Tag Archives: John Dewey

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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Missing Contingency

Ouroboros (Stephen Calhoun - 2016)

Ouroboros (Stephen Calhoun – 2016)

This motivational tendency is a creative process through which the agent approaches new solutions, and enacts new meanings (Arnellos et al. 2007). As we have argued so far, aesthetic emotions provide the agent with the capacity to enact even before learning, by assigning values to current interactive conditions as pro- visions of the enacted meaning. Thus, aesthetic experience motivates the agent to avoid situations, for which the valuative signals are negative (or aversive), and to seek situations for which those signals are positive (or rewarding). This is what we call motivational tendency of aesthetic experience. Accordingly, we suggest that a minimal aesthetic experience should be considered as an aesthetic emotional eval- uation that forms an anticipation for a certain interaction, thereby reducing the interactive uncertainty. Aesthetics as an emotional activity that facilitates sense-making: Towards an enactive approach to aesthetic experience (Ioannis Xenakis and Argyris Arnellos)

Richard Shusterman – Somaesthetics Youtube

I believe that philosophical thinking is not confined to professional philosophers with Ph.D.’s in this subject. This brings me to a further point about the somaesthetics-philosophy relationship. If we conceive philosophy broadly as an ethical art of living that is guided by critical inquiry aimed to promote a more aesthetically satisfying form of life for both self and society, then the various disciplines and forms of knowledge that contribute to this art of living (even if they are not distinctively or professionally philosophical) can be related to the broad philosophical project of the quest for wisdom in how to live better lives. Somaesthetic research in forms outside the normal disciplinary bounds of philosophy surely can contribute to this overarching philosophical project. Interview: Richard Shusterman in Budapest

Somaesthetics at www.interaction-design.org, Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction

Richard Shusterman on Somaesthetics and the Middle Way

Cube-O-Probe: Point to clues about the circuit of, Body / Serendipity / Creative Process


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Feeling It With Integrity

Practically the theory of effort amounts to nothing. When a child feels that his work is a task, it is only under compulsion that he gives himself to it. At the least let-up of external pressure we find his attention at once directed to what interests him. The child brought up on the basis of the theory of effort simply acquires marvelous skill in appearing to be occupied with an uninteresting subject, while the real heart and core of his energies are otherwise engaged. Indeed, the theory contradicts itself, (it is psychologically impossible to call forth any activity without some interest. ) The theory of effort simply substitutes one interest for another. It substitutes the impure interest of fear of the teacher or hope of future reward for pure interest in the material presented. The type of character induced is that illustrated by Emerson at the beginning of his essay on Compensation, where he holds up the current doctrine of compensation as virtually implying that, if you only sacrifice yourself enough now, you will get to indulge yourself a great deal more in the future ; or, if you are only good now (goodness consisting in attention to what uninteresting,) you will have, at some future time, a great many more pleasing interests — that is, may then be bad. -John Dewey, Interest As Related to Will, 1895

Art and Aesthetics – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Art As Experience – Having An experience pdf (John Dewey)
Dewey and Everyday Aesthetics – A New Look (Kalle Puolakka)

Second hand observations suggest that some people do walk up to my art and try to figure out what it going on, (as I have described this,) in its folds.

This is by design. The design method is straight-forward. I cut into an original photograph or generative image that pictures a heap of small abstract, or mostly abstract, multivarious details, and, through the simple transformations provided by throwing half the cut out, doubling or quadrupling the remaining part, and then matching the identical edges together, I capture order and set this into the new picture.

What is produced is a vertical, or horizontal, or quadruple, mirror symmetry, and, order. My hope is there come to face a piece a viewer able to experience the piece in integrity.

. . .esthetic experience is experience in its integrity. Had not the term “pure” been so often abused in philosophic literature, had it not been so often employed to suggest that there is something alloyed, impure, in the very nature of experience and to denote something beyond experience, we might say that esthetic experience is pure experience. For it is experience freed from the forces that impede and confuse its development as experience; freed, that is, from factors that subordinate an experience as it is directly had to something beyond itself. -John Dewey, Art As Experience (hat tip to Daniel Green, The Reading Experience)

If I’m standing with you, facing a piece, the possibility of having a pure experience will be fouled up! For me, now by both design and artistic intention, the best outcome for my experiments is a viewer’s dosie-doe, first is the pure experience, then comes the unique capture, or grasp of order.

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Meta Plus Recursion (and a topos for truthiness)

This Is It

The idea of a universally shared source of truth called ‘reason’ or ‘human nature’ is, for us pragmatists, just the idea that such discussion ought to be capable of being made conclusive. We see this idea as a misleading way of expressing the hope, which we share, that the human race as a whole should gradually come together in a global community, a community which incorporates most of the thick moral- ity of the European industrialized democracies. It is misleading because it suggests that the aspiration to such a community is somehow built into every member of the biological species.This seems to us pragmatists like the suggestion that the aspiration to be an anaconda is somehow built into all reptiles, or that the aspiration to be an anthropoid is somehow built into all mammals. This is why we pragmatists see the charge of relativism as simply the charge that we see luck where our critics insist on seeing destiny. We think that the utopian world community envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Declaration of Human Rights is no more the destiny of humanity than is an atomic holocaust or the replacement of democratic governments by feuding warlords. If either of the latter is what the future holds, our species will have been unlucky, but it will not have been irrational. It will not have failed to live up to its moral obligations. It will simply have missed a chance to be happy. -Richard Rorty (Introduction, Philosophy and Social Hope)

Thank you Google for allowing me to search for the paragraph I need from A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson (Peter Harries-Jones.)


