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Sensing Corporeally

Sensing Corporeally: Toward a Posthuman Understanding

  • Book Info
    Sensing Corporeally
    Book Description:

    Focusing on analogical sensing, rather than digital reasoning, Merrell argues that human sensation and cognition should be thought of in terms of continually changing signs that can be accounted for in terms of topological forms.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7977-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Introduction: Change Accompanies Corporeal Sensing
    (pp. 3-15)

    Chance is amazing. Whatever happens to come from it quite often presents itself as just one damn thing after another. Henry Ford said the same about history. History as the outcome of pure chance would be pretty much just that. On the other hand, chance plus selection and choice is something else altogether. Chance by itself is a throw of the dice. When selection by way of choice is exercised, the dice have been conveniently loaded, or they are thrown until the desired number shows. Either way, there’s usually some cheating going on.

    Whether cheating on chance is good or...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Becoming Conscious Becoming
    (pp. 16-32)

    Chapter 1 begins with a brief meditation on the concept of consciousness as developed by neurologist Antonio Damasio. Damasio argues convincingly that body and mind are not two but one. As mentioned in the Introduction, throughout this inquiry I label the body-mind fusionbodymind. Consciousness and bodymind also are not two but one. Conscious bodymind includes consciousnessthatthere is something ‘out there’ other than conscious bodymind. Especially in the human sense, conscious bodymind includes consciousnessofthe self that is consciousofitself and its world. This entails a paradox: consciousness and consciousnessofconsciousness are wrapped within the...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Bodymind Flows
    (pp. 33-51)

    Before entering directly into a discussion of Peirce, I offer some preliminary words on the body’s role in our lives. This, I trust, is necessary, in order properly to prepare the terrain.

    No art form makes so much use of the body; few recreational activities place more emphasis on form; few athletic events stress aesthetics so much; no ritual is more into rhythm, than dance. Dance is a patterned sequence of non-verbal body language that has a purpose, but rarely is it utilitarian. The body language is intentional, though the intention hardly involves more than rhythm; it is aesthetic, though...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Peircean Decalogue
    (pp. 52-61)

    The nine sign relations from the three triads in Figure 3 combine according to the categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness to form ten signs. Peirce devised a set of terms for labelling these ten signs. Most of them are quite technical. Nevertheless, I believe a sense of the ten signs and their interrelations with the categories is necessary at this point, since it will bear on virtually everything that follows. To facilitate this introduction to Peirce’s decalogue of signs, I will use more common words to designate them, along with numbers in sets of threes that depict degrees of...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Up and Down the Semiosic Mainstream
    (pp. 62-81)

    What we need at this juncture is a more penetrating look at Peirce’s concept of the sign in order to bring it in line more closely with the work of Antonio Damasio. This will be the focus of the present chapter, which, I must warn you, involves a relatively abstract level of discourse, though of a different sort than the last chapter. Nevertheless, I believe I must make this turn in order to till the terrain properly for what is to come. In chapter 5, 1 place the sign within an even broader context that includes recent work in philosophy...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE From Signification to Understanding
    (pp. 82-100)

    In my abstract scheme of things, it might seem that I give no central place to an interpreter, human or otherwise. Surely, one would like to think, signs don’t of their own accord just lift themselves by their bootstraps and come into existence. But actually, they do; that is, we do, for we are interpreters and at one and the same time interpretants: to reiterate, we are ourselves signs among signs.

    If, as Peirce puts it, ‘everything indeterminate is of the nature of a sign,’ then we, as questioning and doubting, sceptical and believing, yet vacillating and uncertain organisms, fit...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Interim: From the Pen of Jorge Luis Borges
    (pp. 101-119)

    In Borges’s ‘Averroës’ Search’ (1962), the Muslim scholar Averroës wants to know the nature of a pair of Aristotle’s terms, ’tragedy’ and ’comedy,’ from a culture that seems incommensurable – namely, Hellenic culture. But Borges leaves some subtle hints that in order to understand and interpret Aristotle’s terms, Averroës must already have a foot at least partly within the presumably incommensurable cultural sphere within which Aristotle worked.

