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[Xmca-l] Re: Connecting and stability



When people (including Vygotsky) think about language, they often think of
it as a pile of words. This is a true, but it's only true in the sense that
a building is a heap of bricks. As soon as we have to actually build a
building (as Lefebvre knew) we find that there are intermediate structures
that are actually much more important.For the purpose of situating action
in language, I think we can consider just two levels of intermediate
structure.

Roofs, floors and walls are externally shaped; they are shaped like the
great outdoors itself; that is, they are structured the way they are
structured because of their function, which is to interface with the
environment. That's why a floor or a ceiling or a wall looks like a two
dimensional map of the building, and that's why western houses look vaguely
like castles while traditional eastern houses look more like umbrellas.

Rooms, stairs and halls are internally shaped; they are shaped by other
units within the building itself; that is, they are structured the way they
are structured because of their function, which is to interface with the
inhabitants. That's why a bedroom looks a little like a bed, and a kitchen
a little like a kitchen table; a toilet looks a little like...well, like a
toilet, actually; each one is a kind of squaring out of a human need.

Language is like this too: some structures are externally shaped, e.g.
titles and reference lists, introductions and "topic sentences", and what
we Hallidayans call "Theme" at the level of the clause. A prepositional
phrase like that last one "at the level of the clause" is a little like a
minor clause itself: it has a preposition instead of a verb but it
certainly has an object and an implicit subject. Other structures are
internally shaped: e.g. a nominal group like "other structures" is an
expanded noun in sort of the same way that a bedroom is an expanded bed,
and a verb group like "are internally shaped" is an expanded verb ("shape")
in much the same way that a stairwell is an expanded step.

So I think when Huw argues that action can be embedded in language, he's
absolutely half right. Language is the only symbolic system we have that
has to be able to put the whole of human experience into words (D. H.
Lawrence said this about the novel, but when we read "Why the Novel
Matters" carefully it turns out that, as usual, he is confusing human
experience with his own body). So there are certainly ways of putting
actions into words. But the reverse absolutely does not apply: we cannot
reduce words into actions of the body, any more than we can reduce a
building to a heap of bricks.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University



On Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 12:16 PM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
wrote:

> Thanks for the interesting contribution, David.
>
> >From what I recall, Goethe's criticism of Newton's endeavour was that he
> only undertook half the analysis and failed to gain a relational
> understanding of the phenomenon as a whole.  I never really dug into it
> that much though.
>
> For a parallel to "being", "doing", and "sensing", you could consider
> Lefebvre's application of  "representational", "representations of"
> and "spatial practice" moments to social spaces.  One of the difficulties I
> think you will have with Lefebvre (The Production of Space), however, is
> that he is not shy of pointing out that analyses of social space on the
> basis of language or discourse are inadequate for understanding the
> production of these spaces.  The same can be said for thinking.
>
> But perhaps you can take a stream of discourse from a recounting and
> reliving of lived experience as it is manifest in (say) emotive expression
> as the expression of a form (outline) for something manifesting a 'primary
> colour' that is not known to the analysis of discourse, namely action and
> activity.  One could then posit that action within activity was largely
> responsible for the formation of thought-space that enable the orienting
> within hearing and the orienting within seeing to yield listening and
> active looking/perceiving respectively.
>
> When it comes to relating thinking as something derived from seeing, I
> suspect this is considerably biased by personality preference.  What many
> consider to be thinking proper is a commitment to resolve something
> construed as a mental problem.  One has to see, perceive and then decide to
> stick with it until one begins to perceive the seeds of something else.
>
> Best,
> Huw
>
>
> On 14 December 2015 at 01:16, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > 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.
> > >
> >
>