Emojis, Expressive Interjections, and Epistemology, All In One Convenient Blog Post!!!!!!!!!!
For this post, “subject” will be used to define anything that can be understood e.g. an idea, a person, an object, etc. Please don’t take it as a dehumanizing word, because it isn’t intended to be. It’s just the most convenient word I could think of.
Do you ever just have a feeling about someone or something; like some indescribable knowledge of how that person or thing is, even if you may not know every fact there is to know about said person or thing? The ability to understand without ever receiving a comprehensive list of facts and information about the subject is a phenomenon that occurs all the time in the human mind, and it is a phenomenon that I find utterly fascinating.
I, myself, have friends and family members who I understand to varying degrees, or rather, I have come to an understanding about them. I think that phrasing fits better, since the understanding I have may not be the “Ultimate Understanding” of said person. I am tempted to cite Kant in saying that only one person, in being themself, is able to have an Ultimate Understanding or know the Truth about who they are, but even that is untrue. There are two reasons why this is wrong.
For one, a person may understand themselves less than the people who know them.
Secondly, the fact that the mind and the brain rely on different sections of themselves relaying information which is then interpreted by different sections of themselves refutes the possibility of any one section having a full understanding of the brain or mind.
Let’s assess these two points further, shall we?
The first point may seem a little strange, but hear me out. I’m not saying that everyone understands themself less than the people around them, but a person who knows another person for a long time probably has a better “big picture” understanding of the other, since their view is more objective. When a person assesses themself, they are more prone to distort their memories to be more congruent with how they are in the moment than how they actually were at the time. An outside observer is able to experience the evolution of the subject, and is likely to be a lot less biased by their opinion in the moment than their subject would be when understanding said subject. Now, it is true that an outside observer is unable to know or feel exactly what their subject is feeling, let alone experience it firsthand, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get any information at all about that side of things. People are quite good at both intentionally and unintentionally displaying emotions, even buried or repressed ones, through subtle (or sometimes quite unsubtle) body language, word choice, and tone of voice. Because of all this, it is entirely possible for someone else to understand a person better than they understand themself.
The second point connects to one of my previous posts which you can find here, which, en bref, explains how both the brain and the mind are made of multiple co-reliant intelligences that work together to create the self. In separating the self into more than one place, it is very hard for every component of the self to understand the whole self, since it only has its own pieces of the self to draw conclusions from. That’s not to say that the different components don’t try. The conscious mind is always trying to understand the subconscious mind, but the conscious mind just doesn’t have the tools to do that. Instead, the conscious mind ends up trying to interpret the information given by the subconscious, but is often wrong, or may never realize that there is information of any significance being given at all. Therefore, by all accounts, it is not possible for someone to Ultimately Understand themself.
Now that I have refuted Kant once, I have decided to take pity on his poor deceased soul and agree with him on something. Although I don’t agree that only an object or a person knows the Truth about itself, I do agree that no one would ever be able to understand a subject perfectly, even if a person’s senses knew no limits. This is because every single thing that a person can sense and know is subjected to interpretation over and over again, first when the knowledge is initially obtained, and every time that information is recalled.
So, if nothing can truly be known in an objective way, and since it’s impossible to know everything possible about a subject, Ultimate Understanding of a subject is, therefore, unachievable. Because of that, people rely on understanding based off of just enough knowledge to get by, and in no place, other than language, is this more evident.
As children, we heard the grownups around us use noises with their mouths to communicate, and soon we were doing the same. We learned how our native language worked through hearing it a whole ton, and there are many things that are a part of language that I personally would have never questioned if not for English class, since no one would have ever explained what the comma rules were, or why and how “everyday” is different in meaning from “every day.” Those are two examples of things I understood but could never name or explain. And I’m sure you’ve all used words that you can’t define before – so have I; I’m actually probably one of the most guilty of this. However, the use of a word that you can’t define will fly under the radar of those who can as long as you understand what a word means or how it is used in context. Most words are learned this way, actually, so I’m sure that there are a whole ton of words that you have never seen definitions for.
But what about symbols or sounds that convey meaning, but have not been defined or given the high status of “word?” That’s right, everybody; it’s time to talk about emojis and expressive interjections!
Okay, so upon mentioning emojis you may raise your eyebrow a little, but hear me out. The first written languages (ancient Aztec, Egyptian, and Chinese) were pictographic, meaning that these writing systems used uniform pictures to represent a real-life thing, and later developed complex systems to allow for more than just mountains, trees, and cattle to be depicted in this way. Now, I know that emojis would have a long way to go if people ever wanted to turn them into a pictographic writing system, but it seems that they are already on their way, in a sense. Their use in text helps convey tone of voice and intention in an otherwise emotionless script, and even though they are not necessary in our grammar, their use is quite valuable in many situations. However, one of the big differences between emojis and words are the fact that people don’t associate them with sound. Instead they are associated with a certain emotion – hence the name emoji – and are accessories to sentences rather than actual vocabulary.
Expressive interjections are also given this “accessory” status, although there are ways to write them with existing characters. Some you may recognize are: meh, ah, oh, ooh, eh, oi… the list goes on (here’s an actual list to prove it.) Yet, despite their frequent use in spoken, and sometimes even written language, they still aren’t recognized as words. It may be argued by some that it is because the tone in which these interjections are said in occasionally affect the meaning, and English does not have a way to denote tone, since it is not a tonal language like Japanese and the like. To that I would like to say that English has a lot of words that are spelt the same, but mean and/or sound different, and the only way to know which one is being used is in context, and that, I believe, applies to interjections as well.
So now it’s been established that the box we label “language” is heavily blurred at the edges, let’s look at some definitions.
The method of human communication, either gestured (I added this because sign language should be included), spoken, or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
A single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.
Distinct element of speech or writing, huh? 🤔
And right about now is when I finally acknowledge how sidetracked I have gotten.
Anyways, what I was trying to say is that there are many things in this world that lack a fitting definition, or any definition at all, but everything that there is any information on will be understood in some way by someone. That understanding, that feeling of unconscious familiarity, is what a great deal of our so-called knowledge is based on, and language, the ever-evolving medium that it is, is a real-time example of how our understanding and gut feeling about things shape what we say we know about the world.
Therefore, I state that every subject encountered can be understood without conscious effort to define it, and without every fact about the subject known.