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Re: The Challenge for Biopoet

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  • eugenehalton
    Thank you for your responses, Zach and Harold. I agree Zach, that broadening literary studies with other means, including biology and neuroscience, can be a
    Message 1 of 17 , Feb 1, 2006
      Thank you for your responses, Zach and Harold.

      I agree Zach, that broadening literary studies with other
      means, including biology and neuroscience, can be a good direction,
      depending on how they are used. If that is what Harold said in his
      letter, I could have agreed with that too. Ditto for earlier postings
      here from Joseph Carroll. But that is not what Fromm explicitly
      stated. You manage to avoid my specific criticism of Fromm's
      exaggerated and false claims in the letter. He did not limit his
      statement to "…contemporary bioscience as a legitimate source of
      information," as you put it, but as the legitimating criterion
      without which literary study is delusional. Fromm claimed that, "The
      study of literature without an ever-conscious awareness of its
      biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings about creationism."

      And Fromm called for disrupting, "…the dreamworld
      of "intelligent design" that is keeping the literary humanities in
      their hyperdogmatic slumber, their narcissistic sense of their own
      unbeholden power."

      Now Zach or Harold, do you believe that all study of
      literature not informed by biology is comparable to fundamentalist
      fantasizing? That is what is explicitly stated. That is my main point
      for claiming that it is bio-reductionism and for criticizing literary
      Darwinism as a heavy-handed ideological agenda.

      Harold, you weave a reply that goes from claiming that
      reductionism is just perspectivism, just "point of view" to a
      conclusion: "Should one respond to charges that one is, after all,
      just a person?" That is sleight-of-hand, attempting to deflect my
      criticism of your position to your person. I claimed that the
      position you advocated was reductionist, and I claim that your
      sentences in the letter, quoted again above, are reductionism in
      extremis which would deny validity to most literary studies. Perhaps
      you were just a person given to hyperbole in your letter, or perhaps
      it relates to MLA history and politics of which I am unaware, I don't
      know, but it was the extremist position that equated non-biologically
      oriented approaches with delusional dogmatism I was criticizing as
      itself dogmatic. I don't even agree with Scholes, but there are many
      critics of all stripes in the humanities who do not draw from
      biology, and whose work makes good sense, and is not "akin to
      fantasizings about creationism."

      The rest of your last response is quite different from your
      letter to Scholes, however. Viewing bio and neuroscience approaches
      as "a timely contribution to the total mix of critical approaches…"
      is one I have no disagreement with.

      I also stated that, "Literary Darwinism seems to aspire to be
      nothing more than scientific suck-upism, humanists in white lab coats
      playing at science. That is so unnecessary. So is the completely
      uncritical view of science." This is not, as you claim Zach, an ad
      hominem argument against an individual, but it is a severe criticism
      of literary Darwinism as a position. I invented a technical term,
      scientific suck-upism, meaning the idealization of science. I would
      like to see literary Darwinists question not only literature, but
      accepted biology too. But what I have seen so far suggests it is a
      one-way street.

      Joseph Carroll has written of an evolutionary outlook as "the
      permanent, fundamental framework for all literary study," "it would
      exclude other competing frameworks," "it would contain…," "it would
      be the central medium…" That is why I claimed in an earlier post that
      Carroll is a Darwinian fundamentalist, not someone open to competing
      or even complementary frameworks IN THE HUMANITIES.

      Zach, I understand what you are trying to say regarding
      Peirce, but it needs clarification. You say, "I think if Charles
      Sanders Peirce were alive today, he would charge Dr.Scholes (not
      always, but in this particular instance) with what he called fixation
      of belief: the tenacious, mumpsimus dedication to a unfalsifiable,
      metaphysical construct. Peirce believed that empirical science was
      the best possible method for determining the truth of any given
      statement, and semiotics--especially the brand that Umberto Eco
      advocates--is more akin to metaphysics than science."

      I like the word "mumpsimus." Perhaps you are right about
      Scholes. He seemed simply to limit criticism to a textual conception
      of signification. But does Scholes deny falsifiability through
      textual criticism? I did not get that from his reply.

      But the fixation of belief, as Peirce described it, is what
      all reasoning and inquiry seeks, not some Freudian sense
      of "fixation." It depends upon how belief is fixed, not simply that
      it is fixed. Peirce proposes tenacity, authority, and a priori as
      methods used, but which cannot ultimately free belief from doubt. His
      fourth method, scientific inquiry, is one that can, as the regulative
      ideal of inquiry. Reality determines true belief as the ultimate goal
      of inquiry, found through an unlimited community of inquiry. It is
      the regulative ideal, which is why Peirce held that science, in
      actuality, is limited to probable opinion and not certainty of
      belief.

      Peirce did not view empirical science as "the best possible
      method for determining the truth of any given statement…." Not all
      sciences are empirical. Mathematics, for example, is not an empirical
      science in Peirce's view: "Mathematics studies what is and what is
      not logically possible, without making itself responsible for its
      actual existence." CP 1.183-187, 1903.

      You say that semiotics "is more akin to metaphysics than
      science," neglecting that Peirce invented semeiotic as a scientific
      form of logic, regardless of how it is been misinterpreted by Charles
      Morris, Umberto Eco or others. Though critical of the metaphysics of
      his time, Peirce did not oppose metaphysics to science, but saw it as
      a branch of science. The twentieth-century positivist quest to
      eliminate metaphysics, still naively believed in by many today, was
      an example of what Peirce already meant when he wrote in 1905-06:

      "Find a scientific man who proposes to get along without any
      metaphysics...and you have found one whose doctrines are thoroughly
      vitiated by the crude and uncriticized metaphysics with which they
      are packed. We must philosophize, said the great naturalist
      Aristotle -- if only to avoid philosophizing. Every man of us has a
      metaphysics, and has to have one; and it will influence his life
      greatly. Far better, then, that that metaphysics should be criticized
      and not be allowed to run loose... In short, there is no escape from
      the need of a critical examination of "first principles." (Collected
      Papers, Vol.1. para. 129).

      Gene








      --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, <zach@c...> wrote:
      >
      > Dear Gene Halton,
      >
      > I empathize with your response, and I think you bring up a few good
      > points, which I will address below. Before I do, however, I'd like
      to
      > point out that you unwittingly fall prey to your own charges against
      > Dr. Fromm when you resort to dismissive rhetorical tactics--namely,
      you
      > reduce his position to the strawman of reductionism, focus on the
      > machine metaphor as if it were the totality of his position, and
      appeal
      > to ad hominem arguments by suggesting that literary Darwinists are
      all
      > "scientific suck-ups." I won't say any more on this, since I'd
      rather
      > stick to dialectics. I simply point out to remind all of us of how
      > sensitive this topic is, and how easy it is to gravitate away from
      > disinterested inquiry. That said, let me turn now to my criticisms.
      >
      > First, you suggest that literary Darwinism is inherently
      reductionist,
      > and to that I say you should read the new collection of essays in
      The
      > Literary Animal. I think you'll find that reductionism is not the
      > intent of bringing evolution into literary criticism and theory. To
      > cite one example, Ian McEwan says the following in his essay: "What
      we
      > have in common with each other is just as extraordinary in its way
      as
      > all our exotic differences. . . . one might think of literature as
      > encoding both our cultural and genetic inheritance. Each of these
      two
      > elements, genes and culture, have a reciprocal shaping effect, for
      as
      > primates we are intensely social creatures, and our social
      environment
      > has exerted over time a powerful adaptive pressure. This gene-
      culture
      > coevolution, elaborated by E. O. Wilson among others, dissolves the
      > oppositions of nature versus nurture." I would hardly call this
      > bio-reductionist, would you? To cite another example, Joseph Carroll
      > states in his essay that "In the same way that each author has a
      unique
      > fingerprint, he or she has also some unique configuration of
      > identity--some individual variation of personality and experiential
      > conditioning--and that identity defines itself in relation to both
      the
      > cultural norms within which the author lives and also to the common
      > elements of human nature." I think you'll agree that this hardly
      > constitutes an attempt to subsume culture to some oversimplified
      notion
      > of a biological machine.
      >
      > Second, you suggest that Dr. Scholes and Dr. Fromm's positions are
      > unnecessarily polarized and fail to capture the middle ground, and
      to
      > this I say that you may be right, at least in spirit. But tell me,
      how
      > is Dr. Fromm's modest desire to bring evolutionary theory and the
      > neuroscientific paradigm of human nature into the mix of literary
      > criticism and theory an act of hubris? and how is Dr. Scholes'
      notion
      > of textualism, disjointed as it is from empirical science, not
      unlike
      > the pseudoscientific provincialism embedded within intelligent
      design?
      > Read a chapter on language from any introductory neuroscience
      textbook
      > and you'd be hard-pressed to maintain the notion that sign-systems
      are
      > somehow solely responsible for meaning, human behavior, culture, or
      > even human nature. (I'm not suggesting you haven't read such an
      > introduction--I'm speaking generally here.) Such a notion is a
      relic of
      > the standard social scientific model, which assumed that the human
      mind
      > was more like a blank slate than a predifferentiated neural
      apparatus.
      >
      > I do grant your point about the existence of polemics so extreme in
      > this debate that they invariably resort to a black-and-white
      > perspective, usually in the form of textual relativism, on the one
      > hand, or behaviorism, on the other. But in the exchange between Dr.
      > Fromm and Dr. Scholes, who appears the most polemical? From my
      vantage,
      > the latter appears to be resorting to textual relativism while the
      > former simply makes an appeal, invidious metaphors aside, to
      > contemporary bioscience as a legitimate source of information for
      the
      > future of literary theory and criticism.
      >
      > I think if Charles Sanders Peirce were alive today, he would charge
      Dr.
      > Scholes (not always, but in this particular instance) with what he
      > called fixation of belief: the tenacious, mumpsimus dedication to a
      > unfalsifiable, metaphysical construct. Peirce believed that
      empirical
      > science was the best possible method for determining the truth of
      any
      > given statement, and semiotics--especially the brand that Umberto
      Eco
      > advocates--is more akin to metaphysics than science. Moreover, I
      > believe certain brands of semiotics are grossly reductive: they try
      to
      > reduce everything to the order of the linguistic sign, ignoring
      human
      > nature altogether.
      >
      > Third, when you say that appeals to excessive biological claims "are
      > like saying that one can understand a painting by analyzing the
      > properties of the paint itself," I believe you are using a false
      > analogy. This analogy first takes Dr. Fromm's claims as representing
      > something excessive--and yet I'm not convinced of that by reading
      his
      > letter--and then suggests that drawing upon evolutionary theory of
      > human nature to explain how we come to identify with an author's
      > subject or theme is akin to attempting to understand a painting by
      > examining the paint.
      >
      > I think I understand what you're getting at, and we likely agree in
      > spirit, but I think a better analogy would be this: appealing to
      > evolutionary theories of human nature so as to better understand
      > literature is akin to examining a painter's motives, situated
      > intentionality, and general humanity in order to understand why his
      or
      > her painting is considered meaningful or beautiful. According to
      this
      > analogy, science is not used to reduce the painting to its material
      > composition but rather to understand how it was conceived in the
      mind
      > of the painter. I would even suggest that science, rather than
      reduce
      > the subject of inquiry, can expand it further than would be
      possible by
      > appealing to an oversimple metaphysical framework.
      >
      > There's nothing reductive about wanting to understand the underlying
      > basis for why literature is meaningful; even if we use
      neuroscientific
      > studies on discrete regions in the human brain, such as the
      amygdala,
      > to elucidate why certain types of literary content--that which is
      > either aversive or rewarding--is comparatively more memorable or
      even
      > meaningful than other types of contentt, we're not thereby
      suggesting
      > that literary meaning _is_ the brain activity in the amygdala, ipso
      > facto. Who would want to makes such a suggestion? and for that
      matter,
      > what practical value would it yield?
      >
      > I hope my response is not seen as a caricature of your position, but
      > rather as an attempt in good faith to grapple with issues you
      raise. I
      > do not presume, although I do appeal myself to the neuroscientific
      > paradigm when considering literary theoretical issues, that I have
      all
      > the answers or that neuroscience, as it exists today, is without
      flaws
      > or misconceptions of human nature and how it interfaces with
      > literature. Indeed, I'm certain that we have only just begun to
      unlock
      > the secrets of the mind, and that we have much more to learn both
      about
      > the mind and literature. But even a thousand years from now, when
      > neuroscience is fully blossomed, I doubt anyone would wish to reduce
      > literature to factual knowledge about cognition. Even if it were
      > possible, it wouldn't stop anyone from reading or writing great
      > literature.
      >
      >
      > Always sincerely,
      >
      >
      > Zachary P. Norwood
      >
      >
      > --- eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@n...> wrote:
      >
      > > Dear Harold Fromm,
      > >
      > > I agree that Scholes is a cultural reductionist, ignoring the
      > > many ways our nature feeds our culture. But you are a biological
      > > reductionist, who would make literature the mere exhaust fumes of
      > > ill-
      > > conceived scientific "machinery."
      > >
      > > You say in your letter that, "The study of literature without
      > > an ever-conscious awareness of its biological contingencies is
      akin
      > > to fantasizings about creationism." What a loose cannon
      statement! Is
      > >
      > > this what "scientific" reasoning produces, unwarranted name
      calling,
      > > reduction of all literary studies to a similarity with religious
      > > ideologues? You conflate the varieties of literary study in which
      the
      > >
      > > biological is either not relevant or not prominent with religious
      > > fundamentalism. You claim that those not obsessed with biology
      > > ("ever-
      > > conscious") resemble delusional religious zealots, yet your own
      > > statement is one-size-fits-all zealotry. And I did not need
      awareness
      > >
      > > of biological contingencies to understand this.
      > >
      > > Your dismissive statement demonstrates to me that so-called
      > > literary Darwinism seems to be not much more than the latest
      hostile
      > > academic take-over attempt, a black-white world in which the
      Brave
      > > New Neo-Darwinian is good, the entire humanist tradition is bad
      > > (merely "dogmatic slumbers"). Literary Darwinism seems to aspire
      to
      > > be nothing more than scientific suck-upism, humanists in white
      lab
      > > coats playing at science. That is so unnecessary. So is the
      > > completely uncritical view of science.
      > >
      > > In calling for disrupting, as you put it, "…the dreamworld
      > > of "intelligent design" that is keeping the literary humanities
      in
      > > their hyperdogmatic slumber, their narcissistic sense of their
      own
      > > unbeholden power," you again falsely reduce literary humanities
      to
      > > contemporary fanaticism, to so-called intelligent design
      advocates.
      > > That is mere name calling, but worse, you are unaware that
      > > your "machinery" is a key element of that dreamworld, not
      > > the "intelligent design" of religious fundamentalists, which you
      like
      > >
      > > to use like a cuss word, but the system requirement of the modern
      > > megamachine, forged from nominalism.
      > >
      > > Your position and Scholes's together enact the modern myth of
      > > the ghost in the machine, the false nominalist divide of thought
      and
      > > things, mind and matter, wherein culture is ethereal mind
      > > ("textuality"), or reducible to materialism. This split-brain
      view is
      > >
      > > not adequate.
      > >
      > > Scholes proposes "the relation between signs and the world,
      > > between signs and the self, as our domain," including even the
      > > trivium. In this he would be correct, in my opinion, except he
      calls
      > > it "textuality," little realizing that semeiotic embraces far
      greater
      > >
      > > domains of signification, including biological processes.
      > >
      > > Neither Scholes nor the bio-reductionism you embrace is able
      > > to conceive of signs as irreducibly real. Yet signs are the
      lifeblood
      > >
      > > of science. Logic is not reducible to biology or psychology. 2+2
      > > would equal 4 even in a universe without humans or mathematical
      > > beings: its reality is conditional. Science itself is more than
      neo-
      > > Darwinism can admit, for science requires for its objectivity an
      > > unlimited conditional community of investigation determined
      > > ultimately by the truth, not merely by Darwinian survival. You
      might
      > > say that science requires entelechy in this sense.
      > >
      > > More, the arts and sciences are neither machines nor their
      > > exhaust fumes, but lives, living beings who feed our minds, and,
      as
      > > Charles Peirce, the inventor of mathematical logic and also of
      > > semeiotic, among other things, said, are "parasitic to man's
      mind."
      > > True, we are limited by what we can perceive, directly or
      indirectly,
      > >
      > > but a work of art is also itself a living form of perception.
      > >
      > > Further, works of art are acts of creation, springing out of
      > > the material conditions from which they were formed, but not
      > > reducible to them. Your excessive claims for biology are like
      saying
      > > that one can understand a painting by analyzing the properties of
      the
      > >
      > > paint itself. You may learn some facts about the painting and
      > > painter, but it will not disclose to you the meaning of the work
      > > itself. Real art, like real life, involves creation, biopoeisis,
      yet
      > > bio-reductionism and cultural reductionism cannot comprehend
      > > creation, the making of an incommutable being.
      > >
      > > Gene Halton
      > >
      > >
      > > --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Harold Fromm <hfromm@e...> wrote:
      > > >
      > > >
      > > > Some time ago, Joseph Carroll posted here a preview copy of a
      > > letter
      > > > I had sent to the letters section of PMLA, known as the Forum.
      PMLA
      > >
      > > > is the major journal of the Modern Language Association, the
      > > leading
      > > > professional organization for the literary humanities. My
      letter
      > > was
      > > > a comment on the Presidential Address given by Robert Scholes,
      as
      > > he
      > > > ended the standard one-year slot in that office. His
      unawareness
      > > > of--or insouciance about--the evolutionary sciences--or any
      > > sciences
      > > > at all--was distressing, as though he were speaking from a past
      > > era.
      > > > (His address, "The Humanities in a Posthumanist World," can be
      read
      > >
      > > > in PMLA, May 2005.)
      > > >
      > > > Now, the January 2006 issue of PMLA has appeared with both
      > > my
      > > > letter and Scholes's reply. If the original address was
      unsettling,
      > >
      > > > the reply is even more so. Its belief that the literary arts
      (and
      > > by
      > > > extension, all the other arts) somehow had their genesis with
      > > > "culture, " a phase of human existence that, in *his*
      description,
      > > > began only the day before yesterday, is beyond preposterous.
      Sex,
      > > > emotions, sensual pleasures, hunger, violence, disease, death,
      all
      > > > the bodily substance that generates the arts, seem never to
      have
      > > > entered his mind. (And if they did, has he assumed they
      appeared in
      > >
      > > > primates only with the advent of recent hominid "culture"?)
      > > >
      > > > A task for biopoets, evolutionary psychology, consciousness
      > > studies,
      > > > indeed for all the sciences, would seem to be to disrupt the
      > > > dreamworld of "intelligent design" that is keeping the
      literary
      > > > humanities in their hyperdogmatic slumber, their narcissistic
      sense
      > >
      > > > of their own unbeholden power.
      > > >
      > > > The published exchange can be seen at:
      > > http://home.earthlink.net/~hfromm
      > > >
      > > > Harold Fromm
      > > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Yahoo! Groups Links
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      >
    • zach@confutation.com
      Dear Eugene, I appreciate your considerate response, and I think we re making progress towards getting to the heart of what s contentious in the exchange
      Message 2 of 17 , Feb 1, 2006
        Dear Eugene,

