On Human Nature: Talk on Meadian Pragmatism: Emergent Transformation
Announcing a Manifesto ��� a great “Inversion” of thought – is itself a strong statement. But to put some “flesh” on it…!
The “Emergent Transformation” offers a dozen arenas of study of the human which will move us toward clearer and deeper understandings of who and how we are.
It begins with the powerful observation/notion that we humans survive only through our attachment and involvement with our m/others. Deep and enduring and full-time, we have neglected these fundamental and profound experiences in assuring our continuing being.
It moves on, asking us to rethink language development: we are “students” of our m/others – thence the world. This recasts the questions of how we have language, and moves us toward different senses of knowledge, and how we are.
In the context of the emergence of our selves, we note that we are deeply involved with m/other’s faces: the literal space-size of our engagement with eyes and mouths is way beyond our usual notations; and time for the infant is a different – and extremely “long” experience.
And so we move into new ways of observing development, ourselves, the human condition – perhaps some/much of the world. I propose that it will lead to a clearer answer to how this finite body can possess infinite understandings. Dualisms…banished, at least gotten around as the Pragmatists hoped.
Evidence, Experience, Writings, Thinking, Antecedents
1. Survivability. The human physical organism is not survivable: even with feeding and maintenance. There must be a deep, meaningful relationship with a m/other, a relationship which is revolutionary and/or transformational. Some person (biological mother or other – occasionally a man?) has to see the infant as her child; see-into the child its character, a sense of being which is and will be continuous; some one, a person, a self who will become much as m/other; growing, developing. Being, becoming, doing; a presence, an I.
The child enters (as it were) into the m/other’s facial being, particularly through and with the eyes and face. The child is physically transformed via this process and/or experience, and emerges from this sociality as an individual self; in effect, a discontinuity.
The physical organism which is born and enters into this (bonding) relationship with m/other is not the same as it was when it entered: an emergent transformation, a revolution in its being; not merely larger or more developed along, say, earlier lines. If this process (these processes – a great deal happens in this transformation) do not occur within some fairly narrow limits, the infant dies; does not survive. If there is some survival instinct, it is emergent, and not any instinct in the usual senses.
It is the socially emergent self which is the seat of being; not the being which is (merely) continuous with the physical organism. The organism which survives is a social person whose individuality is emergent. Its m/other demands that is become-discover an I, its own, direct persona from which he or she directs self and interactions with others, thence the world.
Evidence from foundling homes of the 1930’s. When there was little direct bonding or TLC, some 37% of children died within 2 years. Data & discussion in Montagu (The Direction of Human Development 1955. Harper & Brothers: 207-210 of studies by Rene Spitz.) Foundlinghome in which overworked nurses each had 10-12 children under their care. Issues of autism and different children.
Stories of feral children, of those presumably raised by other animals are very likely myths; or children who were essentially abandoned to be raised by others, especially by older children.
Other children who may survive physically, do not survive well socially: autism and retardation. Their life chances are slim or markedly reduced. I wonder if they do not find their faces, do not find m/others, thence themselves. Discussions with John Rynders of Minnesota Ed. School concerning the need to keep looking and working with Down Syndrome faces early in life in order to find them.
Critique concerns the notion that the persona of the toddler looking out at the world is a suitable or correct metaphor for thinking about the human: how he comes to be, to know, to have language, to become social, etc. Instead, the toddler is already a social creature, an emergent individual. Questions of the impact of society, culture on child need to take into account the emergent characteristics of the child who is both social and individual: independent and susceptible to the impress of others. Need to examine oneself, one’s body in an Archeology of the Body, in order to begin to see one’s seeing of self and of others.
Supporting work includes Language and Human Nature (book of 14 essays concerning various aspects of these issues), The Body Journals, The Foundations Project, and recent writings in the area of Pragmatism. Genealogical lines include G.H. Mead, Trager (& Edward T. Hall on the Silent Language), Birdwhistell et al who come to the study of the body following the symbolic interactionism of the Chicago School promulgated by G.H. Mead (Dewey, Boas et al), including E. Goffman.
2. Humans are those Creature which Love Faces. Language follows and/or is secondary to the fact that we are lovers-of/in-love-with faces. Language and expression are social; the individual is emergent.
The face is our primary identifier: how we tell one person from another; gender, age, emotional state, race. We read and judge faces constantly, inferring much about others (some of which is less than accurate; projection, etc.).
Infant – infant’s face primarily – enters into emergent transformation with m/other�����s face, primarily. This is the primary study of the world for each infant: he, she sees (as it were) through its m/other’s face. Knowledge develops via this relationship, moves to the remainder of the body (hands, especially; later to legs, balance, orientation, navigation, etc.).
Language is derived from the interfacial emergent process, rather than being the primary definer of the human and being. Infants are students of their m/others’ faces, thence the world; i.e., we do not deal with the world, as it were, directly. Reciprocally, m/others are highly invested students/teachers of their infants. Three of my earlier essays – presage this notion in Language and Human Nature (or After Metaphysics): toward a human-social grammar. Much of the thought leading to this is worked out in The Foundations Project.
For most of (Western) intellectual history it has been thought that humans are unique because of language: in various senses. What is certainly or particularly unique is that we are creatures whose faces are central to our Being. (Other species may do and know much as we, via different routes or ways of being.)
Because we focused on notions of language which derived from certain ideas of uniqueness, our ideas of language and how we know the world, have also often been narrow or incorrect. We have been attempting to solve the apparent riddle of how a finite creature could be infinite in scope, and this continuing riddle has shaped much of how we think about the human.
Similarly, questions of evolution from simplicity to complexity have also obscured much as they may illuminate, for example, urging us to read purpose or intention into history, and often leading us away from observing and seeing what there is.
We are not minds or bodies, but some sort of bodymind creatures (Dewey’s late work). We think, and we do. Intelligence, knowledge, etc. always involve the body, even as we are very adept at effectively removing ourselves from some aspects of some situations: e.g., driving at high speeds in much traffic; performing; judging many things including science.
And we are creatures who are social – by our nature. Individuality is emergent.
Evolution of human would thus focus more on the evolution of the face (and its relation to upright posture, hands, etc.) more than to the brain as the defining moment of the human. Focus on face may have developed with clothing – early statuary seems to center on genitals and breasts as identifiers.
