Darko Suvin (1995, 16,360 words)
Critique is not a passion of the head, but the head of a passion.
0. One of the central and centrally vexed questions of the theory of the Subject, and of epistemology (theory of knowledge) in general, is the relationship of “emotion” and “reason” in people. I propose to discuss here some key problems of this relationship with help of new insights in several converging disciplines. My approach begins by centripetally assembling and strengthening arguments that deny the split between emotion (and/or imagination) vs. cognition; and I shall conclude by doubting the relevance of this whole — and any homologous — unhealthy polarization. This would mean that the concept and connotations of reason should be envisaged anew so as to acknowledge the major role of topological thinking within it, from which conceptual systems sediment as in many crucial ways quite indispensable but also inadequate precipitates.
I do not believe that Robinson Crusoe (after all, a castaway) is a paragon for shared knowledge, nor that in today’s specialization run amuck there can be any overview without standing on the shoulders of many predecessors; and I shall proceed by focussing in most sub‑sections on carefully selected, privileged midwives for understanding — from some history of philosophy (Kant, Hegel), philosophy of cognition (Johnson) and a feminist contribution to epistemology (Jaggar), through discursive rhetorics (Angenot) to psychology (Gendlin) and metaphorology (Black, Ricoeur), with a dash of sociology of knowledge (Weber), AI theory (Minsky), Neo‑Marxism (Williams, Jameson), and cognitive psychology‑cum‑linguistics (Langacker, Petitot) thrown in for good measure, while other major stimuli (Marx, Brecht and Benjamin, Freud, phenomenology, hermeneutics) remain mainly implicit. Of course, this essay does not at all pretend to exhaustive coverage or even survey, either insofar as the possible disciplines or insofar as the interlocutors inside the selected disciplines are concerned. My foci were in both cases chosen for vividness and what I take to be salience, as instances which are themselves meta‑instancings for my argument that arguing by induction, by instances, and finally by analogy is cognitively legitimate.2/
- Cognitive Reason vs. Non‑Cognitive Emotion?: A Division Denied
Because M. Proudhon places eternal ideas, the categories of pure reason, on the one side and human beings and their practical life, which, according to him, is the application of these categories, on the other, one finds in him from the beginning a dualism between life and ideas, between soul and body, a dualism which recurs in many forms. You can see now that this antagonism is nothing but the incapacity of M. Proudhon to understand the profane origin of the categories which he deifies.
Marx to P.V. Annenkov, 28/12/1846
1.0. Knowledge as Union of Conceptual and Non‑Conceptual Modes
The first and main obstacle to be disposed of is the still dominant bourgeois polarization of reason and emotion, the former faculty carrying “objective” and thus generally valid knowledge and the latter carrying “subjective,” inner feelings only — whatever the value allotted to either of these terms, between the extremes of Romantic fixation on and Positivistic downgrading of the “emotion” pole. This has resulted in the meaning of emotion “in Psychology” being defined by the OED — begging as many questions as its sources, which are here a medical journal, Emerson, and Victorian non‑fiction writings — as “A mental ‘feeling’ or ‘affection’…, as distinguished from cognitive or volitional states of consciousness” (508, under 4b.). My thesis is, on the contrary, that a useful way of getting at what may perhaps be recuperated from this intuitive dichotomy is to postulate — following a great deal of evidence — a much more fertile distinction between conceptuality and non‑conceptuality as modes or subdivisions within the overarching domain of people’s cognition, knowledge or understanding of their common world and existence. Technically speaking, I propose that the class of “not conceptually expressibles” is not cognitively empty: e.g., that a quartet, a sculptural frieze, a theater or video performance, a metaphoric system or indeed a personal emotional Gestalt may be no less cognitive (though, no doubt, in different ways) than a conceptual system. Obviously there may and will be cognitively empty or banal symphonies, paintings, metaphors, and emotions galore, just as there are concepts and conceptual systems galore to which almost all of us would deny a cognitive status: Bouguereau and other pompierristes are cognitively neither better nor worse than the 19th‑Century “sciences” of phrenology or prehistoric race theory, and the same holds for — say — 20th‑Century S&M pornography or Great Man charismatics vs. sociobiology or “Creation theory,” since all zeros tend to be equal. Obversely, both the conceptual and the non‑conceptual ways of understanding, when they are truly such and not institutionalized mimicries, share the quality of allowing people to deal with alternatives, i.e. with not merely or fully present objects, aspects, and relationships (to adapt Blumenberg’s “freie Verfügung über das Ungegenwärtige,” 90). The entities which were not present to people’s perception and reflection now become available for evaluative inspection, choice, and subsequent intervention, by means of a cognitive organon: conceptual, emotional or whichever. (I shall in fact end up by arguing that as a rule there is a fusion of the conceptual and non‑conceptual in articulated cognition; but in order to get there, I shall start by arguing for the possibility of non‑conceptual cognition.)