        I appreciate your considerate response, and I think we're making
        progress towards getting to the heart of what's contentious in the
        exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes. Before I respond, however,
        I'd like to quote C. S. Peirce, whom we both, as it seems based on our
        exchange thus far, admire and, ironically, attributed a certain degree
        of authority: "The person who confesses that there is such a thing as
        truth, which is distinguished from falsehood simply by this, that if
        acted on it should, on full consideration, carry us to the point we aim
        at and not astray, and then, though convinced of this, dares not know
        the truth and seeks to avoid it, is in a sorry state of mind indeed."
        In the spirit of this statement, I respond.

        To began, you are correct in saying that Dr. Fromm's letter was not
        limited to suggesting, simply, that the humanities could profit by
        considering the biosciences as a legitimate source of information,
        although this was his overarching thesis. To be sure, he goes into some
        detail backing up his thesis with more explicit propositions, so in
        that sense you are correct.

        But what I do not understand is why you maintain that his claims are
        exaggerated and false--this is an assertion, not a logical proposition,
        and so I find it hard to understand what you mean, explicitly. I'll try
        to extrapolate from the whole of your response to figure out what your
        arguments are, exactly, but if I get something wrong, please correct
        me.

        First, you are correct to say that Dr. Fromm uses strong language and
        analogies, and I suppose this could be characterized as a certain type
        of exaggeration; but even if it is, rhetorical tools such as hyperbole
        are quite independent from the verity or falsity of a claim. And since
        I cannot know which claims you find false--you only quote certain
        habits of usage from Dr. Carroll's writings--I'll assume you mean his
        claims about evolution. Let us examine one such claim.

        "Like the head-buried proponents of intelligent design," writes Fromm,
        "academics in the humanities don't want to know that literary texts,
        far from being autotelic or merely a part of cultural history,
        are--like everything else produced by organisms--the products of
        biological history, which means the history of the body and its
        materially constituted brain." Now, what you may perceive as
        exaggerations in this statement, I perceive as generally accurate, in
        terms of postmodern literary theory and criticism.

        But let us presume, for the sake of argument, that Dr. Fromm's
        statement about "academics in the humanities"--which, incidentally,
        includes individual such as yourself--is an exaggeration and should be
        dismissed. Since we're both interested in the truth or falsity of a
        proposition, we can focus our attention on what remains: namely, that
        texts are products of materially constructed brains with a particular
        biological history. Again for the sake of argument, I'll assume you
        find this proposition false. I'm guessing, also, that we both agree
        texts originate from brains, so I'll skip the first enthymeme and turn
        to the next: that is, the argument that brains are (a) materially
        constructed and (b) have a particular biological history.

        If you disagree with (b), I'm afraid I'm at a loss, since I don't think
        there's any possible way to respond other than by saying you haven't
        looked at the mountains of evidence afforded by bioscientific research,
        especially neuroscience; but since I believe you have looked at this
        research, I'll assume your problem isn't with (b). That leaves us with
        (a). Assuming again that you find something false in Dr. Fromm's
        statement above--for the sake of argument, as I said before--I must
        conclude that you believe the mind is not material, but rather
        influenced by supernatural forces. If this is your stance, I'm at a
        loss once again. Belief in supernatural forces, following C. S. Peirce,
        is a consequence of the method of tenacity, and so nothing I will say
        can alter the belief.

        Where does this leave our dialectic? All I have to fall back on is Sir
        Karl Popper's proposed solution to demarcation, which says that the
        belief in the supernatural is unfalsifiable and therefore irrefutable
        and unscientific. And since the bulk of Dr. Fromm's letter stems from
        the belief that the brain is not a blank slate but rather a
        congenitally, functionally differentiated neural apparatus, and that
        the existence of such material constraints requires literary scholars
        to consider causal factors independent of culture, not in exclusion,
        I'll assume--yet again, for the sake of argument--that you believe
        there's an immaterial component (not something like energy but like
        ultramundane spirit) to the mind and the act of literary creation.

        At this point, if you say "yes, that's exactly what I mean," then I'll
        assume you're not talking about mysticism or theism but rather
        something like culture, which you deem immaterial. If this is what you
        mean, I can only ask how, exactly, culture is immaterial, when
        everything that we could conceivably call culture corresponds with some
        type of independent reality, either endogenous or exogenous, real or
        imagined, where the latter is formed by constituent imagery from actual
        realities (such as a unicorn, which is an imaginary construct composed
        of the actual realities "horn" and "horse").

        Now that I've reviewed (in a belabored fashion) some of your possible
        propositions, all I can do is ask: what--exactly, factually,
        empirically, etc.--is your disagreement with Dr. Fromm? If you agree
        that neuroscience is important for literary scholars, then there seems
        to be nothing left but disagreements with Dr. Fromm's style, which is
        another topic altogether.

        But I think you have more in mind that style when you criticize Dr.
        Fromm, and given what you've said thus far, I must admit that I don't
        know exactly what your concrete--that is, factual--disagreements are.
        The charge of reductionism, without any concrete examples and posited
        consequences, gives me nothing to argue for or against. So I'll ask: is
        there a syllogism you can provide that refutes the claim, using
        counterfactual evidence, that (a) there is a species-typical, universal
        (in terms of the species Homo sapiens), material (including such
        physical manifestations as energy), congenitally, functionally
        predifferentiated brain and that (b) this brain, and all of its natural
        constraints, has a predictable influence on how we interpret and write
        literature. Your answer to this, I hope, will cut away all of the
        extraneous content in our exchange, thereby allowing us to get to the
        heart of the matter. And it is my hope that you don't answer
        circuitously by saying "but what about culture?" when we both already
        agree that culture plays a considerable role in the production of
        literature. Rather, I expect you to answer directly, with the
        assumption that sociocultural/historical/economic/environmental factors
        all contribute to literary inspiration and interpretation. This is
        something we take for granted, as does Dr. Fromm and Dr. Carroll. We
        are talking about human nature here--it is human nature that is the
        focal point.

        Now that I've addressed the narrower focus of our exchange, I'd like to
        acknowledge your effort behind some of the extraneous content in your
        previous e-mail by saying that you're right about C. S. Peirce's use of
        the word fixation. Even though I re-read The Fixation of Belief every
        year, to remind myself of the lessons contained therein, I realize now
        that I have been glossing over the several mentions of the words
        "fixing" and "method," attributing to them a semantic misconception.
        Think you for leading me to the truth. When he uses these words, he
        means authority, tenacity, a priori reasoning, and science are all
        methods of fixing belief.

        Nevertheless, and I say this not to sidestep your correction, despite
        how it may sound, I still maintain that Peirce believed adamantly in
        privileging the scientific method of "fixing" belief, even though
        science is always provisional in its claims, unlike theism. Peirce may
        lend some credence to the other three methods, but given the context of
        the essay as a whole, I believe this is little more than a rhetorical
        ploy, a technique used too conciliate potentially distrustful and
        intractable readers--arguably the majority of his audience (and Susan
        Haack would likely agree). Such a rhetorical ploy is made clear in
        passages such as the following: "A man may go through life,
        systematically keeping out of view all that might cause a change in his
        opinions, and if he only succeeds--basing his method, as he does, on
        two fundamental psychological laws--I do not see what can be said
        against his doing so. It would be an egotistical impertinence to object
        that his procedure is irrational, for that only amounts to saying that
        his method of settling belief is not ours. He does not propose to
        himself to be rational, and, indeed, will often talk with scorn of
        man's weak and illusive reason. So let him think as he pleases. But
        this method of fixing belief, which may be called the method of
        tenacity, will be unable to hold its ground in practice." This is a
        great example of Peirce's rhetorical tactics: he spends a whole
        paragraph suggesting that irrationalism is somehow justified,
        then--almost as a slight of hand--negates that suggestion with a single
        sentence, summarized as saying the method of tenacity is unable to hold
        ground in practice. In other words, he suggest that people may use this
        method, but since it is not in touch with reality, it has no practical
        consequence other than maintaining prejudice.

        Also--and this is this the last of my digressions--I'm not fully
        convinced of your claim that, "Though critical of the metaphysics of
        his time, Peirce did not oppose metaphysics to science, but saw it as a
        branch of science," especially when considering quotes such as the
        following: "The truth is, that common-sense, or thought as it first
        emerges above the level of the narrowly practical, is deeply imbued
        with that bad logical quality to which the epithet metaphysical is
        commonly applied; and nothing can clear it up but a severe course of
        logic." Unless Peirce has written elsewhere of the "good" sense of the
        term metaphysical, and perhaps you can furnish such an example, I'll
        have to suspend judgment yet air on the side of assuming Peirce meant
        what he said in the aforementioned quote.

        Again, I thank you for your response, and I hope we continue to
        progress towards a resolution.

        Always sincerely,

        ZPN

        --- eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@...> wrote:

        > Thank you for your responses, Zach and Harold.
        >
        > I agree Zach, that broadening literary studies with other
        > means, including biology and neuroscience, can be a good direction,
        > depending on how they are used. If that is what Harold said in his
        > letter, I could have agreed with that too. Ditto for earlier postings
        >
        > here from Joseph Carroll. But that is not what Fromm explicitly
        > stated. You manage to avoid my specific criticism of Fromm's
        > exaggerated and false claims in the letter. He did not limit his
        > statement to "…contemporary bioscience as a legitimate source of
        > information," as you put it, but as the legitimating criterion
        > without which literary study is delusional. Fromm claimed that, "The
        > study of literature without an ever-conscious awareness of its
        > biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings about creationism."
        >
        > And Fromm called for disrupting, "…the dreamworld
        > of "intelligent design" that is keeping the literary humanities in
        > their hyperdogmatic slumber, their narcissistic sense of their own
        > unbeholden power."
        >
        > Now Zach or Harold, do you believe that all study of
        > literature not informed by biology is comparable to fundamentalist
        > fantasizing? That is what is explicitly stated. That is my main point
        >
        > for claiming that it is bio-reductionism and for criticizing literary
        >
        > Darwinism as a heavy-handed ideological agenda.
        >
        > Harold, you weave a reply that goes from claiming that
        > reductionism is just perspectivism, just "point of view" to a
        > conclusion: "Should one respond to charges that one is, after all,
        > just a person?" That is sleight-of-hand, attempting to deflect my
        > criticism of your position to your person. I claimed that the
        > position you advocated was reductionist, and I claim that your
        > sentences in the letter, quoted again above, are reductionism in
        > extremis which would deny validity to most literary studies. Perhaps
        > you were just a person given to hyperbole in your letter, or perhaps
        > it relates to MLA history and politics of which I am unaware, I don't
        >
        > know, but it was the extremist position that equated non-biologically
        >
        > oriented approaches with delusional dogmatism I was criticizing as
        > itself dogmatic. I don't even agree with Scholes, but there are many
        > critics of all stripes in the humanities who do not draw from
        > biology, and whose work makes good sense, and is not "akin to
        > fantasizings about creationism."
        >
        > The rest of your last response is quite different from your
        > letter to Scholes, however. Viewing bio and neuroscience approaches
        > as "a timely contribution to the total mix of critical approaches…"
        > is one I have no disagreement with.
        >
        > I also stated that, "Literary Darwinism seems to aspire to be
        > nothing more than scientific suck-upism, humanists in white lab coats
        >
        > playing at science. That is so unnecessary. So is the completely
        > uncritical view of science." This is not, as you claim Zach, an ad
        > hominem argument against an individual, but it is a severe criticism
        > of literary Darwinism as a position. I invented a technical term,
        > scientific suck-upism, meaning the idealization of science. I would
        > like to see literary Darwinists question not only literature, but
        > accepted biology too. But what I have seen so far suggests it is a
        > one-way street.
        >
        > Joseph Carroll has written of an evolutionary outlook as "the
        > permanent, fundamental framework for all literary study," "it would
        > exclude other competing frameworks," "it would contain…," "it would
        > be the central medium…" That is why I claimed in an earlier post that
        >
        > Carroll is a Darwinian fundamentalist, not someone open to competing
        > or even complementary frameworks IN THE HUMANITIES.
        >
        > Zach, I understand what you are trying to say regarding
        > Peirce, but it needs clarification. You say, "I think if Charles
        > Sanders Peirce were alive today, he would charge Dr.Scholes (not
        > always, but in this particular instance) with what he called fixation
        >
        > of belief: the tenacious, mumpsimus dedication to a unfalsifiable,
        > metaphysical construct. Peirce believed that empirical science was
        > the best possible method for determining the truth of any given
        > statement, and semiotics--especially the brand that Umberto Eco
        > advocates--is more akin to metaphysics than science."
        >
        > I like the word "mumpsimus." Perhaps you are right about
        > Scholes. He seemed simply to limit criticism to a textual conception
        > of signification. But does Scholes deny falsifiability through
        > textual criticism? I did not get that from his reply.
        >
        > But the fixation of belief, as Peirce described it, is what
        > all reasoning and inquiry seeks, not some Freudian sense
        > of "fixation." It depends upon how belief is fixed, not simply that
        > it is fixed. Peirce proposes tenacity, authority, and a priori as
        > methods used, but which cannot ultimately free belief from doubt. His
        >
        > fourth method, scientific inquiry, is one that can, as the regulative
        >
        > ideal of inquiry. Reality determines true belief as the ultimate goal
        >
        > of inquiry, found through an unlimited community of inquiry. It is
        > the regulative ideal, which is why Peirce held that science, in
        > actuality, is limited to probable opinion and not certainty of
        > belief.
        >
        > Peirce did not view empirical science as "the best possible
        > method for determining the truth of any given statement…." Not all
        > sciences are empirical. Mathematics, for example, is not an empirical
        >
        > science in Peirce's view: "Mathematics studies what is and what is
        > not logically possible, without making itself responsible for its
        > actual existence." CP 1.183-187, 1903.
        >
        > You say that semiotics "is more akin to metaphysics than
        > science," neglecting that Peirce invented semeiotic as a scientific
        > form of logic, regardless of how it is been misinterpreted by Charles
        >
        > Morris, Umberto Eco or others. Though critical of the metaphysics of
        > his time, Peirce did not oppose metaphysics to science, but saw it as
        >
        > a branch of science. The twentieth-century positivist quest to
        > eliminate metaphysics, still naively believed in by many today, was
        > an example of what Peirce already meant when he wrote in 1905-06:
        >
        > "Find a scientific man who proposes to get along without any
        > metaphysics...and you have found one whose doctrines are thoroughly
        > vitiated by the crude and uncriticized metaphysics with which they
        > are packed. We must philosophize, said the great naturalist
        > Aristotle -- if only to avoid philosophizing. Every man of us has a
        > metaphysics, and has to have one; and it will influence his life
        > greatly. Far better, then, that that metaphysics should be criticized
        >
        > and not be allowed to run loose... In short, there is no escape from
        > the need of a critical examination of "first principles." (Collected
        > Papers, Vol.1. para. 129).
        >
        > Gene
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, <zach@c...> wrote:
        > >
        > > Dear Gene Halton,
        > >
        > > I empathize with your response, and I think you bring up a few good
        > > points, which I will address below. Before I do, however, I'd like
        > to
        > > point out that you unwittingly fall prey to your own charges
        > against
        > > Dr. Fromm when you resort to dismissive rhetorical tactics--namely,
        >
        > you
        > > reduce his position to the strawman of reductionism, focus on the
        > > machine metaphor as if it were the totality of his position, and
        > appeal
        > > to ad hominem arguments by suggesting that literary Darwinists are
        > all
        > > "scientific suck-ups." I won't say any more on this, since I'd
        > rather
        > > stick to dialectics. I simply point out to remind all of us of how
        > > sensitive this topic is, and how easy it is to gravitate away from
        > > disinterested inquiry. That said, let me turn now to my criticisms.
        > >
        > > First, you suggest that literary Darwinism is inherently
        > reductionist,
        > > and to that I say you should read the new collection of essays in
        > The
        > > Literary Animal. I think you'll find that reductionism is not the
        > > intent of bringing evolution into literary criticism and theory. To
        > > cite one example, Ian McEwan says the following in his essay: "What
        >
        > we
        > > have in common with each other is just as extraordinary in its way
        > as
        > > all our exotic differences. . . . one might think of literature as
        > > encoding both our cultural and genetic inheritance. Each of these
        > two
        > > elements, genes and culture, have a reciprocal shaping effect, for
        > as
        > > primates we are intensely social creatures, and our social
        > environment
        > > has exerted over time a powerful adaptive pressure. This gene-
        > culture
        > > coevolution, elaborated by E. O. Wilson among others, dissolves the
        > > oppositions of nature versus nurture." I would hardly call this
        > > bio-reductionist, would you? To cite another example, Joseph
        > Carroll
        > > states in his essay that "In the same way that each author has a
        > unique
        > > fingerprint, he or she has also some unique configuration of
        > > identity--some individual variation of personality and experiential
        > > conditioning--and that identity defines itself in relation to both
        > the
        > > cultural norms within which the author lives and also to the common
        > > elements of human nature." I think you'll agree that this hardly
        > > constitutes an attempt to subsume culture to some oversimplified
        > notion
        > > of a biological machine.
        > >
        > > Second, you suggest that Dr. Scholes and Dr. Fromm's positions are
        > > unnecessarily polarized and fail to capture the middle ground, and
        > to
        > > this I say that you may be right, at least in spirit. But tell me,
        > how
        > > is Dr. Fromm's modest desire to bring evolutionary theory and the
        > > neuroscientific paradigm of human nature into the mix of literary
        > > criticism and theory an act of hubris? and how is Dr. Scholes'
        > notion
        > > of textualism, disjointed as it is from empirical science, not
        > unlike
        > > the pseudoscientific provincialism embedded within intelligent
        > design?
        > > Read a chapter on language from any introductory neuroscience
        > textbook
        > > and you'd be hard-pressed to maintain the notion that sign-systems
        > are
        > > somehow solely responsible for meaning, human behavior, culture, or
        > > even human nature. (I'm not suggesting you haven't read such an
        > > introduction--I'm speaking generally here.) Such a notion is a
        > relic of
        > > the standard social scientific model, which assumed that the human
        > mind
        > > was more like a blank slate than a predifferentiated neural
        > apparatus.
        > >
        > > I do grant your point about the existence of polemics so extreme in
        > > this debate that they invariably resort to a black-and-white
        > > perspective, usually in the form of textual relativism, on the one
        > > hand, or behaviorism, on the other. But in the exchange between Dr.
        > > Fromm and Dr. Scholes, who appears the most polemical? From my
        > vantage,
        > > the latter appears to be resorting to textual relativism while the
        > > former simply makes an appeal, invidious metaphors aside, to
        > > contemporary bioscience as a legitimate source of information for
        > the
        > > future of literary theory and criticism.
        > >
        > > I think if Charles Sanders Peirce were alive today, he would charge
        >
        > Dr.
        > > Scholes (not always, but in this particular instance) with what he
        > > called fixation of belief: the tenacious, mumpsimus dedication to a
        > > unfalsifiable, metaphysical construct. Peirce believed that
        > empirical
        > > science was the best possible method for determining the truth of
        > any
        > > given statement, and semiotics--especially the brand that Umberto
        > Eco
        > > advocates--is more akin to metaphysics than science. Moreover, I
        > > believe certain brands of semiotics are grossly reductive: they try
        >
        > to
        > > reduce everything to the order of the linguistic sign, ignoring
        > human
        > > nature altogether.
        > >
        > > Third, when you say that appeals to excessive biological claims
        > "are
        > > like saying that one can understand a painting by analyzing the
        > > properties of the paint itself," I believe you are using a false
        > > analogy. This analogy first takes Dr. Fromm's claims as
        > representing
        > > something excessive--and yet I'm not convinced of that by reading
        > his
        > > letter--and then suggests that drawing upon evolutionary theory of
        > > human nature to explain how we come to identify with an author's
        > > subject or theme is akin to attempting to understand a painting by
        > > examining the paint.
        > >
        > > I think I understand what you're getting at, and we likely agree in
        > > spirit, but I think a better analogy would be this: appealing to
        > > evolutionary theories of human nature so as to better understand
        > > literature is akin to examining a painter's motives, situated
        > > intentionality, and general humanity in order to understand why his
        >
        > or
        > > her painting is considered meaningful or beautiful. According to
        > this
        > > analogy, science is not used to reduce the painting to its material
        > > composition but rather to understand how it was conceived in the
        > mind
        > > of the painter. I would even suggest that science, rather than
        > reduce
        > > the subject of inquiry, can expand it further than would be
        > possible by
        > > appealing to an oversimple metaphysical framework.
        > >
        > > There's nothing reductive about wanting to understand the
        > underlying
        > > basis for why literature is meaningful; even if we use
        > neuroscientific
        > > studies on discrete regions in the human brain, such as the
        > amygdala,
        > > to elucidate why certain types of literary content--that which is
        > > either aversive or rewarding--is comparatively more memorable or
        > even
        > > meaningful than other types of contentt, we're not thereby
        > suggesting
        > > that literary meaning _is_ the brain activity in the amygdala, ipso
        > > facto. Who would want to makes such a suggestion? and for that
        > matter,
        > > what practical value would it yield?
        > >
        > > I hope my response is not seen as a caricature of your position,
        > but
        > > rather as an attempt in good faith to grapple with issues you
        > raise. I
        > > do not presume, although I do appeal myself to the neuroscientific
        > > paradigm when considering literary theoretical issues, that I have
        > all
        > > the answers or that neuroscience, as it exists today, is without
        > flaws
        > > or misconceptions of human nature and how it interfaces with
        > > literature. Indeed, I'm certain that we have only just begun to
        > unlock
        > > the secrets of the mind, and that we have much more to learn both
        > about
        > > the mind and literature. But even a thousand years from now, when
        > > neuroscience is fully blossomed, I doubt anyone would wish to
        > reduce
        > > literature to factual knowledge about cognition. Even if it were
        > > possible, it wouldn't stop anyone from reading or writing great
        > > literature.
        > >
        > >
        > > Always sincerely,
        > >
        > >
        > > Zachary P. Norwood
        > >
        > >
        > > --- eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@n...> wrote:
        > >
        > > > Dear Harold Fromm,
        > > >
        > > > I agree that Scholes is a cultural reductionist, ignoring the
        > > > many ways our nature feeds our culture. But you are a biological
        > > > reductionist, who would make literature the mere exhaust fumes of
        > > > ill-
        > > > conceived scientific "machinery."
        > > >
        > > > You say in your letter that, "The study of literature without
        > > > an ever-conscious awareness of its biological contingencies is
        > akin
        > > > to fantasizings about creationism." What a loose cannon
        > statement! Is
        > > >
        > > > this what "scientific" reasoning produces, unwarranted name
        > calling,
        > > > reduction of all literary studies to a similarity with religious
        > > > ideologues? You conflate the varieties of literary study in which
        >
        > the
        > > >
        > > > biological is either not relevant or not prominent with religious
        >
        > > > fundamentalism. You claim that those not obsessed with biology
        > > > ("ever-
        > > > conscious") resemble delusional religious zealots, yet your own
        > > > statement is one-size-fits-all zealotry. And I did not need
        > awareness
        > > >
        > > > of biological contingencies to understand this.
        > > >
        > > > Your dismissive statement demonstrates to me that so-called
        > > > literary Darwinism seems to be not much more than the latest
        > hostile
        > > > academic take-over attempt, a black-white world in which the
        > Brave
        > > > New Neo-Darwinian is good, the entire humanist tradition is bad
        > > > (merely "dogmatic slumbers"). Literary Darwinism seems to aspire
        > to
        > > > be nothing more than scientific suck-upism, humanists in white
        > lab
        > > > coats playing at science. That is so unnecessary. So is the
        > > > completely uncritical view of science.
        > > >
        > > > In calling for disrupting, as you put it, "…the dreamworld
        > > > of "intelligent design" that is keeping the literary humanities
        > in
        > > > their hyperdogmatic slumber, their narcissistic sense of their
        > own
        > > > unbeholden power," you again falsely reduce literary humanities
        > to
        > > > contemporary fanaticism, to so-called intelligent design
        > advocates.
        > > > That is mere name calling, but worse, you are unaware that
        > > > your "machinery" is a key element of that dreamworld, not
        > > > the "intelligent design" of religious fundamentalists, which you
        > like
        > > >
        > > > to use like a cuss word, but the system requirement of the modern
        >
        > > > megamachine, forged from nominalism.
        > > >
        > > > Your position and Scholes's together enact the modern myth of
        > > > the ghost in the machine, the false nominalist divide of thought
        > and
        > > > things, mind and matter, wherein culture is ethereal mind
        > > > ("textuality"), or reducible to materialism. This split-brain
        > view is
        > > >
        > > > not adequate.
        > > >
        > > > Scholes proposes "the relation between signs and the world,
        > > > between signs and the self, as our domain," including even the
        > > > trivium. In this he would be correct, in my opinion, except he
        > calls
        > > > it "textuality," little realizing that semeiotic embraces far
        > greater
        > > >
        > > > domains of signification, including biological processes.
        > > >
        > > > Neither Scholes nor the bio-reductionism you embrace is able
        > > > to conceive of signs as irreducibly real. Yet signs are the
        > lifeblood
        > > >
        > > > of science. Logic is not reducible to biology or psychology. 2+2
        > > > would equal 4 even in a universe without humans or mathematical
        > > > beings: its reality is conditional. Science itself is more than
        > neo-
        > > > Darwinism can admit, for science requires for its objectivity an
        > > > unlimited conditional community of investigation determined
        > > > ultimately by the truth, not merely by Darwinian survival. You
        > might
        > > > say that science requires entelechy in this sense.
        > > >
        > > > More, the arts and sciences are neither machines nor their
        > > > exhaust fumes, but lives, living beings who feed our minds, and,
        > as
        > > > Charles Peirce, the inventor of mathematical logic and also of
        > > > semeiotic, among other things, said, are "parasitic to man's
        > mind."
        > > > True, we are limited by what we can perceive, directly or
        > indirectly,
        > > >
        > > > but a work of art is also itself a living form of perception.
        > > >
        > > > Further, works of art are acts of creation, springing out of
        > > > the material conditions from which they were formed, but not
        > > > reducible to them. Your excessive claims for biology are like
        > saying
        > > > that one can understand a painting by analyzing the properties of
        >
        > the
        > > >
        > > > paint itself. You may learn some facts about the painting and
        > > > painter, but it will not disclose to you the meaning of the work
        > > > itself. Real art, like real life, involves creation, biopoeisis,
        > yet
        > > > bio-reductionism and cultural reductionism cannot comprehend
        > > > creation, the making of an incommutable being.
        > > >
        > > > Gene Halton
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Harold Fromm <hfromm@e...> wrote:
        > > > >
        > > > >
        > > > > Some time ago, Joseph Carroll posted here a preview copy of a
        > > > letter
        > > > > I had sent to the letters section of PMLA, known as the Forum.
        > PMLA
        > > >
        > > > > is the major journal of the Modern Language Association, the
        > > > leading
        > > > > professional organization for the literary humanities. My
        > letter
        > > > was
        > > > > a comment on the Presidential Address given by Robert Scholes,
        > as
        > > > he
        > > > > ended the standard one-year slot in that office. His
        > unawareness
        > > > > of--or insouciance about--the evolutionary sciences--or any
        > > > sciences
        > > > > at all--was distressing, as though he were speaking from a past
        >
        > > > era.
        > > > > (His address, "The Humanities in a Posthumanist World," can be
        > read
        > > >
        > > > > in PMLA, May 2005.)
        > > > >
        > > > > Now, the January 2006 issue of PMLA has appeared with both
        > > > my
        > > > > letter and Scholes's reply. If the original address was
        > unsettling,
        > > >
        > > > > the reply is even more so. Its belief that the literary arts
        > (and
        > > > by
        > > > > extension, all the other arts) somehow had their genesis with
        > > > > "culture, " a phase of human existence that, in *his*
        > description,
        > > > > began only the day before yesterday, is beyond preposterous.
        > Sex,
        > > > > emotions, sensual pleasures, hunger, violence, disease, death,
        > all
        > > > > the bodily substance that generates the arts, seem never to
        > have
        > > > > entered his mind. (And if they did, has he assumed they
        > appeared in
        > > >
        > > > > primates only with the advent of recent hominid "culture"?)
        > > > >
        > > > > A task for biopoets, evolutionary psychology, consciousness
        > > > studies,
        > > > > indeed for all the sciences, would seem to be to disrupt the
        > > > > dreamworld of "intelligent design" that is keeping the
        > literary
        > > > > humanities in their hyperdogmatic slumber, their narcissistic
        > sense
        > > >
        > > > > of their own unbeholden power.
        > > > >
        > > > > The published exchange can be seen at:
        > > > http://home.earthlink.net/~hfromm
        > > > >
        > > > > Harold Fromm
        > > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Yahoo! Groups Links
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • zach@confutation.com
        PS I use voice recognition software to write, so sometimes phonetically similar words produced typos, i.e., to is sometimes written too, or err is
        Message 3 of 17 , Feb 1, 2006
          PS I use voice recognition software to write, so sometimes phonetically
          similar words produced typos, i.e., "to" is sometimes written "too," or
          "err" is spelled "air," to cite a few examples. If you see such
          mistakes, now you know where they come from. I only wish I had time to
          edit them all out :(

          ZPN
        • eugenehalton
          Dear Zach, I think you re working too hard! My claim for exaggerated and false claims is found in the two Fromm sentences I quoted, nothing more needed. They
          Message 4 of 17 , Feb 1, 2006
            Dear Zach,
            I think you're working too hard! My claim for exaggerated and
            false claims is found in the two Fromm sentences I quoted, nothing
            more needed. They claim non-biologically-influenced literary studies
            are delusional dogmatism. This would exclude almost all of literary
            studies. But Fromm stated in his last reply that he views it as "a
            timely contribution to the total mix of critical approaches…", a very
            different view, neither exaggerated for false, in my view. So case
            closed, as far as I can see.

