Friday, September 24, 2010

Some Notes For Next Essay: Collingwood, Searle, Language, and the Art of Life

So my time has been mostly occupied by work. But on the bus I have been making steady progress on Collingwood's The Principles of Art, and I can't believe how fruitful it is proving to be. Collingwood is handling some of the most fascinating questions and posing some very compelling and exciting answers. I'm so tired it is hard for me to even begin to think about it all.

But generally i am pleased because he just explicitly told me that all of our gestures, actions, and words could become a form of art. Which is precisely what I wanted him to say. My last major essay 'The Science and Art of Minds' probed that question, and I'm so happy to have Collingwood on my side with this idea that life itself can be an art form. I so badly want to find ways to be creative in my own life, and sometimes feel that my writing isn't satisfying enough. I want to find ways to explain how all life and decision making can be creative, how empathy and compassion can be creative. So on and so on and so on. Just like I wrote in that post called 'On Creativity', I want it all so badly. I want that artistic spirit.

I want words like fire.

I want life to be like flaming language.

I just mean that if every gesture can be language, as Collingwood says, then I want all my movements and actions to be powerful and expressive language. This is basically what I wrote about in my essay called "Social Progress and Personal Progress: Expanding the Unconscious Repertoire and Densifying the Content of Action." I want every action to be artistic and expressive. Every single action.

Impossible.

But I want this passion to be my goal. I want me to push myself to be constantly creative. Every word. Like I said, impossible.

Collingwood is making me so hyper aware about emotions and their expression. How exactly they interact with the intellect. What it is that the imagination is.

It is absolutely fascinating what Collingwood is doing in The Principles of Art. I can't even believe it.

But I generally am very interested with his idea about the imagination as a intermediary between emotions and the intellect. Imagination is the space where our emotions have been consciously recognized, but have not yet been fully intellectualized. We are able to imagine and hold sensation in place, but are not yet fully intellectualizing them, abstracting them. Art is the imaginative expression of our emotions. Not the intellectual expression, but the imaginative expression. And no, I don't fully grasp this distinction yet. I have so much work left to do with Collingwood.

Collingwood also says that all art is language. But that language is a much more general phenomena than just words and speech. Bodily movement is language. Every gesture is language. I find it interesting because Marco Iacoboni, the UCLA neuroscientist, also claims that language is fundamentally connected to hand movements. So I think Collingwood has a surprisingly contemporary view on what language really is all about.

I am also curious about how Collingwood talks about what the artist expresses is what everyone else already knows or feels. Sorta. He said, I think, that the artists job is to articulate the experience that he/she is going through, but that he is thus trying to remind other people in society what they are experiencing. The artists can become a voice for society, or something.

But let me just say what one of my main questions is right now with this work: if the artist is essentially using language to imaginatively express his emotions, and he is expressing a common sort of social experience, then how does John Searle's work in Making The Social World relate?

John Searle believes that all of human social and institutional reality can be explained by language's ability to bring certain realities into existence. Searle discusses 'status functions', meaning things that function in our own society only because people regard them as functioning in that way. Their status is the only thing that allows them to function in society. A great example is money. It has no real value. But everyone regards it as having value so we can trade with it. But one of the main things is that people don't have to be consciously aware of status functions in order for them to work.

Searle believes that most social/institutional reality is brought into being by 'status function declarations'. That when we declare something to be the case it thus becomes the case. When we say 'this is money' or 'this fence signifies the boundary of my property', we are literally bringing those things into existence. We are not discovering the fact that money has value, or that our property extends so far, we are literally making those things socially real by declaring them to be so. Thus, Searle claims that the status function declaration is responsible for the creation of all human institutional and social reality. What a huge claim, right? I find it somewhat compelling though.

So, my question is this: given Collingwood's concern with language, and his idea about how the artist expresses a common experience of the people in society, is it possible that what the artist is expressing is his feelings about the status function declarations that are framing his experience in society? Is the artist perhaps the person who discovers how his emotions are structured by his surrounding social environment, which is constituted by status function declarations?

My inkling at this point is that these questions are inadequate. I haven't yet finished The Principles of Art. I have about 50 pages left. I know that there is a relationship between what Collingwood is saying and what Searle said that needs to be articulated. But I can't do it yet. But given what Collingwood says about language, and the artist's relationship to society, it seems undoubted that Searle's work on the structure of human civilization has to have some implications for Collingwood's theory of art, which extends far into life.

Another thing: I think that Searle's work definitely has huge implications for what I have written about as 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind'. Basically, if I am talking about how a theory of mind needs to be constructed in light of social/historical knowledge, then wouldn't this notion of status function declarations be useful in articulating precisely what sort of social information needs to be taken into account in order to construct a genealogical theory of mind? If I am saying that we need to think about how history structures minds, then doesn't this idea of status function declarations let us understand exactly what the structure of minds is? I think so. Very curious. Searle will likely be of great use to me.

Jesus. I sure do have a lot of weird ideas right now that I can't track down very clearly. My thinking is evolving in weird directions right now. Very exciting directions.

Calm it down now. That was a freestyle. Just wait til I sit my ass down and really write it. LOL just a little R. Kelly there. I was listening to that part of a song and it seemed appropriate.

When I really get around to studying and writing this stuff it will be great. But right now these are all vague connections that I am starting to see bubble up. I'll articulate them in the next few weeks hopefully.

I cannot wait to see how Collingwood wraps up The Principles of Art. Hot.

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