Philosophy in a New Key

Langer, Susanne K. 1956 [1942]. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art. New York: New American Library.

In philosophy this disposition of problems is the most important thing that a school, a movement, or an age contributes. This is the "genius" of a great philosophy; in its light, systems arise and rule and die. Therefore a philosophy is characterized more by the formulation of its problems than by its solution of them. Its answers establish an edifice of facts; but its questions make the frame in which its picture of facts is plotted. They make more than the frame; they give the angle of perspective, the palette, the style in which the picture is drawn - everything except the subject. In our questions lie our principles of analysis, and our answers may express whatever those principles are able to yield. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 2)
As Foucault put it, the questions are more interesting than the answers. In relation with the semiotics of art, it is important what questions such a semiotic will raise, rather than how it will answer them. For there will be other perspectives to look at the questions - specifically, interdisciplinary positions that probably cannot be foreseen.
Some years ago, Professor C. D. Burns published an excellent little article called "The Sense of the Horizon," in which he made a somewhat wider application of the same principle; for here he pointed out that every civilization has its limits of knowledge - of perceptions, reactions, feelings, and ideas. To quote his own words, "The expecience of any moment has its horizon. Today's experience, which is not tomorrow's, has in it some hints and implications which are tomorrow on the horizon of today. Each man's experience may be added on the horizon of today. Each man's experience may be added to by the experience of other men, who are living in his day or have lived before; and so a common world of experience, larger than that of his own observation, can be lived in by each man. But however wide it may be, that common world also has its horizon; and on that horizon new experinece is always appearing. ..." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 2-3)
C. D. Burns's article was pulished in Philosophy, VIII (1933), 31: 301-317. Langer adds: "This preliminary essay was followed by his book, The Horizon of Experience (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1934)." The topic touches upon the semiotics of culture, inasmuch as the horizon of experience is also viewable from a center-periphery standpoint and elaborated in line with the evolution of the literary fact.
Every society meets a new idea with its own concepts, its own tacit, fundamental way of seeing things; that is to say, with its own questions, its peculiar curiosity. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 4)
This is very apparent when we consider how 21s century people read old texts that were written before the internet; there is a subtle tendency of reading the internet and information age phenomena into an age that didn't have them.
The limits of thought are not so much set from outside, by the fullness or poverty of experience that meets the mind, as from within, by power of conception, the wealth of formulative notions with which the mind meets experience. Most new discoveries are suddenly-seen things that were always there. A new idea is a light that illuminates presences which simply had no form for us before the light fell on them. We turn the light here, there, and everywhere, and the limits of thought recede before it. A new science, a new art, or a young and vigorous system of philosophy, is generated by such a basic innovation. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 5)
This is ceartinly the case with nonverbal communication and especially "concourse", which were noticed and fully considered only in the 20th century.
After several centuries of sterile tradition, logic-chopping, and partisanship of philosophy, the wealth of nameless, heretical, often inconsistent notions born of the Renaissance crystallized into general and ultimate problems. A new outlook on life challenged the human mind to make sense out of its bewildering world; and the Cartesian age of "natural and mental philosophy" succeeded to the realm.
This new epoch had a mighty and revolutionary generative idea: the dichotomy of all reality into inner experience and outer world, subject and obkect, private reality and public truth. The very language of what is now traditional epistemology betrays this basic notion; when we speak of the "given," of "sense-data," "the phenomenon," or "other selves," we take for granted the immediacy of an internal experinece and the continuity of the external world. Our fundamental questions are framed in these terms. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 8)
So it is. And the developments of recent (especially "embodiment") have tried to overcome this dichotomy. We're still trying, that is.
After a while the confusions and shadows inherent in the new vision became apparent, and subsequent doctrines sought in various ways to escape between the horns of the dilemma created by the subject-object dichotomy, which Professor Whitehead has called "the bifurcation of nature." Since then, our theories have become more and more refined, circumspect, and clever; no one can be quite frankly an idealist, or go the whole way with empiricism; the early forms of realism are now known as the "naive" varieties, and have been superceded by "critical" or "new" realisms. Many philosophers vehemently deny any systematic Weltanschauung, and repudiate metaphysics in principle. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 9)
The bifurcation of nature even occurs in cultural semiotics: the "semiotic" sphere is set against the "non-semiotic" or "extra-semiotic" sphere.
This central concept effected the rapproachement between science and empiricism, despite the latter's subjective tendencies. No matter what problems may lurk in vision and hearing, there is something final about the guarantees of sense. Sheer observation is hard to contradict, for sense-data have an inalienable semblance of "fact." And such a court of last appeal, where verdicts are quick and ultimate, was exactly what scientists needed if their vast and complicated work was to go forward. Epistemology might produce intriguing puzzles, but it could never furnish facts for conviction to rest upon. A naive faith in sense-evidence, on the other hand, provided just such terminals to thought. Facts are something we can all observe, identify, and hold in common; in the last resort, seeing is believing. And science, as against philosophy, even in the eager and active philosophical age, professed to look exclusively to the visible world for its unquestioned postulates. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 10-11)
Similarly, the nonverbalist cannot be content with theories, but must, in this day and age, provide GIFs.
The senses, long despised and attributed to the interesting but improper domain of the devil, were recognized as man's most valuable servants, and were rescued from their classical disgrace to wait on him in his new venture. They were so efficient that they not only supplied the human mind with an incredible amount of food for thought, but seemed presently to have most of its cognitive business in hand. Knowledge from sensory experience was deemed the only knowledge that carried any affidavit of truth; for truth became identified, for all vigorous modern minds, with empirical fact. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 11)
"Interesting bun improper" is the exact impression of reaction one gets when studying nonverbal communication. That is, there are those who find it all very interesting, and at the same time a few can pronounce their deep distrust towards such an undertaking and profess that it should not be done.
Logic and metaphysics, aesthetics nad ethics, seemed to have seen their day. One by one the various branches of philosophy - natural, mental, social, or religious - set up as autonomous sciences; the natural ones with miraculous success, the humanistic ones with more hope and fanfare than actual achievement. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 12)
Again, describing precisely the nature of humanities.
What is the secret power of mathematics, to win hardheaded empiricists, against their most ardent beliefs, to its purely rational speculations and intangible "facts"? Mathematicians are rarely practical people, or good observers of events. They are apt to be cloistered souls, like philosophers and theologians. Why are their abstraction staken not only seriously, but as indispensable, fundamental facts, by men who observe the stars o rexperiment with chemical compounds?
The secret lies in the fact that a mathematician does not profess to say anything about the existence, reality, or efficacy of things at all. His concern is the possibility of symbolizing< things, and of symbolizing the relations nito which they might enter with each other. His "entities" aren to "data," but concepts. That is why such elements as "imaginary numbers" and "infinite decimals" are tolerated by scientists to whom invisible agents, powers, and "principles" are anathema. Mathematical constructions are only symbols; they have meanings in terms of relationships, not of substance; something in reality answers to them, but they are not supposed to be items in that reality. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 14-15)
The same could be said about logic and pure theorizing.
The problem of observation is all but eclipsed by the problem of meaning. And the triumph of empiricism in science is jeopardized by the surprising truth that our sense-data are primarily symbols. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 16)
This is, to my knowledge, a contested issue.
One attempt after another has failed to apply the concept of causality to logic and aesthetics, or evne sociology and psychology. Causes and effects could be found, of course, and could be correlated, tabulated, and studied; but even in psychology, wheret he study of stimulus and reaction has been carried to elaborate lengths, no true science has resulted. No prospect of really great achievement have opened before us in the laboratory. If we follow the methods of natural science our psychology tends to run into physiology, histology, and genetics; we move further and further away from those problems which we ought to be approaching. That signifies that the generative idea which gave rise to physics and chemistry and all their progeny - technology, medicine, biology - does not contain any vivifying concept for the humanistic sciences. The physicist's scheme, so faithfully emulated by generations of psychologists, epistemologists, and aestheticians, is probably blocking their progress, defeating possible insight by its prejudicial force. The scheme is not falso - it is perfectly reasonable - but it is bootless for the study of mental phenomena. It does not engender leading questions and excite a constructive imagination, as it does in physical researches. Instead of a method, it inspires a militant methodology. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 18-19)
Is she addressing physicalism?
A CHANGED APPREACH to the theory of knowledge naturally has its effect upon psychology, too. As long as sense was supposed to be the chief factor in knowledge, psychologists took a prime interest in the organs that were the windows of the mind, and in the details of their functioning; other things were accorded a sketchier and sometimes vaguer treatment. If scientists demanded, and philosophy dutifully admitted, that all true belief must be based on sense-evidence, then the activity of the mind had to be conceived purely as a matter of recording and combining; then intelligence had to be a product of impression, memory, and association. But now, an epistemological insight has uncovered a more potent, howbeit more difficult, factor in scientific procedure - the use of symbols to attain, as well as to organize, belief. Of course, this alters our conception of intelligence at a stroke. Not higher sensitivity, not longer memory or even quicker association sets man so far above the animals that he can regard them as denizens of a lower order: no, it is the power of using symbols - the power of speech - that makes him lord of the earth. So our interest in the mind has shifted more and more from the acquisition of experience, the domain of sense, to the uses of sense-data, the realm of conception and expression. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 20)
Homo symbolicum. Keep in mind that Langer translated Cassirer's Myth and Language into English (although a few years after the first publication of this book).