            You raise other concerns where I probably do differ from you
            or Fromm, but that wasn't really the main point of my critique. You
            ask "how, exactly, culture is immaterial…" This is somewhat ironic,
            since my first book is titled The Meaning of Things, and is a study
            of material culture in American homes. But I do claim that culture is
            extramaterial, as is reality itself. Culture springs from material
            conditions, as I said earlier, but is not reducible to them, in my
            view. The human body-mind springs from material conditions, but is
            not reducible to them. Consider meaning pragmatically, in Peirce's
            sense, that the meaning of any sign-act is in the conditional
            consequences it engenders. Pragmatic meaning is in a future not only
            not yet in existence, but also in conditional consequences which may
            never come into existence. I would prefer to call this general rather
            than immaterial.

            Consider Peirce's argument that reality is of the nature of a
            general, a law. As such, it determines particulars, it determines
            existence, but is not reducible to it or to any collection of
            particulars. This goes to the heart of Peirce's semeiotic realism,
            and why he saw it as necessary to science, and why Peirce's
            perspective forms a strong critique of the modern scientific world-
            view even while celebrating modern science and advocating a
            scientific view.

            Galileo disproved Aristotle's physics, but Occam's
            procrustean razor also cut off generality as a reality of the
            universe, despite the fact that science only traffics in signs and
            finds its objectivity in a conditional future community of
            interpretation, not in individual "things."

            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.

            Peirce considered himself a modified scholastic realist,
            influenced by Scotus's realism. He saw the scholastic realists' basis
            of truth in the prior testimonies of the community of scholars a
            better basis of truth than Descartes's solipsistic foundationalism of
            methodological doubt. Yet both sides were foundationalist, and Peirce
            claimed that foundations are not necessary to science, only a
            continuing self critical community of inquiry.

            You ask for a syllogism to refute the claim that "brain, and
            all of its natural constraints, has a predictable influence on how we
            interpret and write literature." I'm not big on syllogisms, sorry.
            The best I could do would be to invoke Peirce's logic of abduction,
            or hypothesis, which he claimed is a genuine mode of inference not
            reducible to deductive or inductive inference, and is the only way
            genuinely new information validly enters science. The syllogism would
            be, if I remember correctly, The surprising fact C is observed. But
            if A were true, C would be a matter of course. Therefore, there is
            reason to suspect that A is true.

            How about this: There is real spontaneity in the universe as
            well as law, and humans are capable of spontaneous intelligence, of
            what in Peirce's logical context would be abductive inference. There
            is predictable influence, but there is also the capacity for
            spontaneous intelligence, capable of biopoeisis, of participating in
            the ongoing creation of the universe. This is the living quick of art
            and the human body-mind. Is there a biology for it? Sure, I think so.
            But not one that can predict the reality produced. Do contemporary
            biological theories allow for it? Perhaps not yet, because hampered
            by mindsets which cannot allow that mind is not reducible to matter.

            How about a name for it? Here's one spontaneously hatched by
            Max Lerner, some years ago at a bar where he, anthropologist Vic
            Turner and his wife Edie, and I were discussing Turner's lecture
            earlier that evening, on "Brain, Body, and Culture." Lerner smiled
            and said, "The Synaptic Gospels!"

            Or consider Peirce:

            "The mode of being of the composition of thought, which is
            always of the nature of the attribution of a predicate to a subject,
            is the living intelligence which is the creator of all intelligible
            reality, as well as of the knowledge of such reality. It is the
            entelechy, or perfection of being." Collected Papers, Vol 6.341
            (1908) "Some Amazing Mazes, Fourth Curiosity."

            "There is a reason, an interpretation, a logic, in the course of
            scientific advance; and this indisputably proves to him who has
            perceptions of rational, or significant, relations, that man=s mind
            must have been attuned to the truth of things in order to discover
            what he has discovered. It is the very bedrock of logical truth."
            Essential Peirce, Vol.2, p. 444.

            Regarding Peirce, I don't agree that he meant those other
            three methods of fixing belief as mere "rhetorical devices." Remember
            that for Peirce, rhetoric itself is the science of persuasion toward
            the truth, not persuasion for persuasion sake. He honestly meant that
            tenacity, authority, and a priori can be used effectively in
            practical affairs, but are inadequate for fixing belief in the long
            run. That is where the method of inquiry comes in.
            Peirce "privileges" this method as the sole legitimate method for
            science, but does not "privilege" science as the sole legitimate
            method of practical life. The founder of pragmatism also held that
            the essence of science is that it is impractical, and also claimed
            that science is not adequate to the conduct of practical life.

            If you are not fully convinced of my claim that Peirce
            seriously developed a scientific metaphysics, I suggest you look at
            Volume 6 of The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. It is 443
            pages of closely argued text. It is titled Scientific Metaphysics.

            Don't worry about the spelling. It gave me the idea for a
            take-off on Wittgenstein's remark on many philosophers
            merely "gassing," as perhaps as I am here: To air is human.

            Gene








            --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, <zach@...> wrote:
            >
            > Dear Eugene,
            >
            > I appreciate your considerate response, and I think we're making
            > progress towards getting to the heart of what's contentious in the
            > exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes. Before I respond,
            however,
            > I'd like to quote C. S. Peirce, whom we both, as it seems based on
            our
            > exchange thus far, admire and, ironically, attributed a certain
            degree
            > of authority: "The person who confesses that there is such a thing
            as
            > truth, which is distinguished from falsehood simply by this, that if
            > acted on it should, on full consideration, carry us to the point we
            aim
            > at and not astray, and then, though convinced of this, dares not
            know
            > the truth and seeks to avoid it, is in a sorry state of mind
            indeed."
            > In the spirit of this statement, I respond.
            >
            > To began, you are correct in saying that Dr. Fromm's letter was not
            > limited to suggesting, simply, that the humanities could profit by
            > considering the biosciences as a legitimate source of information,
            > although this was his overarching thesis. To be sure, he goes into
            some
            > detail backing up his thesis with more explicit propositions, so in
            > that sense you are correct.
            >
            > But what I do not understand is why you maintain that his claims are
            > exaggerated and false--this is an assertion, not a logical
            proposition,
            > and so I find it hard to understand what you mean, explicitly. I'll
            try
            > to extrapolate from the whole of your response to figure out what
            your
            > arguments are, exactly, but if I get something wrong, please correct
            > me.
            >
            > First, you are correct to say that Dr. Fromm uses strong language
            and
            > analogies, and I suppose this could be characterized as a certain
            type
            > of exaggeration; but even if it is, rhetorical tools such as
            hyperbole
            > are quite independent from the verity or falsity of a claim. And
            since
            > I cannot know which claims you find false--you only quote certain
            > habits of usage from Dr. Carroll's writings--I'll assume you mean
            his
            > claims about evolution. Let us examine one such claim.
            >
            > "Like the head-buried proponents of intelligent design," writes
            Fromm,
            > "academics in the humanities don't want to know that literary texts,
            > far from being autotelic or merely a part of cultural history,
            > are--like everything else produced by organisms--the products of
            > biological history, which means the history of the body and its
            > materially constituted brain." Now, what you may perceive as
            > exaggerations in this statement, I perceive as generally accurate,
            in
            > terms of postmodern literary theory and criticism.
            >
            > But let us presume, for the sake of argument, that Dr. Fromm's
            > statement about "academics in the humanities"--which, incidentally,
            > includes individual such as yourself--is an exaggeration and should
            be
            > dismissed. Since we're both interested in the truth or falsity of a
            > proposition, we can focus our attention on what remains: namely,
            that
            > texts are products of materially constructed brains with a
            particular
            > biological history. Again for the sake of argument, I'll assume you
            > find this proposition false. I'm guessing, also, that we both agree
            > texts originate from brains, so I'll skip the first enthymeme and
            turn
            > to the next: that is, the argument that brains are (a) materially
            > constructed and (b) have a particular biological history.
            >
            > If you disagree with (b), I'm afraid I'm at a loss, since I don't
            think
            > there's any possible way to respond other than by saying you haven't
            > looked at the mountains of evidence afforded by bioscientific
            research,
            > especially neuroscience; but since I believe you have looked at this
            > research, I'll assume your problem isn't with (b). That leaves us
            with
            > (a). Assuming again that you find something false in Dr. Fromm's
            > statement above--for the sake of argument, as I said before--I must
            > conclude that you believe the mind is not material, but rather
            > influenced by supernatural forces. If this is your stance, I'm at a
            > loss once again. Belief in supernatural forces, following C. S.
            Peirce,
            > is a consequence of the method of tenacity, and so nothing I will
            say
            > can alter the belief.
            >
            > Where does this leave our dialectic? All I have to fall back on is
            Sir
            > Karl Popper's proposed solution to demarcation, which says that the
            > belief in the supernatural is unfalsifiable and therefore
            irrefutable
            > and unscientific. And since the bulk of Dr. Fromm's letter stems
            from
            > the belief that the brain is not a blank slate but rather a
            > congenitally, functionally differentiated neural apparatus, and that
            > the existence of such material constraints requires literary
            scholars
            > to consider causal factors independent of culture, not in exclusion,
            > I'll assume--yet again, for the sake of argument--that you believe
            > there's an immaterial component (not something like energy but like
            > ultramundane spirit) to the mind and the act of literary creation.
            >
            > At this point, if you say "yes, that's exactly what I mean," then
            I'll
            > assume you're not talking about mysticism or theism but rather
            > something like culture, which you deem immaterial. If this is what
            you
            > mean, I can only ask how, exactly, culture is immaterial, when
            > everything that we could conceivably call culture corresponds with
            some
            > type of independent reality, either endogenous or exogenous, real or
            > imagined, where the latter is formed by constituent imagery from
            actual
            > realities (such as a unicorn, which is an imaginary construct
            composed
            > of the actual realities "horn" and "horse").
            >
            > Now that I've reviewed (in a belabored fashion) some of your
            possible
            > propositions, all I can do is ask: what--exactly, factually,
            > empirically, etc.--is your disagreement with Dr. Fromm? If you agree
            > that neuroscience is important for literary scholars, then there
            seems
            > to be nothing left but disagreements with Dr. Fromm's style, which
            is
            > another topic altogether.
            >
            > But I think you have more in mind that style when you criticize Dr.
            > Fromm, and given what you've said thus far, I must admit that I
            don't
            > know exactly what your concrete--that is, factual--disagreements
            are.
            > The charge of reductionism, without any concrete examples and
            posited
            > consequences, gives me nothing to argue for or against. So I'll
            ask: is
            > there a syllogism you can provide that refutes the claim, using
            > counterfactual evidence, that (a) there is a species-typical,
            universal
            > (in terms of the species Homo sapiens), material (including such
            > physical manifestations as energy), congenitally, functionally
            > predifferentiated brain and that (b) this brain, and all of its
            natural
            > constraints, has a predictable influence on how we interpret and
            write
            > literature. Your answer to this, I hope, will cut away all of the
            > extraneous content in our exchange, thereby allowing us to get to
            the
            > heart of the matter. And it is my hope that you don't answer
            > circuitously by saying "but what about culture?" when we both
            already
            > agree that culture plays a considerable role in the production of
            > literature. Rather, I expect you to answer directly, with the
            > assumption that sociocultural/historical/economic/environmental
            factors
            > all contribute to literary inspiration and interpretation. This is
            > something we take for granted, as does Dr. Fromm and Dr. Carroll. We
            > are talking about human nature here--it is human nature that is the
            > focal point.
            >
            > Now that I've addressed the narrower focus of our exchange, I'd
            like to
            > acknowledge your effort behind some of the extraneous content in
            your
            > previous e-mail by saying that you're right about C. S. Peirce's
            use of
            > the word fixation. Even though I re-read The Fixation of Belief
            every
            > year, to remind myself of the lessons contained therein, I realize
            now
            > that I have been glossing over the several mentions of the words
            > "fixing" and "method," attributing to them a semantic misconception.
            > Think you for leading me to the truth. When he uses these words, he
            > means authority, tenacity, a priori reasoning, and science are all
            > methods of fixing belief.
            >
            > Nevertheless, and I say this not to sidestep your correction,
            despite
            > how it may sound, I still maintain that Peirce believed adamantly in
            > privileging the scientific method of "fixing" belief, even though
            > science is always provisional in its claims, unlike theism. Peirce
            may
            > lend some credence to the other three methods, but given the
            context of
            > the essay as a whole, I believe this is little more than a
            rhetorical
            > ploy, a technique used too conciliate potentially distrustful and
            > intractable readers--arguably the majority of his audience (and
            Susan
            > Haack would likely agree). Such a rhetorical ploy is made clear in
            > passages such as the following: "A man may go through life,
            > systematically keeping out of view all that might cause a change in
            his
            > opinions, and if he only succeeds--basing his method, as he does, on
            > two fundamental psychological laws--I do not see what can be said
            > against his doing so. It would be an egotistical impertinence to
            object
            > that his procedure is irrational, for that only amounts to saying
            that
            > his method of settling belief is not ours. He does not propose to
            > himself to be rational, and, indeed, will often talk with scorn of
            > man's weak and illusive reason. So let him think as he pleases. But
            > this method of fixing belief, which may be called the method of
            > tenacity, will be unable to hold its ground in practice." This is a
            > great example of Peirce's rhetorical tactics: he spends a whole
            > paragraph suggesting that irrationalism is somehow justified,
            > then--almost as a slight of hand--negates that suggestion with a
            single
            > sentence, summarized as saying the method of tenacity is unable to
            hold
            > ground in practice. In other words, he suggest that people may use
            this
            > method, but since it is not in touch with reality, it has no
            practical
            > consequence other than maintaining prejudice.
            >
            > Also--and this is this the last of my digressions--I'm not fully
            > convinced of your claim that, "Though critical of the metaphysics of
            > his time, Peirce did not oppose metaphysics to science, but saw it
            as a
            > branch of science," especially when considering quotes such as the
            > following: "The truth is, that common-sense, or thought as it first
            > emerges above the level of the narrowly practical, is deeply imbued
            > with that bad logical quality to which the epithet metaphysical is
            > commonly applied; and nothing can clear it up but a severe course of
            > logic." Unless Peirce has written elsewhere of the "good" sense of
            the
            > term metaphysical, and perhaps you can furnish such an example, I'll
            > have to suspend judgment yet air on the side of assuming Peirce
            meant
            > what he said in the aforementioned quote.
            >
            > Again, I thank you for your response, and I hope we continue to
            > progress towards a resolution.
            >
            > Always sincerely,
            >
            > ZPN
            >
            > --- eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@...> wrote:
            >
            > > Thank you for your responses, Zach and Harold.
            > >
            > > I agree Zach, that broadening literary studies with other
            > > means, including biology and neuroscience, can be a good
            direction,
            > > depending on how they are used. If that is what Harold said in
            his
            > > letter, I could have agreed with that too. Ditto for earlier
            postings
            > >
            > > here from Joseph Carroll. But that is not what Fromm explicitly
            > > stated. You manage to avoid my specific criticism of Fromm's
            > > exaggerated and false claims in the letter. He did not limit his
            > > statement to "…contemporary bioscience as a legitimate source of
            > > information," as you put it, but as the legitimating criterion
            > > without which literary study is delusional. Fromm claimed
            that, "The
            > > study of literature without an ever-conscious awareness of its
            > > biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings about
            creationism."
            > >
            > > And Fromm called for disrupting, "…the dreamworld
            > > of "intelligent design" that is keeping the literary humanities
            in
            > > their hyperdogmatic slumber, their narcissistic sense of their
            own
            > > unbeholden power."
            > >
            > > Now Zach or Harold, do you believe that all study of
            > > literature not informed by biology is comparable to
            fundamentalist
            > > fantasizing? That is what is explicitly stated. That is my main
            point
            > >
            > > for claiming that it is bio-reductionism and for criticizing
            literary
            > >
            > > Darwinism as a heavy-handed ideological agenda.
            > >
            > > Harold, you weave a reply that goes from claiming that
            > > reductionism is just perspectivism, just "point of view" to a
            > > conclusion: "Should one respond to charges that one is, after
            all,
            > > just a person?" That is sleight-of-hand, attempting to deflect my
            > > criticism of your position to your person. I claimed that the
            > > position you advocated was reductionist, and I claim that your
            > > sentences in the letter, quoted again above, are reductionism in
            > > extremis which would deny validity to most literary studies.
            Perhaps
            > > you were just a person given to hyperbole in your letter, or
            perhaps
            > > it relates to MLA history and politics of which I am unaware, I
            don't
            > >
            > > know, but it was the extremist position that equated non-
            biologically
            > >
            > > oriented approaches with delusional dogmatism I was criticizing
            as
            > > itself dogmatic. I don't even agree with Scholes, but there are
            many
            > > critics of all stripes in the humanities who do not draw from
            > > biology, and whose work makes good sense, and is not "akin to
            > > fantasizings about creationism."
            > >
            > > The rest of your last response is quite different from your
            > > letter to Scholes, however. Viewing bio and neuroscience
            approaches
            > > as "a timely contribution to the total mix of critical
            approaches…"
            > > is one I have no disagreement with.
            > >
            > > I also stated that, "Literary Darwinism seems to aspire to be
            > > nothing more than scientific suck-upism, humanists in white lab
            coats
            > >
            > > playing at science. That is so unnecessary. So is the completely
            > > uncritical view of science." This is not, as you claim Zach, an
            ad
            > > hominem argument against an individual, but it is a severe
            criticism
            > > of literary Darwinism as a position. I invented a technical term,
            > > scientific suck-upism, meaning the idealization of science. I
            would
            > > like to see literary Darwinists question not only literature, but
            > > accepted biology too. But what I have seen so far suggests it is
            a
            > > one-way street.
            > >
            > > Joseph Carroll has written of an evolutionary outlook as "the
            > > permanent, fundamental framework for all literary study," "it
            would
            > > exclude other competing frameworks," "it would contain…," "it
            would
            > > be the central medium…" That is why I claimed in an earlier post
            that
            > >
            > > Carroll is a Darwinian fundamentalist, not someone open to
            competing
            > > or even complementary frameworks IN THE HUMANITIES.
            > >
            > > Zach, I understand what you are trying to say regarding
            > > Peirce, but it needs clarification. You say, "I think if Charles
            > > Sanders Peirce were alive today, he would charge Dr.Scholes (not
            > > always, but in this particular instance) with what he called
            fixation
            > >
            > > of belief: the tenacious, mumpsimus dedication to a
            unfalsifiable,
            > > metaphysical construct. Peirce believed that empirical science
            was
            > > the best possible method for determining the truth of any given
            > > statement, and semiotics--especially the brand that Umberto Eco
            > > advocates--is more akin to metaphysics than science."
            > >
            > > I like the word "mumpsimus." Perhaps you are right about
            > > Scholes. He seemed simply to limit criticism to a textual
            conception
            > > of signification. But does Scholes deny falsifiability through
            > > textual criticism? I did not get that from his reply.
            > >
            > > But the fixation of belief, as Peirce described it, is what
            > > all reasoning and inquiry seeks, not some Freudian sense
            > > of "fixation." It depends upon how belief is fixed, not simply
            that
            > > it is fixed. Peirce proposes tenacity, authority, and a priori as
            > > methods used, but which cannot ultimately free belief from doubt.
            His
            > >
            > > fourth method, scientific inquiry, is one that can, as the
            regulative
            > >
            > > ideal of inquiry. Reality determines true belief as the ultimate
            goal
            > >
            > > of inquiry, found through an unlimited community of inquiry. It
            is
            > > the regulative ideal, which is why Peirce held that science, in
            > > actuality, is limited to probable opinion and not certainty of
            > > belief.
            > >
            > > Peirce did not view empirical science as "the best possible
            > > method for determining the truth of any given statement…." Not
            all
            > > sciences are empirical. Mathematics, for example, is not an
            empirical
            > >
            > > science in Peirce's view: "Mathematics studies what is and what
            is
            > > not logically possible, without making itself responsible for its
            > > actual existence." CP 1.183-187, 1903.
            > >
            > > You say that semiotics "is more akin to metaphysics than
            > > science," neglecting that Peirce invented semeiotic as a
            scientific
            > > form of logic, regardless of how it is been misinterpreted by
            Charles
            > >
            > > Morris, Umberto Eco or others. Though critical of the metaphysics
            of
            > > his time, Peirce did not oppose metaphysics to science, but saw
            it as
            > >
            > > a branch of science. The twentieth-century positivist quest to
            > > eliminate metaphysics, still naively believed in by many today,
            was
            > > an example of what Peirce already meant when he wrote in 1905-06:
            > >
            > > "Find a scientific man who proposes to get along without any
            > > metaphysics...and you have found one whose doctrines are
            thoroughly
            > > vitiated by the crude and uncriticized metaphysics with which
            they
            > > are packed. We must philosophize, said the great naturalist
            > > Aristotle -- if only to avoid philosophizing. Every man of us has
            a
            > > metaphysics, and has to have one; and it will influence his life
            > > greatly. Far better, then, that that metaphysics should be
            criticized
            > >
            > > and not be allowed to run loose... In short, there is no escape
            from
            > > the need of a critical examination of "first principles."
            (Collected
            > > Papers, Vol.1. para. 129).
            > >
            > > Gene
          • zach@confutation.com
            Eugene, You say I m working too hard, and I say you re not working hard enough, at least if your goal, like mine, is a logical resolution. I ve spent years
            Message 5 of 17 , Feb 2, 2006
              Eugene,

