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Re: [xmca] Plying Frames and the Planet of the Apes
When I was a grad student at UCB I took a class with Jonas Langer, a dedicated and knowledgeable Piagetian. I wrote a paper in which I proposed that the shift in sensorimotor substages that takes place towards the end of the first year of life was perhaps related to the fact that the infant is at that time starting to walk. The proposal was roundly rejected - the rationality of even sensorimotor development was, conventional wisdom had it, independent of such bodily phenomena as locomotion. And if that were true of the practical intelligence of infancy, how much more must it be so of preoperational and operational intelligences.
So yes, I do believe that the cognitive revolution, and also the constructivist revolution, did indeed repress the body in their accounts of cognition. A good historian of ideas could probably trace the origins of this, but I'm not and I won't.
I'm quite comfortable saying that the biological is the basis of communication and also the beginning. But I don't think it is *only* the beginning. Or would you suggest that the intellect can at some point slough off its corporal origins?
On Aug 15, 2011, at 6:21 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
> At the beginning of "History of Sexuality" Foucault goes on (and ON) asking, not why the Victorians were so sexually repressed, but rather why we insist so upon their non-sexual nature often in the very teeth of evidence to the contrary.
> I guess my response to the idea of embodied cognition is rather like Andy's; first, it is wonder if there is any form of cognition which can be said to be unembodied, and secondly, if there isn't, why do we insist so upon its embodiment?
> For example, it seems to me that your five points below are a little redundant, or at least overlapping. One and two seem like positive and negative ways of stating exactly the same thing (and the way you state it, that intellect and emotion are part of a pie, seems rather dualistic, unless you mean that they are part of a pie the way that the top crust and the bottom crust are part of the same pie).
> Point three is much closer to the way I think, but it has a very different effect on me than it does on you. To me, culture is biological in pretty much the same way that biology is chemical, or chemistry is physical: what was a key unit of analysis at one level really loses its meaning altogether at another.
> And that brings me to point four, and back to Foucault's question: if the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, if cognition always comes embodied and never comes without a fleshly envelope, why do people have to insist on these facts so much? Is it really because this information has been surpressed, or rather because we have simply never noticed them, because we take it for granted?
> There is some of both of course, and I am tempted to set them in a developmental sequence. We first point to the Victorians in order to remind ourselves of how wonderful it is to be non-Victorian, and we avidly read of sensuality in literature (where the sensuousness of the content stands in such stark naked contrast to the symbolic form) in order to feel superior to medieval monks, who had to read elaborate descriptions of how Mary managed to avoid all bodily intercourse whatsoever and nevertheless conceive a child, or how Jesus Christ shrank to the size of a pinpoint while being born in order to avoid all physical contact with the organs of his mother.
> But I think that is only the beginning of the story. We also read sensuality in literature for the very opposite reason, in order to notice all the things we miss in the heat of the moment when we take fleshiness for granted, and in our own period, pace Foucault, I think this is a much more likely explanation. However, that too is not the end of the story: Eagleton points out somewhere that undergraduates in literature prefer to write about copulating bodies rather than exploited ones, and I think a great deal of literary criticism, and even literature itself, shows that.
> So I think Volosinov is right. The persistance of Freudianism, the insistence upon a non-existent "language gene", the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and even Fernando Rey's attempt to elminate Vygotsky's middle period and go back to individual creativity, personal imagination, and private sensations are all part of a single late emerging tendency in thinking about the mind (sure enough, Rey's paper presents this as a counter-tendency, although to my eye it seems much more like the main trend).
> You express this tendency rather well yourself when you say that the "basis" of communication is biological. By saying this, I think you insist on a unit of analysis which is really only an element of communication. Yes, the body is an elemental part of communication, but that does not make the specific bodily feature that we use for communication an essential part of the process. The vocal tract is not in any way necessary to communication in general, else we would have to admit that deaf people cannot communicate, and e-mail communication is parasitic upon face to face interaction.
> Kohler says that nowhere is the bankruptcy of intellectualism so obvious as in the history of intellect itself. Vygotsky and Luria note that this SEEMS paradoxical. But in fact an intellectualistic history of intellect is no history at all: it includes the idea of intellect in the form of an explanatory principle, and so it is simply preformist description and not a truly developmental account (similar to Chomskyan ideas about language acquisition).
> In a developmental account, there have to be possibilities inherent in the middle of the process that were not there at the beginning, and possibilities that inhere in the end of the process that were not even there in the middle. I think that very fact suggests that what you really mean by saying that the BASIS of communication is biological is only that its BEGINNING was so.
> David Kellogg
> --- On Sun, 8/14/11, Martin Packer <email@example.com> wrote:
> From: Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Plying Frames and the Planet of the Apes
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
> Date: Sunday, August 14, 2011, 1:28 PM
> I find the emphasis on embodiment helpful in at least the following ways.
> 1. it reminds me that each of us has ways of relating to our environment that do not require mental representations. Only the most unrepentant cognitivist would think that walking, or eating, or breathing, or dancing or sleeping require the creation of cognitive representations.
> 2. it reminds me that the intellectual is only part of the pie. When we think of bodies we thinking of eating and breathing, sensuality and excretion and sweating. Emotion, exertion, movement... All sorts of corporal stuff that is just as important, if not more so, than the thought processes that we academics tend to prioritize.
> 3. it reminds me that culture *is* biological. The styles of walking that Mauss described; the habitus, the embodied dispositions that Bourdieu emphasized; how, as Foucault saw, our skin, our organs, bear the traces, the scars and wounds, of the way we have lived; the accents and tastes we have acquired - these are all at one and the same time biological and cultural, not one or the other.
> 4. and it reminds me that the basic way we have of making contact with other people isn't communication, it is bodies touching. Dancing salsa with a good partner requires and establishes an intersubjectivity, a being together, that is prior to any verbal attempt to struggle towards shared grounds. Heck, each of us came out of the body of another person! That has to count for something.
> On Aug 13, 2011, at 8:34 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>> I am always impressed by the insistence on the embodiment of cognition by people who are equally insistent on its social and cultural basis. Not because I think there is an inherent contradiction (after all, social entities are bodies of bodies) but because to me a great deal of the talk of embodiment reflects the kind of bourgeois pessimism Volosinov complained about shortly after the turn of the nineteenth century.
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