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[Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance [Language as a form]

Hi David!

Thank your for that, or those!  :)

Why on earth are artists groundhogs? Why are they not eagles? I see them as eagles perched on mountain sides surveying the terrain from far away, identifying movement in many nooks and crannies below. Then they soar about when they are hungry, perhaps snatching an occasional groundhog for lunch. 

See, I would say scientists are groundhogs, um, ok not groundhogs. How about... little dwarves, mining the earth for gold and sundry metals, one scoop at a time?

But this is no invitation for a "war on metaphor" (Try, just try, to say that 10 times fast!)

The juxtaposition of Cubism with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle has to do with being in two places at the same time, depending upon the observer. Isn't this right? So Cubism is about multiple perspectives at the same time. So I don't think this runs against what you propose in terms of abstract objectivism. 

I do enjoy your bas-relief pertaining to notions of time and space and how you attribute one to Braque and the other to Duchamp. Certainly these paintings make reference to the notion of appearance and illusion, a topic of immense dimensions on this list as of late.

In Vedic thought there is a Sanskrit word, "mitya." It means "apparent reality" in the sense that we cannot say "nothing exists", while at the same time we cannot say "everything exists". _At the same time_ is a key aspect of the definition of this word. It is there and not there _at once_ in time and space. I love this word.

If this notion of apparent reality can never be negated, then it may suggest why Cartesian science is destined to fail, because it will be an endless task of dividing into smaller and smaller pieces, in search of the basis of all reality. It is likely, with better measuring tools, we will find still smaller and smaller parts, this seems to be the case, anyway.

The Braque and Duchamp paintings illustrate mitya beautifully. Our science has also shown this, but I'm not so sure we've gotten the message. Somewhere there is a disconnect.

These, as forms, are paintings, derived by the artists' ideas about something they each experienced in the world. They are static objects, and yet they suggest a form in the idea without a form in the idea, implying movement and form, fixity and formlessness depending on the painting. Totally awesome!

Vedic thought claims that all that is here are names and forms, ("nama rupa") in a constant dance of change. Since we desire to move forward from that position, even if it is taking one step with the expectation that the earth will be there to meet the one's foot, we must accept this state of being-there-without-being-there. Or without-being-there-being-there, take your pick. This is not an unnatural human activity if we consider it. We do this all the time, casting ourselves into the void, as it were, and then the world catches us by the foot, one step at a time. 

Why we don't just fly off the planet boggles my mind.

What this suggests is that rather than make sense of things by seeing static objects (made by parts) from a static point of view (by one person), the method in which we actually _make sense_ of things is to see them as whole-in-themselves in movement past many perspectives. (Just like history!)

This wholeness-in-itself is not by dictat, but by fluid frames that are produced spontaneously in the moment and with the function of recognition, like the way a photographer will frame the photograph and take the picture, which is why "poignance," as a word, is growing on me. 

The frame edges are apparent: we know as viewers there is more to the world than what the photo reveals, yet we accept the photograph as a real object standing on its own. The photograph appears to divide the world into squares and rectangles, but does it really? The photograph reveals something subjective, what is in the photographer's mind at the time the shot was taken, because otherwise if it wasn't important the photographer wouldn't have wasted the film, nor bothered to print it. The more photographs the photographer takes slowly reveals a philosophy, with each photograph being a data-point captured of a moment in the apparent world. 

I would say this "philosophy building" holds the same for the tintype photographer taking penny portraits as for some of our "master" photographers like Cartier-Bresson or Man Ray. Thus, your mention of Muybridge is certainly apt in many ways!

This hearkens back to your mention of listening to what is there, versus listening for what is there.

But to sum this up, this is my attraction to Vygotsky's unit for analysis. The UOA is a frame, a point of reference –not THE point of reference– upon a single object, and not THE point of reference of the whole, either, but a point of reference for the sole purpose to analyze something for investigation. 

As the photographer will investigate the world with her camera. [click!]

