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[Xmca-l] Re: The Stuff of Words



Andy,

My privileging of Hegel's Phenomenology is not because I think it is the
only worthwhile book that he has written. Rather, it is the only book of
his that I have had time to deal with in any substantial fashion. To try to
make sense of a single book of his is an incredibly time-consuming task and
I'm afraid am not a good enough scholar (quick enough reader, etc.) to be
able to take on another one. I was simply trolling for some insight into
Hegel's treatment of Here, This, Now, and how it fits into his larger work
(the Logic as well). But I guess that will have to wait for another
lifetime (or at least until retirement).

Cheers,
greg


On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 8:28 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> The reason why I picked out icon/index/symbol of all the many
> firstness/secondness/thirdnesses Peirce offers us is that all the rest
> are found in Hegel and systematically elaborated there. But not
> icon/index/symbol. As you know Greg I am not one of those that think that
> The Phenomenology is the only book Hegel wrote, so I will refer you to the
> Science of Logic, chapter on the Concept (a.k.a. Notion).
>
> Andy
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> On 8/05/2017 12:12 PM, Greg Thompson wrote:
>
>> Andy (and others),
>>
>> I agree that Peirce seems a good complement to Hegel.
>>
>> One interesting bit where there seems to be some overlap is in Hegel's
>> interest in what Silverstein calls, using Peircean language, "referential
>> indexicals" (these are signs which have referential value but their
>> referential value is primarily indexical - pronouns are a classic example,
>> but see my next sentence for more examples). I can't recall where I saw
>> this in Hegel's writing but it seems like he has a bit somewhere on "Here,
>> This, Now" (as translated). Do you recall where this is? Or what Hegel is
>> "up to" in that section? I've always wondered.
>>
>> As mentioned above, Silverstein makes quite a bit of the importance of
>> referential indexicals in everyday talk. He calls them the "skeleton" on
>> which we hang the rest of discourse (and without which, our discourse would
>> be meaningless). And closer to home, in Stanton Wortham's essay Mapping
>> Participant Deictics, Wortham makes the case for the importance of mapping
>> participant deictics in the talk of a classroom. He argues that you can
>> understand quite a bit about the social structure of a classroom by
>> following how different participant deictics are deployed.
>>
>> Anyway, back to Hegel, Andy, I'd be interested to hear about Hegel and
>> his Here, This, Now.
>>
>> Thanks,
>> -greg
>>
>>
>> On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 6:32 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:
>> ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>
>>     Oh Henry I don't see Peirce as Linguist. Only a
>>     Linguist would see Peirce as a Linguist, because they
>>     see everything as a branch of Linguistics. I see
>>     Peirce as a Philosopher. And he could claim to be
>>     utterly incapable of managing his own life as the
>>     foremost qualification for being a philosopher. Peirce
>>     was a Logician who invented two different schools of
>>     philosophy: Pragmatism and Semiotics.
>>
>>     I value Peirce's Icon/Index/Symbol in particular
>>     because it is a logical triad which Hegel never
>>     theorised and it nicely complements Hegel helping us
>>     understand how Logic is in the world. For Peirce,
>>     Semiotics is something going on in Nature before it is
>>     acquired by human beings, which is an idea I
>>     appreciate. He is also worthy of praise for how he
>>     overcame all kinds of Dualism with both his Semiotics
>>     and his Pragmaticism.
>>
>>     A total madman. A real Metaphysician,
>>
>>     Andy
>>
>>     ------------------------------------------------------------
>>     Andy Blunden
>>     http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>
>>     http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>     <http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-
>> decision-making>
>>
>>     On 8/05/2017 3:22 AM, HENRY SHONERD wrote:
>>
>>         David and Andy,
>>         I have seen Peirce’s categories firstness,
>>         secondness and thirdness on the chat before, and
>>         certainly you were part of that discussion. I
>>         would like to understand that better, also how it
>>         relates to the three categories of signs (iconic,
>>         indexical and symbolic). I have been reading your
>>         “Thinking of Feeling” piece and wonder how that
>>         might relate, which I hope so, since it would
>>         bring development into the mix. Also (sorry!),
>>         Andy’s Academia articles on political
>>         representation and activity/social theory are
>>         probably relevant in some way, though Andy
>>         probably sees language as a figure against a
>>         larger ground and a linguist (like Peirce) turns
>>         the figure/ground relationship around?
