Category Archives: linguistics

A Magic Trick: Explain By Creating

In trickster’s case, how did mental fakery come to replace incarnate fakery?

It is one thing for trypanosomes to change their skins; another for Raven to become a leaf floating in spring water; another still for storytellers to have imagined Raven in the first place, or for one of us to reimagine him. Before picking these strands apart, however, we should remember that the mythology itself asks us to confuse them. Coyote stories point to coyotes teaching about the mind, the stories themselves look to predator-prey relationships for the birth of cunning. These myths suggest that blending natural history and mental phenomena is not an unthinkable conflation, but on the contrary, an accurate description of the way things are. To learn about intelligence from Coyote the meat thief is to know that we are embodied thinkers. If the brain has cunning, it has it as a consequence of appetite; the blood that lights the mind gets its sugars from the gut.
-Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art.

Creating Is Explaining

in Jonas, see (*) below

The subject becomes a game that hides through and in his cause from his cause, the (external) precondition laying bare the (internal) foundation. – Julie Kristeva


The tracking that any [image] instrumentalizes is an adventure that is always immediate, happening now, registering the dynamics of belief.

(adapted, substituting |image| for |text|) via, -Elaine Jahner, “Trickster Discourse and Postmodern Strategies.”)

Stephen Calhoun, Cleveland artist experimental photographer

The Jester (2016) Stephen Calhoun

“Play around with it, intentionally.” That would be the clue. I’m wandering around the following: participation, experience of art, play, cleverest trick.

If you could give up tricks and cleverness, this would be the cleverest trick! (version of Rumi, John LeMoyne)

An example of a clever trick in the experience of art is any expert critical opinion that is by (socially-constructed) necessity blinded to, unbounded from, the actuality of the embodied knowing which emerges from consciousness being aware and present as a matter of experiencing art, or, experiencing any ‘scene,’ so-to-speak.

Opinions like this are like standing at the end of the diving board and not wanting to dive in.

Do playful systems know that they play? [pdf]
Michael Straeubig, Plymouth University
The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Malta 2016

From autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: Francisco Varela’s exploration of the biophysics of being [pdf]
Antoine Lutz, et al 2003

Toward a neurophenomenology as an account of generative passages: A first empirical case study [pdf]
Antoine Lutz
LENA – Neurosciences Cognitives et Imagerie Cérébrale 2002

(*) A cybernetic model of design research: Towards a trans-domain 1 of knowing
Wolfgang Jonas, The Routledge Companion to Design Research 2014

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Filed under adult learning, experiential learning, Gregory Bateson, humor, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, visual experiments, my art

Implicit Sacramental Fallacies (Re: Gregory Bateson on the Nature of the Sacred)

A linear concept of causality cannot adequately explain the interactions of a complex
system or Gestalt. The classical scientific paradigm is sufficient only for understanding
carefully isolated phenomena, where unidirectional cause and effect relationships occur
between interacting pairs, e.g., between one thing and another thing. – Lawrence Bale (Gregory Bateson, Cybernetics, and the Social/Behavioral Sciences)

Gregory Bateson: Am I using explanation in the same sense you are? I’m not sure. By explanation I would mean mapping a bunch of phenomena onto a tautology. The tautology being such that you cannot doubt the steps contained within it. The propositions you can doubt, but the steps you cannot. If P…then P…all right. This means that what is contained in the tautology is relations, only relations

Paul Ryan: Right.

Gregory Bateson: In order to explain, we build a tautology and map the things onto the tautology. And in order to strengthen our explanation we shall then go into what Peirce calls abduction and find other cases under that tautology.
(Metalogue: Gregory Bateson, Paul Ryan via

In a computer, which works by cause and effect, with one transistor triggering another, the sequences of cause and effect are used to simulate logic. Thirty years ago, we used to ask: Can a computer simulate all the processes of logic? The answer was “yes,” but the question was surely wrong. We should have asked: Can logic simulate all sequences of cause and effect? The answer would have been: “no.” (Gregory bateson, Mind and Nature)

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Peirce, Luhmann, Bateson – Sign and Socios

Søren Brier, Professor of Culture and Communication Studies, Copenhagen Business School, gives a presentation as part of the University of Oregon Conference on Biosemiotics and Culture.

Professor Peter Ochs, UVa., has posted his terrific chapter from Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne (Authors: David Ray Griffin – John B. Cobb Jr. -Marcus P. Ford – A. Y. Gunter – Peter Ochs – SUNY series in Constructive Postmodern Thought articles about American Philosophy,  1992)

Charles Peirce As Post-Modern Philosopher

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The Other English Revolution

History of English Language

“When a man hath eat, and drink, and clothes, he hath enough. And all shall cheerfully put to their hands to make these things that are needful, one helping another. There shall be none lords over others, but everyone shall be a lord of himself, subject to the law of righteousness, reason and equity, which shall dwell and rule in him, which is the Lord.” Gerrard Winstanley

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What, no there/their?

Ten Most looked-up words (Merriam-Webster for 2010)

1. Pretentious
2. Ubiquitous
3. Love
4. Cynical
5. Apathetic
6. Conundrum
7. Albeit
8. Ambiguous
9. Integrity
10. Affect / Effect

Flash poem:


cynical love
pretentious integrity
ambiguous affect
ubiquitous effect

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Speech Recognition

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A sign-system such as a natural language is not an input-output system of encodings and decodings for the transmission of contents from one mind to another. Instead, it is a normative and conventional resource consisting of semiotically salient differentiation-types for producing, acting on and transforming situation conventions and the cognitive representations that people have of the situations in which these conventions operate. Paul J. Thibault

Hat tip to eldon, my Netdynam colleague, for hipping me to the book Brain, Mind and the Signifying Body, by the semiotician Paul J. Thibault. It fits into a funny reflexive picture, because I’m reading my friend Heward Wilkinson’s The Muse As Therapist, and, trying to pare away time to keep two different music-making projects percolating. Then Thibault pops into the frame. Really, Heward and Paul should get to know each other someway other than in my tiny mind!

