Monday, August 20, 2007

Transcendence and Reification

Representation, according to Donald Favareau, "is a fundamentally creative process of interactionally achieved, massively co-constructed mediation across networks of relation. . . in a complex, open system which ultimately allows the human organism to transcend the brute indexicality of physically present, coextensive and discrete relata and to participate interactively across its own organizational levels–levels which include the intrinsically dynamic elements of neuron, body, sign and world." He continues, "The totality of this systemic and incessant sign activity we reify as 'mind.' An ongoing, dynamic process of sign-exchanging cells embedded in sign-exchanging brains embedded in sign-exchanging bodies embedded in sign-exchanging worlds, the eternal interplay of self-organization and symmetry-breaking that characterizes the moment-to-moment experience of this recursively interactive system constitutes, in a very real sense, the very essences of 'knowing' and of 'the mind'" (Beyond self and other: On the neurosemiotic emergence of intersubjectivity (pdf), Sign System Studies, 30(1), p. 67). The thrust of Favareau's paper is that he thinks he's found a neurological basis (mirror neurons) for intersubjectivity that functions prior to any cognitive distinction between self and other. I want to pause to consider the idea of transcendence and how that might be related to representation and to reification.

Is transendence real? Can we, by means of representation or by any other means, ever perfectly and completely transcend the "brute indexicality of physically present, coexstensive and discrete relata"? If this transcendence is real, does the charge of reification make sense? Alternatively, if the charge of reification is valid, aren't we in effect questioning the reality of this transcendence? It could be said that we are dealing here with two distinct gestures, one that passes beyond the real and another that makes what lies beyond the real the real. Nevertheless I think the one presages the other. Either the passage beyond reality is a problem or there are different orders of reality, which is another way of saying that the real is not singular but multiple, in which case it seems to me that reification would be a pseudo-problem. But I don't know that I'm not missing something, so I'm throwing it out there.

Is there anything that really transcends its conditions of possibility? I read a lot about transcendence but I don't understand it very well. What would it mean if transcendence were always imperfect, always incomplete?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:06 PM.


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