mind and world

joe dees (joedees@bellsouth.net)
Wed, 13 Jan 1999 02:33:49 -0500

What are the necessary and essential cognitive and physical conditions for the possibility of language to occur? I am not speaking here of signals, such as pheromones for sexual receptivity or smoke for fire, but specifically of sign systems, where the relation between sign and signified, the relations between signs in a system, and the means of sign communication are arbitrary and by mutual convention rather than either materially or causally necessary. This is not to say that sign/sign and sign/signified relations do not mutually impose semiotic (semantic, syntactic and pragmatic) restraints, but rather to say that an indefinite number of such complexes may be created, each containing a semiotic interplay between these two sets of relations. Such meaningful and symbolic systems include the many written, signed and spoken languages of common discourse, mathematical, musical and logical languages, etc. It is immediately obvious that the use of such systems in communication requires that the communicants possess a common conception of the particular system in use, in both the relations obtaining between the system's signs and the relations obtaining between the signs and their significands. Likewise, it is obvious that the communicants must possess both the capacity to perceive the signs of the system in at least one manner, and the capacity to produce /communicate them in at least one manner. Since, although the capacity for us to possess and use such systems in general is obviously present, none of them is innate in its arbitrary particularity, they must be created, learned and taught. This characterization of symbolic systems allows us to delineate some sine qua nons (necessary and essential conditions) for their existence. First, communicants must be able to perceive the intersubjective phenomenal world. Second, they must be able, based upon mobility and this perception, to act upon it in chosen ways (will must be manifestable). Third, they must be able to both experience and learn from the consequences of these actions. Fourth, one must be able to represent to oneself and others what one has learned in at least one intersubjectively comprehensible symbolic form. In short, there must be a dynamic interrelation between mind and world, and communicable representations of the products of this interrelation. But what must be true of mind and world for these capacities to inhere? Before proceeding further, we must clarify the concept of relation. Relation has its limits, outside of which we speak of nonrelation. One such nonrelation is identity. Things are not related to themselves, they are themselves. The correlative opposite of identity is absolute disparity, which is an ideal limit rather than a real possibility, for all experienced things are at the very least related as perceived or conceived objects. In the same manner, simultaneity is a real limit of succession, while its correlative opposite, separation by infinity, is an ideal construct (Alfred Schutz, REFLECTIONS ON THE PROBLEM OF RELEVANCE, p. 182). If A and B are related, we cannot speak of AB as either a unity or a duality/multiplicity, but as a system. For relation to be dynamic interrelation, there must be threshold, to preclude unity, and exchange, to preclude bifurcation. Dynamic mind/world interrelation entails that there be exchange between mind and world over lower thresholds and below lower ones, and indeed, that mind and world are neither a unity nor a duality. Thus the struction (functional structure) of the mind/world interrelation is dependant upon the structions of the poles - mind and world - of the system. From this we may infer that the struction of this interrelation may serve as a sort of semiologic, and thus inform us as to the characters of the relata so mediated. The fact that there are several perceptual media of exchange, each with its own peculiar thresholds, complicates but does not obviate this analysis. Now the question arises, how does one investigate the struction(s) of this interrelation? Henri Bergson (AN INTRODUCTION TO METAPHYSICS) distinguishes two ways. He states that one may study something perspectivally and externally, by means of symbols, or nonperspectivally and internally, without symbolic mediation. The first method results, according to Bergson, in relative knowledge, and the second in absolute knowledge. He goes on to state that the only possible object of study by means of the second method is the enduring self. I agree with Bergson that there are these two ways. I do not agree that only the self may be studied by means of the second method, or that the self may be studied only this way. Perhaps the world can only be directly interrogated perspectivally, and one's own mentation can only be directly contemplated introspectvely. Bergson states that the results of such an introspection are inexpressible symbolically, in any event. However here it is p! roposed that both mind and world may be investigated indirectly, by means ofinvestigations into the structions of the mind/world interrelation, and a deduction of what the discovered parameters of this interrelation's structions might entail concerning the structions of both it's mind and world poles. The struction of the mind/world interrelationship may be studied from both the internal perspective, by means of a study of the structions of perception, and externally, by means of a study of the structions of action (including communication). The first is the way of phenomenology, and the second the way of science generally, and, as concerning mind, the way of genetic epistemology specifically. Neither offers absolute knowledge, in the sense of complete, nor do they together. The first way offers knowledge of an apodictic (self-evident) character; the second offers evidentiary data of a statistical nature, from which may be derived likely consequences. Nevertheless, taken together, they provide more than either can alone. For instance, phenomenology cannot offer apodictic knowledge concerning the genesis and evolution of mind's reflection upon the structions of the mind/world interrelation, for it is by means of this reflection that phenomenology proceeds. It may begin only when one may reflect upon the structions of perception, extract invariants, and abstractly represent them in a common symbol system. In other words, the phenomenologist must be at the Piagetian level of formal operations in order to philosophize. Genetic epistemology, on the other hand, can offer us likelihoods concerning this genesis and evolution, which is more than phenomenology can offer, but nowhere can it offer the apodictic certainty which phenomenology can in the cases of reflective descriptions of self, soma, world and society. The contributions of these two methods of investigation demonstrate a kind of complementarity; phenomenology is a s! ynchronic and symbolic description of the invariant structions perceptible to the reflective mind, and genetic epistemology is a diachronic derivation, from observed action, of the evolution of mind to reflective and symbolic capacity.

Joe E. Dees
Poet, Pagan, Philosopher

Access your e-mail anywhere, at any time. Get your FREE BellSouth Web Mail account today! http://webmail.bellsouth.net