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[Xmca-l] Re: Connecting and stability



In 1706 Isaac Newton created the first color wheel, by taking the colors he
observed from his prismatic studies and arranging them carefully in the
order they appeared in a circle. In the nineteenth century, the
impressionists began to arrange their palettes in the same way (instead of
in squares which emphasized shades and tints), but they couldn't really
decide if the cardinal points on the chromatic compass were red, blue, and
yellow or red, green and yellow. This in turn goes back to a disagreement
that Goethe had with Newton on the very nature of color, whether it is an
objective property of materials or whether it is an effect produced in the
mind: it turns out that modern color printers (with their "millions of
colors" produced by only three inks) are largely based on Goethe's theory
and not on Newton's.

I mention all this because Halliday does more or less the same thing with
verbs, or rather with the "processes" that verbs realize. The three
cardinal processes, in the first edition of his "introduction to Functional
Grammar", were "being", "doing", and "sensing" and  we can imagine "to be",
"to do" and "to see" as red, blue, and yellow or perhaps orange, green, and
blue. So for example a verb like "to have" or "to own" is a relational
process, and is a shading or tinting of "to be", and a verb like "play" or
"work" is a material process and belongs near "to act" with the doings on
the verbal palette, while a verb like "see", "smell", "feel", and by
extension "think" is a mental process and belongs somewhere in the vicinity
of sensing. In the interstices of these cardinal processes, we find
behavioral ones (sleeping, laughing, crying) located somewhere between the
material and the mental, existential processes ("there is") between the
material and the relational, and above all the verbal processes, between
the relational and the mental.

But that's the functional picture, not the genetic one. From the newborn
child's point of view, there is, as Vygotsky says, an undifferentiated
"state" rather than processes, and this is differentiated into feelings on
the one hand and doings on the other largely on the basis of instincts like
positioning and feeding. The "relational"processes require language to come
into being, particularly since, in English anyway, "to be" is a very
strange kind of being that actually relates two "be-ers": a carrier and an
attribute ("Minsu is tall"), an identifier and an identified ("He is
Minsu"), or a token and a value ("Minsu is a boy").

I think that Vygotsky's early work on imagination is essentially wrong, and
I include "Imaginary and Creativity in Childhood" in this. The reason is
that the distinction between reproductive and combinatorial imagination on
which that work rests is associativism which he took over more or less
uncritically from Ribot, and only later repudiated. In Ribot, all thinking
is essentially a pale shadow of seeing--imagination is nothing but the
after-glow of imaging. But not even sensing is reducible to seeing, and
certainly not thinking.

By the time of Vygotsky's late lectures, he has solved the problem. In his
lecture on the development of creativity in childhood (Volume One in the
English Collected Works) he points out that the name of a place--just the
name--can conjure up a kind of experience, even if we have never even been
there, and words in the right order create not only experiences that have
never been had but experiences which by their very nature are not haveable
by as single human consciousness (e.g. "the French Revolution"). There is
no way to get "thinking" out of 'seeing'. We have to recognize that
thinking is a mental process that stands somewhere between seeing and
saying, in much the same way that green stands somewhere between yellow and
blue. Yes, we can produce green by mixing yellow and blue, but that doesn't
mean we can reduce it meaningfully to those two colors. I think in the same
way it makes no sense to reduce a unicorn to a horse and a horn.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University




On Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 8:59 AM, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:

> Hi Larry and others,
>
> Is, as a verb is not like other verbs, which have to do with action. I'm
> not a linguist, but off the top, I don't think there is a verb that doesn't
> have to do with action other than "to be." At least in English. We use
> "becoming" to signify change, but the infinitive "to be" is a pointer to
> Existence. We don't say I become an eater, or I become a sleeper, or I
> become a writer, even though that has some truth to it (i'm not born a
> writer), it's not how we speak. I am an eater, I am a sleeper, I am a
> writer. Become is its own verb, isn't it? "to become," is a marriage of the
> word Be and Come. If Become where the word for Be, then that would make the
> game here really different. But Be comes before Become, linguistically and
> existentially! :)
>
> So with that in mind, Is is more of a signifier of existence and the noun
> that accompanies Is takes the particular shape that reflects Is-ness. Like
> the pot depends upon clay for its existence. If you remove the clay from
> the pot, the pot no longer exists. If you smash the pot, the clay remains,
> thus the pot depends upon clay to exist. I depend upon Being to exist.
>
> Of course I've been thinking also about unicorns! I believe I can explain
> why this definition of Being works even in the imaginary sense. (Which is
> to say Being is not a category of the mind in the absolute sense of Being,
> that all there is to Being is a cognitive category, therefore there is
> nothing to Being but a logical or categorical container in speech and
> thought, which is the same as saying Being arises from Mind, "I think,
> therefore I am").
>
> Getting back to unicorns! We can say that the is-ness of the horse and the
> is-ness of the horn combine in the imagination, and thus unicorn is. Thus
> the material of the unicorn, which does not exist in the world we live in,
> is identical to the material of the imagination, which is the material of
> the Mind.
>
> But this does not stop at the Mind. Because the material of the unicorn is
> no different than the material of the memory of what I ate for dinner last
> night, or imagining walking on the boardwalk right now while I'm sitting in
> front of this screen. Just like other imaginations, for imaginary objects,
> the Is-ness is as-if borrowed from horse-ness and horn-ness, which do exist
> in the world. It is not possible to create an imagination of things we do
> not know about. Imaginations (and dreams) are always of the things we have
> known before, even if it is superficial knowledge. So the existence of
> unicorns depends upon the material of all imaginary objects, the material
> of the mind.
>
> This still supports the notion that Being comes before Mind. And that Mind
> is dependent upon Being, not the other way around.
>
> Also, Being is not something limited to sentient creatures, but is
> unlimited, the entire world sits in existence. That is why we can
> experience the existence of inanimate or insentient objects: the mountain
> is, the sky is, the ocean is, and since mind is in the world, the unicorn
> is.
>
> The problem is that we can't know what that Being is that makes existence
> possible for everything else. It's not knowable. And this has nothing to do
> with believing in a God or not believing, but that there is a limit to what
> we as humans can know, and that Being, that which pervades all beingness,
> all names and forms, responsible for the existence all that is here, is one
> of those things we will never be able to know explicitly.
>
> If we were to assert that Being is a product (a category) of Mind, then we
> are back to Decartes's dualism. When you say that "in the end" there is a
> final division (of two) and "that's just the way it is", then we can
> justify hierarchies, we can justify slavery, we can justify class, and so
> on. "Slavery is just the way it is." "Inequality is just the way it is." I
> just can't accept that. If we say really that all that is here is
> Existence, but the multiplicity of objects we experience are just different
> forms and manifestations of Existence(Being), then we can find the
> commonality among us despite differences, we can justify our feelings of
> oneness with Nature, Love for another, Compassion for strangers, etc. I
> prefer the latter over the former: Difference in this case becomes
> incidental and ornamental, while similarities are fundamental.
>
> So I think there is a fundamental ethical reason to see Being before Mind
> from this standpoint.
>
> Kind regards,
>
> Annalisa
>
> P.S. I've pulled out On the Soul by Aristotle from my shelf, because I am
> curious about his take on the Soul, because it is quite apparent that he
> does not see Soul as limited to Mind, like Hegel did. The Soul for
> Aristotle is the life-force, or sentiency. In Vedic thought there is the
> concept of Prana, which is also identical to life-force, something entering
> from the outside of the gross body, Prana is an aspect of the subtle body,
> but what gives life to the gross body and which leaves at death. This not
> analogously different from electricity passing through a lightbulb and when
> the electricity is there, the light shines, when it is absent the bulb is
> dark. The electricity is like the subtle body, the bulb the gross body.
>