|obverse Chapter 2·||Turning Signs (Contents)||References||SourceNet|
This webpage is the current version of rePatch ·2 (the reverse side of Chapter 2·) of Turning Signs, as of 31 March 2018. Each point is independent but some terms are hyperlinked to their definitions or to related contexts elsewhere. Tip: You can also search this page or the whole netbook or the gnoxic blog for any term.
Du bist die Aufgabe. Kein Schüler weit und breit.This is one of a series of aphorisms written by Franz Kafka in 1917-18. An Aufgabe is an assignment given by a teacher as a problem to be solved by a student. But in this case you are the problem and there is no student available (or able?) to solve you.
Who made you a problem, a task to be done, a mission to be accomplished?
Can a problem solve itself?
If you don't argue with me, I don't know what I think.— Alan Watts ‘On the Nature of Consciousness’
We speak, not only to tell others what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think.— J. Hughlings Jackson (Dennett 1991, 194)
“How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?”— the old lady in the anecdote related by E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel, Chapter 5
… the thinking subject himself is in a kind of ignorance of his thoughts so long as he has not formulated them for himself, or even spoken and written them, as is shown by the example of so many writers who begin a book without knowing exactly what they are going to put into it.— Merleau-Ponty (1945, 206)
So see we so as seed we sow.— Finnegans Wake (250)
To be a consciousness or rather to be an experience is to hold inner communication with the world, the body and other people, to be with them instead of being beside them.— Merleau-Ponty (1945, 111)
the chief malaise of our society is perhaps that it allows so little pause and gives so little specifying response and interpersonal communion to our experiencing, so that we must much of the time pretend that we are only what we seem externally, and that our meanings are only the objective references and the logical meanings of our words.As Goffman (1959) demonstrated, ‘pretending that we are only what we seem’ is crucial to the maintenance of social roles, “team” membership and morale – our personae or masks. This is probably true of all societies, not only ‘ours,’ but especially in this age of proliferating information we need ways to dip into deeper, more intimate meanings: we need intimologies, which entail a resurrection of the body as meaning space, and a deepening of “logic” into the study of semiosis (the process of meaning) as pioneered by Peirce.— Gendlin (1962/1997, 16)
It is because our brains, more than those of any other animal on the planet, are primed to seek and consummate such intimate relations with nonbiological resources that we end up as bright and as capable of abstract thought as we are. It is because we are natural-born cyborgs, forever ready to merge our mental activities with the operations of pen, paper and electronics, that we are able to understand the world as we do.And, of course, that same characteristic enables us to wreak untold damage on the biosphere; to enclose ourselves in a cocoon of denial as we do; and, perhaps, to break out of that cocoon by recognizing that we are the biosphere. We are extensions of it just as technologies are extensions of us.— Clark (2003, 6)
Buddha-dharma, for instance, is the recorded teaching of Sakyamuni Buddha, or the universal Way of all buddhas, which all things (also called dharmas) are presently expounding to those who have ears to hear. Thus the ‘body’ or ‘system’ of the buddha's teaching pervades the universe.
The word dharma means many things, but its underlying sense is ‘that which supports,’ from the root dhri, to support, hold up, or bear. Generally Dharma implies support from within: the essence of a thing, its virtue, that which makes it what it is.But like ‘system’ (or logos), dharma also applies on a larger scale to ‘the essential order of things’ (Easwaran 1985, 15).— Eknath Easwaran (1985, 15)
The final benefit of this story might be to enable the human community to become present to the larger earth Community in a mutually enhancing manner. We can hope that it will soon be finding expression ... on a universal scale. Such expressions will sensitize people to the story that every river and every star and every animal is telling. The goal is not to read a book; the goal is to read the story taking place all around us.The book you are now reading shares this hope, but its focus is reading itself, in its many semiotic forms, and its role in guidance systems. Every sign we read deeply, every dialogue into which we enter with the earth and its other inhabitants, can bring us closer to the vision expressed by Thomas Berry (1988, xiv):— Swimme and Berry (1992, 3)
… the vision of an intimate earth community, a community of all the geological, biological, and human components. Only in recent times has such a vision become possible. We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die. The time has come to lower our voices, to cease imposing our mechanistic patterns on the biological processes of the earth, to resist the impulse to control, to command, to force, to oppress, and to begin quite humbly to follow the guidance of the larger community on which all life depends. Our fulfillment is not in our isolated human grandeur, but in our intimacy with the larger earth community, for this is also the larger dimension of our being. Our human destiny is integral with the destiny of the earth.In North America, or Turtle Island, some of us are beginning to listen more carefully to the stories told by indigenous people, and to respect the intimacy of their dialogue with the earth, developed over thousands of years and brutally interrupted by the invasion from Europe that started over 500 years ago. But the descendants of both indigenous and European people can carry on that dialogue only by reading its current context more intimately.
