~ P r e h e n s i l e B r a i n s ~
PROPOSITION: Homo sapiens' ability to grasp with the hands evolved into being as one and the same process as Homo sapiens' ability to grasp with the mind. By grasping with the mind is meant the encapsulation in sound of abstractions/generalizations extrapolated from the otherwise undifferentated flow of experiences (…“life” for lack of a better word). In other words, to grasp with the mind is to form concepts in the form of words, to be a linguistic being.
This mental grasping is COMPREHENSION. The etymology of comprehension is it is derived from the Latin verb comprehendere, which means literally “to grasp (prehendere) together (com)”. Concepts are those things which the mind grasps in the form of words; the word concept etymologically means literally “that which is taken together” because the word descends ultimately from the Latin verb concapere “to take (capere) together (con)”. We can think of the Homo sapiens' hand with its ability to grasp because of opposable thumbs as a prehensile hand — prehensile stemming from the same Latin verb in (com)prehension.
We see this same distinction in other languages, for instance, in German. The German word for comprehend is begreifen, which is a prefixed form of the word for grasp: greifen “to grasp”. The word for concept is Begriff, which is composed of the same prefix be- and the same lexical root √GR-F as the verb be-gr(ei)f-en “to comprehend”. Short and sweet what all this means is that the German word for comprehend basically means simply “to grasp”, and the word for concept means literally “that which is grasped”, just like in the English Latinate examples.
So! The hand grasps, the mind grasps. The hand grasps tools formed from elements pulled out of nature and shaped willfully into things non-natural, artifical; and the mind grasps concepts which are abstractions/generalizations extrapolated from the otherwise undifferentiated flow of experiences.
Are words merely tools, or do they truly represent realities? This problem is analogous to that of Plato, who said all we observe in our lives are like the shadows against the wall of a cave: we only see the shadows of what is real. Are words but shadows? Are the concepts that words stand for realities, or are the realities really beyond the mind's ability to comprehend?
Is not reality bigger than the mind? Or is the mind reality?
The Brain's Eye The Human LieA human can put a circle around an arbitrary set of phonetic features, and claim it to be a single entity — a phoneme (not real, just willed); and a human can put a circle around an arbitrary semantic domain, even a jerry-mandered one, and claim it as a single entity — a lexme (not real, just willed). Language is just so, so human precisely because it is made up by the human will. Language is all human make-believe, all human arrogance — the mendacious audacity to consider the limits of one's perceptions as DEFINITIONS!
Define is from the Old French verb definer which is from Latin definire which is composed of prefix de- (expressing completion) plus verb finire from noun finis “end” — hence to define means to bring to the end or limit of…
…the limit of what?
The limit of human comprehension.
“All I know is I know nothing.” Socrates (just before he passed away)
“The world is my representation.” Schopenhauer (millennia later)