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RE: [biopoet] Generalizing/Particularising

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  • Ellen Spolsky
    I ve been following the discussion of generalizing and particularizing with interest, and note that in this last response from Mike there is a germ of an idea
    Message 1 of 15 , Jan 31, 2006
      Message
      I've been following the discussion of generalizing and particularizing with interest, and note that in this last response from Mike there is a germ of an idea that needs to be emphasized. The two tendencies produce (at least) two different kinds of representation or description of a situation (event, behavior, or whatever), and the  point is that different representations are useful for different purposes - they have different functions. That's the f-word that I wanted to introduce into the discussion. We need to be able to produce a set of representations at various levels along a scale of generality, and then need to distinguish which is appropriate when. Sometimes the right representation is attached to the right situation. Often, in science, there is a productive alternation, large generalizations being followed by corrections which have been perceived only when particulars come to light and force a rethinking. But this happens in my literature classes too, when I open a discussion with a large generalization about (say) the period and genre of the novel, and the students start snipping away with but buts until we conclude with an agreement that the work is only somewhat fitted to the original generalization. My favorite example of misapplication of an emphasis on the particular is the bank teller reading Woody Allen's threatening note: "I have a gub."  She (so Baron-Cohen is right about gender?) insists that the would-be thief explain his misspelling - he insists she must surely "get the point" -- that he's attempting a robbery, even if all the particulars aren't correct. The difficulty, of course, is keeping flexibility so that the most useful representation can be produced as needed. The particulars of artistic representations could, if scientists were open to them, produce the but buts that are necessary to hone the general theory. es
       
      Ellen Spolsky   spolske@...
      Professor of English
      Bar-Ilan University
      52 900 Ramat Gan
      Israel 
      Tel: 03 531-8273  FAX: 03 534 7601
       
      Home: 32 Habad Street, 97 500 Jerusalem
      Tel: 02 628 2044  FAX: 02 628 5472
      -----Original Message-----
      From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com [mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Mike Tintner
      Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2006 12:21 AM
      To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [biopoet] Generalizing/Particularising

      Tim writes:
      But the question still remains: are there personality
      factors
      that
      correspond with one being more inclined toward a
      generalizing or a
      particularizing attitude?

      Tim,

      Thanks for the ethology examples, which are
      interesting. I don't think though that the writers
      represent any schools of thought which are in turn
      influencing substantial numbers of scientists or
      intellectuals in other fields. That WAS true, I think,
      of Lorenz and Tinbergen, whom Jay still idolises but
      who are now, as Lynn O'Connor's reply to him on
      evo-psych pointed out so well, passe. (But again,
      correct me).

      I'm not sure that you aren't (perhaps
      half-consciously) undercutting yourself in a major way
      with your example of Vollman's novel. Would we learn
      something about human risk-taking from that and
      similar novels, you ask, that we wouldn't from
      ethology? Of course, we would. You in effect give the
      same answer yourself - providing all the necessary
      evidence. Animals are subject to guilt but nothing as
      long-lived as Vollman's self-punishing hero [dunno the
      book myself].(The movie, Walk the Line, by the way,
      depicts a somewhat related guilt on Johnny Cash's
      part). We get that sort of detailed individual insight
      particularly from the dramatic/narrative arts. In
      general, the arts provide us with the most
      sophisticated psychological depictions of human
      behaviour. Why turn to subhuman (in the nicest
      possible way) psychology, except for a general
      evolutionary perspective and knowledge of animals
      themselves?

      Re your generalizing enquiry, if you are
      half-seriously interested, I would think you
      inevitably end up with somewhat trite and crude, but
      nevertheless somewhat true truisms.

      The generalizers are more likely to be male, the
      particularizers female. Look if you haven't already at
      Simon Baron-Cohen's latest book, which depicts males
      as systematizers and females as empathisers [not sure
      about my s's and z's here!) - and autists, some of
      whom are fascinated by extremely general and abstract
      maths, as examples of the "extreme male brain."

      Women, for example, are more likely when asked
      something like "What happened?" to give a long
      particular/individual story, with every step of some
      dramatic exchange rendered, word by word, gesture by
      gesture - which can drive a male listener crazy. The
      male is more likely to want a general summary first of
      what happened such as: "We had a terrible argument
      about politics, and I'm never going to talk to him
      again," followed perhaps by details.

      Generalizing and abstracting are the basis of
      systematising, scientific or otherwise.
      Individualising and particularising are fundamental to
      the detailed looking at people, which are the basis of
      empathising.

      My general sciences/ particular arts point though is
      of course a semiotic and philosophical one - and I'm
      much more interested in that than the psychology of
      generalizing/particularizing personality types. It is
      actually also a psychosemiotic point - for it is based
      on a theory of how the brain functions : how it
      understands, (which all touches on some of Bill's
      cognitive stuff - hi,Bill - if I can get around to
      it).

      Best




                 
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    • oleaneric
      I find it so interesting how thinking about the implications of Biopoetics or Literary Darwinism brings with it all sorts of epistemological debates. I liked
      Message 2 of 15 , Feb 2, 2006
        I find it so interesting how thinking about the implications of
        Biopoetics or Literary Darwinism brings with it all sorts of
        epistemological debates. I liked the fact that Eugene Halton
        referenced Wittgenstein in his post, as I've often thought ON
        CERTAINTY would be an good book to read while thinking about all
        these epistemological issues we all seem to be grappling with.

        And I find interesting too, that deep within a philosophical tangent
        on Pierce, Halton manages to bring two seemingly distinct threads on
        this list together into one (!) by quoting Pierce on science and
        generality:

        "The scientific implication of Peirce's philosophy of science is that
        pragmatic meaning is found, as Peirce put it, "not in an experiment,
        but in experimental phenomena...," not in "any particular event that
        did happen to somebody in the dead past, but what surely will happen
        to everybody in the living future who shall fulfill certain
        conditions" (Peirce, 1938: Vol. 5 Para. 425).

        There is no meaning in a present moment or immediate
        experimental result, but only in the mediate continuum of
        inferential, general semiosis which constitutes inquiry. Some
        generals that are true, are real. Other generals, which are false,
        are not real. That which is real, is general."

        I know little about Pierce, but it leads me to a distinction I was
        thinking about when reading Tim's defense of ethology in
        the "particular vs generality" thread. I'm not sure how hard a
        distinction it should be, but something to think about: It might be
        helpful to keep explanation distinct from narrative when thinking
        about representations in general.

        Ethology is primarily concerned (maybe in Spolsky's terms: its
        purpose/function) with finding explanations for simple and complex
        behavior in nature. These explanations, for example, usually take
        the form of proposed ultimate and proximate mechanisms.

        I took it that Tim was arguing that artistic narratives don't bring
        us this type of knowledge, and as such ethology had an important role
        distinct from narrative depictions of courtship behavior. Instead,
        writers are concerned with making their aesthetic
        narratives "believable" or "realistic" in order to stimulate the
        reader's suspension of disbelief, and in turn, have to make the
        behaviors of their characters believable or realistic within the
        context of a narrative. It is interesting to think about how they do
        this. Typically, they don't do it by proposing scientific
        explanations for the behavior but rely on more intuitive appreciation
        for norms of human motivation, emotion, incentives, and
        reasons/rationales that are couched in the conventions of a story.

        My point here is that, it seems a simplification to me to contrast
        ethology and novels as only a contrast between generality and
        particularity. I merely suggest the very obvious fact that there are
        other significant differences.
      • oleaneric
        I find it so interesting how thinking about the implications of Biopoetics or Literary Darwinism brings with it all sorts of epistemological debates. I liked
        Message 3 of 15 , Feb 2, 2006
          I find it so interesting how thinking about the implications of
          Biopoetics or Literary Darwinism brings with it all sorts of
          epistemological debates. I liked the fact that Eugene Halton
          referenced Wittgenstein in his post, as I've often thought ON
          CERTAINTY would be an good book to read while thinking about all
          these epistemological issues we all seem to be grappling with.

          And I find interesting too, that deep within a philosophical tangent
          on Pierce, Halton manages to bring two seemingly distinct threads on
          this list together into one (!) by quoting Pierce on science and
          generality:

          "The scientific implication of Peirce's philosophy of science is that
          pragmatic meaning is found, as Peirce put it, "not in an experiment,
          but in experimental phenomena...," not in "any particular event that
          did happen to somebody in the dead past, but what surely will happen
          to everybody in the living future who shall fulfill certain
          conditions" (Peirce, 1938: Vol. 5 Para. 425).

          There is no meaning in a present moment or immediate
          experimental result, but only in the mediate continuum of
          inferential, general semiosis which constitutes inquiry. Some
          generals that are true, are real. Other generals, which are false,
          are not real. That which is real, is general."

          I know little about Pierce, but it leads me to a distinction I was
          thinking about when reading Tim's defense of ethology in
          the "particular vs generality" thread. I'm not sure how hard a
          distinction it should be, but something to think about: It might be
          helpful to keep explanation distinct from narrative when thinking
          about representations in general.

          Ethology is primarily concerned (maybe in Spolsky's terms: its
          purpose/function) with finding explanations for simple and complex
          behavior in nature. These explanations, for example, usually take
          the form of proposed ultimate and proximate mechanisms.

          I took it that Tim was arguing that artistic narratives don't bring
          us this type of knowledge, and as such ethology had an important role
          distinct from narrative depictions of courtship behavior. Instead,
          writers are concerned with making their aesthetic
          narratives "believable" or "realistic" in order to stimulate the
          reader's suspension of disbelief, and in turn, have to make the
          behaviors of their characters believable or realistic within the
          context of a narrative. It is interesting to think about how they do
          this. Typically, they don't do it by proposing scientific
          explanations for the behavior but rely on more intuitive appreciation
          for norms of human motivation, emotion, incentives, and
          reasons/rationales that are couched in the conventions of a story.

          My point here is that, it seems a simplification to me to contrast
          ethology and novels as only a contrast between generality and
          particularity. I merely suggest the very obvious fact that there are
          other significant differences.
        • Brad Sullivan
          Hi folks. At the risk of entering Burke s parlour and speaking without adequate knowledge of the ongoing conversation there, I wanted to bring up two points
          Message 4 of 15 , Feb 3, 2006
            Hi folks.

            At the risk of entering Burke's parlour and speaking
            without adequate knowledge of the ongoing conversation
            there, I wanted to bring up two points that seem
            relevant to the current discussion of
            generalizing/particularizing.

            First, I had a colleague who talked about "working
            both ends of the hall" when in the classroom. His
            intention was to effectively intermix generalizations
            and concepts, on the one hand, with
            experientially-appropriate examples and stories for
            his students, on the other hand. I have found this to
            be an excellent pedagogical principle, and I think the
            reason is twofold. First, it plays to both audiences
            (the generalizers and the particularizers). Second, it
            may actually help the students to get better at doing
            the thing that is NOT their preference
            (particularizing if they are generalizers,
            generalizing if they are particularizers). It seems to
            me that the science/literature divide might be bridged
            (and is already bridged) in interesting ways by
            applying this concept of "working both ends of the
            hall."

            The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
            suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
            rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
            a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
            we spend most of our time in a state of complete
            skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
            anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
            important. Now I know plenty of students who exist in
            that state, unfortunately. But when we enter a new
            situation, or a new textual world, wouldn't it be
            better to think of what we do in terms of "willing
            engagement" or "active participation"? If we are to
            "work both ends of the hall" effectively, we'll need
            to be able to attend to new experiences without simply
            imposing what Wordsworth called "pre-existing codes of
            decision." I prefer to see this in terms of openness,
            rather than in terms of a "willing suspension of
            disbelief." Sorry, Coleridge. Wordsworth had it right!

            All best,

            Brad Sullivan

            --- oleaneric <oleaneric@...> wrote:

            > Ethology is primarily concerned (maybe in Spolsky's
            > terms: its
            > purpose/function) with finding explanations for
            > simple and complex
            > behavior in nature. These explanations, for
            > example, usually take
            > the form of proposed ultimate and proximate
            > mechanisms.
            >
            > I took it that Tim was arguing that artistic
            > narratives don't bring
            > us this type of knowledge, and as such ethology had
            > an important role
            > distinct from narrative depictions of courtship
            > behavior. Instead,
            > writers are concerned with making their aesthetic
            > narratives "believable" or "realistic" in order to
            > stimulate the
            > reader's suspension of disbelief, and in turn, have
            > to make the
            > behaviors of their characters believable or
            > realistic within the
            > context of a narrative. It is interesting to think
            > about how they do
            > this. Typically, they don't do it by proposing
            > scientific
            > explanations for the behavior but rely on more
            > intuitive appreciation
            > for norms of human motivation, emotion, incentives,
            > and
            > reasons/rationales that are couched in the
            > conventions of a story.
            >
            > My point here is that, it seems a simplification to
            > me to contrast
            > ethology and novels as only a contrast between
            > generality and
            > particularity. I merely suggest the very obvious
            > fact that there are
            > other significant differences.
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >


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          • oleaneric
            Brad, Thanks for the comments. I m confused though when you say: The other thing I wanted to say here is this: willing suspension of disbelief is an
            Message 5 of 15 , Feb 3, 2006
              Brad,
              Thanks for the comments. I'm confused though when you say:

              "The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
              suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
              rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
              a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
              we spend most of our time in a state of complete
              skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
              anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
              important."

              Isn't the normal meaning of the phrase the exact opposite of what you
              say here? We suspend our normal disbelief of fictional/dramatic
              discourse, not disbelief of our normal existence and experience.

              My father is a good example of someone who can't do this. He's an
              extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of fiction
              because he says, "it's not true." It brings up another point, that
              habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.
            • Brad Sullivan
              I m not sure how to address you, given your handle (oleaneric). Eric? My concern with willing suspension of disbelief is, to some extent, personal. In my
              Message 6 of 15 , Feb 4, 2006
                I'm not sure how to address you, given your "handle" (oleaneric). Eric?
                 
                My concern with "willing suspension of disbelief" is, to some extent, personal. In my book *Wordsworth and the Composition of Knowledge* (2000), I tried to "rescue" Wordsworth from a set of western assumptions about knowledge that tend to trivialize narrative, drama, and poetry. Coleridge's phrase, from the Biographia Literaria, represents his stance, deeply imbedded in Platonic/Cartesian assumptions about the mind and its relationship to physical reality: skepticism of the senses and their ability to convey valid experiential knowledge, insistence that all knowledge must be "extracted" from experience (and that we must "keep our distance" if we are to be "objective"), distrust of rhetoric and poetry because of their tendency to "warp" the real (as if we have direct and unmediated access to that!), and so on.  So there's a history to my response. It probably didn't make much sense on this list. Perhaps it still doesn't. If that's the case, sorry to bring it up! :-)
                 
                Thanks for replying.
                 
                Brad

                oleaneric <oleaneric@...> wrote:
                Brad,
                Thanks for the comments.  I'm confused though when you say:

                "The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
                suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
                rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
                a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
                we spend most of our time in a state of complete
                skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
                anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
                important."

                Isn't the normal meaning of the phrase the exact opposite of what you
                say here?  We suspend our normal disbelief of fictional/dramatic
                discourse, not disbelief of our normal existence and experience.

                My father is a good example of someone who can't do this.  He's an
                extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of fiction
                because he says, "it's not true."  It brings up another point, that
                habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.





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              • horvathon@aol.com
                Hey, Eric, Good to hear from you, and thanks for your remarks. It is helpful to think about the distinction between the purposes and functions of scientific
                Message 7 of 15 , Feb 4, 2006
                  Hey, Eric,

                         Good to hear from you, and thanks for your remarks. It is helpful to think about the distinction between the purposes and functions of scientific discourse and narratives. You're right on in stating that science is more concerned with explanations (proximate and ultimate), but I'm not convinced about the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" thing. My scepticism is two-fold--first, I'm not sure that it's a coherent concept in light of insights about how the brain works, except with serious modifications, and secondly, I'm not sure if it's what actually goes on when we read most of the time.  Tooby and Cosmides have argued at length about the decoupling that must take place in reading fiction, i.e. we are able to recognize that when we are reading a story that we are not to confuse or conflate the knowledge and reality of the story-world with that of the world around the armchair. This might be a kind of ev-psych theory version of Coleridge's notion. Brian Boyd has a nice summary (and critique) of this among his other summaries in the Literary Animal.

                        But I believe that there is more messiness and interplay between the fiction and the outer reality than the Tooby/Cosmides theory emphasizes. This makes sense in terms of the reading brain, which is exercising its same capacities (for language, theory of mind, emotional engagement) when reading as when experiencing. As someone like Lisa Zunshine has argued, narrative might be like an intense workout for our theory of mind "muscles."  Furthermore, with rare exceptions we are never fully immersed in the book--we might be paying attention to what page we have to get to, or thinking, "When is he going to get back to the main story?" or "This isn't nearly as good as her last book" or "This is such a Raymond Carver rip-off" or "Did I finish that leftover pizza?" Even a work like Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, which is notorious for immersing its readers into an alternate reality, doesn't cause a full suspension of critical faculties. I would probably argue that this state you call "willing suspension of disbelief"  is akin to what Dennett calls "consciousness"--i.e. a host of mental processes going on simultaneously, some completely internal, some external, and some trafficking back-and-forth, that sometimes add up to what keeps us reading and sometimes fail to. The border is probably a lot like the southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico--in principle it is clear how it is supposed to work, but the reality is messy, complicated, and much more interesting.

                        I figure that neurochemistry plays a profound role here that we have yet to unravel. In waking states, for instance, our brains are aminergically oriented, which makes us much more inclined to, say, critical thought and logic. When we are asleep, and acetylcholine becomes more prevalent, our critical faculties are shut down, and yet, here, with the exception of rare lucid dreams, we become fully immersed, the closest analogue one might find to complete "suspension of disbelief" in human experience, albeit not willing. This is a very crude schematization, but points to a larger piece of the puzzle, which is that our neurotransmitter levels play a crucial level in where we stand on the continuum of immersion to critical distance, the sort of "style" of thought. Jason Ronstadt and I have been looking at this and trying to sort it all out.

                        But you're right than in our apprehension of stories we're not typically thinking explictly about what the causes of some behavior were, even though we might be implicitly factoring those causes. And yes, credibility has something to do with it, although I find myself making more judgments about the credibility of authors rather than of characters. In other words, a good author can make me run with an implausible or even impossible chain of events. And unlike a scientific article, if the writing is fun and pleasurable I'm likely to tip the critical bouncers and send them home for the night. Thus your distinction between the aims of science and narrative certainly holds water.
                        
                        And yet, to bring things back to the relationship between ethology and literature, I can't help but think that when we look at risk-taking behavior in a story and risk-taking behavior in stickleback fish, we're interested in the same phenomenon--i.e. risk-taking. I see this as one of the key contributions of literary Darwinism. This brings us back to that thorny issue of particularity versus generalization. Of course, we' re anthropocentric, so the story of a stickleback will not be of the same interest as that of Vollmann's world-traveller in The Atlas, unless the stickleback's tale is made highly anthopomorphic itself and animated with the voice of Albert Brooks, a la "Finding Nemo." But it may be less an issue of science driving at general results and literature getting at particular cases, but rather that science attempts to isolate the relevant variables and factors first, whereas what literature is particularly good at is playing them off one another right away. In other words, literature inclines immediately toward the "holistic," while scientists may ultimately seek to understand the interplay of variables, but methodologically are in the business of isolating them first. Perhaps that's why there's an agreed-upon "scientific method," but no "storytelling method" (unless you're willing to fork over your hard-earned money to McKee and Company).

                  Best,
                  Tim

                  In a message dated 2/2/06 2:13:46 PM Eastern Standard Time, oleaneric@... writes:


                  I took it that Tim was arguing that artistic narratives don't bring
                  us this type of knowledge, and as such ethology had an important role
                  distinct from narrative depictions of courtship behavior.  Instead,
                  writers are concerned with making their aesthetic
                  narratives "believable" or "realistic" in order to stimulate the
                  reader's suspension of disbelief, and in turn, have to make the
                  behaviors of their characters believable or realistic within the
                  context of a narrative.  It is interesting to think about how they do
                  this.  Typically, they don't do it by proposing scientific
                  explanations for the behavior but rely on more intuitive appreciation
                  for norms of human motivation, emotion, incentives, and
                  reasons/rationales that are couched in the conventions of a story.


                • eugenehalton
                  Dear Brad, Eric, et al., I like the working both ends of the hall idea. In my experience philosophers and social theorists often tend to forests, historians
                  Message 8 of 15 , Feb 4, 2006
                    Dear Brad, Eric, et al.,

                    I like the "working both ends of the hall" idea. In my
                    experience philosophers and social theorists often tend to forests,
                    historians and ethnographers to trees. Another angle is perhaps
                    William James's "tough-minded" versus "tender-minded" distinction.

                    The comments on suspension of disbelief are also raise
                    important issues."Willing engagement," "active participation"… not
                    imposing "pre-existing codes of decision."

                    What are the rules of engagement? The rules of biopoetic
                    engagement?

                    Another way of looking at engagement in a work is the idea of
                    a liminal zone, the bracketing of everyday norms for complete
                    absorption into the work. Kundera describes both humor and the novel
                    as realms rendering morality ambiguous. Lawrence describes the novel
                    as a reality in which everything is relative to the living
                    quick: "And this is the beauty of the novel; everything is true in
                    its own relationship, and no further."

                    Victor Turner, a master ethnographer who wrote extensively on
                    the varieties of liminality in ritual and everyday life, described
                    play as a kind of liminal zone, analogous to the space of ritual
                    marginality, so significant for many kinds of rituals, and was
                    interested in correspondences with brain functioning. He drew a
                    distinction between the everyday as largely the "indicative mood,"
                    and the liminal as the "subjunctive mood," by which he meant not only
                    a grammatical distinction, but a biopoetic distinction in
                    consciousness. He was interested in ways ritual could be viewed from
                    brain perspectives, such as relations of ritual states to ergotropic
                    (activating) and trophotrophic ("braking" or recuperative)
                    activities, and also in how the varieties of trickster stories around
                    the globe could be seen as play. Bill Benzon has also drawn from
                    trickster stories for similar, interesting purposes.

                    Play is a kind of de-localizing, "ludic recombination," with
                    similarities, perhaps, to dreaming, which I have described
                    as "recombinant mimetics." Here is Turner from his book The
                    Anthropology of Performance:

                    "…since play deals with the whole gamut of experience both
                    contemporary and stored in culture, it can be said perhaps to play a
                    similar role in the social construction of reality as mutation and
                    variation in organic evolution. Its flickering knowledge of all
                    experience possible to the nervous system and its detachment from
                    that system's localizations enables it to perform the liminal
                    function of ludic recombination of familiar elements in unfamiliar
                    and often quite arbitrary patterns." (The Anthropology of
                    Performance, p.170)

                    Gene



                    --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Brad Sullivan <dbrad61@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > I'm not sure how to address you, given your "handle" (oleaneric).
                    Eric?
                    >
                    > My concern with "willing suspension of disbelief" is, to some
                    extent, personal. In my book *Wordsworth and the Composition of
                    Knowledge* (2000), I tried to "rescue" Wordsworth from a set of
                    western assumptions about knowledge that tend to trivialize
                    narrative, drama, and poetry. Coleridge's phrase, from the Biographia
                    Literaria, represents his stance, deeply imbedded in
                    Platonic/Cartesian assumptions about the mind and its relationship to
                    physical reality: skepticism of the senses and their ability to
                    convey valid experiential knowledge, insistence that all knowledge
                    must be "extracted" from experience (and that we must "keep our
                    distance" if we are to be "objective"), distrust of rhetoric and
                    poetry because of their tendency to "warp" the real (as if we have
                    direct and unmediated access to that!), and so on. So there's a
                    history to my response. It probably didn't make much sense on this
                    list. Perhaps it still doesn't. If that's the case, sorry to bring it
                    up! :-)
                    >
                    > Thanks for replying.
                    >
                    > Brad
                    >
                    > oleaneric <oleaneric@...> wrote:
                    > Brad,
                    > Thanks for the comments. I'm confused though when you say:
                    >
                    > "The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
                    > suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
                    > rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
                    > a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
                    > we spend most of our time in a state of complete
                    > skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
                    > anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
                    > important."
                    >
                    > Isn't the normal meaning of the phrase the exact opposite of what
                    you
                    > say here? We suspend our normal disbelief of fictional/dramatic
                    > discourse, not disbelief of our normal existence and experience.
                    >
                    > My father is a good example of someone who can't do this. He's an
                    > extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of fiction
                    > because he says, "it's not true." It brings up another point, that
                    > habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
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                  • horvathon@aol.com
                    Eric, Just out of curiosity, given your last point--does your father enjoy literary or narrative nonfiction? What about a well-told story, say, at a dinner
                    Message 9 of 15 , Feb 4, 2006
                      Eric,
                            Just out of curiosity, given your last point--does your father enjoy literary or narrative nonfiction? What about a well-told story, say, at a dinner party? Just thinking about narrative versus nonnarrative, rather than fiction versus nonfiction, since many would argue that while appreciation of fiction is clearly not universal, that for narrative is. Along these lines, I wrote a story last year from the perspective of an engineer, and spent a lot of time talking with a couple of my students in the engineering program about the story. It felt like the meeting-point of two very different cultures. I was trying to gain access to the mindset of an engineer and to somehow make this compatible with the story. Ethan Canin's "The Accountant" is a fine example of a story which uses the first-person point of view of an incompetent narrator for effect.
                            

                      Best,
                      Tim


                      In a message dated 2/3/06 2:58:36 PM Eastern Standard Time, oleaneric@... writes:


                      My father is a good example of someone who can't do this.  He's an
                      extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of fiction
                      because he says, "it's not true."  It brings up another point, that
                      habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.




                    • eugenehalton
                      Dear Brad, Eric, et al., I like the working both ends of the hall idea. In my experience philosophers and social theorists often tend to forests, historians
                      Message 10 of 15 , Feb 4, 2006
                        Dear Brad, Eric, et al.,

                        I like the "working both ends of the hall" idea. In my
                        experience philosophers and social theorists often tend to forests,
                        historians and ethnographers to trees. Another angle is perhaps
                        William James's "tough-minded" versus "tender-minded" distinction.

                        The comments on suspension of disbelief are also raise
                        important issues."Willing engagement," "active participation"… not
                        imposing "pre-existing codes of decision."

                        What are the rules of engagement? The rules of biopoetic
                        engagement?

                        Another way of looking at engagement in a work is the idea of
                        a liminal zone, the bracketing of everyday norms for complete
                        absorption into the work. Kundera describes both humor and the novel
                        as realms rendering morality ambiguous. Lawrence describes the novel
                        as a reality in which everything is relative to the living
                        quick: "And this is the beauty of the novel; everything is true in
                        its own relationship, and no further."

                        Victor Turner, a master ethnographer who wrote extensively on
                        the varieties of liminality in ritual and everyday life, described
                        play as a kind of liminal zone, analogous to the space of ritual
                        marginality, so significant for many kinds of rituals, and was
                        interested in correspondences with brain functioning. He drew a
                        distinction between the everyday as largely the "indicative mood,"
                        and the liminal as the "subjunctive mood," by which he meant not only
                        a grammatical distinction, but a biopoetic distinction in
                        consciousness. He was interested in ways ritual could be viewed from
                        brain perspectives, such as relations of ritual states to ergotropic
                        (activating) and trophotrophic ("braking" or recuperative)
                        activities, and also in how the varieties of trickster stories around
                        the globe could be seen as play. Bill Benzon has also drawn from
                        trickster stories for similar, interesting purposes.

                        Play is a kind of de-localizing, "ludic recombination," with
                        similarities, perhaps, to dreaming, which I have described
                        as "recombinant mimetics." Here is Turner from his book The
                        Anthropology of Performance:

                        "…since play deals with the whole gamut of experience both
                        contemporary and stored in culture, it can be said perhaps to play a
                        similar role in the social construction of reality as mutation and
                        variation in organic evolution. Its flickering knowledge of all
                        experience possible to the nervous system and its detachment from
                        that system's localizations enables it to perform the liminal
                        function of ludic recombination of familiar elements in unfamiliar
                        and often quite arbitrary patterns." (The Anthropology of
                        Performance, p.170)

                        Gene


                        --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Brad Sullivan <dbrad61@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > I'm not sure how to address you, given your "handle" (oleaneric).
                        Eric?
                        >
                        > My concern with "willing suspension of disbelief" is, to some
                        extent, personal. In my book *Wordsworth and the Composition of
                        Knowledge* (2000), I tried to "rescue" Wordsworth from a set of
                        western assumptions about knowledge that tend to trivialize
                        narrative, drama, and poetry. Coleridge's phrase, from the Biographia
                        Literaria, represents his stance, deeply imbedded in
                        Platonic/Cartesian assumptions about the mind and its relationship to
                        physical reality: skepticism of the senses and their ability to
                        convey valid experiential knowledge, insistence that all knowledge
                        must be "extracted" from experience (and that we must "keep our
                        distance" if we are to be "objective"), distrust of rhetoric and
                        poetry because of their tendency to "warp" the real (as if we have
                        direct and unmediated access to that!), and so on. So there's a
                        history to my response. It probably didn't make much sense on this
                        list. Perhaps it still doesn't. If that's the case, sorry to bring it
                        up! :-)
                        >
                        > Thanks for replying.
                        >
                        > Brad
                        >
                        > oleaneric <oleaneric@...> wrote:
                        > Brad,
                        > Thanks for the comments. I'm confused though when you say:
                        >
                        > "The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
                        > suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
                        > rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
                        > a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
                        > we spend most of our time in a state of complete
                        > skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
                        > anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
                        > important."
                        >
                        > Isn't the normal meaning of the phrase the exact opposite of what
                        you
                        > say here? We suspend our normal disbelief of fictional/dramatic
                        > discourse, not disbelief of our normal existence and experience.
                        >
                        > My father is a good example of someone who can't do this. He's an
                        > extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of fiction
                        > because he says, "it's not true." It brings up another point, that
                        > habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
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                      • Brad Sullivan
                        Gene, The rules of engagement are really my interest. For me, and I think for the early romantic poets and authors that I tend to study, literature
                        Message 11 of 15 , Feb 5, 2006
                          Gene,
                           
                          The "rules of engagement" are really my interest. For me, and I think for the early romantic poets and authors that I tend to study, literature (narrative, poetry, drama, storying) at its best is a doorway to altered states of consciousness. I think that Romantic poets saw poetry as an affective agent related to opium, or nitrous oxide, in its power to literally/physiologically change the mind states of readers and listeners. It is hard for us to believe this today, in the world of TV and Internet and films and other image-heavy media. But we know the feeling of putting down a book and trying to re-integrate our consciousness to "the everyday"--or leaving a movie theatre in an "altered state of mind." Attention is the key, and in western culture we don't seem to concern ourselves much with cultivating it. Half the battle for me when teaching is to get students to focus their attention enough to be responsive to the possibilities of history and literature. That's the engagement which is a pre-requisite for learning: playful openness to possibility, awareness of detail, complete "immersion" in new experiences. It is too bad that we have to work so hard to get in that mode. Some meditative practices might be helpful!
                           
                          I like the idea you present about the liminal zone producing the "subjunctive mood"--a place of possibility where ideas are made and unmade (and of course behavior DOES follow ideas in so many cases). This reminds me of Robert Frost's statements in Education by Poetry and other monologues, in which he spoke of thinking in terms of metaphors and their limits and said "All virtue in 'as if'." We experience new moments with more or less attention, consider what those moments might mean in our world of associations and memories, and emerge with our habits and beliefs more or less changed by the long string of "moments of possibility." As Kuhn suggested in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, everyday science (and everyday life?) is marked by "business as usual."  But if we pay attention to our changing world of interactions and relationships, our view of that world sometimes shifts dramatically--creating a new paradigm. The openness, or the engagement, is the key to such change.
                           
                          Hmmm. Sorry to ramble on. I'm obviously enjoying the biopoet group.
                           
                          Brad 
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           


                          eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@...> wrote:
                          Dear Brad, Eric, et al.,

                                I like the "working both ends of the hall" idea. In my
                          experience philosophers and social theorists often tend to forests,
                          historians and ethnographers to trees. Another angle is perhaps
                          William James's "tough-minded" versus "tender-minded" distinction.

                                The comments on suspension of disbelief are also raise
                          important issues."Willing engagement," "active participation"… not
                          imposing "pre-existing codes of decision."

                                What are the rules of engagement? The rules of biopoetic
                          engagement?

                                Another way of looking at engagement in a work is the idea of
                          a liminal zone, the bracketing of everyday norms for complete
                          absorption into the work. Kundera describes both humor and the novel
                          as realms rendering morality ambiguous. Lawrence describes the novel
                          as a reality in which everything is relative to the living
                          quick: "And this is the beauty of the novel; everything is true in
                          its own relationship, and no further."

                                Victor Turner, a master ethnographer who wrote extensively on
                          the varieties of liminality in ritual and everyday life, described
                          play as a kind of liminal zone, analogous to the space of ritual
                          marginality, so significant for many kinds of rituals, and was
                          interested in correspondences with brain functioning. He drew a
                          distinction between the everyday as largely the "indicative mood,"
                          and the liminal as the "subjunctive mood," by which he meant not only
                          a grammatical distinction, but a biopoetic distinction in
                          consciousness. He was interested in ways ritual could be viewed from
                          brain perspectives, such as relations of ritual states to ergotropic
                          (activating) and trophotrophic ("braking" or recuperative)
                          activities, and also in how the varieties of trickster stories around
                          the globe could be seen as play. Bill Benzon has also drawn from
                          trickster stories for similar, interesting purposes. 

                                Play is a kind of de-localizing, "ludic recombination," with
                          similarities, perhaps, to dreaming, which I have described
                          as "recombinant mimetics." Here is Turner from his book The
                          Anthropology of Performance:

                                "…since play deals with the whole gamut of experience both
                          contemporary and stored in culture, it can be said perhaps to play a
                          similar role in the social construction of reality as mutation and
                          variation in organic evolution. Its flickering knowledge of all
                          experience possible to the nervous system and its detachment from
                          that system's localizations enables it to perform the liminal
                          function of ludic recombination of familiar elements in unfamiliar
                          and often quite arbitrary patterns." (The Anthropology of
                          Performance, p.170)

                          Gene


                          --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Brad Sullivan <dbrad61@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > I'm not sure how to address you, given your "handle" (oleaneric).
                          Eric?
                          >   
                          >   My concern with "willing suspension of disbelief" is, to some
                          extent, personal. In my book *Wordsworth and the Composition of
                          Knowledge* (2000), I tried to "rescue" Wordsworth from a set of
                          western assumptions about knowledge that tend to trivialize
                          narrative, drama, and poetry. Coleridge's phrase, from the Biographia
                          Literaria, represents his stance, deeply imbedded in
                          Platonic/Cartesian assumptions about the mind and its relationship to
                          physical reality: skepticism of the senses and their ability to
                          convey valid experiential knowledge, insistence that all knowledge
                          must be "extracted" from experience (and that we must "keep our
                          distance" if we are to be "objective"), distrust of rhetoric and
                          poetry because of their tendency to "warp" the real (as if we have
                          direct and unmediated access to that!), and so on.  So there's a
                          history to my response. It probably didn't make much sense on this
                          list. Perhaps it still doesn't. If that's the case, sorry to bring it
                          up! :-)
                          >   
                          >   Thanks for replying.
                          >   
                          >   Brad
                          >
                          > oleaneric <oleaneric@...> wrote:
                          >   Brad,
                          > Thanks for the comments.  I'm confused though when you say:
                          >
                          > "The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
                          > suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
                          > rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
                          > a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
                          > we spend most of our time in a state of complete
                          > skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
                          > anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
                          > important."
                          >
                          > Isn't the normal meaning of the phrase the exact opposite of what
                          you
                          > say here?  We suspend our normal disbelief of fictional/dramatic
                          > discourse, not disbelief of our normal existence and experience.
                          >
                          > My father is a good example of someone who can't do this.  He's an
                          > extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of fiction
                          > because he says, "it's not true."  It brings up another point, that
                          > habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
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                        • William Benzon
                          Norman Holland has a neuro-psychoanalytic perspective on ³willing suspension² that you can find here:
                          Message 12 of 15 , Feb 5, 2006
                            Re: [biopoet] Re: Generalizing/Particularising Norman Holland has a neuro-psychoanalytic perspective on “willing suspension” that you can find here:

                            http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2003_holland06.shtml

                            I elaborate a bit on Holland in an essay review I did of a recent book about ayahuasca experiences. You can find that review here:

                            http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/shanon.html

                            In that review I recount a vision from the book that has the “vision within a vision” quality of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.”

                            Later,

                            Bill B
                            --

                            William L. Benzon
                            708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A
                            Jersey City, NJ 07302
                            201 217-1010

                            "You won't get a wild heroic ride to heaven on pretty little sounds."--George Ives

                            Mind-Culture Coevolution: http://asweknowit.ca/evcult/



                            on 2/5/06 12:39 PM, Brad Sullivan at dbrad61@... wrote:

                            Gene,
                              
                             
                              
                            The "rules of engagement" are really my interest. For me, and I think for the early romantic poets and authors that I tend to study, literature (narrative, poetry, drama, storying) at its best is a doorway to altered states of consciousness. I think that Romantic poets saw poetry as an affective agent related to opium, or nitrous oxide, in its power to literally/physiologically change the mind states of readers and listeners. It is hard for us to believe this today, in the world of TV and Internet and films and other image-heavy media. But we know the feeling of putting down a book and trying to re-integrate our consciousness to "the everyday"--or leaving a movie theatre in an "altered state of mind." Attention is the key, and in western culture we don't seem to concern ourselves much with cultivating it. Half the battle for me when teaching is to get students to focus their attention enough to be responsive to the possibilities of history and literature. That's the engagement which is a pre-requisite for learning: playful openness to possibility, awareness of detail, complete "immersion" in new experiences. It is too bad that we have to work so hard to get in that mode. Some meditative practices might be helpful!
                              
                             
                              
                            I like the idea you present about the liminal zone producing the "subjunctive mood"--a place of possibility where ideas are made and unmade (and of course behavior DOES follow ideas in so many cases). This reminds me of Robert Frost's statements in Education by Poetry and other monologues, in which he spoke of thinking in terms of metaphors and their limits and said "All virtue in 'as if'." We experience new moments with more or less attention, consider what those moments might mean in our world of associations and memories, and emerge with our habits and beliefs more or less changed by the long string of "moments of possibility." As Kuhn suggested in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, everyday science (and everyday life?) is marked by "business as usual."  But if we pay attention to our changing world of interactions and relationships, our view of that world sometimes shifts dramatically--creating a new paradigm. The openness, or the engagement, is the key to such change.
                              
                             
                              
                            Hmmm. Sorry to ramble on. I'm obviously enjoying the biopoet group.
                              
                             
                              
                            Brad
                              
                             
                              
                             
                              
                             
                              
                             
                              
                             
                              
                             
                              
                             
                              


                            eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@...> wrote:
                              
                            Dear Brad, Eric, et al.,

                                  I like the "working both ends of the hall" idea. In my
                            experience philosophers and social theorists often tend to forests,
                            historians and ethnographers to trees. Another angle is perhaps
                            William James's "tough-minded" versus "tender-minded" distinction.

                                  The comments on suspension of disbelief are also raise
                            important issues."Willing engagement," "active participation"∑ not
                            imposing "pre-existing codes of decision."

                                  What are the rules of engagement? The rules of biopoetic
                            engagement?

                                  Another way of looking at engagement in a work is the idea of
                            a liminal zone, the bracketing of everyday norms for complete
                            absorption into the work. Kundera describes both humor and the novel
                            as realms rendering morality ambiguous. Lawrence describes the novel
                            as a reality in which everything is relative to the living
                            quick: "And this is the beauty of the novel; everything is true in
                            its own relationship, and no further."

                                  Victor Turner, a master ethnographer who wrote extensively on
                            the varieties of liminality in ritual and everyday life, described
                            play as a kind of liminal zone, analogous to the space of ritual
                            marginality, so significant for many kinds of rituals, and was
                            interested in correspondences with brain functioning. He drew a
                            distinction between the everyday as largely the "indicative mood,"
                            and the liminal as the "subjunctive mood," by which he meant not only
                            a grammatical distinction, but a biopoetic distinction in
                            consciousness. He was interested in ways ritual could be viewed from
                            brain perspectives, such as relations of ritual states to ergotropic
                            (activating) and trophotrophic ("braking" or recuperative)
                            activities, and also in how the varieties of trickster stories around
                            the globe could be seen as play. Bill Benzon has also drawn from
                            trickster stories for similar, interesting purposes.  

                                  Play is a kind of de-localizing, "ludic recombination," with
                            similarities, perhaps, to dreaming, which I have described
                            as "recombinant mimetics." Here is Turner from his book The
                            Anthropology of Performance:

                                  "∑since play deals with the whole gamut of experience both
                            contemporary and stored in culture, it can be said perhaps to play a
                            similar role in the social construction of reality as mutation and
                            variation in organic evolution. Its flickering knowledge of all
                            experience possible to the nervous system and its detachment from
                            that system's localizations enables it to perform the liminal
                            function of ludic recombination of familiar elements in unfamiliar
                            and often quite arbitrary patterns." (The Anthropology of
                            Performance, p.170)

                            Gene


                            --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Brad Sullivan <dbrad61@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > I'm not sure how to address you, given your "handle" (oleaneric).
                            Eric?
                            >    
                            >   My concern with "willing suspension of disbelief" is, to some
                            extent, personal. In my book *Wordsworth and the Composition of
                            Knowledge* (2000), I tried to "rescue" Wordsworth from a set of
                            western assumptions about knowledge that tend to trivialize
                            narrative, drama, and poetry. Coleridge's phrase, from the Biographia
                            Literaria, represents his stance, deeply imbedded in
                            Platonic/Cartesian assumptions about the mind and its relationship to
                            physical reality: skepticism of the senses and their ability to
                            convey valid experiential knowledge, insistence that all knowledge
                            must be "extracted" from experience (and that we must "keep our
                            distance" if we are to be "objective"), distrust of rhetoric and
                            poetry because of their tendency to "warp" the real (as if we have
                            direct and unmediated access to that!), and so on.  So there's a
                            history to my response. It probably didn't make much sense on this
                            list. Perhaps it still doesn't. If that's the case, sorry to bring it
                            up! :-)
                            >    
                            >   Thanks for replying.
                            >    
                            >   Brad
                            >
                            > oleaneric <oleaneric@...> wrote:
                            >   Brad,
                            > Thanks for the comments.  I'm confused though when you say:
                            >
                            > "The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
                            > suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
                            > rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
                            > a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
                            > we spend most of our time in a state of complete
                            > skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
                            > anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
                            > important."
                            >
                            > Isn't the normal meaning of the phrase the exact opposite of what
                            you
                            > say here?  We suspend our normal disbelief of fictional/dramatic
                            > discourse, not disbelief of our normal existence and experience.
                            >
                            > My father is a good example of someone who can't do this.  He's an
                            > extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of fiction
                            > because he says, "it's not true."  It brings up another point, that
                            > habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
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                          • eugenehalton
                            Dear Brad, Yes, the romantics seem to me to celebrate the greater powers of passionate mind as extra-rational reasonableness, a view of rationality as
                            Message 13 of 15 , Feb 12, 2006
                              Dear Brad,

                              Yes, the romantics seem to me to celebrate the greater powers
                              of passionate mind as extra-rational reasonableness, a view of
                              rationality as circumscribed by extrarational reasonableness.

                              Romanticism was not only a reaction against the growing
                              mechanical universe of scientific abstraction, but also what painter
                              Cecil Collins called, "one of the protections of the Soul through one
                              of the darkest rationalistic periods of the nineteenth century.
                              People don't yet understand the significance of the Romantics--that
                              they kept the soul alive. They affirmed, they did not share the
                              materialistic optimism of the nineteenth century, and they were very
                              valuable. Frankly without the Romantics I don't think the soul would
                              have made contact with the twentieth century."

                              And Collins also spoke of art as awareness:

                              "...Keats said, `Ultimately, life cannot be lived by precept,
                              but only by constant awareness in itself.' That is the organic sense
                              of life to which we shall have to return. Society must be based on
                              our sense of wonder, the one experience which justifies our being
                              alive. Art is a form of transcendental magic which is created out of
                              that awakened sense, and returns to it. The secret of life is to
                              share the creative madness of God - if we have never experienced this
                              madness we can be said never to have lived. For it is the direct
                              expression of having regained that reverence for all living things
                              which is the only real foundation for human society - when we feel,
                              in the words of that greatest of all surrealist artists, William
                              Blake, `Everything That Lives Is Holy.'"