While the ancients had much more highly developed sensitivities regarding the natural world in its numinous aspects and in its inner spontaneities, we are not without our own resources that, properly appreciated, can lead to our own mode of intimacy with the natural world, and even to a renewal of the earth in the new ecological community.— Berry (1999, 26)
Likewise, when a systematic philosopher such as Peirce appears to make an assertion incompatible with some previous assertion of his own, without giving any indication that the new assertion is a correction or improvement of the older one, our first guess should be that our interpretation of at least one of his statements is faulty. We could call this the principle of hermeneutic fallibilism. The next step is to look for a more comprehensive interpretation of the author's work, whereby the statements in focus appear complementary rather than contradictory, or occupy different contextual niches in a consistent meaning space, or represent different stages in the development of a single consistent system. If we do come up with a more comprehensive interpretation, it may bear fruit in future readings of this writer's work, revealing more of its depth, breadth and complexity – perhaps more than its author himself recognized. Or the hypothetical framework may prove incompatible with subsequent readings, and have to be discarded in its turn. If no such comprehensive interpretation seems to work, then the next hypothesis to try is that the author has changed his mind on the subject without giving notice of the change – or that his system is not so consistent as we thought.
Of course, all this deep reading requires sustained attention, which means not turning attention to other possible objects in the meantime.
Reader, I beg you will think this matter out for yourself, and then you can see — I wish I could — whether your independently formed opinion does not fall in with mine.— Peirce, CP 4.540 (‘Prolegomena’, 1906)
Once a person has escaped the cage of his own opinions by entering into the quest for truth, even the internal monologue, the stream of consciousness expressed as a train of thought, can be a dialogue, or even a dialog (for the difference, see the obverse of this chapter). What counts is the sense of mission, the spirit of inquiry. The logic of this, as Peirce saw it, is that each thought is addressed by the self you are now to the self you will be momentarily: past self addresses future self through present semiosis, and the former future self proceeds to test the received idea. A philosophical writer like Peirce will typically test an idea in this way, sometimes for years, before she considers it worthy to launch into the great conversation for further testing.
The appearance of monologue, then, can be deceptive. The difference between an ordinary conversation and the reading of a text like this one is mostly a matter of medium (spoken, written, printed, electronic, etc.) and of time scale. The great conversation among authors is simply a macro-dialog, in which each partner can take years, or a lifetime, to consider and deliver his reply to what's been said before. Since a partner does not have to wait her turn, and can reply to any number of prior texts all at once, this conversation is ‘wired’ in parallel rather than series – it's a network rather than a train of thought. Even readers who never write are involved in this conversation, to the extent that their reading makes a difference in how they live their lives. True, the reader/author relationship is not symmetrical in ‘real time’ like the partnership in a face-to face conversation, because the text of a book does not change in response to the reader's contribution – but the meaning certainly does. A book on the shelf means nothing at all. Don't think that the meaning is all in the text, or all in your mind. The meaning is in the relationship, the intimate space, between you and me. Regardless of scale or medium, dialog is always talking through together.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation [ἀνεστράφημέν] in times past [RSV: ‘we all once lived’] in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.The Greek verb ἀναστρεφω means ‘to turn upside down, turn back, be or dwell in a place, conduct oneself’ (LSD). The core image of turning, through the Latin root -vers-, is also present in the English conversation.
If your reading of this text is part of a real dialog, it is not a reading of the author's intended meaning, or of your own, but a joint reading of the world (i.e. of that face of the world which is currently in focus). A complete comprehension of the author's intention here is of no importance; what matters is the spark of interaction between two views of a reality which is independent of both views.
Thought is not necessarily connected with a brain. It appears in the work of bees, of crystals, and throughout the purely physical world; and one can no more deny that it is really there, than that the colors, the shapes, etc., of objects are really there. Consistently adhere to that unwarrantable denial, and you will be driven to some form of idealistic nominalism akin to Fichte's. Not only is thought in the organic world, but it develops there. But as there cannot be a General without Instances embodying it, so there cannot be thought without Signs. We must here give ‘Sign’ a very wide sense, no doubt, but not too wide a sense to come within our definition. Admitting that connected Signs must have a Quasi-mind, it may further be declared that there can be no isolated sign. Moreover, signs require at least two Quasi-minds; a Quasi-utterer and a Quasi-interpreter; and although these two are at one (i.e., are one mind) in the sign itself, they must nevertheless be distinct. In the Sign they are, so to say, welded. Accordingly, it is not merely a fact of human Psychology, but a necessity of Logic, that every logical evolution of thought should be dialogic. You may say that all this is loose talk; and I admit that, as it stands, it has a large infusion of arbitrariness. It might be filled out with argument so as to remove the greater part of this fault; but in the first place, such an expansion would require a volume — and an uninviting one; and in the second place, what I have been saying is only to be applied to a slight determination of our system of diagrammatization, which it will only slightly affect; so that, should it be incorrect, the utmost certain effect will be a danger that our system may not represent every variety of non-human thought.If we identify ‘thought’ with teleodynamic process (as we do in Chapter 10), we can agree that at least the reference to crystals was ‘loose talk,’ since the growth of a crystal is only a morphodynamic process in Deacon's terms. However, Thirdness is implicit in any process, though perhaps not as prominent as it is in semiosis. Peirce refers to the work of crystals, and Deacon (2011) shows that teleodynamic work can indeed be described in purely physical terms, so there is a definite connection between Peirce on ‘thought’ and Deacon on emergence. There could be a hint of this connection in the manuscript reading of ‘inorganic’ rather than ‘organic’ in the sentence above, which was printed as: ‘Not only is thought in the organic world, but it develops there.’ (See Houser 2005, ‘The Scent of Truth’.) This does not imply that everything existing or occurring in the physical universe is a sign, only that it has the potential to be read as a sign by an observer who recognizes it as participating in a process.