Much the same view is held by Professor A. D. Ritchie, who remarks, in The Natural History of the Mind: "As far as thought is concerned, and at all levels of thought, it [mental life] is a symbolic process. It is mental not because the symbols are immaterial, for they are often material, perhaps always material, but because they are symbols. ... The essential act of thought is symbolization." There is, I think, more depth in this statement than its author realized; had he been aware of it, the proposition would have occurred earlier in the book, and give the whole work a somewhat novel turn. As it is, he goes on to an excellent account of sign-using and sign-making, which stand forth clearly as the essential means of intellection. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 21)
We should also keep in mind that the last book-prokect that Langer wrote was a three-volume history of the theory of the mind.
Man's concuest of the world undoubtedly rests on the supreme development of his brain, which allows him to synthesize, delay, and modify hdis reactions by the interpolation of symbols in the gaps and confusions of direct experience, nad by means of "verbal signs" to add the experiences of other people to his own. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 22)
Just like William James, Langer also seems to suggest that the core of intellectual activity rests on inhibition and prudence, here positively understood as "thinking over".
We use certain "signs" among ourselves that do not point to anything in our actual surroundings. Most of our words are not signs in the sense of signals. They are used to talk about things, not to direct our eyes and ears and noses toward them. Instead of announcers of things, they are reminders. They have been called "substitute signs," for in our present experience they take the place of things that we have perceived in the past, or even things that we can merely imagine by combining memories, things that might be in past or future experience. Of course such "signs" do not usually serve as vicarious stimuli to action that would be appropriate to their meanings; where the obkects are quite normally not present, that would result in a complete chaos of behavior. They serve, rather, to let us develop a characteristic attitude towards objects in absentia, which is called "thinking of" or "referring to" what is not here. "Signs" used in this capacity aren to symptoms of things, but symbols. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 24)
It almost seems that she is implicitly arguing against Morris's "disposition to respond" conception of interpretants.
The results of their candid observations are such books as W. B. Pitkin's Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity, Charles Richet's L'homme Stupide (which deals not with men generally regarded as stupid, but with the impractical customs and beliefs of aliens, and the folly of religious convictions), and Stuart Chase's The Tyranny of Words. To contemplate the unbelievable folly of which symbol-using animals are capable is very disgusting or very amusing, according to our mood; but philosophically it is, above all, confounding. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 26-27)
There has similarly been, in semiotics, a tendency toward the curious phenomena of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
"Generally speaking, animals tend to learn cumulatively through experience. The old elephant is the wisest of the herd. This selective process does not always operate in the case of human beings. The old are sometimes wise, but more often they are stuffed above the average with superstitions, misconceptions, and irrational dogmas. One may hazard the guess that erroneous identifications in human beings are pickled and preserved in words, and so not subject to the constant check of the environment, as in the case of cats and elephants. ... (Langer 1956 [1942]: 27)
Nonverbalism 1; verbalism 0.
The cat's world is not falsified by the beliefs and poetic figments that language creates, nor his behavior unbalanced by the bootless rites and sacrifices that characterize religion, art, and other vagaries of a word-mongering mind. In fact, his vital purposes are so well served without the intervention of these vast mental constructions, these flourishes and embellishments of the cerebral switchboard, that it is hard to see why such an oversimplification of the central exchange was ever permitted, in man's "higher centers," to block the routes from sensory to motor organs nad garble all the messages. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 21)
Nonverbalism 2; verbalism 0.
Certainly no "learning-process" has caused man to believe in magic; yet "word-magic" is a common practice among primitive peoples, and so is vicarious treatment - burning in effigy, etc. - where the proxy is plainly a mere symbol of the desired victim. Another strange, universal phenomenon is ritual. It is obviously symbolic, except where it is aimed at concrete results, and then it may be regarded as a communal form of magic. Now, all magical and ritual practices are hopelessly inappropriate to the preservation and increase of life. My cat would turn up his nose and his tail at them. To regard them as mistaken attempts to control nature, as a result of wrong synapses, or "crossed wires," in the brain, seems to me to leave the most rational of animals too deep in the slough of error. If a savage in his ignorance of physics tries to make a mountain open its caverns by dancing around it, we must admit with shame that no rat in a psychologist's maze would try such patently ineffectual methods of opening a door. Nor should such experiments be carried on, in the face of failure, for thousands of years; even morons should learns more quickly than that. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 28-29)
Is she attacking religion?
There is a third factor in human life that challenges the utilitarian doctrine of symbolism. That is the constant, ineffectual process of dreaming during sleep. The activity of the mind seems to go on all the time, like that of the heart and lungs and viscera; but during sleep it serves no practical purpose. That dream-material is symbolic is a fairly established fact. And symbols are supposed to have evolved from the advantageous use of signs. They are representative signs, that help to retain things for later reference, for comparing, planning, and generally for purposive thinking. Yet the symbolism of dreams performs no such acquired function. At best it presents us with the things we do not want to think about, the things which stand in the way of practical living. Why should the mind produce symbols that do not direct the dreamer's activities, that only mix up the present with unsustainable past experiences?
There are several theories of dream, notably, of course, the Freudian interpretation. But those which - like Freud's - regard it as more than excess mental energy or visceral disturbance do not fit the scientific picture of the mind's growth and function at all. A mind whose semantic powers are evolved from the functioning of the motor arc should only think; any vagaries of association are "mistakes." If our viscera made as many mistakes in sleep as the brain, we would all die of indigestion after our first nursing. It may be replied that the mistakes of dream are harmless, since they have no motor terminals, though they enter into waking life as memories, and we have to learn to discount them. But why does the central switchboard not rest when there is no need of making connections? Why should the plugs be popped in and out, and set the whole system wildly ringing, only to end with a universal "Excuse it, please"? (Langer 1956 [1942]: 29-30)
Is it a fact, though? How does one verify this fact, then? One theory of dreaming that I've met but partially forgotten says that the mind does rest by dreaming. That is, the mind reorganizes itself through dreaming. The brain, after all, is not a muscle but something much more complex.
The material furnished by the senses in constantly wrought into symbols, which are our elementary ideas. Some of these ideas can be combined and manipulated in the manner we call "reasoning." Others do not lend themselves to this use, but are naturally telescoped into dreams, or vapor off in conscious fantasy; and a vast number of them build the most typical and fundamental edifice of the human mind - religion. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 33)
The two uses of symbols: (1) conscious manipulation called reasoning; (2) nocturnal dreams and conscious fantasy (daydreams).
It is noly when we penetrate into the varieties of symbolic activity - as Cassirer, for instance, has done - that we begin to see why human beings do not act as superintelligent cats, dogs, or apes would act. Because our brain is only a fairly good transmitter, but a tremendously powerful transformer, we do things that Mr. Chase's cat would reject as too impractical, if he were able to conceive them. So they would be, for him; so are they for the psychologist who deems himself a cat of the nth degree. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 34)
Approaching transmutation - the brain transforms more than it transmits.
Only a part - howbeit a very important part - of our behavior is practical. Only some of our expressions are signs, indicative or mnemonic, and belong to the heightened animal wisdom called common sense; and only a small and relatively unimportant part are immediate signs of feeling. The remainder serve simply to express ideas that the organism yearns to express, i.e. to act upon, without practical purpose, without any view to satisfying other needs than the need of completing in overt action the brain's symbolic process. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 34-35)
Against a "rational action" view of human behaviour.
Speech is, in fact, the readiest active termination of the basic process in the human brain which may be called symbolic transformation of experiences. The fact that it makes elaborate communication with others possible becomes important at a somewhat later stage. Piaget has observed that children of kindergarten age pay little attention to the response of others; they talk just as blithely to a companion who does not understand them as to one who gives correct answers. Of course they have long learned to use language practically; but the typically infantile, or "egocentric," function persists side by side with the progressively social development of communication. The sheer symbolific use of sounds is the more primitive, the easier use, which can be made before conventional forms are really mastered, just as soon as any meaning-experience has occurred to the vociferous little human animal. The practical use, though early, is more difficult, for it is not the direct fulfilment of a craving; it is an adaption of language for the satisfaction of other needs. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 35-36)
Autocommunication is greatly involved in the symbolific use of not only speech but other modalities as well. Think of the person who dances by him- or herself.
The great contribution of Freud to the philosophy of mind has been the realization that human behavior is not only a food-getting strategy, but is also a language; that every move is at the same time a gesture. Symbolization is both an end and an instrument. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 41)
It is dubious whether every move is indeed a gesture, but every move does seem to engender the possibility of becoming a gesture.
