More Notes for Enactivism and Related Subjects

More Notes for Enactivism and Related Subjects

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram (1996)    

Edmund Husserl: experience is embodied and we experience the bodies of others, and through associative empathy we experience these other bodies as multiple subjectivities thus avoiding isolated solipsism. intersubjectivity, Lebenswelt, “life-world”, direct experience, felt-sense of reality before thought and largely unconscious, commonsense assumptions and expectations based on personal experience, indeterminate and open-ended, layers of experience and overlapping lifeworlds, cultures have different lifeworlds and species have lifeworlds, the most basic lifeworld is earth because it frames all ofther lifeworlds but science proves that the earth isn’t the center of the world.    

p.42: “A profound schism was thus brought about between our intellectual convictions and themost basic conviction of our senses, between our mental concepts and our bodily percepts.”    

Merleau-Ponty: “body subject”, can’t expain world with an ultimate theory because no external standpoint to make objective observations, instead can only give voice to our situation within the world    

p. 54: “In the act of perception, in other words, I enter into a sympathetic relation with the perceived, which is possible only because neither my body nor the sensible exists outside the flux of time, and so each has its own dynamism, its own pulsation and style.  Percpetion, in this sense, is an attunement or synchronization between my own rhythms and the rhythms of the things themselves, their own tones and textures…”    

p. 56: “Merleau-Ponty writes of the preceived things as entities, of sensible qualities as powers , and of the sensible itself as a field of animate presences, in order to acknowledge and underscore their active, dynamic contribution to perceptual experience.  To describe the animate life of particular things is simply the most precise and parsimonious way to articulate the things as we spontaneously experience them, prior to all our conceptualizaitons and defintions.

   Our most immediate experience of things, according to Merleau-Ponty, is necessarily an experience of reciprocal encounter–of tension, communication, and commingling.  From within the depths of this encounter, we know the thing or phenomeon only as our interlocutor–as a dynamic presence that confronts us and draws us into relation.  We conceptually immobilize or objectify the phenomenon only by mentally absenting ourselves form this relation, by forgetting or repressing our sensuous involvement.  To define another being as a n inert or passive object is to deny its ability to actively engage us an to provloke our senses; we thus block our perceptual reciprocity with that being.  By linguistically definging the surroundnig world as a deteminate set of objects, we cut our conscious, speaking selves off from the spontaneoous life of our sensing bodies”    

pp. 57-59: “Some insight into the participatory nature of perception may be gleaned by considering the craft of the sleight-of-hand magician.  For the conjuror depends upon this active participation between the body and the world for the creation of his magic.  Working, for instance, with a silver dollar, he uses his sleights to enhance the animation of the object, generating ambiguous gaps and lacunae in the visible trajectory of the coin.  The spectators’ eyes, already drawn by the coin’s fluid dance across the magician’s fingers, spontaeously flill in those gaps with impossible events, and it is this spontaneous involvement of the spectators’ own senses that enables the coin to vanish and reappear, or to pass through the magician’s hand.     

  After flourishing a silver dollar in my right hand, for example, spinning it a few times to catch the audience’s attention, I may suddenly hide that coin behind the hand, clipping it between two fingers so that it is no longer visible to their gaze.  If, an instant later, I reach into the air on the other side of my body with my left hand, and bring into view another silver dollar that had been clipped behind that hand, the audience will commonly perceive something quite wondrous.  They will not perceive that one coin has been momentarily hidden while a wholly different coin, in another place, has been brought out of hiding, although ths would surely be the most obvious and rational interpretation.  Rather, they will perceive that a single coin, having vanished from my right hand, has traveled invisibly through the air and reappeared in my left hand!  For the perceiving body does not calculate logical probabilities; it gregariously participates in the activity of the world, lending its imagination to things in order to see them more fully.  The invisible journey of the coin is contributed, quite spontaneously, by the promiscuous creativity of the senses. The magician induces us to assist in the metamorphosis of his objects, and then startles us with what we ourselves have created!    
  From the magician’s, or the phenomenologist’s, perspective, that which we call imagination is from the first an attribute of the senses themselves; imagination is not a separate mental faculty (as we so often assume) but is rather the way the senses themselves have of throwing themselves beyond what is immediately given, in order to make tentative contact with the other sides of things that we do not sense directly, with the hidden or invisible aspects of the sensible.  And yet such sensory anticipations and projections are not arbitrary; they regularly respond to suggestions offered by the sensible itself.  The magician, for instance, may make the magic palpable for the audience by follwoing the invisible coin’s journey with the focus of his own eyes, and by imaginatively “feeling” the coin depart from the one hand and arrive in the palm of the other; the audience’s senses, responding to subtle shifts in the magician’s body as well as to the coin, will then find the effect irresistible.  In other words, it is when the magician lets himself be captured by the magic that his audience will be most willing to join him.   

