Representation Looking In On Itself

In the last article we looked at the question of “why a generative anthropology?”. We examined the assumptions Gans is bringing to our investigation, primarily seeing the social sciences as concerning the study of representation. In response, many people have made misplaced accusations that by constructing such an account of metarepresentation, Gans is throwing out traditional philosophy and creating a substitute for the disciplines we are familiar with today. This is not the case. Indeed, Gans argues it would be foolish to think that laying out a separate methodology is a means to reform these long practiced institutions and to establish a new intellectual context for the social sciences. The currently established disciplines will exist long into the future and have proven themselves capable of abstracting their own intricate and nuanced methods. Instead, Gans seeks to construct a new social science of representation, one that is capable of looking in on itself.

 

Where does Gans begin with this theory? This question is important since representation takes many forms, but no theory of representation can start elsewhere than language. It is the most explicit model of representation and its object. One way to demonstrate this is to compare the strength of linguistic norms with others. Gans argues that most social norms are enforced solely on the basis of some aesthetic criteria of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’, but with no explicit reference to correctness. It is this additional criteria of ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ by which the sentences and minimal utterances constituting linguistic norms demonstrate their strength as a mode of representation. From this, the link between language and ritual becomes intuitive. Gans explains that the criteria of correct or incorrect reside in the gesture of ritual, while with language it resides within the structures that links these gestures.

 

In examining ritual, the importance of the distinction presented in the last article of formal theory and institutional theory reemerges. The institutional account of ritual is obvious: ritual is just another generation of the originary event. So the ritualisation of the sacred, communal solidarity, the esthetic, etc is explained institutionally almost as a matter of tautology. But the difficulty in accounting for a formal theory of ritual is that language itself cannot be defined as something more fundamental; it is difficult to distil language to something else. Hence, Gans posits that the institutional account of ritual is one where language is both its explanans and explanandum, and thus demands a formal theory. In essence, what he set out to do was provide a means by which representation can justify its own existence, turn in on itself, and study its own contents.

 

Ritual cannot be the source of language if we also require language to explain it. Instead, language must begin at the origin of representation. Gans argues especially that if ritual is the origin of language, with representation stemming from rituals as opposed to vice versa, then by what process could we extract any knowledge from ritual? It would seem we need language before ritual. Therefore, Gans posits language as the origin of representation, where the first representational act is also a linguistic one, taking place at the event where the institutional and the formal are indistinguishable, giving rise to a reproducible, or “generative”, formal structure. This being the only defining point for language at this stage of what we have put forward, the first step for Gans’ investigation is locating where this reproducing formal structure (the sign) attaches itself to and designates an object. This is what we will be exploring in the next entry.

I would like to thank Moritz for helping my illiterate ass edit this. Check out his blog “Zeptr”over at medium.

27 thoughts on “Representation Looking In On Itself

  1. In response, many people have made misplaced accusations that by constructing such an account of metarepresentation, Gans is throwing out traditional philosophy and creating a substitute for the disciplines we are familiar with today.

    No. That is not the accusation.

    The accusation is that GA claims to offer a “way around” the metaphysical/presuppositional disagreements which were likely the very empirical impetus towards its articulation. Then it relies on particular metaphysical and presuppositional foundations while giving no account of them (if you’re as familiar with RF as you claim, you would see the relation to Liberalism here and recognize that it’s not a coincidence that canonical GA is ardently Liberal).

    IOW, it is like saying “there are a bunch of disagreements over X, so we will offer a way around it by all agreeing to a certain X, and then we all agree.” Or more accurately to specifically GA “We will point at the disagreements over X, then we will point at and say a bunch of stuff that we hope you agree with that imply but obfuscate a certain X, and then we will all agree we bypassed our disagreements over X.” IOOW, “You’re getting sleepy….very sleeeeeepy.”

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    1. Canonical GA is not liberal, but reactionary, given that Gans himself has now ceded Firstness. Gans’ personal liberal-democratic politics were at best an afterthought. His career focused more on religion and aesthetics, rather than politics.

