Corpus and the Cortex

Corpus and the Cortex: The 3-D Mind, Volume 2

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Corpus and the Cortex
    Book Description:

    Chevalier shows how the attentions and inhibitions of affect and norm are best understood at the crossroads of several disciplines, including neuropsychology, semiotics, and philosophy. He delves into these linkages, with an emphasis on the reciprocal concessions between the pleasure principle and the teachings of normative language (moral, rational). These mutual allowances of sentiment and judgment go far beyond cognitive models of the mind. They also bridge the Freudian and Kantian gap between self-enjoyment and morality. Far from being constantly in struggle, The Corpus and the Cortex shows that norms and infractions are the warps and wefts of a single "neurosemiotic" fabric. Symbolic analyses illustrating these intriguing manifestations of brain, language, and culture range from personal anecdotes to cultural identity rhetoric, animal farm imagery, shoe fetishism, and body piercing. The 3-D Mind 2 presents these analyses against the background of theories and debates concerning concepts of identity construction, metaphor, rhetoric, simulation, consciousness, morality, and eroticism.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7017-7
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. Log On: Options and Preferences
    (pp. 3-16)

    The 3-D Mind 1explored the brain lateralization phenomenon, or the differences observed between right and left brain activity. It also examined effects of bihemispheric integration, or the extent to which the two brains supplement one another, feeding bilateral information into all productions of the “mind.” Symbolic materials illustrating these principles were taken from the domain of proper naming practices and from the field of ethnobotany. The latter included plant imagery found in the scriptures (the fig-apron motif in Genesis), in poetry (pines and hemlocks in line 1 of Longfellow’sEvangeline) and in native Mexican mythology (corn god stories as...

    • RETICLE 1 Synaptic Attentions and Reticular Activity
      (pp. 19-28)

      Neuropsychology no longer permits us to think of cerebral hemispheres as cognitive modules unaffected by human feelings and the unconscious. Half-brain studies suggest that each hemisphere is emotionally profiled, especially the right one, which when impaired leads to deficits in nonverbal emotional expression. More importantly, studies of cortical and subcortical processes show how hemispheres are affected by emotions involving brain circuits and systems that proceed along lines other than the strictly hemispheric. The same can be said of attentionality and unawareness. They have impact on hemispheric differences, yet they too result from neural mechanisms and systems that go beyond the...

    • RETICLE 2 Frontal Lobes, Limbic Processing, Implicit Learning
      (pp. 29-42)

      Before I say more about the workings of attentionality, a few words should be said about basic divisions of brain anatomy.Briefly, the human brain is divided into the hindbrain (rhombencephalon, includes the brain stem), the forebrain (prosencephalon), and the midbrain (mesencephalon).

      Thehindbrainincludes the pons, the cerebellum, the two cerebellar hemispheres, the medulla oblongata, and the fourth ventricle.

      Themidbrainconnects the forebrain and the hindbrain and is composed of (1) the reticular formation; (2) two superior and two inferior colliculi involved in the visual and auditory systems, respectively; and (3) the mamillary bodies, implicated in memory (together with...

    • RETICLE 3 Autonomic Lateralization
      (pp. 43-54)

      Not all neural activity requires or leads to cortical awareness. Unaware processing is in fact the rule rather than the exception. It is so fundamental as to be necessary for the brain to function. It also constitutes a manifold activity in its own right. Unaware “conversations” take several forms, including peripheral autonomic communications; synaptic depolarizations achieved without neocortical processing or reticular arousal; implicit learning involving subcortical pathways; and limbic activity monitored (channelled or censored) by the prefrontal brain. We have seen that brain attentionality is also the tip of a massive iceberg of polarizations and hyperpolarizations, billions of synaptic actions...

    • RETICLE 4 The Rank Ordering of Signs
      (pp. 57-62)

      Neurons form webs and circuits of synaptic communications. Some neural conversations arouse attention, triggering the reticular system into action and letting the brain become aware of some depolarizations and action potentials. Great numbers of impulses, however, are transmitted without our knowing it. Thus a basic feature of the neural process is that the two forms of synaptic exchange, the attentive and the inattentive, do not always intersect. While the two are vital to integrated brain activity, warps of neural connectivity do not always intersect with woofs of attentional noticing. Not all things going on inside our brain need occupy our...