    Of course, there are those few who simply will not see any magic, either at a performance or in the world at large; armored with countless explanations and analyses, they “see” only how the trick must have been accomplished.  Commonly, they will claim to have “caught sight of the wires,” or to have seen me clandestinely “throw the coin into the other hand” although I myself have done no such thing.  Encouraged by a cultural discourse that disdains the unpredictable and puts a premium on detached objectivity, such persons attempt to halt the participation of their senses in the phenomenon.  Yet they can do so ony by imaginatively projecting other phenomena (wires, or threads, or mirrors), or by looking away.   

    In truth, since the act of perception is always open-ended and unfinished, we are never wholly locked into any particular instance of participation.  As the spectator can turn away from the magician’s magic, we are always somewhat free to break our participation with any particular phenomenon.” … “We always retain the ability to alter or suspend any particular instance of participation.  Yet we can never suspend the flux of participation itself.”    

p. 60: “…our primordial, preconceptual experience, as Merleau-Ponty makes evident is inherently synaesthetic.  The intertwining of sensory modalities seems unusual to us only to the extent that we have become estranged from our direct experience (and hence from our primordial contact with tthe entiries and elements that surround us)…”    

p. 66: “In his final work, The Visible and the Invisible (a work interrupted by his sudden death in 1961), Merleau-Ponty was striving for a new way of speaking that would express this consanguinity of the human animal and the world it inhabits.  Here he writes less about “the body” (which in his earlier work had signified primarily the human body) and begins to write instead of the collective”Flesh,” which signifies both our flesh and”the flesh of the world.”  By “the Flesh” Merleau-Ponty means to indicate an elemental power that has had no name in the entire history of Western philosophy.  The Flesh is the mysterious tissue or matrix that underlies and gives rise to both the perceiver and the perceived as interdependent aspects of its own spontaneous activity.  It is the reciprocal presence of the sentient in the sensible and of the sensible in the sentiet, a mystery of which we have always, at least tacitly, been aware, since we have never been able to affirm one of these phenomena, the perceivable world or the perceiving self, without implicitly affirming the existence of the other.  We are unable even to imagine a sensible landscape that would not at the same time be sensed (since in imaginging any landscape we inevitably envisage it from a particular perspective, and thus implicate our own senses, and indeed our own sentience, in that landscape), and are similarly unable to fully imagine a sensing self, or sentience, that would not be situated in some field of sensed phenomena.”    

p. 84: “What Merleau-Ponty retains from Saussure is Saussure’s notion of any language as an interdependent, weblike system of relations.  But since our expressive, speaking bodies are for Merleau-Ponty necessary parts of this system–since the web of language is for him a carnal medium woven in the depths of our perceptual participation with the things and beings around us–Merleau-Ponty comes in his final writings to affirm that it is first the sensuous, perceptual world that is relational and weblike in character, and hence that the organic, interconnected structure of any language is an extension or echo of the deeply interconnected matrix of sensorial relaity itself.  Ultimately, it is not human language that is primary, but rather the sensuous, percpetual life-world, whose wild, participatory logic ramifies and elaborates itself in language.”    

