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Half-Brain Fables and Figs in Paradise

Half-Brain Fables and Figs in Paradise: The 3D Mind, Volume 1

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Half-Brain Fables and Figs in Paradise
    Book Description:

    Half-Brain Fables and Figs in Paradise starts the trilogy on the lateral plane and explores the tendency of each hemisphere to specialize but also to complement or supplement the other hemisphere. Brain and sign processing is thus shown to involve bimodal weavings or reticles of right-hemispheric similarities and left-hemispheric differences. Chevalier goes on to illustrate how whole-brain connectivity generates the crisscrossings of oppositions and metaphors in language, using symbolically rich material ranging from Western naming practices to expressions of ethnobotany in the bible (figs in Genesis), poetry (Longfellow's Evangeline), and native Mexican mythology. Three major philosophical implications follow from Chevalier's "theoreticle" perspective on the weavings of signs and synapse. First, the integrative concept of "nervous sign processing" should be substituted for models of the brain and the intellect that separate biology from mental and cultural activity. The subject matter of "semiosis" is both physical and communicational. Second, sign reticles are orderly and chaotic at the same time. They are subject to patterns of convergence but also to lines of divergence that defy simple modeling, whether analytical or dialectical. Third, sign events are governed by the principle of conferencing, not referencing. They do not refer to things or thoughts signified through representational means. Rather they confer meaning through "signaptic" conversations, reticles of fine lines evolving in language and in neural cells alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7016-0
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. Log On: Hyperlinks
    (pp. 3-9)

    What is the mind compared to the brain? What is an idea compared to a word, a picture, a sign? One is “mental” and the other “physical”? One consists in thought and the other is a thing that contains thoughts about things? One is the kernel that hides and the other is the tangible shell or outer covering that does the hiding? But how do we know that thought really exists if it always hides? Has anyone ever seen a thought? Apparently not. Yet many of us have seen images of the brain. We have heard sound images and have...

  4. RETICLE 1 Cratylus Returns
    (pp. 10-20)

    This book calls two notions into question: first, the notion that we must attend to either the objective-physical or the subjectivemental aspects of sign activity; and second, the idea that we must choose between universals in nature (e.g., brain mechanisms) and fractals in culture (e.g., the polysemic evocations of metaphor). In hindsight we might say that this twofold dilemma concerning the particular and universal, subjective and objective aspects of language has been with us for a very long time. Actually it goes back to the dialogue pitting Socrates against Cratylus, a philosophical text written by Plato more than 2,300 years...


    • RETICLE 2 Half Brain Talk
      (pp. 23-36)

      There is considerable evidence from neuropsychology that each hemisphere of the human brain shows distinct cognitive preferences or advantages. The literature that we are about to review, however, is not without problems. For one thing, hemispheric modelling tends to be done at some cost to our understanding of complementarities and integrative connections between the two hemispheres. Another problem lies in the language and terminology commonly used to capture differences between right and left hemispheres (RH , LH). While some hemispheric specialization can hardly be denied, students of neuropsychology have no easy task when using words to characterize the proclivities of...

    • RETICLE 3 Two Brains Are Better Than One
      (pp. 37-53)

      Studies of split-brain subjects confirm generalizations regarding the cerebral lateralization phenomenon. Subjects who have undergone split-brain surgery show right-brain spatial responses to stimulations presented on the left side of the body. An RH preference is also obtained when non-verbal, manipulospatial responses are solicited: for example, pointing to a picture among a series of alternatives (Iaccino 1993: 75 ).³ Likewise, patients will use their left hand or RH body language (giggling, blushing) to identify or respond to left field objects or images (nude pictures). They do so without showing LH verbal awareness of them; language cannot be accessed when stimulation comes...

    • RETICLE 4 A Childless Father and a Rose Is a Rose
      (pp. 54-73)

      Neuroscientific studies of the brain represent a breakthrough in western thinking about the mind. Neuropsychology transforms the way we talk about thinking. The mind is no longer a metaphysical entity vaguely lodged in the head, an intellect hovering above the (rest of the) human body. Nor is it a unified soul, as Flourens and other nineteenth-century opponents of phrenology used to claim. The humanesprit(Fr., mind) is an infinitely complex organism yet a palpable thing, with distinguishable functions that can be broken down into component parts and interrelated processes.

      Still, the half-brain literature reviewed above is faced with a...

    • RETICLE 5 Meetings of Synkretismos and Diakritikos
      (pp. 74-82)

      Neuropsychology can never transcend its object of study. Halfbrain talk is a product of brain activity couched in one language, a discourse subject to cultural and theoretical parochialism of its own. When disassembling the brain, we should therefore ask ourselves “what ingrained cultural values and inherited intellectual assumptions will be discovered to have shaped our own readings of the data” (Harrington 1995: 22). We should also question neuroscience’s (LH) binarisms and related (RH) perspective on lateralization, an overall view known as “spatialized cognitivism.” Otherwise neuropsychology can misguide us into confusing one particular brain model with the “universal mind.”

      Does this...