What can thus, in my hypothesis, count as understanding, cognition or knowledge (the multiplicity of terms is itself a testimony to the obscurity of this domain)? Anything, I would posit, that satisfies two conditions, or two aspects of one condition. First, that it can help us in coping with our personal and collective existence. Second, that it can be validated by feedback with its application in the existence, modifying it and being modified by it. I see no permanent or “anthropological” reason to allot (or withdraw) a special privilege to any human activity or faculty here, e.g. to words, numbers, geometrical figures, arranged sounds, concepts, metaphors, movements or what have you; though it might almost go without saying that particular social groups in particular historical chronotopes will always have specially privileged activities, sign‑systems, etc. Since, as Spinoza has taught us, any determination is best clarified by negation, I shall try to delimit such a concept of knowledge by positing two antonyms to it. The passive antonym — people’s state lacking knowledge — might be called nescience, ignorance or (in the time‑hallowed sensual metaphor) darkness. The active antonym — people’s state impeding knowledge — might be called misapprehension, misinterpretation, mistaking or obfuscation. No doubt, these are two positions on a single globe and their spheres of influence are also spheres of confluence: a true or full cognitive passivity is almost impossible for Homo sapiens sapiens, one is almost always actively mistaken or misinterpreting. Any exception runs into the Socratic paradox that only when one knows that one doesn’t know X is one really nescient — and yet simultaneously scient or cognizant of one’s nescience as the first step on the road to cognition. Thus, the emotion of love, hate or fear might in some situations be just as ignorant or obfuscatory as the conceptualized systems of racial superiority or State worship or individualism, while in other situations all of these might also be illuminating or cognitive (racial superiority in the case, say, of pigeon‑breeding, love for a life‑furthering partner or cause, emperor worship in the ancient China of the Three Kingdoms, individualism as opposed to the Verona vendettas of the Montagues and the Capulets). In short, while it would certainly be aporetic and what’s more ridiculous for this conceptualized essay to deny the potential cognitiveness of concepts, anybody who has ever found that her or his love, fear or feeling of “being left out” were justified will begin suspecting that it is possible to have cognition without conceptual systems.
Indeed, while the place of conceptuality within knowledge (by the way, both correct and incorrect knowledge) is universally recognized, a large part — probably a larger part — of our knowledge is in that sense not only conceptual. “[E]motion, like sensory perception, is necessary to human survival” (Jaggar, “Love” 155). It can and should be verbally discussed by means of concepts but it is only rarely, if ever, fully reducible to concepts and especially to conceptual systems. I do not wish to stress here such central “tacit” bodily (not only sensori‑motoric) understandings as that of walking or riding a bicycle, though their value will be acutely felt when attempting to gain or regain them. The “topological” knowledge of how to do an intricate dance and how to model a sculptured face; or how to find the proper inflections in a passage of Brecht, Zeami or Shakespeare; or how to read a script, a photograph, a score — is nearer to my concerns here: I cannot see in these anything that is primarily conceptual, but I would have ingent difficulties in understanding how they could be banished from cognition.
Obversely, I would also have difficulties in believing that even the few highly specialized pursuits, with specially invented sociolects, which claim pure conceptuality — such as philosophy and (together with the mathematical sociolect) theoretical sciences — do not necessarily include also such non‑conceptual modes of understanding as, e.g., intuition or passion. This may be so far best studied in the case of the verbal cognition that scrambles up conceptualizing, i.e. metaphoricity. The relation of non‑conceptual and conceptual systems may be analogous to the connection by means of a thick bundle of nerves between the base of the brain, which is supposedly more associated with emotions and certainly responsible for the neuro‑chemical bath regulating the whole organism, and the frontal lobes, supposed to be the seat of the “intellectual” or conceptualizing functions (cf. Bohm and Peat 218‑19). None of this is to say that emotions are in the last 2,500 (or is it 50,000?) years more important or more valuable, while conceptualizing is less valuable or only valuable as expression of emotions.
1.1. Division Street, Propertarian Middlesex
An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia.
