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Re: [xmca] The "mechanical OTHER" at the heart of Modernity
I always appreciate your perspectives which require me to pause and think.
I see a text, which to me has the same relationship to a mind that a tool
has to a natural organ.
And when Blake rotates his Newton so that I am in the place once occupied
by Newton's compass, I feel that I am part of the picture--not part of a
machine (although I think I would prefer to be part of a machine than part
of a landscape, for the simple reason that I would prefer to live in a home
than in a cave). I feel I am part of text, that is, part of an ongoing
dialogue, a discourse
David, you FEEL you are part of a text, that is part of an ongoing
dialogue, a discourse. I PERSONALLY couldn't agree more with this feeling.
Vygotsky and Bahktin and others may also SHARE this feeling.
In fact, Newton himself, may also have had this relation to science.
However, is it possible that there is a modern "imago" [social imaginary]
that does NOT express this relation between science [as text] and mind??
In the same way that an earlier time in our culture expressed a living
imago with God at its center, is it possible that the wonderful USES of
science [as techne] have "colonized and generalized" beyond the realm of
techne to dominate phronesis [practical knowledge]
I agree with you that we should celebrate the wondeful advances in
technology that allow us to live in homes rather than caves. I'm even
willing to consider the Enlightenment as emancipatory [for its time]
However, I also "read" Blake as seeing the POTENTIAL future of a time when
our USING our design knowledge in the service of phronesis would become
colonized by techne phronesis move into the shadows.
David, you may be USING science to further phronesis [and Vygotsky and
Bhaktin] and celebrating the design knowledge that modernity produces.
When I read about the birth of modern science [for example when Islam
transcribed ancient Greek texts and then elaborated further extensions of
this knowledge] I sense they were living within "texts" relating to "minds"
However, at the same time, as a cultural "imago" [scientism] as a dominant
mechanical imago may be strangling phronesis which has to struggle for
vitality. David, could your project be seen as breathing new life into
science and making it a VITAL HUMAN activity by returning it to its
grounding in "text"?
On Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 2:55 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
> Let me try to defend modernism. Or rather, let me let Vygotsky try to do
> it. But first I want to defend that painting of Isaac Newton.
> Yes, it is true; Newton is hunched over a compass; coiled like a spring.
> Yes, it's true, that the whole of the composition decends, with the most
> powerful line a painter can muster, to the circle that he is scribing there.
> Blake knows his stuff--he has probably studied this similar composition by
> He knows that in our time we don't look at paintings as windows, but
> rather as texts: we "read" them from upper left to lower right. (This is
> also, according to Arnheim, why when you watch a movie you will see more
> people going from right to left than from left to right.)
> But just like reading a text, we allow our eye to be arrested by important
> figures and parts of speech. So Blake--and Caravaggio--direct our eye along
> a straight line, from upper left to lower right, stopping only with
> the crucial object, a tool, in the bottom right hand corner, like a period.
> I agree, the effect is most powerful and not a little sinister, and it
> does remind you of Blake's lines in "Mock On, Mock On, Voltaire, Rousseau":
> Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
> Mock on, mock on; 'tis all in vain!
> You throw the sand against the wind,
> And the wind blows it back again.
> And every sand becomes a gem
> Reflected in the beams divine;
> Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
> But still in Israel's paths they shine.
> The Atoms of Democritus
> And Newton's Particles of Light
> Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
> Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.
> (Newton's 'Opticks' was particularly unpopular with the romantics, and
> Goethe spent considerable time "refuting" it with his own theory. Goethe's
> theory does refrain from "analysis into elements", but it also refrains
> from Newtonian explanation.)
> But wait a minute. The painting ALSO reminds one of this one, called "The
> Ancient of Days", which is Blake's image of God creating the universe!
> You can see that the composition is very different: here Blake uses
> foreshortening to include YOU in the picture. But the actual content is
> completely identical in every way.
> So too with the machine the heart of modernity. In the second chapter of
> "The HIstory of the Development of the Higher Mental Functions", Vygotsky
> is developing the distinction between phylogenesis and sociogenesis.
> Naziism is on the rise, and he wants, above all, to point out how the very
> principles development change as we move from the former to the latter, and
> we cannot consider sociogenesis as a form of the struggle of one biological
> type (e.g. species or race) against another.
> He explicitly says that the distinctive characteristic of sociogenesis is
> NO change in the biological type of man. Every member of the human race
> can, as a result, learn any human language. This by itself, I think, strips
> racism of any scientific rationale it could ever possibly have.
> But then how do we account for the astonishing advances made by social
> progress over natural evolution? Vygotsky says that natural evolution is
> the result of the systems f activity endowed by natural organs, which
> gradually, but very uneconomically, expand their affordances in the process
> of transforming function into form--yes, through adapting to the
> As soon as we have "artificial organs"--Abraham's knife, and Newton's
> compass--the process is turned on its head. The tool-endowed creature does
> not adapt to the environment but instead adapts the environment to
> himself. Just as nature was taken as "given" in the earlier type of
> adaptation, now the human body can be taken as given and unchanging in the
> later type of adaptation.
