Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yabba dabba doo

When I started reading Avner Baz's paper "The Sound of Bedrock" I was so impressed that I considered writing a blog post whose whole point was to draw attention to this paper. But when I read the last part of the paper, I found this:
I would like to propose that what we bring to what we see, when we see (or attempt to see) something as x, is not our concept of X—understood as whatever guides us in our ordinary and normal employment of ‘x'—but rather pictures, feelings, embodied attitudes, etc., that have gotten associated for us with ‘x’, and so with our concept of X, later. Thus, if I wish to see a triangle—whether drawn or three dimensional—as having fallen over (see PI, p. 200), I adopt a bodily attitude toward it that has become associated for me with the notion of ‘having fallen over’: perhaps I artificially enact, or find enacted in me upon being invited to see the triangle as having fallen over, the (simulated) intention to ‘put it back up’, or a feeling of discomfort or of things being out of order that has become associated for me with the notion of ‘having fallen over’.
This strikes me as not just wrong but as so obviously wrong that no one could possibly believe it. If I wish to see a triangle as having fallen over, I adopt a bodily attitude toward it? No I don't. I might, but I certainly don't have to do anything of the sort. And what is it to artificially enact the simulated intention to 'put back up' a fallen triangle? I know what putting back up a fallen object is. I have little idea what 'putting back up' a fallen object is (with the quotation marks, that is). What is so-to-speak putting back up, as distinct from actual putting back up? And then what is artificially enacting the simulated intention to do this? What is a simulated intention, as distinct from an actual intention, including the intention to simulate? As Wittgenstein says, "in the end when one is doing philosophy one gets to the point where one would like just to emit an inarticulate sound." This is what I find myself doing when I try to imagine what Baz is describing  

Baz's route to this point is sophisticated and interesting. I don't know how far from the truth he ends up being. But that he has not arrived at the truth seems to me about as clear as can be.  

Perhaps I've misunderstood what he's saying. It's possible that when he says "if I wish to see a triangle [...] as having fallen over (see PI, p. 200), I adopt a bodily attitude toward it" he means not that this is what one must do but simply that this is the kind of thing one might do. In that case I wouldn't disagree. But I think what he means is more that this is the kind of thing that one must do (and what he actually says is that this is the thing that one does, which has to be wrong). And the problem then is what is included in that kind. What is the scope of the 'etc.' in "pictures, feelings, embodied attitudes, etc."? What connects things of this kind is their association with a certain concept, but Baz explicitly denies that seeing x as y involves the concept of y. Talking about this experience will involve y, but the experience itself does not. There is more to be said about this, but surely Kant and Wittgenstein would disagree.


  1. I'm working on my largely inchoate intuition that "concepts" don't literally exist, that there are bodies and their actions, marks on pages/screens and such, and along the lines of extended-minding/enacting we develop skills/habits of manipulating our environs as best we can with the affordances/resistances at hand and those we continue to manufacture/bricolage to try and extend our grasps and or machinic-assemblages, so we are not literally comparing objects, or acts or any-thing to "concepts" (which are what/where?).

    1. Yes, what concepts are, or might be, is a relevant question to ask here, and not exactly an easy one to answer. I think talk of concepts has to be cashed out eventually in terms of words.

    2. I would think it might be something a bit broader (more skill focused/based) like kinds of enacting but certainly likely in some sense about human-being doing during/after (did I send you this: language acquisition. Somewhere I think Moyalle-Sharrock has a bit on speech-acts as more cultivated gesturing.


    4. Thanks! I just read the abstract and that sounds like a promising view.