Meaning has both a logical and a psychological aspect. Psychologicall, any item that is to have meaning must be employed as a sign or a symbol; that is to say, it must be a sign or a symbol to someone. Logically, it must be capable of conveying a meaning, it must be the sort of item that can be thus employed. In some meaning-relations this logical requirement is trivial, and tacitly accepted; in others it is of the utmost importance, and may even lead us a merry chase through the labyrinth of nonsense. These two aspects, the logical nad the psychological, are thoroughly confounded by the ambiguous verb "to mean"; for sometimes it is proper to say "it means," and sometimes "I mean." Obviously, a word - say, "London" - does not "mean" a city in just the same sense that a person employing the word "means" the place. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 42)
Eesti keeles tekib samasugune raskuspunkt kui mõelda sõnale "tähendama". Ühelt poolt võivad sõnad ja (mitteverbaalsed) märgid "tähendada"; teiselt poolt võivad ka inimesed sõnade ja märkide kaudu "tähendada". Minu jaoks sai see selgeks väljendiga to signify mis on tegelikult "tähistama", aga mis on eesti keeles paremini vahendatav "tähendama" võtmes, sest "tähistamisega" võib kaasneda celebratory konnotatsioon.
But generalizing from vague and muddled special theories can never give us a clear general theory. The sort of generalization that merely substitutes "symbol-situation" for "denotation-or-connotation-or-signification-or-association-etc." is scientifically useless; for the whole purpose of general concepts is to make the distinctions between special classes clear, to relate all subspecies to each other in definite ways; but if such general concepts are simply composite photographs of all known types of meaning, they can only blur, not clarify, the relations that obtain among specialized senses of the word. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 43)
I wonder if my own general concept, "concourse" (or "concursivity") is "scientifically useful" this way.
There is in fact no quality of meaning; its essence lies in the realm of logic, where one does not deal with qualities, but only with relations. It is not fair to say: "Meaning is a relation," for that suggests too simple a business. Most people think of a relation as a two-termed affair - "A-in-relation-to-B"; but meaning involves several terms, and different types of meaning consists of different types and degrees of relationship. It is better, perhaps, to say: "Meaning is not a quality, but a function of a term." A function is a pattern viewed with reference to one special term round which it centers; this pattern emerges when we look at the given trem in its total relation to the other terms about it. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 44)
Peirce would hold that meaning is a three-fold relation. "Several", indeed, but not necessarily more than three entities are involved.
Because a sign may mean so many things, we are very apt to misinterpret it, especially when it is artificial. Bell signals, of course, may be either wrongly associated with their objects, or the sound of one bell may actually be confused with that of another. But natural signs, too, may be misunderstood. Wet streets are not a reliable sign of recent rain if the sprinkler wagon has passed by. The misinterpretation of signs is the simplest form of mistake. It is the most important form, for purposes of practical life, and the easiest to detect; for its normal manifestation is the experience called disappointment. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 48)
Something for the semiotics of misinterpretation or misunderstanding.
A term which is used symbolically and not signally does not evoke action appropriate to the presence of its object. If I say: "Napoleon," you do not bow to the conqueror of Europe as though I had introduced him, but merely think of him. If I mention to a Mr. Smith of our common acquaintance, you may be led to tell me something about him "behind his back," which is just what you would not do in his presence. Thus the symbol for Mr. Smith - his name - may very well initiate an act appropriate peculiarly to his absence. Raised eyebrows and a look at the door, interpreted as a sign that he is coming, would stop you in the midst of your narrative; that action would be directed toward Mr. Smith in person. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 48-49)
Nonverbal signs!
This passage is the best affidavit we could hope to find for the genuine difference between sign and symbol. The sign is something to act upon, or a means to command action; the symbol is an instrument of thought. Note how Miss Keller qualifies the mental process just preceding her discovery of words - "This thought, if a worldless sensation may be called a thought." Real thinking is possible only in the light of genuine language, no matter how limited, how primitive; in her case, it became possible with the discovery that "w-a-t-e-r" was not necessarily a sign that wate was wanted or expected, but was the name of this subsltance, by which it could be mentioned, conceived, remembered. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 51)
Although the latter part pertains to logocentrism and Saussure's "vague nebula", the former part is very much what I'm getting at with the regulative function of communication. That is, signs do command action (sometimes, maybe?).
In an ordinary sign-function, there are three essential terms: subject, sign, and object. In denotation, which is the simplest kind of symbol-function, there have to be four: subject, symbol, conception and object. The radical difference between sign-meaning and symbol-meaning can therefore be logically exhibited, for it rests on a difference of pattern, it is strictly a different function.
Denotation is, then, the complex relationship which a name has to an object which bears it; but we shall see the more direct relation of the name, or symbol, to its associated conception be called? It shall be called by its traditional name, connotation. The connotation of a word is the conception it conveys. Because the connotation remains with the symbol when the object of its denotation is neither present nor looked for, we are able to think about the object without reacting to it overtly at all.
Here, then, are the three most familiar meanings of the one word, "meaning": signification, denotation, and connotation. All three are equally and perfectly legitimate, but in no possible way interchangeable. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 52)
I would argue (if we are already using these crude notions) that signification involves three (subject-interpreter, sign and conception-meaning) and denotation four (subject-interpreter, sign, concept-meaning-interpretant and finally object) entities. One does have to appreciate the clarity of the term connotation here, as opposed to the negative "connotation" of the term connotation in Roland Barthes.
As Bertrand Russell has put it, "It is of course largely a matter of convenience that we do not use words of other kinds (than vocal). There is the deaf-and-dumb language; a Frenchman's shrug of the shoulders is a word in fact, any kind of externally perceptible bodily movement may become a word, if social usage so ordains. But the convention which has given the supremacy to speaking is one which has a good ground, since there is no other way of producing a number of perceptively different bodily movements so quickly or with so little muscular effort. Public speaking would be very tedious if statesmen had to use the deaf-and-dumb language, and very exhausting if all words involved as much muscular effort as a shrug of the shoulders." Not only does speech cost little effort, but above all it requires no instrument save the vocal appraatus and the auditory organs which, normally, we all carry about as part of our very selves; so words are naturally available symbols, as well as very economical ones. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 61)
"Word" here seems to stand for Mead's "significant gesture". It is the same kind of simplicity that confuses "language" with communication in "(full-)body language", for example. Concerning the convenience and muscular effort of speech - this is exactly why in Kuulinn people communicate (or rather "text") through manipulation of a pencil-like object. It's because such manipulation may take even less effort than speaking. In the elaborated version (or rather, criticism), the "instrument" aspect is accounted for by dispensing with the pencil-like object. This is possible because Kuulinn is a(n en)closed environment and the walls are photosensitive cameras that capture every body movement - especially that of the hands and fingers, translating subtle movements into words, phrases or ever pictures or why not ever types of signs that we cannot account for yet.
According to our logicians, those structures are to be treated as "expression" in a different sense, namely as "expressions" of emotions, feelings, desires. They are not symbols for thought, but symptoms of the inner life, like tears and laughter, crooning, or profanity.
"Many lingusitic utterances," says Carnap, "are analogous to laughing in that they have only an expressive function, no representative function. Examples of this are cries like 'Oh, Oh," or, on a higher level, lyrical verses. The aim of a lyrical poem, in which occur the words 'sunshine' and 'clouds,' is not to inform us of certain meteorological facts, but to express certain feelings of the poet and to excite similar feelings in us. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 67)
Cf. the emotive function.
This is, essentially, the attitude of those logicians who have investigated the limits of language. Nothing that is not "language" in the sense of their technical definition can possess the character of symbolic expressiveness (though it may be "expressive" in the symptomatic way). Consequently nothing that cannot be "projected" in discursive form is accessible to the human mind at all, and any attempt to understand anything but demonstrable fact is bootless ambition. The knowable is a clearly defined field, governed by the requirement of discursive projectability. Outside this domain is the inexpressible realm of feeling, of formless desires andt satisfactions, immediate experience, forever incognito and incommunicado. A philosopher who looks in that direction is, or should be, a mystic; from the ineffable sphere nothing but nonsense can be conveyed, since language, our only possible semantic, will not clothe experiences that elude the discursive form. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 69)
To my mind these are odd terms to approach this issue but it is nevertheless an issue that a semiotician must contend with, in my case quite often. Cf. the social construction of emotions. But I do disagree firmly that language is our only possible semantic.
Our merest sen-eexperience is a process of formulation. The world that actually meets our senses is not a world of "things," about which we are invited to discover facts as soon as we have codified the necessary logical language to do so; the world of pure sensation is so complex, s fluid and full, that sheer sensitivity to stimuli would only encounter what William James has called (in characteristic phrase) "a blooming, buzzing confusion." Out of this bedlam our sense-organs must select certain predominant forms, if they are to make report of things and not of mere dissolving sensa. The eye and ear must have their logic - their "categories of understanding," if you like the Kantian idiom, or their "primary imagination," in Coleridge's wersion of the same concept. An object is not a datum, a form which is at once an experienced individual thing and a symbol for the concept of it, for this sort of thing. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 72)
I'm not sure if James's "buzzing confusion" refers to what Langer thinks it refers to, but in any case she adds in the footnote: "An excellent discussion of Coleridge's philosophy may be found in D. G. James, Skepticism and Poetry (London, 1937), a book well worth reading in connection with thin chapter."
