Monday, December 08, 2008

Phraseology of the Incognitive Question

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that incognitive means "destitute of the faculty of cognition; unable to take cognizance." In speaking of "the incognitive question" the question arises whether one can question in such a way as to, momentarily to be sure, make oneself unable to take cognizance. Still more deeply there is the question of whether taking cognizance requires us to relinquish the question, if it is indeed possible to hold onto the question in the first place. I think this notion of the incognitive question is perfectly logical, but I know it doesn't appear that way to everybody. Let me propose then an experiment to test whether it makes sense to speak of an incognitive question.

When I first approached the imaginary question I was led to imagine a question by making a gesture of questioning. I'd like you to enact a nonthought experiment along these lines. You may not need to make any gesture. You may find that the breath alone is enough to guide your incognitive passage through the question–oh, I've begged the question; just try to separate the posing of the question from thought and pay attention to what happens to your thinking. You may feel called by the question into gesture. If so, go with it. Study that process too. In the simplest terms just try to pose a question without using words.

No doubt thought isn't coextensive with language, language isn't coextensive with words, nor words with concepts, and the possibility of momentarily and/or partially decoupling questioning from cognition doesn't imply that cognition and questioning are, in the round, decoupled. We must be cautious in our interpretations of the results we have obtained. The conditions of the experiment must be considered. Minimally I hope this little nonthought experiment indicates that there is some phenomenon of consciousness being discussed in my use of phrases like "the phraseology of the incognitive question." The posture that doesn't quite pose–throughout this discussion I will pretend not to have read Vallega-Neu's The Bodily Dimension in Thinking chiefly because I haven't yet found the opportunity to actually do so–the expression that presses without rising to stand out of the pression, the vehicle that never delivers its tenor–I won't be caught equating metaphor's pure vehicle, which perhaps appears only in experimental conditions, with the senseless. The incognitive question has horizons, orientations. Attend to your breathing. Sustain the incognitive question as long as you can, weave a coherence into the posing of the incognitive question while attending to your breathing, bring all of your skills at making phrases to bear on the posing of the incognitive question all the while making observations of your conduct. Well, perhaps I am speaking of the *question, or the question as it belongs to *language; if so any ambition to explore the question apart from a logomachic culture would have to be questioned, a questioning I may well have invited when I asked you to perform this little nonthought experiment. Play along.

Sooner or later I will have to look at the relation between the question and the expectation. Possibly the incognitive question traffics in blind expectations, the sense of which might be determined under experimental conditions.

Labels: , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 7:11 PM.


Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Master Yak,
you seem to be merely asking one to consider, "What is the sound of one hand claping?"

You take that breath, you begin to think, your eyes move down and to the left, your head tilts, and a meditative emptiness is all that remains.

December 09, 2008 5:41 AM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Perhaps it's just me applying my general mode of thinking onto yours and being somewhat solipsistic - but I feel I could cut and paste this into Zen literature somewhere and nobody would know the difference; they wouldn't see that it didn't belong.

December 09, 2008 5:44 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

You would be right to intuit that I'm no more Zen than a box of rocks. I've heard of koans but I haven't studied them and in general I don't set out to write koans.

December 10, 2008 9:24 AM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Where is the “study” in this statement; "In the simplest terms just try to pose a question without using words."

December 10, 2008 3:43 PM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Mr. Yak,
are you there, or did that sound too sarcastic?


December 15, 2008 4:32 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I did take that as a rhetorical question. I'm sorry if I misinterpreted you. Of course I thought about the question. I wasn't quite sure of how to respond. Perhaps you might say more?

December 15, 2008 6:47 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I'm not sure what counts as study. I spend a lot of time thinking about questions lately. It seems to me that there are different kinds of thinking, and some appear more immediately to be studious than others. For instance at the moment there is apparently not much study happening as I write, though my writing is informed by studies, a modicum of education, I believe, and though I do weigh ideas and expressions as or before I write them, and because I have really given some consideration to the issue that concerns you, and also to the problem of communicating with you—please know that I regard communicating with anybody to be a problem, and also know that problems are not bad things in my view—to some extent even this hastily composed little sentence is the product of some study. The amount of study put into the previous sentence is pretty meagre in comparison to the amount of study that went into "In the simplest terms just try to pose a question without using words." However I feel that I have put more study into some other thoughts. I'm not sure studiousness is such a great measure of a thought, but I strive to be studious nonetheless, and I am concerned about my study habits, even those habits that make a space for and nurture spontaneity and improvisation.

December 17, 2008 11:28 AM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Ok, Yak,
you've rendered me responselss and also questionless. I've thought about this for a few days now, and there's nothing really more I can say.

perhpas therein lies the point.

December 18, 2008 3:34 PM  

Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page