Re: [xmca] And now for something completely different: Larry Craig

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Wed Dec 05 2007 - 23:11:48 PST

  I have a lot of trouble with:
  a) The mind of an individual after death is not the same as a living
 mind. It is merely the various traces of that once living mind recorded
 in sundry cultural-historical artefacts.
  for two l reasons.
  One is the very expression "the mind of an individual". What one could call the individual human mind idevelops in a process of learning how to participate in the social or spiritual (a word that even Marx and Engels used without an theological connotations) legacies and traditions into which she or he is born . Like an actor,in a drama already written. Some actors, say Robin Williams, may be able improvise their role, but these are rather uncommon, despite the fact that such improvisation in childhood is a precondition for being able to successfully participate in these traditions and legacies in which everything that might be considered "mind" maniifests itself..,
  When people speak of "beautiful" or "brilliant minds" they are really referring to what the individual creates within the framework of the social mind in which the individual "acts". I don't think one can confuse the individual's participation in a what can only be conceived as a synchronic and diachronic spiritual or cultural domain of mind. The practice of contemporary archaeology illustrates the possibiity of reconstructing the structures of mind of civilizations that have long passed from any individual's memory and it is conceivable that groups of individual who asssumed the recovered practices could reinhabit that past social mind and that it become the framework for a future individuals' mental, congnitive, and existential participation, an identity that a future individual could suffuse with meaning. This we see in part in many linguistic and cultural revival movements of originary people's movements throughout the world. But ff these two dimensions of
 "living mind", which can't ever be an attribute of an individual considered in isolation, aren't distinguished it seems, as someone wrote earlier, that we are back to the situation Vygotsky analyzed in his work on the crisis in psychology.
  The second thing that I totally reject is the notion of "sundry cultural artefacts". Rather what we find with the successive generations of humans an accumulation of various kinds of what Bourdieu, expanding on Marx's concept of economic capital, called symboic capital. This accumullation is far from "sundry" but represents the very wealth of the generations of individuals who inhabited these symbolic/semiotic fields and in so doing perpetuated and in some cases might have transformed them in significant ways.
  Some individuals do transform significantly the traditions in which they discover mind. Chomsky wrote a womderful passage in his book/pamphelt "language and mind " about how most individuals simply repeated the structures of language they inherited but some, those we call geniuses, such as Shakespeare, d, were able to find new levels of the language itself "turns of phrases that no one had ever thought of before" and transform th language in ways that changed the way pepople used the language itself.
  I've said this previously, we still don't have a the theorization of that historical dimension of Mind, the way in which meaning accumulates similar to Marx's analysis of the way in which economic capital accumulates, an analysis of the processes of "accumulation" in the symbolic/semiotic dimension in whcih what most people call "mind" manifests itself , a process of accumulation that leaves the legacies of cultural capital , the traditions into which each new generation grows and discovers, at least some do, mind.
  David Kellogg <> wrote:
  I think nobody on this list would have any trouble with a proposition like this:

a) The mind of an individual after death is not the same as a living mind. It is merely the various traces of that once living mind recorded in sundry cultural-historical artefacts.

This proposition does not seem very different to me from saying that the living mind of an individual outside of his skull (spatially and not just temporally) CAN be called something else. A tool, a sign, a process, or an activity, just for example.

The problem, of course, is a developmental one; one has to be able to explain how minds get into brains and what they look like before they get there (not to mention what the brain is like before the mind gets there). Saying that what is outside the mind CANNOT under any circumstances be called part of the mind make it very difficult to answer that question.

This morning on the subway I was thinking that it was a little like saying:

b) A passenger on the Seoul subway who is outside an actual subway car cannot be called a passenger.

I suppose it is true enough as far as it goes, but it is not much help in planning my daily commute, and it's certainly not at all useful for the city planning authorities.

Now, what about this one?

c) The sexual persona of an individual who has same-sex relationships but who is not (historically, culturally, socially) part of a culture in which homosexuality is a recognized form of sexuality is not the same as the sexual persona of a person who is.

Long ago, almost back when Tony was reading Mao in the original Chinese in the snows of Boston, I worked on a shrimp-fishing boat in Tunisia. It was our custom in the afternoon to roast everything in the net that wasn't shrimp on a charcoal kanoun, gorge ourselves on snails and squid, and get rip-roaring drunk on our profits. When people were satiated, they would crawl between decks and sleep until it was time to go out and set the nets again.

One evening my bunkmate Muhammad, who I had, the night before, tattooed with large purple rose employing nothing but the sail darning needle and a leaky ball point pen, started hitting on me. I was feeling rather more drunk than adventurous and said no. He complained that Westerners all liked to be "hissan" (I thought the word meant 'horse', but it turned out to mean "the one who feels"). I said that it was the same as Tunisia and the same as Algeria (he was from Algeria), there were some who did and who didn't. He protested LOUDLY that nobody in either Tunisia or Algeria enjoyed it, and we almost came to blows.

Months later when he came to apologize to me in my shanty in Tunis he explained what he meant. The practice of masturbation is not necessarily a homosexual practice, although it certainly does involve having a same-sex relationship. Like masturbation, same sex relations were really something you did faute de mieux, and for most poor Arab men like him who could not afford to marry, that meant you did them for a long time.

The passive person was the "hissan", and it was a matter of some shame, particularly if you enjoyed it. On the other hand, there were certain practices such as oral sex or "taffreesh" (the word means "brushing", and I don't know exactly what the practice was) that were unlikely with women, and more enjoyable with men. But nobody considered themselves gay; they were just in waiting.

It's not hard to find similar examples of the pre-history of homosexuality in our own history. Right now I'm listening to a wonderful recording of Gluck's "Iphigenie in Tauride". The opera contains a passionate duet between Oreste and Pylade, about how death is to be welcomed for they will share a tomb and the pleasure they have taken in their shared moments will now be immortal. The liner notes inform me solemnly that the work was extraordinarily bold for its time--in not having a love theme.

Perhaps Senator Craig is right. He's not gay. He's merely a pre-homosexual fossil. I suppose that too is nothing to be ashamed of; so was my friend Muhammad, and so was Shakespeare.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Dec 5 23:14 PST 2007

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