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Nov 20, I'm surprised by what is not addressed here: that all human languages share a common physical substrate in the human brain. It doesn't seem to be much of a stretch to assert that deep commonalities in the logical structure of language might reflect fundamental architectural elements--at some level of abstraction, anyway--of the human brain. Report Block. That's exactly what Miyagawa and others who work in this area do suppose.

The problem is we can't yet make the leap from discoveries about linguistic structure to precise proposals about computations in the brain. That achievement is still off in the future. I don't understand how this is possible. How does a language not have numbers?

How do they build houses, or determine how much food to gather? You'd have to at least have an internal understanding of numbers for that, yet no one felt it necessary to create words to describe them?

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  8. Well, like everything else about the Piraha, the evidence that they lack numbers is controversial. But no one thinks they have numbers past 2. They are in fact a hunter-gatherer culture, and house themselves in lean-tos. Nov 21, Undemonstrated is how these two very basic concepts are unique to human language -- let alone to a single ancestral human language.

    Any organizational system needs a mechanism for interrelating and re-relating units, and putting the important thing first or adding "tags" to units are hardly devices so statistically improbable that they could only have been invented once. What's going on is that we are all supposed to be recently descended from a single, small, fully-modern human population.

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    And the deep, radical, fundamental diversity of human language types does not accord at all well with that. A language in the Caucuses Mountains had 96 consonants and one muttered vowel. Polynesian has words entirely composed of vowels. Bushman has a click in every word. This goes back to the kind of pre-vocal grunting sounds different hominid species were making. But that doesn't fit Recent Out of Africa -- so cue the artificial abstraction and statistics to generate "universal commonalities".

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    Your email. I would like to subscribe to Science X Newsletter. Thomas Aquinas distinguished between the essence of a thing and the fact of its being, or its existence. In modern existentialist thought Jean-Paul Sartre made use of Aquinas's distinction between essence and existence but reversed them by insisting that existence precedes essence. By this he asserted that people do not have predetermined natures; what a person is follows from the choices he or she makes. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

    July 1, Retrieved July 01, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. So essential XIV — late L. The word "essence" Lat. Essence is what is, what exists. In this sense, it designates a concrete, singular reality in the act of existence. Essence is, moreover, a substantial reality see substance.

    It is not, properly speaking, that which modifies an existing substance, such as weight, color, and operation, but that which exists in itself, that which sustains itself in existence without the aid of a substratum that receives and supports it. In fact, color, weight, and the like, do not exist: they are accidents; it is through them that substance, or essence, exists as colored, heavy, and so on. In another sense, essence answers the questions: In what does a particular existing reality consist? What is its definition? Taken in this meaning, essence expresses the quiddity of a thing, that by which it is immediately intelligible and on which the human mind can focus — because it presents an immobile aspect, the stable form of what it really and fully is, viz, a thing.

    Since the notion of essence has undergone an evolution in the history of thought and is not uniformly regarded by all philosophers, this article first explains the historical development of the notion, and then treats a problem of interest to scholastic thinkers, viz, the multiplication and individuation of essences. The more difficult historical and doctrinal questions concerning the relationship between essence and existence are treated elsewhere see essence and existence.

    Aristotle’s Metaphysics

    The history of the concept of essence may be conveniently divided into periods corresponding to Greek, medieval, modern, and contemporary thought. Greek thought. For plato, essences are the proper object, the only authentic object, of human knowledge. All else, that is, the world of sensible and moving appearances, is pure illusion: unintelligible in its constant mobility, it really is not; it does not exist.

    What exists is for Plato the essence of things divested of the various modes they manifest here below; this is realized in an intelligible world separated from the present one, where man may find it by reminiscence. The essence of horse — for example, what exists absolutely as horse, or horse in itself — belongs to the world of archetypal Forms or Ideas, of which the horse sensed here below is only a deceptive partaker, an illusory reflection.

    Only essence is, with its characteristics of perfection and stability.

    Such an idealistic theory found its refutation in the moderate realism of aristotle, one of Plato's disciples. Aristotle did not admit that what things are and what the mind perceives as unchanged in them exist apart in another world. Rather he extracted essences, definitions, and beings from this separated world and located them in the concrete realities of sensible experience. For Aristotle, essences say what things are; they are not what exists. What exists is concrete essence, that is, essence determined by adventitious secondary elements that make it individual and capable of existence.

    Horse in itself does not exist, but only particular horses with the essence of horse realized in them. According to Aristotle, one may speak of essence also as common to all individuals of the same species. This essence, expressed by the definition, exists formally only in the mind, which abstracts from the individuating notes that clothe an essence in extramental reality see abstraction. The universal character that essence receives from the mind is itself based on the real presence of the essence in things existing under an individualized mode.

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    Medieval thought. It is this latter theory that prevailed in Christian philosophy under the name of moderate realism, and to which St. The beings of the world, be they spiritual or material, are none other than realized ideas. Such realization, however, is no longer in the manner described by Plato, but according to a presence immanent within things and through participation in the divine essence, eminent model of all that exists. Essences come into being by way of creation or divine efficiency. The divine essence in its transcendent intelligibility is thus the remote foundation of every created essence.


    The divine ideas are nothing other than the divine essence itself, inasmuch as this is remotely and variously imitable by the beings of nature. This Augustinian conception of ideas is obviously different from that of Plato. The Thomistic theory of moderate realism did not succeed in rallying all minds. Fourteenth-century philosophers such as william of ockham and nicholas of autrecourt asserted that the universal essences said to be abstracted from individuals are merely fictions.

    They refer simply to names, labels that are fixed to individuals of a certain, apparently homogeneous series, but to which no reality corresponds within things.

    Three of a kind: Revealing language’s universal essence

    These philosophers have been called nominalists. Other thinkers, called conceptualists, did not go as far as the nominalists and regarded the common essence as a pure concept, a simple idea in men's minds without any foundation in nature. For them, the mind constructs this idea, starting from a certain sensible similarity, but without anything in existing beings that is really common to them. These two theories of nominalism and conceptualism gave rise to the famous problem of universals, which is concerned with the ontological status of the essences of things.

    The position of St. Thomas is realistic when compared to these theories, while avoiding Plato's exaggerated realism that attributes existence to the universal essence as such.