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[Xmca-l] Re: Parts and wholes

Resonating with Chris' last post on institution and constitution, I was thinking that the part-whole relation being discussed has a temporal aspect to it that may relate to the distinctions that occupy us here (and I am here going to play with words, not that I have a definite understanding of where the game will become). For in human experience, it seems that the whole always is primary over the part. Obviously, for there to be a part, there needs to be a whole of which the part is but a constitutive aspect. But is the part institutive of the whole? The part may be institutive only in its relation to other parts and in its forming (constituting) the whole. So the part, in and of itself, cannot institute any whole. 

Returning to the bridge example, it seems to me that, and as David has already said (thanks David for bringing up the wonderful story!), for Li Chun to have seen the possibility of getting along without some of the stones, he needs to have seen the arch as primary over the stones that form it. Comparing the two stories as they have been told here, Marco Polo's comprehension of the bridge as a whole may have been qualitatively different from that of Li Chun (though whether that was the case is not important now). No study of the composition of stones would have led to the discovery of the open-spandrel segmental arch bridge. Only the study of stone arches, which already presuppose the stones as constitutive parts, could have been institutive of the new form. 

Not long ago we were discussing the notion of context in xmca, and the metaphor of context as rope, as a folding (or unfolding) of multiple threads, was opposed to the static (atemporal, abstract) notion of context as container where there is a part that is inside of the whole. The possibility of the open-spandred (my brief look at Wikipedia tells me that is the right name, but I may be wrong) was there from immemorial time, before anyone had stepped on the bridge (no animals, no humans). To discover it, however, was only possible by something like human consciousness. Following on the distinctions mentioned above between part and whole, where the functioning whole owes its institution to relations between aspects, and not to aspects in themselves, we may consider Bateson's argument that the mental has to do with difference, and not with sameness, with seeing things in their relations (wholes) and never first as things-in-themselves (parts).

I am not sure then whether a right way to talk about instituting and constituting has to do with the primacy of the former over the latter in thought. Whatever the case, it is clear that the distinction matters to thought and thought alone, because if the existence of the bridge was physically possible from the beginning of the times, it became a fact of the times after Li Chun came to *imagine* it (I won't delve into imagination here). Of which whole is Li Chun a part?


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 02 September 2016 06:43
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Parts and wholes

People, animals,  it seems that when it is instituted as a
bridge by perhaps having a road made up to it, it is only
then constituted as a bridge.

Andy Blunden

On 2/09/2016 2:33 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
> Actually some bridges are constructed over highways specifically to enable herds of animals to migrate. That's a bridge to me.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
> Sent: Friday, September 02, 2016 12:05 AM
> To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Parts and wholes
> without people travelling across it, it is not a bridge.
> A
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> On 2/09/2016 12:51 PM, mike cole wrote:
>> >From Italo Calvino, "Invisible cities" -- a conversation between
>>> Marco Polo
>> and Kublai Khan, one of many. Some relationship here of constituting
>> and instituting?
>> mike
>> Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone.
>>               "But which is the stone that supports the bridge," Kublai
>> Khan asks.
>>               "The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,"
>> Marco answers, "but by the line of the arch that they form."
>>               Kublai Kahn remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds:
>> "Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me."
>>               Polo answers. Without the stones, there is no arch."