging to her train. Instinct says, reason begets speech: paradox inverts, speech begets reason.

6. 53. ‘Man acquires speech because he is reasonable [is opposed by] man becomes capable of reason because he has invented speech. A wonderful hysteron proteron.1

1 Op. cit., p. xx.

6. 54. If a paradox means something unexpected, paradox it is; one that deserves to be remembered beside the paradox of Copernicus that the earth goes around the sun; the paradox of Newton that what keeps the planets in their orbits is the same as what makes an apple fall to earth; or the paradox of Darwin that animal and vegetable species are not a repertory of types fixed for ever, but change as the course of the world’s life unfolds itself.

6. 55. If an hysteron proteron means a decree that what was last shall be first, and the first last, hysteron proteron it is; but to call it so is not a reproach.

6. 56. ‘Instinct’ may say if it likes that you must first be conscious of a feeling before you can fit it with a name; experience teaches that this is a vulgar error (6. 26). The experiment, I confess, is not easy to make, because normally the act of naming is preconsciously done (6. 28). When I succeed in reflecting on it I find Hobbes was right.

6. 57. It is true, of course, and Mr. Smith may have been confused by it, that man begins to speak like a rational being only when he is one; and if you think that the word ‘language’ ought to be used only of rational language, you will find Hobbes’s doctrine surprising. What Mr. Smith failed to consider was that language is not always reasonable.

6. 58. Language in its simplest form is the language of consciousness in its simplest form; the mere ‘register’ of feelings, as wild and mad as those feelings themselves; irrational, unorganized, unplanned, unconscious. As consciousness develops, language develops with it. When consciousness becomes conceptual thought (7. 21), language develops abstract terms.

6. 59. When consciousness becomes propositional thought language develops the indicative sentence as the standard verbal form in which to state the proposition. When consciousness becomes reason (14. 1) language becomes demonstrative discourse wherein sentences are so linked together as to state verbally ‘the Consequence of one Affirmation to another’.

We could make a table:

Stage of consciousness

Its language

Simple consciousness

Register of feelings

Conceptual thought

Abstract terms

Propositional thought

Indicative sentences


Demonstrative discourse

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