>>         Henry
>>
>>
>>             On May 5, 2017, at 4:01 PM, David Kellogg
>>             <dkellogg60@gmail.com
>>             <mailto:dkellogg60@gmail.com>> wrote:
>>
>>             Greg:
>>
>>             (As usual, I don't see the problem. I usually
>>             don't see these problems
>>             until the tide is well and truly over my head.)
>>
>>             Meaning is simply another word for
>>             organization. Organization is always
>>             present and never separable from matter: it's
>>             a property of matter, the way
>>             that the internet is a property of a computer.
>>             Sometimes this organization
>>             is brought about without any human
>>             intervention (if you are religious, you
>>             will say that it brought about divinely, and
>>             if you are Spinozan, by
>>             nature: it amounts to the same thing, because
>>             "Deus Sive Natura").
>>             Sometimes it is brought about by human
>>             ingenuity (but of course if you are
>>             religious you will say that it is the divine
>>             in humans at work, and if you
>>             are Spinozan you will say that humans are
>>             simply that part of nature which
>>             has become conscious of itself: once again, Ii
>>             think it amounts to the same
>>             thing). So of course there are not two kinds
>>             of substance, res cogitans vs
>>             res extensa, only one substance and different
>>             ways of organizing it (which
>>             in the end amount to the same thing).
>>
>>             You say that discourse particles like "Guess
>>             what?" and "so there" and
>>             "because" and "irregardless" and "what you say
>>             to the contrary
>>             notwithstanding" are "indexical". I agree,
>>             insofar as they depend on their
>>             relationship to the context of situation for
>>             their meaning. You say that a
>>             Southern drawl is indexical, and that the
>>             relationship of jazz or blues or
>>             hiphop to blackness is indexical. I agree,
>>             insofar as they satisfy the
>>             condition I just mentioned. But "because" is
>>             also a symbol, and a
>>             Southerner still sounds like a Southerner when
>>             he/she moves to New York
>>             City (and in fact you can argue they sound
>>             more so). In Africa, jazz and
>>             blues and hiphop in Africa are related to
>>             Americanness and not to
>>             blackness.
>>
>>             So your division of signs into just three
>>             categories is too simple, Greg.
>>             In fact, if you really read your Peirce, you
>>             will discover that there are
>>             tens of thousands of categories, but they are
>>             generated from three
>>             ineffable primitives ("firstness",
>>             "secondness", and "thirdness"). So for
>>             example all words are symbols insofar as you
>>             have to know English in order
>>             to understand "Guess what?" or "because". But
>>             some words are
>>             symbol-indices, symbols that function as
>>             indexes, because they depend
>>             on the context of situation for their meaning.
>>             Without the symbolic
>>             gateway, they cannot function as indices. My
>>             wife, for example, cannot tell
>>             a Southerner from a more general American
>>             accent, and I myself still have
>>             trouble figuring out who is an Australian and
>>             who is an FOB bloody pom.
>>             Similarly, my wife doesn't see the blackness
>>             in hiphop--it sounds like
>>             K-pop to her.
>>
>>             I don't actually think that any signs are
>>             associative or "prehensive"; I
>>             think that they are all different ways of
>>             looking or apprehending. So for
>>             example you can apprehend a wording as a
>>             symbol: a way of organizing sound
>>             stuff so that it "stands for" a way of
>>             organizing other stuff (sometimes
>>             lunchboxes and backpacks, actual categories of
>>             objects and sometimes the
>>             abstract models-in-the-making that Andy calls
>>             "projects"). You can also
>>             look at wording as index: not as something
>>             that is "associated" to the lips
>>             and tongue by juxtaposition or proximity or
>>             even continguity but rather
>>             something that has a necessary relation to the
>>             vocal tract (which is itself
>>             not a physiological organ, but something
>>             brought about by human
>>             organization). But when I look at sound waves
>>             on my Praat spectrograph and
>>             think of the shelving sea, what I am trying to
>>             get at is the sound stuff,
>>             the noise, the firstness of the stuff of
>>             words. I'm not Cezanne: I don't
>>             think there is any way of doing this with my
>>             eyes or ears alone: I think it
>>             requires a very complex combination of tools
>>             and signs to get down to
>>             firstness. But as Spinoza would have said if
>>             he had breakfast with
>>             Bacon, the head and the hand are not much by
>>             themselves, but nobody
>>             has ever really shown the limits of what they
>>             can do when they put each
>>             other in order and start to organize the world
>>             around them.
