>You think that we are wired to learn empirically, from our own experience. But clearly much of our acculturation proceeds from language and that’s a peculiar kind of experience.
True. Much of our acculturation does proceed from language – but more specifically, from the behavioural patterns which we learn to associate with particular words and phrases. That is key. Nonetheless there would be no basis for adjusting the associative and connotative meanings that persist within language if we did not have a standpoint from outside of language from which to consider the effects that language often has on us! If language really did dominate our thinking entirely, as some suggest it does – then there would never be an instance when it was possible to object to the one in which someone uses language “offensively”. We would just acquiesce and say “that person said it, so it must be true!” So, on needs to create a dialectic out of different levels, such as “Langue” and “Parole”. Or levels of truth – could be more than a dialectic, rather a hierarchy. Whatever. And then the question is: who determines this hierarchy and its truthfulness?
>My sister tells the story of visiting a friend in a building with an elevator. Trying to make it an adventure she said, “Come on Christopher we’re going to take a ride in an elevator.” He immediately threw himself on the floor screaming “I don’t want to ride in an Alligator!”
Oh, c’mon, Jonah had a whale of a time!
>In some way or another I think we are wired for language, but how is that and in what ways?
>Bateson thought it was a lazy way of thinking to imagine patterns as fixed affairs, and rather better to imagine patterns “primarily as a dance of interacting parts and only secondarily pegged down by various sorts of physical limits and by those limits which organisms characteristically impose.”
>He presents that “a story is a little knot or complex of that species of connectedness which we call relevance.” And he thought that people thought in terms of stories. Nothing has meaning unless it is seen in some context.
“Stories” play a similar role for him to that which I appoint “ideology”. Yet whether or not a particular story has the power to persuade us at all – I attribute feelings of potency or otherwise to our cultural unconscious.
>It is surely the case that the brain contains no material objects other than its own channels and switchways and its own metabolic supplies and that all this material hardware never enters the narratives of mind. Thought can be about pigs or coconuts, but there are no pigs or coconuts in the brain; and in mind, there are no neurons, only ideas of pigs and coconuts.There is a complemetary relationship between things and our ideas of things, but the thing is not the idea. Nevertheless people have all sorts of confusions mistaking ideas for the things themselves.
>People do often think inductively from data to hypotheses, but we also test hypotheses against knowledge deductively from fundamentals of science, mathematics, philosophy. While I have no doubt that people commonly use these strategies, it seems to me an open question whether we are “wired” for them or whether they are artifacts of our use of language.
I’m employing Damasio (a neurologist who has some theories about the way the mind works) to suggest that we are “wired” to learn about our environmental conditions through trial and error. Maybe we just learn some general principles about risk (which might be what he is suggesting) or maybe we do learn more about the specific features of our environments, giving us a gauge of risk and benefit with an environment (what my introspection about cultural differences tells me). In any case, I think it is from personal experience that we generally derive the information which underlies most of our decision-making, on a day to day basis. And, even when we look to science, mathematics or politics, we usually nonetheless make the final decisions based on our “guts” – that is, if we are talking about day to day life. Therefore it is our “gut” which is most important. And we derive “gut experience” not from magic or from thin air, nor from genius, but from lived experience (as the main component of instinctive knowledge).
>>Rather than valuing empirical experiences and trying to make sense of them, westerners are inclined to draw meaning from a state of being which has been cut off (castrated) from the real world. They revel in the imaginative realm of bogeymen and women — psychological projections and shadows of historical truths. “Colonialism” — something which cannot even be viscerally grasped by these psychological castrates — is just such a bogeyman.It seems to me you’re saying that people should be more “natural.” I’m not sure what that means, but I tend to agree.
Yes, the above paragraph (and your response to it) is key. It has, also, to do with the realm of language and behaviour (believe it or not). If people are indeed trained (as I suggest) not to pay attention to their personal feelings because (pejoratively) they are “subjective”, then what predominates is group think – which has certain destructive features. One of its most destructive aspects is that it tends not to be connected to the concrete realm of personal experience – it flies above this, and is often wildly speculative (due to the lack of empirical grounding).
>Bateson “Most of us have lost that sense of unity of the biosphere and humanity which would bind us and reassure us all with an affirmation of beauty.”
>Now I think you might protest that Bateson is going too “mythic” here and you’re sick to death of myths; especially that one about white colonials that lead people to treat you ill. And of course you hate the various myths that promote various species of sexism as well. But think it’s wrong to dismiss Bateson as a mystic because his ideas about holism, the pattern that connects, are always mapped to scientific fundamentals, in particular natural selection. He may be wildly off base, but nevertheless the rigor and formalism which he applied to ideas about communication inform it.
No, I think he is stating a certain truism in all likelihood. There is a lack of appreciation of the whole dimension of things (it is compartmentalised). This also seems to concur with a disregard for aesthetics in many ways, in the contemporary world.
>Over at Feral Scholar, http://stangoff.com/ he recently did a series on Engels & Gender. I doubt I understood much of it. But reading it reminded me of a book by Ivan Illich, “Gender.” And it reminds me of your points in re Zizek and modernity. Illich pints out that before the industrial age that people lived highly gendered lives. That the relationship was complementary. Modern economic systems need workers and work tends towards gender neutrality. This changes the relationship between men and women toward competitiveness.
I disagree with the implications of such an overwhelming mechanical determination – although I do think that modern economic systems have SOME effect in the sense suggested.
As you suggested, language remains a determinant factor as well. But language is neutral apart from behaviour. So, when behaviour in the workplace suggests that women are not to be treated as intelligent and self-determining creatures, this begins to have an effect in the material realm. When such values eventually take hold through language, women will not be able to assert themselves with any dignity, and will be treated like shit. Only this sort of treatment will itself be announced as “dignity” (not shit). “We are respecting you by disrespecting you!” is the rhetorical refrain of those who have the monopoly on power. When language and behaviour coincide, this “normalises” behaviour (even abusive behaviour) , so that nothing appears to be off kilter – at the level of ideology. However, pathology and pain proliferate under such circumstances. Such a society will require a great number of people – but mostly its victims – to repress their knowledge of their own empirical experiences. (Just in order to survive!)
>Illich suggest that the modern economic paradigm neuters female and male sex. He writes, “Economic existence and gender might be literally incomparable.”
Nah. We still have the symbolic domain!
>I don’t think too many people read Illich’s book, but many of those who did hated it.
>I keep introducing other sources rather than state my own opinions, that’s kind of irritating. It’s not like I assume you’ll rush out and read them and even less you’ll bring away from them what I do. If you do go to Feral Scholar be sure to click on the title of the Engels & Gender posts so you’ll go to the pages. I’m not adept at reading scholarship steeped in Marxism, but they’re good posts.
>The reason I bring up Feral Scholar and Illich is because I’m curious about your views on gender; whether and how our biological sex shapes our experiences and whether and how those are related to our perception of gender.
I think gender is a conditioned experience. There are certain inherent tendencies too – vitalised (in every sense) women and devitalised men.
I think that those who really have the hardest time with gender are those who have adopted very narrowly defined symbolic notions about gender. Such people have lost touch with the ability to have their own personal experiences and the ability to learn and develop from them. They need “truths” which appear to come from higher sources (even “Divine” sources) to quell their pain and anti-naturalism. Many of them embrace “Nietzsche”.