Thursday, August 02, 2007

Assuefaction Blues

Hoffmeyer again suggests that the unity of the person, the feeling of being a whole person, is illusory (Signs of Meaning in the Universe, p. 86). To put it crudely, Hoffmeyer says this because our brains and our immunological networks, which he regards as being part of a single system and the source of biological personhood, are composed of trillions of cells, each of which may be regarded as an "independent, interpretive entity" (p. 80).

Hoffmeyer, following Frederik Stjernfelt, intends his semiotics to strike a balance between two errors: (1) denying that human signs originated in the natural world and thus denying that anything in nature could resemble human signs, and (2) denying "the uniqueness of human existence, the error inherent in considering all the world as a kind of human being" (p. 78). If we say that the feeling of being a whole person is illusory, are we putting at risk our understanding of the uniqueness of human existence? Is Hoffmeyer's "semiotic freedom" also the freedom to be wrong about who we really are? I'm not sure about this.

"The cell's 'intelligence,'" Hoffmeyer writes, "comes solely from habits formed over the course of its billion-year-long history" (p. 80). Can a non-intelligent entity form habits? Is the faculty of assuefaction, so keenly a characteristic of hominid existence, contingent upon the achievement of a certain level of semiotic freedom? What would that level be? If we follow Hoffmeyer in regarding semiotic freedom as a cosmobiological fact, on what basis do we approach human uniqueness? Ontology?

We might put this question to Paul Bains (The Primacy of Semiosis: An Ontology of Relations). He points to Maturana and Varela's idea of linguallaxis (a linguistic trophollaxis) as the form of ontogenic "structural coupling" specific to Homo sapiens (p. 102).

The essential feature to be grasped in Maturana and Varela's approach is that although language requires the neurophysiology of the participants, it is not a neurophysiological phenomenon. Language takes place in the flow of consensual coordinations of actions, not in the bodily materiality of the participants. Maturana emphasizes that physiology (i.e., the internal dynamics of the organism) and behaviour (i.e., interactions with the milieu of other organisms) occupy different phenomenal domains. Nevertheless, the flow of actions will trigger structural changes in the bodyhoods of the participants, and vice versa. In other words, changes in our bodyhoods result in changes in our interactions, and changes in our interactions result in changes in our bodyhoods. Conversations affect bodies, and bodies affect conversations.

Thus Maturana argues that phenomena like language, mind, and ego, and psychic and spiritual phenomena in general, depend on the operation of our bodyhoods but do not take place 'in' them. They are, rather, distinctions that an observer makes of the different networks of conversations–that is, recursive behavioural and physiological couplings in which he or she lives–most importantly, the language networks he or she is born into and has to take place within.

These different networks of conversations, in which our bodies are nodes of operational intersection and words are 'nodes in coordinations of actions in languaging,' imply what Maturana calls 'multiplicity of domains of existence.' The 'identity' of a human animal is constituted as it is realized in his or her participation in a particular network of conversations. Thus each human being exists as a configuration of many different temporary 'identities,' which intersect in their realization in his or bodyhood. The notion of multiplicity as used by Deleuze and Guattari is more appropriate than the notion of identity, which suggests a continuity of sameness as a first principle from which deviations and changes have to be accounted for. The concept of identity is developed in a language game. This resonates well with Maturana's multiplicity of domains of existence.

(pp. 111-112)

It is tempting to imagine that the capacity to act as the observer of oneself is connected to a capacity for language. However, an elephant may be capable of self-awareness though it has no place in a network of conversations, unless we are willing to stretch our understanding of language to the point where we need yet another concept to specify human structural couplings.

Perhaps we need something besides the history of positional relations to account for human ontogeny. I would nominate the faculty of assuefaction as a key to human uniqueness, but it appears we may have here two strikes against such a notion: (1) Hoffmeyer wants us to consider cellular life as also being a matter of forming habits, and (2) Bains, following Maturana, would have us recognize two separate domains of action and of the body, leading us to conclude that the process of incorporation cannot be the result of anything like a faculty but instead represents a history of relations.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:23 PM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that Bains doesn't follow Maturana (or Hoffmeyer).

In fact, after being impressed by M. twenty years ago he is quite critical of m's approach (Varela also distanced himself from m's v. kantian 'ontology of observing'.

Brains are not the 'source of biological personhood' - and neither do persons determine the brain that they come to recognize as theirs.

I guess the concl. to The Primacy of Semiosis is the best bit.

The Maturana section was part of a story that could have been written differently given more time. It was justified cos it fitted in with Guattari and Umwelten but could have been replaced by a chpter on AGNT (altho I doubt that bains had enough knowledge of that when the ms was needed.