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2014 2:58 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance [Language as a form]

Yes, Annalisa's right. Artists are groundhogs, that is, harbingers of
the spring thaw, and her example of "The Yellow Wall Paper"
prefiguring the idea of repression as a source of mental illness is
particularly apposite (Freud's very blokish transformation of
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's theme of professional frustration into
sexual frustration had more bad art in it than bad science, but
Leontiev's idea that the child plays only because we frustrate his
desire to work is very similar). Even more often, though, artists are
dragonflies; early indicators of the brief Russian autumn that usher
in the long winter months. So for example I think that cubism really
has little to do with Heisenberg and uncertainty, but it does have a
lot to do with the the long and intellectually sterile domination of
abstract objectivism (formalism, structuralism) in linguistics.

Why should that be? Compare THIS:




You can see that both have the cubist idea (not the inability to fix
both position and speed simultaneously, but the attempt to
super-impose many different points of view on top of each other, like
a kind of Galton photograph. Braque, however, applies the cubist idea
to space, while Duchamp has the brilliant idea of applying it to time,
and produces for us something very much like one of Muybridge's
movies. In fact, almost identical!


Muybridge was exactly the kind of artist that Annalisa is talking
about: a little bit of a scientist, or rather a technician. And it was
actually Muybridge who demonstrated that for centuries artists hadn't
seen what they were looking at but instead found what they were
looking for. Today, with the first really good transcriptions and
spectrographs of human voices talking, we can show that for centuries
linguists haven't really heard what they were trying to listen to but
instead found what they were listening for.

Like most people on this list, I cannot match Larry's stunning
erudition; I know Hackett only through Larry, and the height of the
stack of books on my night-table which demand to be read when I have
cleared away the reading I must do for my daily lectures forbids me
any closer approach. I have, however, read a lot in the lchc archives,
and I think that, rich as they are, there are themes left almost
wholly unexplored, and this is one of them.

Trotsky remarks in "Literature and Revolution" (a book that we now
know had a big influence on Vygotsky) that art is man's expression of
longing for all the things of which class society deprives us: a sense
of harmony, a pride in creativity, a sensitivity to nuance, a feeling
of empathy, and above all a sound foundation for hope in an apparently
hopeless historical situation. The problem is that in this apparently
hopeless historical situation when we express these things, their
expression becomes a substitute for them, a purely abstract
realization of them confined to precisely those of us who need them
least, namely artists and scientists.

Vygotsky's psychological theory, at least as I understand it, depends
crucially on understanding the inadequacy of both heredity and the
environment in solving the tasks of social development. Most of the
twentieth century was wasted on the intuitively appealing but terribly
wrong idea that since heredity is necessary but not sufficient to
explain development and the environment is necessary but not
sufficient to explain development if we somehow put them together we
will get something that is both necessary and sufficient. That's
exactly the kind of hope that is hard to resist, but retrospectively a
complete non sequitur.

Of course, as the material in the lchc archives (I am thinking of the
wonderful work by people like Saxe and Hutchins) attests, culture
gives the child legions of allies and a rich patrimony to solve the
otherwise insuperable problem left by his biological and environmental
endowment. But they also bring a whole new set of social and cultural
conflicts, not all of which art has the power to resolve. For art to
be more than a lightening rod, or a quack love elixir, for art to be
able to do more than a poor (or rather a rich) substitute for the good
life, artists will have to understand the inadequacy of art and even
the inadequacy of individual emotion generally in the face of these
new problems, these problems that inhere in the nature of society and
culture itself. As Vygotsky says, art has to see itself as the
socially derived technique of emotion rather than as a kind of
individually derived social contagion.

