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[Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance

Hello my fated discussants,

In company with others who are struggling with the components of things and their relationship to causes (and you know who you are), I decided to look up in the thesaurus what comes up from the word "element," just to stir up the imaginations of those on this thread and see what comes up. This is what I got:


It seems a worthy effort to decide on a good word that does pass the test of not being misconstrued or misunderstood when trying to convey a concept, particularly a difficult concept. 

Philosophy of course spends a lot of time on word-meaning before really moving into the harder work pertaining to dynamics of concepts and I think this to be a thrifty and scrupulous preparation that yields results, if only because the work is built upon the careful considerations of words and what they mean.

Vygotsky was in a hurry, and with good reason. So we have in some cases the sloppiness of words, but that's likely because he was chasing ideas, along the lines of inner speech.

As someone who has worked with computer technology, which has never existed before in the history of humans until the past 50-60 years or so, there are always going to be necessities for new vocabularies. Believe me I wouldn't not mind the removal of so many acronyms and replace them with real words.

Also, there is the idea that in dealing with concepts pertaining to the mind and to social realities, there are going to be discoveries of absences in our language to express these concepts, because they are not things we have "seen" before. This is why metaphors are so powerful to me, anyway, because they can ground a concept, even if it is a feeble construct, it is a "point of lift off" that can be developed more fully through the use of speaking it.

I have been a casual student of Sanskrit for some years, and one of the marvels of that ancient language is its exactness to meaning. To witness this is something to experience for oneself. Sanskrit also affords the creation of new words. 

I tend to think word- or phrase-construction should be done when coming across "new" concepts. I say new-in-quotes, because these dynamics or phenomenon have always happened in some form, but we just never had the need to see them. I believe the cause is because life was "easier" (that is my short explanation for now so that I might move forward on the use of words in terms of exactness for meaning).

So to address the notion of "constituent," even if there is a recent trend to adopt that word, it has some problems perhaps, as David has discussed. I'm not saying that I have an answer, but rather than deal with words that have already been used that may not fit the need, I ask why not then make up a word? 

This is why Gibson likely made up the word, "affordance," because there was not such a word to describe what they are. I'm not sure if it seems contrived to create new words in an academic setting, or if it is considered a cop-out, but I think creating a new word for a specific purpose is not a bad idea if only because it has a specific utility to reference a concept observed in the world not observed distinctly before.

As a starting point about thinking about words, based on the list above, if we must retain an already-existing word, I sort of like the idea of using the word "fundamentals." Maybe because it sounds like "elementals," but provides the sense of the basic part of importance, such as when we consider "a unit for analysis." Thus a unit for analysis is a fundamental, but a fundamental is not necessarily a unit for analysis. Or should it be the other way around?

Perhaps we could say that a fundamental is made of elementals, in the sense that the water molecule is the fundamental (of oceans) and oxygen and hydrogen are elementals that constitute the fundamental (the molecule). Furthermore, I propose that the primary relationship I am fabricating here be that of elementals to fundamentals to also pertain to functional systems. So there can be elemental systems which constitute fundamental systems. Does this hold water???? Please tell me! :)

"Ingredients" is also good, because they are units combined (in different measures) to contribute to the whole, in the sense that once mixed cannot be separated out or removed. "Ingredients" are combined in cooking and they do take on different forms when combined with other ingredients. I suspect though that this seems too much like cooking which is women's work and therefore not legitimate, or not scientific enough, perhaps too folksy.  (I am purposely being facetious there, so I know you are all smart enough to fall into that bear-trap, I mean... NOT fall into that bear-trap).

Then, to continue thinking out loud: perhaps "ingredient" might be appropriate when dealing with artificial constructs, ones that are human-made. It doesn't really work in consideration of phenomenon that may arise. Phenomena don't possess ingredients. Perhaps "facet" or "aspect" would be useful? I don't like them, but I sort of do. How's that for commitment?

I know that this is odd coming from someone who loves to use metaphor, but I can't help to add that using words that pertain to material constructs are not always useful as functional constructs, if only that material elements tend to be used as gears in a machine (smallest parts), rather than systems in an environment (units in motion, perspectives, dynamics). I think that this misuse of words is why there is difficulty in understanding the concepts they are intended to reference.

LSV's use of "rudimentary functions" vs "artifacts" seems to reveal our problem of taking a word or words (as references) to describe functions and reducing them into nouns (even though I realize "function" is a noun). I am guessing there are more sophisticated ways to describe this, but I am not a linguist. It seems that when functions reduce to nouns happens, the word loses the concept's "verbness," because an artifact is a word that reminds me of pottery shards or arrowheads uncovered in an archeological dig. So there is the specific object (the string round the finger), and then the movement create meaning with such objects (rudimentary function - tying of string to remember something). In this sense, it seems the rudimentary function *results* in an artifact.

Take all of these meanderings as just an invitation to consider a better design of a word that might proffer more exactness to meaning we mean, so as to be effective and hardy. That is, if the meaning has been agreed upon beforehand. Which is probably a different email altogether! 

If a word *were* to be created anew, and we forfeit employing an already-existent, what might it be? I would engage the poets within you and ask you to share what emerges?

What do you think about about "poignance" which I think is made up. There is "poignancy" or "poignant", but not "poignance," I don't think. When I consider poignance, I think of something fluid converging into meaning and importance. I sense movement in the word-meaning as used. It doesn't lose its "verbness." 

So elementals constitute fundamentals, and fundamentals can create poignances, which are ingredients of meaning. You are welcome to tear that apart and remake if you like. But only tear apart if you can remake. Those are the rules of my game here. :)

One reason this word poignance is growing on me is because it can pertain to affect and to intellect equally with no favoring of one or the other. 

Such is my humble offering to this thinking project. 

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 6:55 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance

On Nov 19, 2014, at 4:56 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:

> "objective"
> just means that something is seen as not subject to change by a
> discourse community, even where that discourse community consists of
> just me and my lonely self.

Perhaps, David. But with time and effort and study we can come to view that something differently, no?

There's a small but growing literature on "constitution" - the way that a water molecule is constituted of, not caused by, hydrogen and oxygen. And the article I was reading today was making an interesting distinction between 'internal constitution,' as in the case of water, and 'external constitution,' as in the case of money. What makes a coin a token of monetary value is *external* to it: the social institutions of banking and the practices of buying and selling. These don't cause it, they constitute it. The coin, taken at face value, is objective. But once we study it as it circulates through these practice and institutions, we come to see that its objectivity does not mean it cannot change. On the contrary.

Although LSV like to talk about the constituents of a meaningful word as 'internal' to that word, it seems more accurate to see them as external in the same sense as the constituents of a coin or a bill are necessarily external to it.