Structuralism and its Illegitimate Offspring

“In the discussion of the mind-body problem, or of materialism, it is generally assumed that we understand what is meant by ‘body.’ That is, we come to the problem with a basic understanding of the material world and its principles, and we ask whether the principles and entities postulated in some domain – in this case, the domain of mental representations and processes — can be ‘reduced’ to a material basis, presumed to be understood, or whether the richest concept of ‘matter’ will not accomodate this domain. But a little thought about the history of science suffices to show that the initial assumption is highly questionable. Surely our ideas about the material world have changed radically in the past several centuries. To the Cartesians, action-at-a-distance was incomprehensible, and it seems that Newton too considered it an ‘occult quality.’ The success of Newtonian physics led to the incorporation of this mysterious property of matter within the common sense of the next generation. As physics extended its scope to incorporate electromagnetic forces, massless particles, and other novel ideas, it was the basic concept of ‘body’ that changed. There is little reason to suppose that the fundamental history of science has come to an end. Thus it is certainly imaginable that our present concept of ‘body’ — our basic picture of the ‘material world’ — will be shown to be fundamentally inadequate, as has so often been the case in the past. If so, then the question of ‘reducing’ the theory of mind to a materialistic basis cannot be posed in any clear terms.

Roughly speaking, it seems reasonable to say that our concept of ‘matter’ will be extended to include any domain that can be shown to be in some sense ‘continuous’ with physics. If this new domain requires new physical assumptions that can be integrated with the rest of natural science, then our concept of the material world will have changed, and the new domain will have become part of physics in an expanded sense of ‘physics.’ The question whether linguistics ‘qualifies as materialist’ then can be rephrased. A positive answer might arise in one of two ways: (1) by showing that the theory of language can be ‘reduced’ to physics as now understood, as many biologists now believe that problems of life have in effect been ‘reduced’ to biochemistry, ultimately physics; or (2) by showing that physics can be extended, if need be to include the principle of this new domain, as it has been extended in the past to include many phenomena and principles that were entirely beyond the scope of the ‘material world’ as previously conceived

….

Consider what is sometimes called ‘the creative aspect of language use,’ that is, our ability to use language freely to express our thoughts, independently of the control of identifiable stimuli. It is this ability to which Descartes appealed as a kind of criterion for the existence of ‘other minds.’ Honesty requires us to concede that we have no insight into any possible physical basis for this normal human ability. Whether this remarkable and apparently unique human ability can be reduced to physics as now understood, or whether physics can be extended in some natural way to accommodate it, remains an entirely open question, a perplexing mystery.”

Noam Chomsky, Materialism in linguistics and the morality criterion (28 March 1977).

“It is likely that the evolution of human cortical structure was influenced by the acquisition of a linguistic capacity so that articulated language not only has permitted the evolution of culture, but has contributed in a decisive fashion to the physical ‘evolution of man’; and there is no paradox in supposing that the linguistic capacity which reveals itself in the course of the epigenetic development of the brain is now part of human nature itself intimately associated with other aspects of cognitive functions which may in fact have evolved in a specific way by virtue of the early use of articulated language.”

— Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (1971)

“The aim of all structuralist activity, in the fields of both thought and poetry, is to reconstitute an object, and, by this process, to make known the rules of functioning, or ‘functions,’ of this object. The structure is therefore effectively a simulacrum of the object, but it is a simulation that is both purposeful and relevant, since the object derived by this process brings out something that remained invisible, or, if you like, unintelligble in the natural object…The simulacrum is intellect added to the object.”

— Roland Barthes

“Volosinov’s decisive contribution was to find a way beyond the powerful but partial theories of expression and objective system. He found it in fundamentally Marxist terms, though he had to begin by saying that Marxist thinking about language was virtually non-existent. His originality lay in the fact that he did not seek to apply other Marxist ideas to language. On the contrary he reconsidered the whole problem of language within a general Marxist orientation. This enabled him to see ‘activity’ (the strength of the idealist emphasis after Humboldt) as social activity and to see ‘system’ (The strength of the new after Humboldt) in relation to this social activity and not, as had hitherto been the case, formally separated from it. Thus in drawing on the strengths of the alternative traditions, and in setting them side by side showing their connected radical weaknesses, he opened the way to a new kind of theory which had been necessary for more than a century.

Much of his effort went to recovering the full emphasis on language as activity, as practical consciousness, which had been weakened and in effect denied by its specialization to a closed ‘individual consciousness’ or ‘inner psyche.’ The strength of this tradition was still in its insistence on the active creation of meanings, as distinct from the alternative assumption of a closed formal system. Volosniov argued that meaning was necessarily a social action, dependent on a social relationship. But to understand this depended on recovering a full sense of ‘social,’ as distinct both from the idealist reduction of the social to an inherited, ready-made product, an ‘inert crust,’ beyond which all creativity was individual, and from the objectivist projection of the social into a formal system, now autonomous and governed only by its internal laws, within which, and solely according to which, meanings were produced. Each sense, at root, depends on the same error: of separating the social from individual meaningful activity (though the rival positions then valued the separated elements differently). Against the psychologism of the idealist emphasis, Volosinov argued that ‘consciousness takes shape and being in the material of signs created by an organized group in the process of its social intercourse. The individual consciousness is nurtured on signs; it derives its growth from them; it reflects their logic and laws.'”

Raymond Williams, “Language as Sociality” (1977)

“There is no individual enunciation. There is not even a subject of enunciation. Yet relatively few linguists have analyzed the necessarily social character of enunciation. The problem is that it is not enough to establish that enunciation has this social character, since it could be extrinsic; therefore too much or too little is said about it. The social character of enunciation is intrinsically founded only if one succeeds in demonstrating how enunciation in itself implies collective assemblages. It then becomes clear that the statement is individuated, and enunciation subjectified, only to the extent that an impersonal collective assemblage requires it and determines it to be so. It is for this reason that indirect discourse, especially ‘free’ indirect discourse, is of exemplary value: there are no clear, distinctive contours; what comes first is not an insertion of variously individuated statements, or an interlocking of different subjects of enunciation, but a collective assemblage resulting in the determination of relative subjectification proceedings, or assignations of individuality and their shifting distributions within discourse. Indirect discourse is not explained by the distinction between subjects; rather, it is the assemblage, as it freely appears in this discourse, that explains all the voices present within a single voice, the glimmer of girls in a monologue by Charlus, the languages in a language, the order-words in a word. The American murderer ‘Son of Sam’ killed on the prompting of an ancestral voice, itself transmitted through the voice of a dog. The notion of collective assemblage of enunciation takes on primary importance since it is what must account for the social character. We can no doubt define the collective assemblage as the rdundant complex of the act and the statement that necessarily accomplishes it. But this is still only a nominal definition; it does not even enable us to justify our previous position that redundancy is irreducible to a simple identity (or that there is no simple identity between the statement and the act). If we wish to move to a real definition of the collective assemblage, we must ask of what consist these acts immanent to language that are in redundancy with statements or constitute order-words.”

— Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (1980)

“From the user’s point of view, constraints can be more or less difficult, more or less manageable. Obviously a complex relation exists between the requirements of an outwardly imposed rule and the artist’s inner freedom. (This is why the choice of mathematics, arguably in fundamental opposition to poetry, is anything but haphazard: seen from inside literature, nothing looks more artificial than mathematics). There is a true challenge here; which is why the ‘Oulipian Way,’ like negative theology elsewhere, is not to be universally recommended to those in search of literary salvation. It is here that potentiality encounters limitations. (A debate within the Oulipio, dating from early on, bears witness to this: for a proposed constraint to be deemed Oulipian, must there exist at least one text composed according to this constraint? Most Oulipians answer yes. But President Le Lionnais, ever the radical, tended to brush this requirement away. Furthermore, there is a whole Oulipian ‘tradition’ devoted to the search for combinatorially exciting constraints for which possible texts are extremely few in number.)”

— Jacques Roubaud, “The Oulipo and Combinatorial Art” (1991)

We braid the weird

Weavings of rhyme

Whose ensigns furl

To fit a rule

No more than word.

— Jacques Jouet

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81 Responses to “Structuralism and its Illegitimate Offspring”

  1. One could adduce some passages from The Concept of Model here; I’ll post them later if I get time.

  2. Last bit of chatterings; the problem here is the unfounded leap which operates by analogy. A theory of how the human brain developed is imbued with a certain purposefulness and then the suggestion is then made that cultural change which this mutation has made possible – all these changes we see historically which involve human beings with exactly the same brain – is going to lead to an evolutionary change of the human brain. Cultural change is accepted – a given. Changes in symbol systems, technolgy is a given. The burden of proof is on those who claim this will drive (or has driven) extra cultural change, that is evolution of the brain. The claim is bigger even than the troubling McLuhan-Ong-Kittler stuff about sensing hierarchies and modern vs primitive. The claim suggests that culture is in fact a kind of “race” – that the offspring of the users of some technology will be different from the offspring of non users. This is in harmony with EC blabber about the “digital divide”. But we have this unavoidble thing here that in 80,000 years the human brain hasn’t evolved. Despite all this cultural development. Computer languages are written by people with the same brains, and typed out with the same hands, as had the people who painted the walls of caves tens of thousands of years ago. What are the odds of some evolutionary change in the brains of the species over the next 10,000? And why look to advanced communications technologies, which we create with the brains we have so that we can use them with the brains we have, as a probable significant factor?

    Q: How can chance mutations result in adaptations that seem to be purposefully designed?

    Stephen Jay Gould: It’s a common phrase that natural selection is chance and necessity. It goes back to the title of a book by the great French biologist Jacques Monod. But it’s not really correct, because the chance part is not natural selection. Natural selection is actually a locally deterministic force.

    If you want to say the Darwinian evolution has a component of chance, and a component of local necessity, that’s quite accurate. But the basic argument goes like this: Because natural selection doesn’t make anything, natural selection is an eliminative force. Natural selection can only differentially preserve certain variations in a spectrum of variation within a species. Now some other process produces that variation; ultimately it’s mutation. And mutation is spread around through recombination and sexual organisms.

    But because the causes of genetic mutation are occurring at the level of the gene, and bear no reference to the adaptive design of organisms, the variation among the organisms produced by mutation bears no relationship to what’s for the good of organisms. So it’s not random in the mathematical sense of flipping a coin and getting 50-50 [chance]. All we mean is that the variation which provides the fuel for natural selection occurs without reference to those characteristics that would be useful for an organism.

    For example, if you have a bunch of elephants living in Siberia, and it’s getting cold because there’s an ice sheet advancing, there’s going to be another Ice Age, you’re going to have elephants with different amounts of hair on their bodies. But there isn’t any internal force that produces more hair because that would be a good thing. You just have variation among these different elephants, and that’s what we call random with respect to the direction of natural selection. And then you have the second force, which is natural selection, which is not necessity or determinism on a global scale. Natural selection doesn’t make overall more progressive or better organisms; natural selection makes locally adapted organisms.

    If you go back to that analogy, if you have a bunch of elephants and it’s getting colder, on average, — this is statistical phenomenon, not every time. After all, the hairiest elephant can fall into a crevasse and die or be sterile and have no kids. But it’s a statistical phenomenon that elephants with more hair are going to leave more surviving offspring. And that’s natural selection.

  3. now really last chattering – i like your quotes because one can see thanks to williams and chomsky, and inadvertantly barthes, that “language parasite” and many such other demons are the changelings with which the social is replaced, to conceal it.

  4. “Whether this remarkable and apparently unique human ability can be reduced to physics as now understood, or whether physics can be extended in some natural way to accommodate it, remains an entirely open question, a perplexing mystery.”

    This is the sort of question or mystery that motivates empirical work in linguistics, as in any other field of scientific inquiry: working from the edges, fill in the void one brick at a time.

  5. now really honestly last chatter; from the thread below, traxus you characterise deacon “a proposed ‘co-evolution’ of symbol-making and the human brain”

    so ‘symbol making’ and the symbolic environment here defined as an element of the environment which excludes the human species. It’s evoking an individual-vs-society assumption, but slyly.

    but the human species is and has always been part of the environment for every individual member of the human species, and not only that but this is true for the ancestral species of us too. And so there is an invalid assertion here, that the ‘symbolic environment’ is an environment external to the human species, that the human species lives in an environment that was already symbolic before the human species appeared. Untrue. But this being untrue is just the most obvious thing about it; what’s more interesting is what it suggests and why people like the idea, what it means, what it serves to occlude, how it is in a sense demonstrating its own untruthfulness, the assumptions it uses and those it reaffirms, and the ambiguities characteristic of our ideology which it exploits.

  6. traxus4420 Says:

    can’t reply in full yet but

    the zinger about baldwin was in poor taste — but it was a part, not the whole, that i was trying to ‘rescue,’ or even, core assumptions many now rely on, which baldwin framed in faulty and often revolting ways, but which still need a ‘name’ attached to them.

