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Re: [xmca] Hallucinating Romantic Science

Yes, a lovely piece that plays with naming and its centrality to Western
philosophy. Seems like perhaps a nice critique of Herder's notion of the
role of naming in human historical development, which itself might have
been an influence of Vygotsky's - or at least he was in the same game of
the aforementioned German Romantics.

Here is a nice little excerpt on Herder and naming and animals from Peter
Bornedal's book, The Surface and The Abyss: Neitzsche as Philosopher of
Mind and Knowledge (and please forgive the lengthy quote, but I thought
that whereas the second half seems particularly relevant to the LeGuin's
point about naming and animals, the first part has a wonderful resonance
with Etienne Pelaprat's recent paper with Mike on Minding the Gap and the
importance of dis-coordination to the human capacity to transcend immediacy
and instead to inhabit a mediated world):

'We recall that Herder already had a sophisticated theory of the origin of
language, on several counts anticipating Nietszche and Freud's. One can
compare to this passage of Herder's: "[Man] manifests reflection when,
confronted with the vast hovering dream of images which pass by his senses,
he can collect himself into a moment of wakefulness and dwell at will on
one image, can observe it clearly and more calmly, and can select in it
distinguishing marks for himself so that he will know that this object is
this and not another. He thus manifests reflection if he is able not only
to recognize all characteristics vividly or clearly but if he can also
recognize and acknowledge to himself one or several of them as
distinguishing characteristics. The first act of this acknowledgment
results in a clear concept; it is the first judgment of the soul - and
through what did this acknowledement occur? Through a distinguishing mark
which he had to single out and which, as a distinguishing mark for
reflection, struck him clearly." Herder Uber den Ursprung der Sprache (p.
722-723). The slow recognition of a thing as distinctive - the gradual
capability to see something as something - is also in Herder the
precondition for the emergence of the word. Herder explains even better how
this formation of language occurred, how the origin of language was
conceived: "Let that lamb there, as an image, pass by under his eyes; it is
to him, as it is to no other animal. Not as it would appear to the hungry,
scenting wolf! Not as it would appear to the blood-lapping lion. […] Not so
with man! As soon as he feels the need to come to know the sheep, no
instinct gets in his way; no one sense of his pulls him too close to it or
too far away from it. It stands there, entirely as it manifests itself in
his sense. White, soft, woolly - his soul in reflective exercise seeks a
distinguishing mark - the sheep bleats! This bleating which makes upon
man's soul the strongest impression… the soul retains it. The sheep comes
again. White, soft, woolly - the soul sees, touches, remembers, seeks a
distinguishing mark - the sheep bleats, and the soul recognizes it. And it
feels inside, 'Yes, you are that which bleats.' It has recognized it
humanly when it recognized and named it clearly, that is, with a
distinguishing mark." Herder: Uber den Ursprung der Sprache, p. 723. The
lamb jumping past the perceptive subject is not recognized as such before
the subject recalls from its memory the same "white, soft, woolly"
creature, identical to the creature jumping about in its visual field. When
finally it "bleats," the subject understands, "Ha, you are the one that
bleats," and it recognizes the lamb as lamb. The subject has recognized
something as something; it has established identity, the A=A, and in the
process reduced or simplified a world of becoming into a world of being."

But then again, maybe this is LeGuin's point - that the naming is not a
mere matter of the control of man over nature (as one might expect with the
wolf or the lion). Rather, here is an aesthetic sensibility that drives
mind and cognition: The lamb is the one that bleats!

(and let's be honest that LeGuin's version is much more aesthetically
pleasing to the English ear/eye, although I suspect that "bleats" may have
a more pleasant aesthetic in the original German, any German speakers out


On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 6:53 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> This has been floating around my classes, sorry about the confusion. I
> think its relevant.
> mike
> On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 5:49 PM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>wrote:
>> yes, mike, if easily accessible, please repost.
>> I only know Leguin from her book "That's Funny, You don't look Buddhist"
>> Would love to read more.
>> -greg
>> On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 6:25 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Could we call this ambivalence/contradictionS a necessary property of
>>> joint
>>> cultural/mediated activity perhaps. Resistance to too much subordination
>>> is
>>> the otherface of having no categories at all. I have sent Ursula Leguin's
>>> short story She Unnames Them to you-all didn't I? If not, shame on me
>>> and I
>>> will repost. It is all about classification/naming and resistence.
>>> Something about power and gender in their too, although my students had a
>>> hard time believing me when I said that.
>>> mike
>>>  Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 5:01 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> > Greg, your additional commentary on the resistance to being
>>> classified, but
>>> > at the same time wanting to honour and acknowledge our ancestors, is
>>> > another one of those contradictions [ambivalences??] which I find
>>> > fascinating.
>>> >
>>> __________________________________________
>>> _____
>>> xmca mailing list
>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
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>> --
>> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>> Visiting Assistant Professor
>> Department of Anthropology
>> 883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>> Brigham Young University
>> Provo, UT 84602
>> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
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