Re: [xmca] Actants, Greimas, Levi-Strauss

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jul 10 2007 - 06:57:29 PDT


'Illusion' is a tricky notion, no? And the 'reality' is...?

As a teenager I worked as a hospital porter. One of our chores was to
relocate the freshly-dead to the mortuary. My first corpse was a young
woman. Her face was covered, but her body was still warm and soft when I
lifted it onto the trolley. Yet she was not there. Some intangible process
had stopped.

In another hospital, in another capacity, I was invited to watch a caesarian
up close. I will never forget the astonishing transition as the anesthesia
took effect: the surgeons, who had been chatting casually with the woman,
immediately began dealing with her as an object. Skillfully, professionally,
but rapidly - because a successful caesarian is a matter of speed - they cut
into her belly through skin and fat and pulled apart the layers of muscle...
to pluck out a baby. A new body.

Let's assume that Vygotsky and Hegel are right, that our experience, our
perception, becomes deeper, richer, with learning, development, expertise,
whatever. That we come to perceive more of the intricate connections that
make up the whole in which we live. I can't go the final step and accept
that scientific thinking enables one to perceive the 'essence' of a
phenomenon, if by this Vygotsky means a timeless reality. But let's say
instead that scientific thinking is what enables one to perceive with more
clarity the ontic arrangements of a particular social and historical epoche.
If so, I would suggest that our epoche is full of practices that define my
body as my property - and others that define it quite differently, as an
object, or even as just who I am. "My body" is not an illusion when I visit
my doctor, who has a file that details its properties, or when I go to the
gym, even though it is a different body to these two places. Or if it is an
illusion, it is in Bourdieu's sense of 'illusio' - the deception that is a
necessary part of playing any game. My experiences with limits of embodiment
- death and birth - have enlarged my understanding of the games we all play,
but I must still play them.


On 7/9/07 8:35 PM, "Paul Dillon" <> wrote:

> Martin,
> Bourdieu's concept of habitus, don't remember the exact words but something
> like: embodied predispositions that structure practice is very reminiscent
> of Merleau-Ponty's view of the experience of the body as a field of signs.
> The quote about boxing was great and sort of points to the paper currently
> leading in the polls for the next discussion.
> But if you are willing to treat the blind man and the stick as a unity, I
> don't understand your statement about the emergence "particular subjects and
> objects", that you mention at the end of your posts Unless you sustain a
> position that their is an eternal soul or something similar, isn't it just as
> likely that the the experience of subjectivity as we know it, i.e., grounded
> in signs and situated in a body that we believe to be our own, is only some
> kind of illusion. That the statement, "my body", is really absurd.
> Paul
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