    “but the human species is and has always been part of the environment for every individual member of the human species, and not only that but this is true for the ancestral species of us too. And so there is an invalid assertion here, that the ’symbolic environment’ is an environment external to the human species, that the human species lives in an environment that was already symbolic before the human species appeared.”

    the argument is that symbol use both predates homo sapiens and was primarily responsible for the selection pressures that led to the dominance of homo sapiens. he attempts to trace it through ancestral species but nowhere does he make value-laden claims about superiority — neanderthals (not strictly speaking ancestral but still) he argues were our “mental equals.” as for absolute origins he is ultimately left with hypothesizing (something about sex exclusion, i haven’t made it to that chapter yet). but the notion that symbol use preceded homo sapiens is still a relevant empirical claim that deserves investigation. deacon does not claim a ‘symbolic environment’ external to the human species, like a platonic realm or something, it’s an ecosystem that has already been ‘worked on’ by and a brain already adapted to symbol use. the fundamental claim is that ‘human’ and ‘symbol use’ did not appear simultaneously. again the metaphors are steeped in ideology but there is an empirical claim made that others are working with. if there are other equally detailed theories out there, i like this one simply because it’s the first one i’ve actually read. anyway i am not going to have much more to say about deacon until after i’ve finished the book.

  7. traxus4420 Says:

    “There is, in short, another set of possible engines underlying rapid technological change and variation: changes in ecology, both as a result of climate change and as a result of human activity itself. The latter of the two has almost certainly become the more dominant force from that point on. It can hardly be coincidental that this expansion of anatomically modern populations heralds a recent epoch of large animals’ extinction wihich claimed such Ice Age giants as the mammoth and the giant sloth. These transitions and the subsequent transition to agriculture in the Middle East probably both reflect a similar dynamic: the need to adapt to irreversible changes in the environment brought on in part by prior human adaptations. This is a view of ‘progress’ that is not so much improvement as irreversibility, adaptations that are so successful that they are self-undermining, another twist on the adage, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ In general, we should not evoke biological evolution as a cause of cultural-technological innovation where demographic and ecological processes can suffice to explain the changes. Conversely, we should not assume that relative stability of technological adaptations precludes continued biological evolution.”

    Deacon, The Symbolic Species

  8. These are two distinct assertions, of which the latter is far less obviously false than the former:

    a) “that the ’symbolic environment’ is an environment external to the human species”
    b) “that the human species lives in an environment that was already symbolic before the human species appeared”

    Something can have come along after we did, as a result initially of our own actions, and still have slipped partially out of our control so that it now presents exigencies to which we in our turn respond.

    The fact – much remarked upon by Williams – that much of our inherited language is a collection of hangovers from entirely different social configurations is one such exigency: linguistic change exhibits a kind of inertia in relation to social change. Already there is a normative claim inherent in the argument that “meaning [is] necessarily a social action, dependent on a social relationship”: a demand for rectification, for our language to be brought back into line with our social needs. This normative demand manifests as a repeated arrêt de mort, pronounced over the shuffling undead body of ancestral jargon: death to Hegel! Death to Kant! Death to the crypto-theological élan that somehow animates their mouldering corpses!

    One might say that the real division here is not between language and society, but between the past and future configurations of society itself – a split within the social, variously materialised. Society is not of a single mind. Linguistic “inertia” just is social inertia, the persistence of old forms. In this sense, what is “external” to the human is the human itself – the sedimented disjecta of human affairs. Fine; but this constant casting-off of language indicates a Gehennah of signs, a region of desuetude, external to every human present and not recuperable thereby.

  9. I mean, the latter is far more obviously false than the former. Vri, Fax – get them confused all the time.

  10. a) “that the ’symbolic environment’ is an environment external to the human species”
    b) “that the human species lives in an environment that was already symbolic before the human species appeared”

    Something can have come along after we did, as a result initially of our own actions, and still have slipped partially out of our control so that it now presents exigencies to which we in our turn respond.

    It could have, but you’d have to show that it did. Just insisting is not very persuasive. Not everything you are capable of imagining is actually true.

    For Deacon it would seem impossible by definition, since he follows Pierce that the symbolic is “formal and agreed-upon“.

    “linguistic change exhibits a kind of inertia in relation to social change”

    haha tell it to Bear Sterns.

    We make our own meaning but in conditions inherited from the past, including our ancestors beyond the species-break lines.

    wasn’t it hegel his good self who cried death to kant? and badiou and meillassoux who said “death to the crypto theological élan…”? dominic, you judge every position by the status of who at the moment is advancing it and the pomp and ceremonious surrounding its presentation.

  11. Foolssss! You cannot kill…what does not liiiive…!

  12. “we should not assume that relative stability of technological adaptations precludes continued biological evolution”

    sure but we also can’t assume we could predict it; the grounding of eugenics is that you can predict and intervene. a proposition like the language parasite is therefore friendly to this – we can certainly invent new technologies of communication; so if that’s going to be a privileged factor in the evolution of our species into one with a different brain, by impacting our brains, and that impact is going to be somehow inherited, then….but why are we even pondering possible future human evolution? As if it were foreseeable, likely and relevant to the currently living species?

    And this slips into brain=mind, we start pondering mental properties, intelligence, learning facility, law abidingness, creativity, and saying these ‘evolved’ – as organisms evolve – and therefore must be inherited genetically…it can’t go anywhere good is my feeling.

    If there were some strong reason, some evidence for language parasite, that would be different. You couldn’t ignore it. But it’s just a metaphor, and all the evidence suggests otherwise. So it can only be judged by its consequences, by the benefits of supposing it; what are the benefits? We need that “single information space” right now so the Western Yerupeens don’t out-evolve the East? While the rest of the world are just stuck with the brains your kids get after generations of primitive “orality”?

  13. ” like a platonic realm or something, it’s an ecosystem that has already been ‘worked on’ by and a brain already adapted to symbol use. ”

    in our actual species, and in our ancestors. each baby has a brand new brain. its ability to “agree upon” and thus create symbol is wholly dependent on somebody being there to agree with. It’s not agreeing with its great great great grandparents, who are long dead. their symbol making capacity is only still in the environment because it is in the baby’s brand new brain and all the others like it. with out world encrusted with symbols, from many generations, to posit it as outside us or external to us you would have to remove us, all of us, the entire species, from the environment and observe it independent of us, if it subsists as symbolic stuff in our absence.

  14. The fact – much remarked upon by Williams – that much of our inherited language is a collection of hangovers from entirely different social configurations is one such exigency: linguistic change exhibits a kind of inertia in relation to social change.

    Except that Williams knew a hangover was qualitatively different from the night before. We still use the word ‘chivalry’, but that’s hardly a sign of liguistic inertia: we mostly use it flippantly, we don’t really know what it meant in the thirteenth century, and we communicate this ignorance every time we use the word. You still use the syntagma ‘Bosnian genocide’. That’s a sign of some kind of inertia, but don’t blame language for it.

