I was reviewing notes and saw that last week, we ended class considering an idea of Dennett’s. I believe it had something to do with questioning the need for intelligence and/or language for consciousness, or language for intelligence? I just remember wanting to respond immediately with a typical anecdote about my children. I have a son who is not quite 3. At this time, he doesn’t have memories that will stick around for him and his language skills are expanding daily, however it was not long ago that he was without words. Today he told me that the trees were beautiful. He was just really excited to use a new word, “beautiful” correctly. Alternately, he is extremely skilled at the pronouncement “I Want!” and rather than modifying this to something more apt to get him “what he wants,” is having a good time with inflection, tone, repetition, and other sound effects. I also have a 4 month old who very clearly is conscious of the difference between her mother and her nanny, her father and her brother. As for language, she cries of course, but she also coos and babbles, laughs and exhibits fear ( of the new kitten in the house who thinks her feet are toys).
My notes said of Dennett “Consciousness is language/culture.” I realize I have a lot to look into and Dennett would scoff at my “personal expertise,” but the perception of these early stages in my children suggest highly activated, elevated, advanced consciousness that is released with language rather than created by it. I also think immediately of autistic children in particular who often lash out as they fight to figure out ways to communicate without language.
In Shelley, the monster’s consciousness seemed shaped by knowledge and language. I can see the argument made within that literary context. In the story, he becomes more emotional the more he learns. The big difference with the children is that they seem to constantly be fighting to express their inner self.
It is a little harder to summarize what happens with language and Mark Schluter. While it becomes clear through the narrative that his language improves with his condition, or to clarify, that his consciousness is more ordered in tandem with his ability to speak clearly, it is not clear what role language plays while he is unconscious. I think that the images created by language in those initial streams of his mind are the author’s way of detailing what he sees in his mind rather than what he hears. I think it can be read as either an image for us to consider or a running narrative in his consciousness. Again, I am only referring to the very first few streams of his, the ones during which we are not wholly aware that the parts belong to his mind (at least I wasn’t).
Here is an interview? with Dennett about language and a 20minute video of him discussing consciousness in case anyone wanted to look into his work.