p. 89: “We may very briefly summarize the general results of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological investigations, or at least our own interpretation of those results, as follows:  (1) The events of perception, experientially considered, is an inherently interactive, participatory event, a reciprocal interplay between the perceiver and the perceived.  (2) Perceived things are encountered by the perceiving body as animate, living powers that actively draw us into relation.  Our spontaneous, pre-conceptual experience yields no evidence for a dualistic division between animate and “inanimate” phenomena, only for relative distinctions between diverse forms of animateness.  (3) The perceptual reciprocity between our sensing bodies and the animate, expressive landscape both engenders and supports our more conscious, linguistic reciprocity with others.  The complex interchange we call “language” is rooted in the non-verbal exchange always already going on between our own flesh and the flesh of the world.  (4) Human languages, then, are informed not only by the structures of the human body and the human community, but by the evocative shapes and patterns of the more-than-human terrain.  Experientially considered, language is no more the special property of the human organism than it is an expression of the animate earth that enfolds us.”    

p.108: “It was not unitl the early fourth century B.C.E. that such numinous powers, or gods, were largely expelled from the natural surroundings.  For it was only at this time that alphabetic literacy became a collective reality in Greece. ”  (Axial Age)    

P. 109: “Although Socrates himself may have been able to write little more than his own name, he made brilliant use of the new reflexive capacity introduced by the alphabet.  Eric Havelock has sugegested that the famed “Socratic dialetic”–which, in its simplest form, consisted in asking a speaker to explain what he has said–was primarily a method for disrupting the mimetic thought pattrns of orla culture.  The speaker’s original statement, if it concerned important matters of morality and social custom, would necessarily have been a memorized formula, a poetic or proverbial phrase, which presented a vivid example of the mater being discussed.  by asking the speaker to explain himself or to repeat his statement in different terms, Socrates forced his interlocutors to separate themselves, for the first time, from their own words–to separate themselves, that is, from the phrases and formulas that had become habitual through the constant repetition of traditional teaching stories.  Prior to this moment, spoken discourse was inseparble from the endlessly repeated stories, legends, and myths that provided many of the spoken phrases one needed in one’s daily actions and interactions.  To speak was to live within a storied universe, and thus to feel one’s closeness to those protagonists and ancestral heroes whose words often seemed to speak through one’s own mouth.”    

p. 110: “Prior to the spread of writing, ethical qualities like “virtue,” “justice,” and temperance” were thoroughly entwined with the specific situaions in which those qualities were exhibited.  The terms for such qualities were oral utterances called forth by particular social situations: they had no apparent existence independent of those situations.  As utterances, they slipped back into the silence immedately after they were spoken: they had no permanent presence to the senses.  “Justice” and “temperance” were thus experienced as living occurrences, as events.  Arising in specific situations, they were inseparable fromt the particular persons or actions that momentarily embodied them.”    

p. 144: “Nevertheless, more recent research on the echoic and gestural significance of spoken sounds has demonstrated that a subtle sort of onomatopoeia is constantly at work in language: certain meanings inevitably gravitate toward certain sounds, and vice versa.”    

The Transcendent Function by Jeffrey C. Miller (2004)    

p. 87: “Winnicot viewed the intermediate area between reality and fantasy as necessary not only to child development but also to adult mental health, particularly in locating what he called the “True Self.”  He felt that without being able to experience the liminal space between reality and fantasy, a person would develop a false self, either overly concretized in reality or separated from reality in fantasy.  Thus, Winicott saw transitional objects and phenomena both as early developmental tools and as ongoing mechanisms that create an intermediate area between reality and fantasy, self and other, inner and outer, a liminal space that has a crucial role in mental health.   One can see here the direct analogy to the transcendent function.  Winnicott’s formulation of transitional objects/phenomena and the importance of play are analogous to Jung’s formulation of the transcendent function and the importance of symbol and fantasy.  The transcdndent function is a transitional phenomenon and transitional phenomma are examples of the transcendent function.  Both describe a mediatory space where opposites are suspencded or united: Winicott’s play and Jung’s fantasy are the terrain upon which the phenomena occur.  Both serve as bridges between ontological antagonisms such as self/other, subject/object, inner/outer through a liminal experience that allows the opposites to be held side by side.  As Barkin (1978) says, “By definition, then, the transitional object is neither inner nor outer but rather partakes of both, i.e., is at the border between them, in an intermediate area” (p. 515).”    