  15. I mean, these days it’s only people like kpunk who think that sprinkling a tv review with a few lame neologisms makes him the prophet of some radically new social configuration.

  16. “the notion that symbol use preceded homo sapiens is still a relevant empirical claim that deserves investigation.”

    See this introductory summary by Tomasello, especially section 2.1.1 on primate communication, where Tomasello tries to distinguish “symbol use” from other kinds of animal communications.

    “each baby has a brand new brain. its ability to “agree upon” and thus create symbol is wholly dependent on somebody being there to agree with.”

    The proverbial wolf children don’t learn to use symbolic language because there’s nobody to talk to. Most language acquisition in infancy takes place in child-adult dyadic exchanges, suggesting that two people are enough to “work” a symbol system.

  17. Deacon vs. memetics:

    “The core problem of this theory, I think, is a kind of misplaced agency, that gives the impression that both genes and memes — replicators — can be understood without considering their embeddedness in a dynamic system which imbues them with their function and informational content. This, then, is not just a problem with memes, but a problem with the replicator concept in general, inherited from Dawkins short-circuited description of information processes in biology. I say “short-circuited” because it is not wrong, it just cuts corners that suggest that certain essential aspects of information processing in biological systems can be treated as merely derivative from the replicator concept. In fact, this inverts the reality.

    Though an anthropomorphic shorthand has often been used to describe replicator “behavior,” (e.g. it is common to read such phrases as “for the benefit of the gene, not the organism” or “genes promote their own self-interest” or “genes act selfishly,” etc.) this phraseology was never presumed to project any purposeful or even animate character on genes. Genetic replicators are just strings of DNA sequence information that happen to get copied and passed on to the future successfully. Genes are not active automatons, they are not “agents” of evolution, just structures, passive information carriers that can become incorporated into biochemical reactions, or not, depending on the context. Referring to genes as though they were active agents promoting their own copying process is a shorthand for a more precise systemic account of how a gene’s effect on its molecular, cellular, organismic, social, and ecological context influences the probability of the production of further copies. Taken out of this almost incomprehensibly rich context — placed in a test tube, for example — DNA molecules just sit there in gooey clumps, uselessly tangled up like vast submicroscopic wads of string.

    In both the evolution of words and of genes, these units of pattern have been preserved over time because of the ways they contributed to the usefulness and replication of the larger systems in which they were embedded. Replication has always been a multilevel affair. It is not a function vested in a gene or in a word, or even in a complex of genes or words, but in a dynamic system in which these are only one kind of unit. It is only in certain unusual and degenerate cases, such as viruses or their computer counterparts, that we can provisionally speak of the functional interpretation of the pattern being self-replication itself, and then only because we recognize that even this function is parasitic and depends on a short-circuiting of a more complex system’s functional-interpretational organization. Viruses contain only self-referential replicative information, only if considered without their host.”

  18. on Peirce (same article):

    “Semiotic theories since Peirce distinguished between the replica and the functional aspects of sign relationships. Specifically, Peirce recognized that one could restrict analysis to consider only the physical qualities that serve as sign vehicles without explicit consideration of their relationships to their referent objects or interpretation (an enterprise Charles Morris called Syntactics). Computation theory and mathematical information theory make use of this analytic compartmentalization. And it is to some extent what meme theory attempts as well. However, in these cases it is tacitly assumed that the items under study are already involved in interpretive processes and bear significance to a larger system. Provisionally “forgetting” this antecedent assumption (as is the case here) has often led theorists in all three domains to claim primacy of this lowest level of analysis. So, for example, the idea that cognition is nothing but “computation” — the rule-governed mechanical manipulation of markers according to their shapes — is a parallel fallacy to the memetic fallacy. Peirce also argued that one could analyze referential relationships without explicit consideration of their relationships to the pragmatic consequences that are their ultimate basis of interpretation (a realm Morris identified with Semantics). Though this hierarchic analytic strategy is implicit in the biological analogy from which the meme concept is drawn, it was obscured by the apparent autonomy of the replicator concept. But the systemic embedded-ness cannot be totally ignored, even if a coherent analysuis of only the “syntactic” aspect is possible. Both living processes and other semiotic processes imbue the patterns of their constituents (genes or signs) with informative power by virtue of their roles in a larger functional system. Something is only a sign (a meme, a gene) when interpreted, and interpretation is ultimately a physical process involving the production of additional significant patterns, i.e. replicating more signs (or’interpretants’ as Peirce called them). In other words, sign interpretation is ultimately mediated by sign production (i.e. replication), as gene function (i.e. interpretation into an adaptation) is ultimately assessed with respect to gene replication. As the biological parallel suggests, this is basis for an evolution-like process that can lead to ever more complex systems of interpretation (adaptation).”

    perhaps what we are seeing is a number of people investigating a legitimate question while actively wrestling with some profoundly unhelpful (and complicit in all kinds of bad politics) metaphors.

    ktis – thanks for the tomasello, he may be a good corrective

    kenoma – the issue here is the status of the logical/grammatical structures of language and sign systems, not individual words or phrases.

  19. kenoma – the issue here is the status of the logical/grammatical structures of language and sign systems, not individual words or phrases.

    but that’s not what Williams remarked on, the object of the reference – he’s talking about semiotics and semantics. He “much remarked” on the lexical feature of languages, esp English.

  20. traxus4420 Says:

    “If there were some strong reason, some evidence for language parasite, that would be different. You couldn’t ignore it. But it’s just a metaphor, and all the evidence suggests otherwise.”

    the problem is that existing innatist linguistic theories are hard to analyze within an evolutionary paradigm. so we’re starting from a position that argues insufficiency of current theories. that evidence suggests things may be otherwise, but not exactly in what way. so first you have to decide, based on evidence, if those theories really are insufficient. then you decide how to evaluate positive arguments for a new theory. in deacon both happen to be justified with anthropological history, study of primates, and physiology of the brain (his field by training). it’s a mischaracterization to say he’s being non-empirical because the theory is incomplete, or to suggest this mode of inquiry is populated entirely by silicon valley quacks.

  21. traxus4420 Says:

    “that’s not what Williams remarked on, the object of the reference – he’s talking about semiotics and semantics”

    i know, i was referring to kenoma’s examples. just a clarification, not an attack.

  22. traxus4420 Says:

    kenoma’s examples re: kpunk, sorry

  23. kenoma – the issue here is the status of the logical/grammatical structures of language and sign systems, not individual words or phrases.