>>
>>             (And that is about as much philosophy as you
>>             are going to get out of me,
>>             I'm afraid. The tide is galloping in....)
>>
>>             David Kellogg
>>             Macquarie University
>>
>>             PS: What I am absolutely certain of is this:
>>             mediating activity is not
>>             absent in sign use, pace Alfredo or
>>             Wolff-Michael, but it is very different
>>             from mediating activity in tool use, for the
>>             same reason that painting is
>>             different from wording: in painting you CAN
>>             leave out the human (if you are
>>             doing a dead seal for example, or if you are
>>             Rothko or Jackson Pollack--but
>>             keep in mind that the former committed suicide
>>             and the latter murdered two
>>             innocent young women). But in wording you
>>             never ever can. Wording can feel
>>             unmediated--in fact it has to feel unmediated
>>             or it doesn't work very
>>             well--but in reality it's even more mediated
>>             than ever.
>>
>>             dk
>>
>>
>>             On Sat, May 6, 2017 at 1:09 AM, Greg Thompson
>>             <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com
>>             <mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>>
>>
>>             wrote:
>>
>>                 David (and others),
>>
>>                 In the interests of disagreement (which I
>>                 know you dearly appreciate), your
>>                 last post included this:
>>                 "Words don't "cause" meaning: they provide
>>                 material correlates for meaning
>>                 and in that sense "realise" them as matter."
>>
>>                 I was with you up until that point, but
>>                 that's where I always lose you.
>>
>>                 I know it is a rather trite thing to say
>>                 but I guess it really depends on
>>                 what you mean by "meaning". If by meaning,
>>                 you mean some plane of existence
>>                 that runs parallel to the material stuff,
>>                 then this seems to be a bit of
>>                 trouble since this leaves us with, on the
>>                 one hand, "matter" (res extensa?
>>                 noumena?), and on the other hand "meaning"
>>                 (res cogitans? phenomena?).
>>                 Matter is easy enough to locate, but where
>>                 do we locate "meaning" as you
>>                 have described it?
>>
>>                 This reminds me of Saussure's classic
>>                 drawing on p. 112 of his Cours
>>                 (attached) in which "the indefinite plane
>>                 of jumbled ideas" (A in the
>>                 diagram) exists on one side of the chasm
>>                 and "the equally vague plane of
>>                 sounds" (B) exists on the other side of
>>                 the chasm. Each side is
>>                 self-contained and self-referential, and
>>                 never the twain shall meet. Worlds
>>                 apart.
>>
>>                 And this ties to the conversation in the
>>                 other thread about the
>>                 ineffability of meaning (as well as Andy's
>>                 Marx quote about a science of
>>                 language that is shorn from life). My
>>                 suspicion is that this supposed
>>                 ineffability of meaning has everything to
>>                 do with this Saussurean approach
>>                 to semiotics (i.e., meaningfulness).
>>
>>                 Peirce's triadic view of the sign offers a
>>                 different approach that may give
>>                 a way out of this trouble by putting the
>>                 word back INto the world. (p. 102
>>                 of the attached Logic as Semiotic).
>>
>>                 Peirce offers three kinds of relations of
>>                 representamen (signifier) to
>>                 object: iconic, indexical, and symbolic.
>>                 The symbol is the relation with
>>                 which we are most familiar - it is the one
>>                 that Saussure speaks of and is
>>                 the one that is ineffable or, in
>>                 Saussure's words, "arbitrary", i.e.
