Last week’s conversation took us further into the looking glass, and the homework assignment for our TStudy circle is the little phenoscopic experiment described here. Our next gathering (Sunday morning, February 19) will take another step into the semiotic view of life. Bearing in mind that, as Dirk Hamilton observes, signs look silly when nobody reads them. (Skip the ad.)
21 years ago my wife Pam and i settled on M’nidoo M’nissing, better known to settlers as Manitoulin Island. The Anishinaabe word manitou is often rendered in English as “spirit.” But what does that mean? Anishinaabe scholar Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning relates what she learned about mnidoo from her mother:
The big and little spirits correspond more or less to the Big and Little Currents in Turning Signs (Chapter 9). The mnidoo which is ‘something that is happening and is about to happen at the same time’ also corresponds to Dogen’s being-time, and with the Buddhist Heart Sutra:
This concept mnidoo derives from the word Gizhemnidoo, from my mothers’ dialect …. She translated Gizhemnidoo in several ways; primary among these was Great Spirit (the most common translation in our area). Gizhe (great) is similar to chi (big). We can separate gizhe from mnidoo, which she called spirit, potency, potential— dynamic energy. She said that the word spirit is the anglicized interpretation, but mnidoo is something that is happening, and is about to happen at the same time. Gizhemnidoo is the Great Mystery/Spirit, mind boggling, because it is beyond human comprehension. But virtually everything is mnidoo, little spirits. Everything has a little spirit that is propelled by, and exists, due to this energy.Mnidoo-Worlding: Merleau-Ponty and Anishinaabe Philosophical Translations, p. 3
the Heart Sutra mantra — Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté, Bodhi! Svaha! — can be interpreted as “Arriving, arriving, arriving all the way, arriving all the way together: awakening. Joy!” This is a marvelous reminder for our meditation practice that each moment of our practice is, as Dogen suggests, not separate from awakening or enlightenment. Each moment of our practice and of our life is blessed.Tanahashi 2014, 44-45
The languages are many, but as far as we call tell, the meaning is one. Now is the time we need to hear it, especially from the First Peoples of the Earth.
To find out what we think, we need to argue with each other, not against each other.
If our children don’t learn much more than we can teach, our lineage is likely to expire.
In this Day the inner ear exclaimeth and saith: Indeed well is it with me, today is my day, inasmuch as the Voice of God is calling aloud.
The assembly of students in the hall should blend like milk and water to support the activity of the way. Although now for some period you are either guest or host, later you will be buddha ancestors equally throughout time. Therefore, you should not forget the feeling of gratitude. It is rare to meet one another and practice what is rare to practice. This is called the body and mind of buddha dharma; you will certainly become a buddha ancestor.— Dogen, ‘Regulations for the Auxiliary Cloud Hall at the Kannondori Kosho Gokoku Monastery’ (Tanahashi 2010, 39-40)
Inkling of the day: 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.
That was written 32 years ago. Is it too late now?
Outlink of the day: David Bollier has for many years been researching the commons, and the practice of commoning in many places around the world. His recent book with Silke Helfrich, Free, Fair and Alive, presents it as an alternative to the extractive capitalism which has turned out to be ecocidal and pushed global civilization to the brink of self-destruction. The book includes a glossary of terms we will need in order to shift our understanding and think like commoners. One of them is communion, an old word redefined with the help of some other key terms (rendered here in all caps):
Communion is the process through which COMMONERS participate in interdependent relationships with the more-than-human world. COMMUNION shifts a person’s understanding of human/nature relations out of the economistic framework (e.g., “resource management,” or the commodification and financialization of “nature’s services”) into one that respects the intrinsic value of the nonhuman world. This fundamental self-awareness leads to feelings of gratitude, respect, and reverence for the sacred dimensions of life in the ways that human PROVISIONING is organized.— Bollier and Helfrich (2019, 76)
The Course has a certain realness and reliability to it, but no deliberate activity and no definite form. It can be transmitted but not received, attained but not shown.— Zhuangzi (tr. Ziporyn 2009, p. 43)
Say I trust the author implicitly to speak from experience. Trusting his testimony then means believing ‘that he had an experience which his words interpret. Nevertheless, impotent as I am to doubt his word, it is not what he tells me that I have experienced, but only the fact that he has told me so’ (Peirce, R 299:66-67[35-36]). I interpret his words by imagining an experience which I might interpret with those words if I were him. The only link between his experience and mine is the likeness of his bodymind and language to mine.
