Skip to main content

Quotes on our embodiment and our language

Our physical gestures may be part of our speech, an ability that is surely culturally conditioned but that may also be innate, one that we cannot help but express. Marco Iacoboni:

"...even though we know the gestures can't be seen, we all tend to gesture when we speak over the phone. Indeed, we gesture when we talk to the blind, and the congenitally blind also gesture when they talk, even though they have never seen people gesturing.

"Bizarre? Not really. In his book Hand and Mind, David McNeill argues that 'gestures and language are one system,' that 'gestures are an integral part of language as much as are words, phrase, and sentences.' ...if her hand moves under the left side of the [mathematical] equation, then stops, then moves again under the right side of the equation, the movement reveals that her mind is starting to grasp the concept that an equation has two sides that are separate but somehow related. ...her hand may form a narrow C to indicate the skinny glass and a wider C to indicate the wider dish. While her words focus only on the difference in height between glass and dish, her hands emphasize the compensatory greater width of the dish, compared with the glass. With her hands, she's catching on, and the words will soon follow."

This may be due in large part to the things that we think about and discuss. Many of the topics we verbalize have a physical reality. Ray Kurzweil:

"Now consider: How many of Molly's [diary] entries would make sense if she didn't have a body? Most of Molly's mental activities are directed toward her body and its survival, security, nutrition, image, not to mention related issues of affection, sexuality, and reproduction. But Molly is not unique in this regard. I invite my other readers to look at their own diaries. And if you don't have one, consider what you would write in it if you did. How many of your entries would make sense if you didn't have a body?"

Our bodily awareness comes to us at a young age before we are capable of other abstract thought. Rollo May:

"This also means that we need to recover our awareness of our bodies. An infant gets part of his early sense of personal identity through awareness of his body. 'We may call the body as experienced by the infant,' says Gardner Murphy, 'The first core of the self.' ... Since such [physical sensations, sexual and otherwise] are a way of identifying himself, the taboo would clearly imply, 'Your image of yourself is dirty.' This undoubtedly is one important part of the origin of the tendency to despise the self in our society."


Marco Iacoboni. Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect With Others. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. pp. 79-81.

Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. New York: Penguin Group, 1999. p. 134.

Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself, New York: W.W.Norton & Co., Inc., 1953. p 106.


Popular posts from this blog

Castration at the Battle of Adwa (1896)

On March 1, 1896, the Battle of Adwa "cast doubt upon an unshakable certainty of the age – that sooner or later Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans." In this battle, Ethiopians beat back the invading Italians and forced them to retreat permanently. It was not until 1922 that Benito Mussolini would again initiate designs against Ethiopia; despite Ethiopia's defeat in 1936, the nation ultimately retained its independence. "Adwa opened a breach that would lead, in the aftermath of world war fifty years later, to the rollback of European rule in Africa. It was," Raymond Jonas wrote, "an event that determined the color of Africa." (p. 1) It was also significant because it upheld the power of Ethiopia's Christian monarchy that controlled an ethnically diverse nation (p. 333), a nation in which, in the late 19th century, the Christian Emperor Yohannes had tried to force Muslims to convert to Christianity. (p. 36) The Victorian English spelli

Review of Cliff Sims' 'Team of Vipers' (2019)

After he resigned his position, Cliff Sims spent two months in Fall 2018 writing Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House . Many stories are told, some already well known to the public, some not. One buys this book, most likely, to gape at the colossal flameout spectacle that is Donald Trump, as with most things with Trump's name. Sims exposes the thoughtlessness, the chaos, the lack of empathy among his fellow insiders in the campaign and later in the White House, but he does not at all acknowledge the real consequences for ordinary Americans — there might as well be no world outside the Trump insider bubble, for all this narrative concerns itself with — and therefore falls far short of fully grappling with the ethical implications of his complicity. Previously, Sims was a journalist. "I had written tough stories, including some that helped take down a once-popular Republican governor in my home state," he says. "I had done my best to be

The ‘prostitute with a gun’ was a middle-class high school girl

On May 19, 1992, Amy Fisher, a 17-year-old high school student in Long Island, N.Y., rang the bell at the home of 37-year-old Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Buttafuoco stepped onto her front porch and had a brief conversation with the girl, whom she had never met before. Fisher then shot her in the face and fled the scene. Neighbors heard the shot and rushed to Buttafuoco's aid. She regained consciousness the next day in a hospital and was able to recall the conversation with her attacker. This information helped police to promptly identify and arrest Fisher. Fisher's explanation of her action shocked the nation. She claimed that she had been lovers with her victim's husband, Joey Buttafuoco, 36, since the previous summer when she was still only 16. While those who knew Buttafuoco believed him to be a pillar of the community, Fisher said he perpetrated auto theft scams. She claimed he introduced her to a life of prostitution, such that she wore a beeper to her high school classes an