Mental life begins with out mere physiological constitution. A little reflection shows us that, since no experience occurs more than once, so-called "repeated" experineces are really analogous occurrences, all fitting a form that was abstracted on the first occasion. Familiarity is nothing but the quality of fitting very neatly into the form of a previous experience. I believe our ingrained habit of hypostatizing impressions, of seeing things and not sense-data, rests on the fact that we promptly and unconsciously abstract a form from each sensory experience, and use this form to conceive the experinece as a whole, as a "thing." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 72)
Langer's two cents into the type-token discourse.
These intellectual uses lie in a field which usually harbors a slough of despond for the philosopher, who ventures into it because he is too honest to ignore it. It is the field of "intuition," "deeper meaning," "artistic truth," "insight," and so forth. A dangerous-looking sector, indeed, for the advance of a rational spirit! To date, I think, every serious epistemology that has regarded mental life as greater than discursive reason, and has made concessions to "insight" or "intuition," has just so far capitulated to unreason, to mysticism and irrationalism. Every excursion beyond propositional thought has dispensed with thought altogether, and postulated some inmost soul of pure feeling in direct contact with a Reality unsymbolized, unfocussed, and incommunicable (with the notable exception of the theory set forth by L. A. Reid in the last chapter of his Knowledge and Truth, which admits the facts of non-propositional conception in a way that invites rather than precludes logical analysis). (Langer 1956 [1942]: 74-75)
I'm not at all sure if disponsing with propositions leads to such a view.
Visual forms - lines, colors, proportions, etc. - are just as capable of articulation, i.e. of complex combination, as words. But the laws that govern this sort of articulation are altogether different from the laws of syntax that governs language. The most radical difference is that visual forms are not discursive. They do not present their constituents successively, but simultaneously, so the relations determining a visual structure are grasped in one act of vision. Their complexity, consequently, is not limited, as the complexity of discourse is limited, by what the mind can retain from the beginning of an apperceptive act to the end of it. Of course such a restriction on discourse sets bounds to the complexity of speakable ideas. An idea that contains too many minute yet closely related parts, too many relations within relations, cannot be "projected" into discursive form; it is too subtle for speech. A language-bound theory of mind, therefore, rules i out of the domain of understanding and the sphere of knowledge. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 75)
Yeah, no, I'm pretty sure this was the basis of Lotman's distinction between discrete (discursive) and continuous (non-discursive) sign systems.
Now consider the most familiar sort of non-discursive symbol, a picture. Like language, it is composed of elements that represent various respective constituents in the object; but these elements are not units with independent meanings. The areas of light and shade that constitute a portrait, a photograph for instance, have no significance by themselves. In isolation we would consider them simply blotches. Yet they are faithful representatives of visual elements composing the visual object. However, they do not represent, item for item, those elements which have names; there is not one blotch for the nose, one for the mouth, etc.; their shapes, in quite indescribable combinations, convey a total picture in which nameable features cannot be enumerated. They cannot be correlated, one by one, with parts or characteristics by means of which we might describe the person who posed for the portrait. The "elements" that the camera represents. They are a thousand times more numerous. For this reason the correspondence between a word-picture and a visible object can never be as clase as that between the object and its photograph. Given all at once to the intelligent eye, an incredible wealth and detail of information is conveyed by the portrait, where we do not have to stop to construe verbal meanings. That is why we use a photograph rather than a description on a passport or in the Rogues' Gallery. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 76-77)
An elaboration that should be campared to Lotman and Uspensky (1973).
Clearly, a symbolism with so many elements, such myriad relationships, cannot be broken up into basic units. It is impossible to find the smallest independent symbol, and recognivze its identity when the same unit is met in other contexts. Photography, therefore, has no vocabulary. The same is obviously true of painting, drawing, etc. There is, of course, a technique of picturing objects, but the law governing this technique cannot properly be called a "syntox," since there are no items that might be called, metaphorically, the "words" of portraiture. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 77)
Quite in line with Morris's critique of the notion of language.
Since we have no words, there can be no dictionary of meanings for lines, shadings, or other elements of pictorial technique. We may well pick out some line, say a certain curve, in a picture, which serves to represent one nameable item but in another place the same curve would have an entirely different meaning. It has no fixed meaning apart from its context. Also, there is no complex of other elements that is equivalent to it all the time, as "2+2" is equivalent to "4." Non-discursive symbols cannot be defined in terms of others, as discursive symbols can. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 77)
The same goes for nonverbal communication, according to Birdwhistell.
The symbolic materials given to our senses, the Gestalten or fundamental perceptual forms which invite us to construe or the pandemonium of sheer impression into a world of things and occasions, belong to the "presentational" order. They furnish the elementary abstractions in terms of which ordinary sense-experience is understood. This kind of understanding is directly reflected in the pattern of physical reaction, impulse and instinct. May not the order of perceptual forms, then, be a possible principle for symbolization, and hence the conception, expression, and apprehension, of impulsive, instinctive, and sentient life? May not a non-discursive symbolism of light and color, or of tone, be formulative of that life? And is it not possible that the sort of "intuitive" knowledge which Bergson extols above all rational knowledge because it is supposedly not mediated by any formulating (and hence deforming) symbol is itself perfectly rational, but not to be conceived through language - a product of that presentational symbolism which the mind reads in a flash, and preserves ina disposition or an attitude. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 79-80)
It seems to me that Langer is approaching nonverbal communication.
It is relevant here to note that "picture language," which uses separate pictures in place of words, is a discursive symbolism, though each "word" is a presentational symbol; and that all codes, e.g. the conventional gestures of deaf-mutes or the drum communications of African tribes, are discursive systems. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 79)
Very relevant for framing the Jakobsonian version of intersemiotic translation.
The significant observation voiced in the passage is that feelings have definite forms, which become progressively articulated. Their development is effected through their "interplay with the other aspects of experience"; but the nature of that interplay is not specified. Yet it is here, I think, that cogency for the whole thesis must be sought. What character of feeling is "an index of the mind's grasp of its object," and by what tokens is it so? If feeling has articulate forms, what are they like? For what these are like determines by what symbolism we might understand them. Everybody known that language is a very poor medium for expressing our emotional nature. It merely names certain vaguely and crudely conceived states, but fails miserable in any attempt to convey the evermoving patterns, the ambivaneces and intricacies of inner experience, the interplay of feelings with thoughts and impressions, memories and echoes of memories, transient fantasy, or its mere runic traces, all turned into nameless, emotional stuff. If we say that we understand someone else's feeling in a certain manner, we mean that we understand why he should be sad or happy, excited or indifferent, in a general way; that we can see due cause for his attitude. We do not mean that we have insight into the actual flow and balance of his feelings, into that "character" which "may be taken as an index of the mind's grasp of its boject." Language is quite inadequate to articulate such a conception. Probably we would not impart our actuar, inmost feelings even if they could be spoken. We rarely speak in detail of entirely personal things. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 81-82)
The semiotics of emotions.
Altogether, we may group meaning-situations around certain outstanding types, and make these several types the subjects of individual studies. Language, ritual, myth, and music, representing four respective modes, may serve as central topics for the study of actual symbolism; and I trust that further problems of significance in art, in science or mathematics, in behavior or in fantasy and dream, may receive some light by analogy, and by that most powerful human gift, the adaption of ideas. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 83)
I like that the topics I'm most interested are adjecent in this list.
There are several statements in philosophical and psychological literature to the effect that certain primitive races have but a rudimentary language, and depend on gesture to supplement their speech. All such statements that I have found, however, can be traced back to one common source, namely Mary H. Kingsley's Travels in West Africa (London, 1897). This writer enjoyed so high a reputation in other fields than philology that her casual and apparently erroneous observations of native languages have been accepted rather uncritically by men as learned as Sir Richard Paget. Professor G. F. Stout, and Dr. Israel Latif. Yet Miss Kingsley's testimony is very shaky. She tells us (p. 504) that "the inhabitants of Fernande Po, the Bubis, are quite unable to converse with each other unless they have sufficient light to see the accompanying gestures of the conversation." But in an earlier part of the book she writes, "I know nothing of it [the Bubi language] myself save that it is harsh in sound," and refers the reader to the book of Dr. Baumann for information about its words and structure; Baumann gives a vocabulary and grammar that would certainly suffice a European to carry on any ordinary conversation in the dark. (See O. Baumann, "Beiträge zur Kentniss der Bubesprache auf Ferdando Poo," Zeitschiftfür afrikanische Sprachen I, 1888, 138-155.) It seems plausible, therefore, that the Bubis find such conversation personally or socially "impossible" for some other reasons. Her other example is no surer. "When I was with the Fans they frequently said, 'We will go to the fire so we can see what they say,' when any question had to be decided after dark..." (p. 504). It is strange that a language in which one can make in the dark, so complex a statement as: "We will go to the fire so we can see what they say," should require gesture to complete other propositions; moreover, where there is a question to decide, it might be awkward fort he most civilized congress to take a majority vote without switching on the lights. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 84ff)
Relevant for the history of the study of nonverbal communication (or, rather, for the history of misinterpreting aspects of nonverbal communication).
