McLuhan – Language extends and amplifies man but it also divides his faculties.

The presentation in the video is shows that a difference in kind between humans and chimps (and by presumption — at some point, at any rate — the ancestors of humans) is the trade-off between perception and higher order processing in the actual percentages of dedicated areas of the brain.

It struck me that Marshall McLuhan discussed this speculation a half-century ago. (See below.) Indeed, novelty (if not progress) in awareness entailing gain and loss was an axiom to his theory of media.

Might experimental explorations of McLuhan’s thought be something possible to pursue?

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… It is the extension of man in speech that enables the intellect to detach itself from the vastly wider reality. Without language,
Bergson suggests, human intelligence would have remained totally involved in the objects of its attention. Language does for intelligence what the wheel does for the the feet and the body. It
enables them to move from thing to thing with greater ease and speed and ever less involvement. Language extends and amplifies man but it also divides his faculties. His collective consciousness or intuitive awareness is diminished by this technical extension of consciousness
that is speech.

Understanding Media, (The Spoken Word)
Marshall McLuhan, 1964

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Anthony Olszewski

Anthony Olszewski has written on a wide variety of topics: cage birds, tropical fish, popular culture, the poetry of Amiri Baraka and a chapter on genetics for a veterinary text book, as a small sample. He worked as an editor at a magazine produced by TFH, the world's largest publisher of pet books. Anthony Olszewski is the author of a booklet on Hudson County history, Hudson County Facts, and a book of short stories, Second Thief, Best Thief, that are sold on Amazon. Anthony Olszewski established in 1996. A pioneer on the Web, the Site continues to provide unique information on a range of companion animals, focusing on birds and fish. As a community service, he operates Jersey City Free Books. Anthony Olszewski was born in Jersey City, NJ (Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital, 1956) and is a member of Mensa. Email at

2 thoughts on “McLuhan – Language extends and amplifies man but it also divides his faculties.”

  1. Indeed it was 50 years ago and is being celebrated in Toronto…
    Monday, November 10th, 4:00pm: A Dialogue with Professors B. W. Powe and Robert K. Logan
    St. Michael’s Book and Media Program presents An Event Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Publication of Marshall McLuhan’s Book Understanding Media: Extensions of Man. A Dialogue with Professors Bruce W. Powe and Robert K. Logan moderated by Marc Glassman on Monday, November 10th, 2014.
    Pre-Event Reception: 4:00 pm; Dialogue Event: 4:30 – 6:00 pm.
    Location: Fr. Robert Madden Hall, Carr Hall, 100 St. Joseph Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1J4

  2. btw, McLuhan himself did think that experiments in percepts was useful. One thing he and his team tried out was presenting material to students with various media and including live in class room as well. McLuhan believed TV was not being used very well as teaching tool.

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