              You say I'm working too hard, and I say you're not working hard enough,
              at least if your goal, like mine, is a logical resolution. I've spent
              years studying logic so that I can work towards resolving intellectual
              disputes, and I must admit--and please don't take this the wrong
              way--that your writing is to me like a sustained example taken out of a
              logic textbook of what not to do.

              You have yet to commit, for example, to a single, straightforward
              proposition that's clearly open to refutation--all of your arguments
              have contained such vague premises and conclusions, like "such and such
              is reductionistic, and therefore such and such is false," that there's
              no possible way to say you're wrong; and what's right about your
              statements, what I agree with, is so generalized that I can't really
              say what the particular consequences of being right or agreeing with
              you are.

              I'm not at all interested in vague, blanket statements like "not all
              non-biologically influenced literary studies are dogmatic," not because
              I believe such a statement is without meaning or is devoid of truth,
              but because such statements have no practical value in a debate; this
              is because anyone can agree with such a statement, even the most
              radical biological reductionist, assuming there is such a bogeyman,
              although I have yet to come across one in my studies. As an example, if
              your stance is simply that you disagree with Fromm when he says that
              literary theory unguided by biological science is inherently dogmatic,
              then have we really come any closer to determining what that means, in
              a practical way? To me the answer is no, at least not in terms of
              specifying the logic behind your stance.

              I want particulars, not generalities, and since you seem to be
              unwilling to commit to a potentially falsifiable position, I'll
              formulate what I believe your position is up to this point, in as
              straightforward a away as I can, given what you've written; then, you
              tell me whether you agree or disagree with my formulation; and after
              that, you can respond to my interpretation of your formulation. If you
              disagree with either the formulation or my interpretation, rewrite
              either--while keeping them separate--using basic propositions in the
              form of premises that lead to specific conclusions; do this until you
              are satisfied. But at no point, and I'm asking this as a favor, shall
              you deviate from a basic formulation, a position composed of simple
              arguments that are not so general as to be irrefutable.

              Also, just because something is related--such as Peirce's
              metaphysics--doesn't warrant bringing it up, not unless it results in a
              more precise formulation of the logic behind your position. Philosophy
              of science is a field of study I cherish, but I'm not going to go into
              detail about Hume's law, Schrodenger's thought experiment, or fuzzy
              systems theory in order to resolve a dispute over a few sentences in
              the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes. I wouldn't have to work
              so hard if I didn't have to sift through so much sciolistic rambling.
              I'm guilty of this too, but it has to end if we're going to commit to a
              specifiable position in relation to the original dispute.

              If you wish to enlighten me on the nature of life, the universe, and
              everything, you can do that later. But for now, let's stick to arguing
              about the content in the exchange between Fromm and Scholes.

              Below are my attempts to formulate your positions followed by
              interpretations or statements about those positions. Perhaps if we keep
              this type of enumerated structure, we can add structure to our
              exchange.

              (1) The statement "The study of literature without an ever-conscious
              awareness of its biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings about
              creationism" is false because it conflates the varieties of literary
              study in which the biological is either not relevant or not prominent
              with religious fundamentalism.

              Okay, but can you give an example of literary study that is either (a)
              completely disconnected from or (b) not relevant to biology, when by
              biology we mean to include the results of such disciplines as
              neuroscience and sociobiology, such as the ever-growing amassment of
              evidence that demonstrates how the mind-brain is constrained by adapted
              physiology? Perhaps your answers to this question will allow me to
              understand your position more clearly. As it is, it's overgeneral and
              irrefutable.

              (2a) Dr. Fromm divides mind and matter and tries to reduce mind to the
              material realm. Dr. Scholes, on the other hand, divides thoughts and
              things and tries to generalize them to the ethereal realm. (2b) Dr.
              Fromm is a biological reductionist; therefore, he "reduces" literature
              to scientific machinery.

              Again, your arguments suffer from vague, blanket statements, some of
              which are so vague that at some point in the distant horizon of
              possibilities they cancel each other out. Before I can respond in any
              detail, I need to know how, exactly, Dr. Fromm tries to reduce the mind
              to the material realm. We'll save Dr. Scholes for later. First things
              first, as they say.

              (3) The arts and sciences are lives, living beings who feed our minds,
              and cannot therefore be reduced to biological foundations or ethereal
              abstractions.

              Can you please make this argument more exact? It's so fraught with
              implicit assumptions that I cannot fix them to some type of particular
              premise that is open to refutation.

              (5) Culture is extramaterial, but springs from material conditions.

              When you say this, do you mean to say that culture is ipso facto
              immaterial? The explanation you've given, using some of Peirce's
              philosophy, isn't at all convincing. It comes off as metaphysical
              claptrap or quackery (what you've quoted from Peirce, that is). That
              said, I still maintain that culture always has a physical component,
              whether in terms of a memory engram or in terms of correspondences
              between engrams and endogenous--within the body and brain--or
              exogenous--environmental objects. Even the idea of probability does not
              disengage thought or culture from physical underpinnings. Simply saying
              that a contingency exists in the form of a probability, yet since no
              observable consequence has come from that probability, the contingency
              is therefore immaterial or not based on material considerations makes
              no sense. There's an enthymeme in there somewhere: e.g., "a probability
              is immaterial." If that's your position, then say it. Otherwise I'm
              left to guessing.

              But to define the parameters of your response a bit more, I'll say
              this: to make a claim to the contrary of "thoughts, contingencies,
              etc., are either inherently material, originate from material
              foundations, are related to material contingencies, or a combination of
              these things" is to presume that something exists beyond the
              physicality of a brain, society, economics, ecology, or whatever (and
              our representations of these physicalities in the form of language or
              ideas does not constitute some type of mystical act constituting a
              transcendence of reality). If this is your position, fine; simply say
              so. But if it is, we'll have to agree to disagree, since the belief in
              something that cannot be seen or tested is intrinsically irrefutable.

              (6) The mind-body springs from material conditions, but is not
              reducible to them.

              I address this at the end of my original response, when I talked about
              the amygdala, and you never responded. I even cited examples from
              recently published literature that tried to bring biology into the
              debate, and you ignored the inconsistency of those quotes with your own
              position against Dr. Fromm, namely, that all literary Darwinists are
              also bio-reductionists. (I'm sure you don't really believe this, but
              that is a paraphrase of an argument in your original letter.)

              Additionally, I think you take for granted what reductionism means
              exactly. Can you tell me? I claim ignorance openly on this matter. I
              just don't understand how a label like reductionism has such power to
              sideline any attempt to examine the underlying causes of authorial
              literary inspiration and/or interpretation. So, please tell me what
              "reductionism" means and how or why it's always a bad thing, even
              though from my ignorant standpoint the logic behind the idea of
              reductionism is already impossible. And when doing so, please use
              precise, falsifiable propositions; if you can't do that, then at least
              narrow your argument down to unfalsifiable positions, such as the
              following: "ideas are ipso facto immaterial; they spring from divine
              inspiration; therefore, any attempt to explain the origin of ideas in
              biological terms is ipso facto false." But if you do the latter, which
              you've already done, please also admit that your position is
              irrefutable. I can live at that.

              I suspect you will have other propositions that you'd like to share, or
              that you feel I've left out, and I welcome a clear formulation of these
              propositions, so long as they are circumscribed by the problem space
              presented in the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes.

              Last, despite the slightly irritated tone in this response, for which I
              apologize in advance, I still would like us to progress towards a
              resolution, or a least a mutually conscious recognition of the source
              of disagreement, even if that source is irrefutable--such as the
              proposition "X is inherently immaterial." You're perfectly welcome to
              fix a belief on tenacity or authority. But if you do, at least admit
              it.