>>                 "conventional". It is the stuff of words,
>>                 the meaning of which is found in
>>                 other words (hence the sense of
>>                 ineffability). With only the symbolic
>>                 function, the whole world of words would
>>                 be entirely self-referential and
>>                 thus truly ineffable (and this is why I
>>                 like to say that Derrida is the end
>>                 of the Saussurean road - he took that idea
>>                 to its logical conclusion and
>>                 discovered that the meaning of meaning is,
>>                 well, empty (and thus
>>                 ineffable)).
>>
>>                 But Peirce has two other relations of
>>                 representamen to object, the iconic
>>                 and the indexical. In signs functioning
>>                 iconically, the representamen
>>                 contains some quality of the object that
>>                 it represents (e.g., a map that
>>                 holds relations of the space that it
>>                 represents or onomatopoeia like "buzz"
>>                 in which the representamen has some of the
>>                 qualities of the sound of the
>>                 bee flying by). With signs functioning
>>                 indexically, the relationship of
>>                 representamen to object is one of temporal
>>                 or spatial contiguity (e.g.,
>>                 where there is smoke there is fire, or
>>                 where there is a Southern twang,
>>                 there is a Southerner, or, most
>>                 classically, when I point, the object to
>>                 which I am pointing is spatially
>>                 contiguous with the finger that is
>>                 pointing).
>>
>>                 Now if I follow the argument of another of
>>                 the inheritors of Roman
>>                 Jakobson's legacy, Michael Silverstein
>>                 (yes, Hasan and Halliday weren't the
>>                 only inheritors of this tradition -
>>                 Michael was a student of Jakobson's at
>>                 Harvard... and he does a great impression
>>                 of Jacobson too), then we can
>>                 indeed locate a ground of the word (i.e.,
>>                 the symbolic function) in the
>>                 more primitive (i.e., rudimentary)
>>                 indexical function.
>>
>>                 But that argument is always a bit too much
>>                 for me (if there are any takers,
>>                 the best place to find this argument is in
>>                 Silverstein's chapter
>>                 "Metapragmatic Discourse, Metapragmatic
>>                 Function," or in less explicit but
>>                 slightly more understandable article
>>                 "Indexical Order and the Dialectics of
>>                 Sociolinguistics Life").
>>
>>                 Vygotsky's argument is quite a bit more
>>                 elegant and comprehensible: in
>>                 ontogeny meaningfulness begins with the
>>                 index, first as the index par
>>                 excellence, pointing (something that, as
>>                 Andy has previously pointed out,
>>                 might not be exactly how things go in a
>>                 literal sense, but the general
>>                 structure here works well, I think, as a
>>                 heuristic if nothing else - words
>>                 are first learned as indexes, temporally
>>                 and spatially collocated, "bottle"
>>                 is first uttered as a way of saying
>>                 "thirsty" and then later to refer to a
>>                 co-present object; note this is also why
>>                 young kids get discourse markers
>>                 at such a young age (and seems incredibly
>>                 precocious when they do!), since
>>                 discourse markers are primarily
>>                 indexical). The indexical function is the
>>                 rudimentary form that then provides the
>>                 groundwork for the development of
>>                 the symbolic function.
>>
>>                 So then, in this Peircean(Vygotskian)
>>                 approach, the meaning of signs is not
>>                 ineffable, there is a grounding for words,
>>                 and that grounding is the
>>                 indexical, the "word"/sign that is both in
>>                 the world and of the world.
>>
>>                 This seems to me a way of putting meaning
>>                 back into matter. And perhaps
>>                 speaking of words as the material
>>                 correlates of meaning can be a useful
>>                 heuristic (i.e., how else can we talk
>>                 about meanings and concepts given our
>>                 current set of meanings/concepts?). But we
>>                 should also recognize that if it
>>                 becomes more than an heuristic it can lead
>>                 us astray if we take it too far.
