The Politics of Survival

Trout, Lara 2010. The Politics of Survival: Peirce, Affectivity, and Social Criticism. Bronx: Fordham University Press.

Traditional Peirce scholars may wonder how Peirce can be so pedagogically effective for this social critical consciousness-raising. Scholars in social criticism may also have this question coupled with justice. Nonetheless, it is significant to note that in his later years Peirce experienced poverty, which in many respects removed him from the high-society circles in which he had formerly moved. His later writings, such as his essay "Evolutionary Love" (1893), suggests a corresponding sensitivity to the perspective of the poor. In a letter to his good friend William James, dated March 13, 1897, Peirce notes that "a world of which I knew nothing, and of which I cannot find that anybody who has written has really known much, has been disclosed to me, the world of misery" (quoted in Brent 1998, 259-60; cf. 261-62). (Trout 2010: 2-3)
Oh, Charlie.
By "internalization" I mean the incorporation, by means of reinforcement or trauma, of a belief into one's personal comportment and worldview, such that the belief is difficult to eradicate rationally. In hegemonic societies, this internalization can be continually reinforced through messages that portray a privileged experience as a societal norm. By "privilege" and its derivatives, I mean the increased advantages, opportunities, and resources available to those who are members of socio-politically dominant groups in society, such as the economically middle class, Euro-American whites, heterosexuals, men, and so on. By "hegemonic", I mean rflective of a closed circle of power representing and enforcing only self-interested perspectives. In hegemonic societies, mainstream societal habits are imposed by those in power and leave out non-hegemonic perspectives. (Trout 2010: 5)
This is by far the simplest definition of hegemony I have met.
For the pragmatist our beliefs are habits. And our habits inform all our behavior, in contrast to the narrower colloquial understanding of habits as including only repetitive or annoying activity, such as brushing one's teeth before bed or talking too loudly on one's cell phone. Habits are enacted not only by human individuals but also by human communities and, for Peirce, by nature itself (insofar as nature is external to humans). Through the large-scale habits of society and nature, individual habits are inescapably shaped. In human habits body and mind come together, and so do emotion and reason, individual and society, and self and others, as well as the personal and the political. (Trout 2010: 7)
This is the wider, "semiotics", understanding of habit, closely related to symbols. They are more like associations.
The narrower, scholarly genealogy of my project begins, quite simply, with my interest in two dimensions of Peircean scholarship that are underdeveloped: the latent post-Darwinian affective themes in Peirce's work and the compatibility between peirce's work and social criticism. By "affectivity" I mean the ongoing body-mind communication between the human organism and her or his individual, social, and external environments, for the promotion of survival and growth. This communication is shaped by biology, individual, semiotic, social, and other factors. My treatment of Peircean affectivity includes feelings, emotion, instinct, interest, sentiment, sympathy, and agapic love, as well as belief, doubt, and habit. (Trout 2010: 9)
It seems that "affectivity" in this sense is very similar or even identical to what I call "self-communication".
Peirce viewed the individual human organism as a body-minded, social animal who interacts semiotically with the world outside of her. He had little patience for the Cartesian portrayal of the individual as a disembodied, solipsistic knower with immediate epistemic access to truth. (Trout 2010: 25)
Just like I have little patience for post-strukturalist or textualist accounts of human subjectivity removed from the external world and no access to truth outside the text.
An important point for my project, which Peirce's ideas help articulate and address, is the following: when false universalization occurs in a hegemonic context, the exclusionary articulation of reality is enforced as both neutral and authoritative, such that divergent articulations are rendered conceptually problematic. Since the hegemonic account is supposedly neutral, no one is supposedly excluded. Since it is authoritative, those who would challenge its neutrality - such as those who are indeed left out - are likely to seem, or to be portrayed as, crazy, overreactive, merely emotional, or simply irrelevant, in comparison to the supposedly ahistorical, transcendent, objective "Truth" (Williams 1991, 8-9). Thus divergent viewpoints can be readily dismissed as falling short of the "real standards" by which "Truth" is assessed (8-9). (Trout 2010: 157)
I fear this is what I'm going to come across in service. Since it is written in the constitution that all healthy men must participate in compulsory military service, it is "crazy" to presume that one should have a choice in these matters.
Once again we take up the ongoing flow of human cognition and belief. In this 1890s context, Peirce's preferred vocabulary is "feelings"/"ideas," and the flow of human thought is described by the law of mind. he says, "The law of mind is that feelings and ideas attach themselves in thought so as to form systems" (CP 7.467). The systems formed as habits, habit-formation abeing one with the process of cognition, which Peirce describes as an ongoing "rhythm" (CP 7.412): "[T]he whole action of the soul [or mind], so far as it is subject to law consist[s] of nothing but taking up and letting drop in ceaseless alteration" (CP 7.410); "the whole activity of the mind consists of drawing in and dropping out" (CP 7.414)
When the mind allows feelings and ideas to "drop," they do not simply disappear. Rather they fade from conscious awareness to become part of new or existing habit systems, which exert a subtle but powerful influence on subsequent connections among ideas. This influence often goes unnoticed. It is the sway of sympathy among one's own habit systems, whose influence can shape our beliefs without our even knowing it (CP 7.434-35, CP 7.447-48). (Trout 2010: 175)
This is exactly how I feel and go about this blog. I rarely review what I have found in previous writings. Rather, I let the quotes and associations to accumulate on their own accord. It is without my conscious effort that these quotes that I seem to be interested in and feel the need to record here somehow all revolve around specific issues or problematic areas towards which I exhibit interest. I will let this topic "drop" for now, but it will not disappear - even in the minimal sense that it is recorded here - and when I finally do revisit this quote I can find further associations with other quotes. In this way my ideas develop on their own accord.
In "Pragmatism as the Logic of Abduction," Peirce problematizes our perceptual judgments by noting that they lie on a continuum with abductions. Perceptual judgments, for our purposes, are simply our perceptions. But these perceptions are, Peirge argues, interpretative - they have a "for me" character built into them. Adopting the Peirce's terminology of perception, we can say that we have no direct access to the percept. The percept is the brute secondness by which a sensation/feeling comes to us hic et nunc (here and now). There is no perspective from which to contemplate it or even talk about it: "Given a percept, this percept does not describe itself; for description involves analysis, while the percept is whole and undivided" (CP 7.626). The only way we can think about or describe a percept is through the perceptual judgment, by means of which I can say something like "That appears to be a yellow chair" (CP 7.626). Peirce also notes, "There is no objection to saying that 'The chair appears yellow' means 'The chair appears to me yellow'" (CP 7.630 n. 11). Our perceptions have an interpretive character, which reflects the perspective of the person perceiving, even though this "for me" character is often so subtle as to escape notive. (Trout 2010: 224)
Firstly this echoes the questions of description vs identification found in Lotman's writings. And secondly I see this as a way to explain the nature of my thesis: that the three dystopian works I am analyzed could be analyzed very differently from the same viewpoint; thus there is a pertinent "for me" aspect in it - the random articles and chapters I have read have formed my thoughts in a unique manner.


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