              Sincerely,


              Zachary Norwood
            • zach@confutation.com
              Since Eugene has not yet responded, I decided to make a few corrections to my last response, which is below. __________ Dear Eugene, You say I m working too
              Message 6 of 17 , Feb 3, 2006
                Since Eugene has not yet responded, I decided to make a few corrections
                to my last response, which is below.
                __________

                Dear Eugene,

                You say I'm working too hard, and I say you're not working hard enough,
                at least if your goal, like mine, is a logical resolution. I've spent
                years studying logic so that I can work towards resolving intellectual
                disputes, and I must admit--and please don't take this the wrong
                way--that your writing is to me like a sustained example taken out of a
                logic textbook of what not to do. I'm sure this is partially due to the
                casual nature of our exchange, and I'm certain that you're capable of
                specifying your position.

                Nevertheless, you have yet to commit to a single, straightforward
                proposition that's clearly open to refutation--all of your arguments
                have contained such vague premises and conclusions, like "such and such
                is reductionistic, and therefore such and such is false," that there's
                no possible way to say you're wrong; and what's right about your
                statements, what I agree with, is so generalized that I can't really
                say what the particular consequences of being right are in your
                position.

                I'm not at all interested in vague, blanket statements like "not all
                non-biologically influenced literary studies are dogmatic," not because
                I believe they're somehow without meaning--they certainly contain some
                grain of truth--but because such statements have no practical value in
                a debate; the reason for this is that anyone can agree with such a
                statement, even the most radical biological reductionist (assuming
                there is such a bogeyman, although I have yet to come across one in my
                studies).

                If your stance is simply that you disagree with Fromm when he says that
                literary theory unguided by biological science is inherently dogmatic,
                then have we really come any closer to determining what that means, in
                a practical way?

                I want particulars, not generalities, and since from my perspective it
                seems that you are unwilling to commit to a potentially falsifiable
                position, I'll formulate what I believe your position is at this point,
                in as straightforward a away as I can, given what you've written; then,
                you tell me whether you agree or disagree with my formulation and you
                can also respond to my interpretation of your formulation. If you
                disagree with either the formulation or my interpretation, rewrite
                either--while keeping them separate--using basic propositions in the
                form of premises so that you are satisfied. But at no point--and I'm
                asking this as a favor, for both our sakes--shall you or I deviate from
                a basic formulation, a position composed of simple arguments that are
                not so general as to be irrefutable.

                Also, just because something is related--such as Peirce's metaphysical
                perspectives on science--doesn't warrant bringing it up, not unless it
                results in a more precise formulation of the logic behind your
                position. Philosophy of science is a field of study I cherish, but I'm
                not going to go into detail about Hume's law or quantum mechanics and
                fuzzy systems theory to resolve a dispute over a few sentences in the
                exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes. I wouldn't have to work so
                hard if I didn't have to sift through so much sciolistic rambling.
                (We've both been guilty of this, but it has to end if we're going to
                commit to a specifiable position in relation to the original dispute.)
                You can enlighten me on the nature of life, the universe, and
                everything later. But for now, let's stick to arguing about the content
                in the exchange between Fromm and Scholes, from this point forward.
                Below are my attempts to formulate your positions followed by
                interpretations or statements about those positions. Perhaps if we keep
                this type of enumerated structure, we can anchor our debate to the
                realm of practicality.

                (1) The statement "The study of literature without an ever-conscious
                awareness of its biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings about
                creationism" is false because it conflates the varieties of literary
                study in which the biological is either not relevant or not prominent
                with religious fundamentalism.

                Okay, but can you give an example of literary study that is either (a)
                completely disconnected from or (b) not relevant to biology, when by
                biology we mean to include the results of such disciplines as
                neuroscience and sociobiology, such as the ever-growing amassment of
                evidence that demonstrates how the mind-brain is constrained by adapted
                physiology? Perhaps your answers to this question will allow me to
                understand your position were clearly. As it is, it's overgeneral and
                as such irrefutable.

                (2a) Dr. Fromm divides mind and matter and tries to reduce mind to the
                material realm. (2b) Dr. Scholes, on the other hand, divides thoughts
                and things and tries to generalize them to the ethereal realm.

                Again, your arguments, as presently formulated, suffer from vague,
                blanket statements, some of which are so vague that at some point in
                the distant horizon of possibilities they cancel each other out. Before
                I can respond in any detail, I need to know how, exactly, Dr. Fromm
                tries to reduce the mind to the material realm. We'll save Dr. Scholes
                for later.

                (3a) The arts and sciences are lives, living beings who feed our minds,
                and cannot therefore be reduced to biological foundations or ethereal
                abstractions. (3b) Dr. Fromm is a biological reductionist; therefore,
                he "reduces" literature to mere exhaust fumes of ill-conceived
                scientific "machinery."

                Can you please make this argument more exact? It's fraught with
                implicit assumptions that I cannot fix to some type of particular
                premise that is open to refutation.

                (4) Culture is extramaterial, but springs from material conditions.

                When you say this, do you mean to say that culture is ipso facto
                immaterial? The explanation you've given, using some of Peirce's
                philosophy, isn't at all satisfying. I still maintain that culture
                always has a physical component, whether in terms of a memory engram or
                in terms of correspondences between engrams and endogenous--within the
                body and brain--or exogenous--environmental objects. Even the idea of
                probability does not disengage thought or culture from physical
                underpinnings. Simply saying that a contingency exists in the form of a
                probability, yet since no observable consequence has come from that
                probability, the contingency is therefore immaterial or not based on
                material considerations makes no sense. I think there's an enthymeme in
                there somewhere: e.g., "a probability is immaterial." If that's your
                position, then say it. Otherwise I'm left to guessing.

                But to set the parameters of your response to my formulation a bit
                more, I'll say this: to make a claim to the contrary of "thoughts,
                contingencies, etc., are either inherently material, originate from
                material foundations, or are related to material contingencies, or a
                combination of these things" is to presume that something exists beyond
                the physicality of a brain, social arrangements, economic conditions,
                or whatever. If this is your position, fine; simply say so. But if it
                is, we'll have to agree to disagree, since the belief in something that
                cannot be seen or tested is intrinsically irrefutable, and it forces a
                halt to any type of dialectic.

                (5) The mind-body springs from material conditions, but is not
                reducible to them.

                This argument is more or less a repetition of 3a and 3b. I repeat it,
                though, because it sure most recent formulation of your basic case
                against Dr. Fromm. And so far as this argument is concerned, I do
                believe I addressed the absurdity of reductionism, as I understand it,
                at the end of my original response, when I talked about the amygdala
                and the painter metaphor; I don't believe you ever directly responded
                to either of these arguments. I even cited examples from recently
                published literature that tried to bring biology into the debate, and
                you ignored the inconsistency of those quotes with your own position
                against Dr. Fromm, namely, that all literary Darwinists are also
                bio-reductionists. (I'm sure you don't really believe this, but that is
                a paraphrase of an argument in your original letter.)

                Additionally, I think you take for granted what reductionism means,
                exactly. Can you tell me what you think it means, and precise terms?
                The more I think about it, the more I feel I have to claim ignorance. I
                just don't understand how a label like reductionism has such power, in
                itself, to sideline any attempt to examine the underlying causes of
                authorial literary inspiration and/or interpretation. So, please tell
                me what "reductionism" means and how or why it's always a bad thing.
                And when doing so, please use precise, falsifiable propositions; if you
                can't do that, then at least narrow your argument down to unfalsifiable
                positions, such as the following: "ideas are ipso facto immaterial;
                they spring from divine inspiration; therefore, any attempt to explain
                the origin of ideas in biological terms is ipso facto false." But if
                you do the latter, which I believe you've already done, implicitly,
                please also admit that your position is irrefutable. This may sound
                like a hostile suggestion, but it's not. I have many close friends
                whose arguments and perspectives I value greatly, but given their
                commitment to religiosity, we can only go so far in certain debates.
                This does not mean that I think their position detestable. Religion is
                a powerful thing, I can't blame anyone for their emotional bonding with
                certain religious lines of thought.

                I suspect you will have other propositions that you'd like to share, or
                that you feel I am living out. I welcome a clear formulation of these
                propositions, so long as they are circumscribed by the problem space
                presented by the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes.

                Despite the slightly irritated tone in this response, for which I
                apologize for an advance, I still would like us to progress towards a
                resolution, or a least a mutually conscious recognition of the source
                of disagreement, if that source is irrefutable--such as the proposition
                "X is inherently immaterial." There's nothing wrong, and I say this in
                the spirit of my interpretation of C. S. Peirce, with fixing a belief
                on tenacity or authority. But if you do, at least admit it.


                Sincerely,


                Zachary Norwood
              • zach@confutation.com
                Ack! I noticed a few other mistakes. Disregard the last post, and I apologize for the spam. _________ Dear Eugene, You say I m working too hard, and I say
                Message 7 of 17 , Feb 3, 2006
                  Ack! I noticed a few other mistakes. Disregard the last post, and I
                  apologize for the spam.
                  _________

                  Dear Eugene,

                  You say I'm working too hard, and I say you're not working hard enough,
                  at least if your goal, like mine, is a logical resolution. I've spent
                  years studying logic so that I can work towards resolving intellectual
                  disputes, and I must admit--and please don't take this the wrong
                  way--that your writing is to me like a sustained example taken out of a
                  logic textbook of what not to do. I'm sure this is partially due to the
                  casual nature of our exchange, and I'm certain that you're capable of
                  specifying your position.

                  Nevertheless, you have yet to commit to a single, straightforward
                  proposition that's clearly open to refutation--all of your arguments
                  have contained such vague premises and conclusions, like "such and such
                  is reductionistic, and therefore such and such is false," that there's
                  no possible way to say you're wrong; and what's right about your
                  statements, what I agree with, is so generalized that I can't really
                  say what the particular consequences of being right are in your
                  position.

                  I'm not at all interested in vague, blanket statements like "not all
                  non-biologically influenced literary studies are dogmatic," not because
                  I believe they're somehow without meaning--they certainly contain some
                  grain of truth--but because such statements have no practical value in
                  a debate; the reason for this is that anyone can agree with such a
                  statement, even the most radical biological reductionist (assuming
                  there is such a bogeyman, although I have yet to come across one in my
                  studies).

                  If your stance is simply that you disagree with Fromm when he says that
                  literary theory unguided by biological science is inherently dogmatic,
                  then have we really come any closer to determining what that means, in
                  a practical way?

                  I want particulars, not generalities, and since from my perspective it
                  seems that you are unwilling to commit to a potentially falsifiable
                  position, I'll formulate what I believe your position is at this point,
                  in as straightforward a away as I can, given what you've written; then,
                  you tell me whether you agree or disagree with my formulation and you
                  can also respond to my interpretation of your formulation. If you
                  disagree with either the formulation or my interpretation, rewrite
                  either--while keeping them separate--using basic propositions in the
                  form of premises so that you are satisfied. But at no point--and I'm
                  asking this as a favor, for both our sakes--shall you or I deviate from
                  a basic formulation, a position composed of simple arguments that are
                  not so general as to be irrefutable.

                  Also, just because something is related--such as Peirce's metaphysical
                  perspectives on science--doesn't warrant bringing it up, not unless it
                  results in a more precise formulation of the logic behind your
                  position. Philosophy of science is a field of study I cherish, but I'm
                  not going to go into detail about Hume's law or quantum mechanics and
                  fuzzy systems theory to resolve a dispute over a few sentences in the
                  exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes. I wouldn't have to work so
                  hard if I didn't have to sift through so much sciolistic rambling.
                  (We've both been guilty of this, but it has to end if we're going to
                  commit to a specifiable position in relation to the original dispute.)
                  You can enlighten me on the nature of life, the universe, and
                  everything later. But for now, let's stick to arguing about the content
                  in the exchange between Fromm and Scholes, from this point forward.
                  Below are my attempts to formulate your positions followed by
                  interpretations or statements about those positions. Perhaps if we keep
                  this type of enumerated structure, we can anchor our debate to the
                  realm of practicality.

                  (1) The statement "The study of literature without an ever-conscious
                  awareness of its biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings about
                  creationism" is false because it conflates the varieties of literary
                  study in which the biological is either not relevant or not prominent
                  with religious fundamentalism.

                  Okay, but can you give an example of literary study that is either (a)
                  completely disconnected from or (b) not relevant to biology, when by
                  biology we mean to include the results of such disciplines as
                  neuroscience and sociobiology, such as the ever-growing amassment of
                  evidence that demonstrates how the mind-brain is constrained by adapted
                  physiology? Perhaps your answers to this question will allow me to
                  understand your position were clearly. As it is, it's overgeneral and
                  as such irrefutable.

                  (2a) Dr. Fromm divides mind and matter and tries to reduce mind to the
                  material realm. (2b) Dr. Scholes, on the other hand, divides thoughts
                  and things and tries to generalize them to the ethereal realm.

                  Again, your arguments, as presently formulated, suffer from vague,
                  blanket statements, some of which are so vague that at some point in
                  the distant horizon of possibilities they cancel each other out. Before
                  I can respond in any detail, I need to know how, exactly, Dr. Fromm
                  tries to reduce the mind to the material realm. We'll save Dr. Scholes
                  for later.

                  (3a) The arts and sciences are lives, living beings who feed our minds,
                  and cannot therefore be reduced to biological foundations or ethereal
                  abstractions. (3b) Dr. Fromm is a biological reductionist; therefore,
                  he "reduces" literature to mere exhaust fumes of ill-conceived
                  scientific "machinery."

                  Can you please make this argument more exact? It's fraught with
                  implicit assumptions that I cannot fix to some type of particular
                  premise that is open to refutation.

                  (4) Culture is extramaterial, but springs from material conditions.

                  When you say this, do you mean to say that culture is ipso facto
                  immaterial? The explanation you've given, using some of Peirce's
                  philosophy, isn't at all satisfying. I still maintain that culture
                  always has a physical component, whether in terms of a memory engram or
                  in terms of correspondences between engrams and endogenous--within the
                  body and brain--or exogenous--environmental objects. Even the idea of
                  probability does not disengage thought or culture from physical
                  underpinnings. Simply saying that a contingency exists in the form of a
                  probability, yet since no observable consequence has come from that
                  probability, the contingency is therefore immaterial or not based on
                  material considerations makes no sense. I think there's an enthymeme in
                  there somewhere: e.g., "a probability is immaterial." If that's your
                  position, then say it. Otherwise I'm left to guessing.

                  But to set the parameters of your response to my formulation a bit
                  more, I'll say this: to make a claim to the contrary of "thoughts,
                  contingencies, etc., are either inherently material, originate from
                  material foundations, or are related to material contingencies, or a
                  combination of these things" is to presume that something exists beyond
                  the physicality of a brain, social arrangements, economic conditions,
                  or whatever. If this is your position, fine; simply say so. But if it
                  is, we'll have to agree to disagree, since the belief in something that
                  cannot be seen or tested is intrinsically irrefutable, and it forces a
                  halt to any type of dialectic. In my old logic textbooks, they call
                  this argumentum ad ignorantiam, that is, an argument from ignorance,
                  which in this case would hold a proposition true simply because its
                  falsity has not been established. There's a great, apt example of this
                  in Copi and Cohen's introduction to logic: "An argument from ignorance
                  confronted Galileo, whose primitive telescope plainly revealed the
                  mountains and valleys of the moon. But those who were committed to the
                  spherical perfection of the moon as a theological truth could not be
                  persuaded. That perfection (long taught by Aristotle and his disciples)
                  was defended by Galileo's critics who argued that what appear to be
                  irregularities on the moon's surface must in reality be filled in by an
                  invisible crystalline substance, thus making it a perfect sphere. This
                  hypothesis saves the moon's perfection, and Galileo could not prove it
                  false! He exposed the argument ad ignorantiam by presenting another,
                  equally fallacious. He suggested that there may also be crystal
                  mountains, as invisible to us as the crystal filling, rising up from
                  that invisible crystalline envelope around the moon. This hypothesis,
                  he pointed out, his critics could not prove false."

