Modality Independence

A striking feature of language is that it is modality-independent. Should an impaired child be prevented from hearing or producing sound, its innate capacity to master a language may equally find expression in signing […]

This feature is extraordinary. Animal communication systems routinely combine visible with audible properties and effects, but not one is modality independent. No vocally impaired whale, dolphin or songbird, for example, could express its song repertoire equally in visual display. “

This would be hard to explain if consciousness were due to information processing, as we would expect all communication to share a common logical basis. The fact that only human language is modality invariant suggests that communication, as an expression of consciousness is local to aesthetic textures rather than information-theoretic configurations.

Since only humans have evolved to create an abstraction layer that cuts across aesthetic modalities, it would appear that between aesthetic modality and information content, aesthetic modality is the more fundamental and natural phenomenon. Information is derived from conscious presentation, not the other way around.

  1. March 20, 2014 at 4:00 am

    Reblogged this on "The Whole Hurly Burly" and commented:
    the wonders to consider… thank you Multisense!

    • March 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks N.! Looks like some of your readers liked it.

      • March 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm

        my pleasure…how could they not 🙂

  2. March 22, 2014 at 3:36 am

    James Hillman reminds us that “image is primary.” By image he does not mean a picture, but some immediate (non-mediated) preverbal sense of knowing that we all experience that is etymologically related to the word appearance or phenomena, or as you say, presentation.

    • March 22, 2014 at 4:39 am

      Nice, yes, maybe image with more of the connotation that is carried in the word ‘imagination’.

  3. March 22, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    nice article. I dont understand your key term ‘aesthetic modality’ yet. But we have some unique abilities. Lets just say that information is derived from conscious presentation. If this is true then I would say we need critical thinking/rational analysis tools all the more. Some crazy phenomena can happen between the eyes and ears, so we need to hold each other accountable for outgoing statements.

    • March 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      Thanks. By aesthetic modality I’m talking about the sensory experience that informs us rather than any information itself. Seeing a traffic light turn red, or seeing a stop sign both contain the same information, but the aesthetic modality is different. As humans, our language gives us a concept of Stop that is independent of either kind of signal, but other animals do not grasp the common sense of the signals.

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