    Well, that isn’t necessarily clear from what Dominic says. I plumped for individual words and phrases because it seemed implausible that he’d say there are ‘logical/ grammatical structures’ that survive as a residue, as ‘hangovers’. That’s a pretty Olympian standpoint to take, even for Dominic. What kind of structures are we talking about? The Latin Mass? Gaelic? The Sonnet? In certain circles, it may seem strange or quaint or archaic of me to write a sonnet or speak Gaelic, but that doesn’t necessarily condemn me to Dominic’s Gehenna. Just because something seems out-of-date doesn’t mean it has slipped out of history, carries no historical force.

    My point is, Dominic’s argument seems to me loaded with all sorts of assumptions about what linguistic change and linguistic contemporaneity ought to be, or rather what they ought to look like: Linguistic “inertia” just is social inertia, the persistence of old forms. As if the most apparently dynamic and novel forms of language could not be the alibi and medium of a profound social inertia.

  24. thanks for the link; which contains this: “So what does the meme concept add to semiotic analyses? The answer is that it could rescue semiotics from being a merely descriptive taxonomic enterprise by leading the way to a theory of semiotic causality and of the generation of representational forms and interpretive systems”… which now is looking like evidence of a habit.

  25. kenoma’s examples re: kpunk, sorry

    But kpunk’s neologisms – and the neologisms of Deleuze and Guattari etc. – are of course never merely a question of individual words and phrases. There’s a whole ideology at work in them, intimately related to the entrepreneurial opportunism that is their more prosaic motivation. The habitual production of neologisms is the sign of a mode of thought that regards language as a marketplace. Which means not only the creation of a product but the elimination of competition. Kpunk says: “We need to do just as Marx recommended, and accelerate, not resist, capital’s destruction of traditions, ethnicities and territorialities.” He wants the neologism to communicate this: the neologism is will to power, an agent of imperialism. And it organizes a very tight, limited circuitry of historical meaning, so that you’re left with ‘hauntology’, which is a history where capitalism remembers only itself, is haunted only by itself. The destroyed traditions, ethnicities and territorialities are sent to the ‘Gehennah of signs’. Luckily for us, the raptured of late capitalism, they are “external to every human present”.

  26. Oh don’t mind dominic and k-punk, it’s just the memes talking.

  27. “There’s a whole ideology at work in them, intimately related to the entrepreneurial opportunism that is their more prosaic motivation. ”

    yes, and justifying this naturally as for the commonweal, sparking the mutation toward the mo’ betta beink.

  28. it’s just the memes talking.:

    Alone as Milton and as Wordsworth found
    And hailed their England, when from all around
    Howled all the recreant hate of envious knaves,
    Sublime she stands: while, stifled in the sound,
    Each lie that falls from German boors and slaves
    Falls but as filth dropt in the wandering waves.

  29. That is K-Swinburne, by the way, on the Boer war concentration camps.

  30. Between the Saxon smile and yankee yawp…

  31. Between the Saxon smile and yankee yawp…

    Well, since things have taken a Joycean turn, and to the Scylla and Charybdis chapter especially:

    Coffined thoughts around me, in mummycases, embalmed in spice of words. Thoth, god of libraries, a birdgod, moonycrowned. And I heard the voice of that Egyptian highpriest. In painted chambers loaded with tilebooks.

    They are still. Once quick in the brains of men. Still: but an itch of death is in them, to tell me in my ear a maudlin tale, urge me to wreak their will.

    The Gehenna of signs, finally emptied of social meaning is a myth. Language always communicates the intention to signify. Otherwise we wouldn’t know it was language. There are no dead languages.

  32. Between the Saxon smile and yankee yawp…

    Well, since things have taken a Joycean turn, and to the Scylla and Charybdis chapter especially:

    Coffined thoughts around me, in mummycases, embalmed in spice of words. Thoth, god of libraries, a birdgod, moonycrowned. And I heard the voice of that Egyptian highpriest. In painted chambers loaded with tilebooks.

    They are still. Once quick in the brains of men. Still: but an itch of death is in them, to tell me in my ear a maudlin tale, urge me to wreak their will.

    The ‘Gehenna of signs’, an inaccessible realm of dead language finally emptied of social meaning is a myth. Language always communicates the intention to signify, regardless of whether we understand it or not. Otherwise we wouldn’t know it was language. In this sense, there are no dead languages.

  33. oops double post

  34. there are no dead languages. but the neologism is still-born. I think Eco would classify this habit as exclusive to “ideological discourses” because neologisms require the addressee to defer to the speaker and adopt his point of view entirely, as he is the only existing authority on meaning (the meaning of the word); it is a way of disguising so called synthetic judgements as more transparent analytic judgements, burying synthetic judgements directly into the code, a direct intervention in the code to defend against disagreement. “metrosexual”, “hantologie”, “différance”, “islamofascism”, “meme”. The article was somewhat funny about meme because assuming that it doesn’t mean anything, that the coiner is not sure what it means, that its really just this brute gesture of will to get control, to enforce the status of “given thing” on a dubious analogy between genetic information and words, so that the propriety or usefulness of the analogy itself is now beyond dispute – this would mean denying the existence of the meme! deliberately refusal of Scientific Truth! – and the only debate can be about its true essence and nature.

  35. Language always communicates the intention to signify

    You’ve not read much J. H. Prynne, have you?

    I suppose I’m trying to say something about what the Lacanians call “the letter”, the excremental component without which there is no signification, and its insistence, its disturbing force, in the midst of a world of social actors merrily meaning things with each other. Obviously a world of excrement by itself does not signify. But neither does a world of intentions-to-signify.

  36. There’s also Klemperer’s discussion of the widespread use of the contraction in the LTI, comparing it to the Christian Ichthys as a way of being “sworn into the community by reason of special knowledge and a special allegiance.”

  37. You’ve not read much J. H. Prynne, have you?

    Yes I have eckshually. Good pomes. And when I read them, I always knew they were pomes. I must be psychic.

  38. “Linguistic inertia just is social inertia” is a paraphrase of what I take to be an opponent’s position, in case that wasn’t clear. I don’t actually think that linguistic anachronism correlates directly with social untimeliness; what I think is that language has a discrepant objectivity like that of the hammer slipping from the hand: it is something apart from the uses we have for it, and when we come to take it in hand and make use of it, it resists to some degree. There are writing practices that seek to minimise that resistance; and others, like those of the Oulipians, that seek to foreground and examine it.

    Eh, well. Kenoma reads me with a sort of maximally uncharitable polemic torsion; nothing I can say will do anything but reinforce that I suppose. I think I’ve probably played all my cards here, so I may not have much more to add on this subject. Do please read a little on information theory, though: sometimes it happens that words with vague meanings (“model”, for example) acquire precise ones, and it’s as well to be paying attention when they do.