That's why, although I very much enjoyed hearing from Annalisa about
her old professor and his lectures on models and modernisms (and I
could add a few examples to his list), I think Annalisa's truest word
of all is when she says that the best artist has to have a bit of a
scientist in her, just as the best scientist has to be a bit of an
artist. As Annalisa says, it's not so much a matter of being able to
break down walls and build bridges between domains of knowledge,
although replacing disciplinary walls with bridges is crucially
important. It's a matter of being able to see and realize the very
general in the individual (rather than vice-versa, which is the
scientists' job). As Virginia Woolf said in her first movie reviews,
if you want to see how little the eye can do without the brain (and
how little the image accomplishes without the word), just go see the
movie adaptation of your favorite novel,

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

PS: I think Andy has been pretty roundly misunderstood--we should all
remember the great patience with which he waded through that awful
article by Leontiev-- but perhaps sometimes Andy does underestimates
the difference between an inter-disciplinary and a trans-disciplinary
approach. When Andy calls activity theory an inter-disciplinary
approach, he is pointing quite precisely to its greatest weakness:
compare the way in which Vygotsky began to construct a
transdisciplinary, THEMATIC approach to development by first
EVISCERATING the word "pedology" of its content, the study of the
eternal child. I think that an interdisciplinary approach is largely a
call for more bridges, and the very bridges it constructs sometimes
turn into walls.


