Chapter One Language and Survival
Our Objective- • In this first chapter we will read carefully to understand what Hayakawa means when he says: Human fitness to survive requires the ability to talk, write, listen, and read in ways that increase the chances for you and fellow members of the species to survive together.
What Animals Shall We Imitate? • -What does survival of the fittest really mean? • People assume that it means the person who is the most powerful – ruthless – clever. It is based on the idea that the strongest will take from the weakest – and that’s just the way it is. • The text suggests that we regard animals who are not known for their strength or cunning, but for their ability to avoid conflict and competition. • In the human realm this is known as “cooperation.”
Cooperation • Cooperation can be seen as sharing our experience with another, in order to help them out. • Helping someone see something you see, but they don’t • Giving someone advice based on your experience • Sharing something you heard once, with another person; something you feel that is applicable to their situation
The Pooling of Knowledge • When we cooperate with someone we normally use language to communicate these experiences, advice, answers, guidance • We can consider all those people who have lived, and recorded their thoughts and ideas, as cooperating with us • All of recorded history, literature, science, art is a form of cooperation between the dead and the living • We are truly “standing on the shoulders of giants”
The Greatest Human Achievements • The ability to read, write, and speak allows us to take part in a vast pool of knowledge. • These skills allow us to access all of the knowledge and experiences of the countless women and men who have lived before us • This is known as “cultural or intellectual cooperation” and is one of the most significant principles of human life • Though we live in a seemingly competitive world what we nearly always take for granted is that through our history and language we are always cooperating…in fact this cooperation is what keeps our civilization intact
Two fundamental points- • Our textbook assumes that the human skill of cooperative communication through language is the fundamental mechanism of human survival • Our text also assumes that when we, as humans, use language to aggravate, create disagreement, create conflict, or otherwise obstacle cooperation there is something linguistically wrong with the speaker, the listener, or both (in other words miscommunication jeopardizes survival)
For consideration- • Read the section entitled: “The Niagara of Words.” Put yourself in the place of T.C. Mits. Write a paragraph or two about your day and how you are inundated by this Niagara of Words, and also how you contribute to it. What are some of the situations in which you are pulled and pushed by words? What are some of the situations in which poor or aggressive or dishonest communication leads to strive in your life?