Heavy involvement with Sign Language promoters of the deaf: worked with Bill Stokoe of Gallaudet College on several occasions and essays. Convinced that vocal language is no mere aspect of our being. Our side has prevailed, so far at least. Popularized by Oliver Sacks, the neurologist.
Questions about the body in gravity: pushed by the awareness of the body traveling into space in the late 1950s, we discovered that our bodies look like they do and are as they are, because we are terrestrial animals. Would we be/look different in different gravities (and have different evolutionary-developmental histories): are we the porpoise who came on land; or the African parrot who couldn’t fly?
Experience with Enlow (The Human Face) and ideas which led to modern orthodontia, some to modern plastic surgery (that the face and skull are not terrribly difficult to alter surgically or with correct devices and pressures). Student Dean Oyen worked with Enlow. Changed medical practice to get new moms up as soon as possible, and a little bit so far, to get physicians to think about the moving body (Sports Medicine, from kinesiology).
Questions of development, including aging. See: Essay on the Body throughout Life. Experience with Body Discussion Group ongoing. Classes in Alexander technique, tai chi, and yoga ongoing.
3. Emergent Transformation. It is faces which make us unique: Language is an aspect of, or follows from the facial emergent transformation.
Emergence implies that the infant which enters into social bonding with his or her m/other, is somehow not continuous with the (born) physical organism. That is, if the physical organism was merely fed and nurtured, it would not be a self or person which could/would mature and become a socially competent adult; indeed, it would not survive. Watching infants nursing with eyes closed, then looking up to m/other’s face and stopping nursing; feeding them myself by bottle and watching them watch my eyes.
This should/will shift the so-called problem of other minds, because we are emergent from others, and thus have a great deal of experience, insight – more likely, share processes of being and understanding. See: Around the Cartesian Impasse.
“The problem is that this skeptical worry (about how we could certainly know the experience of other persons), once raised, seems impossible to settle because it seems entirely impossible that anyone shoud ever have direct experience of someone else’s mental states, and nothing less than such expeience would settle the issue.” Churchland Matter and Consciousness (p.3). The emergent transformation suggests, instead, either that we do share some of the same experience (or the ways in which we go about getting experience, or this question has been miscast).
Playing with toddlers by hiding face: a great game the world round. Noting pleasure of kids when they smile wondering if they aren’t gaining power by being able to manipulate others’ faces; similarly with first words: a mere opening and closing with vocalization creates a massive change in parental facies and energies.
Ideas deriving from the Pragmatism particularly of George Herbert Mead, a close friend and colleague of John Dewey. My training includes being a student for many years of Ray Birdwhistell who was trained in the Chicago School of Symbolic Interactionism, and invented the study of the body as gestures: kinesics. Emergence implies radically discontinuous. Infant which emerges is a social-self, an individual I which is socially determined/derived.
Study of self: particularly as a one-eyed person wearing a prosthesis. Study of languages and dialects: two years among the Mayan speakers of Tsotsil in Mexico. Why and how do they articulate: questions of accents in English and in other languages. Phonemics: how do other languages (speakers of those languages) arrange their significant sounds – how do we enter their thinking: cognitive linguistics and anthropology). How do we understand one another in real time?
Studies of Interaction: in Psychiatric setting for 4 years. Patient and therapist, extended to cross-disciplinary thinking, and comparative thought in general; issues across cultures, nations. Developed into a form of teaching dialogue, which I do and teach about. Discussed in my book: Teaching as Dialogue.
Ideas flow as well from human and animal ethology which demonstrate that we are social by-our-nature, rather than free or independent individuals (Hobbes, Rousseau, Freud) who then become social. We are individual selves, which emerge from the transformative experience/processes with m/others. The notion of Being, of Dasein (Heidegger), of the I (Mead, Peirce, Levinas) emerges from sociality. This idea alters or reshapes earlier notions of Being and helps to explain more clearly how we are.
Darwin’s last book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, is inspiring in setting out the expansive nature of the subject matter which needs to be included in this study (all humans, animals, the aged, infants, art, the insane). It also directs us to the fact that expression implies an interactant reader and interpreter of expression: that we are social in our entire Being (as well as being emergent individuals).
meditations on…Next Places deals with some of the existential questions of being and becoming. Issues of how we know who we were and are, who determined us, problem of updating, and meditating on where to go next…well, thoughtfully, better than drift.
4. M/other’s Face is Exciting and Brobdinagian. Her face looms greater than 15 feet high, huge (Swift: Gulliver’s Travels). It fills the visual-sensory screen much as fireworks close-up do for us adults. From observing new-borns (particularly children and grandchildren). Watching how children’s faces snap-up to m/others, whenever…and she confirms, affirms, and movement proceeds.
Observing how involved we are with faces: beauty/ugliness/scars; Chuck Close pictures of the Face; the fact that we identify persons primarily as faces; e.g., Baseball Hall of Fame is facial photos. Lots of observation of retarded, autistic, special children with J. Timian. Talks with John Rynders about how to engage Down Syndrome infant faces – grew up next to Down Syndrome adult; close friend growing up with identical twins. Loss of my left eye at age five; subsequent removal and prosthesis and noting of how I see others seeing me as if I were normal (more-or-less). Earlier essay: Around the Cartesian Impasse takes up these issues in various aphoristic forays.
Questions of how we operate in the world of faces: how do we know the difference between male and female faces: why does gender show up on faces; what is aging in the face; what do we actually see when we see a face; what do we see in mirrors and why is that interesting; what judgments do we make (culturally, socially) about particular faces or types of faces. Boas’ work on the face at the turn of the century, showing that immigrant faces change over three generations in America. Noting the shift from Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s notion of beauty to that of Barbara Streisand by the mid 1960’s, questions of face and race and what images, metaphors, judgments do we take to see and judging others’ faces? Much in The Body Journals.
Eyes are very powerful in the emergent transformation. Movements of light and dark: many different foci which m/other uses to read character-into her infant. More to this, because blind infants also come to know the mother: likely via vocality. Questions of ectopic face and deeper face. Blinking, looking at infant’s eyes, and at the rest of the world directing the child’s lookings. Watching parents look at their newborns in an Ob ward where J. was a manager.