Writers, thinkers and scholars have been asking this kind of question for a long time, but their work doesn't get a lot of attention because most of us are too busy committing our acts of meaning to reflect on how we do it, or don't see the point of thus reflecting. A century ago, C. S. Peirce and Victoria Welby were both looking into the nature of meaning, but they didn't learn of each other's work until near the end of their lives. The correspondence between them began in 1903, and parts of it are among the clearest explanations of Peirce's mature semiotics. Most of it was published in 1977 under the title Semiotic and Significs (cited as SS).
In one of his earliest letters to Welby, Peirce explained why the study of what we mean, important as it is, should not be taken too far:
I fully and heartily agree that the study of what we mean ought to be the … general purpose of a liberal education, as distinguished from special education, – of that education which should be required of everybody with whose society and conversation we are expected to be content. But, then, perfect accuracy of thought is unattainable, – theoretically unattainable. And undue striving for it is worse than time wasted. It positively renders thought unclear.SS 11 (1903)
When a semiotic theorist like Peirce says that ‘perfect accuracy’ is theoretically unattainable, he is saying that it is unattainable because of the way semiosis works. The very logic of meaning guarantees that all language is necessarily vague to some degree. Here's a fuller explanation of the point, written a year or two later (CP 5.506):
No communication of one person to another can be entirely definite, i.e., non-vague. We may reasonably hope that physiologists will some day find some means of comparing the qualities of one person's feelings with those of another, so that it would not be fair to insist upon their present incomparability as an inevitable source of misunderstanding. Besides, it does not affect the intellectual purport of communications. But wherever degree or any other possibility of continuous variation subsists, absolute precision is impossible. Much else must be vague, because no man's interpretation of words is based on exactly the same experience as any other man's. Even in our most intellectual conceptions, the more we strive to be precise, the more unattainable precision seems. It should never be forgotten that our own thinking is carried on as a dialogue, and though mostly in a lesser degree, is subject to almost every imperfection of language. I have worked out the logic of vagueness with something like completeness, but need not inflict more of it upon you, at present.Readers who want a more precise definition of vagueness, or a more specific definition of generality, might consult Peirce, EP2:350-53 (or CP 5.446-450, 1905).
When Peirce says that ‘no man's interpretation of words is based on exactly the same experience as any other man's,’ he is talking about what i call polyversity (in Chapter 2). In the earlier stages of writing this book, i collected quite a few examples of what i took to be statements of the same idea expressed in diverse ways. But there's a limit to the usefulness of that, just as there's a limit to how exactly you can say what you mean. Indeed, as Peirce said, ‘the multiplication of equivalent modes of expression is itself a burden’ (SS 20).
The exact logician holds it to be, in itself, a defect in a logical system of expression, to afford different ways of expressing the same state of facts; although this defect may be less important than a definite advantage gained by it.The present writer doesn't claim to be an exact logician, but can hope that the reader gains some advantage from the polyversity of Turning Signs.— Peirce in Baldwin's Dictionary (‘Exact Logic: Copula)
The element of ‘trust’ in genuine dialogue includes a willingness to let most of the meaning process work implicitly – trusting that it can become explicit, can bear the spotlight beam of attention, if that becomes necessary. Genuine dialogue requires a finely tuned sense of what needs to be explicated and what needs to work implicitly.
‘Nonlinearity means that the act of playing the game has a way of changing the rules’ (Gleick 1987). If the rules of life are always changing and always undiscoverable, as Bateson said, it's probably because life is nonlinear. Semiosis is also nonlinear, especially in the form of dialogue or conversation between two people taking turns as speaker and listener.
As we communicate in language and gesture, we interpret and understand each other dialogically. This dialogic dynamic is not a linear or additive combination of two preexisting, skull-bound minds. It emerges from and reciprocally shapes the nonlinear coupling of oneself and other in perception and action, emotion and imagination, and gesture and speech. In this way, self and other bring forth each other reciprocally through empathy.— Thompson (2007, 402)
Medicine and disease cure each other. The entire earth is medicine. What is the self?— Yunmen (Tanahashi & Schneider 1994, 92)
From a third-person, observer's perspective, we can affirm that each individual does have a ‘private understanding’; hence the privacy of the first-person view. But from the primal (and more direct) perspective, the logos is common: conscience is one all-encompassing process speaking with a single voice – a voice that bids us listen to the many voices branching from it, and to act as if guided by it alone. The individualistic concept of conscience conceals its true nature as a manifestation of the shared social mind, of knowing together. No one develops a personality or a human consciousness without interaction with others, and no one develops a conscience without engaging in authentic dialogue in a moral context. ‘Following the common’ in this way is relatively uncommon. But only the dialogue which creates the original sense of self can free one from the confines of selfhood.