The Love of Nature and the End of the World by Shierry Weber Nicholsen (2002)    

pp. 80-81: (In speaking about Paul Shepard, The Others: How Animals Made Us Human) – “Shepard draws on his understanding of hunting-gathering societies to outline the ideal-typcal calendar of human development.   The natural world is used for both emotinal and coginitive development.  Young children in their imitative play draw on the various qualities of the animal world around them, qualities they will also find incorporated in the dances of the adults.  Through what they see around them, they are able to grasp the individual qualities of feeling and action that they might find in themselves at a particular time– a “personal inner zoology.”  “Play is an imitaion,” Shepard explains, “starting with simple fleeing and catching, going on to mimic joyfully the important animals, being them for a moment and then not being them, feeling as this one must feel and then that one, all tried on the self.”  This is using animals, through play, for a knowledge of the internal workld of the self.  But for children, animals are also concrete physical beings.  They are used in all the variety of their physical form for the development of thinking.  Their similairities and differences provde the material for the categorical thinking that Piaget calls concrete operations.    
  Adolescence, in contrast, coincides with the development of what Piaget calls formal operations.  The internal world opens up, and abstract, philosophical, metaphysical thought becomes possible.  The initiation ceremonies of adolescence put the natural world to a new use: nature is contemplated as “a poem, numinous and analogical, of human society.”  The adolescent does not leave his childhood interests in the natural world behind, Shepard tells us, so much as graduate into its significance as the metaphorical correlation of interior and exterior worlds and their emerbent qultiy become apparent.  Adolescence ushers in, in his words, “a lifelong study, a reciprocity with the natural world in which its depths are as endless as his own creative thought.”  Maturity represents a continued deepening of this reciprocity rather than an alientation.  It “celebrates a central analogy of self and world in ever-widening spheres of meaning a nd participation,” Shepard writes, “not an ever-growing domination over nature, escape into abstraction, or existential funk.”    

p. 81: “From within our limited and limiting cultural perspective, we imagine ourselves nostalgic for the richness of childhood.  But Shepard’s vision informs us that it is not childhood we have lost, but maturity.”    

p. 109: homelessness, Buddhist groundlessness, to be at home in the whole field (ie the situation one finds one in)    

The Melancholy Android by Eric G. Wilson (2006)    

pp. 68-69: “Heidegger defines individual being, what we would normally term a “self,” in terms of its temporal and spatial “thereness,” its implication is irreducible networks of history, culture, economics, enviroment, and so on.  This situation –“being there”–Heidegger characterizes as “throwness,”  Each individual is always thrown into a “there,” a series of preexisting conditions that shape and bind one before one even becomes aware of them.  Before one can gain a sense of one’s own uniqueness, one’s unrepeatable possibiilities for existence, one is already defined by the world into which one has been thrown.  One is subjected to “Others,” the “they,” all the impersonal forces that flatten events to things that have “long been well known,” all phenomena to commodities to be “manipulated,” all secrets to cliche’s.  Ruled by idle chatter, crass curiosity, and superficial vagueness, this “they” works to fix indivduals into an “inauthentic” mode of existence bereft of manifod potential, of intractable mysteries, of unsolvable riddles.”    

p. 77: “In Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795), Schiller argues that the greatest moments of human beings occur when they achieve mercurial play.  Most people limit themselves by fixating on one of the two primary poles of existence, the sense drive or the form drive.  The person overcome by the sense drive is concerned with his “physical  existence” and thus set “within the bounds of time.”  This person is little different from matter, from physical necessity.  In contrast, if one is bent on form drive, one associates with a rational principle above the vicissitudes of time.  One believes that the ego is an eternal substance untouched by matter.  But this formalist is moored to concepts, to the mind.  The only way to escape these binds is to embrace play: the contemplation, embodiment, or creation of beauty.  Engaging in aesthetic activities, one finds oneself in “a happy midway point between law and exigency.”  The playing person draws from the powers of the sensual and the formal “since the former relates in its cognition to the actuality” and the “latter to the necessity of things.”  This person is bound, though, to neither.  The sensual, measured against ideas, becomes “small.”  The reason, related to perceptions, grows “light.”  The person playing places the formal and the sensual into a creative conversation in which one side delimimts and enobles the other.”    

