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[Xmca-l] Mocombian Being in the World
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- Date: Wed, 3 Dec 2014 02:02:40 +0000
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Dear fellow brothers and sisters of the list deemed to be and steeped within Mind, Culture, and Activity (of the extended family remix in the Matrix no less),
I have completed Paul's paper! I actually find much in it that is brilliant, despite my ignorance about various pieces of the content, and of course certain circumstances of context.
The entire paper before me has tons of underlining! I say this to offer that the paper really made me stretch. I think I need to read it a second time, but because I did not want to leave Paul waiting, I am going to offer my first and certainly flawed impressions, which are all my own.
>From the top-down, which is the way I like to think and it is more comfortable for me, I see in the paper a parallel to my own search for a suitable "stance" (I do like this word, Paul), in regard to technology design.
The assertions Paul makes about reproduction of class is in black consciousness is, in a sense, what I attempt to convey in my thesis on a philosophy of design for technology (concerning a Theory of Pattern), I am just not as explicit at saying it, which is for two reasons: 1) it is a thesis, not a dissertation, and 2) I did not feel equipped to bring in the hot mess of culture and the history of oppression. I could not tackle the structures/strictures of class, from the bottom up, so my strategy was to remain in the theoretical space of ideas, namely the top-down, and so for me, I focused upon models of the mind, which *of course* are constructed by history and by class, and by many, many things cultural and then some.
I apologize to begin with a reference to myself and my interests, but this is how I was able to find sense in it. I do not think I am projecting my own-ness upon his work, because I see that the themes Paul is concerned with are the questions, "what is makes up a subject and what is personal experience of the world?" and, "what is the way to freedom despite constraints that present bondage to this subject?" These are questions I wrangled with myself, but pertaining to technology design.
So I want to say that much like artists can sense the zeitgeist, that without intent he and I are attempting to answer similar questions that have to do with being as a Being in the World in a post-capitalist world, and what agency is left after all the history and all the tools and all the class structures, and all the everything-else have had their way with us and how we think about ourselves (in terms of identity and notions of self).
But getting to the paper, standing on its own without piling on high what resonates with my own interests, I found the theoretical move of going down to the particle to up to the cultural incredibly smart and strategic, because it destroys the stance of what-we-have-inherited-from-those-before-us as the normative stance that can be acted upon without question (OK, sorry... I can't resist...is it possible too see here how this might pertain to the "inevitable" stance of technology and its design?)
I also enjoy how Paul was able to critique, without demolishing the value of, Marxist thought and to contextualize it in a larger framework (of particles to the cultural), because I believe we are more than what we do, and this "more-ness" is something less about material and more about form and formlessness (please! sans Plato) in terms of how one chooses to aggregate our particles, so to speak. :)
By performing this move, I find that Paul does what Lakoff does when Lakoff shows us what happens when we are told, "Don't think of an elephant," what is the first thing we do? Think of an elephant. Marx in constructing a picture of the world around capitalism orients always to capitalism, but then again that was the project for the time, when capitalism was kinda the new rage, the new thing, even if it was just a specter, so to speak.
Marxist thought has its place, but Marx cannot comment on the state of the world today because it was beyond his understanding. What he might say about it is speculation. Telling the future is hard and I don't believe Marx was a clairvoyant or that he could astrotravel, although Scrooge did do some fictional astrotravel in a Dickens story about the value of Christmases, I believe. I hope I have not whizbang-put-anyone's-back-out-of-alignment by saying this, it is just my humble stance.
So this is to say (with less words) that Paul recognizes the trap set out by orienting to capitalism as the normative stance, even if it is to be against the tragedy wrought upon the many people of the world by this economic system.
I would also like to say that having studied Vedic thought, there is some confirmation there in Paul's theoretical construct. I am interested to offer this not as an expert on Vedic thought, but as a recognizer of similar patterns which may offer some grist to the thinking mill.
I am very unsteady with phenomenology, so please if you blow on me I'm likely to fall over on my backside, but if you can given me a little breathing room, it seems to me that phenomenology takes the position that consciousness is a product of the mind, as well as culture, language, frameworks, all that Paul described in his paper. Vedic thought, as I understand it and as I enjoy it, takes the position that mind is a manifestation of consciousness and that everything here is consciousness, including the world, which possesses its own forms of consciousness in infinite multiplicity. That is why phenomenology need not be wrong, because the processes of mind reflecting consciousness are going to be the same, it's just a matter of where you say the consciousness is. Phenomenology says, the mind, Vedic thought says, everywhere without limits.
So having shared that, I don't expect this explanation to stick, especially for those who are deeply deeply invested in consciousness as a product of the mind. I only want to offer that there is another way to think about consciousness that is borne of ancient thinking (sans Descartes), that may speak to these problems. As such, Vedic thought has its own vocabulary about consciousness and it is very "lightweight" and fluid, once the concepts are grasped. But you'd have to take my word for that, for now.
With this in mind, these patterns of similiarity are what I like about Paul's theory, because it shows how oppression and bondage are imaginary constructs if seen from the perspective of the particle. In Vedic thought, it wouldn't be a particle, but Brahman, which is non-dual being with no qualities and no parts (being non-dual). It is not a small thing but a big thing, without being a thing at all. In fact, the definition of the word Brahman is "the big" as an adjective, not a noun.
So I offer all that, and certainly there is far more to it than I have described, with the intention to suggest that we might take a viewpoints or worldviews (as if looking through a telescope to see what it looks like for ourselves, as subjects) that are unfamiliar to us. It is a method by which to look outside the worldviews to which we are so inured that we don't think that they are worldviews anymore, but the way the world IS. I think Paul's paper provides this freshness of viewpoint.
As Vygotsky has said, (I paraphrase) we come to learn our own language by learning another. So I mean it like that.
Thank you, Paul, for a very enriching reading experience and some expansion in my notions pertaining to subjective beingness in the world.