On 29 November 2014 at 23:58, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> Annalisa,
> I want to follow your thread and link it to my reflection on method and
> disposition and also "modes":
> My reading that is exploring the notion of *seeing as* as a path/disposition
> You wrote:
> "He showed us how it was that the themes and work of artists were
> precursors to the work of scientific discovery."
>  In other words the aesthetic "mode" is "prior" to the scientific "mode".
> Another perspective is they share the same images one not prior to the
> other.
> I want to return to Chris Hackett who is exploring the theme of methods and
> modes.
> He gives a description of the "transcendental mode" as method:
> "The priority of possibility 'higher than actuality', defines the
> 'metaphysics' of transcendental modes of thought where possibility and
> rationality are identified; here, in the domain of metaphysics, abstracted
> from existence, and seeking to 'replace' the ever-greater EXCESS of
> existence with its own manageable, pre-conceived intelligibility [according
> to science as 'tekne'], reason institutes itself as FIRST foundation;
> nothing can APPEAR but what reason defines as POSSIBLE." [Hackett, page 65
> in Method, Metaphysics, Metaphor]
> Annalisa, this quote is Hackett's attempt to situate a particular mode of
> reasoning as transcendental and if following this path a transcendental
> disposition.
> Now I want to bring in a central concept - "image" or appearance that
> circulates within this mode of reason. It is Schelling who is exploring the
> relation of possibility and actuality.
> Here is quote from Chris Hackett developing Hackett's interpretation
> of Schelling's reasoning on reason:
> "Yet, 'reason' as Schelling pleaded, is not possible as totally
> 'indifferent' to existence, which is sovereignly free from all subjective
> CONSTITUTION, and which already founds the world. Reason requires existence
> ... for it is only AS AN IMAGE, imbued with the life of existence, bearing
> that existence as its primal expression, manifesting the ACT of existence
> that things are, that reason WORKS. To the degree that existence EXCEEDS
> reason, and therefore, to the degree that reason NEEDS AN IMAGE as *pre*
> and *post*-rationally DETERMINATIVE of intelligibility, to that degree
> reason is rational"
> Annalisa, Chris Hackett is situating both the aesthetic and the scientific
> in modes and methods which centrally need IMAGES. [appearances]. These
> modes and relations are indicating dispositions towards possibility and
> actuality.  A particular mode follows the path of the transcendental and
> values *possibility* as a metaphysical path.
> Another approach [path] values existence as EXCESS.  What is *excess*
> exists within acts of existence, as relational acts.
> To the degree that existence EXCEEDS reason, is the degree that reason
> NEEDS AN IMAGE [an appearance] as DETERMINATIVE of intelligibility.
> The path Chris Hackett is walking is leading to the centrality of tying
> meta-phor & meta-physics & meta-hodos [meta-knowledge] into an interpretive
> mode situated within questions.
> [I was wondering if I should have started a new thread? to post this answer
> to Annalisa. It is touching and overlapping previous turns in the
> conversation.]
> On Fri, Nov 28, 2014 at 9:39 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:
>> If I may, to all and sundry,
>> I recall in a course called Methodologies of Modernism, as an art student,
>> there was one fantastic lecture by my humanities professor Ray Mondini. He
>> showed us how it was that the themes and work of artists were precursors to
>> the work of scientific discovery. There were about eight different examples
>> he gave. Unfortunately I do not remember them all. I recall The Yellow
>> Wallpaper came just before Freud's solidifying work on repression and the
>> unconscious. Cubism came just before Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.
>> The others I don't remember. It made me see that artists are very capable
>> of either catching the zietgeist of thought and reifying it in their art,
>> which might then direct the attention of scientists, or perhaps something
>> more ethereal is going on, not spiritual, but something more subtle on the
>> social plane of historical existence. A similar phenomenon in kind when
>> Darwin and Wallace came up with their versions of the theory of evolution,
>> but in that case it seems it is because they'd both read a book by Malthus
>> on populations, so they shared similar inspiration from the same source.
>> So I'm inclined to stand by David on this trans-disciplinary position.
>> However I don't think it's about weak versus strong frames. I see it
>> differently. For artists, they see the world from the general to the
>> specific. For scientists, they see the world from the specific to the
>> general. Of course these "laws" I have observed in thinking patterns vis a
>> vis scientists and artists are not hard and fast, but that is my lived
>> experience.
>> To be an artist is to be a scientist in terms of form and color, tone and
>> texture. But artists are not attempting to discover new worlds of material,
>> they are searching for new worlds of meaning through testing the material.
>> I haven't worked closely with scientists, however we know from Einstein his
>> position on visualization and imagination. This presents me with a personal
>> hypothesis, if I'm allowed to engender a personal one, that the best
>> artists are ones with a bit of the scientist in them, and the best
>> scientists are ones with a bit of the artist in them. Not sure how to
>> quantify that exactly, except perhaps through play.
>> If anyone wants to know what lays ahead in scientific discovery, one thing
>> to do is bone up on what the art scene is, because they are experimenting
>> on the same thoughts as scientists, just from the top-down. A starting
>> point is by perusing magazines like Art Forum, ARTnews, Art in America, Art
>> Review, and others. I'm sure you can find themes that resonate and run
>> parallel.
>> Just follow your nose.
>> Kind regards,
>> Annalisa
>> ________________________________________