Daimonic Reality by Patrick Harpur (2003)    

p. 49: “This sense of anima in Nature, shivering with vibrant life, is pejoratively called animism by Western culture, which has long since emptied Nature of soul and reduced it to dead matter obeying mechanical laws.  The word “animism” effectivley writes off what it claims to describe.  But to cultures we describe as animsitic, there is no such thing as animism — there is only Nature presenting itself in all its immediacy as daimon-ridden.”    

p. 52: “In all this we see the polarizing tendency of Christianity which removes the category of intermediacy from daimons and makes them either purely spirutual or physical, compelling them the while to be in both cases literal beings.”    

p. 232: “We may wonder what the consequences are of losing effective official rites to render our biological changes significant and to stamp us with the mark of adulthood.  Isn’t there a danger that we remain childish, selfish, dependent, mere victims of whatever life throws at us?  Many people, of course, are unwittingly initiated by the exigencies of their lives, such as family catastrophes, bereavement, or even by the ordeals of schooling.  Initiation depends less on the experience itself than on what we make of it, how we use it for self-transformation.  But without traditional rites that both induce and channel suffering, it is difficult to use it correctly — we are encouraged instead to seek a cure for it.”    

p. 252: “In reality, there is only a single ego, but with two perspectives: the waking, conscious, rational, literalizing ego is simply another aspect of the dreaming, unconscious, irrational, daimonic ego, as if they were two sides of a single coin.  But the shape-shifting daimonic ego can assume any number of different perspectives, all more or less daimonic, all members of the same family as it were, like the heroes of Greek mythology.  Only the rational ego promotes its own single, literalistic perspective as the only perspective, while simultaneously denying — demomizing — all others.”  

Archetype Revisited by Anthony Stevens (2003)  

pp. 61-62: “Physics, at the time when psychology seized upon it as the only scientific model worthy of emulation, demanded that we believe in a material world which could be viewed with total objectivity.  Biology, on the ocontrary, holds the view that every individual of each species inhabits an essentially subjective world — what Jacob Johann von Uexkull, the founder of ethology, called the organism’s Umwelt — and our perception of it is dependent upon processes of which we are largely unaware.  Thus biology, like Jungian psychology, asserts that we receive knowledge of the world through perceptual process which are mostly inaccessible to consciousness and which have evolved in a manner appropriate to our environment of evolutionary adaptedness (i.e., the environmental circumstances in which our species originally evolved).   

    The term Unwelt is in many ways preferable to ‘environment’ because it streses the essentially subjective quality of the world which each animal species inhabits.  The Umwelt in which all creatures live is highly specialized, and what renders it so specialized is less the actual physical configuration of the ecological niche (i.e., the organisms’s environement of evolutionary adaptedness) than the highly selective and idiosyncratic way in which this configuration is percievecd.  We, like all other animals, percieve only what we have been equipped to perceive; and only recently have we begun to recognize that our perceptions llike many of our patterns of behaviour, have been programmed by evolutionary pressures.”    

p. 63: “Such selectivity is inevitable: any physical environment possesses immense perceptual complexity and it is essential that the organism should confine its attention to those aspects of the environment that are most relevant to survival  Thus, etthology teaches that all organisms are programmed to perceive the world in specific ways, to select and respond to key stimuli which possess special significance within the context of the organism’s Umwelt.  This hightly specialized abillity depends on the existence of central mechanisms for receiving and processing informaiton so that all the stimuli bombarding the organismsm at any moment can be ‘filtered’, the significant stimuli eliciting attention while the rest are virtually ignored.  In all species, stimuli capable of passing the filter possess the power to release certain specific patterns of behaviour in the organism perceiving them.  It was to explain this process that Niko Tinbergen proposed his hypothesis of an innate releasing mechanism (IRM for short).  It is through the operation of such innate mechanisms that ethologists believe many patterns of social behaviour to be activated.”    

Philosophy in the Flesh by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999)    

p. 28: “The philosophical significance of these results follows directly.  First, the division between basic-level and nonbasic-level categories is body-based, that is, based on gestalt perception, motor programs, and mental images.  Because of this, classical metaphysical realism cannot be right, since the properties of categories are mediated by the body rather than determined dirrectly by a mind-independent reality.   