Today is the day of the Global Climate Strike, in which young students all over the world will present strong arguments that the global Powers That Be had better pay attention to climate change and do something about it – something far more drastic than the piddling measures taken by most governments so far. We owe these youth our best efforts to support and follow up on their demands. To do that, or even to live responsibly in the Anthropocene, we need to appreciate what a genuine argument is.
Don’t argue with me!
That’s how the boss asserts his authority. What he really means is:
Follow my orders! Don’t argue against me!
Can you argue with people without arguing against them?
Not if an argument is just a verbal dispute, a “fight.” But when we talk about “having an argument”, that’s what we mean, isn’t it?
The Oxford English Dictionary says that an “argument” is ‘A statement or fact advanced for the purpose of influencing the mind; a reason urged in support of a proposition’; or, ‘A connected series of statements or reasons intended to establish a position (and, hence, to refute the opposite); a process of reasoning; argumentation.’ As Peirce puts it, ‘An “Argument” is any process of thought reasonably tending to produce a definite belief. An “Argumentation” is an Argument proceeding upon definitely formulated premisses’ (EP2:435). A single statement may be called an “argument” if and only if it forms part of a process of reasoning, but not all parts of the process need to be explicitly stated or ‘definitely formulated.’ The element of conflict may enter into the process if one argues for or against a ‘position’ or proposition, while facing opposition. But as we all know, when two people “have an argument,” the element of conflict often overwhelms the element of reasoning – especially when the feeling of being right matters more (to one or both people) than the truth of the matter being argued about.
In Turning Signs – with a few exceptions, such as Humpty Dumpty’s “nice knock-down argument” in Chapter 2 – the word ‘argument’ refers to a sign which embodies a process of reasoning. In a nutshell, it says that ‘if you believe A, you ought to believe C, because C logically follows from A.’ A here, which may consist of more than one statement, is called the antecedent (“going before”), while C is called the consequent (“following with,” according to the Latin roots). The “following” relation itself should be called the consequence, according to Peirce.
But also according to Peirce, the reasoning process goes much deeper than anything humans do “on purpose,” as we say. We know that our actions have unintended consequences (as well as intended ones) because nature itself has tendencies leading some things or events to follow from others, just as the consequent follows from the antecedent in an argument. Indeed Peirce claimed that the Universe itself is a vast argument (EP2:193-4), of which all human argumentations, and even our greatest works of art, are nothing but dim reflections.
No matter how strongly the youth of the Global Climate Strike fight for their cause, the inhabitants of Earth will all be the losers if we humans fail to see the truth of their argument, and act accordingly.
Experience is that state of cognition which the course of life, by some part thereof, has forced upon the recognition of the experient, or person who undergoes the experience, under conditions due usually, in part, at least, to his own action; and the Immediate object of the cognition of Experience is understood to be what I call its ‘Dynamical,’ that is, its real object.
The cognition of experience is a sign which, ‘in order to fulfill its office, to actualize its potency, must be compelled by its object’ (Peirce, EP2:380). The reality of its dynamical object is its compulsiveness, its forcing itself upon the attention. As Peirce observed (NEM3, 917), ‘Experience is first forced upon us in the form of a flow of images’ which act like a series of blows upon the bubble of perception – especially when they are unexpected. As the little current of cognition begins to “make sense” of these sense impressions, it is forced by its own nature to extract facts from the flow. These facts may be represented in propositional form, but the truth of these signs is ‘forced upon the recognition of the experient’ by their indexicality, their genuine dyadic relation to their objects.
Experience is re-cognized as such when the immediate object of the cognition or thought-sign is understood to be not merely flotsam in the little current of internal dialogue but an actual feature of the Big Current, i.e. of Nature’s dynamics. This can happen when the reader (interpreter) understands the writer (utterer) of a sign to be speaking from experience, whether the sign itself is factual or fictional: the experient feels the shock of recognition.
For genius, all over the world, stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round.
This kind of shock delivers a “blow” combining the Secondness of the unexpected with the closure of a circuit connecting the genius of an individual mind with that ‘Poetic Genius which is every where call’d the Spirit of Prophecy’ (Blake).
Actually, that universal ‘genius’ goes by many other names, and the word genius is related to many others, including general, generate, genuine, gnosis, cognition, know, as well as nature and innate. All of these have their source in the Proto-Indo-European root *gn- or *gen-, meaning give birth or beget. It all springs from the encounter of inner and outer Nature, enhanced by the sexuality of cognition.