    • RETICLE 5 Signs That Matter and Those That Don’t
      (pp. 63-70)

      Connections between signs are never just horizontal, created equal “in the mind of the subject.” More often than not, they are plotted along a vertical axis, a plane designed to let some signs be elevated above others. This rank ordering is performed typically for reasons that have to do with how humans conceive a good life – which can be understood in one of the two ways, the prefrontal or the limbic. The prefrontal definition of “goodness” points to what is morally right. The limbic pertains to what is simply desirable and pleasing, whether right or wrong. Sign activity pays attention...

    • RETICLE 6 Name Calling: Frogs and Beavers
      (pp. 71-84)

      A few tentative generalizations emerge from the preceding analysis. First, in lieu of offering a variety of mutually exclusive menus, sign production constantly brings together the cognitive, the normative, and the emotive dimensions of semiotic activity. Neuropsychologically +speaking, similarities and differences mapped along the sagittal plane are shot through with prefrontal rulings and limbic feelings; the logic ofsynkretismosanddiakritikosis subject to the axial interplay of sentiment and judgment. Second, the preferences and anxieties of language are communicated through mechanisms of attentional stratification. Signs of the pleasurable and the commendable are conveyed through an uneven distribution of (in)attention;...

    • RETICLE 7 Heteroculturalism
      (pp. 85-92)

      Sign reticles are horizontal assemblages of similarities (RH) and differences (LH). These assemblages are not static and they are not strictly cognitive. Instead they are highly malleable and invite constant interventions of vertical effects of the normative (prefrontal) and emotive (limbic) kind. The axial intervention of judgment and sentiment implies in turn a political economy of attentionality. Sign politics generate constant efforts to silence or downgrade things that are deemed offensive to morality or the pleasure principle. By the same token, sign activity grants two privileges to indices of “goodness”: greater visibility, and the powers of strategic silences – brevity, timeliness,...

    • RETICLE 8 The High Road and the Low Road
      (pp. 93-101)

      Sign connections and attentions are malleable, lending themselves to syncretic and diacritic tactics and the struggles that follow. These tactics skew the ordering of similarities and differences, using the attentions of language to achieve affective resonance and moral import. The outcome is a rank ordering of signs based on regimes of attentional merit, a logic of stratification that plays on three levels: the explicit, the implicit, and the illicit.

      1. Explicit circuits permit attentions to be focused on pivotal meanings (cognitive), affects (emotive), and precepts (normative). They constitute the main-track impulses of sign activity, “somatic” connections depolarized and exhibited for...

    • RETICLE 9 Jacob the Heel-Catcher
      (pp. 102-108)

      All sign linkages are endowed with the powers of movement and flexibility. The same can be said of articulations of the body. Heels, knees, and loins permit the body of language to take many courses of action. Depending on the corpus at hand, the pathways of sign attentionality may range from communications of joy and sin to lessons of suffering and sacrifice. When steps are taken in one direction (say, the joyful), other trajectories (say, the sinful or the tribulational) are banned from the surface plot. Impulses proceeding along main and secondary tracks can be activated provided that sidetrack potentials...

    • RETICLE 10 Foot and Shoe Fetishes: The Bright Side
      (pp. 109-118)

      Loins, knees, and heels endowed with manly strength stand for the good life. But if enjoyed without ever being renounced, the blessings they offer will lead to sin and great trials. The powerfully loined and the well heeled will be punished where they have sinned. They will be dispossessed of the manly powers vested in limbs and articulations of the lower body.

      Our reading of Jacob’s story and related imageries of the body points to the teachings of ascetic morality. Possessions will be lost by those who fail to relinquish them with sacrificial intent. But there are some intriguing anomalies...

    • RETICLE 11 Foot and Shoe Festishes: The Dark Side
      (pp. 119-136)

      What happens to women who open the door to male feet slipping into sin? What is to become of men who show the foot of pride? Will feet that wander from the path of God and run to mischief go unpunished? Answers to these questions can be found in tribulational usages of foot, shoe, and door motifs. Lower body and door entrance images evoking scenes of sinful pleasures can be adjusted to illustrate the fearsome implications of Eros let loose. That is, they can be turned against men and women abusing the powers over life (hoarding, begetting) and death (conquering,...