    Second, the basic level is that level at which people interact optimally with their environments, given the kinds of bodies and brains they have and the kinds of environments they inhabit.”    

p. 29: “Third, basic-level categorization tells us why metaphysical realism makes sense for so many people, where it seems to work, and where it goes wrong. Metaphysical realism seems to work primarily at the basic level.  If you look only at examples of basic-level categories, at the level of category where we interact optimally with the world, then it appears as if our conceptual categories fit the categories of the world.  If you look at categories at other levels, it does not”   

    “Fourth, the properties of the basic level explain an important aspect of the stability of scientific knowledge.  For basic-level physical objects and basic-level actions or relations, the link between human categories and divisions of things in the world is quite accurate.”    

The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen (2001)    

Speaking of Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-05) and Economic and Society (1913) Weber’s idea of charisma relates to Victor Turner’s ideas of liminality, anti-structure and communitas. Opposite of charisma is rationalization which relates to social hierarchies and the systematization of rules and abstractions but also to the disenchantment of the world (demystification, secularization, and attenuation of charisma). Maybe rationalization has been a process of culture increasing its focus on what Lakoff and Johnson call basic-level categories. Rationalization is a process that happens over thousands of years, but probably first started with the first settled civilizations and took strong hold with the emergence of written texts during the Axial Age.  The formation of monotheism is part of this rationalization, but rationalization has occurred within Christianity itself.  The Catholic church is more rational than the previous oral tradition of the early Christians, and Protestantism’s (because of its stronger focus on knowing God through the Bible’s text) is more rational than Catholicism.  Of course, Christianity set the stage for the scientific outlook which lead to Cartesian mind-body dualism and its concommitant Cartesian anxiety.  Hansen thinks that Postmodernism represents the furthest point of rationalization which then leads one to wonder what is next.  Enactivism seems to be partly a response to Postmodernism connecting the mind and language back to concrete reality.    

pp. 110-111: “Wallace defined his concept of the “mazeway” as a person’s “mental image of the society and its culture, as well as of his own body… it includes perceptions of both the maze of physical objects of the environment (internal and external, human and nonhuman) and also of the ways in which this maze can be  manipulated… The mazeway is nature, society, culture, personality, and body image, as seen by one person.”  In essence, it is a person’s picture of the structure of his or her existence.  The metaphor of the mazeway is particularly apt for our consideration because a maze is simply a combination of passageways delimited by boundaries…    
  Wallace chose an organismic analogy for human society, which he viewed as composed of, not only individuals and groups but also the very cells and organs of people’s bodies.  He described his framework as “holistic” saying ti assumed a “network” of intercommunication (years later the New Age movement used the same terms).  He went on to explain that a stress on one level would stress all levels.   

    When society or some part of it is subjected to high stress, there will be an effort to ameliorate it.  During the stress, not everyone attemtps to change; reactionary forces try to maintain the status quo.  In what could have been written by psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann 35 years later, Wallace comments: “Rigid persons apparently prefer to tolerate high levels of chronic stress rather than make systematic adaptive changes in the mazeway.  More flexible persons try out various limited mazeway changes in their personal lives.”    

  As people with thinner boundaries can act as change agents for society as a whole, so also can methods and substances that cause thinning of boundaries help individuals to change.  This may be why certain mental illnesses such as addiction can be improved by certain psychedelic drugs.  Of course, after any state change, a thickening of the boundaries is necessary to establish that change as a permanent stage of development.  This could relate to the importance of environment with the use of psychedelics.  Traditionally, there was a trusted authority figure who would establish structure via tradition and act as guide while the initiate undertook the ritual use of a drug.  Without a thick boundary within a social context, a thinning of the boundary of an individual is less likely to produce positive change.   