How did we, then, get into this less than helpful, indeed obfuscating division of reason vs. emotion, into these dualistic — intellectually scandalous but powerfully hegemonic — ontological isotopies where reason is seen as: masculine, analytic, proper to the mind, cold, objective and universal, public, etc., while emotion would be: feminine, synthetic, proper to the body, warm, subjective and particular, private, and so on? Obviously this is not an eternal but a historical way of slicing up the world of human faculties or people’s traffic with the Lebenswelt, and while genealogy may not be a sufficient explanation, a most rapid look at it promises to help us gain the proper estranging (verfremdend) distance.
The invention itself of stringently clear and delimited concepts as pivot of cognition seems to be due — at least in the most influential world‑historical instance of Europe — to Plato’s Socrates (cf. Weber 319). Though I would impenitently maintain this is one of the most magnificent tools of humanity, on a par with fire and story‑telling, its immediate imbrication into and long‑lasting cooptation by class‑society metaphysics, claiming eternally unchanging validity and hierarchical “highness,” was most unfortunate. It lent itself to the further decisive break with emotion or “dissociation of sensibility” with the coming to power of the capitalist ratio, exclusively oriented by profit and founded upon book‑keeping, and with the complex reorganizations of the cultural encyclopedia attendant upon this new episteme or structure of feeling. Already the socio‑economic rise of the still politically underprivileged bourgeoisie had meant the coming to the fore of a Cartesian and Baconian epistemological individualism which split up the world into the exemplary or allegorical individual (Crusoe) and an objective reality “out there” facing his understanding (or, distributively, that of all individuals), yet in principle accessible to his reason. This mechanical or metaphysical materialism employed the new, powerful tools of analytical geometry and arithmetic calculation, but it could also draw upon a considerable tradition of “high” power vs. “base” matter, apparently a longue durée class‑society constant. It may be enough to recall Aristotle’s position that slaves were talking cattle while women’s souls were at best less rational and more turned toward the passions or appetites (Politics 560), reinforced by Judaism’s and Christianity’s dogmatic formulations which equated the inferior (woman) with flesh, senses, and passion as against the superior (man) who was spiritual, rational, and intellectual. The decisive twist of the screw was then the organization of labour by capitalist rationalism, which becomes the shaping principle of the European social formation, leading among other things to the calculability of — increasingly dynamic — technological factors (cf. Weber 347‑50): “Like the Platonic and Aristotelian dualism of slave society, Cartesian dualism reflects a divided society, characterized by a small, ruling stratum that exploits and appropriates the wealth created by the producers” (Berman 240, and cf. 233‑35). The post‑Cartesian bourgeois tradition in practice and theory meant the domination of a redefined, thisworldly rational thought as the individual’s principal faculty for understanding, for getting at the eternal “objective” truth. While up to and including Spinoza, Locke, and Hume, or even Rousseau, passions were still taken — for better or worse — to determine human impulses, the interaction of which organized social life, by the time of the full domination of the bourgeoisie they are collapsed into “the drive for the ‘augmentation of fortune’,” as Adam Smith put it (cf. Hirschmann 108). The obverse of this calculating rationality, sentimentality or “mysticism,” was left to women, wimps, parsons, and lower classes.
This is the major result of the rich century ca. 1760‑1860, a period that cannot be dealt with here except to mention there were also submerged counter‑currents in it, of which Hegel’s dialectics will be discussed in the next sub‑section. However, even Hegelianism soon degenerated into epigonic dogmatism, so that only a very few marginal figures such as Marx and Kierkegaard drew proper lessons from it. A similar fate befell even the less radical Kantianism in the triumphant positivist Objectivism of 19th‑Century capitalism. Though I shall also have something to say about an important breakthrough which can be educed from Kant in section 2, he was still enthralled by the English empiricists’ “atomic” mental representations, and he had retained the Cartesian ontological split between the bodily and the rational. Thus, for all his refinements and partial agnosticism, Kant rigidly separated cognitive faculties into “the formal, conceptual, and intellectual, on the one hand, and the material, perceptual, and sensible, on the other” (Johnson xxvii). His reason (Vernunft) ruled virtuously over the necessarily blind affects, passions or appetites; though he proposed to avoid feudal despotism, inner‑directed reason was supposed to stoically command them inside the character’s conscience, as in a marriage of convenience or paternalistic household (cf. Grimminger 133 — the topos stems all the way from Aristotle). The consolidated 19th‑Century hegemony, whose pernicious rule is still with us today in politics, science, and everyday life, adapted the Aristotelian and Cartesian line into a paradigm which I shall approximately characterize through this summary by Mark Johnson:
The world consists of objects that have properties and stand in various relationships independent of human understanding….[T]here is one correct ‘God’s‑Eye‑View’ about what the world is really like….and correct reason mirrors this rational structure. ‑ To describe an objective reality of this sort, we need language that expresses concepts that can map onto objects, properties, and relations in a literal, univocal, context‑independent fashion. Reasoning to gain knowledge of our world is seen as requiring the joining of such concepts into propositions that describe aspects of reality….There is nothing about human beings mentioned anywhere in this account — neither their capacity to understand nor their imaginative activity nor their nature as functioning organisms…. (x)
The European tradition of a deep chasm “between our cognitive, conceptual, formal or rational side in contrast with our bodily, perceptual, material and emotional side” (xxv) culminates in such “Objectivism,” for which reason means the analysis of a permanently delimited object within a single neutral — value‑free and simultaneously eternally valuable — framework for inquiry. For all the changes since Descartes, dominant Euro‑American philosophy and capitalist practice, up to and including computerized corporations and analytic philosophy (cf. Rorty 8‑9, whose pragmatism extends only to the latter), have held fast to it. Kleist called it the difference between metaphor people and formula people (Blumenberg 89).
