Cormac McCarthy on language and the unconscious

Cormac McCarthy is a world-known novelist. His works include: “Blood Meridian”, “horses, Horses”, “to Old men here not a place” and “Road”. He also participates in research of the Santa Fe Institute, (ISF) is listed here as a freelancer.


McCarthy is interested and well versed in a wide range of topics, be it history of mathematics, philosophical debates about the current state of quantum mechanics as a causal theory, comparative studies of non-human mind and the nature of conscious and unconscious thinking. In the ISF we are looking for expression of research interest in the novels of McCarthy and revealed in his prose a series of hidden references to the above-described problems and fields of science.


The last two decades, we with Cormac studied the problems and paradoxes of the unconscious. Chief among them was that very young and “uniquely human” ability by combinatorial grammar to describe and to Express almost anything has its basis in a much more ancient animal brain. How these two developmental systems were consistent with each other? Cormack, describes this problem in garments of deep suspicion and perhaps even contempt, with which primitive, unconscious language refers to the language of a fashionable and conscious. In his article he talks about this on the example of the processes of infection and sleep. This wide-ranging and insightful analysis of ideas and problems for which our scientific community, armed with the theory of complex systems, decided to join only recently.


I call this problem the von stradonitz because among the hundreds of scientific problems that were solved in a dream, the story of Friedrich von stradonitz, perhaps the most famous. He spent a long time trying to come to an understanding of the structure of benzene molecules (and not that he succeeded), he fell asleep in front of the fire and saw the famous dream about a snake curled up in the shape of a Hoop and holding the tail in his mouth — it was the ancient mythological symbol called “Ouroboros”. Von stradonitz woke up and cried: “This ring. Molecule in the form of a ring!”


Well. The difficulty here (not for von stradonitz, but for us), of course, if unconscious or understands the language very clear, or initially does not understand the task itself, why it simply does not answer the question von stradonitz something like this: “Dammit, Friedrich, it’s just a ring”. What scientist would say: “Okay, got it. Thank you.”

And why a snake? In other words, why the subconscious mind talking to us? What all of these images, metaphors, patterns? And what dreams for that matter.


It would be logical to first give a definition of the unconscious. To do this, we need to discard all this jargon of modern psychology and to return to biology. First of all, the subconscious is a biological system. Speaking factually as possible, without losing accuracy, the subconscious is the mechanism of control animals.


All animals have a subconscious mind. If this were not so, they would be plants. Sometimes we attribute his consciousness function, which it actually does not. At a certain stage systems may require their own management. For example, breathing is controlled not by the subconscious, and varoliev the Pons and medulla oblongata — the two systems located in the brain stem.


Of course, this does not apply to cetaceans, who needs to breathe when they surface. A standalone system will not work here. The first Dolphin anesthetized on the operating table just died. (How do they sleep? One hemisphere, then the other). But the function in unconscious just darkness. Itching to solve mathematical problems.


Problems in General often lend themselves well to linguistic description, and language becomes a useful tool to explain them. But the thought process itself — in any area — for the most part is unconscious. Language can be used to draw conclusions, and become something of a mile post to indicate a new start. But if you believe that you are actually using the language for solving problems, then please send me an email and tell us how you do it.


I pointed out to several of my friends-mathematicians, that is, the unconscious understands more mathematics than they do. My friend George Zweig calls it “the night shift”. Please note that the subconscious has no pencil, no notebook, no pen. The fact that it solves mathematical problems, are irrefutable. How does he do it? When I expressed to my friends the assumption that it can handle it even without the use of numbers, most of them — after a pause — came to the conclusion that this is impossible. How? We don’t know.


Just as we don’t know why we are able to talk. If I’m talking to you, I will never be able to create proposals that would clarify the content of my speech. I am fully engaged in conversation. There is no part of my mind which would be able to collect these suggestions and then play them for me so I could repeat them. Apart from the fact that I’m busy, it would start a vicious circle. The truth is that this is a process to which we have access. It is a mystery as impenetrable to our eyes as complete darkness.


There are among us powerful people — which I will discuss later — and in fact believe that the language is fully the evolutionary process. That it somehow arose in the brain in a primitive form and then evolved and found its functionality. Maybe it’s like the evolution of view. But we know that today vision can be attributed to perhaps a dozen fairly independent evolutionary histories. Tempting to teleologic.


Apparently, these stories start with stories about undeveloped, but photosensitive precursor body, in which any blackout could mean the approach of a predator. What actually makes this a great scenario for Darwin with his natural selection. Maybe those influential people really think that all mammals are just waiting for the emergence of language. I do not know. But everything points to the fact that the language emerged only once and only within the same species.


