The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 6 May 2018 - Page 9

detail. Experiments with dogs and rats rapidly became a subject of mirth when the experimenter’s futile attempts to generalize the results obtained to human beings resulted in absurd claims. Some experimenters were driven higher up the evolutionary scale in order to demonstrate the efficacy of experimental science. Wolfgang Koehler embraced the scientific method and performed a set of rigorous experiments on apes in order to determine their problem-solving abilities: partially in homage to Darwin and his claim that the higher mental processes could be found in the higher primates. Koehler discovered very rapidly that solely attending to the measurable aspect of the behavior observed, is insufficient for a complete description of the phenomena he was observing. He was forced to use so-called “anthropomorphic” terms such as “the ape solved the problem” and “the ape found the solution by chance”. In other words he used terms that are qualitatively distinct and belong to the domain of the human vital order. His experiments whatever else they proved, demonstrated that the life of an animal, could not be reduced to pure quantitative experimental observations. Koffka, a fellow animal experimenter agreed that the experiments needed to include a “phenomenological component” which could help to clarify the “functional characteristics” of the behavior under observation. This qualitative knowledge describes what is observable by all and is objective in virtue of being inter-subjectively valid. Merleau-Ponty, in a similar spirit, claims that the scientific inductive method should not be used to study language. Science purportedly studies the facts in order to verify some theoretical hypothesis that transcends the meaning of these facts. Only a phenomenological method, more synthetically inclined, asking prior questions concerning the meaning of the facts, can explicate such meaning. This is the method used by Psychologists such as Goldstein in his studies of aphasia and agnosia. Here we find no mass testing of subjects but rather use of the case study method where one subject is exhaustively analyzed by a synthesis of facts and assumptions. Goldstein’s experiments are of interest to the phenomenological investigation into language because they demonstrate that aphasia, for example, is not the loss of a word, nor the loss of the idea, but is rather the loss of that holistic capacity which renders the word appropriate for expression: it is the loss of what he refers to as the “categorical attitude” which is a very similar idea to Merleau-Ponty’s idea of language having a fundamentally gestural significance. Both researchers believe that language has an active signifying power rather than passively picturing reality. With these thoughts in mind let us now turn to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological account of language development in childhood: Babbling is the first sign of this language capacity during the first few months of life. At first it seems purely spontaneous but soon the infant imitates sounds, without of course grasping the significance of what it is imitating. Prior to this event the infant has probably learned the efficacy of sound when it learns that its instinctive crying consistently brings the attention necessary to relieve its distress and the attention it begins to enjoy. In imitative babbling the child eventually as a result of a “contagion-effect”, is trying to speak. At 4 months the child lingers on some sounds and modulates them trying to find the accent of the language. At 8 months the child repeats words that are spoken to him with the expectation that he should repeat them. At 12 months the child utters a large number of pseudo words and varies them. Gregoire noted that his child at this age spoke his first word when a train passed in front of their house. It appeared to him that this was meant as a word-