[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Searching for essence

There is an early draft (apparently) of this same paper in the Cambridge compilation "Mind, Culture, and Activity" published in 1997 by LCHC (pp. 164-184). It's very interesting to read them side by side and see where the author changed and where he did not; almost like watching someone produce the first violin (and saying that's not quite "it" without being able to say what "it" would really sound like) or a child practicing a violin (making "it" better without really knowing what kind of "it" it is supposed to be) . 
It's an exquisite example of how the tension between form and material is part of every semiotic substance. But one of the differences between the two versions I noticed right away is that in the later article, the author adds a lot more personal information, including the interesting detail that he is a flautist. Now it seems to me that this is a clue to the whole problem.
I think that the ideal that the development of the violin (phylogenetic and ontogenetic) is striving for is, in an odd way, the same as that of a Jane Austen novel: it is an idealized human voice (in Austen, one whose every sentence in a conversation is perfectly constructed, and all diction is well chosen, in the the violin, one whose every nuance of intonation  is perfectly realized and all stress is well placed).
Now the strange thing is that a flute really is the shape and even the size of the human vocal tract, and the principle which creates the sound (the vibration of a column of air caused by the obstruction of a blown air current) is quite exactly the same. So why is it that the violin sounds so much more like a human voice to us? I think the answer lies not in its purity, but precisely in its dirtiness--that is, the overtones created by the resonance chamber. 
So the essence of an ideal human voice is not purity but filth.Paradoxical? Yes, but the mere fact that something is profoundly paradoxical and even completely contradictory does very little to prevent it from being real and true.
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies 

--- On Tue, 5/29/12, deborah downing-wilson <ddowningw@gmail.com> wrote:

From: deborah downing-wilson <ddowningw@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Searching for essence
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012, 10:49 AM

Might the classic chapter by Ernest Boesch (attached) where he muses about
the strange goal of "beautiful sound"  be an interesting contribution to
this conversation?

On Mon, May 28, 2012 at 2:35 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

> Larry:
> I think we are talking about two different procedures for doing the same
> thing which yield very different results because the two different
> procedures are essentially different. It is lie Spinoza's example of
> teaching about circles using the moon or ripples on a pond on the one hand
> or using a pencil on a string on the other: you are going to get circles in
> both cases, but the process is so different that the result is never going
> to be exactly the same.
> Suppose we posit that there is something called an "aesthetic reaction" or
> an "aesthetic response". (Vygotsky uses this term only in his very earliest
> published work and I think that he understands it as an ACTIVE response
> even then and he would not use it at all aftr his break with reactology
> in "The Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology".)
> One procedure is to get two art works that produce this active response
> (e.g. "Hamlet" on the one hand and the fables of Krylov on the other) and
> see what it is that they have in common. Vygotsky does this, and he
> discovers a kind of tension between the form and the material in both
> cases. The problem is that this is not essential, because it is a property
> of all semiotic material, whether aesthetic or not.
> Another procedure is to start with a single artwork (e.g. a fable) and
> deform it in some way so that the (active) aesthetic response is diminshed
> or even entirely abolished. For example, Lessing takes the fable of the fox
> and the grapes and retells it thus: a man wants to eat some pears, but he
> finds them hard to reach so he tells himself that it doesn't matter because
> they aren't ripe yet. Vygotsky does this too and he discovers a set of
> essences that are quite specific to particular art form (for example, the
> essence of a lyrical fable is quite different and in some ways
> diametrically opposed to that of a moral fable).
> Now, it seems to me that these two procedures do come up with
> two different conclusions: one is too broad to exclude everything that is
> not art and the other is too narrow to include everything that is art. But
> it also seems to me that they overlap somehow: they both describe a
> relationship between the real and the ideal which is similar to and yet
> essentially different from the relationship between a scientific phenomenon
> and a scientific concept (it is a little easier to see this with a
> non-literary example, such as a painting, because somehow literature always
> tricks us into thinking that there is nothing real there at all).
> What is the essence of this difference? I think I agree with Huw, that
> complexity is actually the main feature of scientific reality and that
> simplicity only occurs in highly isolated special cases. Weirdly, though,
> it seems to me that the opposite holds true for aesthetic reality; we begin
> by an idealizing abstraction, and it is only in the subsequent development
> of our aesthetic sensibility that we approach complexity (Brecht's "fables"
> for the theatre are an example of how the anthropomorphization of animal
> characters can be made to work, but the result is precisely an example of
> "complex seeing").
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> --- On Sat, 5/26/12, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> From: Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
> Subject: [xmca] Searching for essence
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Saturday, May 26, 2012, 9:40 PM
> Further reflections on Wittgenstein and Vygotsky
> Christine, I have been reading the article by Wittgenstein and reflecting
> on the precision with which he DESCRIBES the functioning of aesthetic terms
> such as the term *beautiful*. Wittgenstein questions if it is possible
> to locate the *essence* of adjectival terms such as beautiful within any
> generalized notion of the universal.
> My understanding of Vygotsky is that he posits there is an
> essence within aesthetic experience that can be located through analysis.
> The aesthetic expression experienced when engaging with a work of art  IS
> the *aesthetic reaction* to a work of art. This generation of
> the *aesthetic reaction* is the essence.  The question then becomes how,
> within particular cultures and particular historical epochs individuals
> *aesthetically REACT* to works of art. How they react is the *essence*
> of coming to understand aesthetic xperience.
> Margaret Gredler, in exploring Vygotsky's understanding of aesthetic
> reaction as the universal essence suggests Vygotsky's understanding leads
> to the question,
> How does history  *show* WHICH feelings, in WHICH eras, via WHICH forms
> have been expressed via art.
>   By analyzing a classical art form [ie Hamlet] the aesthetic reaction [in
> general] can be studied. Observing the changes to the aesthetic reaction in
> different epochs develops our understanding of this general aesthetic
> reaction.
> Turning to cognitive development, Vygotsky  asks if  one can locate the
> *essence* of cognitive activity through a process of analysis?  [locate the
> characteristics or properties displayed in all cognitive activity]
> Margaret Gredler summarizes Vygotsky's answer to this question,
> What is the general essence of the human activity of generating cognitive
> processes?  She  summarizes  Vygotsky's answer as follows,
> * humans actively intervene in situations in which natural processes are
> inadequate
> * humans create or appropriate symbols to gain control and MASTER a
> cognitive process
> * the symbols do not change or influence the object of the task but the
> symbols redirect or reconstruct the individual's cognitive behavior in
> approaching the task.
> Gadamer's notion of *fusion* implies there are distinct horizons prior to a
> conversation between horizons and the possible expansion of BOTH horizons.
> Therefore, I am clarifying Vygotsky's notion of *essence* [as a particular
> horizon] before asking
> How would Wittgenstein respond to this notion of *essence*
> Larry
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca


Deborah Downing Wilson, Ph.D.
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
<http://lchc.ucsd.edu/>Department of Communication
University of California San Diego

-----Inline Attachment Follows-----

xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list