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      1. Can you expand on this? What does it mean to “cede” Firstness and how does that imply GA is “reactionary?”

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    2. Gans agrees with Adam’s amendment of the originary scene that the signing event was hierarchical, which if he does must necessitate reactionary politics, not liberal-democratic politics.

      There’s much more I can expand on about Firstness and what else it entails, but just this much is enough. Gans and his GASC group themselves prefer to avoid politics and it’s very clear which among their research circle has the most sophisticated view of politics Adam or the rest of them.

      It’s what I mean by Gans’ liberal-democratic politics being an afterthought; he focused on religion and aesthetics, and he did a commendable enough job getting us from Girard to here.

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      1. Gans agrees with Adam’s amendment of the originary scene that the signing event was hierarchical, which if he does must necessitate reactionary politics, not liberal-democratic politics.

        Are you claiming that hierarchy is equivalent to reactionary politics? Further, are you claiming that Liberal politics lack hierarchy and are equivalent to anarchy?

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      2. I’m claiming that hierarchy always implies the imperative-declarative directionality, which is indeed what reactionary politics embodies and may even seek to enshrine as a disciplinary space, hence Adam’s project many of us try to help him with.

        Regarding what’s ontologically happening with liberal politics, it’s the result of ‘transgressive charisma’ resentfully and continuously obstructing the ‘graceful charisma’ that would seek to construct a disciplinary space for the unification of all subordinate disciplinary spaces.

        Stated differently, Greek metaphysics’ panicked attempt to save what became for them morally unconscionable sacral kingship created since a rupture that is easily game-able.

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      3. Regarding what’s ontologically happening with liberal politics, it’s the result of ‘transgressive charisma’ resentfully and continuously obstructing the ‘graceful charisma’ that would seek to construct a disciplinary space for the unification of all subordinate disciplinary spaces.

        Elsewhere, you’ve claimed that all of the liberal/libertarian claims are implicitly calls for absolutist (hierarchical) ontology. If that’s the case, how can any form of Liberal government be other than (resentfully) “reactionary?” Why are you destroying the meaning of “reactionary?”

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      4. The difference is the same one between discipline and resentment. What we would do is explain further details of how liberalism manifests it as asymmetry between disciplinary spaces and how reactionary views seek to further discipline and unite disciplinary spaces.

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      5. The difference is the same one between discipline and resentment.

        Now we have equivalence between hierarchy, reactionary, and discipline. Do you see that you are not clarifying these “signs,” but are rather signalling your ability as a “sign-manipulator?”

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      6. Hierarchy is the result of discipline and ‘reactionary views’ involve a recounting of such historical discipline and a disciplinary space for the purpose of furthering what good it can do, i.e. maintenance of shared attention.

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      7. Hierarchy is the result of discipline and ‘reactionary views’ involve a recounting of such historical discipline and a disciplinary space for the purpose of furthering what good it can do, i.e. maintenance of shared attention.

        Finally.

        The problem (which has been pointed at continuously and never answered) is that everything you just said relies on metaphysical presuppositions which you don’t see and/or refuse to give any account of. In fact, it seems the very purpose of GA was to “liberate thinking from the metaphysical” according to the articles you linked and according to your account of the “panicked” Greek philosophers.

        You’ve literally gone no further than the original comment on this post.

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      8. Metaphysics is an attempt to escape Divinity. GA doesn’t inherently attempt to escape Divinity, but rather participate in it. Gans obviously goes out of his way to not present such an Idealist or religious account, as he’s marketing to liberal scientists, but that doesn’t mean that’s what using GA requires.

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      9. Remember that you set and walked into this trap.

        Metaphysics is an attempt to escape Divinity.

        Do you agree with GA that “Metaphysics, the intellectual attitude of Western philosophy, is best defined by its unexamined presupposition that the declarative sentence or proposition is the fundamental form of language.”

