Re: neonatal imitation

Bill Benzon (
Wed, 21 Oct 1998 08:04:49 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 08:04:49 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: neonatal imitation

>Bill Benzon wrote:

>I would have no problems in accepting this phenomenon, in case it was
>also present in at least some animals. If people and only people all of a
>sudden can do this, we have the same kind of macromutation Bickerton
>proposed to explain language.

Mario: The imitation we see in neonates seems to me quite modest. I
certainly don't know how it comes about but I don't think it has the same
sort of requirements as language via macromutation.

>That is what basically bothers me. It
>sounds to me as: 'And than God created imitation and man was born',

Well....if what you're thinking is that imitation is enacted by some
imitation module then, yes, this would seem to be some miracle. I am
rather doubtful of "modules" of that sort. For example, students of jazz
will spend hours learning and transcribing solos of musicians whose work
interests them. This is surely imitation, and it is also much more
sophisticated than neonatal imitation. I don't think we have to imagine
that the same "module" that handled neonatal tongue protrusion now
regulates the business of imitating a John Coltrane improvisation. That
"module" might play a role in the Coltrane imitation, but the Coltrane
imitation surely requires neural equipment that was uninsulated mush in the

>pretty much the same story as we heard and sometimes hear on language,
>consciousness, free will, ... which are all so said typically human,
>completely new, out of nothing characteristics which distinguish mankind
>from animalkind.

Well, sooner or later you're going to have to figure out how we can do
something utterly unlike our animal ancestors. The trick is to get the
miraculous effect without a miraculous cause.

Bill B

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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