Date: Tue, 8 Nov 1994 12:13:06 -0800 From: Dan Alford Subject: pronoun systems, Putnam/Plato essences, haptic perception Still chewing on Prof. Mufwene's comments, and how the pronominal system in one of his native languages, Yansi, distinguishes human/non-human. By which I would interpret that literally to mean that *only* humans are allowed in, and everything else whether animate or inanimate is lumped in the non-human class. This is very similar to English, except we seem to have *person* instead for this -- babies are transformed from IT into gendered persons of he or she; even our pets are allowed in (you may call your neighbor's new dog IT until you know which sex it is), but that noticing of genitalia is inescapable for promotion to personhood in English. Weird, huh? And then, to be fair, we also promote ships and cars and guns to personhood (although ships go back to being 'it' after they're decommissioned!), and -- think of it! -- most English speakers actually used to use the pronoun SHE when referring to Mother Earth, and used to always capitalize Earth! But now, alas, She's slipping into being an IT along with the rest of the universe in our materialist oriented scientific paradigms; no mystery, no wonder left, no questioning as to whether She has spirit and mind. As my friend Sakej said to the quantum physicists, referring to magnificent trees swaying outside our conference room, "Turn around and look out there. What's making those trees do that? You can call it the wind, but you might as well call it spirit." Perhaps I'm wandering, but I really do find the way pronoun systems set you up for dealing with the world in different ways a really fascinating topic. And thank you for the anecdote about your daughter -- priceless! and to the point. It's the Hilary Putnam distinction (between, on the one hand, the essential features of gold or an elm, and on the other, the stereotypes by which the average speaker operates) that I'm still chewing on. Hm -- that sounds suspiciously like the Platonic views that were thrown out when Aristotle defined knowledge for us. Not that I'm against essences -- on the contrary, totally for 'em; I think Aristotle nudged us down a garden path, in a way. But Plato! There's a thinker from a time before all our Western European conceptual scaffolding and structuring got in place -- MUCH closer than anyone since to the indigenous mind. You see, it's this very notion of 'essences' that got lost: the notion that there is something actually out there beyond your own construction of the world, your conceptions (stereotypes), that is 'touched' directly. This is in line with the Pribram/Bohm conceptions of a holographic mind interpreting a holographic universe: what we 'receive' from 'out there' comes in the form of synesthetic patterned vibrations which our mind then, through Fourier Transforms, separates out into the different sense modalities in different vibration ranges (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, taste, smell), as well as emotions, etc. In fact, says Sakej, Plato also recognized a certain knowing that arises from the land itself -- but let's let Sakej speak for himself: *********** Plato, best understood as a pre-eurocentric author, listed three great modes of being in the universe: reason, sensation and chora. Reason concerned eternal ideas (changeless forms with no location), and the sensory was viewed as transient copies of the external forms or perceptual data, but chora was the receptacle of sensory experience and the seat of phenomena. Chora is the oldest Greek world for "place", found also in Homer and Hesiod. Later it was changed to topos in Aristole's works, e.g., mere location or objective features of a place, the "inert container of experience". But to the ancients such as Plato it was an active container connected with the matrix of enegeries of a place. It had the qualities of mutual immanence. Chora is known by haptic perceptions. Derived from ghrebh (dig or lay hold to something), haptic perception is a wholistic perception distinct from seeing, hearing or thinking, a unified structure of feeling and doing. It is like "pathetecture" (emotional response to a building) and "psychagogy" (power of a place to move the soul, the expressive energies of a place), or simply the caring or grasping the sense of the place. This isn't Greek to me. ************************************************** (PS -- Prof. Mufwene: I'll send you separately the SUMmary on claims by American Indians about their languages concerning non-metaphoricity, non-arbitrariness, etc. Your pre-Euro- influenced indigenous mind will probably enjoy it.) -- Moonhawk (%->) <"The fool on the hill sees the sun going down and> <-- John Lennon>