My notion is that we could not understand the speech of a lion because lions could not have any conceivable share in our world. Let me attempt to clarify this thought over the coming weeks. Today, an analogy adapted from Georges Bataille. Comments welcome.

The foundation of a philosopher’s thought is the thought of another; a philosophical text is like a brick cemented into a wall. The text is the new brick. The new brick is not less visible than the adjoining bricks in the text. What the author offers the reader is not a simple element, therefore, but the ensemble into which it is woven: it is the whole human assemblage and edifice (a self-consciousness).

Similarly, what is offered in linguistic communication cannot be an element, but the aggregate into which it is inserted. Not merely fragments or scraps, but the whole human ensemble, as it were. If a lion could speak, we could only be offered a scrap. Disintergrated material. Detritus. To revert to an example from yesterday, if a zoo lion says to you in English, “Life is unfair. I was born in captivity, and I shall die in captivity”, how could I conceivably follow-up with the lion, or encourage him to explain in more detail, or console him, or any of a myriad possibilities. The lion is not a part of our world. If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.