I feel like Langer’s statement that we are special and intelligent because of our ability to think outside of factual information ties nicely into our thought experiment/discussion in class on Tuesday regarding our studies in the field of humanities. Abstract thought (or as Langer called it, use of symbolism) is a key component of humanities; it’s the very thing that allows us to think critically, to analyze everything instead of blindly accepting what’s directly in front of us as the full truth.
To play a bit of devil’s advocate, however, I feel like Langer might be incorrect in stating that animals exist entirely in reality. She makes the broad statement that language (specifically, names) is what allows humans to be so different; this negates the fact that images and ideas can still exist in an abstract form. Consider the basic human emotion of sorrow after losing a loved one; humans know this well, they express it through tears and oftentimes create art as a way to cope with their loss. I have seen animals who refused to cope with the loss of another animal, such as a cat my family once had who starved herself to death shortly after we put down one of our dogs. Animals may not have a concept of death like humans do, but they can think in abstract enough to know not only when something is present, but also when something is missing. Yet, not all animals do this in all situations.
Still, I agree that language plays a huge role in our perception of the world. I believe this was actually briefly discussed in my online Expository Writing class last year; even the language we use shapes the world we live in. Some languages have more words for “happy” and others for “sad” which can, if only on a subconscious level, shape how a person thinks of the world. On this point, I fully agree that humans have the ability to be very different from animals.