Questions of the reduction of the face as children grow beyond infancy: still the face is always present in the large – if we have a sore or a tooth chip or a sesame seed, mouth and face take front and center. Questions of the unconscious or (as linguists consider our knowledge about our speaking) out-of-awareness. Training as a field linguist and a teacher of field linguistics and phonology of how to make the implicit rules of our behavior, explicit. Other earlier essays on linguistics and phonetics (Ms’s).
Reasons for this notation of immensity of m/other’s facial screen include the idea of how important is the face for the infant (and the m/other), but to help get us to begin to rethink how we are, and to stop the easy idea that the toddler is a smaller version of the present adult who we are. We tend to not note, very little study that most central of human involvements and interests: the human face.
How are other species? Much more concern with rear ends than faces, apparently? Need of mother to lick the genito-anal area for infant to survive, in many (also) social species. What does it mean to be a four-footed creature – questions of what balance does to/for us? Always questions of language and knowledge, but these get somewhat different spin and meaning when we begin to think of the human infant as a lover of faces, rather than a creature which will become languaging, rational, and all that.
Need to read back in Western (but also in other traditions) to begin to understand critically how we think of human as being set by Plato and Aristotle and various Presocratics: all the body-mind issues set in the Phaedo, particularly; but also the Aristotelian placement of these issues into the political arena where they continue to resonate. Issues of symbolic nature of human set by Aristotle and repeated ever since – leads us away from what is.
Questions of what is so deeply part of our being, that it remains always as background and the obvious. Or we understand the world through the screens of the obvious, yet never seem to want or need to examine that obvious. (Dewey on Alexander on the body – and curing it). Study of the recent body workers: Feldenkrais, Keleman (perhaps especially) et al.
Question of masks: they have great power in our being. Questions of reflectivity of faces in different lighting situations: darker faces reflect low light in dim situations, while light faces fade. Darker faces often appear to have a facial mask (or a second face) in low light. Questions of how children see/interpret faces as they mature.
Suggestion of therapeutics for those who have lost faces through strokes or cranial lesions: work with very large facial
Also see Context (Web site). Knowledge of the implicit as well as of the obvious: knowing via the body and experience of m/other.
5. Time and Eventness (History, Process) are Extremely Long. What we think of as a brief period of a couple of years is likely as long to the experiencing child as the next couple of decades or so.
Inferring back from the experiencing of time speeding up increasingly with aging, I think that early childhood is without much sense of eventness or time passage. A day to an infant is extremely long; just about an eternity, I suppose.
The idea of experiential time: time to be, to learn, to think, to memorize…is very great early in life. Everything is and is possible. Life without boundaries, spread out in all directions and dimensions. Concentration is immense. I don’t think the infant is a helpless and sleepy creature, but one which is quite fully engaged in being.
There is plenty of (experiential) time to learn language, context, all the stuff that many thinkers is too short to learn so much that they need to posit a lot of inbuilt brainy predetermined knowledge. Think (!) again. I think we need to engage in an Archeology of the Body (See essay by this name in Pragmatics collection.)
Questions of how infant comes to experience eventness, history, and notions of futurity. M/other sees-into and interprets the moment of interaction with the past and future in her mind, and no doubt reads futurity into her infant. How does that become the thinking or judgment of the child; what is process, change? Does this involve the rest of the body, growth, strength, movement of the hands to touch the world, including the m/other?
We have gotten too used to clocks as specifying the nature of time, and don’t place ourselves into the elaborate senses of being the infant we once were. Instead, in thinking about the human and how it develops and gains language/knowledge, we seem to create a smaller and earlier version of our adulthoid selves and infer that to infancy; but at a somehow simpler or prerational level.
I think we play too much within a uniqueness model of humans which posits our differences from other species as about language (brain), and forget that our bodies (faces, especially, I think) are extremely interesting. We leave and lose experience and the processes of being and becoming: emergent transformation is thus universal, and why language variables seem to be. See: Q-R System, and why a finite creature can be infinite (symbolic) in awareness and understanding.
Review the arguments of Hobbes (especially) and the idea of Man in Nature, where it is assumed that we were wandering the forest primeval in the solitude of singular males, and got to symbolize, get language, then past & future, and then emerge into society. None of this is true, but extend from Aristotelian arguments (principally) about our nature, and about nature. Re-read Aristotle, especially his Politics and Metaphysics, but also the Organum. Read Lovejoy (and Foucault) about the power of history of ideas to set the screens through which we see the present. Consider the politics of ideas, comparative thought, and the market or sociology of knowledge to attempt to see through our seeing.
6. M/others Read Character and Being Into their Infants. M/other sees-reads a person, a character in/into the eyes of her child.
Seeing-into is a very involved process. M/other sees the immediate and moves to change or solve problems. But she sees as well varieties of the future: a potential adult, the next waking moments, two days, months, years, a girl/boy, a continuing aspect of her being. Seeing is thus highly interpretive as well as factual and immediate. It is contextual and multiply paradoxical, presumptuous of many futurities and tied to the present: and it always involves many forms of doing – feeding, consoling, cleaning, looking on the child’s face with a sense of depth and loving, talk and cooing, engagement and involvement, and the continuous suggestion that the relationship will be…continuous.
She interprets what she sees as aspects of her child: including existence, futurity, reality, all those issues which philosophers have raised concerning the nature of the human condition. M/others are our truest philosophers. If we would understand the human condition, we need to study and to be m/others; some aspects of the Archeology of the Body.
Issues of what is immediate and what is not: involvement and remove.
The individual I which emerges is thus a being which lives in the present, but also with senses for futurity and a much broader sense of being than if it persisted (as it were) on its own. All these questions about knowing and awareness which are covered by the variety of concepts of consciousness which are floating about these days.
The m/other demands (need to, as it were) that her child develop or discover its I. The term I is not reciprocal (there is no way of teaching anyone to call herself an I), so the child is urged or led to discover/uncover it. The necessity for the emergent I by the m/other is that the child as it comes to walk/run must learn to take care of itself as the m/other would: consciousness – or the child is at real risk. The I is thus (paradoxically, perhaps) social and individual; bounded in some ways but always susceptible to social redefinings since its I is very involved in sociality.