"The primary function of language is generally said to be communication. ... The autistic speech of children seems to show that the purely communicative aspect of language has been exaggerated. It is best to admit that language is primarily a vocal actualization of the tendency to see reality symbolically, that it is precisely this quality which renders it a fit instrument for communication and that it is in the actual give and take of social intercourse that it has been complicated and refined into the form in which it is known today." (E. Sapir in Langer 1956 [1942]: 89)
This is quoted from Sapir's article "Language" (p. 159). Even Sapir seems to suggest that autocommunication is equally important as heterocommunication.
This behavior is the performance of symbolic acts - acts that really seem to epitomize the creature's apprehension of a state of affairs, rather than to be just a symptom of emotion. The difference between a symbolic and a symptomatic act may be illustrated by contrasting the intentional genuflexion of a suppliant with the emotional quaver of his voice. There is a convention about the former, but not about the latter. And the conventional expression of a feeling, an attitude, etc., is the first, the lowest form of denotation. In a conversational attitude, something is summed up, understood, and consciously conveyed. So it is deeply interesting that both Köhler and Kelloogg have observed in their apes quite unmistakable cases of symbolic (not signific) gesture. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 93)
Drawing the same distinction that Ekman and Frienen later draw between emotional expressions and emotional gestures.
Oddly enough, it is just because all his utterances have signification - all are pragmatic or emotional - that none of them ever acquire significance. He does not even imitate sounds for fun, as he imitates gestures, and gravely mimics practices that have no utility for him. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 94)
She is talking, of course, about chimpanzees and denies them signification.
There is a strongtendency to form associations among sensa that are not practically fixed in the world, even to confuse such random impressions. Most of all, the over-acting feelings fasten upon such flotsam material. Fear lives in pure Gestalten, warning or friendliness emanates from objects that have no faces and no voices, no heads or hands; for they all have "expression" for the child, though not - as adults often suppose - anthropomorphic form. One of my earliest recollections is that chairs and tables always kept the same look, in a way that people did not, and that I was awed by the sameness of that appearance. They symbolized such-and-such a mood; even as a little chird I would not have judged that they felt it (if any one had raised such a silly question). There was just such-and-uch a look - dignity, indifference, or omniousness - about them. They continued to convey that silentmessage no matter what you did to them. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 100)
This, too, should be compared to what Lotman and Uspenky have to say on the matter.
A mind to which the stern character of an armchair is more immediately apparent than its use or its position in the room, is over-sensitive to expressive forms. It grasps analogies that a riper experience would reject as absurd. It fuses sensa that practical thinking must keep apart. Yet it is just this crazy play of associations, this uncritical fusion of impressions, that exercises the powers of symbolic transfomations. To project feelings into outer objects is the first way of symbolizing, and thus of conceiving those feelings. This activity belongs to about the earliest period of childhood that memory can recover. The conception of "self," which is usually thought to mark the beginning of actual memory, may possibly depend on this process of symbolically epitomizing our feelings.
From this dawn of memory, where we needs must begin any first-hand record, to adolescence, there is a constant decrease in such dreamlike experience, a growing shift from subjective, symbolic, to practical associations. Sense-data now keep to their categories, atnd signify further events. Percepts become less weighted with irrelevant feeling and fantasy, and are more readily ranged in an objective order. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 100)
Alas, by comparison one can possibly arrive at another conception of the "self" that fuses Langer and Lotman.
The fact is that our primary world of reality is a verbal one. Without words our imagination cannot retain distinct objects and their relations, but out of sight is out of mind. Perhaps that is why Köhler's apes could use a stick to reach a banana outside the cage so long as the banana and the stick could be seen in one glance, but not if they had to turn their eyes away from the banana to see the stick. Apparently they could not look at the one and think of the other. A child who had as much practical initiative as the apes, turning away from the coveted object, yet still murmuring "banana," would have seen the stick in its intrumental capacity at once. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 102-103)
I'm not going to argue against logocentrism here. Instead, I'd say that this can elaborate the interpretation of nonverbal behaviour in a curious way. Namely, without words and concepts for nonverbal behaviour we would probably notice certain gestures and expressions but deem the "mysterious" or say "I don't know what it meant". With help from language, one can actually name the expression, retain the image and arrive at an interpretation later when more evidence comes to light.
It could only have arisen in a race in which the lower forms of symbolistic thinking - dream, ritual, superstitious fancy - were already highly developed, i.e. where theprocess of symbolization, though primitive, was very active. Communal life in such a group would be characterized by vigorous indulgence in purely expressive acts, in ritual gestures, dances, etc., and probably by a strong tendency to fantastic errors and joys. The liberation from practical interests that is already marked in the apes would make rapid progress in a species with a definitely symbolistic turn of mind; conventional meanings would gradually imbue every originally random act, so that the group-life as a whole would have an exciting, vaguely transcendental tinge, without any definable or communicable body of ideas to cling to. A wealth of dance-forms and antics, poses and manouvres might flourish in a society that was somewhat above the apes' in non-practical interests, and rested on a slightly higher development of the symbolific brain-functions. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 103)
Is she criticizing India?
Jesperson, who is certainly one of our great authorities on language, suggests that speech and song may well have sprung from the same source (as Herder and Rousseau, without really scientific foundation, imagined long ago). "Word-tones were originally frequent, but meaningless," he observes; afterwards they were dropped in some languages, while in others they were utilized for sense-distinguishing purposes." Furthermore, he points out that in passionate speech the voice still tends to fluctuate, that civilization only reduces this effect by reducing passionate utterance, and that savages still use a sing-song manner of speaking; and in fine, he declares, "These facts and considerations all point to the conclusion that there was once a time whet all speech was song, or rather when these two actions were not yet differentiated. ..." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 104)
Estonian language is "savage" in this way - it has so many vowels that it's perfect for singing.
All discourse involves two elements, which may be called, respectively, the context (verbal or practical) and the novelty. The novelty is what the speaker is trying to point out or to express. For this purpose he will use any word that seres him. The word may be apt, or it may be ambiguous, or even new; the context, seen or stated, modifies it and determines just what it means. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 113)
Without using the term (it was not in vogue in 1942) Langer has grasped the core of what is meant by information or the information-value of messages.
Image-making is, then, the mode of our untutored thinking, and stories are its earliest product. We think of things happening, remembered or imaginary or prospective; we see with the mind's eye the shoes we should like to buy, and the transaction of buying them; we visualize the drowning that almost happened by the river bank. Pictures and stories are the mind's stock-in-trade. Those larger, more complex elements that symbolize events may contain more than mere visual ingredients, kinesthetic and aural and perhaps yet other factors, wherefore it is misleading to call them "story-images"; I will refer to them as "fantasies." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 118)
Her herms for past, present and future... And somatoception!
The symbolic status of fantasies (in this technical sense of action-envisagements) is further attested by the regularity with which they follow certain basic laws of symbols. Like words and like images, they have not only literal reference to concepts, but tend to convey metaphorical meanings. Events and actions, motions and emotions, are inexhaustible in our short lives; new experience overwhelms us continually; no mind can conceive in neat linear terms all the challenges and responses, the facts and acts, that crowd in upon it. Yet conception is its essential technique, and conception requires a language of some sort. Among our fantasies there is usually something, at least, that will do as a metaphor, and this something has to serve, just as the nearest word has to serve in a new verbal expression. An arriving train may have to embody nameless and imageless dangers coming with a rush to unload their problems before me. Under the pressure of fear and confusion and shrinking, I envisage the engine, and the pursuant cars of unknown content, as a first symbol to shape my unborn concepts. What the arriving train represents is the first aspect of those dangers that I can grasp. The fantasy that literally means a railroad incident functions here in a new capacity, wher its literal generality, its application to trains, becomes irrelevant, and only those features that can symbolize the approaching future - power, speed, inevitable direction (symbolized by the track), and so forth - remain significant. The fantasy here is a figure; a metaphor of wordless cognition. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 119)
So, yeah, there can be wordless cognition if it be in visual metaphors.
It is characteristic of figurative imagfes that their allegorical status is not recognized. Only a mind which can apprehend both a literal and a "poetic" formulation of an idea is in a position to distinguish the figure from its meaning. In spontaneous envisagement there is no such duality of form and content. In our most primitive presentations - the metaphorical imagery of dreams - it is the symbol, not its meaning, tat seems to command our emotions. We do not know it as a symbol. In dream-experience we very often find some fairly commonplace object - a tree, a fish, a pointed hat, a staircase - frought with intense value or inspiring the greatest terror. We cannot tell what makes the thing so important. It simply seems to be so in the dream. The emotional reaction is, of course, evoked by the idea embodied in that object, but so long as the idea lives only in this body we cannot distinguish it from its symbolic incarnation which, to literal-minded common sense, seems trivial. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 121)
Conforming to Gregory Bateson's later definition of dreams as webs of metaphors.
Formalized expressive gesture occurs in the most casual social intercourse, in greetings, marks of deference, or mock defiance (like the grimaces school-children make behind the back of an unpopular teacher, mainly for each other's benefit). As for mimetic gestures, they are the current and often unconscious accompaniment of all dramatic imagination. It need not be of serious or important acts. Mimicry is the natural symbolism by which we represent activities to our minds. It is so obvious a semantic that even where no act is carried out, but every idea merely suggested, pantomime is universally understood. Victor the Wild Boy of Aveyron, and even Wild Peter who was less intelligent, could understand mimetic expression at once, without any training, though neither ever learned language. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 126)
Nice. "Pantomime" and "mimetic gesture" are somewhat outdated notions but their content remains relevant.