In the experience of dialogue, there is constituted between the other person and myself a common ground; my thought and his are inter-woven into a single fabric, my words and those of my interlocutor are called forth by the state of the discussion, and they are inserted into a shared operation of which neither of us is the creator.… In the present dialogue, I am freed from myself, for the other person's thoughts are certainly his; they are not of my making, though I do grasp them the moment they come into being, or even anticipate them.— Merleau-Ponty (1945, 413)
Even after it has been internalized, conscience is not really conscience if it is merely my conscience. Decisions guided by intuition alone are impoverished compared to those developed and tested through an authentic dialog in which each speaker articulates the voice of conscience as he hears it, and hears the other speakers as other voices of that same conscience. You might say that conscience is the internal dialogue of the human species. Dialogue is mutual recognition and exploration, not a struggle toward a fixed goal or between competing positions. It is grounded in respect for all beings because diversity of experience and expression is our greatest common resource.
We live not only in the presence of different cultural visions but with different individual modes of perception, with access to the memories of childhood and of alternative states of consciousness. These resonate with the many layers of vision within any single cultural tradition, the mythic and the multiply metaphorical, the sacred and the invisibly empirical, the insights of the laboratory and those of poetry and sleep. To become open to multiple layers of vision is to be both practical and empathic, to practice the presence of God or gods and to practice wilderness. Learning the paths of human culture, we are attentive as well to the undomesticated outdoors and the essential wildness spinning on in subatomic spaces, forever generating new patterns.Mary Catherine Bateson has here carried forward the deep insights into cultural dialogue achieved by both of her parents, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson (see M. C. Bateson 1984 and 2004). Gregory, always questing for underlying form and pattern, also described the essential form of dialogue and relationship in terms of learning:
… the rise of fundamentalism within any tradition is always a symptom of the unwillingness to try to sustain joint performances across disparate codes – or, to put it differently, to live in ambiguity, a life that requires constant learning.— M.C. Bateson (1994, 12-13)
Learning the contexts of life is a matter that has to be discussed, not internally, but as a matter of the external relationship between two creatures. And relationship is always a product of double description. … It is correct (and a great improvement) to begin to think of the two parties to the interaction as two eyes, each giving a monocular view of what goes on and, together, giving a binocular view in depth. This double view is the relationship.Each of us is lost without the Other. This doesn't mean that we have to make all decisions consultatively – if we did, we'd never have time to enact any of them. When there is no time to engage in public dialogue, we call upon the voice which we have internalized by engaging in previous dialogue.— Gregory Bateson (1979, 147)
As the child masters the linguistic symbols of her culture she therby acquires the ability to adopt multiple perspectives simultaneously on one and the same perceptual situation.‘The ability to adopt multiple perspectives simultaneously’ is at the heart of the experience of Thirdness.— Tomasello (1999, 9)
Identity is a phenomenon that emerges from the dialectic between individual and society.— Berger and Luckmann (1966, 174)
Learning to mean, or to think or to know, is an intersubjective process, as John Dewey realized.
When the introspectionist thinks he has withdrawn into a wholly private realm of events disparate from other events, made out of mental stuff, he is only turning his attention to his own soliloquy. And soliloquy is the product and reflex of converse with others; social communication not an effect of soliloquy. If we had not talked with others and they with us, we should never talk to and with ourselves.— Dewey 1929, 141
The Russian psychologist Vygotsky further developed this observation.
The major theme of Vygotsky's theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. Vygotsky (1978) states: ‘Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.’ … For example, in the learning of language, our first utterances with peers or adults are for the purpose of communication but once mastered they become internalized and allow ‘inner speech’.tip.psychology.org/vygotsky.html (c.2007)
For an intelligence to function there must be another intelligence. Vygotsky was the first to stress: ‘Every higher function is divided between two people, is a mutual psychological process.’ Intelligence is always an interlocutor.But Lotman also stressed the role of ‘autocommunication’ within cultures. In ‘I-s/he’ communication, information coded in a text or message passes from one person to another or others; the text is a variable while the code is constant and shared between the interlocutors. But in the I-I mode of autocommunication, (including the situation where a culture addresses itself), the content of the text is constant while the code is variable – giving room for polyversity – and actual variation leads to self-discovery or transformation. In this case the message is addressed to one's future self, as Peirce said, but the change to this new self is triggered by a crossing of ‘codes’ rather than ‘messages’: the object is fixed but the sign forks and the thought moves in a new direction. According to Lotman (1990, Chapter 2), the most viable cultures are those in which these two modes, ‘autocommunication’ and interpresonal dialogue, are in constant tension.— Lotman (1990, 2)
Human consciousness is heterogeneous. A minimal thinking apparatus must include at least two differently constructed systems to exchange information they each have worked out.Lotman (Chapter 3) finds a parallel between the organization of culture and that of the brain's two hemispheres: the difference is between discrete and continuous (digital and analog) coding systems, exchanging information by means of rhetorical tropes (‘turns’) such as metaphor and metonymy.— Lotman (1990, 36)
The interrelationship between cultural memory and its self-reflection is like a constant dialogue: texts from chronologically earlier periods are brought into culture and, interacting with contemporary mechanisms, generate an image of the historical past, which culture transfers into the past and which, like an equal partner in a dialogue, affects the present. But as it transforms the present, the past too changes its shape. This process does not take place in a vacuum: both partners in the dialogue are partners too in other confrontations, both are open to the intrusion of new texts from outside, and the texts, as we have already had cause to stress, always contain in themselves the potentiality for new interpretations. This image of the historical past is not anti-scientific, although it is not scientific either. It exists alongside the scientific image of the past like another reality and interacts with it also on the basis of dialogue.— Lotman (1990, 272)
Only a buddha together with a buddha can fathom the Reality of All Existence.— Lotus Sutra 2 (Kato et al. 1975, 52)
Only a buddha together with a buddha can fathom the whole Dharma.Or as Steven Heine puts it: ‘The process of transmitting the Buddha Dharma is utterly dependent on the context of an “I and Thou” relationship’ (Heine 2001, 14).— Lotus Sutra (Leighton and Okumura 2004, 112)
Face-to-face interaction is obviously the prototypical situation of togetherness, but it also tends to be entangled with what Goffman (1967) called ‘interaction ritual’: the need to maintain the respective ‘faces’ in some kind of equilibrium can interfere with intimacy of transmission.
