I totally agree, Ed (@achronon), that it is consciousness that is the common connection. Even Feynman wasn’t unfamiliar with the linkages between quantum theory and consciousness, I think. And consciousness, while it has become a realm of scientific study, this study is still largely defined by the Dennetts of the world, the arguments around Searle’s Chinese Room analogy, and the Turing test more than about the connections to creativity, meditation and emotional sensitivity (although some do address the latter). I think a discussion about the broader contemporary thinking around consciousness is entirely appropriate for this particular nexus in history.
I wanted to come back to this wonderful story by @johnnydavis54 about @johnnydavis54… While my early experience with Shakespeare was not quite so driven as this, my father had a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and I think partly at my own instigation, my family used to read them aloud to each other, particularly A Midsummer Nights Dream, perhaps because it was more “childlike” than some of the other plays, although I can also remember doing parts of The Tempest. I remember I used to do a wicked Bottom from Midsummer Nights Dream, and this early experience with Shakespeare carried me forward into encounters with, for example, the Paul Scofield film of King Lear, Hamlet of course, Macbeth (a favourite) and later Romeo and Juliet and so on.
I have (almost) finished reading the Ingold book (the last bit is more about anthropology as a practice and is somehow a little less interesting than the rest - I will read it, but I am less motivated for it), and aside from his over-emphasis on the role of story as the “only” form of knowledge (even as he discusses other forms of knowledge), I thought the book quite extraordinary and touching on many of the issues we are discussion here. Yesterday a wrote a kind of summary that I sent to my colleague here in Australia and I’m going to excerpt part of the text because I think it is relevant here (and this shows the extent to which these discussions intersect with my academic life!) :
To begin with, a few relevant quotes from Ingold (remember this is his book, “Being Alive”) :
“To create any thing, Aristotle reasoned, you have to bring together form (morphe) and matter (hyle). In the subsequent history of western thought, this hylomorphic model of creation became ever more deeply embedded. But it also became increasingly unbalanced. Form came to be seen as imposed by an agent with a particular design in mind, while matter, thus rendered passive and inert, became that which was imposed upon. My critical argument in this chapter is that contemporary discussions of art and technology, and of what it means to make things, continue to reproduce the underlying assumptions of the hylomorphic model, even as they seek to restore the balance between its terms. My ultimate aim, however, is more radical: with Deleuze and Guattari, it is to overthrow the model itself, and to replace it with an ontology that assigns primacy to the processes of formation as against their final products, and to the flows and transformations of materials as against states of matter.” p. 210
Then this particularly brilliant piece of writing, IMHO…
“The world we inhabit is not made up of subjects and objects, or even of quasi-subjects and quasi-objects. The problem lies not so much in the sub- or the ob-, or in the dichotomy between them, as in the -ject. For the constituents of this world are not already thrown or cast before they can act or be acted upon. They are in the throwing, in the casting.” p. 214
Within his discussion, Ingold is talking about the process of drawing (and making, and cursively writing) as distinct from taking photographs or typing on a computer screen…
“The act of drawing… is intrinsically dynamic and temporal, leaving its traces ‘as eddies on the surface of the stream of time’ (Berger.: 124). It is about becoming rather than being. You cannot be a mountain, or a buzzard soaring in the sky, or a tree in the forest. But you can become one, by aligning your own movements and gestures with those of the thing you wish to draw, as Heidegger would say, in its ‘thinging’.” p. 217 “It is a mistake to think that the camera does the same as a pencil, only faster; or that the photographic image achieves the same as the drawing, only with greater accuracy. For the pencil is not an image-based technology, nor is the drawing an image. It is the trace of an observational gesture that follows what is going on.” p.225
And finally, a comment about science as it should be practiced (Ingold is talking about anthropology, but I think one could extend his argument to embrace all of science) …
“My suggestion is that a descriptive endeavour … whose instrument is the pen or pencil rather than the camera and keyboard, would yield studies that are with people rather than of them. Where studying of is a process of othering, studying with is a process of togethering. The first is transitive, the second intransitive.”
Now to my own personal remarks about Ingold …
I think Ingold brings two contributions to our discussions. First, he situtates the act of drawing as a process of making, or “worlding” (word he uses readily but which was introduced by Heidegger and taken up again by Deleuze and Guattari), the practice of working within the flows of materiality rather than imposing some outside order upon materials. As he states, drawing is not an image, “it is the trace of an observational gesture that follows what is going on”. He reinforces this idea by stating the “fish-in-the-water can be understood as but one of many possible emanations of line, of which others would include the words and pictures painted or inscribed upon the surfaces of paper, bark or canvas.”