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  2. Or, in IOOOW (this may appear off topic, but certainly is not):

    Newsflash: Richard Spencer wasn’t drawn to GA and “absolutist” theory because he matured or had some intellectual development. His “…philosophy” was becoming increasingly exposed as childish and incoherent (blatantly so on the BA Experience #4 with Jay Dyer which has apparently been disappeared from youtube), and thus he needed new guns and garb if he was to continue his rebellion. True to form and history, he found a Jewish financier/arms dealer.

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    1. Are you this much of a cartoon that I should stop replying to anything you write and tell Truediltom to block you from his blog? Clean up your act and treat these people with the respect they deserve or that will be happening.

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      1. You must think that’s the best outcome for you, which says a great deal about what you ever had to offer. The endless snark belies the underlying intellectual and moral poverty.

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      2. Why don’t you do what you say? Again, you already said you were going to block me. Now you want to order Truediltom to ban me.

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  3. To clarify for at least the fourth time:

    From wiki:

    Metaphysics then studies questions of a thing beyond or above questions of its nature, in particular its essence or its qualities of being. Metaphysics seeks to answer, in a “suitably abstract and fully general manner”, the questions:[2]
    1. What is there?
    2. And what is it like?

    GA claims “originary thinking” bypasses metaphysics (more accurately, that the declarative is derivative of the ostensive). By this, it means that because language mediates the understanding of those questions, we cannot rest this knowledge on metaphysics/declaratives. This is what Truediltom was getting at with comments like:

    Ritual cannot be the source of language if we also require language to explain it. Instead, language must begin at the origin of representation.

    So why is language our starting point? Simply because to talk about any subject we must recourse to language, as only through representing a subject with signs which we are already familiar with are we able to grasp it and understand it.

    However, the problem is that GA does not begin with language. It begins by presupposing all kinds of specific metaphysical claims about the proto-humans (they are aware, can focus awareness, exist in a group with no “communal being,” have some sort of reliable memory), the world (the external world is real, the objects are real, evolutionary forces exist), and even abstractions (logic exists independently of language).

    These are all the things that have been disagreed about and that, in Gans’ view, “captivate” human thinking.

    Then, GA says it’s starting with language and making not metaphysical, but anthropological claims.

    Again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adoQltHBnyo

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  4. In response, many people have made misplaced accusations that by constructing such an account of metarepresentation, Gans is throwing out traditional philosophy and creating a substitute for the disciplines we are familiar with today.

    From quite literally the most recent Gans blogpost: http://anthropoetics.ucla.edu/views/vw592/

    Philosophy as a self-conscious activity begins with Plato’s Socrates asking not about “the world” but about the meanings of words, as we may assume the real Socrates did in the Athenian agora. And although his definitions of Courage, Beauty, the Good and the rest provide a model that the entire history of philosophy will only refine, the ontology on which it is purportedly based, the doctrine of Ideas, is founded on a quasi-sacred myth. The idea that what are in fact the words of human languages should be understood as Ideas, independent of our existence, casting shadows on the wall of our “cave,” is not a fanciful sidebar but the very core of our philosophical/metaphysical tradition.

    Well, you may ask, how can we do better than this? How can we have the chutzpah to challenge the entire philosophical tradition, not on the basis of a scientific discovery, but simply by a priori reasoning?

    Well, that wasn’t my accusation; but it looks like your imaginary accusers would’ve been correct.

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  5. Dear Sir

    I am unable to find a direct email address so I post this here for your attention

    The following is a brief proposal for an event whose general theme I feel is timely and necessary given the going state of things.

    Would you be interested in participating via a short presentation or contributing by attending? If so I would then send further details of the proposed event.

    I look forward to any feedback, comments and / or any contributions for its development, that you may have. Also any suggestions of people you now that may be interested.

    Regards

    ccc

    THE WHITE PLACE GALLERY

    Proposes

    ‘’The #WhiteGenocide Garden’’

    No More Palliatives ?
    (Provisional title)

    Purpose and general focus of presentations / discussion ;

    What is there for us to do now for the future?

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