>>
>>                 I'd add here that I think one of the
>>                 greatest opportunities for CHAT to
>>                 make a contribution to social science
>>                 today is in its conceptualization of
>>                 "concepts" (and, by extension,
>>                 "meaningfulness"). I think that perhaps one
>>                 of the most taken-for-granted aspects of
>>                 social science today is the idea
>>                 that we know what "concepts" are. In
>>                 anthropology, people easily talk about
>>                 "cultural concepts" and typically they
>>                 mean precisely something that floats
>>                 around in some ethereal plane of
>>                 "meaningfulness" and which is not of the
>>                 material stuff of the world. Yet, this
>>                 runs counter to the direction that
>>                 anthropology is heading these days with
>>                 the so-called "ontological turn"
>>                 (I'll hold off on explaining this for now
>>                 since this post is already
>>                 running way too long, but I'll just
>>                 mention that one of the aims of this is
>>                 to get to a non-dualistic social science).
>>                 CHAT's conception of the concept
>>                 seems to me to offer precisely what is
>>                 needed -- a way of understanding the
>>                 concept as a fundamentally cultural and
>>                 historical thing, rather than
>>                 simply as an "ideal" thing. The concept is
>>                 the holding of a(n historical)
>>                 relation across time (cf. Hebb's synapse
>>                 or Peirce's sunflower). Concepts
>>                 are thus little historical text-lets.
>>
>>                 Okay, that was too much. Perhaps I will
>>                 find some time in the future to
>>                 return to that last part, but there is no
>>                 time to develop it further now.
>>
>>                 Anyway, I'm glad that I finally had the
>>                 opportunity to catch up to these
>>                 conversations. Delightful reading/thinking.
>>
>>                 I'll keep reading but no promises that
>>                 I'll be able to comment (as a young
>>                 scholar, I need to be spending my time
>>                 putting stuff out - and unlike the
>>                 rest of you, I'm no good at
>>                 multi-tasking... it's either one or the other
>>                 for me).
>>
>>                 Very best,
>>                 greg
>>
>>
>>
>>                 On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 4:18 PM, David
>>                 Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com
>>                 <mailto:dkellogg60@gmail.com>>
>>
>>                 wrote:
>>
>>                     Well, yes. But if present day
>>                     conditions are the REVERSE of the
>>
>>                 conditions
>>
>>                     under which Vygotsky was writing--that
>>                     is, if the present trend is to
>>                     subsume labor under language instead
>>                     of the other way around--don't we
>>
>>                 need
>>
>>                     this distinction between signs and
>>                     tools more than ever? That is, if
>>
>>                 sloppy
>>
>>                     formulations like "cultural capital",
>>                     "symbolic violence", "use/exchange
>>                     value of the word" are erasing the
>>                     distinction between a mediating
>>
>>                 activity
>>
>>                     which acts on the environment and a
>>                     mediating activity which acts on
>>
>>                 other
>>
>>                     mediators and on the self, and which
>>                     therefore has the potential for
>>                     reciprocity and recursion, isn't this
>>                     exactly where the clear-eyed
>>                     philosophers need to step in and
>>                     straighten us out?
>>
>>                     I think that instead what is happening
>>                     is that our older generation
>>                     of rheumy-eyed philosophers (present
>>                     company--usually--excluded) are too
>>                     interested in the "tool power" of
>>                     large categories and insufficiently
>>                     interested in fine distinctions that
>>                     make a difference. But perhaps it
>>                     is also that our younger generation of
>>                     misty-eyed philosophers are, as
>>                     Eagleton remarked, more interested in
>>                     copulating bodies than exploited
>>                     ones. Yet these fine distinctions that
>>                     do make a difference equally allow
>>                     generalization and abstraction and
>>                     tool power, and the copulating flesh
>>
>>                 and
>>
>>                     the exploited muscles are one and the
>>                     same.
>>
>>                     Take, for example, your remark about
>>                     the Fourier transform performed by
>>
>>                 the
>>
>>                     ear (not the brain--the inner ear
>>                     cochlea--I can see the world centre for
>>                     studying the cochlea from my office
>>                     window). Actually, it's part of a
>>
>>                 wide
>>
>>                     range of "realisation" phenomena that
>>                     were already being noticed by
>>                     Vygotsky. In realisational phenomena,
>>                     you don't have cause and effect,
>>
>>                 just
>>
>>                     as in cause and effect you don't have
>>                     "association". Words don't "cause"
>>                     meaning: they provide material
>>                     correlates for meaning and in that sense
>>                     "realise" them as matter. Meaning does
>>                     not "cause" wording; it correlates
>>                     wording to a semantics--an activity of
>>                     consciousness--and through it to a
>>                     context of situation or culture, and
>>                     in that sense "realises" it.