The question of consciousness enters now. In reading character into the child, m/other presumes that the child is/will be a creature which is conscious, sensible of itself being sensible, aware, thoughtful and willful. M/other has a sense of calendar, of the time when the child will move and be some one.
In some traditions in Africa, for example, m/other already sees in her infant some other person – a person, usually, recently deceased, some one who is related to the infant, a directive and direction for the child’s becoming. In other places and cultures, the child is understood multiply as becoming like, or becoming her or himself: an individual, but within familial or other group contexts. The developing child is a person who is locatable in various settings.
The individual I can find itself – it is/has processes by which it knows itself. Rather than being inbuilt to the child, it is emergent and blends both the individual-independent and the social-cultural. Rather than the individual being directly or boundedly itself, it has ways of finding itself, but is also
Based on observations over the years, particularly with children and grandchildren, but also with looking at new parents looking at their children in an obstretrics ward (where J worked for several years), and continually watching m/others interact with their children. Working with autistic and retarded children at U. of M. and with Timian’s group home experiences. Discussions with John Rynders of Ed. School and Burt Shapiro of Dentistry about Down Syndrome children.
Much of this devolves with my disagreements over many years about how philosophers, social scientists (and many so-called scientists) seem to make-up the human based on how they consider H to be different from and unique: and they don’t observe themselves, infants, etc. Read late Darwin and take his outling of the effort seriously.
Re-read Plato et al to see why they took the positions they did – and refute them: e.g., language emerges from sociality through the Q-R system, not from any direct reading or confrontation of and with the world. (See: Below). Read my essay on the Origin of Language and other essays in Language and Human Nature.
Read Zebrowitz’ Reading Faces to see why we miss much of how we see our seeing. A review of our esthetics, what is attractive, without much study of the nature of our esthetics.
7. We See the World Through M/others’ Faces. Effectively, we see the world (as it were) through m/others’ faces. This sense of face is as a kind of grid which relates directly to the world.
The infant yields (as it were) its external or ectopic facies and effectively joins with m/other’s. The external/ectopic facies yields or attaches itself to the m/other’s face.
Our seeing is then a second-order reading of the external facies: consider it as a nX1000X1000 pixels; i.e., very large with great interest in detail. The (external) face, that is, alters itself with respect to what/who it sees. We then (as it were) respond to these changes; a second-order reading of what our faces do as they observe others, and perhaps the world. Whether a grid shaped like a face, or…?
While this may seem a bit far out as a proposal for how we see the world, it derives from a great deal of observation and thought about how we are often powerfully affected by what we see: especially faces.
In the realms of esthetics/beauty, we often can’t take our eyes off those who attract us. We are drawn – as it were – into the face of the attractive person, take that face into our being in deep ways. I infer that beauty causes our faces to change in ways we love. This is why I infer that some aspects of our faces are not in our control; are let loose. Likely this occurs during the emergent transformation process(es).
This also arose in my thinking and observation about those who have different faces, of at least some sorts. It is difficult not to stare at those with certain facial anamolies – scars or blemishes or repairs or…Again, I infer that we (our facial screens) are acting beyond any sense of conscious control: our faces have a life of their own – some metaphor for how we see; and see our seeing.
More widely, this occurs also in issues of authority and power in a general sense: we are taken into the sphere of someone who has presence. Politicians, people with power, actors seem to grab us. A lot of this in conjunction with Lillian Glass (a former PhD advisee) who worked with facial anamolies and how we see their faces, became a coach of actors and politicians whom she trained to look and speak well.
The questions of how and why power and beauty work on us. We do not fully own our observational faces: thus, a facial screen through which we see and read the world – at least the world of other persons.
More broadly it is very important to remind ourselves of the obviousness of how we see persons: namely, we identify others principally as their faces (and are identified by them by our faces). Questions of seeing gender into faces, race, age, etc. We read all of this continuously in our ordinary being in the world: we read/interpret gender, age, pay attention or read out of our lives, various kinds of faces: aged, racial differences; scary persons, etc.
Aspects of our involvement in faces: fear of snakes, rats, etc. Don’t like the feeling of these changes/distortions of the face. Some of the basis of the emotions: rather than some simpler dualism of pleasure-pain? Contrastively, what views please us/our faces: lakes, forests, calm: what don’t affect us?
And we are affected – sometimes deeply – by the experiencing of particular others looking (or not-looking) at us in certain contexts or in particular ways: anger, love, removal, respect or lack thereof…all these and more affect our days. When one becomes a stereotype, or is effectively anonymous, or is always recognized (say, in a small town), or one is famous, or appears threatening, or…engaging in dialogue with my students is an ongoing study in appearance: they tend to remain in calculated neutral and I have to figure out what they see in me; as me.
For all these reasons, I suggest that our seeing is a second-order reading of the changes our facial screens undergo in looking at the world (at least of other persons – question about objects remains). I have spent the last 12 years in particular being very aware of the built world and its affects on our being and thinking: looking out at Mpls. downtown from our airie on the 20th floor.
This idea was much confirmed by thinking about Phineas Gage, a case reported by Demasio in Descartes’ Error about a patient who had been sustained parietal brain lesions: effectively he had a loss of sociability. I infer that he had effectively lost his facial screen-grid. Similarly with certain of Oliver Sack’s patients who had had strokes: no longer able to identify others – a loss of the ability to see/read their faces (Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat). No report of changes in patients’ own faces, but I think they have changed a lot.
I had observed a number (15-20) just post-stroke patients at the U. of M. some years ago, thinking about aphasia (With a student of N. Geschwind). Loss of blinking, inability to focus or retain a focus more than any direct aphasia: couldn’t hold the world steady, I thought. During these observations, I also observed neurologists observing patients: they could learn to see a great deal more.
Suggests developing therapeutic of watching vastly enlarged portions of faces and copying/reacting to: retraining of patients to see faces by presenting, manipulating facial aspects (like Chuck Close faces).
Questions also of how we hear, judge, etc. Music, rhythms. What we foreground, background: we don�����t merely hear, but hear within contexts, hearing our own speech, etc.
Questions of how (congenitally) blind construct the world. While the deeper face connects the surficial/ectopic face, the voice and hands also may operate to do the connecting. Many researchable questions here.
