Ideas of Benjamin Lee Whorf, by Theme

[American, 1897 - 1941, Born in Winthrop. Anthropologist, who did fieldwork with Hopi Indians to study their language. Died at Wethersfield.]

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13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 5. Language Relativism
Language arranges sensory experience to form a world-order
     Full Idea: Language first of all is a classification and arrangement of the stream of sensory experience which results in a certain world-order.
     From: Benjamin Lee Whorf (Punctual and segmentive Hopi verbs [1936], p.55)
     A reaction: This is only true to a limited degree. See Davidson's 'On the very idea of a conceptual scheme'. All humans share a world-order, to some extent.
Hopi consistently prefers verbs and events to nouns and things
     Full Idea: Hopi, with its preference for verbs, as contrasted to our own liking for nouns, perpetually turns our propositions about things into propositions about events.
     From: Benjamin Lee Whorf (An American Indian model of the Universe [1936], p.63)
     A reaction: This should provoke careful thought about ontology - without concluding that it is entirely relative to language.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 4. Paradigm
Scientific thought is essentially a specialised part of Indo-European languages
     Full Idea: What we call "scientific thought" is a specialisation of the western Indo-European type of language.
     From: Benjamin Lee Whorf (An American Indian model of the Universe [1936], p.246)
     A reaction: This is the beginnings of an absurd extreme relativist view of science, based on a confusion about meaning and thought.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 2. Time / b. Tensed (A) time
The Hopi have no concept of time as something flowing from past to future
     Full Idea: A Hopi has no general notion or intuition of time as a smooth flowing continuum in which everything in the universe proceeds at an equal rate, out of a future, through a present, into a past.
     From: Benjamin Lee Whorf (An American Indian model of the Universe [1936], p.57)
     A reaction: If true, this would not so much support relativism of language as the view that that conception of time is actually false.