Btw, Isabelle says that, sadly, the trans. of cosmospolitiques was dumped by Continuum who had bought Athlone Press (Univ. of London).
However, her Whitehead bk is in translation with Harvard - but that will take a yr at least - can't just flick a switch and speed up process....

August 03, 2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Thanks for the clarification.

On Hoffmeyer, just to be clear, it's not just the brain but the immune system too, and that latter aspect of the neuro-immunological system is what he devotes the most attention to.

Sorry to hear about the translation. If I get impatient maybe I'll just have to learn to read French.

August 03, 2007 3:05 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

p.s. You'll just have to write another book then.

August 03, 2007 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the maturana stuff first appeared in a much earlier form in an MA thesis which was partly about gregory bateson...
Like Mat. he wanted to put 'mind' outside the body or 'skin encapsulated ego' to use his fine term.

However, these approaches are v. limited - they don't want the mind 'in' the body or head - so they put it outside in language as recursive coordinations or in Bateson's ' 'difference'.

Semovient existentialities interactions are locatable but not the semovient person which interacts with the brain's electric field by way of another overlapping field - according to AGNT.
I would like to see Croco's lenghty opus 'Sensing: A new fundamental action of nature' published one day. That would help a lot. It was written with his late wife Prof. Alicia Crocco. It needs a lot of editing.....

I was going to paste here a pic of twins with one post cervical body - 2 heads, one body (- and 2 persons). but I didn't....

This evenings reading is from Mariela Szirko's essay ' Effects of Relativistic motion...'
"What Is Gnoseological Apprehension?

The above outlined facts offer a stark contrast with the Peripatetic understanding of
knowledge as a sector of metabolism, a view of knowledge that leaves aside both its
cognizableness and this cognizableness’ unbarterability.

By its referring to different
realities through one broad term, this Aristotle-stemmed understanding is the source
of the familiar conflation of ‘‘knowledge’’ and ‘‘information.’’

The Peripatetic tradition in gnoseology understands ‘‘knowledge’’ as such acceptance
in the knower—of the ‘‘Form’’ supplying full inner-and-outer shaping or ‘‘conformation’’
to another thing—that does not thereby trans-form the knower into the known
thing, an assimilation which instead occurs in other metabolic incorporations—for example,
as food becomes the fed organism.

In this way, by knowing one escapes transforming
oneself into, say, apple in (just) becoming acquainted with an apple, despite
receiving in oneself the apple-forming Form.

This standing back, or ability to receive
the Form yet escaping the pernicious transformation that it might otherwise bring
about, is knowledge’s distinctive feature in the metabolic descriptions of the Peripatetic

It includes a vigorous branch of Scholastics active since the thirteenth century
and nonconfessional scholars such as Maturana, Varela, and followers who call
knowledge ‘‘cognition’’ and conflate it with ‘‘life.’’

Clearly this classical, informatic
conception of knowledge as a biological topic (‘‘Biologie de la Connaissance’’) neither
intends nor approaches the issue of what the gnoseological apprehension is—that is,
what the cognoscitive event or noetic act does itself consist in.

As a result, the Peripatetic understanding of knowledge has been extremely valuable
as a conceptual tool, precisely because it applies to nonempsyched organizations such
as the sensitive soul of corals and worms, or the compliant mutual accommodation of
the ‘‘castes’’ of eusocial insects, as well as to the mental contents differentiated by existentialities
and, also, to the informatic content of data processing machines—whose
conceptual developments have been of particular importance to our current life style.

‘‘Knows,’’ so, means that some passive entity, which may or may not be an existentiality,
‘‘acquires notices’’ or ‘‘gets informed.’’

Yet this Peripatetic-derived metabolic conception
of knowledge, despite its soundness and worth for specific uses, leaves aside
what precisely matters for understanding knowledge in both ontic and existential
terms." (Mariela Szirko, ' Effects...')

I don't know about another bk - I think I might just fade away and rest in peace - or something like that.

August 04, 2007 12:26 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

No need to rush fading away. You've been very busy with the AGNT. Maybe you'd want to do something like a semiotics of semovient existentialities. Does semiotics still interest you?

August 04, 2007 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Semiotics as such no. At a deeper level it can be analysed in terms of causality.

More than anything I realize that without a grasp of fundamentals like causality, 'time', space, and an understanding of current physical models - philosophy is pouring from the empty into the void - or the blind leading the blind etc.
The current issue of Cosmos (is this available in the US) gives a good outline of the standard cosmology and fundamental forces - electromagnetic, strong, weak (nuclear), and gravition.