Ethnomethodology, like Enactivism, can be traced back to the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl.    

p. 280: “Ethnomethodologists took as their subject matter the interactions of everyday social life and how people make sense of them. That sounds innocuous enough, but ethnomethodologists probed foundations.  They recognized that for orderly common activity, people must share a large body of assumptions, meanings, and expectations, though these are not consciously recognized.  In order to make them explicit (i.e., bring them to conscious awareness), breaching experiments were invented, and those involved violating, in some way, typical patterns of behavior.” … “These breaching experiments have commonalities with anti-structure and the trickster; they all violate boudaries that frame experience.”    

p. 281: “Ethnomethodologists pointed out that one is part of that which one observes, i.e., one participates in processes of observation.  The issue of participation has some intriguing connections.  At least since Levy-Bruhl’s How Natives Think (1910) it has been associated with the nonrational.”    

p.282: “Mehan and Wood say that their theoretical perspective “within ethnomethodoology commits me to the study of concrete scenes and to the recognition that I am always a part of those scenes.  Social science is commmitted to avoiding both of those involvements.”  They are correct, but few social scientists wish to acknowledge the consequences.  The abstraction and distancing found in all science endow a certain status and privilege from which to judge and comment on others.  In order to maintain that position, sicientists must not get too “dirty,” too closely associated with their objects of study.  Ethnomethodologists understand they necessarily participate in the phenomena they observe.  Mehan and Wood comment that “Ethnomethodology can be seen as an activity of destratification.”  This destratification is a leveling of status, and that is also associated with limimal conditions (a.k.a., anti-structure).  Thus social leveling via paticipation and reflexivity has been recognized by theorists from entirely separate disciplines, demonstrating its validity.”    

sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK)

p. 285: “Participaton is of theoretical interest in SSK.  In much of sociology, participant-observation is carried out among marginal or low-status groups such as religious cults, the poor, or ethnic minoriteis.  Sociologists dare not undertake comparable research with bankers, CEOs, or college presidents.  Likewise, anthropologists may study primitive peoples, i.e., socially distant and “inferior.”  However with SSK, there is not so much social distance between the observers and the observed.  In fact the status of the objects of study may equal or exceed that of the researcher, at least initially.  Scientists traditionally are assumed to be the final arbiters of scientific knowledge.  But when they become objects of study and are described (represented) by sociologists, their legitimacy and reliability are called into question.  Sociologists demonstrate that scientists are not as objective and rational as many people thought and that they are influened by subjective and social factors in evaluating data  This naturally calls into question the authority, objecitviy, and rationality of science, and it has potential of reducing the status of scientists.  As in liminality, there is a leveling or even inversion of status.  Again we see the connection between reflexivity, status reduction, and participation — a connection also found in ethnomethodology.  It is no accident that participation arose in Levy-Bruhl’s discussions of primitive mentality.  Participation raises issues not only of status but also of the basis of rationaltiy.  These are discomforting matters, and Woolgar admitted that “Most social scientists tend to steer well clear of any sustained examination of the signivicance of reflexivity, despite frequently acknowledging its relevance in general terms.””    

p. 285-286: “Latour concludes that when reflexivity is applied on a limited basis in the academic enterprise, it is often sterile and leads to little productivity.  However he suggests that greater application of it should produce interdisciplinary pollination.  Hybridization and increased understanding across academic boundaries should result.  I was very pleased to see this conclusion, because my own readings convinced me that an interdisciplinary approach was required to make progress with the topic of reflexivity (and of psychic phenomena).  His expllicit mention of “boundaries” (and their disruption) confirms the importance of them for understanding the repercussions of reflexivity.  In short, Latour’s essay marks him as a major theorist of the topic.   

    Replication of scientific experiments is one of the thorny problems tackled by SSk.  It is a foundational issue of science.  Most scientists accept the simple idea that valid experiments must be repeatable by others.  But when the matter is closely examined, all sorts of complexities arise.  What is replication?  Who determines whether it is acomplished?  How is it described?  In controversial areas, simply doing more experiments doesn’t resolve issues about putative effects; there are continuing arguments about what is required for a satisfactory experiment.  Slight changes in conditions may have important cosnequences, and those can be debated endlessly.  conducting more experiments can lead to what has been termed the “experimeter’s regress.”  Do objective observations establish fact, or is it only social agreement?  Further, written reports are not always sufficient to explain an experimenter’s procedure.  Sometimes direct personal training is required to teach the skill and convey the necessary information for successful replication.  Abstract text is inadequate.  SSK raises all these issues, and in a subtle but profound way it strikes a blow against the foundational myth that science is a fully objective process.”    