    • RETICLE 6 In the Synaptic Clefts
      (pp. 85-93)

      A few lessons can be retained from the previous discussion. To begin with, brain activity involves two “simple” processing functions, the syncretic and the diacritic. These functions may be deployed unevenly, depending on the task performed by the brain. Some operations are more syncretically oriented, while others take a diacritic slant. The two functions nonetheless work simultaneously in that they either make equal contributions to composite tasks or provide contralateral supplementation when specialization is called for. This dialogue between the two modes is embedded in definitional implications ofdiakritikosandsynkretismos; just as a diacritic mark presupposes the sameness of...

    • RETICLE 7 What’s in a Name?
      (pp. 94-102)

      Can language be purely literal? Can we use terms that are strictly denotative, like fi ngers that point to objects? Do words act like sound tags that we assign to phenomena perceived or experienced through the senses? Isn’t language all about this syncretic fusion of word elements and elements of the world, one-to-one linkages enabling us to communicate information about phenomena through words designed to represent them?

      We normally use language without asking these questions. We assume that it is in our power to generate referential words that are so simple to use as to preclude complex mappings of sign...

    • RETICLE 8 The Forest Primeval
      (pp. 103-112)

      A person’s name is a relatively simple composition. But what about more complex acts of signification – will the same argument hold? Is it truly the case that “signaptic” distances can never be fully annulled? Can we not argue that right-brain processes are well equipped to mend a world fragmented by left-brain thinking? In semiotic parlance, could we not argue thatmetaphors and words of poetic mediationoffer harmonic measures to attenuate or even eradicate the divisive effects of linear thinking and the analytic mind?

      A concrete example is in order. Consider the following line of poetry, from Longfellow’s once-celebratedEvangeline,...

    • RETICLE 9 Who Gives a Fig?
      (pp. 113-124)

      Lines of convergence and divergence crisscross in variable ways. Among other things, they are subject to variations in levels of mediation. The work of mediation ranges from effects of harmony verging on monotony to admissions of fragmentation and outright discord. Most acts of speech fall somewhere between these two extremes. That is, most reticles of language will incorporate activity from both planes, with one set of “mental” processes possibly playing a dominant position and the other a function of necessary supplementarity. Line 1 ofEvangelineis an example of predominant indices of mediation and convergence, coupled with sub-indices of dualities...

    • RETICLE 10 The Corn Boy and the Iguana
      (pp. 125-134)

      Two kinds of sign tissues have been explored in previous reticles. On the one hand, we examined sign weavings suggesting high levels of syncretic assemblage, whether proper name denotations (my signature), signs of condensation (the fig apron), or expressions of mediation (the forest primeval). Although syncretically formed, these assemblages require that the meaningful distance that keeps one sign apart from another should be kept alive. Jacques can be attached to Chevalier and the two names can be assigned to an individual on condition that each proper name signifysomething different. The oneness of a person’s proper identity is syncretic, not...


    • RETICLE 11 A Theoreticle Approach
      (pp. 137-145)

      Having dealt with brain laterality issues and how lessons of neuropsychology can be extended to products of language and symbolling, I now wish to address the question of how studies in “neurosemiotics” can be linked up with broader philosophical considerations. My answer to this query lies in what I am tempted to call a “theoreticle” perspective, a fugitive inscription that refuses full presence and representation in speech, as with Derrida’sdifférance.

      My outline of a “theoreticle” approach brings together various contributions that stress the processual nature of sign reticulation. Although limited in their actual use, terms such as “process” and...

    • RETICLE 12 Pigeons, Doves, and Ghosts
      (pp. 146-155)

      A sign event is always “in the middle” in the sense of acting on and reacting to many other things. But it is “in the middle” in another sense: a movement or force that draws lines between things, dividing A from B and C, or A from not A. Middle spaces are zones of activity, yet they are also sites of distance and difference. But how should the middleness of signs and the differences they deploy be conceived? Familiar ways of answering the question include the analytical (pigeonholing), the metaphysical (ghost-chasing), and the dialectical (dove-flying).

      The first answer to the...

    • RETICLE 13 A Jungle in Versailles
      (pp. 156-171)

      Those who get lost in jungles are people who never dwell in them. Although synonymous with entanglements bordering on chaos and confusion, tropical forests are not without landmarks and configurations of water and land. These might be major and secondary affluents, up-river and down-river locations, areas nearer the mountains or the sea, villages and settlements, waterfalls and lakes, paths and trails through the forest, farms and horticultural plots where culture and nature meet. Thus rumours of chaos in the jungle are grossly exaggerated.

      Likewise with neural labyrinths and forests of symbols. Signs and synapses are never so “ chaosmotic ”...

    • RETICLE 14 The Nervous Line
      (pp. 172-176)

      Given my “rank order” thesis, the question is whether we can construct a middle-of-the-road paradigm that can truly maintain the delicate balance between nomadic distributions and the strictures of the plane of organization. Is there a “milieu” or “middleness” that will allow the forces of convergence and divergence to intersect, without one principle ruling out or ruling over the other? Can the inequities of logical colonialism and heteronomy be effectively avoided (Jakobson 1985: 129–30)? Can diacritic and syncretic principles interact in ways that preclude the simplicities of binary reasoning and all related “stopgap” exercises – middlemost fillings couched in the...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 177-182)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-197)