Along another line of enquiry, I have been exploring the difference between “metaphor” and “metonymy”. Metaphor has been extensively studied for the past several decades, metonymy on the other hand, has been neglected. Metaphor is a comparison of things between domains, it is a kind of mapping, and hence a kind of representation - metaphor privileges the words “like” and “as”. Metonymy is where a part stands for a whole within the same domain. It is a form of abduction, and privileges the word “is”. “The 1:03 is usually on time” is an example of metonymy I thought about this week, refering to the bus numbered 339 from the corner where I live. I think Ingold’s assertions that the line emanates fish-in-the-water is an example of metonomy rather than metaphor. The line, painting, description, etc. are part of a constellation of worlding that includes “fish-in-the-water”, and the line is hence the part that abducts the whole. [This fills in my earlier point about the relationship between metaphor and metonymy. I said I viewed metonymy as more powerful than metaphor. What I meant is, metonymy is a way of “doing” (i.e. abduction) and not only “showing” (i.e. mapping), it is therefore more “magical”, it engages us more fully. Still having trouble explaining myself …]
For his second major contribution, this has to do with [the following] area of inquiry, the question of the relationship between research/researcher and the public. But here the issue is more subtle. Although you can maybe see the argument emerging from the above comments. Essentially, if the making, drawing, and even writing processes are the means by which “practitioners bind their own pathways or lines of becoming into the texture of the world”, then the public must be involved in this for it to have any lasting value.
The key insight is in Ingold’s statement, “The problem lies not so much in the sub- or the ob-, or in the dichotomy between them, as in the -ject”. And then, “the constituents of this world are not already thrown or cast before they can act or be acted upon. They are in the throwing, in the casting.” So the engagement with a participatory public is necessary, in order to ensure that research, “the throwing”, is enacted in pertinent ways. In this sense, “knowledge translation” is a misnomer, because there is no knowledge without enacting. There is no “before” and “after”, no two stages, the research/writing and the reading/understanding. To separate this into two stages is to weaken the process substantively, in fact it leads to only a shadow of knowledge-sharing as it should be. [Note this is part of a larger discussion about so called “knowledge translation” which is a strategy adopted in medical research to ensure that the results of research are taken up by communities of practice - but the idea and the terminology is clearly based on the “hylomorphic model” that Ingold presented earlier, and the public or publics are held at arms distance from the work. Ingold’s arguments suggest that this has to cease, the public needs to be engaged much more fully and much more directly into research itself than is usually done…]
[I continue with my notes…] We buy into this because we believe that knowledge can exist in abstract forms - Ingold makes a case that such knowledge is one of categories and schema. He argues that real knowledge is story-based, or itinerary-based (the unfolding line during drawing). I actually feel that perhaps he goes too far in his argument at this point. He asserts, but does not prove, that all knowledge is story-based, sequential in nature, whereas I believe that some categorizing, some ability to discern whether ideas are close or distant to each other, is also necessary. I am not sure if allowing for this means that knowledge in schematic forms must exist, however. I do believe that one can argue that our existing understanding of knowledge generating practices, which adopt what Ingold calls the “hylomorphic model”, can be recast within a non-hylomorphic framework without losing any of their strengths (although somebody has to work this out, see below). The basic idea is that when scientists read papers by other scientists, their extensive experience leads them to understand papers in terms of research practice, and this is what they “bind into” their own practice. Hence, knowledge is re-enacted rather than coded and then decoded (cf. the hylomorphic model). Similarly, lay readers must contextualize scientific discourse within their own practices in order to “understand” it - they must perform a reenactment. There is no “decoding” going on here, either. This is why it is often so hard for the lay public to understand the nuances of scientific discourse, they have no experience with the practice of science, no matter how carefully things are spelled out. But if all “knowledge translation” requires some form of enactment or renactment, then engaging them in appropriate ways all along would be a much more fruitful approach.
[So this is the point for the Infinite Conversations and Doughnutology discussion … that people don’t really understand the world except through a story-like reconstruction (re-enactment) of knowledge, so you can’t, much as most of science would like to, separate the personal experiences from the knowledge itself. Knowledge doesn’t exist, really, in abstract forms (maybe I have come round to Ingold’s story-only argument…). So Johnny’s @johnnydavis54 discussion of how he encountered Shakespeare as a young man and my own somewhat different encounter with Shakespeare constitute directly relevant contributions to the knowledge building going on here, despite (well, actually, because!) of their deeply personal nature. We need to bring the personal in more in order to develop this new knowledge. Without it, we are left with abstractions that are difficult to assimilate, whereas with the personal background, we learn new ways of being and functioning in the world. So, BRING IT ON!!!
Long-winded way of saying something, but relevant… I think.