                  (5) The mind-body springs from material conditions, but is not
                  reducible to them.

                  This argument is more or less a repetition of 3a and 3b. I place it in
                  a separate category only because it is the most recent formulation of
                  your basic case against Dr. Fromm. And so far as this argument is
                  concerned, I do believe I addressed the absurdity of what could be
                  considered "naïve reductionism," as I understand it, when I talked
                  about the amygdala and the painter metaphor; I don't believe you ever
                  directly responded to either of these arguments. I even cited examples
                  from recently published literature that tried to bring biology into the
                  debate, and you ignored the inconsistency of those quotes with your own
                  position against Dr. Fromm, namely, that all literary Darwinists are
                  also bio-reductionists. (I'm sure you don't really believe this, but
                  that is a paraphrase of an argument in your original letter.)

                  That said, I think you take for granted what reductionism means,
                  exactly. Can you tell me what you think it means, in precise terms? can
                  you define a version of strong reductionism that can be distinguished
                  from naïve reductionism? The more I think about it, the more I feel I
                  have to claim ignorance about the implications of reductionism in
                  either possible form. I just don't understand how a label like
                  reductionism has such power, in itself, to sideline any attempt to
                  examine the underlying causes of authorial literary inspiration and/or
                  reader response/interpretation. So, please tell me what strong, as
                  opposed to naïve, "reductionism" means and how or why it's always a bad
                  thing. And when doing so, please use precise, falsifiable propositions;
                  if you can't do that, then at least narrow your argument down to
                  unfalsifiable positions, such as the following: "ideas are ipso facto
                  immaterial; they spring from divine inspiration; therefore, any attempt
                  to explain the origin of ideas in biological terms is ipso facto
                  false." But if you do the latter, which I believe you've already done,
                  implicitly, please also admit that your position is inherently
                  irrefutable, similar to the Galileo example above.

                  This may sound like a hostile or disparaging suggestion, but it's not.
                  I have many close friends whose arguments and perspectives I value
                  greatly, but given their commitment to religiosity, we can only go so
                  far in certain debates. This does not mean I think their positions
                  detestable or meaningless. Religion is a powerful thing, I can't blame
                  anyone for their emotional bonding with certain religious lines of
                  thought.

                  I suspect you will have other propositions that you'd like to share, or
                  that you feel I am living out. I welcome a clear formulation of these
                  propositions, so long as they are circumscribed by the problem space
                  presented by the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes.

                  Despite the slightly irritated tone in this response, for which I
                  apologize for an advance, I still would like us to progress towards a
                  mutually satisfying resolution, or a least a mutually conscious
                  recognition of the source of disagreement, if those sources are
                  irrefutable--such as the proposition "X is inherently immaterial."
                  There's nothing wrong, and I say this in the spirit of my
                  interpretation of C. S. Peirce, with fixing a belief on tenacity or
                  authority. But if you do, at least take responsibility for it.


                  Sincerely,


                  Zachary Norwood
                • eugenehalton
                  You don t get it Zach, and I don t think you will. You claim to be logical, but you can t follow plain English. Fromm retracted in his follow-up post his MLA
                  Message 8 of 17 , Feb 4, 2006
                    You don't get it Zach, and I don't think you will. You claim
                    to be logical, but you can't follow plain English. Fromm retracted in
                    his follow-up post his MLA letter claim that literary studies without
                    biology are akin to delusional religious fundamentalist fantasizings.
                    You are arguing with your own shadow, not with me.

                    You have also repeatedly questioned my interpretations of
                    Peirce, even saying in your last post that they read like "quackery,"
                    and that my use of them was shammed expertise ("sciolistic
                    rambling"). Yet you also have repeatedly revealed yourself as someone
                    who does not even understand the basics of Peirce. You know, like you
                    don't believe Peirce thought metaphysics worthwhile, even though one
                    entire volume of his collected papers is devoted to scientific
                    metaphysics, as I pointed out to you. Lack of knowledge of a
                    particular writer is excusable, so I was willing to give you
                    corrections, but ignorant arrogance is something else.

                    You missed and dismissed the whole technical significance of
                    generality in Peirce's philosophy of science, and why a general, in
                    the technical philosophical sense, is of a different modality of
                    being from materiality per se. (Zach: "I want particulars, not
                    generalities, and since you seem to be unwilling to commit to a
                    potentially falsifiable position"…"But at no point, and I'm asking
                    this as a favor, shall you deviate from a basic formulation, a
                    position composed of simple arguments that are not so general as to
                    be irrefutable.…").

                    What you are wanting of, is a more comprehensive
                    understanding and tolerance of what you don't know.

                    Perhaps you do need to work harder, Zach, and I wish you luck
                    at it.

                    Gene


                    --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, <zach@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Eugene,
                    >
                    > You say I'm working too hard, and I say you're not working hard
                    enough,
                    > at least if your goal, like mine, is a logical resolution. I've
                    spent
                    > years studying logic so that I can work towards resolving
                    intellectual
                    > disputes, and I must admit--and please don't take this the wrong
                    > way--that your writing is to me like a sustained example taken out
                    of a
                    > logic textbook of what not to do.
                    >
                    > You have yet to commit, for example, to a single, straightforward
                    > proposition that's clearly open to refutation--all of your arguments
                    > have contained such vague premises and conclusions, like "such and
                    such
                    > is reductionistic, and therefore such and such is false," that
                    there's
                    > no possible way to say you're wrong; and what's right about your
                    > statements, what I agree with, is so generalized that I can't really
                    > say what the particular consequences of being right or agreeing with
                    > you are.
                    >
                    > I'm not at all interested in vague, blanket statements like "not all
                    > non-biologically influenced literary studies are dogmatic," not
                    because
                    > I believe such a statement is without meaning or is devoid of truth,
                    > but because such statements have no practical value in a debate;
                    this
                    > is because anyone can agree with such a statement, even the most
                    > radical biological reductionist, assuming there is such a bogeyman,
                    > although I have yet to come across one in my studies. As an
                    example, if
                    > your stance is simply that you disagree with Fromm when he says that
                    > literary theory unguided by biological science is inherently
                    dogmatic,
                    > then have we really come any closer to determining what that means,
                    in
                    > a practical way? To me the answer is no, at least not in terms of
                    > specifying the logic behind your stance.
                    >
                    > I want particulars, not generalities, and since you seem to be
                    > unwilling to commit to a potentially falsifiable position, I'll
                    > formulate what I believe your position is up to this point, in as
                    > straightforward a away as I can, given what you've written; then,
                    you
                    > tell me whether you agree or disagree with my formulation; and after
                    > that, you can respond to my interpretation of your formulation. If
                    you
                    > disagree with either the formulation or my interpretation, rewrite
                    > either--while keeping them separate--using basic propositions in the
                    > form of premises that lead to specific conclusions; do this until
                    you
                    > are satisfied. But at no point, and I'm asking this as a favor,
                    shall
                    > you deviate from a basic formulation, a position composed of simple
                    > arguments that are not so general as to be irrefutable.
                    >
                    > Also, just because something is related--such as Peirce's
                    > metaphysics--doesn't warrant bringing it up, not unless it results
                    in a
                    > more precise formulation of the logic behind your position.
                    Philosophy
                    > of science is a field of study I cherish, but I'm not going to go
                    into
                    > detail about Hume's law, Schrodenger's thought experiment, or fuzzy
                    > systems theory in order to resolve a dispute over a few sentences in
                    > the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes. I wouldn't have to
                    work
                    > so hard if I didn't have to sift through so much sciolistic
                    rambling.
                    > I'm guilty of this too, but it has to end if we're going to commit
                    to a
                    > specifiable position in relation to the original dispute.
                    >
                    > If you wish to enlighten me on the nature of life, the universe, and
                    > everything, you can do that later. But for now, let's stick to
                    arguing
                    > about the content in the exchange between Fromm and Scholes.
                    >
                    > Below are my attempts to formulate your positions followed by
                    > interpretations or statements about those positions. Perhaps if we
                    keep
                    > this type of enumerated structure, we can add structure to our
                    > exchange.
                    >
                    > (1) The statement "The study of literature without an ever-conscious
                    > awareness of its biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings
                    about
                    > creationism" is false because it conflates the varieties of literary
                    > study in which the biological is either not relevant or not
                    prominent
                    > with religious fundamentalism.
                    >
                    > Okay, but can you give an example of literary study that is either
                    (a)
                    > completely disconnected from or (b) not relevant to biology, when by
                    > biology we mean to include the results of such disciplines as
                    > neuroscience and sociobiology, such as the ever-growing amassment of
                    > evidence that demonstrates how the mind-brain is constrained by
                    adapted
                    > physiology? Perhaps your answers to this question will allow me to
                    > understand your position more clearly. As it is, it's overgeneral
                    and
                    > irrefutable.
                    >
                    > (2a) Dr. Fromm divides mind and matter and tries to reduce mind to
                    the
                    > material realm. Dr. Scholes, on the other hand, divides thoughts and
                    > things and tries to generalize them to the ethereal realm. (2b) Dr.
                    > Fromm is a biological reductionist; therefore, he "reduces"
                    literature
                    > to scientific machinery.
                    >
                    > Again, your arguments suffer from vague, blanket statements, some of
                    > which are so vague that at some point in the distant horizon of
                    > possibilities they cancel each other out. Before I can respond in
                    any
                    > detail, I need to know how, exactly, Dr. Fromm tries to reduce the
                    mind
                    > to the material realm. We'll save Dr. Scholes for later. First
                    things
                    > first, as they say.
                    >
                    > (3) The arts and sciences are lives, living beings who feed our
                    minds,
                    > and cannot therefore be reduced to biological foundations or
                    ethereal
                    > abstractions.
                    >
                    > Can you please make this argument more exact? It's so fraught with
                    > implicit assumptions that I cannot fix them to some type of
                    particular
                    > premise that is open to refutation.
                    >
                    > (5) Culture is extramaterial, but springs from material conditions.
                    >
                    > When you say this, do you mean to say that culture is ipso facto
                    > immaterial? The explanation you've given, using some of Peirce's
                    > philosophy, isn't at all convincing. It comes off as metaphysical
                    > claptrap or quackery (what you've quoted from Peirce, that is). That
                    > said, I still maintain that culture always has a physical component,
                    > whether in terms of a memory engram or in terms of correspondences
                    > between engrams and endogenous--within the body and brain--or
                    > exogenous--environmental objects. Even the idea of probability does
                    not
                    > disengage thought or culture from physical underpinnings. Simply
                    saying
                    > that a contingency exists in the form of a probability, yet since no
                    > observable consequence has come from that probability, the
                    contingency
                    > is therefore immaterial or not based on material considerations
                    makes
                    > no sense. There's an enthymeme in there somewhere: e.g., "a
                    probability
                    > is immaterial." If that's your position, then say it. Otherwise I'm
                    > left to guessing.
                    >
                    > But to define the parameters of your response a bit more, I'll say
                    > this: to make a claim to the contrary of "thoughts, contingencies,
                    > etc., are either inherently material, originate from material
                    > foundations, are related to material contingencies, or a
                    combination of
                    > these things" is to presume that something exists beyond the
                    > physicality of a brain, society, economics, ecology, or whatever
                    (and
                    > our representations of these physicalities in the form of language
                    or
                    > ideas does not constitute some type of mystical act constituting a
                    > transcendence of reality). If this is your position, fine; simply
                    say
                    > so. But if it is, we'll have to agree to disagree, since the belief
                    in
                    > something that cannot be seen or tested is intrinsically
                    irrefutable.
                    >
                    > (6) The mind-body springs from material conditions, but is not
                    > reducible to them.
                    >
                    > I address this at the end of my original response, when I talked
                    about
                    > the amygdala, and you never responded. I even cited examples from
                    > recently published literature that tried to bring biology into the
                    > debate, and you ignored the inconsistency of those quotes with your
                    own
                    > position against Dr. Fromm, namely, that all literary Darwinists are
                    > also bio-reductionists. (I'm sure you don't really believe this, but
                    > that is a paraphrase of an argument in your original letter.)
                    >
                    > Additionally, I think you take for granted what reductionism means
                    > exactly. Can you tell me? I claim ignorance openly on this matter. I
                    > just don't understand how a label like reductionism has such power
                    to
                    > sideline any attempt to examine the underlying causes of authorial
                    > literary inspiration and/or interpretation. So, please tell me what
                    > "reductionism" means and how or why it's always a bad thing, even
                    > though from my ignorant standpoint the logic behind the idea of
                    > reductionism is already impossible. And when doing so, please use
                    > precise, falsifiable propositions; if you can't do that, then at
                    least
                    > narrow your argument down to unfalsifiable positions, such as the
                    > following: "ideas are ipso facto immaterial; they spring from divine
                    > inspiration; therefore, any attempt to explain the origin of ideas
                    in
                    > biological terms is ipso facto false." But if you do the latter,
                    which
                    > you've already done, please also admit that your position is
                    > irrefutable. I can live at that.
                    >
                    > I suspect you will have other propositions that you'd like to
                    share, or
                    > that you feel I've left out, and I welcome a clear formulation of
                    these
                    > propositions, so long as they are circumscribed by the problem space
                    > presented in the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes.
                    >
                    > Last, despite the slightly irritated tone in this response, for
                    which I
                    > apologize in advance, I still would like us to progress towards a
                    > resolution, or a least a mutually conscious recognition of the
                    source
                    > of disagreement, even if that source is irrefutable--such as the
                    > proposition "X is inherently immaterial." You're perfectly welcome
                    to
                    > fix a belief on tenacity or authority. But if you do, at least admit
                    > it.
                    >
                    >
                    > Sincerely,
                    >
                    >
                    > Zachary Norwood
                    >
                  • Harold Fromm
                    Eugene Halton writes: You don t get it Zach, and I don t think you will. You claim to be logical, but you can t follow plain English. Fromm retracted in his
                    Message 9 of 17 , Feb 4, 2006
                      Eugene Halton writes:
                      You don't get it Zach, and I don't think you will. You claim
                      to be logical, but you can't follow plain English. Fromm retracted in
                      his follow-up post his MLA letter claim that literary studies without
                      biology are akin to delusional religious fundamentalist fantasizings.
                      You are arguing with your own shadow, not with me.
                      
                      
                      Harold Fromm replies:

                      I retracted nothing! If biopoetics and neuroscience should convince the litcrit establishment that the body is the root of everything, there would be no more need to insist on it, just as there is no need to insist any longer that the earth goes around the sun. Once a position becomes naturalized it then "goes without saying."  In this instance, criticism can then move on to other points of view that incorporate or assume prior knowledge. There's no terminus to this process.


                    • zach@confutation.com
                      Dear Eugene, Again, you fail to distinguish between an assertion, on the one hand, and an argument, on the other. For example, you say I don t get it, which
                      Message 10 of 17 , Feb 4, 2006
                        Dear Eugene,

                        Again, you fail to distinguish between an assertion, on the one hand,
                        and an argument, on the other. For example, you say I don't get it,
                        which may be true, but you don't say why using any type of grounded
                        logical construction. I also warned against getting sidetracked with
                        topics external and only peripherally related to Dr. Fromm and Dr.
                        Scholes. There are many interpretations of C. S. Peirce. Susan Haack's
                        Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate, for example, is one such
                        interpretation, and it is quite antithetical to yours. But that's
                        irrelevant to our exchange. So even if my interpretation of Peirce is
                        grossly mistaken, how does that in itself justify ignoring my arguments
                        in relation to your arguments? You cannot generalize from one domain to
                        the next and then exit through the backdoor.

                        You say I'm arguing with my shadow, but all of the enumerated
                        formulations in my last e-mail were rote copies of your own position.
                        That hardly constitutes arguing with myself. If you're not willing to
                        stipulate your position beyond equivocations, and if you're only going
                        to say "but Peirce says I can make equivocal statements, and therefore
                        I don't have to clarify my position," then clearly you're hiding from
                        something, but since you seem to rely on ambiguity as an argumentative
                        tool, no one will ever know what it is.

                        If you do not want to respond to my interpretations and formulations of
                        your own arguments, and if you do not want to clarify them in a way
                        that opens them up to falsification, then that is your prerogative. But
                        to any impartial observer, you'll be seen as running away from a fair
                        challenge. No one could support your heavy-handed dismissal of my very
                        fair attempt to structure our exchange, and since you avoided
                        responding to questions about your own arguments, instead resorting to
                        a psychological ploy to end the exchange, any objective observer would
                        conclude that you were given an opportunity to progress towards a
                        resolution but decided instead to jump ship.

                        I'm quite open to being wrong, Eugene. But unless you respond to my
                        formulations and interpretations of your arguments--the latter of which
                        are in your own words--I don't think the same can be said of yourself.

                        I truly hope you decide to respond, because despite our differences,
                        and despite my frustrations resulting at times in unnecessary attacks,
                        all of my efforts thus far have been driven by a sincere desire to
                        achieve some type of resolution. For what it's worth, I think you're a
                        neat person, and your ideas on Peirce are intriguing. In fact, I plan
                        to follow through on my own time and explore those ideas. But you have
                        to understand that my interpretations and potential ignorance of Peirce
                        are not directly related to your arguments or mine, as enumerated in my
                        former e-mail. So, I hope you return to the dialectic. Be seeing you!


                        Sincerely,


                        Zachary Norwood


                        --- eugenehalton <Eugene.W.Halton.2@...> wrote:

                        > You don't get it Zach, and I don't think you will. You claim
                        > to be logical, but you can't follow plain English. Fromm retracted in
                        >
                        > his follow-up post his MLA letter claim that literary studies without
                        >
                        > biology are akin to delusional religious fundamentalist fantasizings.
                        >
                        > You are arguing with your own shadow, not with me.
                        >
                        > You have also repeatedly questioned my interpretations of
                        > Peirce, even saying in your last post that they read like "quackery,"
                        >
                        > and that my use of them was shammed expertise ("sciolistic
                        > rambling"). Yet you also have repeatedly revealed yourself as someone
                        >
                        > who does not even understand the basics of Peirce. You know, like you
                        >
                        > don't believe Peirce thought metaphysics worthwhile, even though one
                        > entire volume of his collected papers is devoted to scientific
                        > metaphysics, as I pointed out to you. Lack of knowledge of a
                        > particular writer is excusable, so I was willing to give you
                        > corrections, but ignorant arrogance is something else.
                        >
                        > You missed and dismissed the whole technical significance of
                        > generality in Peirce's philosophy of science, and why a general, in
                        > the technical philosophical sense, is of a different modality of
                        > being from materiality per se. (Zach: "I want particulars, not
                        > generalities, and since you seem to be unwilling to commit to a
                        > potentially falsifiable position"…"But at no point, and I'm asking
                        > this as a favor, shall you deviate from a basic formulation, a
                        > position composed of simple arguments that are not so general as to
                        > be irrefutable.…").
                        >
                        > What you are wanting of, is a more comprehensive
                        > understanding and tolerance of what you don't know.
                        >
                        > Perhaps you do need to work harder, Zach, and I wish you luck
                        > at it.
                        >
                        > Gene
                        >
                        >
                        > --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, <zach@...> wrote:
                        > >
                        > > Eugene,
                        > >
                        > > You say I'm working too hard, and I say you're not working hard
                        > enough,
                        > > at least if your goal, like mine, is a logical resolution. I've
                        > spent
                        > > years studying logic so that I can work towards resolving
                        > intellectual
                        > > disputes, and I must admit--and please don't take this the wrong
                        > > way--that your writing is to me like a sustained example taken out
                        > of a
                        > > logic textbook of what not to do.
                        > >
                        > > You have yet to commit, for example, to a single, straightforward
                        > > proposition that's clearly open to refutation--all of your
                        > arguments
                        > > have contained such vague premises and conclusions, like "such and
                        > such
                        > > is reductionistic, and therefore such and such is false," that
                        > there's
                        > > no possible way to say you're wrong; and what's right about your
                        > > statements, what I agree with, is so generalized that I can't
                        > really
                        > > say what the particular consequences of being right or agreeing
                        > with
                        > > you are.
                        > >
                        > > I'm not at all interested in vague, blanket statements like "not
                        > all
                        > > non-biologically influenced literary studies are dogmatic," not
                        > because
                        > > I believe such a statement is without meaning or is devoid of
                        > truth,
                        > > but because such statements have no practical value in a debate;
                        > this
                        > > is because anyone can agree with such a statement, even the most
                        > > radical biological reductionist, assuming there is such a bogeyman,
                        > > although I have yet to come across one in my studies. As an
                        > example, if
                        > > your stance is simply that you disagree with Fromm when he says
                        > that
                        > > literary theory unguided by biological science is inherently
                        > dogmatic,
                        > > then have we really come any closer to determining what that means,
                        >
                        > in
                        > > a practical way? To me the answer is no, at least not in terms of
                        > > specifying the logic behind your stance.
                        > >
                        > > I want particulars, not generalities, and since you seem to be
                        > > unwilling to commit to a potentially falsifiable position, I'll
                        > > formulate what I believe your position is up to this point, in as
                        > > straightforward a away as I can, given what you've written; then,
                        > you
                        > > tell me whether you agree or disagree with my formulation; and
                        > after
                        > > that, you can respond to my interpretation of your formulation. If
                        > you
                        > > disagree with either the formulation or my interpretation, rewrite
                        > > either--while keeping them separate--using basic propositions in
                        > the
                        > > form of premises that lead to specific conclusions; do this until
                        > you
                        > > are satisfied. But at no point, and I'm asking this as a favor,
                        > shall
                        > > you deviate from a basic formulation, a position composed of simple
                        > > arguments that are not so general as to be irrefutable.
                        > >
                        > > Also, just because something is related--such as Peirce's
                        > > metaphysics--doesn't warrant bringing it up, not unless it results
                        > in a
                        > > more precise formulation of the logic behind your position.
                        > Philosophy
                        > > of science is a field of study I cherish, but I'm not going to go
                        > into
                        > > detail about Hume's law, Schrodenger's thought experiment, or fuzzy
                        > > systems theory in order to resolve a dispute over a few sentences
                        > in
                        > > the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes. I wouldn't have to
                        > work
                        > > so hard if I didn't have to sift through so much sciolistic
                        > rambling.
                        > > I'm guilty of this too, but it has to end if we're going to commit
                        > to a
                        > > specifiable position in relation to the original dispute.
                        > >
                        > > If you wish to enlighten me on the nature of life, the universe,
                        > and
                        > > everything, you can do that later. But for now, let's stick to
                        > arguing
                        > > about the content in the exchange between Fromm and Scholes.
                        > >
                        > > Below are my attempts to formulate your positions followed by
                        > > interpretations or statements about those positions. Perhaps if we
                        > keep
                        > > this type of enumerated structure, we can add structure to our
                        > > exchange.
                        > >
                        > > (1) The statement "The study of literature without an
                        > ever-conscious
                        > > awareness of its biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings
                        > about
                        > > creationism" is false because it conflates the varieties of
                        > literary
                        > > study in which the biological is either not relevant or not
                        > prominent
                        > > with religious fundamentalism.
                        > >
                        > > Okay, but can you give an example of literary study that is either
                        > (a)
                        > > completely disconnected from or (b) not relevant to biology, when
                        > by
                        > > biology we mean to include the results of such disciplines as
                        > > neuroscience and sociobiology, such as the ever-growing amassment
                        > of
                        > > evidence that demonstrates how the mind-brain is constrained by
                        > adapted
                        > > physiology? Perhaps your answers to this question will allow me to
                        > > understand your position more clearly. As it is, it's overgeneral
                        > and
                        > > irrefutable.
                        > >
                        > > (2a) Dr. Fromm divides mind and matter and tries to reduce mind to
                        > the
                        > > material realm. Dr. Scholes, on the other hand, divides thoughts
                        > and
                        > > things and tries to generalize them to the ethereal realm. (2b) Dr.
                        > > Fromm is a biological reductionist; therefore, he "reduces"
                        > literature
                        > > to scientific machinery.
                        > >
                        > > Again, your arguments suffer from vague, blanket statements, some
                        > of
                        > > which are so vague that at some point in the distant horizon of
                        > > possibilities they cancel each other out. Before I can respond in
                        > any
                        > > detail, I need to know how, exactly, Dr. Fromm tries to reduce the
                        > mind
                        > > to the material realm. We'll save Dr. Scholes for later. First
                        > things
                        > > first, as they say.
                        > >
                        > > (3) The arts and sciences are lives, living beings who feed our
                        > minds,
                        > > and cannot therefore be reduced to biological foundations or
                        > ethereal
                        > > abstractions.
                        > >
                        > > Can you please make this argument more exact? It's so fraught with
                        > > implicit assumptions that I cannot fix them to some type of
                        > particular
                        > > premise that is open to refutation.
                        > >
                        > > (5) Culture is extramaterial, but springs from material conditions.
                        > >
                        > > When you say this, do you mean to say that culture is ipso facto
                        > > immaterial? The explanation you've given, using some of Peirce's
                        > > philosophy, isn't at all convincing. It comes off as metaphysical
                        > > claptrap or quackery (what you've quoted from Peirce, that is).
                        > That
                        > > said, I still maintain that culture always has a physical
                        > component,
                        > > whether in terms of a memory engram or in terms of correspondences
                        > > between engrams and endogenous--within the body and brain--or
                        > > exogenous--environmental objects. Even the idea of probability does
                        >
                        > not
                        > > disengage thought or culture from physical underpinnings. Simply
                        > saying
                        > > that a contingency exists in the form of a probability, yet since
                        > no
                        > > observable consequence has come from that probability, the
                        > contingency
                        > > is therefore immaterial or not based on material considerations
                        > makes
                        > > no sense. There's an enthymeme in there somewhere: e.g., "a
                        > probability
                        > > is immaterial." If that's your position, then say it. Otherwise I'm
                        > > left to guessing.
                        > >
                        > > But to define the parameters of your response a bit more, I'll say
                        > > this: to make a claim to the contrary of "thoughts, contingencies,
                        > > etc., are either inherently material, originate from material
                        > > foundations, are related to material contingencies, or a
                        > combination of
                        > > these things" is to presume that something exists beyond the
                        > > physicality of a brain, society, economics, ecology, or whatever
                        > (and
                        > > our representations of these physicalities in the form of language
                        > or
                        > > ideas does not constitute some type of mystical act constituting a
                        > > transcendence of reality). If this is your position, fine; simply
                        > say
                        > > so. But if it is, we'll have to agree to disagree, since the belief
                        >
                        > in
                        > > something that cannot be seen or tested is intrinsically
                        > irrefutable.
                        > >
                        > > (6) The mind-body springs from material conditions, but is not
                        > > reducible to them.
                        > >
                        > > I address this at the end of my original response, when I talked
                        > about
                        > > the amygdala, and you never responded. I even cited examples from
                        > > recently published literature that tried to bring biology into the
                        > > debate, and you ignored the inconsistency of those quotes with your
                        >
                        > own
                        > > position against Dr. Fromm, namely, that all literary Darwinists
                        > are
                        > > also bio-reductionists. (I'm sure you don't really believe this,
                        > but
                        > > that is a paraphrase of an argument in your original letter.)
                        > >
                        > > Additionally, I think you take for granted what reductionism means
                        > > exactly. Can you tell me? I claim ignorance openly on this matter.
                        > I
                        > > just don't understand how a label like reductionism has such power
                        > to
                        > > sideline any attempt to examine the underlying causes of authorial
                        > > literary inspiration and/or interpretation. So, please tell me what
                        > > "reductionism" means and how or why it's always a bad thing, even
                        > > though from my ignorant standpoint the logic behind the idea of
                        > > reductionism is already impossible. And when doing so, please use
                        > > precise, falsifiable propositions; if you can't do that, then at
                        > least
                        > > narrow your argument down to unfalsifiable positions, such as the
                        > > following: "ideas are ipso facto immaterial; they spring from
                        > divine
                        > > inspiration; therefore, any attempt to explain the origin of ideas
                        > in
                        > > biological terms is ipso facto false." But if you do the latter,
                        > which
                        > > you've already done, please also admit that your position is
                        > > irrefutable. I can live at that.
                        > >
                        > > I suspect you will have other propositions that you'd like to
                        > share, or
                        > > that you feel I've left out, and I welcome a clear formulation of
                        > these
                        > > propositions, so long as they are circumscribed by the problem
                        > space
                        > > presented in the exchange between Dr. Fromm and Dr. Scholes.
                        > >
                        > > Last, despite the slightly irritated tone in this response, for
                        > which I
                        > > apologize in advance, I still would like us to progress towards a
                        > > resolution, or a least a mutually conscious recognition of the
                        > source
                        > > of disagreement, even if that source is irrefutable--such as the
                        > > proposition "X is inherently immaterial." You're perfectly welcome
                        > to
                        > > fix a belief on tenacity or authority. But if you do, at least
                        > admit
                        > > it.
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > Sincerely,
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > Zachary Norwood
                        > >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > Yahoo! Groups Links
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                      • eugenehalton
                        ... in ... without ... fantasizings. ... need ... this ... process. ... The study of literature without an ever-conscious awareness of its biological
                        Message 11 of 17 , Feb 4, 2006
                          --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Harold Fromm <hfromm@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Eugene Halton writes:
                          > You don't get it Zach, and I don't think you will. You claim
                          > to be logical, but you can't follow plain English. Fromm retracted
                          in
                          > his follow-up post his MLA letter claim that literary studies
                          without
                          > biology are akin to delusional religious fundamentalist
                          fantasizings.
                          > You are arguing with your own shadow, not with me.
                          >
                          > Harold Fromm replies:
                          >
                          > I retracted nothing! If biopoetics and neuroscience should convince
                          > the litcrit establishment that the body is the root of everything,
                          > there would be no more need to insist on it, just as there is no
                          need
                          > to insist any longer that the earth goes around the sun. Once a
                          > position becomes naturalized it then "goes without saying." In
                          this
                          > instance, criticism can then move on to other points of view that
                          > incorporate or assume prior knowledge. There's no terminus to this
                          process.
                          >

                          "The study of literature without an ever-conscious awareness
                          of its biological contingencies is akin to fantasizings about
                          creationism." Harold Fromm

                          Sorry to mischaracterize your position, Harold. I took your
                          later statement the literary Darwinism is simply, "a timely
                          contribution to the total mix of critical approaches…" to be a
                          markedly more modest claim than that of your MLA letter, in which the
                          vast varieties of critical approaches which do not agree with your
                          view that they must see literature biologically are nothing more
                          than "akin to fantasizings about creationism."

                          You still apparently hold to your view as the only correct
                          one, and all others as delusional. So when I read Milan Kundera's
                          literary criticism, for example, which does not rely on biology, but
                          is filled with many interesting insights, I am to take them as "akin
                          to fantasizings about creationism"?

                          I don't think so. I prefer "a timely contribution..."

                          Gene
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