  39. “sometimes it happens that words with vague meanings (”model”, for example) acquire precise ones”

    and sometimes words with precise meaning (“meaning” for example”) are used idiosyncratically, as here:

    Already there is a normative claim inherent in the argument that “meaning [is] necessarily a social action, dependent on a social relationship”: a demand for rectification

    “Meaning” is by definition social. The claim is not “normative” at all; it is factual.

  40. I read a book the other day. Me, book. No-one else in the room. Oh, and the author died about six years ago. It was quite a happening social occasion!

  41. the author died about six years ago

    It was pretty spooky, though, the way he still communicated his intention to signify to me.

  42. …And sometimes even ordinary words, like “social”, are just completely unknown and incomprehensible to people who speak only to machines.

  43. Society is composed entirely of flesh now?

  44. Hey! Sometimes I speak to my collection of Star Wars figurines, too…

  45. Society is composed of people who will die, yes. Iterable marks survive them; but iterable marks are not as far as I am aware generally considered social beings.

  46. “It was pretty spooky, though, the way he still communicated his intention to signify to me.”

    that is spooky; perhaps the paper book was inhabited by the spirit of the computer that set the type. we don’t know much about computer souls, they might be less tied to vessels than human souls.

  47. “iterable marks are not as far as I am aware generally considered social beings” but they think, they know when its hot, they have problems.

    “Society is composed of people who will die, yes. ”

    you’re the only person who survived reading this book?

    gets spookier by the minute.

    burn it, I’d say, but be careful not to breathe the fumes.

  48. perhaps the paper book was inhabited by the spirit of the computer that set the type

    “Will I dream…?”

  49. “Sometimes I speak to my collection of Star Wars figurines, too…”

    You didn’t have to tell me.

  50. you’re the only person who survived reading this book?

    Well, I don’t expect to do so indefinitely.

  51. iterable marks are not as far as I am aware generally considered social beings.

    Why you should be so perturbed when they strike you as “maximally uncharitable” is a mystery then.

  52. “Society is composed entirely of flesh now?”

    And excrement.

    Flesh+excrement+information.

    Don’t be upset if you don’t get it. It’s very very deep.

    you’re the only person who survived reading this book?

    Well, I don’t expect to do so indefinitely.

    What? Eh? I can’t make this out. Dominic must have died and taken language with him.

    Hope there’s only one copy of that thing.

  53. Why you should be so perturbed when they strike you as “maximally uncharitable” is a mystery then.

    some people just seem to think their own excrement does not disturbingly insist!

  54. traxus4420 Says:

    “Well, that isn’t necessarily clear from what Dominic says.”

    ah, ok — just my myopia again. for the past 60 or so comments there has been this sort of V-shaped conversation going on betwixt dominic, chabert, and myself. i say V-shaped because, i’m ashamed to admit, i find most of the things dominic says to be fairly inscrutable (for varying reasons).

    i do appreciate his dropping of computer knowledge on us though. i may have actually learned something these past few days.

  55. traxus4420 Says:

    “Flesh+excrement+information.”

    it’s the fact that those are three separate terms, subjects of three separate fields of academic study with three different institutional histories and associated discourses that is perhaps the problem here.

    i’d like to respond to some of these arguments about evolution that i think are assuming too much about ‘co-evolution’ and the evolutionary critique of universal grammar, but no time just now.

    in the meantime maybe i could drop off some questions that are actually much more relevant to me. and which i think all of you will know more about than biology.

    does anyone have any thoughts as to why structuralism and its ‘offspring’ caught on in the U.S. humanities when they did (chabert i know you’ve posted on the subject many times – consider this question just checking in again) and why the Saussurean lineage — why not Chomsky, why not empirical structuralism (Bloomfield), why not Hjelmslev. i’m trying to put something together on this. let’s get a genealogy going.

  56. “i find most of the things dominic says to be fairly inscrutable (for varying reasons”

    the secret is, sometimes his writing just loops forever in the abîme and sometimes it halts, and there’s to way to predict it.

    consider this question just checking in again) and why the Saussurean lineage — why not Chomsky, why not empirical structuralism (Bloomfield), why not Hjelmslev

    oh!oh! funkwestion!

    but is this even true? Chomsky may have been the most influential figure in science in the second half of the 20th century, influencing the sciences that have grown hugely, cognitive science and computer science. (He would say not him personally but the collectivity from which work associated with him emerges.) The debate in 1975 with Piaget, with all those famous names there, is really interesting. And one could probably say that at that point, before most of the research was done to confirm UG, Chomsky’s level of intransigent conviction is political, if ‘unconsciously’: it is about equality – something which is now received by Theorians as spanking new and puzzling in Rancière – it’s practically “Rancière’s notion of equality” now – since the translation of the book about Jacotot. It is about the equality, specifically, of members of “elite” and “common/mass” classes and equality of the denizens of the “first” and “third” worlds; it’s refusing the newest forms which imperialist racism/yerupeen supremacism/class supremacism takes, which is in aspects an older and more traditional form really than the short-lived vulgar biologism of the early 20th c which has somehow become the image of imperialist supremacist people-hierachising itself, treated as if it were some spontaneous common sense needing cure by enlightenment. It’s refusing for example the conviction that what we call reason was itself invented by special yerupeen proprietors and passed on through this aristocracy of property, a conviction Derrida for example was constantly promoting with his “Greco-European adventure” idea.

    Or we are speaking of littrachuch and cinema studies etc? if so…

    I think apart from the political convenience – delegitimising all the various politically radical methods of critique grappling with history, exploitation and accumulation – you’d have to consider the industry concerned and the question of benefits to production; analytic and critical methods are tools of production in disciplines in academia. These models, Levi-Strauss, Althusser, Lacan, Barthes are hugely labour saving, in learning, teaching and text production. They remove all need for traditional scholarship in production – in the 70s, before pcs and internet, traditional scholarship was really time consuming drudgery.

  57. On the positive side, they also removed the advantages attaching to traditional class related cultivation, the suntan of erudition, knowledge of elite music, art, lit and european history, possessed by a minority, as the university’s population diversified. And hugely expanded objects suitable for fodder for ancillary product. But speed and efficiency surely is a factor – to write a Lacanian anaylsis of a Lubitsch film or a Shakespeare play, you don’t even have to know there ever was such a thing as a world war, “the Reformation”, a cinema or a theatre. You remove huge areas which are difficult (the reader/viewer and author embedded in historical cultural situations become empty uniform structural positions produced by the text itself – the sheer work of explanation and interpretation this saves is incalculable really.) And there’s no pressure for ‘originality’ – you’re job is effective streamlining, isolating a feature of a text and expressing it in a formal code. It doesn’t take long, and you can’t fail.

