The Relevance of Advanced Vocabulary to Rationality

Edit: I re­al­ise that I fool­ishly over-com­pli­cated and worded my ques­tion in a way that ob­scured what I ac­tu­ally meant. In essence, my ques­tion was: if we didn’t have spe­cial­ised vo­cab­u­lary for things—say, in the area of ra­tio­nal­ity—would our ra­tio­nal­ity be ham­pered by our in­abil­ity to be spe­cific with­out long-wind­ed­ness? Often words are cre­ated to bridge this gap when new con­cepts are cre­ated, so if we didn’t have those words, would it take longer for us to un­der­stand or com­mu­ni­cate and idea (to oth­ers or our­selves) and make it more difficult to be ra­tio­nal?

From the di­rec­tion of the com­ments the gen­eral an­swer to my ini­tial ques­tion is com­ing across as: “words are use­ful for com­mu­ni­cat­ing ex­plic­itly, and so an ex­ten­sive or highly spe­cial­ised vo­cab­u­lary can be use­ful, if and only if the per­son/​peo­ple with whom you are com­mu­ni­cat­ing un­der­stands those words”. The in­ter­nal un­der­stand­ing of con­cepts does not need words and thus a vo­cab­u­lary.

I am cu­ri­ous about the rele­vance of vo­cab­u­lary to ra­tio­nal­ity. I’m not talk­ing about a ba­sic vo­cab­u­lary, but a vo­cab­u­lary be­yond that of the av­er­age, English-as-a-first-lan­guage adult. I be­lieve there are a few cor­re­la­tions be­tween in­tel­li­gence as mea­sured by IQ and vo­cab­u­lary, as well as vo­cab­u­lary and in­come(via IQ), but anec­do­tally I think it’s fair to say that there are cer­tainly peo­ple who are highly in­tel­li­gent, but of­ten ir­ra­tional.

In read­ing through LW, I’ve come across a lot of new terms spe­cific to cer­tain ar­eas of study, and I’ve had to look them up to fully un­der­stand that dis­cus­sion of ra­tio­nal­ity—I as­sume this is prob­a­bly true of most peo­ple new to the field, and ap­plies to most spe­cial­ised fields. Jar­gon is ob­vi­ously use­ful within given fields where there is a need for de­tailed dis­cus­sion of highly spe­cial­ised top­ics, and helps one to dis­cuss that area, but is it nec­es­sary to un­der­stand that jar­gon in or­der to prac­tice in the field?

For ex­am­ple, I would think that a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner would have trou­ble within his field if he did not hold the lan­guage to be able to spec­ify what, in par­tic­u­lar, was wrong with a pa­tient, even if he knew what it was. Or could he not even be able to un­der­stand, say, that a pa­tient was hav­ing a heart at­tack if he did not have the words for it? I sup­pose his­tory might be a good in­di­ca­tor of this, or new sci­en­tific phe­nom­ena.

The field of ra­tio­nal­ity is one of both prac­tice and the­ory—but if we didn’t have an ad­vanced vo­cab­u­lary, could we still be highly ra­tio­nal? For ex­am­ple, my step­father didn’t finish high school, and makes up words like “ob­stropolous” (which I think kind of means stub­born and difficult to deal with on pur­pose) to say what he means, but he’s also the type of per­son who, in a emer­gency, takes the most log­i­cal, ra­tio­nal course of ac­tion with­out pan­ick­ing or do­ing some­thing silly. On the flip side of this, he makes grand gen­er­al­i­sa­tions about races, re­li­gions and peo­ple while re­fus­ing to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ities of in­di­vi­d­u­al­ity, or con­ced­ing any part of his ar­gu­ment to, well, ev­i­dence.

So do you have an ar­gu­ment for or against the need for an ad­vanced or spe­cial­ised vo­cab­u­lary to be ra­tio­nal? Is it a ques­tion that’s too vague, or with too vari­able an an­swer? I couldn’t find any sci­en­tific pa­pers on ra­tio­nal­ity and vo­cab­u­lary, so I don’t know if there’s any data for or against, but I think it’s an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion.

(This is my first LW ar­ti­cle, so please be gen­tle but thor­ough with any crit­i­cisms you may have—I’m happy to im­prove or clar­ify!)