Monday, 12 May 2014

Former archbishop Rowan Williams' "Material Words: Language as Physicality"

Rev Dr Rowan Williams opens his lecture with reference to the world of experience of an autistic person, and he refers to Phoebe Cauldwell (?) who is someone who helps and manages to communicate with the autistic person with very great sensitivity to what is going on for that person.

The Autism Spectrum has autism at one end, and somewhere on that spectrum is what we sometimes call "Asperger's Syndrome" (with a 'hard' 'g').
My present understanding is that the Asperger's person is similar to the Autistic person in having difficulty seeing beyond the contents of his (or her) own thoughts and feelings, screening-out a great deal which is felt as over-stimulation (as I have put it elsewhere, needing to keep feelings familiar). However, the Asperger's person is functioning in several ways which will enable social life and possibly social thriving. The literature talks about "high" and "low" functioning ASDs (autism spectrum disorders).
So we are talking about a spectrum, no hard boundaries.

"The beginnings of language is learning how not to bump into things"
Rowan williams: material words, language as physicality
He quotes merleau Ponty "language manifests a link between human agents and between human agents and the world"

Language has it's roots in articulating & testing mutual recognition inviting responses of an ever increasing differentiation of kind. Establishing a shared world.
M-P: "language takes on meaning for a child when it establishes a situation"
Language is a modulation of our sound-making parts in the world. Language is something we do with our bodies.
Representation is not substitution or imitation. Semblance.
M-P: The representation (aboriginal songs for e.g.) is "The form that the object takes in human experience"

R-w: Ian McGhilChrist, Phoebe Caldwell and M-P remind us that a philosophical myth of which must be most wary is that which opposes an active subject with inert objects.

Heidegger's "Gestell" & feeling of "self"

What Heidegger meant by "Gestell" is open to anyone willing to read his later (1951?) essay "The Question Concerning Technology".

In this essay, Heidegger follows reflections on (Greek and German) language and terms, to strike at what is the "essence" of technology.

I was someone for whom reading this essay was quite a jolt.
But several years on, I am more circumspect and less passionate about the things which Heidegger thought to be at stake.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that technology grips people and the world. What ways of working do not resolve into some sort of technique or technology?

It's in one's stance in relation to Technology that Heidegger thought there could be some hope. He spoke of "Gelassenheit", releasement, and imagined there to be a "saving power" in technology itself, which could be "granted". All the jargon is there.

I am less passionate now, because I concluded that those one most wishes to engage with a discussion on "essences" of technologies (or anything a Wittgenstein might have to show regarding the unutterable), or any other "essence", are going to be blind to what one is getting at.

I find I can't use that word "essence" with any force now.
"Existence precedes essence" likewise hasn't any traction.
I must have advanced.

I think these words had grip while there was a feeling for a more or less continuous "self".
But there isn't. Whole selves come and go, wholesale.

D W Winnicott was a British psychoanalyst (of the Kleinian object relations school). He speaks of the possibility of a "false self". A false self might be continuous too. And working to ensure its continuity could be the work of a lifetime.