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[Xmca-l] Re: The Stuff of Words

Sure Greg. I waited till I retired. It is just a pity that young people have been encouraged to prioritise the Phenomenology which is such a difficult and complex work.

Have a read of this: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hl/hlnotion.htm - that's just 20 pages.


Andy Blunden
On 9/05/2017 1:22 PM, Greg Thompson wrote:

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).


On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 8:28 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto: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 Blunden
    http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>

    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.


        On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 6:32 PM, Andy Blunden
        <ablunden@mira.net <mailto: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
            and his Pragmaticism.

            A total madman. A real Metaphysician,


            Andy Blunden

            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
                indexical and symbolic). I have been
        reading your
                “Thinking of Feeling” piece and wonder how
                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)
                the figure/ground relationship around?

                    On May 5, 2017, at 4:01 PM, David Kellogg
        <mailto:dkellogg60@gmail.com>>> wrote:


                    (As usual, I don't see the problem. I
                    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
                    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,
                    "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
                    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
                    of substance, res cogitans vs
                    res extensa, only one substance and
                    ways of organizing it (which
                    in the end amount to the same thing).

                    You say that discourse particles like
                    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

                    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
                    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
                    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
                    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
                    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
                    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
                    or it doesn't work very
                    well--but in reality it's even more
                    than ever.


                    On Sat, May 6, 2017 at 1:09 AM, Greg


                        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
                        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
                        you mean some plane of existence
                        that runs parallel to the material
                        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
                        (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
                        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

                        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
                        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
                        the meaning of which is found in
                        other words (hence the sense of
                        ineffability). With only the symbolic
                        function, the whole world of words
                        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

                        But Peirce has two other relations of
                        representamen to object, the iconic
                        and the indexical. In signs
                        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
                        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

                        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
                        of Jacobson too), then we can
                        indeed locate a ground of the word
                        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,
                        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
                        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,
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        or Peirce's sunflower). Concepts
                        are thus little historical text-lets.

                        Okay, that was too much. Perhaps I
                        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

                        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,

                        On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 4:18 PM, David
                        Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com


                            Well, yes. But if present day
                            conditions are the REVERSE of the


                            under which Vygotsky was
                            is, if the present trend is to
                            subsume labor under language
                            of the other way around--don't we


                            this distinction between signs and
                            tools more than ever? That is, if


                            formulations like "cultural
                            "symbolic violence", "use/exchange
                            value of the word" are erasing the
                            distinction between a mediating


                            which acts on the environment
        and a
                            mediating activity which acts on


                            mediators and on the self, and
                            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
                            is that our older generation
                            of rheumy-eyed philosophers
        are too
                            interested in the "tool power" of
                            large categories and
                            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


                            the exploited muscles are one
        and the

                            Take, for example, your remark
                            the Fourier transform performed by


                            ear (not the brain--the inner ear
                            cochlea--I can see the world
        centre for
                            studying the cochlea from my
                            window). Actually, it's part of a


                            range of "realisation"
        phenomena that
                            were already being noticed by
                            Vygotsky. In realisational
                            you don't have cause and effect,


                            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
                            Vygotsky says that the


                            of forms, colours, and sizes
        by the
                            eye in early childhood is part
        of a


                            way relationship, a dialogue,
                            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


                            and we don't see a man at a
                            as a looming midget is that the


                            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


                                see how much alike are
        tables and

                                But ... Vygotsky was very
                                insistent on the distinction
                                because he was
                                fighting a battle against
        the idea
                                that speech ought to be


                                the larger category of
        labour. He
                                had to fight for semiotics
        against a
                                vulgar kind of orthodox
                                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


                                have given thought an
                                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


                                Everyone knows that a table is
                                unlike a word. The point it to


                                how tables are signs and
        word are
                                material objects.


                                (BTW David, back in 1986 I
                                in an offshoot of the
        bionic ear
                                project. The ear has a little
                                keyboard that works like a


                                reverse, making a real time
                                Fourier transform of that air
                                pressure wave


                                coding the harmonics it in
                                impulse. The brain never
        hears that
                                pressure signal.)

                                Andy Blunden
                                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


                                    distinction between
        words and

                                    And could you say how (and
                                    whether) (human, hand)
                                    are different
                                    from tables; and then how
                                    nails are different
        from words?



                                    on behalf of David Kellogg

                                    Sent: 01 May 2017 08:43
                                    To: eXtended Mind,
                                    Subject: [Xmca-l]  The
                                    of Words

                                    Gordon Wells quotes
        this from
                                    an article Mike wrote in a


                                    George Miller. Mike is
                                    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.,


                                    structure of
                                    a pencil carries
        within it the
                                    history of certain
        forms of


                                    are material
                                    in that they are
        embodied in
                                    material artifacts.
        This principle


                                    with equal
                                    force whether one is
        language/speech or
                                    the more usually


                                    of artifacts such as
                                    and knives which


                                    differentiates a word,
        such as
                                    “language” from, say,
        a table.
                                    is the
                                    relative prominence
                                    of their material and
                                    aspects. No word
        exists apart
                                    from its
                                    instantiation (as a
                                    configuration of sound
                                    or hand movements,



                                    or as neuronal activity),
                                    whereas every table
                                    an order



                                    human beings."

                                    This is the kind of
        thing that
                                    regularly gets me
        thrown out of



                                    the ear. Mike says
        that the
                                    difference between a
        word and
                                    a table is


                                    relative salience of
        the ideal
                                    and the material.
                                    are full


                                    the ideal, and tables
        are full
                                    of material. Right?

                                    Nope. Mike says it's
        the other
                                    way around. Why? Well,
                                    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


                                    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


                                    perversity in what Mike is
                                    saying, and what he
        gets out
                                    of the quote


                                    just that words are really
                                    just like tools. When
        in fact
                                    Mike is


                                    just the opposite.

                                    (The part I don't get is
                                    Mike's notion that the
                                    structure of a pencil
                                    carries within it the
                                    of certain forms of
                                    Does he


                                    that the length of the
                                    reflects how often
        it's been
                                    used? Or is


                                    making a more
                                    point about graphite,
                                    rubber and


                                    relationship to a certain
                                    point in the history of
                                    writing and erasing?
                                    Actually, pencils are more
                                    like tables than like
                                    words--the idea has


                                    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

-- Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
        Assistant Professor
        Department of Anthropology
        880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
        Brigham Young University
        Provo, UT 84602

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602