> (Some people have interpreted Vygotsky's argument that artificial organs
> "take up" where natural organs "leave off" as a statement equivalent to
> saying that phylogenesis comes to a halt with sociogenesis. In fact, he
> explicitly says the opposite, and he brings in change in the physical type
> of man AGAIN in the form of child growth, when he discusses
> ontogenesis. But what DOES happen is that biological change can be "set
> aside" in much the same way that environmental change is "set aside" in
> Now, where do we look for these artificial organs? That is, where do we
> look for the compass of Newton and the Ancient of Days and the knife of
> Abraham? Actually, we find them exactly where the Nazis, and even
> Caravaggio, would tell us NOT to look: amongst children, sick people, weak
> people, and the very old. It is here that natural organs give out and
> artificial organs are created. And above all it is HERE, with the dying off
> of the older generation, that it becomes absolutely imperative to create
> artificial intelligence--that is, signs.
> You see, when I look at Blake's Newton, and his "Ancient of Days", I do
> not just see a mechanical line bisecting the canvas. I see a text, which
> to me has the same relationship to a mind that a tool has to a natural
> And when Blake rotates his Newton so that I am in the place once occupied
> by Newton's compass, I feel that I am part of the picture--not part of a
> machine (although I think I would prefer to be part of a machine than part
> of a landscape, for the simple reason that I would prefer to live in a home
> than in a cave). I feel I am part of text, that is, part of an ongoing
> dialogue, a discourse. Is that really such a bad place for a human being?
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> --- On Wed, 1/18/12, Huw Lloyd <email@example.com> wrote:
> From: Huw Lloyd <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The "mechanical OTHER" at the heart of Modernity
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
> Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 9:11 AM
> On 18 January 2012 15:54, Larry Purss <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > Andy & Huw
> > I want to thank you for your wonderful passionate dialogue on bringing
> > abstract to the concrete.
> > As I'm struggling to listen in [within my ZPD] I believe this talk is
> > central to my understanding.
> > I also am trying to locate the "temporal" in this process as Mike is
> > asking.
> > I did not want to interrupt the conversation between Huw and Andy but
> > wanted to post a paragraph I "sense" may be exploring similar topics. It
> > by Eugene Halton in his revoicing Mead in his article "Pragmatic
> > as he writes to Mead to say how his ideas are NOW received. [p.46]
> > Halton is talking to Mead about Peirce's idea that a SIGN has a REALITY
> > any given moment as a POTENTIAL EXISTENCE. He then writes,
> > Modern materialism would consider all of this reducible to ACTUAL
> > existence. Peirce claimed that such a NOMINALIST way of thinking,
> > OFF generality in the name of Occam's razor, actually cuts its own throat
> > and ultimately renders science inexplicable. What if the modern era and
> > earnest scientists have been working for the MYTH of the macine,
> > the subjective CLOCKWORK culture of their time ONTO the objective
> > truly DISCOVERING with the PRECISION of William Blake's painting of
> > the TRUTH of the SINGLE-visioned PART, while sacrificing the VISION of
> > whole reality? Blake's Newton, supple but hunched over his COMPASS,
> > blinded to his SURROUNDS, is a VISUALIZATION of the paradox of ACCURATE
> > viewing of the PART and blindness to the whole. To put this in Peircean
> > terms, MODERN SCIENCE is corrupt in its NOMINALISM, treating the REALITY
> > GENERALITY which are the BASIS [round, foundation] of its LIFE, as
> > UNREAL...... The modern worldview has been dominated by the MACHINE, by
> > universe of a giant CLOCK, and more recently the brain as a computer.
> > These are NOT simply empty metaphors, but LIVING symbols of the MYTH OF
> > TIME, namely, that ultimately REALITY is a kind of machine and WE BUT
> > of it. The mythic element in this is the IDEALIZATION of the machine as
> > defining nature, OF THE AUTOMATIC [closed designed systems] AND the
> > SIMULTANEOUS denigration of the SPONTANEOUS. [which becomes shadow]
> > [the machine model] is an ALIENATION of human PURPORT, of the automatic
> > portions OF PURPORT [ DESIGNED activity???] EXPANSIVELY PROJECTED out,
> > IRONICALLY [rhetorically??] in the NAME of anti-teleological and even
> > anti-mythical as VIRTUAL DIETY substitute. Today that IMAGO [living
> > cultural-historical metaphor] has come to DOMINATE in the diffusion of
> > TECHNOLOGY [techne] and its COLONIZATION of the self through a plethora
> > devives.""
> Hi Larry,
> I think there are many ways you can relate this narration. What is central
> here for you?
> > I am not sure if others are linking or bridging these ideas to the
> > conversation betweenHuw and Andy but I for one see "family resemblances"
> > Larry
> > __________________________________________
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