8. Within the Emergent Transformation are formed various Relationships between the Ectopic and Other/Deeper Aspects of the Face/Body. The eyes and vocal apparatus are the most likely enablers and paths of this transformation.
Concerned that this is simply a newer form of ancient dualisms, I nonetheless think that the ectopic or surface face which is yielded to m/others in the initial stages of bonding, then connects with deeper structures (literally!?) via the eyes and vocalic structures (eyelids, tongue, vocalizing muscles, sucking, breathing…body rhythms: breathing, vocalizing, blinking, heart-beat. Questions of rhythms of the eyes: derived from the speed – about 24 frames/second – of movie frames, or they look hurried or in slow motion).
This is read-into, interpreted, directed by the m/other. Much of the work of the relationship occurs through the deeply contrastive faces, especially the eyes which are so large and mobile and present to both m/other and infant. It is within the close viewing of the m/other’s eyes that the infant first views him/herself reflecting in m/other’s eyes.
Much occurs as well through the voice and mouth-related movements. The voice is – as the face – huge in its resonances. Located, interestingly (to me, at any rate) behind the lips actually and in a realizably delayed time, the voice rolls and roils. Plays occurs with lips and mouth openings: kiss-kiss and cooings, as contrastive with whites of teeth as the eyes.
The touch and holding and sucking: the infant feeling itself in such complex ways, finally in the gravity of gravity and of being held in so many contexts: touched and washed and cleaned. Holding up, the child comes to explore its bodies, but always and also the body aspects of the m/other which holds it, turns, coming back to the face through the most elaborate games of hide and seek which engage children much as the joys of touch. Questions of knowing one’s balance: orientation and navigation continually get displaced in importance to our being.
All of this gets infants into their hands and associated parts/joints though I don’t think of these as very separable aspects of our being. I think face/head/voice do the major connectings, but…See Wilson’s The Hand. This is to say that the yieldings of the face require connectings with the (deeper?) body, to develop integrity and the sense of the I, which is emergent.
I suggest that much of the brain is formed and/or developed here, or via these connecting constructions. While the brain is designed(!?) to get the infant appropriately or sufficiently into the transformation situation, what then happens (I suggest) is that the brain then develops from the face/eyes and hands as they interact with m/other, and is in turn shaped by the m/other reading, shaping, and interpreting the infant…to her or himself.
Later, control is yielded or given over to the brain-surface areas in the contexts of what linguists call out-or-awareness or my notion of reduction or Leder’s absent-ing. Similarly with voice and hands. But the question of the function(s) of the brain: to direct, to coordinate, to sustain…remains interestingly problematic.
This is to raise into question the adage that it was the brain which made us human. I think the focus on the face as the humanly directing attribute of our being, should cause us to spend more time on thought and study of the human in terms of our experience – which we tend to underrate and background, especially during periods when the tendency to look for the essential human in some easy-mechanical modes seems so attractive.
Evidences and observations, include: playing sound games with many toddlers. Almost all kids like the games: lip suction, whistling, clicks of tongue in variously shaped mouths, kissing noises, tongue trills, velar clicks, and spirantal noisings, finger popped in the inner cheek (the best!).
Noting that Down Syndrome children only use their velar-gutteral noises to respond to me (but they seem to love to play, like other kids do), I infer that they don’t have a good sense for their ectopic faces: typical Down Syndrome child with tongue sort of hanging out. So-called autistic kids don’t meet our eyes. Also note that we (normals?) don’t/won’t interact with eyes of those we regard as retarded. Just about all kids love to play sound game with me: high point is finger popped from cheek noise.
Puzzle over the relation between different appearances and our ease of labeling children as odd, retarded, or otherwise deficient: a form of racism? (Tendency to read ectopic face as identifier and then jump to inference of group character. Precisely what facial characteristics are useable as group identifiers: when does a face become female is not clear – note androgenous faces, or Asian or black or white.)
Similar questions arose when working in Pittsburgh U’s Dept of Psychiatry: all those on the locked-psychotic ward looked different from normal: mostly with respect to their use of eyes. I wonder if we don’t read abnormal behavior into persons. Questions of the social emergence-derivation of at least some psychiatric disorders. (Bateson et al on Social Psychiatry – friend of Birdwhistell’s). Four years of close analysis of the Natural History of the Interview.
Ashley Montagu’s works on Direction of Human Development and Touching are useful to re-read. Diary of Nigel Hunt: a Down Syndrome person: J.’s work with ARC. Notion of ectopic body and a very provocative read is Leder’s The Absent Body – I am very critical of it, but its ideas are important. How is our face (experientially) reduced?
Much of this is involved with my thinking about studying and playing the violin. How do I (my hands et al) do what I do, know what I know. Levels of out of awareness knowledge. Much of this also comes from my linguistic training in various cognitive/phonemic realms: how do people speak (generate their sounds, etc.) without knowing their knowing of the rules of speech in any language? Experience in teaching field linguistics, and in getting students to become aware of the rules by which they articulate their own language: not very difficult. Similarly with work on Proxemics: how we use and share space. See: The Body Journals.
Differences between what we know that we don’t know, and what is more deeply unconscious: I can teach (interested) people how to infer their own languaging rules quite easily; similarly with some of violin practice, especially with good pedagogy (e.g., Hoare’s Art of Bowing)- there’s an immense violin pedagogy, and its study is revealing of how we gain knowledge and technique…and put it away (absenting) so it doesn’t overtake performance. Need to bring it up to awareness if there is a problem. What does this all mean in terms of brain development and functioning?
Similarly with face: enlarged infant view of face gradually reduces in ordinary life – though its effective size in our being is quickly recalled whenever there is a problem, and we cannot get beyond our involvement in getting rid of a sesame seed, or touching a sore, or examining a chipped tooth.
Again, the question of what happens in at least certain forms of stroke: Phineas Gage (Demasio) loss of sociality; Sack’s Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. They have sustained some sort of losses-changes, but are not directly incapable of thinking, moving, etc. A systematic study of these losses would be most interesting: work with therapeutic large faces which could be experimented with, to retrain; and other therapeutic devices (say, in the large), or with heightened/altered noise, rhythms, changes of gravity; play with balance.