    • RETICLE 12 Spikes and the Motions of Desire
      (pp. 137-153)

      An intriguing paradox emerges from our interpretive findings concerning biblical imageries of feet, shoes, and doors. Asceticism involves signs of deprivation, yet possessions covering the body may be needed to signify what is longed for (higher rewards), typically by way of metaphor. When transposed to the sexual domain, the implication is that a male figure behaving virtuously can retain some feminine possessions or tokens thereof, using them as indications of what is longed for and worthy of a sacrificial offering. Paradoxically, these “ascetic possessions” are not without erotic value.

      This brings us back to a critique of the conventional wisdom...

    • RETICLE 13 From Earrings to Body Piercing
      (pp. 154-164)

      Erotic displays of female desire point to the male figure taking pleasure in a masculinized woman simulating the possession she longs for (and vice versa). The language of seduction betrays a woman seeking out a man longing to conquer her desire through a partial simulation of the union he and she long for. Her yearning to be possessed becomes the man’s valuable possession, a confirmation of her desire for his desire. Correlatively, the male figure takes delight in giving up and surrenderingfragmentsof masculinity to the female subject (high heels, long nails, precious family jewels, etc.). The erotic act...

    • RETICLE 14 The Foldings of Metaphor
      (pp. 167-175)

      Sign reticles (referred to asSrbelow) are highly malleable. When seen from a sagittal view, some sign actions converge through RH syncretism, whereas others generate effects of divergence through LH diacritic processing. On the axial plane, sign connections produce variable attentions, depending on the event at hand. Some communications are fully attended, resulting in what could be called the soma expressions of semiosis. Others are given a secondary role obtained through autonomic depolarization, activation without full noticing. These ancillary transmissions constitute the background impressions and implications of “signaptic” events. All remaining connections are either polarized or hyperpolarized, unattended through...

    • RETICLE 15 Beyond Semiotics, Semantics, and Hermeneutics
      (pp. 176-182)

      Substitution theory views metaphor as a denotation by proxy. As a result, it neglects the compositional assemblages and predicative aspects of metaphor. The act of calling Christ the Lamb slain may not be marked with signs of full propositional grammar (subject, verb, complement, etc.). The metaphor nonetheless entails an act of comparative predication: Christ is to his enemies what a Lamb slain is to jackals and scorpions. If spelled out, the comparison implies that the Saviour is meek as opposed to cruel, someone destined to be killed as opposed to being a killer, and so on. Metaphors are not connections...

    • RETICLE 16 Making Sense
      (pp. 183-189)

      The position advanced in this book differs from Ricœurian hermeneutics and Derridean grammatology, and questions all presumed divarications of internal meaning and external context. Sign events are not mental events intersecting with sensorial phenomena. While taking different forms, signs are products of “sense” defined as bodily faculty (sense of hearing), meaning (the sense of a word), judgment (being sensible), reason (common sense), emotion (being sensitive), awareness (to regain one’s senses), and memory (sense of time, cf.3-D Mind 3). My contention is that interconnections between these different facets of sign and sense production are so dense and pervasive that all...

    • RETICLE 17 Figuratively Speaking
      (pp. 190-198)

      Our sign-signal connectivity theorem would be all the more useful if it could account for variations in the art of symbolling, variations other than purely circumstantial. The reticulation theorem is of no great consequence if it simply means connecting sign to circumstance. Consider metaphorical namings of stars and constellations, say, from a substitution-theory perspective. When looking at asterisms on a map or stars in the sky, one may use terms such as Scorpion or Taurus with full knowledge of their “deviational” properties. No “real” scorpions or bulls are intended. The terms are used in the absence of any alternative word...