>>
>>                     So in his lecture on early childhood,
>>                     Vygotsky says that the
>>
>>                 stabilization
>>
>>                     of forms, colours, and sizes by the
>>                     eye in early childhood is part of a
>>
>>                 two
>>
>>                     way relationship, a dialogue, between
>>                     the sense organs and the brain. The
>>                     reason why we don't see a table as a
>>                     trapezoid, when we stand over it and
>>                     compare the front with the back, the
>>                     reason why we don't see a piece of
>>                     chalk at nighttime as black, the
>>                     reason why we have orthoscopic
>>
>>                 perception
>>
>>                     and we don't see a man at a distance
>>                     as a looming midget is that the
>>
>>                 brain
>>
>>                     imposes the contrary views on the eye.
>>                     And where does the brain get this
>>                     view if not from language and from
>>                     other people?
>>
>>                     David Kellogg
>>                     Macquarie University
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>                     On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 11:55 AM, Andy
>>                     Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
>>                     <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>
>>                         Personally, I think the first and
>>                         most persistently important thing is
>>
>>                 to
>>
>>                         see how much alike are tables and
>>                         words.
>>
>>                         But ... Vygotsky was very
>>                         insistent on the distinction
>>                         because he was
>>                         fighting a battle against the idea
>>                         that speech ought to be subsumed
>>
>>                 under
>>
>>                         the larger category of labour. He
>>                         had to fight for semiotics against a
>>                         vulgar kind of orthodox Marxism.
>>                         But we here in 2017 are living in
>>                         different times, where we have
>>                         Discourse Theory and Linguistics while
>>                         Marxism is widely regarded as
>>                         antique. As Marx said "Just as
>>
>>                 philosophers
>>
>>                         have given thought an independent
>>                         existence, so they were bound to make
>>                         language into an independent
>>                         realm." and we live well and truly
>>                         in the
>>                         times when labour is subsumed
>>                         under language, and not the other way
>>
>>                     around.
>>
>>                         Everyone knows that a table is
>>                         unlike a word. The point it to
>>
>>                 understand
>>
>>                         how tables are signs and word are
>>                         material objects.
>>
>>                         Andy
>>
>>                         (BTW David, back in 1986 I walked
>>                         in an offshoot of the bionic ear
>>                         project. The ear has a little
>>                         keyboard that works like a piano
>>                         keyboard
>>
>>                     in
>>
>>                         reverse, making a real time
>>                         Fourier transform of that air
>>                         pressure wave
>>
>>                     and
>>
>>                         coding the harmonics it in nerve
>>                         impulse. The brain never hears that
>>                         pressure signal.)
>>
>>                         ------------------------------
>> ------------------------------
>>                         Andy Blunden
>>                         http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>                         <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>
>>                         http://www.brill.com/products/
>> book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>                         <http://www.brill.com/products
>> /book/origins-collective-decision-making>
>>                         On 3/05/2017 7:06 AM, Alfredo
>>                         Jornet Gil wrote:
>>
>>                             David (and or Mike, Andy,
>>                             anyone else), could you give a
>>                             bit more on
>>
>>                     that
>>
>>                             distinction between words and
>>                             tables?
>>
>>                             And could you say how (and
>>                             whether) (human, hand) nails
>>                             are different
>>                             from tables; and then how
>>                             nails are different from words?
>>
>>                             Alfredo
>>                             ________________________________________
>>                             From:
>>                             xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>                             <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>                             <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.
