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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Brian Bayly

May I pick three elements from your summary of proposals by Locke and Bogin? They are:

The infant sounds coocoo, mama and bobo

The imitations, of infant by mother and of mother by infant

The instinct for inventiveness.

If we agree that humans get pleasure, an internal reward, when two things match, this clearly underlies the first two, but what about the third?
Inventiveness in language is not a primal instinct, it derives from having something to say. Ideas in the mind come first; it is a mind rich in ideas that invents language. (For sure, once invented, language facilitates later ideas, but at Babel’s dawn ideas were the driver.) Further, inventiveness derives from having something to say for which grunts and gestures do not suffice; it derives from possessing ideas that go beyond the here-and-now --- in short, abstract ideas. And here’s the point: an internal reward from noting items that match promotes forming abstract ideas endlessly, just for the fun. If we seek a reason for the endless inventiveness in human language, the internal reward from putting like with like fills the bill.

William James 1892: “… (animals) never extract characters for the mere fun of the thing, as men do.”
Psychology, p.369; New York, Henry Holt and Co.

Of course, women do too. To “extract a character” is his term for forming an abstract concept from a group of instances. The idea that chimpanzee infants get a little fun from such activity, but significantly less fun than human infants, appears in experiments by Langer, Spinozzi and associates: Human Evolution 13 (1998), 107-124 and 125-139. (I am not aware of these experiments having been replicated or extended, but may have missed more recent work.)

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