The better an act is understood and the more habitually it is associated with a symbolic gesture, the more formal and cursory may be the movement that represents it. Just as the white settlers of this country first called an Indian feast a "Pow! Wow! Wow!" and later referred to it quite off-handedly as "a pow-wow," so a child's representation of sewing, fighting, or other process will be really imitative at first, but dwindle to almost nothing if the game is played often. It becomes an act of reference rather than of representation (Langer 1956 [1942]: 127)
Cue reduction.
Before a behavior-pattern can become imbued with secondary meanings, it must be definite, and to the smallest detail familiar. Such forms are naturally evolved only in activities that are often repeated. An act that is habitually performed acquires an almost mechanical form, a sequence of motions that practice makes quite invariable. Besides the general repetetion of what is done there is a repetition of the way it is done by a certain person. For instance, two people putting bread into their mouths are doing the same thing, but they may do it in widely different manner, according to their respective temperaments and traditions; their behavior, though purposive and real, contains unconsciously an element of gesture. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 130)
Techniques of the body. Also "practice makes perfect" is here "practice makes invaliable", which seems more true.
Human personalities ar ecomplex, extremely varied, hard to define, hard to generalize; but animals run very true to type. The strength of the bull, the shiftiness of the rabbit, the sinuous mobility of the snake, the solemnity of the owl, are exemplified wit perfect definiteness and simplicity by every member of their respective species. Before men can find these traits clearly in themselves they can see them typified in animals. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 133)
These descriptions are definite and simple because they do not refer to the personalities of individual speciments but whole species. Also, all of these qualities are such in relation with humans. Is the bull strong, rabbit shifty, owl solemn, etc? In comparison with humans, yes.
"The things that have misled us moderns in our efforts towards understanding the primitive stage in Greek religion," he [Professor Murray] says, "have been first the widespread and almost ineradicable error of treating Homer as primitive, and more generally our unconscious insistence on starting with the notion of 'Gods.' ... The truth is that this notion of a god far away in the sky - I do not say merely a First Cause who is 'without body parts or passions,' but almost any being that we should naturally call a 'god' - is an idea not easy for primitive man to grasp. It is a subtle and rarefied idea, saturated with ages of philosophy and speculation." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 136)
Similarly, for us monotheists it is difficult to grasp the idea that there is a multitude of gods pertaining to living nature. Thus in the UK, the a religion that had a variety of gods wasn't recognized as a religion but that of Odin, because there is a God-Head, was.
Ritual begins in motor attitudes, which, however personal, are at once externalized and so made public. Myth begins in fantasy, which may remain tacit for a long time; for the primary form of fantasy is the entirely subjective and private phenomenon of dream. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 139)
I would argue that there are more primitive forms of fantasy - that which goes on in a person's "mind's eye" when merely thinking, conversing with someone else, listening music or just daydreaming.
It is significant that people who refuse to tell their children fairytales do not fear that the children will believe in princes and princesses, but that they will believe in witches and bogeys. Prince or princess, to whom the wish-fulfulment happens, we find in ourselves, and neet not seek in the outer world; their reference is subjective, their history is our dream, and we know well enough that it is "make-believe." But the incidental figures are material for superstition, because their meanings are in the real world. They represent those same powers that are conceived, first perhaps through "dreadful" objects like corpses or skulls or hideous idols, as ghosts, keres, hoodoos, and similar spooks. The ogres of literature and the ghouls of popular conception embody the same mysterious Powers; therefore the fairytale, which even most children will not credit as a narrative, may carry with it a whole cargo of ideas, purely secondary to its own purposes, that are most convincing elements for superstition. The awful ancestor in the grave goes abroad as the goblin of story: that is the god of superstition. The world-picture of spook-religion is a reflection of fairytale, a dream whose nightmare elements become attached to visible cult objects and thus taken seriously. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 145)
A very rational explanation of why it's not a good idea to impose imaginary beings who are supposed to exist in the world on children.
I have dwelled so long on the personification of the moon because it is, in the first place, the most convincing example of myth-making, and in the second place it may well have been the original inspiration to that age-long and world-wide process. There is a school of mythologists who maintain that not only the first, but all, wythology is moon-mythology. I doubt whether this sweeping assumption is justified, since anologous treatment would most naturally be accorded the sun, stars, earth, sea, etc., as soon as human mentality advanced to the conception of an athropomorphic lunar deity. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 158)
I just thought how neat it would be to to incorporate into my Kuulinn the lyrics of Kuuluud and make it so that people who actually live underground on Earth think that they are living underground on Moon; and then expose the myth.
It is a peculiar fact that every major advance in thinking, every epoch-making new insight, springs from a new type of symbolic transformation. A higher level of thought is primarily a new activity; its course is opened up by a new departure in semantic. The step from mere sign-using to symbol-making marked the crossing of the line between animal and man; this initiated the natural growth of language. The birth of symbolic gesture from emotional and practical movement probably begot the whole order of ritual, as well as the discursive mode of pantomime. The recognition of vague, vital meanings in physical forms - perhaps the first dawn of symbolism - gave us our idols, emblems, and totems; the primitive function of dream permits our first envisagement of events. The momentous discovery of nature-symbolism, of the pattern of life reflected in natural phenomena, produced the first universal insights. Every mode of thought is bestowed on us, like a gift, with some new principle of symbolic expression. It has a logical development, which is simply the exploitation of all the uses to which that symbolism lends itself; and when these uses are exhausted, the mental activity in question has found its limit. Either it serves its purpose and becomes truistic, like our orientation in "Euclidian space" or our appreciation of objects and their accidents (on the pattern of language-structure, significantly called "logic"); or it is superseded by some more powerful symbolic mode which opens new avenues of thought. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 163)
I wonder if my way of commenting quotes is such a new activity that will ultimately either exhaust itself or become part-and-parcel of academic activities.
Language, in its literal capacity, is a stiff and conventional medium, unadaptable to the expression of genuinely new ideas, which usually have to break in upon the mind through some great and bewildering metaphor. But bare denotative language is a most excellent instrument of exact reason; it is, in fact, the only general precision instrument the human brain has ever evolved. Ideas first adumbrated in fantastic form become real intellectual property only when discursive language rises to their expression. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 164)
I'm not sure if it's the only precision instrument the brain has ever evolved.
Music, on the other hand, is preeminently non-representative even in its classical productions, its highest attainments. It exhibits pure form not as an embellishment, but as its very essenceq we can take it in its flower - for instance, German music from Bach to Beethoven - and have practically nothing but tonal structure before us: no scene, no object, no fact. That is a great aid to our chosen preoccupation with form. There is no obvious, literal content in our way. If the meaning of art belongs to the sensuous percept itself apart from what it ostensibly represents, then such purely artistic meaning should be most accessible through musical works. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 169)
The meaning of art?
Music is known, indeed, to affect pulse-rate and respiration, to facilitate or disturb concentration, to excite or relax the organism, while the stimulus lasts; but beyond evoking impulses to sing, tap, adjust one's step to musical rhythm, perhaps to stare, hold one's breath or take a tense attitude, music does not ordinarily influence behavior. Its somatic influences seem to affect unmusical as well as musical persons (the selection usually employed in experimentation would be more likeli to irritate than to soothe or inspire a musical person), and to be, therefore, function of sound rather than of music. Experiments made with vocal music are entirely unreliable, since words and the pathos of the human voice are added to the musical stimulus. On the whole, the behavior of concert audiences after even the most thrilling performances makes the traditional magical influence of music on human action very dubious. Its somatic effects are transient, and its moral hangovers or uplifts seem to be negigible. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 171)
It's called hip-hop because it tends to make you move your frame.
The most obvious and naive reading of this "language" is the onomatopoetic one, the recognition of natural sounds in musical effects. This, as everybody knows, is the basis of "pragram music," which deliberately imitates the clatter and cries of the market place, hoof-beats, clanging hammers, running brooks, nightingales and bells and the inevitable cuckoo. Such "sound-painting" is by no means modern; it goes back as far as the thirteen century, when the cuckoo's note was introduced as a theme in the musical setting of "Summer is acumen in." An eghteenth-century critic says disapprovingly, "Our intermezzi ... are full of fantastic imitations and silly tricks. There one can hear clocks striking, ducks jabbering, frogs quacking, and pretty soon one will be able to hear fleas sneezing and grass growing." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 178)
Actually the notion of "program music" is not as self-evident today as it was in the 1940s. The fact that this quote is the clearest description of program music I have managed to gather thus far proves the point.
The notion of "psychical distance" as the hall-mark of every artistic "projection" of experience, which Edward Builough has developed, does make the emotive hcontents typical, general, impersonal, or "static"; but it makes them conceivable, so that we can envisage and understand them without verbal helps, and without the scaffolding of an occasion wherein they figure (as all self-expression implies an eccasion, a cause - true or imaginary - for the subject's temporary feelings). A composer not only indicates, but articulates subtle complexities of feeling that language cannot even name, let alone set forth; he knows the forms of emotion and can handle them, "compose" them. We do not "compose" our exclamations and jitters. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 180)
But we do control our exclamations and jitters, as much as we can at least.
