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Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)
- From: "Vera John-Steiner" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2011 14:48:36 -0600
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I have been thinking about this distinction between act and product. It
seems to me that the process is primary but of course if it were not engaged
with some more stable aspects of our reality, it would ethereal. So we move,
constantly betweenrapid change, slow change, and tempory entities which
reveal no dsicernable change.
But we do know, that if we think along a long time-scale "products" too will
be processes. This is why I am not afaraid to use the notion of concept.
Those are minimally changing processes within a particular activity system.
All this may have been said before, but we are still exploing
concept-activity so this brief message may be relevant.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Huw Lloyd" <email@example.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2011 7:40 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)
On 21 April 2011 17:11, Martin Packer <email@example.com> wrote:
On Apr 21, 2011, at 2:17 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
> * The quotes you give seem to confirm for me that as a unit of an
activity, "act" is exactly the right term for his use of "word meaning."
I would say that making a meaning is an act. That speaking a meaning is an
act. But that the meaning itself is the product of an act. Likewise, I'd
say that knowing as engaging with meaning is an act.
LSV nowhere suggests that word meaning is an act. Word meaning, he says,
the "unity" of thinking and speaking, because when one uses a word (or
words) in speaking, one is necessarily generalizing, and generalization is
an act of thinking. That has the consequence, he argues, that by studying
word meaning as the unit of analysis one is able to investigate the
(dynamic, complex) relationship between speaking and thinking.
So what is word meaning?
LSV tells us it is the "inner form" of the word. LSV himself used the
notion of inner form before, in the Psychology of Art, where he explained
that a word has not two but three basic elements: its sound, or “external
form”; its meaning or significance [does anyone have the Russian to check
the translation here?]; and its “inner form.” This third aspect, he says,
to be understood as the etymological form that expresses the content. It
often forgotten or displaced. For example, the Russian word for "mouse"
signified "thief", and only by means of the inner form have the sounds
acquired the meaning “mouse.” The inner aspect is the “image” that a word
contains; it can be said to be the link *between* sound and meaning,
If the ascii 'art' below appears badly formatted, try looking at it in a
fixed sized font (such as courier).
Form Process (Act)
Make a meaning
Make an "impression"
Make a sound (speak a meaning)
between signifier and signified. The fact that LSV could also write of the
'inner form' of a statue makes it clear that 'inner' here does not mean
'inside'- for there is nothing special inside the marble. The form is
'inner' in the sense that it is the 'internal' relation between material
idea (in the case of the statue) and between sound and meaning (in the
of the word). It mediates, in other words, between the *material* and the
But the term "inner form" is much older. Dilthey pointed out that
wrote in his Poetics of the “inner structure” of the tragedy, in an
that LSV knew well. Von Humbolt wrote of “innere Sprachform” as the way a
language shapes both the perception and the conceptions of its speakers.
seems to have been rethinking the Kantian relationship between receptivity
(sensibility) and creativity (reason); the forms that Kant proposed are
imposed by mind were, for Von Humbolt, provided by language.) Potebnya
argued that words carry not only a meaning, but also the past experience
the individual and the nation, through which all new experience is
Consequently a word usually has three aspects: an external form, a
and an internal form. In many cases the internal form is rooted in myth
hence, acts as a bridge between folklore and modern language. With time
consciousness of a word's internal form fades, and one of the tasks of
literature is to restore this consciousness.
Nice work, Martin. I previously interpreted Cassirer's "Mythical form"
(influenced by Humbolt) to be representationally equivalent to feeling,
which, if it holds, implies something like this:
An alternative analysis, though, might be that there are systematic
metaphoric substitutions in any language, such as “love is a journey.”
of course is Lakoff's example, and Lakoff argues that metaphor is "a
conceptual system underlying" language, that provides an "ontological
mapping across conceptual domains." LSV doesn’t seem to be interested in
metaphor. To raise this point is to risk confusing our discussion, though,
because what Lakoff calls 'conceptual' here is not what LSV considers
conceptual. The kind of knowledge that metaphor provides through its
mappings is what LSV considers to be word meaning.
Extrapolated from Beer, Decision and Control, page 111:
Make a scientific comparison
Make a "philosophical" comparison
Make a poetic comparison
This is not to say that there are no problems with LSV's account of
word-meaning. One problem is that, if meaning is ‘in’ a word, it is not
clear how it can differ for child and adult. It turns out that there is a
considerable literature on this issue in the context of Frege’s
between sense [which LSV translates as 'meaning'] and reference, and it
suggests one possible solution to the problem. Frege considered senses to
abstract entities, distinct both from referents, which are real objects,
from ‘ideas,’ which are psychological. Senses, then, occupy a “third
that is neither mental nor material. LSV did not draw such a clear
distinction, so that ‘meaning’ for him at one moment seems something
linguistic, at other times a matter of what someone “thinks.” According to
most readings of Frege each sign has a single, invariant sense which all
speakers of a language will “grasp” in the same way. But Frege
that people can differ in what they can “bring to mind” of a sense (I'm
drawing here on the work of philosopher Robert May, at UC Irvine). The
solution to the problem of framing LSV’s claims in Frege’s terms would be,
then, to suggest that child and adult necessarily grasp the same sense in
word or expression (because there is only one sense to grasp), but they
bring to consciousness different aspects of this sense.
That's quite enough for one message, I think!
I don't know Frege and Lackoff is on my shelf unread. Are there particular
pieces you'd recommend?
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