Sep 21, 2010 -- posted by Emile
Imagine a cave, deep – so deep that sunlight can’t protrude into the cave, big – so big that multiple people would be able to occupy the cave, moist – so moist that water is dripping from the rocks, and inhabited by bats – so many bats that killing a lot of them wouldn’t lead the bats into extinction.
Now imagine we place a young man is placed inside the cave. The only things the man knows, are the things that exist in the cave. The man doesn’t know of the outside world.
But consider the following: the man has everything needed for his survival at his disposal. If he needs water, he grabs a rock and licks it, if he needs food, he can eat a bat or pluck moss of the rocky walls.
If we would observe this man over time, what would we see? He would have no concept of dark and light, as everything in the cave is pitch black. His eyes would become useless, as he can only “see” darkness. Every observation of his surroundings would be made through scent, hearing and feeling. He would be able to hear the bats and by feeling, he would be able to find the rocks that surround him. He might even be able to get an impression of the size of the cave.
Secondly, we would see the man doesn’t use speech. He would be a most silent man as he has no need whatsoever to communicate. He is alone and has never even seen a fellow human. As a result of this (and his “blindness”), perhaps, the man also wouldn’t be able to write or draw, as there is no need for him to leave written messages to other people. What he would do, however, is make mental associations that we wouldn’t make. For example, the concept “rock” might be associated with “water” for him, as his only water source is the water that drips from the rocks, and the concept “bat” will be associated with “food”. Abstract concepts however, would most likely be unknown to him. The concept of “light” for instance, will be absent, as he does not know light (explaining this concept to him will also be impossible!). Just imagine what the concept “everything” must mean to him!
So now I raise the question: what form of communication would the man rely on if a new person enters the cave (in which the new person, also doesn’t know anything apart from the cave)?
To be continued… (perhaps)