1.2. The Dialectical Breakthrough
In spite of this sketchy reconstruction of a coherent objectivist or “reason‑emotion splitting” tradition, neither practice nor philosophical traditions are monolithic. Not only are most major names themselves rich and internally contradictory, but also, even though almost always severely repressed, there is an alternative lineage: alongside Plato and Aristotle there are Epicure and Heraclitus, alongside Descartes and the mechanists there are Gassendi, Spinoza, and Diderot; and these Benjaminian contraband side‑paths (Pach‑ und Schleichwege) broke out onto the royal road with Hegel. In what his self‑conscious language calls “a qualitative jump…[at] a time of the birth and transition to a new period” (15), and in what I take to be a startling anticipation not only of Marx but also of the most interesting 20th‑Century strivings, Hegel provided a sophisticated and supple stance from which to proceed toward an adequate present understanding of the emotion vs. reason conundrum.
Hegel’s strategy was to incorporate the already acute Romantic refusals of calculating bourgeois rationality by refunctioning a Kantian distinction and opposing a necessarily negative Verstand (literally “understanding,” to be understood as analytical intellect) to an axiologically positive Vernunft (literally “reason,” to be understood as sublating wisdom?). In the Foreword to the Phenomenology, he proposes to show the coming about of science or knowledge (Wissenschaft — cf. Suvin “Two Notions” and “Utopian”). Feeling and intuition (Anschauung), religious ecstasy or muddy enthusiasm, do not suffice; their “insubstantial intensity” (15) is in fact shallow, casual, and arbitrary; indeed, to stop at them would be animal (26, 13‑14, 56). A grasping (begreifen) of reality through concepts (Begriffe) is quite indispensable. True, this most wondrous and tremendous power of negating the original holistic but superficial intuition is also irreducibly allied to death. We could say that insofar as the Verstand holds fast to the static Aristotelian principle of identity in which A = simply A, it is an apotheosis of possessive individualism, of Hegel’s “pure I.” Merely analytic and individualizing (i.e. atomistic), this intellect kills. And yet, it is an indispensable step for achieving clarity and rigour, apostrophized by Hegel in one of his poetic, almost Nietzschean passages:
Death, if this is what we want to call that unreality, is the most terrible thing, and to hold fast to what is dead requires the greatest strength. A strengthless beauty hates the intellect (Verstand) because it demands what beauty cannot accomplish. But only that life which does not shy back from death and does not keep itself pure from desolation, but rather bears them and encloses them in itself, is the life of the spirit. The spirit gains its truth only…by looking upon the countenance of the negation, by dwelling on it. (29‑30)
This antithesis brings movement into unawakened or brutish thought and sets its course upon the return loop of such a spiral of experience (Erfahrung), toward reconciling contradictions in being. Conceptuality as negation of mere feeling or of intuition is thus both wrong — when claiming to be final and absolute — and yet right — when “a phase (Moment) of truth” (343). It then leads to Vernunft which is “the thinking that follows reality in its contradictions,” subsuming identity and non‑identity. Having his own agenda as a professional philosopher, Hegel sometimes sounds as if this overarching knowledge or Wissenschaft must itself be primarily conceptual (e.g. 44, 57). But on the whole, though in his time he rightly refused obscurantist appeals to muddy (religious) feeling, his fluid dialectics give a place both to cognitive division and cognitive unity, as “perhaps the central and most ‘mind‑blowing’ idea of the Hegelian system” (Taylor 116 and 49, and cf. passim). Despite the post‑Marxist fashion for denigrating Hegel (whose historiosophy certainly merits it), I propose to start from some of his dialectical insights.