The classical Zen dialogue is an asymmetrical master-student interaction, a mutual effort often compared to pecking at an eggshell from inside and outside simultaneously in order to liberate the young bird. ‘Yet the master invariably finds that his own level of enlightenment is refined as well through participating in the dialogue’ (Heine 1999, 136).
The primacy of one-to-one dialogue also applies to philosophy, which necessarily incorporates critical thinking. In this respect a book is a poor substitute for a living dialogue, as Peirce indicated in a letter to Welby, 2 Dec. 1904:
My aversion to publishing anything has not been due to want of interest in others but to the thought that after all a philosophy can only be passed from mouth to mouth, where there is opportunity to object and cross-question, and that printing is not publishing unless the matter be pretty frivolous.Peirce was a very systematic thinker, and we know that he planned some very large writing projects which never came to fruition because they were rejected by publishing or funding agencies. His ‘aversion to publishing anything,’ then, has to be seen in that context. Perhaps it represents a refusal to compromise: the kind of book he envisioned would have anticipated all sorts of objections and ‘cross-questions’ and given each its due attention, and he was not willing to settle for a less complete presentation of his system. Or perhaps he felt (sometimes) that even the kind of huge book he had in mind would not suffice to publish his ideas, because even he could not anticipate all of the ensuing interpretants that would be worthy of notice. Hence his aversion to casting his bread upon the waters …— SS, 44
The Realized One's speech and silence are both spontaneous; the words he utters are like echoes responding to sounds, occurring naturally without deliberate intent, not the same as the ordinary man preaching with a fluctuating mind. If any say that the Realized One preaches with fluctuation in his mind, they are slandering Buddha. The Sutra of Vimalakirti says, ‘Real teaching involves no preaching, no giving orders; listening to the teaching involves no hearing and no grasping.’ You realize that myriad things are empty, and all names and words are temporary setups; constructed within inherent emptiness, all the verbal expositions explain that all realities are signless and unfabricated, thus guiding deluded people in such a way as to get them to see their original nature and cultivate and realize unsurpassed enlightenment.A ‘fluctuating mind’ here has a preconceived message which it is trying to ‘put over’ on others, rather than giving itself wholly and spontaneously to the flow of the dialogue. In Peircean terms, recognizing the genuine Secondness of ‘all realities’ leads to recognition of one's original Firstness, or identity with the primal person. The Thirdness of signs is a means to the end of this beginning.— (Cleary 1998, 134)
Yunmen asked Caoshan, ‘Why don't we know that there is a place of great intimacy?’ Caoshan said, ‘Just because it is greatly intimate, we do not know it is there.’
Suppose this were Eihei and someone asked me, ‘Why don't we know that there is a place of great intimacy?’ I would just hit his face with my whisk and ask him, ‘Is this knowing or not knowing?’ If he tried to answer, I would hit him again with the whisk.— (Leighton and Okumura 2004, 225)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.— Colossians 4:6 (RSV)
They showed Jesus a gold coin and said to him, “Caesar’s people demand taxes from us.” He said to them, “Give Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, give God the things that are God’s, and give me what is mine.”All Jesus asks of you is your full attention. But what greater gift could you offer to anyone? Caesar (the Empire, “the world”) only wants your money or your life – or your vote, if you live in a “democracy.” It has no use for your attention. God, on the other hand, has no need for it, or for anything from His Creatures, and is by all accounts beyond their comprehension. ‘No vision can take Him in, but He takes in all vision’ (Qur'an 6:104, Haleem). That leaves the person you converse with, the Second Person, speaking here as Jesus. Give your attention to that one, and you may expect the unexpected, the turning sign, in return.NHS
What the mystic, by virtue of his ardent desire, pursues and experiences is not a collective relationship shared by all alike in respect to a singular object, is not a relationship identical for all to which everyone has an equal claim in respect to one and the same object. No, this relationship is unique, individual, unshareable, because it is a relationship of love. It is not a filial relationship, but rather a marital one. An individual, unshared relationship of this nature can only be manifested, represented, and expressed by a figure which attests to the real presence of one alone to one alone and for one alone, in a dialogue unus-ambo.A third-person ‘observer’ of this process (if such is conceivable!) might say that the mystic is seeing a projection of himself, and then realizing his unity with it, and thus attaining complete closure of consciousness. Najm Kobra himself describes the experience this way:— Corbin (1971, 84)
At that moment, before you, before your face, there is another Face also of light, irradiating lights; while behind a diaphanous veil a sun becomes visible, seemingly animated by a movement to and fro. In reality this Face is your own face and this sun is the sun of the spirit that goes to and fro in your body. Next, the whole of your person is immersed in purity, and suddenly you are gazing at a person of light who is also irradiating lights. The mystic has the sensory perception of this irradiation of lights proceeding from the whole of his person. Often the veil falls and the total reality of the person is revealed, and then with the whole of your body you perceive the whole.The ‘heavenly partner’ who guides the mystic in his aspiration appears as a face and/or voice above and beyond the aspirant because it personifies and embodies that self-transcending aspiration itself. ‘He carries the mystic up toward the Heavens; thus it is in the Heavens that he appears’ (Corbin 1971, 85). The conversation thus engendered is a ‘type of individual initiation whose fruit is reunion with the Guide of light’ (1971, 11).— Corbin (1971, 85)