  58. Semi-sequitur: did you ever see or read Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia?

  59. And speaking of work…Deacon tips his hand there by erasing the last thirty five years of semiotics from history. What has he expelled from the record, creating this empty space, and what does he intend to fill it with? He has expelled labour (see Eco on the productive labour of utterance and interpretation requires for sign function production) and he intends to replace it with miraculously spontaneous commodity exchange in a semiotic markeplace. It’s not bumpkin innocence because it’s not plausible that he’s writing about semiotics and has actually never heard of Umberto Eco; he’s doing a kind of revisionism, and his arguments are toward the “ideological” end of rhetorical; the same with his treatment of linguistics and evolutionary theory.

  60. ” I am convinced that there is indeed something that bears social-cultural information and which evolves by means that are roughly analogous to processes of natural selection acting on DNA sequences and the living processes linked to them.”

    That’s standing in for an argument. I am convinced. A rough analogy. “natural selection acting on DNA”. “living processes linked”. It’s gibberish. But from then on, something is assumed. Something unproven and perhaps ridiculous and vague but rhetorically intense and productive is embedded as given, as uncontested, as premise. It is all larded with connotations and slyly freighted with values. But to follow the prose you ahve to accept it. If you don’t, your brain limps and stumbles, the flow is interrupted, you have an objection every three words. So just your urge to understand prose, to fulfill your role as reader, encourages you to accept it. For the moment. And then its like a caisson, each brick of bridge laid atop making it sink further in.

  61. it’s almost like these guys are selfparodies of ideologues in capitalism. with seeming disinterest they discover the “genes eye view” of the world, (“freely” imagined to systematically “reward” and “punish” “success” and “failure”) and that human being are passing byproducts of the genes’ exclusive creativity; then – oh, what a suprise! I never would have imagined – they discover that the analogue of genes on a larger scale, the everyday scale, is capital assets. What. A. Shock.

  62. (even genes, it turns out finally – as was inevitable – are subordinate to all-creating “m€m€$”.)

  63. Traxus, most things Comrade Fox utters ARE inscrutable, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a smart boy, it just means he’s used to flirting with girls like you and Chab by means of psychobabble instead of, say, a sexy haircut or an attractive suit. Still this can be cute as he reminds me of Matthew Broderick in WAR GAMES.

    Sherbert, you persistently read transcendental materialism in some weird reductionist way. I don’t think the message is that there’s only flesh bones the Gap and language, but that there are parallel (material) realities in various forms, because after all, energy can change form and it’ll still be energy and BLA DI BLA DI BLA. I really don’t see why this thought must be shredded to some vulgar type solipsism or inevitably lead to solipsism instead of opening a PORTAL, as Clysmatics would say. Unless of course you’re reading it from the perspective of a vulgar historic Marxist, which I think is the case here despite all the rhetoric coating.

    The essence of your rhetoric skill is to make simple things sound terribly deep and complicated!

    I wonder where that chickenshit ex-parody correspondent of mine isn’t here right now to defend Comrade Fox from you two girlie goonz, but then again his cowardice and laziness did come into picture before!

  64. they discover that the analogue of genes on a larger scale, the everyday scale, is capital assets. What. A. Shock.

    That isn’t the point at all! The point is that in the midst of all that shit, and as we saw in INLAND EMPIRE, you can burn a hole through your burgeois lingerie and see BEYOND the capital assets.

    But darling you WANT to see the capital assets because that’s the milk you’ve been drinking in your pampered Heiress’s existence, as Martin aptly noted, even as I feel that only I have the right to say such a thing to you and he is terribly arrogant for the lack of skill in cobra charming.

  65. in the 70s, before pcs and internet, traditional scholarship was really time consuming drudgery.

    ”when I was a young Polyanna in the 1970s, people used to listen to the Bee Gees and not this alienated modern techno crap! Everything was better then: we had better clothes, better music, better sex, and we had the Lava Lamp as well. Group hug everyone – this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!”

  66. People, Parasites:

    Dennett…[ominously] “The ant’s brain has been hijacked [pause, eyebrows up] by a parasite that infects the brain, inducing suicidal behaviour. Pretty scary. Well. Has anything like that happened with human beings? [uneasy audience laughter] This is all on behalf of a cause other than one’s own genetic fitness of course. Well. [sigh] it may already have occured to you that Islam means surrender or submission of self-interest to the will of Allah….”

  67. Scientific Truth!

  68. “People, Parasites:

    Yikes!
    But the tape makes clear that Dennett and his friends at Monterey are mere flukes burrowed in the mind of BMW (‘Where Great Ideas Live On’).

  69. ‘We’re At War With Giant Ants’ Meme: “Like a soldier ant programmed to sacrifice her life for germ-line copies of the genes that did the programming, a young Arab or Japanese is taught that to die in a holy war is the quickest way to heaven” (Dawkins, 1991)

  70. An inexplicable meme infects the internet: see this for details.

  71. tellywatcher Says:

    ‘We’re At War With Giant Ants’ Meme:

    The recently retired Admiral Fallon on Iran:
    And if it comes to war?

    “Get serious,” the admiral says. “These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them.”

  72. hey everyone, i’ve been tied up of late, but am back for now.

    i am mainly talking about the literature and culture wing of the academy — of course chomsky is copernicus everywhere else.

    re: structuralism as labor-saving device — ok but this is what any good theory is supposed to do, to organize information in such a way as it can be understood without having to treat every case as unique. between old-fashioned historicism (intellectual as factory laborer) and ‘Theory’ you have New Criticism, which fulfills the function of legitimating literary and cultural study as a distinct ‘discipline.’ so it had to be differentiated first from historiography, eliminating any connection to an alleged ‘scientistic positivism’ by coming up with a reading method that relied on nothing outside itself. also ‘amateur’ journalistic criticism (the noo yawk intellectuals), through its more ‘rigorous’ close reading method, which of course required a PhD. and the favored body of literature is modernist (and romantic, and shakespeare — anything that avoids ‘mere sociology’), which rewards this kind of analysis.

    so this regime lasts for a while, then starts to lose its legitimacy once women, ‘minorities,’ and the proles start storming the gates of higher ed.

    this is the situation the adoption of french structuralism/poststructuralism for initially literary, then cultural study responds to. again the rhetoric (which you can find in both culler and jameson) is against some version of determinism/totalitarianism — now it’s both ‘formalism,’ or precisely this kind of theory machine which allegedly saves one from engagement with the ‘substance’ of the text (however this is defined), and ‘sentimental’ approaches like phenomenology. naturally ‘positivist historiography’ remains an enemy, and marxism can only survive if it can theorize itself convincingly.

    so there’s something about the french version of structuralism (as opposed to behaviorism, chomskyan ‘cartesianism,’ the peirce/james version) that appeals to the anglo-american humanities critics of the ’60s and ’70s. it surely has something to do with the celebrity culture of the french intelligentsia, their presence and sense of style, the connections (however vague) with radical politics. but also it must have something to do with the method — perhaps because unlike other structuralisms the french one is open to interpretive play. as far as i know there’s no equivalent in the others for poststructuralism. there’s no derrida to chomsky’s saussure, or if there is he’s probably a scientist.

