Monday, October 8, 2012

Image stigmata

Continuing to maintain the autopoietic suobstance of the IPS OOO thread, more from it follows.

Here's a link to many of Andy Clark's papers. I'll be exploring some of them forthcoming. For example, this from "Beyond the flesh":

"Words are...the concrete objects that structure new spaces for basic forms of learning and reason.... Language is thus conceived as primarily a form of environmental structuring rather than as an information stream requiring translation into and out of various inner codes" (2-3).

I remember from somewhere (can't yet discern the source) that words themselves were not arbitrary but formed from environment interactions in conjunction with our embodied neuro-circuitry. Yes, there are many different words and languages, but that is due likely to regional environmental and local niche conditions within which such languages and dialects developed.

In Clark and Chalmers seminal paper "The extended mind" they are discussing something akin to Bryant's endo- and exo-relations on 7-9. An objection for brain-object coupled cognition is that when the brain is decoupled from the object it retains its own cognitive capacities. This might be considered Bryant's distinction of the substance from its contingent local manifestations, which can and do change (decouple). C&C don't deny the brain-body its own capacities. However a number of those internal capacities were in fact shaped by environmental and social forces along the way, even from the beginning.

This is one area that I haven't found explored much with Bryant, how a particular machine comes to be, how it cannot have its autonomy without such external influence. He grants that a machine is created in time, impermanent, always struggling to maintain its autonomy from dissolution, but its creation comes from its coupling with various environments. And perhaps more importantly, its translative abilities don't reside strictly in its once established endo-structure, since that structure itself is at all times coupled with other environmental systems and thus distributing that cognitive translation.

Recall Bryant had to qualify a distinction with Harman about a particular substance capacity to not enter into any exo-relations. He granted it might be theoretically possible but that in practice there are no examples. Other than perhaps neutrinos, and yet they do enter into relations with us since we can imagine or imply their existence by their affects.

One of the ways our brain/body has evolved is by using references to the environment in terms of spatial relations and locomotion (9). And this is none other than the image schemas (or schemata*) discussed above, which are formed by the coupling of our brains with environments and there from the beginning. As the Bible says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God." Alleluia and Amen!

* The sound of schemata reminds me of stigmata, as in when a person's hands and/or feet bleed in the same places as the nails driven into Christ. Yes, image schemata are like that, as they bear the marks of the initial relationship to origin. And they bleed!


  1. From another angle I'm reading Latour's chapter in The Speculative Turn. He talking about using prepositions to understand existence. He gets this from Wm. James and Souriau, this notion that prepositions are "neither an ontological domain, nor a region, territory, sphere, or material." They are that which "prepares the what follows" (308-9). Looking at the definition of preposition we find that they "typically express a spatial, temporal, or other relationship." Well, well, our image schemata again. And per Latour this prepositional approach heals the subject/object split, for it paves the way or prepares the position taken by any particular suobject in its autonomy. It's akin to our old friend khora in that way, as a pregnant womb that prepares for the birth of, or sets the stage for, duality.


  2. Latour uses Souriau's term instauration to denote what is not idealism or realism, or even their in-between. Like the preposition it pre-positions both of them. "Instauration allows exchanges or gifts that are interesting in other ways, transactions with rather different types of being.... No being has substance. If it persists, it is because it is always restored" (311).

    Continuing after that he discusses that there are multiple beings for any suobject. In Bryant's terms it enters into a variety of different local manifestations and with each one the suobject is part of that assemblage and hence a unique being. He seems to question that there is a distinct being of the suobject apart from its multiple instaurations, tracing this back to Aristotle's substance. Granted Bryant also criticizes Aristotle's One Substance, that each suobject, being constructed, has its unique substance. But it seems Latour is saying that since a suobject is never without relations of some kind, and that it has multiple substances depending in which local manifestations it participates, that there is no one unique substance apart from that. I'm not sure he's saying that so will need to read further.


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