Reread the Pragmatists from Peirce to Mead, and recall particularly Dewey’s insistence that the bodymind is who and how we are, but that we have so backgrounded the obvious of our being, that we forget how to see our seeing and our being. Much developing in my study of the aging body: leads to questions of balance, and what happens to our body in gravity and over time. (See: Bodily Experience through Life)
9. Emergence Directs the Development of the Brain. The physical organism and its brain, get the infant to engage with m/other; but during the emergent transformation the face and facial engagement processes directs the development of the brain, toward the emergence of the self (G.H. Mead).
An inference using Mead’s ideas and reacting to questions from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Husserl, and Derrida, especially about the locus of the I: Dasein; the individual self. The idea is that the child (each of us, I say, emerges and develops, discovers, becomes an I: because I think it is important that we each re-study our own development, say, via an Archeology of the Body.
The I is necessary (see Levinas especially), for us to be able to ground ourselves, to locate a sense of self which has the (possibility of), location processes of a consistent (mostly! – another talk) self. If there is no I, then this question which has puzzled philosophers et al about the nature of our knowing, seems rather empty. The I is not merely located in the physical organism, but is emergent and transformational.
The I is a bounded notion, a set of ways and processes to say that I am and that I am who I am: a consistency within limits, a propositional self, an individual – one which is still social in many ways (and changeable in longer runs). The I is conscious, self-aware, knowing where is the I, where are others, where is the world, and what is within it.
I think that the I emerges from the m/other-child transformation as the child becomes big, strong, and quick. M/other demands (as it were) that child think about itself essentially as she would in taking care of him: conscience, a moral self-judgment within the contexts of her ideas of being. Requires a discovery of the term, I, as it is non-reciprocal: i.e., can’t teach anyone to call themselves I.
M/other demands that the child have conscience; that he or she take care itself essentially as m/other would, but cannot any longer because the child moves too quickly, is too large, on its own beyond her ability to control every danger. Stay away from the stove, don’t go into the street! – way beyond any fears which the child might have merely by being. The child becomes as the m/other would have it become, merely to survive its being now capable of self-destruction in a world fraught with dangers for a rapidly moving curious person.
This seems, to me, to require that the route to becoming a brain-directed or coordinated individual is from m/other to infant’s face to infant’s (emergent) brain. The emergent situation – and all that it entails (see: Essays on Emergent Situation; Emergent Transformation, Emergent Self et al.)
The yielding or sharing of the ectopic face grants the m/other the possibility of definition of the infant’s brain in such ways that the child will be and do as she needs it to be and to do. The child has to be competent, to be a propositional creature (as it were in philosophical jargon), to be a self, an I.
This seems also to mean that the emergent self/child is (already) moral by virtue of being an emergent self; is an individual I, a findable locus which one names by the peculiarly non-reciprocal term of I. (One cannot tell anyone else to call her/himself an I: I first noted this among some Mayan Indians in Southern Mexico who had not developed this concept of I in their not-very-fluent Spanish – our conversation was an interesting go-around.)
From observations of infants becoming toddlers who are remarkably strong (can lift their entire bodies up a stair the same height as they are), and quick: from a child which cannot turn over, to one which can and then can sit, then stand, then walk, then run, then run really so fast that a mopmentary glance away, and the child is off and running, and cannot always be contained. Studies of balance of kids learning to walk and run, I now compare with older persons whose balance becomes at some risk as their pelvic joints tighten and gravity overtakes their musculature; trying to stay out of this situation with exercise and yoga and much stretching. (See: Bodily Experience through Life)
From Oliver Sacks, The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. What a stroke does (some strokes do) is to end the ability to know others’ faces. Notions for some possible therapeutics: working with Brobingnagian facial projections: i.e., retraining the face of stroke victims. From watching a number of new stroke victims with a Minnesota neurologist-student of Norman Geschwind some years ago.
My observations at that time of new stroke patients is not that they were necessarily aphasic (most of them spoke a little, but that they couldn’t hold the world still: getting me to wonder what the functions of blinking are. The Body Journals. Do the inner eyelids – which press down upon the surfaces of the eyes in interesting ways – contribute to our knowing and being in the world importantly?) If the relationships inside our mouths are changed – in some few moments, radically – then can we discover where we are, or locate ourselves in a wider sense?
10. Child comes to the World/Language as its M/other Directs via the Q-R System. The child comes to language and the world through a study of its m/others’ depictions of the world, not as an independent organism.
(This is the area of inquiry in which this quest began many years ago. I was doing linguistic (and anthropological) fieldwork in Southern Mexico among Mayan speakers of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal languages. Among my companions were Metzger and Williams who were endeavoring to do what is now thought of as cognitive anthropology-linguistics, based primarily on ideas which flowed from phonemic theory: the idea that speakers of (other) languages formulate their sounds (and ideas) in ways that we can get into if we do some careful suspensions of judgment (about our own languages/cultures) and formulate questions which allow speakers of another language to think in their own terms: not merely or only respond to ours. They gathered a great deal of wood, in one study, and asked Tzeltzel respondents to organize and name the variety of woods and uses, that made sense in Tzeltal and in their cultures.
I found this work very interesting as it provoked me to ask how children in other languages come to know their worlds of sounds and objects. After a couple years of thought, observation, and engaging in dialogue with speakers of Tzotzil mainly, I came to the formulation of the Question-Response System: as I called it. Watching children with their m/others in the town of Venustiano Carranza in Chiapas State with the aid of Bal Sawanilla – at the same time both my daughter Amy and Metzger’s daughter were becoming speakers of both English and Spanish – I noted that they principally learned what their m/others were speaking. Who? What? Why? When? – elicited words which named not just what they saw or did, but what their m/others said they were. This led to my vast generalization that toddlers do not see the world so directly, but principally through the viewings of the world of their m/others: what they said, saw, thought, and led their children to see and say. The present work is the working-out of those ideas about language, based on the earlier descriptions of language and grammar. See: The Question-Response System in Language. Chapter 9-11 in Language and Human Nature.)
M/other presumes that the world is as s/he knows it. She directs questions to her child, to which the child comes to understand that there are responses. As there are several question domains or arenas which the m/other holds to be closed from one another, but sets open in content, the child comes to see and know the world.