  73. traxus4420 Says:

    as for the natural scientists, of whom the celebrities are dawkins and deacon, i don’t know enough to trace this informationalization thing. dawkins comes up with the ‘meme’ in passing, but there’s also the use of information theory, separate from the meme or selfish gene idea (it comes from communications and cryptography), in areas like genomics, which always involved computers. so there are a lot of compatible discourses here, a lot of different acts of borrowing. in what i’ve been finding, there’s always been this undercurrent of critique, that this knowledge too reified, necessitating prefatory remarks like that of course DNA doesn’t directly cause any phenotypic traits, even though all the language suggests it does.

    my current guess is that semiotics enters the picture here because it allows for a more ‘nuanced’ presentation of points usually made in the language of bioinformatics. it allows you to discuss/speculate how signs affect consciousness (the more subjectivized parasite view vs. the mechanistic ‘all is information’ view — in which one has to keep reminding oneself that information DOESN’T have any unmediated determination of phenotype without necessarily knowing what that means exactly). this is a feature of both the saussurian and the peircean versions.

  74. traxus4420 Says:

    and the problem is that there don’t seem to be any available discourses for theorizing the ‘material status’ of language, or its relationship to human evolution, aside from these mutually compatible semiotics/informational terms. all available terms seem to derive from technological or philosophical discourse.

    the nice thing about deacon is that at least he’s empirical, and a practitioner of at least the brain physiology stuff. you can think he’s full of shit about the ‘virus’ thing and still learn something. a little bit like foucault and ‘power.’

  75. traxus4420 Says:

    re: that dennett video — i can’t tell if he’s doing stand-up comedy or talking to a group of children

  76. lots of issues here…anyway, the history of theory has been written by the winner; or one history anyway.

    interesting I think is a collection of essays originally from Critical Inquiry in 1982 published as The Politics of Interpretation, WTJ Mitchell;

  77. and the favored body of literature is modernist (and romantic, and shakespeare — anything that avoids ‘mere sociology’), which rewards this kind of analysis.

    so this regime lasts for a while, then starts to lose its legitimacy once women, ‘minorities,’ and the proles start storming the gates of higher ed.

    this is the situation the adoption of french structuralism/poststructuralism for initially literary, then cultural study responds to. again the rhetoric (which you can find in both culler and jameson) is against some version of determinism/totalitarianism

    The Edward Said essay in that volume is especially pertinent here, for this narrative… because there is this now an impression that this anti-totalizing/anti-totalitarian rhetoric was all perceived as radical politically or leftist, and that the convergence with reaganism was not seen, and that there was some chummy mixing of derrida and posse with marxism, but that was not the case at all. the camps were quite hostile, except for Jameson whose book said marxism can just absorb all this, all hermeneutical practises.

    While this french narrative was happening then – happening, dominant but not hegemonic, much less monopoly – in the anglophone humanities, there was all this other stuff. Reader respose for example – stanley fish was a far bigger celebrity than culler. And on the left, for example, three successive marxist ‘fads’, overlapping: Benjamin (buck morss work typical of this; eagleton also wrote a book), then Gramsci (and this led to new interest in Vico), then Bakhtin.

  78. ” i can’t tell if he’s doing stand-up comedy or talking to a group of children”

    it is evidently kind of a stand up routine; he’s given basically the same lecture since the early 90s, but after 2001 he got to add the little touches about hijacking etc.

  79. I liked this

    “all available terms seem to derive from technological or philosophical discourse.”

    this may have to do with the purely ideological status of the undertaking for which terms need be borrowed. There are no words in the vocabulary of the science studying the operations of and mechanisms by which genetic information or the “laws of nature” determine socio cultural, political, economic human affairs.

    Mn.

    ‘Memetics’ is continuing a tradition of elite ‘thought’ which is no political mystery; status quo justification and just so stories dressed up as adjuncts to science and daring critique; the worst of the worst. and there have always been highly qualified scientists engaging in this stuff.

  80. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks so much for the critical inquiry reference — helps a lot

    the darwin book — i’m leery of science books cast as imaginary dialogues, but it looks like an interesting critique.

    i DO understand evolution and the extent to which it’s distorted by ‘memes,’ btw, honest i do…

    “There are no words in the vocabulary of the science studying the operations of and mechanisms by which genetic information or the “laws of nature” determine socio cultural, political, economic human affairs.”

    are you missing a preposition in here somewhere? (not snark, i don’t want to respond until i’m clear on what you’re saying)

    i don’t think information science, bioinformatics, AI and computer science, or any of these technologized, military-funded, highly ideological discourses are explainable as mere ideology without erasing their referent.

  81. “thanks so much for the critical inquiry reference — helps a lot”

    oh good..and I thought of something else pertinent to “why saussure and not chomsky?” which is at the end of Self Consuming Artifacts, Fish explicitly justified his version of reader response with chomsky and modern linguistics, grounding it in two ways, sort of, internalized principles and language “competence” serving as both guarantor and metaphor for a kind of literary or readerly competence he assumes and deploys. The chapter is called I think the “affective fallacy fallacy”.

    “There are no words in the vocabulary of the science studying the operations of and mechanisms by which genetic information or the “laws of nature” determine socio cultural, political, economic human affairs.”

    are you missing a preposition in here somewhere? (not snark

    i’m being snarky, sorry; there’s no vocab ’cause there’s no referent….

    i don’t mean to rattle on about that – the dover book looks goofy but is charming – just i don’t like the language fairy and i don’t like deacon, he strikes me as this sort of decent innocent importing all this horrible ideological poison that will not die and making it look new and respectable. but i’ll stop.

    “i don’t think information science, bioinformatics, AI and computer science, or any of these technologized, military-funded, highly ideological discourses are explainable as mere ideology without erasing their referent.”

    yeah I agree; its the bridge genres where the kwaziness breeds I think, as I mentioned above.

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