Re: [xmca] Artifacts, Tools and Classroom

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sun Jan 15 2006 - 13:20:18 PST

Interesting observations about being and having, Kevin. It is true
that our terminology implies that physical characteristics "exist"
within an object that in reality don't when we say a thing "contains"
ideality or is "imbued" with meaning. In reality, we are projecting
social relations onto an object by virtue of manipulating it and/or
its representations, and acting accordingly. Even more confusing
than an object just "having" say, ideality, is an object "possessing"
it! Our language just keeps steering us toward anthropocentric
metaphors, doesn't it? In the way I was looking at this question,
the operative qualifiers were "encounter" and "in the sphere of human
activity." An object outside of the human-sphere (unencountered in
any way by humans) may generate noise in a forest - acoustic waves
exist independently of humans - but it cannot "have" or "possess"
ideality or meaning independently of humans. Stars are uninfluenced
by humans but humans encounter and observe stars and their movements,
and "invest" them (another of those metaphors!) with meaning, with
ideality. Humans do this so constantly and so thoroughly with each
and every object in their spheres of observation and influence that
they can lose sight of the difference between the material and the
ideal, confuse one with the other, and think it is possible to "have"
one without the other.

- Steve

At 03:12 PM 1/15/2006 -0500, Kevin wrote:
>As to your questions Steve, not to get too Philosophy 101 about the
>whole thing ;-), but part of the dilemma is in the Derridean
>"supplement of copula" perhaps. You write "can one encounter
>physical objects that have no meaning"? And the trick, to me, is
>in the verb "to have" being close to an existence claim, i.e., the
>physical object intrinsically "has" meaning versus meaning being
>something that arises from human subject-physical object
>interaction. In other words, does it have meaning when no one is
>around? (tree in the forest? ;-)) And, as Derrida suggests, perhaps
>that is just the bias of a language that requires constant existence
>claims given the relative and fundamental dominance of the verb "to
>be" (cleverly concealed in your statement in the verb "to have"),
>no? (since not all languages have that "to be" requirement)
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