There is nothing(?) arbitary about the meaning of a word in the context of child and m/other. Although thinkers such as Saussure are surely correct in thinking that words for objects have no necessary phonetic shape in the larger scheme of things, the word for any object in the transformative relationship and continuing, is anything but arbitrary.
“Give me the ball” has very direct existential meaning in the immediacy of the child’s life. “This is a…Not now…Come here…Why? Because (I say so).” While there is some conceptual space in the child’s perceptions and cognitions of any object or situation (as long as he/she agrees with m/other) any arbitrariness is far and long in the distance as the child becomes much older – around the time the child understands full well that life is finite (around age 6+).
Question words (thus the domains of knowing and understanding) include: Who? Where? When? What? Why? – each of which is potentially/essentially infinite in composition. Each set is independent from the others. The response set to Who? is potentially all persons or relationships, to When? all times, to Where? all places in the universe.
The grammar of ideas/sentences is made up of a (usually) linear collation of members of response sets in what we see as grammatical order. Each sentence or idea is composed of a selection from each set in order. Sometimes they are fully expressed, sometimes not – dependent on the context, interaction, discourse. (See: Context).
Language is what is it because the authority of the m/other is the base on which the child sees, says, and understands the world: i.e., a triangulation. The child sees or observes the world as the m/other says it is, and must(!) learn to see and say it correctly within fairly narrow limits. The child is not an independent observer, facing the world (as it were) alone, but is an emergent social self which sees and tells the world that makes sense to m/others.
The Question-Response system accounts for how a finite creature (infant) comes to be able to know the universe as if it were infinite, symbolic. As this has been one of the driving issues surrounding human nature arguments, one supposes that this description of how we learn and know might raise many critiques and new directions for the questions of knowledge, language, and all that follows from our suppositions or puzzles about our being. There is less need to postulate some predetermined basis for our knowledge and being such as vague processes which we attribute variously to biology and/or evolution.
It also suggests that the Q-R processes by which language is learned are the basis for universalism in language. We speakers of all the languages can understand one another fairly well because the processes by which we come to know and understand the world are quite similar. Thus I propose that an approach deriving from or located in Q-R will lead us much closer to a universal translator than has any so far, based on various structural or semantic approaches to language.
Much of this work was done during the time when I was observing children developing from birth and infancy to become fluent speakers, thinkers, movers, persons. I noted, for example, that the paradox of the one and the many is apparent, and is well understood by all children before the age of 1 and 1/2. I noted, as well, that the abilities of children seem much grander than most of our descriptions want to account for. Like the great violin teacher, Suzuki, I am astounded by the abilities required to speak (any) language which makes violin playing pale by comparison.
Notions from cognitive linguistics and cognitive anthropology: Hall & Trager, Silent Language. Work with Tzotzil Mayan under McQuown, coached by Birdwhistell, Scheflen et al on studying the body in interaction. Study of my own speaking/articulation and others in describing the Mayan mouth. Work on Mayan paralinguistics: remarkably I knew, usually, who was talking with whom even in Mayan (friends, spouses, parents and children) without seeing them, before I had any knowledge of the language. A lot of my life was spent studying the speech, paralanguage (tone of voice) and gestures in the patient-therapist interaction at Pittsburgh. This study has continued throughout the years in many different contexts, including my experience in teaching as a dialogue. (See: Teaching as Dialogue. 1993)
When the Cartesian/Chomskyan revolution in linguistics occurred early in my career, I found it necessary to read in the history of ideas from Descartes backward to Plato-Aristotle, then forward to the present; including a fair amount of time and thought reading and studying outside the Western tradition: among Indigenous peoples of the Americas, with Buddhistic thinkers, and a fair amount of energy dedicated to the Confucian tradition. Much of my recent work is probably heavily affected by my engagements with Nietzsche and with Kierkegaard, which were extensive. I have studied all of these thinkers within the context of being fairly certain that the Q-R system was a much more accurate representation of language than other ideas.
Three earlier essays in Language and Human Nature describe some of these processes. Much more is elaborated in The Foundations Project.
11. The Basis for the Expression of Language is the Question-Response Grammar. Each sentence/idea is a linear concatenation of members of various response sets usually in particular orders.
This needs more elaboration than I have done. Basically the observation is that sentences are composed of (members of) response sets in linear (logical?) order. Not all sets are articulated, even though understood: depending on context. See: Context (Web Site).
Part of what this all means is that ideas and expressions are to be seen and understood within the notion that the grammar is a (linear) selection of responses from the various Q-R sets. Sometimes they are stated in full – something like:
(Doing/Being? : am)
(What? : write essay)
(When? : now, then)
(Where? : here/there)
((to) Who? : addressee
And there is more. More sets of qualifiers: How many? How big? ordered. Not all of these are stated or articulated at any instant, but they all seem to be implicit in any sentence/idea. What is actually spoken depends on context, on habits (in many languages the addressee is always stated, but not in English).
I propose that logic is derived from the ordered grammar of members of response sets, rather than language and knowing deriving from logic. The child comes to make sense and be logical within the context of the emergent transformation with m/others, and this begins the next lecture, on what happens after the emergence of the self and the discovery of the I.
Wittgenstein’s PI. Malinowski’s work on Meaning in Cultural Context (in Ogden & Richards, Meaning of Meaning).
12. Being – the I – is Emergent. The self or I which the child emerges into from the transformative period of m/other bonding, must be discovered by each child. There is nothing obvious or intuitive, no way of telling a child that he or she is an I.
The notion that the infant is a totally subjective self, or directly capable of becoming one, then becoming rational, objective – or that the child has various inbuilts such as Kant outlines in the Critique of Pure Reason (space, time…morality) – seem, to me, derived from the notion of human already decided upon. Usually these ideas derive from some idea of human uniqueness focussing on brain or mind and try to account for how a finite creature of flesh could become the conscious, symbolic human whom we all praise.
Similarly, the idea that some biological or transcendent determination of the infant sets her or him on a path of becoming seems to me to inject notions more properly belonging to or deriving from politics or from ethics than from the human experience. We tend to underrate the experience of the infant in the emergent transformation, and seem to want to read into that infant ideas which satisfy the (apparent) requirements of intention and teleology more than actuality. While they are difficult to deny very directly, they take away from the human (and life) experience.