Wolfgang Köhler, the great pioneer of Gestalt psychology, remarks the usefulness of so-called musical "dynamics" to describe the forms of mental life. "Quite generally," he says, "the inner process, whether emotional or intellectual, shows types of development which may be given names, usually applied to musical events, such as: crescendo and diminuendo, accelerando and ritardando." He carries these convenient terms over into the description of overt behavior, teh reflection of inner life in physical attitudes and gestures. "As these qualities occur in the world of acoustical experiences, they are found in the visual world too, and so they can express similar dynamical traits of inner life in directly observable activity. ... To the increasing inner tempo and dynamical level there corresponds a crescendoaccelerando in visible movement. Of course, the same inner development may express itself acoustically, as in the accelerando and reforzando of speech. ... Hesitation and lack of inner determination becomes visible ... as ritardando of visible or audible behavior. ..." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 183)
Hah, accelerando indeed. Also, musical metaphors.
This is just the inverse of Joan D'Udine's description of music, which treats it as a kind of gesture, a tonal projection of the forms of feeling, more directly reflected in the mimic "dance" of the orchestral conductor. "All the expressive gesticulation of the conductor," says that provocative and readable book, L'art et le geste, "is really a dance ... all music is dancing. ... All melody is a series of attitudes." And again: "Every feeling contributes, in effect, certain special gestures which reveal to us, bit by bit, the essential characteristic of Life: movement. ... All living creatures are constantly consummating their own internal rhythm." This rhythm, the essence of life, is the steady backgroung against which we experience the special articulations produced by feeling; "and even the most uneventful life exhibits some such breaks in its rhyhm, sources of joys and sorrows without which we would be as inert as the pebbles of the highway." And these rhythms are the prototypes of musical structure, for all art is but a projection of them from one domain of sense to another, a symbolic transformation. "Every artist is a transformer; all artistic creatios is but a transmutation." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 183-184)
Is it too late to write about rhythms of the city for the course on landscape semiotics? I'd now compare the whole city to an organism (take an organicist stance) and relate this quote to the rhythms of the city. Also, transmutation is a much better term than intersemiotic translation.
A. Gehring carried this principle of contextual function even beyond the compass of the individual composition. "Unrelated compositions," he said, "will affect one another as inevitably as those which are related. The whole realm of music may be regarded as a single huge composition, in which every note that is written exerts its influence throughout the whole domain of tones. To speak with Guyau, ... it changes the very conditions of beauty.
"This explains the different effects produced by the same composition at different times. The harmonies which sound novel today will be familiar in a few decades; the volume and the richness of sound which pleased our ancestors are inadequate today." (The Basis of Musical Pleasure [New York, 1910], p. 34.)
Gehring's observation bears out the similarity with language, where every word that is used even in a narrow context contributes its meaning, as there established, to the living and growing languag. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 185ff)
This is a much better account of the "contextual function" than Jakobson's own "referential function", for it actually considers context, both within and without the given message.
But in art such interpretation is vicious, because art - certainly music, and probably all art - is formally and essentially untranslatable; and I cannot agree that "interpretation of poetry is the determination of what poetry says. ... One of the essential functions of the teaching of literature is its interpretation. ... Now a character of such interpretation is that it is always carried out in non-poetic terms or in less poetic terms than the thing interpreted." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 190)
Dno, one can interpret nonsense with more nonsense, one writer claimed.
"Indeed, it is quite impossible to name everything fascinating in music, and bring it under definite headings. Therefore music has fulfilled its mission whenever our hearts are satisfied."
Since the day when this was written, many musicologists - notably Vischer, Riemann, and Kurt - have emphasized the impossibility of interpreting the "language of feeling," although they admit its function to be, somehow, a revelation of emotions, moods, or subtle nameless affects. Liszt warned specifically against the practice of expoinding the emotive content of a symphonic poem, "because in such case the words tend to destroy the magic, to desecrate the feeling, and to break the most delicate fabrics of the soul, which had taken this form just because they were incapable of formulation in words, images or ideas." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 191)
This is a familiar motive, especially in relation with Peirce's Firstness.
Music is revealing, where words are obscuring, because it can have not only a content, but a transient play of contents. It can articulate feelings without becoming wedded to them. The physical character of a tone, which we describe as "sweet," or "rich," or "strident," and so forth, may suggest a momentary interpretation, by a physical response. A key-change may convey a new Weltgefühl. The assignment of meanings is a shifting, kaleidoscopic play, probably below the treshold of consciousness, certainly outside the pale of discursive thinking. The imagination that responds to music is personal and associative and logical, tinged with affect, tinged with bodily rhythm, tinged with dream, but concerted with a wealth of formulations for its wealth of wordless knowledge, its whole knowledge of emotional and organic experience, of vital impulse, balance, conflict, the ways of living and dying and feeling. Because no assignment of meaning is conventional, none is permanent beyond the sound that passes; yet the brief association was a flash of understanding. The lasting effect is, like the first effect of speech on the development of the mind, to make things conceivable rather than to store up propositions. Not communication but insight is the gift of music; in very naive phrase, a knowledge of "how feelings go." This has nothing to do with "Affektenlehre"; it is much more subtle, complex, protean, and much more important: for its entire record is emotional satisfaction, intellectual confidence, and musical understanding. "Thus music has fulfilled its mission whenever our hearts are satisfied." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 198)
Langer is going on about something all music-lovers know intuitively.
The plastic arts find natural models everywhere. Nature is full of individual, beautiful, characteristic forms, and anyone molding clay or marking with his finger in the sand naturally recalls some object to give sense to the shapes that produce themselves under his hand. It is so easy to achieve organic unity in a design by making it represent something, that even when we would experiment with pure forms we are apt to find ourselves interpreting the results as human figures, faces, flowers, or familiar inanimate things. Geometric forms require purely intellectual and original organization to recommend themselves to the eye as sensible Gestlaten, and must be relatively simple to be handled by their inventor or beholder as beautiful significance, carry a certain guarantee of unity and permanence, which lets us apprehend their forms, though these forms would be much too difficult to grasp as mere visual patterns without extraneous meaning. An artistically sensitive mind sees significant form where no such form presents itself. The profusion of natural models undoubtedly is responsible for the early development of plastic art. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 202)
Thus when we today think of abstract art, then it is not an exprimentation with shapes or colours that comes to mind but a jumble of human figures, faces, objects or familiar inanimate objects organized in a new way.
The molds and scaffoldings in which music had to take shape were all of extraneous character. Pictures have visual models, drama has a direct prototype in action, poetry in story; all may claim to be copies," in the Platonic sense or in the simple Aristotelian sense of "imitations." But music, having no adequate models, had to rest on the indirect support of two non-musical aids - rhythm, and words. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 206)
Or, if you will, beats and rhymes.
Cf. the observation of Kathi Meyer: "In antiquity, ritual was a cult act, a genuine sacrifice which was really carried out. Prayers and songs were mere accompaniments and remained secondary matter, hence the low development of these parts of the rite. Now, in the Christian service, the actual sacrifice is no longer really performed, it is symbolized, transcendentalized, spiritualized. The service is a parable. So prayers and chants became the realities which had to be emphasized more and more; they too served ultimately the process of spiritualization. If, in the past, a symbol was needed for the cult, one could replace the act or even the god by an image, in painting or sculpture. Now, with the conceptualizing of religion, one can spiritualize only the psychic process, the 'anima.' That is effected by the word or better yet in music." Bedeuting und Wesender Musik (Strassburg, 1931), p. 47. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 207ff)
That is, regious rituals or sacrifice has gone through what can be called "cue reduction".
Here it must be noted that the distinction between discursive and presentational symbols does not correspond to the difference between literal and artistic meanings. Many presentational symbols are merely proxy for discourse; geometric relations may be rendered in algebraic terms - clumsy terms perhaps, but quite equivalent - and graphs are mere abbreviated descriptions. They express facts for discursive thinking, and their content can be verbalized, subjected to the laws of vocabulary and syntax. Artistic symbols, on the other hand, are untranslatable; their sense is bound to the particular form which it has taken. It is alwas implicit, and cannot be explicated by any interpretation. This is true even of poetry, for though the material of poetry is verbal, its import is not the literal assertion made in the words, but the way the assertion is made, and this involves the sound, the tempo, the aura of associations in words, the long or short sequences of ideas, the wealth or poverty of transient imagery that contains them, the sudden arrest of fantasy by pure fact, or the familiar fact by sudden fantasy, the suspense of literal meaning by a sustained ambiguity resolved in a long-awaited key-word, and the unifying, all-embracing artifice of rhythm. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 211-212)
Compare this to Jakobson's poetic function and Lotman's treatment of untranslatability between the discursive/discrete and non-discursive/continuous.
The poem as a whole is the bearer of artistic import, as a painting or a drama is. We may isolate significant lines, as we may isolate beauties in any work, but if their meaning is not determined and supported by their context, the entire work, then that work is a failure despite the germ of excellence it contains. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 212)
This is exactly the case with modern rap music - although individual (punch)lines may be great, they fail to tell a story but come off as a mere "orgy of phrases".