    • RETICLE 18 Concessions to Literality and Grammar
      (pp. 199-212)

      What are we to make of signs interpreted literally, technically, descriptively, or denotatively? Do they link up with other signs in the same way that metaphors do? Is it in their power to connect directly to objects and phenomena belonging to reality, without multiple sign connections and the uneven measurements of attentionality? Linguistic realism and common sense tend to be on the side of the “simply denotative” attitude. With proper denominations, the question is therefore whether the sign is “simply” accepted or not. As Benveniste would say, does it signify or not? The counterargument to this is that all words...

    • RETICLE 19 I Like Ike
      (pp. 213-220)

      While bridging the gap between neuropsychology and semiotics, our Sr (sign-sign/sign-signal reticulation) theorem is a radical departure from stimulus-response and sign-representation theories alike. Signs are not linguistic responses to external stimuli. Nor are they representations of objects or concepts (that dwell outside the sign-signal process), words embodying ideas and responding to real circumstances and hermeneutic context. Our theorem emphasizes instead the weavings of signs-signals and the “attentional quanta” variably distributed among component parts of Sr activity. This approach has the advantage of broadening the notion of “sense” to include both practical syntheses of the senses and constructs of meaning, norm,...

    • RETICLE 20 Interpretive and Normative Judgment
      (pp. 221-226)

      What Aristotle says about metaphor can be extended to all acts of speech: they are constructed in such ways as to “set the scene before our eyes” (Ricœur 1977: 34; cf. 43, 58, 120). It is in the nature of signs to attract our attention whenever attention is needed. This can be done through rhetorical tactics of all sorts. But the staging of meaning can also be achieved through the foci of denotative and descriptive speech, depending on the effects and affects that are being pursued. As already suggested, high levels of attentional focusing – avoiding depolarizations going off in multiple...

    • RETICLE 21 Morality, Repression, and Transgression
      (pp. 227-234)

      The exercise of judgment has neurological foundations. It is a product of brain activity involving projections to prefrontal lobes. These connections enable the brain to control intense emotions such as fear or anger, keeping emotive and impulsive responses of the limbic system within bounds. Prefrontal lobes also intervene in step-by-step planning and goal-oriented actions, transforming limbic motivation into the orderly attentions of logic and reasoning. It is principally through exchanges between the prefrontal brain and the limbic system that the logical and the desirable interface, generating speech acts and behaviour governed by the pleasure principle (or the avoidance of pain)...

    • RETICLE 22 Rationality and Lifeworld
      (pp. 235-245)

      Concepts of attentional economy and Sr processing permit a broad understanding of what the production of “sense” is all about. They are flexible enough to reconcile the two rules of conformation and fragmentation governing mutable assemblages of semiotic activity. The malleable distributions of sign signal attentionality account for variations in usages of language ranging from denotation to metaphor and tropes of all kinds. Our Sr theorem also accounts for the normative and emotive overtones and undertones of attentionality, or the twofold interplay of the overt and the covert, morality and the logic of desire. Interchanges between normative and emotive (in)...

    • RETICLE 23 Regimes of Desire
      (pp. 246-251)

      Students of sign activity should be wary of theories that simply denounce the strictures of verticality and stratification or the rigidity inherent in lifeworld semiosis. Playfulness in language and culture is highly compatible with the hierarchical operations of attentionality and fluctuations in the rank orderings of desire. In fact, semiotic fuzziness and malleability is a byproduct of the unequal distribution of attentionality, the will to power in language, the rank ordering of signs and signals, and the battles of morality and transgression in the exercise of judgment.

      This position runs counter to some premises of postmodern philosophy. Deleuze and Guattari,...

    • RETICLE 24 Mindfulness and Being-in-the-World
      (pp. 252-264)

      Judgment is a complex activity. Claims to knowledge, meaning, rightness, and reason are not reducible to simple typologies, be they couched in terms of lifeworld values, modes of rationality, forms of consciousness, or regimes of signs and desire. Nor are they amenable to the rule of chaos and fractality, rhizomes escaping all forces of rank ordering and the will to power in semiosis. Acts of judgment are never simple. For one thing they involve multiple levels of Sr connectivity organized along hierarchical lines. All claims of judgment are governed by a rank ordering principle involving the uneven attentions granted to...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 265-268)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-274)
  9. Index
    (pp. 275-288)