Which is to say, it’s probably been years since I set up two wondrously knotty books by my night stand. (I don’t recommend trading off between Heidegger and Husserl as I once tried to do.) Oh, and to make this picture complete, Bra Ken, generously sent me the back issues of his literary chap House Organ. This does make dr.p’s head spin when I can’t decide what looking glass I’m going to pick up.

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Filed under linguistics, social psychology, organizational development


It’s the political season and so I’m happy to indulge two obsessive interests, politics and the social psychology of the citizenry. Actually, I don’t need a political season to be gripped, it’s always the political season in my house.

Over at Colonel Pat Lang’s blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008, one of the handful of blogs I read as a matter of routine, a fascinating post, Kristol On Obama (2/25), and comments popped up over the question of who might be the most qualified nominee for the Democratic Party. I posted a comment that survived about six hours. I have nothing but respect for Colonel Lang’s moderating abilities, but don’t really know why my thought got kibboshed. In any case, my point was simple enough: if one really wants to drill down into voter preferences, you’re going to be soon framing the inquiry in terms of the constituent features of how it is people define and devise their preferences, and, eventually should this inquiry become detailed, you’re going to be speaking of social cognition and cognitive complexity.

An inquiry such as this stands in contrast to the much dimmer position of trying to understand why people opt for a preference (unlike one’s own) by using one’s own process of, as it were, preference-making as the means for analysis. Of course this happens all the time: ‘My decision is correct and all those who are incorrect don’t know how to correctly decide.’

Because Barack Obama’s popularity has evoked descriptive language ranging from his supporters being a movement to their being a cult, William Kristol decided to do some psychologizing. Colonel Lang picked up on this. My own sense is that Kristol is a terrible psychologizer and Colonel Lang, alas, latched onto a straw man. (As it might be said: Kristol didn’t go to primary sources materials.) Still, it is worthwhile to consider how this so-called movement is made up of various social psychological moving parts. But what are its parts?

Luckily, I’m unable to do this because I have neither the expertise or the data. However, I do know several things about how the movement could be broken down so it could be analyzed and better understood as social psychological phenomena.

You have to ask people why they support Obama. Do this first as a means of directing the inquiry toward the actual richness underneath the so-called summing movement. Assuming that the generalization is supported by the thick part of a Bell Curve is unreasonable if you can’t back up the offered generalization at its magnitude.

(Kristol’s psychologizing was risible and bogus even as an assertion about sub-group affectual motives.)

On a busy day at the grocery store, it looks like a movement to get through the check out line. At the same time, each shopper’s basket tells a different story. The admixture of different agendas, intents, preferences, taken as a single thing looks as a movement would look, and at the same time, is also a loose amalgam of many moving parts. It is varied and so earns being understood as a matter of these parts being differentiated.

It is unlikely that similar dynamics aren’t also in play in the campaign of Hillary Clinton. This hypothesis is researchable. Short of doing the research, my informed guess is based on how gigantic is the sample given by the magnitude of the group of each candidate’s supporters. Because the group-at-large is enormous in size, it could be expected that within each group there are sub-groups moved either by largely feeling-toned reasons or largely thinking-toned reasons.

This suggestion simply points in the direction of each group having as sub-groups groups which represent aspects of the spectrum of possible modes of attraction (to the candidate.) Hidden in this suggestion is a more concrete suggestion: it can also be expected that the disposition of an individual voter would promote their being attracted to the other candidate, were they to shift allegiance, via the dispositive modality they happen to favor.

I ‘m for Obama. I’m unmoved by affectual appeal. I’m for Obama because my paramount issue is protecting the Constitution (against its being sundered.) Obama, as a liberal Constitutional scholar and ex-law professor, seems to me to have the high level ability to protect the Constitution and fight its being sundered. Were my support to shift, it would shift along dispositive lines having to do with my understanding how Hillary Clinton represents–in an appealing way–my thinking-toned interests.

It is possible, even likely, that Barack Obama offers more grip to the sub-group(s) which tend to offer allegiance based more in their own affectual dispositions. Yet, it would be a mistake to over-generalize this mode of appeal based only in the ability to make up (literally,) a case for this based in Obama’s language and the self-reports of only affect-based supporters.

In fact, it would possibly be a mistake to lump Obama’s cognitively elite supporters into the feeling-toned camp without gathering data in support of this move.

The narrative about Obama’s idealistic campaign does refer to its transformative rhetoric. As Colonel Lang wrote in his blog’s comment section,

I think it is a great mistake to ignore politicians’ rhetoric

Yes. But how one chooses to contextualize the language, grant significance, and posit ramifications, does not lend itself to a tidy analysis. Ironically, informal analysis might be prone to having its significance elevated magically; this against doing the legwork of thinking through the concrete variations in actual psychological appeal and voter preference-making; especially to analyze these at the individual cum sub-group levels of analysis. (Hmmm, thinking of Saussure here…)

However, it is doubly ironic that this false generalizing nevertheless offers up a ripe target-worthy generalization. There’s a kind of scapegoat effect: heart-felt support needs to be punished a bit. Even if all one can say about the mistaken generalization used for this purpose is: ‘it’s heartfelt!’


Filed under linguistics, social psychology, organizational development