An artistic symbol - which may be a product of human craftmanship, or (on a purely personal level) something in nature seen as "significant form" - has more than discursive or presentational meaning: its form as such, as a sensory phenomenon, has what i have called "implicit" meaning, like rite and myth, but of a more catholic sort. It has what L. A. Reid called "tertiary subject-matter," beyond the reach of "primary imagination" (as Coleridge would say) and even the "secondary imagination" that sees metaphorically. "Tertiary subject-matter is subject-matter imaginatively experienced in the work of art ... , something which cannot be apprehended apart from the work, though theoretically distinguishable from its expressiveness." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 213)
Were I better versed in modelling systems theory, I'd try to compare it to this.
Perhaps he did not see that this shift of terminology belies his doctrine that all art makes assertions wihch must ultimately be paraphrased in language; for assertions are true or false, and their adequacy has to be takes for granted before we can judge them as assertions at all. They are always debatable and may be tested for their truth-values by the nature of their explicable consequences. Art, on the other hand, has no consequences; it gives form to something that is simply not there, as the intuitive organizing functions of sense give form to objects and spaces, color and sound. It gives what Bertrand Russell calls "knowledge by acquaintance" of affective experience, below the level of belief, on the deeper level of insight and attitude. And to this mission i is either adequate or inadequate, as images, the primitive symbols of "things," are adequate or inadequate to give us a conception of what things are "like."
To understand the "idea" in a work of art is therefore more like having a new experience than like entertaining a new proposition; and to negatiote this knowledge by acquaintance the work may be adequate in some degree. There are no degrees of literal truth, but artistic truth, which is all significance, expressiveness, articulateness, has degrees; therefore works of art may be good or bad, and each must be judged on our experience of its revelations. Standard of art are set by the expectations of people whom long conversance with a certain mode - music, painting, architecture, or what not - has made both sensitive and exacting; there is no immutable law of artistic adequacy, because significance is always for a mind as well as of a form. But a form, a harmony, even a timbre, that is entirely unfamiliar is "meaningless," naturally enough; for we must grasp a Gestalt quite definitely before we can perceive an implicit meaning, or even the promise of such a meaning, in it; and such definite grasp requires a certain familiarity. Therefore the most original contemporary music in any period always troubles people's ears. The more pronounced its new idiom, the less they can make of it, unless the impulse which drove the composer to this creation is something of a common exprience, of a yet inarticulate Zeitgeist, which others, too, have felt. Then they, like him, may be ready to experiment with new expressions, and meet with an open mind what even the best of them cannot really judge. Perhaps some very wonderful music is lost because it is too extraordinary. It may even be lost to its composer because he cannot really handle its forms, and abandons them as unsuccessful. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 213-214)
In the first instance we must keep in mind that Langer is a proponent of symbolic logic (she wrote a book about it) and in the second instance she is addressing the novelty factor of art. In relation with a common experience, I think dubstep is a neat modern example, because it imitates the sounds of computer technology - something that sounds quite musical to the modern listener.
To us whose intelligence is bound up with language, whose achievements are physical comforts, machines, medicines, great cities, and the means of their destruction, theory of knowledge means a theory of communication, generalization, proof, in short: critique of science. But the limits of language are not the last limits of experience, and things inaccessible to language may have their own forms of conception, that is to say, their own symbolic devices. Such non-discursive forms, charged with logical possibilites of meaning, underlie the significance of music; and their recognition broadens our epistemology to the point of including not only the semantics of science, but a serious philosophy of art. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 215-216)
I think nonverbal behaviour has its own "symbolic devices".
His "house" is an apartment in the great man-made city; so far as he is concerned, it has only an interior, no exterior of its own. It could not collapse, let in rain, or blow away. If it leaks the fault is with a pipe or with the people upstairs, not with heaven. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 226)
She is describing the life of modern man and is right on the money - I live in a dorm and my room exists just like she suggests, with an interior only.
The modern mind is an incredible complex of impressions and transformations; and its product is a fabric of meanings that would make the most elaborate dream of the most ambitious tapestry-weaver look like a mat. The warp of that fabric consists of what we call "data," the signs to which experience has conditioned us to attend, and upon which we act often without any conscious ideation. The woof is symbolism. Out of signs and symbols we weake our tissue of "reality." (Langer 1956 [1942]: 227)
Did she just propose "semiotic reality"? I think she did!
Signs and symbols are knotted together in the production of those fixed realities that we call "facts," as I think thiswhole study of semantic has shown. But between the facts run the threads of unrecorded reality, momentarily recognized, wherever they come to the surface, in our tacit adaption to signs; and the bright, twisted threads of symbolic envisagement, imagination, thought - memory and reconstructed memory, belief beyond experience, dream, make-belief, hypothesis, philosophy - the whole creative process of ideation, metaphor, and abstraction that makes human like and adventure in understanding. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 228)
Did she just propose "semiotic treshold"? I think she did!
Because our moral life is negotiated so largely by symbols, it is more oppressive than the morality of animals. Beasts have their moral relations, too; they control each other's actions jealously or permit them patiently, as a dog permits her puppies to bite and worry her, but growls at another dog that trespasses on her premises. But animals react only to the deed that is done or is actually imminent; they use force only to frustrate or avenge an act; whereas we control each other's merely incipient behavior with fantasy and force. We employ sanctions, threaten vague penalties, and try to forestall offenses by merely exhibiting the symbols of their consequences. That is why man is more crues than any beast. We make our punishments effective as mere connotations, and to do so we havet o make them disproportionately harsh. Misdemeanors that merit no more than a serious rebuke or a half-hour in jail have to carry a penalty of a month's imprisonment if the very thought of the punishment is to prevent them. Then, because symbols have to have reference to fact if they are to remainforceful at all, wherever the threat has not served as a deterrent it has to be fulfilled. And more than that; the power of symbols enables us not only to limit each other's actions, but to command them; not only to restrain one another, but to constrain. That makes the weaker not merely the timid respecter of the strong, but his servant. It gives us duty, conscription, and slavery. The story of man's martyrdom is a sequel to the story of his intelligence, his power of symbolical envisagement. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 233)
Legal semiotics? Also social regulation.
For good or evil, man has this power of envisagement, which puts on him a burden that purely alert, realistic creatires do not bear - the burden of understanding. He lives not only in a place, but in Space; not only at a time, but in History. So he must conceive a world and a law of the world, a pattern of life, and a way of meeting death. All these things he knows, and he has to make some adaptions to their reality. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 233)
Some broad ideas to base a dystopian work on...
There are relatively few people today who are born to an environment which gives them spiritual support. Only persons of some imagination and effective intelligence can picture such an environment and deliberately seek it. They are the few who feel drawn to some realm of reality that contains their ultimate life-symbols and dictates activities which may acquire ritual value. Men who follow the sea have often a deep love for that hard life, which no catalogue of its practical virtues can account for. But in their dangerous calling they feel secure; in their comfortless quarters they are at eas. Waters and ships, heaven and storm and harbor, somehow contain the symbols through which they see meaning and sense in the world, a "justification," as we call it, of trouble, a unified conception of life whereby it can be rationally lived. Any man who loves his calling loves it for more than its use; he loves it because it seems to have "meaning." A scholar who will defy the world in order to write or speak what he knows as "scientific truth," the Greek philosopher who chose to die rather than protest against Athens, the feminist to whom woman-suffrace was a "cause" for which they accepted ridicule as well as punishment, show how entirely realistic performances may point beyond themselves, and acquire the value of super-personal acts, the rites. They are the forms of devotion that have replaced genuflexions, sacrifices, and solemn dances. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 234-235)
Mikita, Valdur 2013. Lingvistiline mets: Tsibihärblase paradigma. Teadvuse kiirendi. Tallinn: Grenader.
Therefore interference with acts that have ritual value (conscious or unconscious) is always felt as the most intolerable injury one man, or group of men, can do to another. Freedom of conscience is the basis of all personal freedom. To constrain a man against his principles - make a pacifist bear arms, a patriot insult his flag, a pagan receive baptism - is to engender his attitude toward the world, his personal strength and single-mindedness. No matter how fantastic may be the dogmas he holds sacred, how much his living lites conflict with the will or convenience of society, it is never a light matter to demand their violation. Men fight passionately against being forced to do lip-service, because the enactment of a rite is always, in some measure, assent to its meaning; so that the very expression of an alien mythology, incompatible wit hone's own vision of "fact" or "truth," works to the corruption of that vision. It is a breach of personality. To be obliged to confess, teach, or acclaim falsehood is always felt as an insult exceeding even ridicule and abuse. Common insult is a blow at one's ego; but constraint of conscience strikes at one's ego and super-ego, one's whole world, humanity, and purpose. It makes a strong mind to keep its orientation without overt symbols, acts, assertions, and social corroborations; to maintain it in the face of the confounding pattern of enacted heresy is more than average mentality can do. (Langer 1956 [1942]: 236-237)
Pretty much the topic that forms the implicit core of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.


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