>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> on behalf of HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com>
>> Sent: Friday, November 28, 2014 5:04 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance [Language as a form]
>> Hi David,
>> Sorry I’m way behind. Respectfully:
>> Would it be fair to say that science needs art if both are to be creative?
>> And that time and space are prototypical themes in both art and science?
>> So, a 2-by-2 matrix with prototypical examples of the mash up in each
>> quadrant. Just a thought.
>> Henry
>> > On Nov 27, 2014, at 3:00 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
>> >
>> > I too liked Huw's comments, but for rather different reasons than his
>> > compelling defense of what Basil Bernstein calls "strongly framed,
>> > strongly classified" categories of knowledge. What I liked is the way
>> > that he brought in Dickens, simultaneously enriching and undermining
>> > his argument.
>> >
>> > On the one hand, Dickens is the ultimate in blokish writers (I can't
>> > think of a single likeable or even bearable female character in the
>> > whole of his oeuvre). On the other, Dickens will begin a book (e.g.
>> > "Hard Times") with a clear list of characters he intends to slate
>> > (utilitarians and political economists) and then he'll attribute views
>> > to them that are really quite the opposite of what they hold (real
>> > utilitarians and political economists actually agreed with Mr. Sleary
>> > that work is a curse and that "The people mutht be amuthed"). So in
>> > addition to being a blokish writer, Dickens is a bit of an
>> > intellectual slob (as opposed to a snob): a masher-together-er, to put
>> > it more charitably.
>> >
>> > But by bringing in Dickens I think Huw also brings in the
>> > aesthetic--and even the ethical. And here what Huw says about strongly
>> > framed and strongly classified (or "technical") categories of
>> > knowledge is much less compelling. I have been arguing for a
>> > perspective that is "trans-disciplinary" rather than
>> > "inter-disciplinary", where inquiries into art and into science alike
>> > can be based on themes like quantity, history and structure rather
>> > than narrowly defined according to objects of study such as matter,
>> > living things, society and consciousness; it seems to me that if
>> > strongly framed and strongly classified categories of knowledge must
>> > predominate in scientific categories (else it is hard to see how the
>> > hiearchical structures Vygotsky sees as essential to science concepts
>> > can emerge) then weakly framed and weakly classified categories of
>> > knowlede necessarily predominate in aesthetic ones, and even in
>> > ethical ones (which I believe are closely related).
>> >
>> > We are reaching the end of the semester in my class on immersion
>> > education, in which I adopted a syllabus idea I stole from Carol
>> > Macdonald, to wit, that immersion classes might begin with classes
>> > like Physical Education, Music and Mathematics (where word meaning is
>> > not a central concern) and only end with classes like (Natural)
>> > Science, Social Science and Ethics. That means that this week my
>> > students are preparing immersion classes in ethics. One of my students
>> > contested the idea that ethical education was for higher grades only,
>> > so I asked her when she thought ethics education should begin.
>> >
>> > She said that ethics education really begins with a mother holding a
>> > newborn infant. On my way home from class, I thought of Martin's work
>> > on the prisoner's dilemma, and how it fit, quite despite itself, into
>> > a whole tradition of neo-Kohlbergian ethics education. And I was
>> > reminded of Carol Gilligan's and Nel Noddings' critique of
>> > Kohlberg--the critique that by emphasizing the autonomous individual
>> > above the relational one, and "justice" above "caring", Kohlberg had
>> > constructed a blokish ethics, for gentlemen only. It is also an ethics
>> > for small businessmen rather than young mothers and teachers: Mr.
>> > Sleary and his creator would have been amuthed.
>> >
>> > David Kellogg
>> > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>> >
>> > On 27 November 2014 at 20:46, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> >> I have been reading McLellan's "new abridgement" of Capital recently.
>> >> Probably my most powerful impression is the prevalence of the conditions
>> >> Marx documents.  Unlike writers of fiction today, it is quite clear to
>> me
>> >> that his contemporary, Dickens, was barely required to lift a few
>> stones to
>> >> find the extremes of luck, fate and chance that he also portrays.  A
>> >> second, more palliative, impression is the documentation of the source
>> of
>> >> so many of the problems arising in working conditions that remain with
>> us
>> >> today, albeit in more 'civilised' form.
>> >>
>> >> Regarding 'muscularity', I find it interesting to consider how technical
>> >> utterances and work-a-day competences do tend to carry a certain kind of
>> >> muscularity in a literal sense of holding steady.  To be technical is
>> to be
>> >> precise under varying conditions in which one holds those conditions
>> steady
>> >> and it is normal to hear technical discourse with some degree of
>> >> articulatory stress and moderate facial tension etc.  Under such
>> >> circumstances, one doesn't merely pile up the words in additive form
>> but is
>> >> concerned with their configuration and placement.
>> >>
>> >> On the business of the objectivity of consciousness and focal
>> distinction
>> >> between the experience of consciousness and that which yields it, I
>> think
>> >> we can make the same statement about any scientifically studied
>> phenomena.
>> >> We are not aware of the internally manifest form of any kind of internal
>> >> calculus undertaken by a studied system, yet we may study it from
>> without
>> >> (with meter readings etc) and perform equivalent calculations and follow
>> >> the transformations taking place.  Alternatively, we can study that
>> >> calculus as a system itself, which will have, again, its own internal
>> >> manifestation.  That's how we come to improve our approximations...
>> >>
>> >> Best,
>> >> Huw