In the animal world there are a number of signals that can be interpreted as a proto-language. Take, for chipmunks, where are the alarms that differ depending on the type of threat — birds or terrestrial predators. Warning about the appearance of a hawk is different from a signal of foxes or cats. Very useful.


But what is missing here is the Central idea of language, one thing can be another thing. This is the idea that suddenly visited Helen Keller before well. The sign for water was not just the gesture that you set to get a glass of water. This was a glass of water. It really was water. This is from the play “the miracle worker”. It has given me even the cat began to cry.

The invention of language was immediately interpreted as an incredibly useful phenomenon. And again it seems that it has spread among different types almost instantly. Immediately had to be a problem in the world was a lot more things than sounds, which they can call.


Apparently, the language first appeared in South-West Africa, and it is possible that the clicking consonants (clexy) Khoisan languages (including sandawe and hadza) are even atavistic traces of attempts to satisfy the need for more sounds. Speech problems eventually resolved in the course of evolution and apparently fairly quickly — in a speech people are more likely to use the throat.


As it turned out, this was the price. Trachea was shifted down so that now we as a species are very easy to choke on your own food is a pretty common cause of death. In addition, we are the only mammals who are unable to swallow and make sounds at the same time.


Insulation which led to high and low, dark and light, and other external differences — did not protect against the spread of the language. He overcame the mountains and the sea, as if they did not exist.


Satisfy the language of some needs? No. More than 5,000 other mammals among us quietly without cost. But is it useful? How. Still it is possible to notice that when he appeared, to disappear could not. The brain did not expect his appearance and didn’t plan anything about this. Language just broke into the areas of our brain that was the least specialized.


Once in the ISF in one of the conversations I suggested that the language behaved exactly like a parasitic infestation, and David Krakauer — President of the Institute, said that to his mind came the same thought. This is very pleased me, because David is very smart. Of course, this is not to say that the human brain was somehow designed to produce language. But where else was he to go?


Anyway, we have historical data. The difference between the history of the virus and the history of language is that the virus has survived through natural selection, and language of such a path is not passed. The virus is well-honed. It remains only to apply. To paste, click — click. Excellent entered. But on the side is always a pile of viruses, which are not included.


The origin of language: “so what are we talking here?” writes Cormac McCarthy. “That one night one of unknown philosopher was sitting in his cave and said to myself: Wow. One thing can be another thing.” (Above, reproduction of the paintings in the Chauvet cave, a place with prehistoric paintings).


Of course, by this time, knowledgeable people have already smiled at the poorly concealed attempts to conceal here Lamarckism (Lamarkism — set evolutionary theories in which as the main driving force of evolution is considered intrinsic to the organisms, the desire to improve — approx. Newочем). We could try to avoid it, using different strategies or variations of wording, but likely without much success. Of course, Darwin dismissed the idea of an inherited “kalechenye” — for example, from problems with the tail docking of dogs. But the succession of thoughts remains something of a vexing question.


It’s hard to imagine them as anything but acquired. The work of the subconscious is not that poorly understood, it is just not understood at all. This area is by and large ignored by the AI research, which are mainly devoted to Analytics and search for the answer to the question of whether similar brain to a computer. The researchers decided that is not, but it is not so.


From the known characteristics of the subconscious the most important is its sustainability. Anyone familiar with recurring dreams. It is even possible to imagine that the subconscious is more than one voice: Before he comes, right? No. He’s really tight. What do we do? I do not know. Maybe use his mother? She’s dead. What’s the difference?


What is the mechanism working here? And as the subconscious mind understands that we don’t get it? What it does not understand? It is difficult not to conclude that the subconscious mind works morally form us. (Moral considerations? Yes, he’s serious?)


The evolution of consciousness would begin with names of things. Then there would be descriptions of these things and their functions. The development of languages to their modern forms and conditions of their syntax and grammar is universal, which implies a common database. It lies in the fact that the languages should have its own requirements. And that they are loaded by a description of the world. More nothing to describe.


Everything is very fast. There are no languages, the form of which is in a state of development. And their by and large all the same.


We don’t know what is the subconscious, where it is, and how he got there. Recent studies of animal brains show a relatively large cerebellum in a sufficiently intelligent species. It gives assume the following: facts about the world are themselves capable of forming the brain, and this view is gradually accepted.


Does the subconscious mind these facts we alone, or does it have the same access to the senses, as we do? You can do what you want with us, with our, and we. I tried. At some point, the mind simply corrects the facts and translates them into the narrative. The facts of the world, for the most part appear in a narrative form. That’s our job.


What are we talking here? What a strange man-the thinker was sitting one day in his cave and said, Wow. One thing can be another. Yes. Of course, that’s what we’re talking about. But he didn’t say that, because there was no language which he could say it. At that time he had to settle for thinking about that.