An example of the editing work needed:

"A hallucinogenic superficialization.

Fragmenting to totalize, such urban history turned the syncretic myth into a totalistic social imaginary, for living life amongst screens: not connecting but blocking and distorting screens, instead.

The totalistic imaginary of the syncretic myth turned nature scenary; brute facts interpreted; persons brain-scanners, working as net terminals.
Changes just alteration, waitings sheer hermeneusis. Extramentalities unapproachable noumenon; physical determinations submissive; existentialities transferable, cadacualtez ineffable. Non-alterity trivial; circumstances circumstantial, never constitutive.

Mystery arcane (remote); cosmological grounds unterrible; ontic genesis situational, ended in the past, on seven creation days or one first big bang; ontological foundations, mistaken as nomic sequential origins; metaphysical wondering, a reference to private feelings; holy the hallowed, what some animals (e. g., bonobos, humans, chimpanzees, or their influential subgroups) do regard with awe, fascination, and reverence.

Reality discourse, the unconditioned taboo. Facticity display: the direct insight of facts became identified with the notices (“information”) from streamlining media.

Texts, yet, became blank veils for the readers to impose their “own” viewpoints; life, such reading.

Compassion, thus, becomes an individual share in the mass penetration attained by public images.

Truth, ours or yours; absolute truth, what our peers will let us get away with saying. Attention entertainability; intellectual alternatives, bald undifferentiated multiplicity of capricious opinions.

Models, just validable in phenomenic dreams; authenticity dissolved behind the screenplays revered in its stead; the interpretations posited by such “hermeneus”, unbound and unstopped by any further determination (which, when admitted, is dismissed as “chaotic” unthinkableness).

Protons and persons, what was written thereof in discursive science, which supplies the believable. (M & A Crocco, Sensing).

Chapter 2. 13:
Confuting Re Personalization
Unveils Physical Incongruencies

When, extending corruptibility up to the infinite, the unifying conception of the Universe (as an integrated whole, thus describable on universal mechanical principles) completed this closing, the rejection and total exclusion of the active principles and intrinsic virtues also affected real physical facts, namely, the affectional, subjective characterizations.

By then, a new problem had come to the fore: what finite observers observe was held to be, necessarily, mediative screens.

In these physical facts, namely in noemata, as well as in the perspicuity of the own semovience, gnoseological apprehension indeed grasps directly the being of the reality and its genuine causal mode of transformation; yet noemata, by then, had arrived not only to be deemed virtualities or “qualia”, but, what is much more, on powerful economic interests the Modernity presented such virtualities as ghosts acausally dancing on a mediative screen.

Summary context: Fancying, as customary, these affectional physical facts as “fountains of egoism” contraposed to “altruist” interindividuality, sides unexpectably Max Born and Léon Brunschvicg with the Karl Marx struggling to prevent (1848) “ . . .alle Gattungsbande des Menschen zerreisen, den Egoismus . . . an Stelle dieser Gattungsbande setzen, die Menscheit in eine Welt atomischer, feindlich sich gegenüberstehender Individuen auflösen” (“disintegrating all the bonds of alliance of the people, putting egoism . . . in the stead of their bonds of union, the humanity dissolved into an atomistic world, of opposite individuals mutually antagonistic”).

Likewise, each of the main post-Renaissance adversary “ideologies” that dogmatized its worldview on its serving mutually-opposite universalistic political projects and mutually-encroaching sæcularia negotia, was, however, coincidentally furnished by the sense-bereaving syncretic myth with the same basic interpretational categories of the given.

Of course seeing this out of context makes it even more horrific.

Enjoying my old K. Jarret CDs. and have to get a record player for some fine old vinyl. Must learn to copy this stuff onto CD.

When you blog long quotes do you type or scan them...?

August 05, 2007 12:26 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...


I type all my posts in an html editor called Bluefish. I have short cuts for tags like a href, p and abbr, and for special symbols like dash and accented characters, but I usually just type things out and use a character map for special symbols, except for dash which I type out (& # 1 5 0 ;, –). When I quote an online source I cut and paste into Bluefish, but I often have to edit it for compliance or for line breaks, stuff like that.

I find it curious that you said "cadacualtez ineffible." Are you suggesting that cadacualtez cannot be philosophized? Are we left to philosophize around it?

August 05, 2007 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are the Crocco's words.

I think they're saying that it is the 'syncretic myth' that makes cadacualtez appear 'ineffable'.

This being a negative thing - like making 'reality discourse' taboo...or 'absolute truth, what our peers will let us get away with saying'....etc

Browsing in Palindrome:

"The Pythagoric-Parmenidean tradition declares that there can be science only of the general, namely of what cannot surprise the knowledgeable observer.