    Averroës tries gallantly to get inside Aristotle’s head to the concepts of ‘tragedy’ and ‘comedy,’ without the benefit of comparable concepts in his own culture or existence of the theatre, to say nothing...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Doing It Tacitly
    (pp. 120-134)

    In this chapter I focus intensively on Peirce’s ten sign types as illustrated in Figure 4, and in light of additional Damasio case studies, Borges episodes, and an assortment of patients described by Oliver Sacks. Michael Polanyi’s special hermeneutic model sheds still more light on signs and various manifestations of human feeling and sensing and emotion and perception and conception. The watchword isembodiment, sign processes ofbodymindin their myriad manifestations. Damasio’s seminal concept of consciousness through theproto-self,core-self, andautobiographical-selfcomes to the fore, offering further insight into Peirce’s sign processes. These processes, qualified by notions of...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Bodymind Doing
    (pp. 135-148)

    I begin this chapter on bodymind and consciousness with a summary of Damasio’s concept of consciousness:

    1 Some aspects of the processes of consciousness can be located in specific regions of the brain.

    2 Conscious and mere mindless wakefulness can be distinguished, as can consciousness and inattention.

    3 Consciousness and emotion and feeling are inseparable; when the brain is impaired such that consciousness is in part or entirely absent, emotion and feeling are also affected; hence, the connection between emotion and feeling and consciousness on the one hand, and the body and consciousness on the other, must be a factor...

  14. CHAPTER NINE When There Is Nothing on the Mind
    (pp. 149-164)

    Damasio’s concept of behaviour is accompanied by flows of feeling and emotional processes as part of their unfolding. Background feelings and emotions incessantly serve to guide the subject’s actions. Non-verbal signs – diverse facial expressions, body postures, motions of the limbs relative to the trunk, spatial profiles of limb movements, motions in time and space – are premier signs of feeling and emotion, signs chiefly of Firstness or iconicity, signs that so effected Sacks’s patients described earlier.

    Even when a subject speaks, the feelings and sentiments and emotional aspects of her communication – types of words chosen, the emphasis given...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Hasta la Vista Descartes
    (pp. 165-190)

    Daniel Dennett (1991) asks the reader to imagine what he calls the ‘Cartesian theater.’ It consists of a movie house context equipped with wrap-around screen, stereophonic sound, proper smells, and tactile sensations. The tactile aspect of the theatre is like the ‘feelies,’ the movies in Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World(1946) that provide tactile sensations as well as visual images and a sound track. Everything is ‘in there,’ in the theatre, where the mind resides, and everything is readily accessible to mind.

    The ‘Cartesian theatre’ concept, Damasio writes, fortifies the hopeful wish that the mind is in a position to see...

  16. CHAPTER ELEVEN Language Fixation
    (pp. 191-207)

    Chapter 7 ended with the suggestion of further talk about the apparent gap between language, the premier playground of signs 321 to 333, and signs of the other, extralinguistic modes, chiefly signs 111 to 311. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 implicitly and at times directly dealt with this same problem. In order to engage in talk about the problem of inordinate language fixation, or ‘linguicentrism,’ in this chapter I take a radical tangential walk toward those philosophers who have been largely infatuated with language, and who have contributed massively to the ‘linguistic turn.’ These include Putnam, Davidson, Rorty, and Goodman,...

  17. CHAPTER TWELVE Topology at the Core
    (pp. 208-221)

    Ian Hacking (1993) gives account of Saul Kripke’s (1982) correlating Goodman with Wittgenstein’s sceptical problem. Kripke suggests that ‘Grue’ can be addressed not to induction but most properly to meaning. The question would not be, ‘Why not predict that grass, which has been “Grue” in the past, will be “Grue” in the future?’ but rather, the Wittgensteinian question, ‘Who is to say that in the past I did not mean “Grue” by “Green,” so that now I should call the sky, not the grass, “Green”?’ (1982:58).

    In other words, in the past I called emeralds ‘Green,’ but meant ‘Grue,’ and...