To speak of the polar dimension as the transcendent dimension of the earthly individuality is to point out that it includes a counterpart, a heavenly ‘partner,’ and that its total structure is that of a bi-unity, a unus-ambo. This unus-ambo can be taken as an alternation of the first and second person, as forming a dialogic unity thanks to the identity of their essence and yet without confusion of persons.This puts a whole new perspective on ‘polarization’ – as does Finnegans Wake, which refers to a mysterious pair— Corbin (1971, 7-8)
as were they, isce et ille, equals of opposites, evolved by a onesame power of nature or of spirit, iste, as the sole condition and means of its himundher manifestation and polarised for reunion by the symphysis of their antipathies.— Joyce, Finnegans Wake (FW2, 73)
This book is another story. The language of this hypertext has been shaped by the author's history. Remember the Glory, the humpty dumpty English aircraft carrier of Chapter 2? (Follow that link if you don't; it will open another windowtab.) The ‘knock-down argument’ of WWII was followed by the standing argument of the Cold War. Some accounts place the beginning of this new kind of conflict on or about that same day in 1945, when a Russian cipher clerk in Ottawa was hiding in a compassionate neighbour's apartment as his own was being searched by Soviet agents.
The day before, Igor Gouzenko had decided to reveal to Canadian authorities the existence of a global spying operation in which he was involved. Incredible as it seems in hindsight, the first authorities he went to didn't believe him, so he didn't get the immediate protection due to a whistle-blower (as we now call a revealer of corporate or government secrets). Or perhaps they didn't understand him due to language barriers; but in any case, his revelations marked the beginning of an era when international relations were dominated by mutual suspicion. American culture was pervaded with paranoia, which was duly spread around the world with the growth of American Empire. (Note added 30 April 2017: it remains a powerful force in politics to this day.)
Growing up in this milieu certainly had an effect on the author's sensibilities, and thus on the idiom of Turning Signs. But so did the other texts with which he crossed paths from that time to this, and threads from some of them are woven into this one.
When signs cross and stay crossed, we can call it weaving. The texture of an argument is determined by this weaving, but also by the accidents of timing in the history of the author's reading. Every deep reading creates a context for the next reading, and the next writing.
At least in principle, one can wake up from one's biological history. One can grow up, define one's own goals, and become autonomous. And one can start talking back to Mother Nature, elevating her self-conversation to a new level.Your autonomy, your self-control, raises the level of nature's self-conversation, which is our conversation with nature. ‘Successful research,’ according to Peirce (W6:386), ‘is conversation with nature; the macrocosmic reason, the equally occult microcosmic law, must act together or alternately, till the mind is in tune with nature.’ The ‘occult microcosmic law’ is your internal guidance system.— Metzinger (2003, 634)
It was Prigogine who used the phrase ‘dialogue with nature’ in a book title, but the basic idea was already common. Karl Popper, for instance, describes both perception and scientific method in terms of a question-and-answer process:
… our senses can serve us (as Kant himself saw) only with yes-and-no answers to our own questions; questions that we conceive, and ask, a priori; and questions that sometimes are very elaborate. Moreover, even the yes-and-no answers of the senses have to be interpreted by us—interpreted in the light of our a priori preconceived ideas. And, of course, they are often misinterpreted.In developing his model of science as ‘enlightened common sense,’ as the formal and public equivalent of the perceptual process common to all organisms, Popper believed he had ‘refuted classical empiricism—the bucket theory of the mind that says that we obtain knowledge just by opening our eyes and letting the sense-given or god-given “data” stream into a brain that will digest them’ (Popper 1990, 49-50). He also points out that Kant had already described the dialogue with nature in his preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason: ‘our reason can understand only what it creates according to its own design … we must compel Nature to answer our questions, rather than cling to Nature's apron strings and allow her to guide us’ (Popper 1968/89, 256).— Popper (1990, 47)
Merleau-Ponty (1945, especially 370-374) presents perception as a dialogue between body and world—a reciprocal relationship of question and answer:
The passing of sensory givens before our eyes and under our hands is, as it were, a language which teaches itself, and in which the meaning is secreted by the very structure of the signs, and this is why it can literally be said that our senses question things and that things reply to them.— Merleau-Ponty (1945, 372)
The relations between things or aspects of things having always our body as their vehicle, the whole of nature is the setting of our own life, or our interlocutor in a sort of dialogue … every perception is a communication or a communion, the taking up or completion by us of some extraneous intention or, on the other hand, the complete expression outside ourselves of our perceptual powers and a coition, so to speak, of our body with things. The fact that this may not have been realized earlier is explained by the fact that any coming to awareness of the perceptual world was hampered by the prejudices arising from objective thinking.What Merleau-Ponty means here by ‘objective thinking’ is part of the ‘natural attitude’ arising from the unexamined assumption of a dyadic relation between words and things to which they refer. This kind of ‘objective thinking’ cuts the body out of the semiotic loop by taking at face value the perceived externality of objects, ignoring the body's involvement in all perception. Semiotic objectivity, on the other hand, always implies a triadic relation among sign, object and interpretant. It also involves three modes or grades of meaning, as Peirce pointed out in the first of his 1903 Lowell Lectures:— Merleau-Ponty (1945, 373)
