Perhaps we could democratise not the jobs of authority (let them be done by competent people), but the selection of the sacred texts and objects.  I want to vote for the the Ghent Altar.  Media and screens as channels of engagement with the objects of veneration could become the sacred objects.  People might develop variants of potter’s nod, which would look remarkably like the bobbing found in prayer.  Let everyone’s world be real, might be our slogan.

On the outer panels of the altar, there are four figures in one row: the flanks are the patrons, all fleshy, very very real and present.  The middle two are saints and they are paintings of statues.  Representations of representations.  Because they are above mere humans in the neo-Platonic hierarchy, you cannot see them, which would be to be in their presence.  You must content yourself thus with a representation.

In this quote from the second of his 2012 Gifford Lectures, Bruno Latour laments the notion that one might recognise only a single kind of truth, and a single kind of veridication.

The various creeds of the Christian faiths appear to be confused with respect to the subject.  In some traditions, the text is “We believe”, in some it is “I believe”.  This does not seem to be a bone of significant contention (for once!), as very closely aligned traditions may differ in this small detail. It seems to make sense, though, as the Credo is professed together, in public, and the distinction between “I” and “We” is largely eradicated.

I have suggested the image of a square soap bubble to help in understanding how one can appear to be discrete, autonomous, separate, and yet be part of all that exists, unified with world and all that happens within it.  I find it helpful. The bubble is discrete, separate, has a distinct identity, yet at the same time, no part of it has an independent existence.

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Here is Maturana on a similar theme:

Systems as composite entities have a dual existence, namely, they exist as singularities that operate as simple unities in the domain in which they arise as totalities, and at the same time they exist as composite entities in the domain of the operation of their components.  The relation between these two domains is not causal; these two domains do not intersect, nor do the phenomena which pertain to one occur in the other” (2002, Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 9:5–34)

 

587 years before the Gutenberg Bible was printed, the Dunhuang scroll was printed using an already mature woodblock technique.  The text printed was the Diamond Sutra.  In a surprisingly contemporary manner, the text comes with this attempt to be available:

Reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents on the 15th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong [11 May 868].

Perhaps a text such as this would make a good discussion point.

If we can articulate a goal, which is tantamount to recognizing a behaviour that fulfils that goal, then we can probably define, or create, a mechanism that achieves that goal, to within some tolerable error of observation.  But not all that happens is teleological.  When we say that we can provide a mechanistic explanation of an avalanche, there is the exchange of energy, but there is no goal, nothing to replicate, and no underlying mechanism.

We see mechanisms in coordinative systems.  We also see them (I suspect) in Gibsonian perception/action machines.  We bring them into being through the constraints of the experimental psychologists laboratory.

So the question necessarily arises: whose goals are we talking about?  Mechanisms, or purposes, are probably necessary to identify the elements for whom the question of natural selection arises.  The common structures of memetics and Darwinianism may point to commonality.  Whose goals?

Enaction seems to provide a good language for talking about this important question.

Several authors have objected to the notion that thoughts or ideas go on, separate from the words and movements that we see and hear. Here is Wittgenstein (Philosophical Investigations, p. 107):

“When I think in language, there aren’t ‘meanings’ going through my mind in addition to the verbal expression”

Or Merleau-Ponty:

“The word and speech must somehow cease to be a way of designating things or thoughts, and become the presence of that thought in the phenomenal world, and, moreover, not its clothing but its token or body” (Phenomenology of Perception, p. 182)

Or, once more, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone:

“Movement is not a medium by which thoughts emerge but rather, the thoughts themselves, significations in the flesh, so to speak” (Thinking in Movement, p. 400)

(more…)

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