Do words create the idea?

It’s clear!

Bertrand Perier, lawyer: “It is quite clear to me that words create the idea and not the other way around.” Amazing divinization of communication, words that would be there before their constituent abstractions. It is the transposition to the language of creationism; a God formed of all possible words is at the origin of each of our daily thoughts. Certainly such a religion can seduce a lawyer, whose pantheon is made of speeches with exceptional eloquence. But is it realistic?

How to explain, for example, the neologism, an invention condensed by an idea that desperately orbits a group of words without managing to land on one of them? How to explain the history of words, a slow succession of births and transformations? Many of today’s words no longer correspond to yesterday’s ideas. Rather, they are fossils, used or stored according to the durability of the thing they designate.

They designate, and in this sense influence the race of ideas. Crossroads in a huge network of concepts. Horizontal crossroads, and also vertical, in a complex hierarchy elevated since the early beginnings of language.

From perception to language

What is the relationship, about a subject, between perception, meaning (semantics), verbalization (language)? I see an apple, recognize it, put a word on it. The 3 operations seem independent and yet closely intertwined. Neuroscience on the neural networks involved is vague. Those of perception, semantics and language are aligned with a shift. For example, in a cortical region dedicated to visual representation, the neural groups dedicated to perception occupy mainly the posterior part and those of semantics the anterior part. The study of memories shows that it is the semantic networks that are activated. Our memory is one of meaning rather than perception.

The vagueness in neuroscience comes from a vision too horizontal, too juxtaposed networks. They are in fact hierarchical in a relative independence: semantics, and memory, can only exist above perception. The existence of the apple in my mind can do without an apple in my field of vision, but not the visual networks that make the image of the apple. In their absence, I could still appeal to the ‘apple’ concept but would be unable to associate it with an image. The concept would be emptied of any substance and would remain as a label without the goods.

Thickening of perception into abstraction

This theory of surimposition of meanings by neurons, called Stratium, also explains that words are not concepts. Words are just as closely associated with concepts as perceptions, but are independent of them. It is in this way that there is a relationship from concept to word (the concept can be associated with different words in several languages) and from word to concept (the word can be broken down into syllables and be recomposed for counterpetry or point to neighboring concepts).

With surimposition we understand that a basic perception can be “thickened” by a semantics, or rather by several successive layers, while remaining well delimited thanks to the association with a word. Complexification and delimitation, keeping its coherence to a mind that deepens its representation of the world.

Let us now correct Bertrand Perier’s statement: “It is quite clear that words delimit the idea but this one, naturally changing, is constantly looking for a way out, forcing other battalions of words to come and identify it again”.


1 thought on “Do words create the idea?”

  1. If we take a leap backwards, and think about things such as emergence and evolution, we may be able to conceive this notion. It seems within the realm of human development that there was a time before language. How long or short that time was is chicken and egg material, exquisitely arguable.—perfect for anthropology or philosophy. Language must have begun slowly, one sort of grunt for ‘yes’, another for ‘no’. How primitives formed ideas person, place or thing is not easy to calculate. But they must have had some sense of a mental process, informing them of their world. Call that what you will. I call it: idea.


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