A little book by Victoria Lady Welby has lately appeared entitled What is Meaning? The book has sundry merits, among them that of showing that there are three modes of meaning. But the best feature of it is that it presses home the question “What is meaning?” A word has meaning for us in so far as we are able to make use of it in communicating our knowledge to others and in getting at the knowledge that those others seek to communicate to us. That is the lowest grade of meaning. The meaning of a word is more fully the sum total of all the conditional predictions which the person who uses it intends to make himself responsible for or intends to deny. That conscious or quasiconscious intention in using the word is the second grade of meaning. But besides the consequences to which the person who accepts a word knowingly commits himself, there is a vast ocean of unforeseen consequences which the acceptance of the word is destined to bring about, not merely consequences of knowing but perhaps revolutions of society. One cannot tell what power there may be in a word or a phrase to change the face of the world; and the sum of those consequences makes up the third grade of meaning.Each ‘grade’ here involves the lower grades. At the second grade, the interpreter or reader of the word is always dealing with a double context and a double meaning: There's the context in which the author intended his meaning, and there's the context of the implicit question for which the reader seeks an answer in this text. Even at the first grade, which assumes a common language, the reader has her default meaning for any given word or phrase, and has to take the context supplied by the author into account in order to guess whether (or how much) that default is relevant to the present occasion of reading this text.EP2:255-6
For instance, the word ‘objective’ itself refers in Merleau-Ponty's text to the assumption that the objects of perception are the sole (or dominant) contributors to the experience of perception; ‘objective thinking’ then is a denial of the ‘communication or communion’ that constitutes perception. But if the reader is, say, a Buddhist thinker, then he might habitually use the word ‘objective’ in a very different sense; ‘objectivity’ might point to the absence of attachment or aversion toward phenomena, in which case ‘objective thinking’ is precisely the kind of thinking from which prejudices do not arise. ‘Objectivity’ for a Buddhist could be a word for the practice of interbeing.
In addition to hidden differences of meaning, the careful reader will be aware of the hidden connections working behind words. Merleau-Ponty refers above to the ‘coition, so to speak, of our body with things’. The phrase ‘so to speak’ marks this as a metaphor, but there's more here than superficial wordplay: in English the idea of coition is linked to verbal as well as sexual ‘communication’ because we can use intercourse as a synonym for either one. The link between communication and communion is even more obvious. Nor is this merely a quirk of English: And Adam knew his wife … the link between knowing and coition in the English of the King James Bible is a faithful translation of the same link implicit in the Hebrew (Scholem 1946, 235). All of this meaning is going on behind the scenes of the text all the time, provided that the reader negotiates the text with care (with compassion, feeling-together, communion, ..... ). Negotiation too is another word for dialogue …
But there's no use complaining about the inadequacies of language. We can learn to live with words, maybe even communicate with them. A mutual misunderstanding can be an occasion of genuine dialogue if the participants are honestly trying to talk through it. Thomas Kuhn gives an apt description of how this can happen in science, when advocates of competing views are in the process of resolving their differences; something like this could just as well happen in matters of conscience.
Briefly put, what the participants in a communication breakdown can do is recognize each other as members of different language communities and then become translators. Taking the differences between their own intra- and inter-group discourse as itself a subject for study, they can first attempt to discover the terms and locutions that, used unproblematically within each community, are nevertheless foci of trouble for inter-group discussions.…This is the sort of thing i have tried to do with ‘out-of-date’ scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas – though of course when this kind of reading is successful, the text in question no longer seems to be “out of date,” at least not in the same way. What Kuhn says above about dialogue in science applies just as well to dialogue between religions.
Having isolated such areas of difficulty in scientific communication, they can next resort to their shared everyday vocabularies in an effort further to elucidate their troubles. Each may, that is, try to discover what the other would see and say when presented with a stimulus to which his own verbal response would be different. If they can sufficiently refrain from explaining anomalous behavior as the consequence of mere error or madness, they may in time become very good predictors of each other's behavior. Each will have learned to translate the other's theory and its consequences into his own language and simultaneously to describe in his language the world to which that theory applies. That is what the historian of science regularly does (or should) when dealing with out-of-date scientific theories.— Kuhn (1969, 202)
In a true dialogue, both sides are willing to change. We have to appreciate that truth can be received from outside of – not only within – our own group. If we do not believe that, entering into dialogue would be a waste of time. If we think we monopolize the truth and we still organize a dialogue, it is not authentic. We have to believe that by engaging in dialogue with the other person, we have the possibility of making a change within ourselves, that we can become deeper.— Thich Nhat Hanh (1995, 9)
Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul.… every expression of the will of God is in some sense a ‘word’ of God and therefore a ‘seed’ of new life. The ever-changing reality in the midst of which we live should awaken us to the possibility of an uninterrupted dialogue with God. By this I do not mean continous ‘talk,’ or a frivolously conversational form of affective prayer … but a dialogue of love and choice.— Merton (1962, 14)
In any case, the more individuals act as participants in a group mental process, the less likely they are to be consciously aware of the process.— David Sloan Wilson (2002, 77)
If our universe is an argument, we are not conscious of its conclusion – but we can take our turns carrying on from its premisses with our own arguments, trusting rather to their multitude and variety than to the conclusiveness of any one (Peirce, EP1:29).