                              Extracts from The Vision of the Fool by Cecil Collins

                              Cheers,
                              Gene


                              --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Brad Sullivan <dbrad61@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > Gene,
                              >
                              > The "rules of engagement" are really my interest. For me, and I
                              think for the early romantic poets and authors that I tend to study,
                              literature (narrative, poetry, drama, storying) at its best is a
                              doorway to altered states of consciousness. I think that Romantic
                              poets saw poetry as an affective agent related to opium, or nitrous
                              oxide, in its power to literally/physiologically change the mind
                              states of readers and listeners. It is hard for us to believe this
                              today, in the world of TV and Internet and films and other image-
                              heavy media. But we know the feeling of putting down a book and
                              trying to re-integrate our consciousness to "the everyday"--or
                              leaving a movie theatre in an "altered state of mind." Attention is
                              the key, and in western culture we don't seem to concern ourselves
                              much with cultivating it. Half the battle for me when teaching is to
                              get students to focus their attention enough to be responsive to the
                              possibilities of history and literature. That's the engagement
                              > which is a pre-requisite for learning: playful openness to
                              possibility, awareness of detail, complete "immersion" in new
                              experiences. It is too bad that we have to work so hard to get in
                              that mode. Some meditative practices might be helpful!
                              >
                              > I like the idea you present about the liminal zone producing
                              the "subjunctive mood"--a place of possibility where ideas are made
                              and unmade (and of course behavior DOES follow ideas in so many
                              cases). This reminds me of Robert Frost's statements in Education by
                              Poetry and other monologues, in which he spoke of thinking in terms
                              of metaphors and their limits and said "All virtue in 'as if'." We
                              experience new moments with more or less attention, consider what
                              those moments might mean in our world of associations and memories,
                              and emerge with our habits and beliefs more or less changed by the
                              long string of "moments of possibility." As Kuhn suggested in The
                              Structure of Scientific Revolutions, everyday science (and everyday
                              life?) is marked by "business as usual." But if we pay attention to
                              our changing world of interactions and relationships, our view of
                              that world sometimes shifts dramatically--creating a new paradigm.
                              The openness, or the engagement, is the key to such change.
                              >
                              > Hmmm. Sorry to ramble on. I'm obviously enjoying the biopoet
                              group.
                              >
                              > Brad
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@...> wrote:
                              > Dear Brad, Eric, et al.,
                              >
                              > I like the "working both ends of the hall" idea. In my
                              > experience philosophers and social theorists often tend to forests,
                              > historians and ethnographers to trees. Another angle is perhaps
                              > William James's "tough-minded" versus "tender-minded" distinction.
                              >
                              > The comments on suspension of disbelief are also raise
                              > important issues."Willing engagement," "active participation"… not
                              > imposing "pre-existing codes of decision."
                              >
                              > What are the rules of engagement? The rules of biopoetic
                              > engagement?
                              >
                              > Another way of looking at engagement in a work is the idea of
                              > a liminal zone, the bracketing of everyday norms for complete
                              > absorption into the work. Kundera describes both humor and the
                              novel
                              > as realms rendering morality ambiguous. Lawrence describes the
                              novel
                              > as a reality in which everything is relative to the living
                              > quick: "And this is the beauty of the novel; everything is true in
                              > its own relationship, and no further."
                              >
                              > Victor Turner, a master ethnographer who wrote extensively on
                              > the varieties of liminality in ritual and everyday life, described
                              > play as a kind of liminal zone, analogous to the space of ritual
                              > marginality, so significant for many kinds of rituals, and was
                              > interested in correspondences with brain functioning. He drew a
                              > distinction between the everyday as largely the "indicative mood,"
                              > and the liminal as the "subjunctive mood," by which he meant not
                              only
                              > a grammatical distinction, but a biopoetic distinction in
                              > consciousness. He was interested in ways ritual could be viewed
                              from
                              > brain perspectives, such as relations of ritual states to
                              ergotropic
                              > (activating) and trophotrophic ("braking" or recuperative)
                              > activities, and also in how the varieties of trickster stories
                              around
                              > the globe could be seen as play. Bill Benzon has also drawn from
                              > trickster stories for similar, interesting purposes.
                              >
                              > Play is a kind of de-localizing, "ludic recombination," with
                              > similarities, perhaps, to dreaming, which I have described
                              > as "recombinant mimetics." Here is Turner from his book The
                              > Anthropology of Performance:
                              >
                              > "…since play deals with the whole gamut of experience both
                              > contemporary and stored in culture, it can be said perhaps to play
                              a
                              > similar role in the social construction of reality as mutation and
                              > variation in organic evolution. Its flickering knowledge of all
                              > experience possible to the nervous system and its detachment from
                              > that system's localizations enables it to perform the liminal
                              > function of ludic recombination of familiar elements in unfamiliar
                              > and often quite arbitrary patterns." (The Anthropology of
                              > Performance, p.170)
                              >
                              > Gene
                              >
                              >
                              > --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Brad Sullivan <dbrad61@> wrote:
                              > >
                              > > I'm not sure how to address you, given your "handle" (oleaneric).
                              > Eric?
                              > >
                              > > My concern with "willing suspension of disbelief" is, to some
                              > extent, personal. In my book *Wordsworth and the Composition of
                              > Knowledge* (2000), I tried to "rescue" Wordsworth from a set of
                              > western assumptions about knowledge that tend to trivialize
                              > narrative, drama, and poetry. Coleridge's phrase, from the
                              Biographia
                              > Literaria, represents his stance, deeply imbedded in
                              > Platonic/Cartesian assumptions about the mind and its relationship
                              to
                              > physical reality: skepticism of the senses and their ability to
                              > convey valid experiential knowledge, insistence that all knowledge
                              > must be "extracted" from experience (and that we must "keep our
                              > distance" if we are to be "objective"), distrust of rhetoric and
                              > poetry because of their tendency to "warp" the real (as if we have
                              > direct and unmediated access to that!), and so on. So there's a
                              > history to my response. It probably didn't make much sense on this
                              > list. Perhaps it still doesn't. If that's the case, sorry to bring
                              it
                              > up! :-)
                              > >
                              > > Thanks for replying.
                              > >
                              > > Brad
                              > >
                              > > oleaneric <oleaneric@> wrote:
                              > > Brad,
                              > > Thanks for the comments. I'm confused though when you say:
                              > >
                              > > "The other thing I wanted to say here is this: "willing
                              > > suspension of disbelief" is an incredibly empty,
                              > > rationalist way to look at what happens when we enter
                              > > a fictional, or poetic, or film world. It assumes that
                              > > we spend most of our time in a state of complete
                              > > skepticism, and must be convinced somehow that
                              > > anything we see or experience is real, interesting, or
                              > > important."
                              > >
                              > > Isn't the normal meaning of the phrase the exact opposite of what
                              > you
                              > > say here? We suspend our normal disbelief of fictional/dramatic
                              > > discourse, not disbelief of our normal existence and experience.
                              > >
                              > > My father is a good example of someone who can't do this. He's
                              an
                              > > extremely literal minded engineer, who can't read a page of
                              fiction
                              > > because he says, "it's not true." It brings up another point,
                              that
                              > > habitual reading of literature is not a universal human behavior.
                              > >
                              > >
                              > >
                              > >
                              > >
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                            • horvathon@aol.com
                              On the issue of generalization--its complications, necessity, and its practical applications, I found this article in the New Yorker of great interest. Since
                              Message 14 of 15 , Feb 12, 2006
                                On the issue of generalization--its complications, necessity, and its practical applications, I found this article in the New Yorker of great interest. Since it is about the "personalities" of pit bulls, and the extent to which one can and must generalize about them, I think it speaks to some of the issues raised in this thread. Here's a brief excerpt and a link.

                                Best,
                                Tim

                                From
                                TROUBLEMAKERS
                                by MALCOLM GLADWELL
                                What pit bulls can teach us about profiling.
                                Issue of 2006-02-06
                                Posted 2006-01-30
                                http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/060206fa_fact



                                In epidemiological studies of dog bites, the pit bull is overrepresented among dogs known to have seriously injured or killed human beings, and, as a result, pit bulls have been banned or restricted in several Western European countries, China, and numerous cities and municipalities across North America. Pit bulls are dangerous.

                                Of course, not all pit bulls are dangerous. Most don’t bite anyone. Meanwhile, Dobermans and Great Danes and German shepherds and Rottweilers are frequent biters as well, and the dog that recently mauled a Frenchwoman so badly that she was given the world’s first face transplant was, of all things, a Labrador retriever. When we say that pit bulls are dangerous, we are making a generalization, just as insurance companies use generalizations when they charge young men more for car insurance than the rest of us (even though many young men are perfectly good drivers), and doctors use generalizations when they tell overweight middle-aged men to get their cholesterol checked (even though many overweight middle-aged men won’t experience heart trouble). Because we don’t know which dog will bite someone or who will have a heart attack or which drivers will get in an accident, we can make predictions only by generalizing. As the legal scholar Frederick Schauer has observed, “painting with a broad brush” is “an often inevitable and frequently desirable dimension of our decision-making lives.”

                                Another word for generalization, though, is “stereotype,” and stereotypes are usually not considered desirable dimensions of our decision-making lives. The process of moving from the specific to the general is both necessary and perilous. A doctor could, with some statistical support, generalize about men of a certain age and weight. But what if generalizing from other traits—such as high blood pressure, family history, and smoking—saved more lives? Behind each generalization is a choice of what factors to leave in and what factors to leave out, and those choices can prove surprisingly complicated. After the attack on Jayden Clairoux, the Ontario government chose to make a generalization about pit bulls. But it could also have chosen to generalize about powerful dogs, or about the kinds of people who own powerful dogs, or about small children, or about back-yard fences—or, indeed, about any number of other things to do with dogs and people and places. How do we know when we’ve made the right generalization?






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