Richard Rorty’s argument for the boundless description and explanation that is pragmatically resolved as a matter of these being true enough as a matter of being useful enough, is related to commission–as long as commission is flexible enough to denote: useful. Even if this stretches the similarity too far, the Batesonian epistemology is partly concerned with the rightness in doing. Crucially: the abductive reason is adequate and commensurate for the purpose of supposing usefulness for Bateson, James, Dewey, and Rorty.

(Richard Rorty, in A World Without Substances and Essences  (1994) argues for a crisp eliminativist, anti-essentialist monism not contemplated by Bateson at all. The two monists had different senses of what is possibly ecological.)


Two Pragmatic Moral Universes: James vs. Dewey and Rorty by Scott Segrest (SSRN)
Dewey and Rorty On Truth by Alexander Kremer (pdf)
Foucault and Rorty on Truth and Ideology: A Pragmatist View from the Left by Chandra Kumar (pdf)

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Negative Omega

[Liberalism] knows that an individual is nothing fixed, given ready-made. [Individuality] is something achieved, and achieved not in isolation but with the aid and support of conditions, cultural and physical–including in “cultural,” economic, legal and political institutions as well as science and art. Liberalism knows that social conditions may restrict, distort and almost prevent the development of individuality. It therefore takes an active interest in the working of social institutions that have a bearing, positive or negative, upon the growth of individuals who shall be rugged in fact and not merely in abstract theory. It is as much interested in the positive construction of favorable institutions, legal, political and economic, as it is in removing abuses and overt oppressions. John Dewey – The Future of Liberalism (1934) *

Until now, capitalism has always seemed to be inextricably linked with democracy; it’s true there were, from time to time, episodes of direct dictatorship, but, after a decade or two, democracy again imposed itself (in South Korea, for example, or Chile). Now, however, the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken.

This doesn’t mean, needless to say, that we should renounce democracy in favour of capitalist progress, but that we should confront the limitations of parliamentary representative democracy. The American journalist Walter Lippmann coined the term ‘manufacturing consent’, later made famous by Chomsky, but Lippmann intended it in a positive way. Like Plato, he saw the public as a great beast or a bewildered herd, floundering in the ‘chaos of local opinions’. The herd, he wrote in Public Opinion (1922), must be governed by ‘a specialised class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality’: an elite class acting to circumvent the primary defect of democracy, which is its inability to bring about the ideal of the ‘omni-competent citizen’. There is no mystery in what Lippmann was saying, it is manifestly true; the mystery is that, knowing it, we continue to play the game. We act as though we were free, not only accepting but even demanding that an invisible injunction tell us what to do and think.

In this sense, in a democracy, the ordinary citizen is effectively a king, but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king whose decisions are merely formal, whose function is to sign measures proposed by the executive. The problem of democratic legitimacy is homologous to the problem of constitutional democracy: how to protect the dignity of the king? How to make it seem that the king effectively decides, when we all know this is not true? What we call the ‘crisis of democracy’ isn’t something that happens when people stop believing in their own power but, on the contrary, when they stop trusting the elites, when they perceive that the throne is empty, that the decision is now theirs. ‘Free elections’ involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them. Alain Badiou has proposed a distinction between two types (or rather levels) of corruption in democracy: the first, empirical corruption, is what we usually understand by the term, but the second pertains to the form of democracy per se, and the way it reduces politics to the negotiation of private interests. This distinction becomes visible in the (rare) case of an honest ‘democratic’ politician who, while fighting empirical corruption, nonetheless sustains the formal space of the other sort. (There is, of course, also the opposite case of the empirically corrupted politician who acts on behalf of the dictatorship of Virtue.)

‘If democracy means representation,’ Badiou writes in De quoi Sarkozy est-il le nom?, ‘it is first of all the representation of the general system that bears its forms. In other words: electoral democracy is only representative in so far as it is first of all the consensual representation of capitalism, or of what today has been renamed the “market economy”. This is its underlying corruption.'[*] At the empirical level multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ – mirrors, registers, measures – the quantitative dispersal of people’s opinions, what they think about the parties’ proposed programmes and about their candidates etc. However, in a more radical, ‘transcendental’ sense, multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ – instantiates – a certain vision of society, politics and the role of the individuals in it. Multi-party liberal democracy ‘represents’ a precise vision of social life in which politics is organised so that parties compete in elections to exert control over the state legislative and executive apparatus. This transcendental frame is never neutral – it privileges certain values and practices – and this becomes palpable in moments of crisis or indifference, when we experience the inability of the democratic system to register what people want or think.
Slavoj Žižek – Berlusconi in Tehran, London Review of Books,July 23, 2009

Žižek’s article bores deeply into the contradictions triangulated between democratic participation, the manipulations of ideology and the hegemonic turn of the profit motivation. It is a measure of social consequences of acting out and through those contradictions, that somebody such as Sarah Palin can be promoted to any consideration at all.

But, given the case that Palin actually presents, and too the instance of her celebration, it is enough to suggest that there exists a shared sense among some–if not many–of her celebrants that freedom might better be secured via a theocratic design rather than a democratic one. This isn’t to say Plain is a theocrat, its to say that she captures something of the theocratic projection, and of the countervailing current that poses idealized order against the sparking chaos of modernity and markets.

*hat tip to George Scialabba, who presented this excerpt in his article, Only Words, The Nation, May 11, 2009

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