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[xmca] Representationalism, as a way of knowing, has a history

Hi Martin

The other post had 18 entries so thought I would begin a new post.

Karen Barad, in 2003, wrote an article, "Posthumanist Performativity: Toward
an nderstanding of how Matter Comes to Matter" in the journal  "Signs:
Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 2003, Vol.28, no. 3 pp. 801-831"

She has a provocative quote that speaks to Vygotsky's historical methodology
or way of seeing.  She is pointing to the fact that both scientific realism
and social constructivism share common ground in how they view scientific
knowledge IS the multiple representational forms which MEDIATE our access to
the material world.  Where they differ is on the question of referent.
Whether scientific knowledge represents things in the world as they really
are or "objects" that are the PRODUCTS of social activities, but Karen
points out BOTH groups subscribe to representationalism.

Karen points out,
"Representationalism is so deeply entrenched withIN Western culture that it
has taken on a common sense appeal.  It seems inescapable, if not downright
natural. But representationalism (like "nature itself," not merly our
representations of it!) HAS A HISTORY" [p. 806]

She references Ian Hacking who traced this notion of knowledge back to
Ancient Greece and the Democritean dream of atoms and the void that posited
a gap between representations and represented and the concept of
"appearance" makes its first appearance.  Karen's perspective is that the
problem of realism in philosophy is a PRODUCT of THIS atomistic worldview.
And from this moment in history the consequence of this product isthe
DIVISION between "internal" and "external" that breaks the line of the
knowing subject.

Joseph Rouse is quoted in Karen's article. He states,

"The presumption that we can know what we mean, or what our verbal
performances say, more readily than we can know the objects those sayings
are about is a Cartesian legacy, a LINQUISTIC variation on Descartes'
insistence that we have a direct and privileged access to the contents of
our thoughts that we lack towards the "external" world."

Karen summarizes this section of her article by saying,

"In other words, the ASYMMETRICAL FAITH in our access to representations
over things is a contingent fact of HISTORY and not a logical necessity;
that is, it is simply a Cartesian habit of mind. It takes a healthy
skepticism toward Cartesian doubt to begin to be able to see an alternative"
(p. 807)

Karen ends with a concrete example of this perspective which she borrows
from Foucault. In sixteenth century Europe, language was not thought of as a
MEDIUM; rather, it was simply "one of the figurations of the world".
(Foucault, 1970, p.56).  Today the notion of "con-figurations" or gestalten
point in the same direction of a shift away from representative notions of
knowledge formation.  This shift allows us to use our "scissors" differently
as we make "agential CUTS" in coming to dwell in the world.

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