John F. Sowa answered this question as follows:
The single most important contribution was Peirce’s integration of the theories by the Greeks and Scholastics with modern logic, science, and philosophy. Aristotle laid the foundation in his treatise On Interpretation. His opening paragraph relates language to internal affections (pathêmata), whose existence is not in doubt, but whose nature is unknown:First we must determine what are noun (onoma) and verb (rhêma); and after that, what are negation (apophasis), assertion (kataphasis), proposition (apophansis), and sentence (logos). Those in speech (phonê) are symbols (symbola) of affections (pathêmata) in the psyche, and those written (graphomena) are symbols of those in speech. As letters (grammata), so are speech sounds not the same for everyone. But they are signs (sêmeia) primarily of the affections in the psyche, which are the same for everyone, and so are the objects (pragmata) of which they are likenesses (homoiômata). On these matters we speak in the treatise on the psyche, for it is a different subject. (16a1)
In this short passage, Aristotle introduced ideas that have been adopted, ignored, revised, rejected, and dissected over the centuries. By using two different words for sign, he recognized two distinct ways of signifying: sêmeion for a natural sign and symbolon for a conventional sign. With the word sêmeion, which was used for omens and for symptoms of a disease, Aristotle implied that the verbal sign is primarily a natural sign of the mental affection or concept and secondarily a symbol of the object it refers to.www.jfsowa.com/pubs/5qsigns.htm, accessed 21 May 2017
The implication that ‘the verbal sign is primarily a natural sign’ and only ‘secondarily a symbol’ is very suggestive about the nature of what we call ‘natural languages.’ Peirce's refinements of Aristotle's semeiotic made such insights more explicit, and sometimes adapted Aristotle's terms to that end. For instance, Peirce used Aristotle's ῥῆμα (rhêma) to designate the first in a trichotomy of signs (representamens) which goes back to the logic of the Scholastics:
Peirce's distinction between esthetic and moral goodness is basic to his account of the ‘normative sciences,’ which include logic as the means of judging the veracity or truth of a proposition. The observation that a rhema can possess ‘expressiveness’ but not ‘veracity’ reflects its Firstness in this trichotomy as ‘a simple representation’ which can only represent a possibility, and not a fact or a reason.
A representamen is either a rhema, a proposition, or an argument. An argument is a representamen which separately shows what interpretant it is intended to determine. A proposition is a representamen which is not an argument, but which separately indicates what object it is intended to represent. A rhema is a simple representation without such separate part.
Esthetic goodness, or expressiveness, may be possessed, and in some degree must be possessed, by any kind of representamen,— rhema, proposition, or argument.Moral goodness, or veracity, may be possessed by a proposition or by an argument, but cannot be possessed by a rhema. A mental judgment or inference must possess some degree of veracity.EP2:204
As Peirce put it later in the same year (1903), this trichotomy is a division according to how the sign's ‘Interpretant represents it as a sign of possibility or as a sign of fact or a sign of reason’ (EP2:291). For this presentation of the trichotomy, Peirce refined the terminology: rhema became rheme (‘a Sign of qualitative Possibility’), and proposition became dicisign (‘a Sign of actual existence’). He kept the term argument for ‘a Sign of law’ (EP2:292).
In his ‘Prolegomena to an Apology for Pragmaticism’ (1906), Peirce departed still further from the traditional trichotomy:
A familiar logical triplet is Term, Proposition, Argument. In order to make this a division of all signs, the first two members have to be much widened.For this purpose Peirce coined new terms based on Greek roots, Seme and Pheme. But his explanation of Existential Graphs in that same article employed the term ‘rheme’ to denote a predicate or ‘blank form of proposition,’ where the blanks could be filled by subject-names to compose a complete proposition.CP 4.538
By a rheme, or predicate, will here be meant a blank form of proposition which might have resulted by striking out certain parts of a proposition, and leaving a blank in the place of each, the parts stricken out being such that if each blank were filled with a proper name, a proposition (however nonsensical) would thereby be recomposed.Through all these conceptual and terminological changes, there is a kind of continuity with Aristotle's usage of rhema for a “verb” as distinguished from a “noun” (onoma). Peirce uses rheme for a predicate as opposed to a subject of a proposition. Both predicates and subjects can be called “terms,” but in Existential Graphs that represent propositions, rhemes are primarily signs of qualitative possibility or Firstness while the latter are primarily signs of actual existence or Secondness. The joining or copulation of predicate and subject is the key to the act of meaning performed by the proposition, just as the joining of icon and index is key to the informing power of a symbol, its genuine Thirdness.CP 4.560
Next rePatch: Apocalypse: Opening Time →
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
|Turning Signs Contents||References||SourceNet||Obverse (Chapter 2·)|