And when it all happened? Our knowledgeable people have a clue. Of course they don’t think it happened at all. But let it pass. A hundred thousand years ago? Half a million? More? In fact, one hundred thousand is a good guess. This is the age of the oldest known drawings discovered in the cave of Blombos in South Africa. These scratches have a lot in common with our guy waking up in his cave.


Art preceded the emergence of language, but apparently not for long. In fact, some knowledgeable persons have stated that language can be up to a million years. They explained what we were doing with him all this time. We know quite reliably is that as soon as there is language, everything else develops quite quickly. The simple understanding that one thing can be another thing that is at the root of all things that we deal with. Whether you use colored pebbles to trade goats or art, language and use of symbolic markers to represent pieces of the world, too small to read.


100 000 years — by and large, just a moment, but about two million so to say. Quite freely speaking, so much of the time our subconscious has organized and directed our lives. And note that all without language. At least all the time, except for that last moment. And how then to understand when and where to scratch? We don’t know. We only know that it turns out well. But the fact that by and large, the subconscious mind prefers to avoid verbal instructions — even when they seem to be could be quite useful — quite clearly shows that it is not particularly fond of the language and doesn’t even trust him. Why? How about a good and adequate reason: it is quite good without it for a couple million years?


In addition to its antiquity, the presentation mode “picture-story” who prefers the subconscious, is attractive for its simple utility. A picture can recall completely, but essay not. Of course, if it’s not about Asperger’s syndrome, in which memories of events, though true, are suffering from their literal. Information the burden and knowledge in the mind of the average citizen is huge. But the form in which everything is kept, by and large unknown. You can read a thousand books and be able to discuss any of them, while not remembering a single word of text.


When you stop to think about it and say, “Look. How can I put it?”, you are trying to raise the idea of this store is incomprehensible-to us-something and give it linguistic form, that it could be expressed. It is something that you want to Express, and is part of a chaotic repository of knowledge.


If you explain something to a man, and he say that don’t understand you, you will probably scratch your chin, think more and come up with another way to “Express” it. Or not. When students physics Dirac complained to him that I do not understand his words, he just repeated everything word for word.


Picture-the story itself is an allegory, whose meaning makes to stop. The subconscious mind important rules, but these rules require your participation. The subconscious wish to advise in General terms, but it doesn’t matter which toothpaste you use. And although his proposed path can be quite wide, it does not include jumping off a cliff.


Dreams is a good example. Disturbing dreams that Wake us up in the middle of the night, exceptionally imaginative. No one is saying. These dreams do not leave us for many years and are often concerned about. Sometimes a friend can understand their value and we didn’t. The subconscious intentionally makes them difficult for untangling, because it wants us to be constantly thought about them. So we remember them. This does not mean that you can’t ask for help. Allegory often wants to draw themselves in the picture. When you first heard about the Plato cave, you immediately tried to imagine.


So again: the unconscious is the biological agent, and language — no. Or not yet. You need to be careful using as argument the thesis of Descartes. In addition to heredity, perhaps, the easiest way to know whether the category of our own invention, it is possible asking yourself of how do we see the same in other beings. The language is clear. The ease with which children learn its complex rules, we see the slow introduction of purchased.


I went back to thinking about the task von stradonitz again and again for several years, without much success. And then one morning after we George Zwaga enjoyed one of his 10-hour lunch, I went down from her bedroom with a garbage bucket, and while it shook its contents into the trash in the kitchen, he suddenly realized the answer. Or I realized that I know the answer. It took me about a minute to shape it. I remembered that while the first couple of hours George talked about neuroscience, and cognitive functions, we never talked about von stradonitz or his work. But something in our conversation could run our thoughts — mine and those on the Night Shift — on the subject of this topic.


The answer is definitely simple when you know him. The subconscious mind is simply not used to giving verbal instructions, and does not like to do that. Habits by age two million years, it is difficult to eradicate. When I later told George about my reasons, he has carefully considered them and replied, “Sounds quite thoroughly”. Which greatly cheered me, because George is very smart.


Apparently, the subconscious knows a lot of things. What it knows about itself? Know that it will die? It thinks about it? It seems that he has not one talent, but a whole bouquet. It is unlikely that the Department of rock scratches is also responsible for math. Can the subconscious mind to perform several tasks at the same time? Limited to his knowledge of the fact that we provide? To put it more believable — if he has direct access to the outside world? Some of the dreams that we are very difficult to reproduce, no doubt profound, and at the same time, some of them quite superficial. And the fact that the subconscious mind seems less insistent about our remembering each dream suggests that sometimes it is all about. And is it so good at solving problems, or simply keeping quiet about their failures? How he can be this understanding that we can greatly to be envied? How can we investigate it? Are you sure?