And life is a surprise. So, scientia est de universalis. Scientia est de necessario. Only, and exclusively.

Sages should not speak of what they cannot predict – so, since one cannot say who, circumstanced to the biological development of a still inanimated ovum, will in due time call one “father” from such a circumstance, any endeavor to fathom such who was dropped from consideration in some societies."

August 05, 2007 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the point is that we can think about cadacualtez rather than being 'blind' to it....(but we cannot 'explain' it...

"Nonetheless, the narcotic syncretic myth allowed neither science of the Enkelte —the singular, “der” Einzige—, nor wondering at it.

Over the whole history of humankind, indeed, the Dorian drama harmed people far more by preventing the theological grasping of the Jemeinigkeit than by precluding the physical grasping of the sensuality.

What lost it view of?
Because of the anomic circumstantiation of each finite existentiality, cadacualtez comes not from situational transformation: the boundary conditions of a substrate's parcel cannot establish who, instead of any other person, will find herself experiencing and semoviently inflecting them rather than another substrate parcel. Cadacualtez not either comes from the prebarygenic situation, because this early cosmological stage is also nomic — (Crocco)

Mariela Szirko:
"Gnoseological grasps are never found deprived of the causal aptitude to affirm some non-existing situations while rejecting others.

Such a choice involves both knowledge and semovience at the same time.
In contrast, rocks and autos lack minds (and thus undergo time transformation determined by the whole history of the supraquantum time relaxation of all their past states, which only yield causal determinations identical to that of its last instantaneous state) and, as a part of this deprivation, they also lack the causal aptitude to affirm by themselves a subset of envisaged states to proceed in their time transformation, so as to be able to inaugurate, thereby, new causal series in nature.
Mindless things lack both mindfulness and semovience, while mindful realities have both – which have never been encountered disassociated.

Therefore, there are no mechanisms underlying “human” mindfulness. Once equipped with the preceding notion and objective definition of mindfulness, neurobiology and psychophysics encounter mindfulness as a primary fact of the universe." (Szirko)

I think I better stop doing this!

August 06, 2007 12:56 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Prebaryogenic? Is that an astrophysics concept related to the word "baryonic"?

It's funny you should include that Szirko quotation. I was thinking of blogging my thinking about embodiment. The way I see it the notion of semovience is crucial to seeing embodiment as apodictic, and apodicticity is important to me. Patoĉka, in my opinion, best sums up the phenomenological import of semovience, though Merleau-Ponty, Renauld Barbaras and Michel Henry also contribute. (I still haven't read Maine de Biran for myself). One aspect of this (my) approach is an emphasis on faculties. I like to speak of a noetic faculty more than a psyche because I like to imagine mental praxis as being on the same footing as bodily praxis. My thinking here is not perfectly clear.

I am enjoying your bringing the AGNT to my attention. The main reason I have avoided directly confronting it myself is that is difficult to understand. For instance, I don't what "prebarygenic" means, and I'm broadly ignorant of both neurology and physics. But again I thank you for calling these works to my attention.

On cadacualtez. It's comforting to think that the philosophy of cadacualtez may begin in wonder. Now is Mario saying that cadacualtez is rooted in or characterized by anomie? Would he mean a kind of cosmic anomie. Would this anomie have an affective edge? Can we know what if feels like to be cadacualtic?

August 06, 2007 7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prebaryogenic - before the creation of baryons. I think Mario is basically stating that even early cosmology is still nomic or 'lawful' i.e. occurring according to regularities of behaviour...

Persons/cadacualtez are anomic - or technically 'unlawful'. They do not arise as the result of the operation of physical 'laws'

"Instead, those other quanta, some of which cannot impose situ-ational modifications while others are efficient to cause change, acquire inertial mass.

This mass is lent and not intrinsic to them. This process, not yet clarified, is called barygenesis or origin of mass (not to be mistaken with baryogenesis, the origin of the excess in our universe of the particles called baryons)." (Palindrome)
"The ultimate gift of conscious life is a sense of the mystery that encompasses it, as Lewis Munford once wrote.
As far as the anomical determi-nation of every cadacualtez impedes natural sciences from describing the encountered reality as any single set of fundamental facts transformed upon any single set of fundamental regularities, and from expecting that any such description could endure as the foundation of all natural science forever-more, natural science has recovered such a sense of the mystery that en-compasses conscious life: for what it is existentially worth and, also, as a tool to modify the world – which natural science always proclaimed as its ultimate goal (cf. Bush 1945). (Palindrome).

August 06, 2007 3:50 PM  

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