    (pp. 222-238)

    This chapter moves toward what I would like to consider a topological model of abduction, of the origin of the new from within Peirce’s triadic conception of signs as they emerge from the semiosic process. To that end, I provide a recapitulation of previously discussed topological forms and their implications with respect to semiosis, and of the set of working terms in this inquiry with which we are becoming increasingly familiar: vagueness and generality, inconsistency and incompleteness, overdetermination and underdetermination. For further illustration along these lines, Peirce’s ‘pragmatic maxim’ enters centre stage. That maxim, in contrast to its usual logico-rational...

  19. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Contextualizing the Pragmatic Maxim
    (pp. 239-250)

    To reiterate, the key words in Peirce’s pragmatic maxim are the ‘effects’ that ‘might conceivably have practical bearings,’ the ‘object of our conception,’ and ‘our conception of the object.’ No sign yields perfect clarity because all signs are to an extent vague. A sign is vague, since, given the element of Firstness that dwells within all signs, that Firstness – of quality, feeling, sentiment, sensation – cannot be of sharp specificity. It is, and it will remain, indeterminate. Peirce–s maxim calls for signs of general nature. Signs of generality, such as ‘cat’ as a sign for the class of...

  20. CHAPTER FIFTEEN Maximizing the Maxim
    (pp. 251-264)

    In Figure 1 we had a graphic image of what we might term the becoming of the beingness of space and the beingness of its becoming. Notice that with the exception of the bare point (‘vortex’), all the lines of the figure involve continua, the implication of infinity – an infinity of points making up the line. This is significant. In the process from one bulb of the Figure 1 continuum to the next, we have virtually an infinity of possibilities from which some undefined and undefinable number of particulars can begin their becoming. I write ‘undefined’ and ‘undefinable,’ since...

  21. CHAPTER SIXTEEN Distinctly Human Umwelt?
    (pp. 265-285)

    This chapter takes up Jakob von Uexküll’sUmwelttheory, according to which each species constructs its own world from what is tantamount to a virtual infinity of Peircean possible worlds. Account of these worlds comes chiefly by way of spatial and temporal perception and conception, and, I would submit, they are most adequately conceptualized topologically. Chapter 17 introduces various interpretations of topological forms and their importance in perception and conception, all of which are in turn interrelated with theUmweltidea. Finally, in the Postscript, we return to the beginning, to a reconsideration of posthuman understanding and sensing corporeally. This...

  22. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Space Dancing through Time
    (pp. 286-295)

    Patrick Heelan (1983: 163–4) argues that given certain parameters of choice we enjoy – and to an extent despiteUmwelt-bound circumscriptions – a non-Euclidean (hyperbolic) power of visualization naturally antedates Euclidean perception. He also suggests that this power is independent of the perceiver’s deliberate act of selection in the Reichenbach sense.

    Along these lines, Piaget demonstrated quite convincingly that children recognize topological and non-Euclidean properties before they learn to recognize Euclidean properties (Piaget and Inhelder, 1956: 147). Heelan, however, goes a step farther regarding human perception. He postulates that independently of logic, mathematics, and any instrumental measuring technique, ‘human...

  23. Postscript: Posthuman Understanding through Sensing Corporeally
    (pp. 296-312)

    I would hope we have witnessed in the preceding pages at least a tinge of posthuman, post-Enlightenment – and also postcritical, postanalytic, post-Cartesian – participation with our world. I resist, however, allusions to postmodernity and postmodernism. I gently lay that pair of overwrought terms to rest.¹ As an alternative, I would prefer considerations of ‘topological knowing’ rather than postmodernism’s ‘surface,’ ‘particulate’ and ‘dis-integrated’ knowing.

    Topological knowing attends to fusions rather than fissions, to non-linear processes rather than linearly digital fits and jerks. It involves smooth changes of surfaces and volumes in space and through time. It allows bodymindsigns their due....

  24. Notes
    (pp. 313-330)
  25. References
    (pp. 331-348)
  26. Index
    (pp. 349-359)