>>
>>                 edu>
>>
>>                             on behalf of David Kellogg
>>                             <dkellogg60@gmail.com
>>                             <mailto:dkellogg60@gmail.com>>
>>
>>                             Sent: 01 May 2017 08:43
>>                             To: eXtended Mind, Culture,
>>                             Activity
>>                             Subject: [Xmca-l]  The Stuff
>>                             of Words
>>
>>                             Gordon Wells quotes this from
>>                             an article Mike wrote in a
>>                             Festschrift
>>
>>                 for
>>
>>                             George Miller. Mike is talking
>>                             about artefacts:
>>
>>                             "They are ideal in that they
>>                             contain in coded form the
>>                             interactions of
>>                             which they
>>                             were previously a part and
>>                             which they mediate in the
>>                             present (e.g.,
>>
>>                 the
>>
>>                             structure of
>>                             a pencil carries within it the
>>                             history of certain forms of
>>                             writing).
>>
>>                     They
>>
>>                             are material
>>                             in that they are embodied in
>>                             material artifacts. This principle
>>
>>                 applies
>>
>>                             with equal
>>                             force whether one is
>>                             considering language/speech or
>>                             the more usually
>>
>>                     noted
>>
>>                             forms
>>                             of artifacts such as tables
>>                             and knives which constitute
>>                             material
>>
>>                     culture.
>>
>>                             What
>>                             differentiates a word, such as
>>                             “language” from, say, a table.
>>                             is the
>>                             relative prominence
>>                             of their material and ideal
>>                             aspects. No word exists apart
>>                             from its
>>                             material
>>                             instantiation (as a
>>                             configuration of sound waves,
>>                             or hand movements,
>>
>>                 or
>>
>>                     as
>>
>>                             writing,
>>                             or as neuronal activity),
>>                             whereas every table embodies
>>                             an order
>>
>>                 imposed
>>
>>                     by
>>
>>                             thinking
>>                             human beings."
>>
>>                             This is the kind of thing that
>>                             regularly gets me thrown out of
>>
>>                 journals
>>
>>                     by
>>
>>                             the ear. Mike says that the
>>                             difference between a word and
>>                             a table is
>>
>>                 the
>>
>>                             relative salience of the ideal
>>                             and the material. Sure--words
>>                             are full
>>
>>                 of
>>
>>                             the ideal, and tables are full
>>                             of material. Right?
>>
>>                             Nope. Mike says it's the other
>>                             way around. Why? Well, because
>>                             a word
>>                             without some word-stuff (sound
>>                             or graphite) just isn't a
>>                             word. In a
>>                             word, meaning is solidary with
>>                             material sounding: change one,
>>                             and you
>>                             change the other. But with a
>>                             table, what you start with is
>>                             the idea of
>>
>>                     the
>>
>>                             table; as soon as you've got
>>                             that idea, you've got a table.
>>                             You could
>>                             change the material to
>>                             anything and you'd still have
>>                             a table.
>>
>>                             Wells doesn't throw Mike out
>>                             by the ear. But he does ignore the
>>
>>                     delightful
>>
>>                             perversity in what Mike is
>>                             saying, and what he gets out
>>                             of the quote
>>
>>                 is
>>
>>                             just that words are really
>>                             just like tools. When in fact
>>                             Mike is
>>
>>                 saying
>>
>>                             just the opposite.
>>
>>                             (The part I don't get is
>>                             Mike's notion that the
>>                             structure of a pencil
>>                             carries within it the history
>>                             of certain forms of writing.
>>                             Does he
>>
>>                 mean
>>
>>                             that the length of the pencil
>>                             reflects how often it's been
>>                             used? Or is
>>
>>                     he
>>
>>                             making a more archaeological
>>                             point about graphite, wood,
>>                             rubber and
>>
>>                     their
>>
>>                             relationship to a certain
>>                             point in the history of
>>                             writing and erasing?
>>                             Actually, pencils are more
>>                             like tables than like
>>                             words--the idea has
>>
>>                 to
>>
>>                             come first.)
>>
>>                             David Kellogg
>>                             Macquarie University
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>                 --
>>                 Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>>                 Assistant Professor
>>                 Department of Anthropology
>>                 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>>                 Brigham Young University
>>                 Provo, UT 84602
>>                 http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>>                 <http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>> Assistant Professor
>> Department of Anthropology
>> 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>> Brigham Young University
>> Provo, UT 84602
>> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>>
>
>


-- 
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson