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Scorpions and the Anatomy of Time

Scorpions and the Anatomy of Time: The 3-D Mind, Volume 3

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Scorpions and the Anatomy of Time
    Book Description:

    This is the coronal plane that governs the weavings of remembrance and anticipation, recollections of the past and expectations of the future. Chevalier shows that while brain and sign processing caters to events that succeed in attracting our attention, it also provides means to produce silence where unawareness is called for. Some inattention to things that are no longer or not yet is a requirement of the plotting of signs of hope and apprehension folding and unfolding in narrative time. The end result is a complex calculus of recollection, anticipation, and hope combined with traces of deferment, forgetfulness, and fear. This intricate "time-machine" built into language and the brain governs the "working memory system, an active memory operating by necessity in the present tense. Chevalier explores these issues in light of what philosophers such as St. Augustine, Kant, Heidegger, and Lévi-Strauss have said about memory and the nature of time. Arguing against all static and apocalyptic conceptions of time, Chevalier applies his own blending of "neurosemiotics" and Ricoeurian hermeneutics to the interpretive analysis of narrative plots ranging from a cat drawn by a child to intriguing speculations on the hot and the cold in Mexican Nahua agriculture. The 3-D Mind 3 also looks at prophecies of demonic scorpions in the Book of Revelation, and signs of the End heralded by the tragedy of Ground Zero.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7018-4
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Log On: Bookmarks
    (pp. 3-16)

    How does language relate to brain structures and processes? What language should we use to capture the interface between meanings and neurons, or signs and synapse? Can neuroscience inform semiotic thinking, and to what extent can semiotics return the favour, through interpretive analyses and sign theories that can shed light on the anatomy of the mind?

    The 3-D Mind 1 and 2, the two books that preceded this one, offered tentative answers to these questions, with an emphasis on the lateral (right and left hemispheres) and vertical (cortical-subcortical) dimensions of brain and sign activity. Our journey into hyperlinks between semiotics...


    • RETICLE 1 The Time Machine
      (pp. 19-25)

      The brain contains 50 billion to 100 billion neurons. Each neuron branches into axons and dendrites that receive thousands of waves of electrical discharge from other neurons. The end result is a living tissue of synaptic connections that are virtually incalculable. The flow of information running through this dense fabric cannot be reduced to simple patterns. Notwithstanding the warning, studies of neuropsychology suggest a mapping of brain circuits along two planes: the sagittal and the axial. In previous books we saw that these two planes point to hemispheric functions and cortical-subcortical attentionalities, respectively. The interactionwithin and betweenthe two...

    • RETICLE 2 Attentive and Inattentive Remembering
      (pp. 26-37)

      Different memory functions and interchanges proceed along cortical pathways involving the posterior and anterior lobes and the two hemispheres. But memories are also modulated by subcortical and subattentional processing mechanisms. This brings us to the vertical dimension of memory systems: the distinction between explicit-declarative and implicit-emotive memories. Explicit-declarative memories are generated mostly at the cortical level. They store up information containing answers to the “what” question and include memories of names, words, dates, places, objects, and faces. They tend to be context-specific; information about a face is stored together with recollections of a name, for example, or a place. Note...

    • RETICLE 3 Short-Term, Long-Term, and Working Memories
      (pp. 38-41)

      Different hemispheres, lobes, and areas of the cortex are used to encode, store, and retrieve auditory-verbal, visual-spatial, motor, and other sensory memories. To these variable mnemonic functions can be added subcortical interventions from the hippocampus and the amygdala and the corresponding bifurcation of attentive and inattentive memory systems.

      Attentive remembrance occurs in a state of arousal. It can take an anterior lobe route and feed into acts of speech, goaloriented behaviour, or episodic memory activity (combining LH sequentiality with RH narrativity). Alternatively, attentive remembering can take a posterior lobe route and generate semantic memories (auditory, visual).

      Inattentive memories also operate...

    • RETICLE 4 Memory in the Future Tense
      (pp. 42-46)

      The word “memory” denotes an act of remembrance, recalling something from the past. But it also evokes the act of letting something come back to one’s mind so that it can be considered and “attended” anew. This is to say that memory is inseparable from attentionality. The working memory plays a key role in this regard. It allows the brain to bring together all the stuff it attends to in the present tense, including things of the past. The working memory is not mere remembrance of the past. It is everything we “care to consider” at a given moment in...

    • RETICLE 5 Fear and Watchfulness
      (pp. 47-53)

      The neurological foundations of the experience we have of the future tense can be approached through studies of fear and anxiety. Reactions of fear may result from internal or external stimulus situations that bring back memories of painful experiences via amygdala and/or hippocampus arousal (LeDoux 1996: 257–8). The question is whether it is stimulus and memory appraisal that engenders the emotional experience, or is it the emotion that triggers cognitive and mnemonic activity? Do we experience fear because we are cognizant of signs of danger? Or do we assess a situation to be dangerous because we are in a...

    • RETICLE 6 Synaptic Fields and Long-Term Potentiation
      (pp. 54-56)

      Our survey of memory circuits and time frames must not leave out basic learning mechanisms operating at the level of synaptic and molecular events. Although more research is needed to verify the link between synapse and memory, there are various ways in which functional and structural changes occurring at the synaptic and neural level can be said to contribute to mnemonic activity. One method that neurons can use to facilitate memory formation consists in presynaptic neurons releasing greater amounts of neurotransmitters. This enhances interneural communication and assists the growth of neural networks needed to support durable learning. Also, the greater...

    • RETICLE 7 Things to Remember
      (pp. 57-60)

      What are the implications of neuropsychological studies of memory for semiotics and sign theory? Before we answer this question, a synopsis of previous observations regarding the anatomy of time is in order. To begin with, we have seen that memory is not a unified faculty occupying a storage room clearly mapped in brain geography. Rather, various lobes, hemispheres, and areas of the cortex and the subcortex busy themselves processing, storing, and retrieving different forms of memory – auditory-verbal or visual-spatial, semantic (“where” and “what” memories) or episodic (RH prosodic-narrative, LH expressive-motor). Mnemonic activities thus vary according to the type of learning...


    • RETICLE 8 Volumes Recollected
      (pp. 63-74)

      Attentions deployed through normal working-memory activity conjugate considerations of the present with memories of the past and anticipations of the future. They also require that some inattention be applied to distant times, whether through appropriate losses of memory or lack of foresight. While these observations are founded in neuropsychology, they also hold true in the semiotic domain. The analyses of symbolic material that follow show how speculations on time condition all productions of language. We begin with material already explored in previous books, revisiting them with concerns not addressed until now. Examples of naming practices (“Jacques M. Chevalier”), political slogans...

    • RETICLE 9 Mum’s the Word
      (pp. 75-81)

      A child draws a cat. Not just any cat: cats in the abstract don’t exist. Nor do archetypal cat symbols. Only concrete cats, with particular colours, shapes, feelings, and stories to tell. Take the cat below, drawn by a child and given to a child therapist (my wife), with background information regarding the child. A cat that is all eyes, all ears, all nose.

      This is an animal on the lookout. Watchfulness is written all over its face – but watchfulness of a diffuse kind. We don’t really know what the cat is looking at. Although fixed, the attention is undetermined,...

    • RETICLE 10 Scorpions at the End of Time
      (pp. 82-93)

      A child draws a cat on the lookout, an enigmatic pet standing still and keeping a watchful eye on the unpredictable and the imponderable. No focusing on the details and circumstances of the child’s anxiety is allowed. If attention were paid to the actual circumstances of the child’s fear, then angst would turn into anxiety. Memories and expectations would tie signs of fear to particular moments and events in time. The cat’s ability to keep watch, keeping still and an open eye for the unknown, would automatically suffer. So would the child’s ability to turn the eye away from fixed...

    • RETICLE 11 Timing and Planting a Plot
      (pp. 94-111)

      My reading of Revelation’s scorpion imagery has focused on the coronal aspects of sign activity, by which I mean the time factor intervening in semiosis. But the analysis also takes into account two other dimensions explored in previous books. First, it incorporates considerations of the sagittal plane (3-D Mind 1), and hence the cognitive mapping of lines of convergence and divergence woven through images of scorpions and lambs. Second, linkages mapped on to the axial plane(3-D Mind 2)have been factored in, lines that point to the uneven distribution of normative and emotive attentions. Over and beyond its cognitive...

