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[Xmca-l] Re: Time
- To: Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Time
- From: Greg Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:36:03 -0700
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Interesting how you have taken this Andy - to suggest that the Hopi lack a
founding principle of Natural Science.
Whorf actually takes this in generally the opposite direction. In his work
on the Hopi language, he suggests that one finds a language much better
suited to thinking about the theoretical physics of Whorf's day (e.g.,
Einstein's theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, etc.). In that sense,
Hopi is, in fact, closer to describing the way the world really is. (and
I'll quickly rescind those last six words if you have any objections!).
As to your assumption that science requires the objectification of the
natural world, I'm sure there are others on the list who would agree with
me that there is good reason to question the necessity of subject/object
dualism for science. (and perhaps you were referring to a particular
scientific tradition by calling it "Natural Science" - maybe scary scare
quotes are needed?).
On Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 11:57 PM, Andy Blunden <email@example.com> wrote:
> That is an extremely interesting paragraph or two on the contrast between
> typical modern expressions of Time and how the Hopi language expresses
> corresponding situations. It seems that taking Nature (including Time) to
> be something which exists independently of us humans and can be known as
> such, in other words, the founding principle of Natural Science, is built
> into a premodern language, and is not shared by (at least one) indigenous
> *Andy Blunden*
> Greg Thompson wrote:
>> Helena and David,
>> I wonder if this quote below from Benjamin Whorf (one of the so-called
>> authors of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis - a kindred tradition to
>> Vygotsky's) might be useful. In it Whorf is comparing the Hopi notion of
>> "time" to the SAE (Standard Average European - including English) notion
>> "time" and how each of these languages offers different affordances of
>> meaning. Whereas Hopi has a much more processual understanding, English
>> a much more reified/objectified/entified sense of time. (btw, I think the
>> first paragraph is easier to follow than the second - and in that first
>> paragraph you'll find our old friend "imagination").
>> David, does this jibe with what you were pointing to?
>> Taken from:
>> " "Such terms as summer, winter, September, morning, noon, sunset" are
>> us nouns, and have little formal linguistic difference from other nouns.
>> They can be subjects or objects, and we say "at sunset" or "in winter"
>> as we say "at a corner" or "in an orchard." They are pluralized and
>> numerated like nouns of physical objects, as we have seen. Our thought
>> about the referents of such words hence becomes objectified. Without
>> objectification, it would be a subjective experience of real time, i.e. of
>> the consciousness of "becoming later and later"--simply a cyclic phase
>> similar to an earlier phase in that ever-later-becoming duration. Only by
>> imagination can such a cyclic phase be set beside another and another in
>> the manner of a spatial (i.e. visually perceived) configuration. "But such
>> is the power of linguistic analogy that we do so objectify cyclic phasing.
>> We do it even by saying "a phase" and "phases" instead of e.g., "phasing."
>> And the pattern of individual and mass nouns, with the resulting binomial
>> formula of formless item plus form, is so general that it is implicit for
>> all nouns, and hence our very generalized formless items like "substance,
>> matter," by which we can fill out the binomial for an enormously wide
>> of nouns. But even these are not quite generalized enough to take in our
>> phase nouns. So for the phase nouns we have made a formless item, "time."
>> We have made it by using "a time," i.e. an occasion or a phase, in the
>> pattern of a mass noun, just as from "a summer" we make "summer" in the
>> pattern of a mass noun. Thus with our binomial formula we can say and
>> "a moment of time, a second of time, a year of time." Let me again point
>> out that the pattern is simply that of "a bottle of milk" or "a piece of
>> cheese." Thus we are assisted to imagine that "a summer" actually contains
>> or consists of such-and-such a quantity of "time."
>> In Hopi however all phase terms, like "summer, morning," etc., are not
>> nouns but a kind of adverb, to use the nearest SAE analogy. They are a
>> formal part of speech by themselves, distinct from nouns, verbs, and even
>> other Hopi "adverbs." Such a word is not a case form or a locative
>> like "des Abends" or "in the morning." It contains no morpheme like one of
>> "in the house" or "at the tree." It means "when it is morning" or "while
>> morning-phase is occurring." These "temporal s" are not used as subjects
>> objects, or at all like nouns. One does not say "it's a hot summer" or
>> "summer is hot"; summer is not hot, summer is only WHEN conditions are
>> WHEN heat occurs. One does not say "THIS summer," but "summer now" or
>> "summer recently." There is no objectification, as a region, an extent, a
>> quantity, of the subjective duration feeling. Nothing is suggested about
>> time except the perpetual "getting later" of it. And so there is no basis
>> here for a formless item answering to our "time." "
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602