File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0010, message 81

Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 11:07:47 -0400
Subject: Re: BHA: Signs, "because"

Hi Tobin --

You write --

>In any case, Volosinov's argument against expressivism is not
>that there isn't something inside the person which generates expression, but
>rather that expressivism's claim that language is a ceaseless process of
>strictly *individual* (and hence monological) creativity is false.  

This requires textual attention.  On the one hand I take your point.  On
the other hand Volosinov's critique of individualistic subjectivism is a
critique of the idea that expression starts in the soul and then works
itself out.  He asks what is the mode of existence of language and
concludes that it is the utterance.  Continuing the thought we can notice
that we utter with all our actions (or inactions).  V characterizes meaning
as the thing, "the spark," that occurs in utterance.  It would be worth
working through V's text page by page.

>Hold on.  You previously wrote: "Reasons, then, are a way we explain our
>actions, but this does not make them the powerful particulars that generate
>them."  Now you are saying that reasons are final causes -- and offer hunger
>as an example.  But isn't hunger a "powerful particular"?  Is hunger not a
>reason for eating?  If it is, then isn't a reason then a powerful

Hunger begins as a physiological phenomena (for simplification take the
normal case) that occurs as a result of bodies using up their nutrients.
The understanding evaluates this physiological phenomenon as a sign.  A
sign always has multiplicity of various references and can distort a
reality or reflect it with anyone of a zillion slants as well as truly
present it.  How we orient ourselves in understanding is not driven by any
generative mechanism with tendencies we can identify the way we can
identify how the physiological processes of the body will behave if we
don't eat.

You do argue here that reason is a powerful particular.  My understanding
of powerful particular is that these are entities. On this understanding
your argument would say that reason is an entity.  If I were working the
thing out this would mean either (1) an entity of matter or energy and then
this would be something affected by gravity, etc., or (2) it would be an
idea entity.  Pursuing the thread, the first alternative would give a
reductionist materialism that would reduce mental states to physiological
ones, and (2) the second would give us ideas as things that determine
being.  I assume I have not reasoned as you would, so you can spell out how
you would develop the idea in the first sentence of this paragraph.

I have tried to avoid the alternatives I am led to just above by saying
that the relevant totality, the powerful particular, is not reason but the
individual person.  We can speak of the causal efficacy of an individual.
But as with other totalities, if we want to break this down further we
cannot willy nilly attribute energetic causation to any component of the
totality taken in isolation any more than we could say the relation "in
front of" taken in isoltion is causally effective.  So, for example, we
could suppose that flesh and nerve and muscle and bone are material causes,
the activity of labor or walking or thinking, etc. the efficient cause,
understanding the final cause and the formal cause the way the parts of the
whole relate to one another.  

>Oy gevalt.  Howard, from one sentence to the next you contradict yourself
>(the material doesn't matter -- it matters -- it doesn't matter)

I don't think so Tobin.  To make this assertion you'll have to spell out
how one sentence contradicts the next.  

>So?  I'd
>say it's still a cause (formal or whatever): the physical relationship
>between me, Hans, and the flying snowball imposes constraints on what
>happens next (namely, Snowball Meets Hans).  That's precisely the point of
>structural causality, and it's the point I made when I said in a previous
>post that causes are often co-causes because the nature of the other
>entities matters. 

If I understand you correctly you conclude that to impose a constraint is
to cause.  Doesn't this go too far?  To impose a constraint is to establish
a condition of possibility.  But not all conditions of possibility are
causes.  Constraints may become part of a generatively efficacious
totality, but constraints don't need to in themselves call forth anything.

In concluson you argue that I present 
>a theory which is disturbingly similar to what Archer calls
>"central conflation," exemplified by Giddens, for whom social structures are
>merely virtual until they are concretely instantiated.  

Without making reference or appeal to either Archer or Giddens I do argue
that social structures that are not materially grounded are not real, not
causal, not anything.


Howard Engelskirchen

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