    • RETICLE 12 Speculations on the Hot and the Cold
      (pp. 112-124)

      An important thesis that follows from previous analyses is that fixed categories of time do not exist. Only speculative moments in time do. Scorpions and lambs appearing in Revelation may evoke the solar body passing through signs of the zodiac (Scorpio and Aries), which are measurable and observable events corresponding to particular months of the year. But they also raise anxieties regarding traces of the past and seeds of the future. These hopes and fears form an integral part of time unfolding through movement in space. Time exists and acquires meaning through motion and emotion.

      The same can be said...


    • RETICLE 13 Kant on Time
      (pp. 127-132)

      Conceptions of time vary greatly. The same can be said of signs that are “timed” through narrative movement; measures of preand post-figurative speculation are highly malleable. This means that time is not an attribute built into physical things or reality, an objective property that can be studied independently of how the brain constructs linkages between past, present, and future. But the notion that time may be a product of the “mind” is not new. In hisCritique of Pure Reason(see “Transcendental Doctrines of Elements,” part ¹, section ²), Kant thus argues that time is not an empirical conception derived...

    • RETICLE 14 Assembling a Clock
      (pp. 133-139)

      Categories pertaining to time are not static holes for pigeons to dwell in. Like all other signs, they have a story to tell, one that plays with the passing of time. In their own closely watched manner, all arrangements of time give impetus and force to sign activity. They plot out moves and motions that convert code and logic into strategic investments in nervous sign processing.

      The arrangements of time will vary considerably across space and time, according to the story these arrangements have to tell. While it is true to say that codes play with time, it is also...

    • RETICLE 15 But Where Is Time?
      (pp. 140-151)

      Unlike Kant’s sensuous intuition of time, the cognitive mapping of time is responsive to culture and history. The codification of time is highly malleable, associable, and changeable. The concept of code applied to measures of time has nonetheless serious limitations. Despite their commitment to plurality and diversity, theories of cognitive encoding make universal claims of their own, typically from a formalist or structural perspective. By definition, codes are systems of similarities and differences acting as models of intelligibility. Sign theories inspired by this notion – Lévi-Straussian anthropology, for instance – maintain that a formal encoding mechanism is universally wired into the brain....

    • RETICLE 16 The Body and Soul of Time
      (pp. 152-163)

      Augustine’s answer to the aporias of linear time lies not in mechanical motions of the bodies. The Church Father does not conceive of time as chronology. The measurement of regular motions of celestial bodies serves a limited function, which is to mark out time. The secret of time lies elsewhere, in movements of the mind and the soul. Augustine argues that past and future times do not exist in themselves but must be thought of as part of the self-presence of mind. Things of the past are drawn out from memories we experience in the present, not from the events...

    • RETICLE 17 Variations on the Signum Triceps
      (pp. 164-172)

      As with Augustine, Deleuze (1994: 76 ) views time as a product of “narrative contemplation,” a meditative process whereby the past and the future become integral dimensions and contractions of the living present. Traces of the past are like scars that mark the passage of time. They are signs not of past wounds but of the present fact of having been wounded. Unlike Kant and Augustine, however, Deleuze denies primacy to selfsame principles of the timeless mind or soul. What prevails is rather a world of differences, or the forces of chance, multiplicity, and becoming pervading a “chaosmos” animated by...

    • RETICLE 18 All in a Bar
      (pp. 173-187)

      Studies of Sr activity revolve around a basic issue: the relationship between oneesseors(for sign or signal) and another, or the bar operating right in the middle of thes/sconnection. In order to address this enigmatic bar, semiotics must relinquish the notion that a signifier stands for a concrete object or an abstract concept, representing a thing or a thought in the realm of language. In opposition to all “representational” views of things that make “sense,” the science of signs must view its object of study as a system of interrelated elements. Sign compositions are bundles...

    • RETICLE 19 Ground Zero History and Signs of Transgenocide
      (pp. 188-200)

      The era we live in no longer finds sureties in older time frames built on the teachings of anagogy and teleology, enduring principles and final ends inspired by the wisdoms of previous ages. Nor do our times find much hope in further discoveries of “genealogical” thinking – making sense of natural and cultural events on the basis of first origins and the root principles of all observable phenomena. Sound genealogical learning has been uprooted by the competitive habits of capitalism, giving way to speculative markets of truths and bodies of knowledge driven by the global commerce of doubt. Stable foundation-grounds are...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 201-206)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-212)
  9. Index
    (pp. 213-224)