p. 287: “While Robert Rosenthal was analyzing an experiment for his Ph.D. dissertation in the mid-1950s, he was dismayed to discover that his data indicated that he had unintentionally biased his subjects (he had inadvertently “participated” in the experiment).  This intially unwelcome discovery shaped his career, and he went on to study experiment expectancy effects.  After completing his doctorate, he conducted experiemnts with several lower ehelon researchers.  Each carried out the same procedure, but they were told to expect different results.  Rosenthal demonstrated that significant biases could be thereby induced.   

    Experimenting on experimenters is innately reflexive, and it raises the question of whether experimenters can objectively investigate the world.  How extreme are their biases?  The philosophical point disconcerted many psychologists, and Roseenthal received some sharp criticisms.  In addition, some researchers claimed that they were unable to repeat his results (the replication problem).  In the end, Rosenthal largely prevailed, and the experimenter expectancy effects are now accepted as real.  Nevertheless, his work raises questions about the ultimate validity of experimetation, but as with ethnomethodology, the especially troubling ones, the true foundational issues, are largely ignored.   

    Rosenthal went on to investigate how teachers’ expectancies influence their pupils.  In a number of studies, grade school students were given an intelligence test, and afterwards teachers were told that some of them should intellecutally bloom in the coming months.  Unknown to the teachers, the “bloomers” were not selected by the test, but instead were designated randomly.  Months later, another test was administered, and the randomly selected bloomers had increased their objective test scores more than the other students.  Somehow the teachers had unconsciously trasmitted their expectations to the students, who fulfilled them.  This has sometimes been referred to as the Rosenthal-Pygmalion effect.”    

p. 289: “In summary, meditaion has a number of liminal features.  It blurs the boundary between conscious and unconscious; its traditional schools warn of dangers; it is associated with mysticism and paranormal abilities.  Many forms are inherently reflexive.”    

p. 308: “At risk of being repetitious, I want to briefly list again some of the links between the trickster (and liminality) and reflexivity.  The trickster blurs the distinction betweeen subject and object, and so does reflexivity; both thereby subvert objectivity.  The trickster is a paradoxical creature, and reflexivity generates paradox.  The paranormal has trickster qualities, and it is found in the vicinity of applications of reflexivity.  The trickster has deep religious implications, and reflexivity evokes religious issues; both are pertinent to the numnious.  Manifestations of reflexivity generate ambiguity, paradox, and uncetainty; they provoke feelings of unease, worry, and even paranoia.  The trickster does too.  The issue of limits is fundamental to the trickster, and reflexivity reveals limits.”

Access_public Access: Public 6 Comments Print Post this!views (660)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 1 hour later

Nicole said

so, so much cool stuff here. thank you….

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 8 hours later

Marmalade said

You can see from all of my notes, how much I left out from what I actually wrote.  I had bigger plans than I had time to accomplish.  I’ll blog further about it with time.  I’d still like to bring in Philip K. Dick into all of this.  I was reading some commentary on PKD in one of my friend’s books.  It was comparing PKD’s ideas with those of Merleau-Ponty which is precisely the kind of connection I was looking for.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 17 hours later

Nicole said

i think you needed weeks of blogs to cover it all, not just a day – hugs

buddhacious : Human Being

15 days later

buddhacious said

Thanks so much for these excerpts, Ben. it is great to see the overlap in all these thinkers. I was especially impressed with Rosenthal’s findings concerning  experimenter expectancy. Very interesting!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

15 days later

Marmalade said

Hello!  I still don’t know what to make of it all.  I was being too ambitious for too little understanding, but I swear to you that one of these days I’m going to understand what this enactivism thingie is.

The experimenter expectancy issue is quite intriguing and also its relationship to reflexivity.  It would be interesting to see what might result if enactivism was applied as a model to research researchers.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

16 days later

Nicole said

I’m sure you will, one day, Ben! You are one determined guy, lol, hugs!

Hmm, who will research the researchers eh? and how :):):)

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