I was explaining this concept to the young master yesterday -- that human beings, without anyone ever teaching them how, can spontaneously discern the treeness of trees, the dogginess of dogs, and the humanness of humans. Conversely, animals are nominalists: there is only this tree or that tree, but no concept or essence of treeness.
Along these same lines, we've had a number of recent discussions on What the Dog is Thinking. In truth, we can have no idea what it is like to be a dog, since we would have to remove language and conceptualization from the equation. A human can no more "think like a dog" than he can live like a tree. If we did so, we would no longer be men.
Without question, language is what sets us apart from the rest of creation. As with our spontaneous ability to discern essences, no one has to teach us how to speak. Rather, it happens as naturally as instinct does in lower animals.
In the case of animals, instinct is always a limiting principle, e.g., eat this and not that. But language for man is a liberating principle; or rather, it deploys limits in order to open out to the limitless.
There are three possibilities with language: first, it could be a purely horizontal phenomenon, simply assigning arbitrary symbols to concrete realities. Or, it could be reducible to something lower, as in how the ultimate purpose of birdsong is usually related to mating. Or again, it could open out to something higher, as in how, say, poetry uses words to express the wordless.
In reality it accomplishes each of these, for reasons outlined by Schuon above: man is the vertical bridge between form/flesh and essence/spirit. Language is a reflection of the universal Logos, and it seems to me that the Logos is this bridge, precisely. Thus, to the extent that man participates in the Logos, he makes himself the bridge between worlds.
Recall our recent posts on radial vs. circumferential knowledge. If you don't recall them, just imagine a circle with radii extending outward from the central point. Each radii is a celestial memo that carries the Logos with it, from the center to the periphery.
Now, everything is just such a radii, on pain of non-existence. A thing that exists completely apart from the center would be utterly unintelligible and absurd. For our purposes it might as well not exist.
And yet, this is the counter-philosophy of nominalism: that everything is a unique instance with no essential principle. Another name for this misosophy is "logical atomism," which denies wholeness and centrality. It retains a kind of totality, but this totality is just an agglomeration rather than synthesis.
Let's consider the words of our esteemed St. John the Apostle. Not through the eyes of faith, but, just for kicks, through the third eye of pure metaphysics. Wasting no time, he puts forth several essential principles at the outset:
1. In the beginning is the Word (a translation of the Greek Logos).
2. The Logos is with God.
3. The Logos is God.
4. All things are created through the Logos.
5. The Logos is a Him, therefore a person.
6. In the Logos is life, and this life is a kind of light for men.
7. But men have a tendency not to comprehend any of this.
How to make sense of this perfect nonsense? To jump ahead a bit, what if the Logos-Center, instead of merely radiating toward the periphery via centrifugal Logoi, actually incarnates at the periphery? In other words, what if, instead of mere prolongations of the Logos, we can have the real thing, right here, dwelling among us?
Analogously, this would be like the sun itself traveling to our planet instead of just showering us with its rays -- or maybe like Sun Ra somehow visiting planet earth.
It goes without saying that no mere animal can comprehend any of this. Rather, only a logocentric being can -- one who not only possesses language but understands where language comes from.
In effect, Genesis 1 speaks of the prolongation of the Logos to the periphery, AKA the Creation (without which -- or whom -- nothing is created). But John simultaneously parallels this passage while making the more startling claim that the creative principle decides to visit his creation.
I'll just conclude with a passage by Schuon, and hope it Wraps Things Up:
[H]uman subjectivity is such an amazing miracle that it is enough to prove both God and the immortality of the soul; God, because this extraordinarily profound and comprehensive subjectivity can be explained only by an absolute which substantially prefigures it and which projects it into accidence; and immortality, because the incomparable quality of this subjectivity has no sufficient reason, no reason proportionate to its excellence, within the narrow and ephemeral framework of this earthly life.
If it is merely to live like ants [or leftists -- G.B.], men have no need of their intellectual and moral possibilities, which amounts to saying that they have no need to be men; the very existence of man would then be a luxury as inexplicable as it is useless. Not to understand this is the most monstrous as well as most mysterious of blindnesses.
Mysterious perhaps, but ineveateapple. For the spirit shines in the flesh, but the fleshbound don't see it. For them, God has a bridge to sell. No, it's worse: He can't even give the bridge away!