In the context of Meadian emergence, all of these theories of the human are seen to be incorrect. They do not take into account, in the first instance, that we are social creatures: sociality is usually an afterthought or after-occurrence, much to be lamented as in Rousseau and Freud. And they seem, in my experience, to have little to do with what is actually happening with infants and their m/others.
Actual life seems much more interesting, full, and considerably different from the ideas which have dominated out thinking about the human. As we move into this moment of globalization and the intermeshing of various powerful ideational traditions concerning life and the human, it is especially important to be rethinking and reexamining the human.
What is particularly given, prepared for at the birth of (her!) infant, is its interest in and willingness to enter into the emergent transformation with m/other. This is a sine qua non to its survival. Most other theories of the human presume that the human infant is essentially continuous with its physical organism, but Meadian emergence points out that this is not the human condition (and likely not the condition of our related and antecedant species).
The emergent self is not (I suggest) directly continuous with the earlier stages of infant development. The infant does not come – on its own as subject or observer or… – to be a thinker, or a moral agent, or a good child. It is engaged in processes of great study and involvement during the early months of its life where (as I postulated) the experiences of time and size/space) are much greater than we have come to experience.
The child does not observe the world of persons and objects and come to knowledge or conclusions on his/her own (as it were), but is a dedicated student of – and barely separable from -m/other. The basis of ontology (to play with terms I now hold as suspect), is not directly within the child. The self is emergent, transformative. The mechanism (as it were) or impetus for the development or becoming of the self, or I, does not lie within the child.
Instead, the emergent I is demanded by m/other as she is no longer capable of taking complete care of a child who is strong. mobile, and quick. How to get her child to think about care of itself as m/other would, and to do it – or not do it: caution around heights, stairs – not touching dangerous surfaces or electrical outlets – not straying into streets. I think this is the seat of what we usually mean as conscience.
Again, it is not directly an attribute of the physical organism, but an aspect of the emergent self. It is a social notion, tied to or associated with the relationship to m/other. The problem of emergence is that m/other see person and character into her child and to have it become that (emergent) person. If not…!? If not, it does not survive.
This is to say that the emergent self is a bounded individual which is socially and morally involved with m/other. The fact of the boundedness, the discovery and use of the I, a propositional creature is – probably paradoxically (but that is the human condition) – also a social person, involved and invested with issues of being and authority.
The Meadian emergent self is an individual I, a locus and processes by which the person can find/locate a steady and fairly well-bounded sense of self. The/this self/I is continuous, and findable throughout life. This is to say that I can locate a sense of self which is mostly clear and clean. But what is most important is that I bound and can locate the self. Its contents may be quite variable and changeable – or not – but that is the body of the next lecture.
A propositional individual: the seat of the individual and of logic and knowledge lies in the Question-Response System. In the interaction of m/other and child, the child has to (!) make sense to m/other concerning the situation in which they are in. The emergent child must respond (within some bounds – depending on age, state of fatique, context) correctly, or state something in ways which are sensible.
This is to say that the emergent child becomes a propositional individual, one who can state, respond, and understand what the m/other understands to be a good and correct reading of the situation: objects, a sense of self saying something (not merely mimicking or engaged in mere mimesis), doing what is correct for age and situation. The notion – again from Saussure – that the I is derived only from difference – is a (small) truth, but it is later in development. The emergent self is fairly clear, experientially. (Whenever it is not so clear, the child either does not survive or is judged to be autistic, retarded -different.)
The emergent self becomes and is an I: a bounded individual who can find oneself with a fairly high consistency (and only falls apart – my family’s term) on occasion of fatigue, frustation, etc. This is the seat of self, of I, of Dasein, of some one beyond the homunculus. It is not self-generated in any manner continuous with its birth, and on and on. (The question of the I and its continuity through life will become the subject of the second lecture in this series, I promise.)
This notion of the emergent, propositional self shifts most of the historical, philosophical, structural (anti-post-pre-), biological-anthropological, socio-political, linguistic, theological notions of the human to the emergent sense of self and the I. We are individuals – bounded within the processes which locate and contain the I. Yet we remain social in very involved ways: notions of culture, continuing dialogue (even or especially with ourselves).
Lots of observation continuing to this day (I love watching kids! – the only truly honest people in the world!?). Their continuing growth, strength, the development of their articulatory apparatus beginning to speak and then expressing the world; their dialogues with the world and with themselves, their understandings, their inner lives; their relations with siblings and parents and friends and teachers and the world; beginning to read (as my grandchildren are doing, just now, is very exciting); their mistakes, abstractive growth. (An argument over whether the Queen of England is real with grandaughter at age 6. She bought our view, tentatively. Their developing bodies, signs of becoming adult, imagining who they might be; all the levels of politics…) See: Bodily Experience through Life.
Lots of history from Heidegger and Levinas back to the Presocratics, especially Heraclitus. My thinking with Heraclitus is that the world is in change: what must be explained primarily, then, is how much (of) the world appears to be continuous. This is particularly applicable to questions about the self and identity. (See: Next Places)
The interesting worlds of speculative history of bio-anthropology derived from (often constructed from not much evidence), telling how humans are different from other species due mostly to language, consciousness, etc. – have constructed a human individual whose being is derived to too great an extent from ideas of human uniqueness, rather than an involved, critical, thoughtful – above all, engaged – study of who and how we are. (See: Pragmatism Essays, The Body Journals, and The Foundations Project.)
Analogously, we create visions (D. Haraway) of other species too much out of their putative differences from the human as we have constructed it. We need to engage in a study of our own being (e.g., Archeology of the Body, etc.) in order to deepen our understanding of the obvious (Dewey on Alexander), and what we bring to the very notion of the human.
These ideas have led me, among other places, to becoming a teacher who engages in dialogue with my students: irrespective of the size of the class (over 200 persons in a course this past year). My study is not only or merely of the putative subject of the course, but is especially a study of the students, of the situation, of change (of myself as well as of them), of a sense of the politics and energies of interaction, of futurity. (See: Teaching as Dialogue, Language and Human Nature)