1.3. Cognitive Emotions: Epistemology and Hegemony
The 17th‑Century chasm between emotion and reason was largely created to deny the medieval religious syncretism of truth and dogmatic value. Now, discrete facts were sundered from value or evaluation, which is inescapably tied up with emotional orientation. The overriding presupposed, and supposedly value‑free, system of modern “positive science” was an equally monotheistic jealous god, tolerating no other values beside itself. It is the heretical and subversive movements of socialists, psychologists (psychoanalysts, and only lately clinical and cognitive psychologists), and feminists in the last 150 years who have most systematically developed alternative approaches across this chasm. The influence of two of the earliest great doubters of free‑floating ideas and pure conceptual systems will (I hope) be felt in my own position rather than in retracing theirs. This is, first and foremost, Karl Marx, whose project might be fairly described as taking “[Hegel’s] idea of reason [and superseding it] by the idea of happiness” (Marcuse 293). Aristotle characterizes happiness as “the highest of all good achievable by action,” and action itself as the end or telos aimed at by passions in an immature person and opposed to the telos of knowledge (Ethics I.3‑4). Marx’s project denies all such opposition between passion and knowledge, achieving in its own passionate cognition that overriding, indispensable synthesis between Rationalism and Romanticism which is still a beacon if not the horizon for any enterprise such as this one (cf. also Gendlin, “Critique” 266‑68). Second, it is Sigmund Freud: in spite of my grave doubts about his essentializing approach and much of his systematics, which entail refusing the centrality of an “Oedipus Complex” and of any “depth” topology of the soul, the great achievement of his mostly intuitive narrative can be seen in his rich descriptions of “overdetermined” experience, of the quite metaphoric condensation and displacement (Verdichtung und Verschiebung) characteristic of dreams, jokes, etc.; one formulation encapsulates it as the reinstatement of “the economics of affects…as an economics of the unconscious” (de Certeau 218; cf. also a critique in Suvin, “Subject”). As to the women’s liberation tradition from, say, Woolf on, in this sub‑section I shall attempt to strengthen my case by using a number of propositions from an excellent brief overview by Alison Jaggar in “Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology.” Her article is to my mind of general epistemic validity, not to be segregated into a feminist enclave, and it will at a couple of crucial junctures be conjoined with the Neo‑Marxist positions of Raymond Williams.
Jaggar points out that the concept itself of emotion, both as paired off against reason and in its inner articulation, is not only different in different societies but indeed invented as a closed semantic field only in some of them. I would instance that in Japanese culture the term and concept of “kokoro” means equally what is in English expressed by a person’s disposition, heart, mind, feeling, spirit or conception, i.e. something like the aware and feeling essence of personality (since the Japanese have no Christian concept of “soul,” awareness is awareness of one’s embodied personality, not split between reason and emotions — cf. Suvin “Soul”). Jaggar continues by a working delimitation of emotions which I too shall follow, excluding “automatic physical responses and nonintentional sensations, such as hunger pangs,” and backgrounding the term of “feelings” as too suggestive of physiological sensation (148), whereas emotions are dispositional, i.e. both oriented toward certain targets and not necessarily only momentary. Most important, emotions are not in some kind of totally non‑rational limbo or “dumb”; they comprise not only feeling but also orientedness or intention. This “cognitivist” view of emotion has illustrious precursors; William James wrote: “so surely as relations between objects exist in rerum naturâ, so surely, and more surely, do feelings exist to which these relations are known” (1: 245). Emotions are here identified “by their intentional aspect, the associated judgment” (Jaggar 149). Of course, asking just how does the feeling or affect and the cognition interact in any specific emotion is to find out that this considerable advance is still partly caught up with the old mechanical dichotomies, whereas to my mind (if we cannot manage without binaries yet) a chemical osmosis or cybernetic feedback would be a much more appropriate, Hegelian model.
In this perspective, Jaggar embarks upon some discussions that seem most cognate to my interests here. First, emotions are clearly social constructs which use biological potentialities in a number of culturally overdetermined ways. In that sense, personal concepts and emotions relate to the dominant social concepts and emotions as Saussure’s parole and langue. Centrally, Jaggar argues that “[i]f emotions necessarily involve judgments, then obviously they require concepts, which may be seen as socially constructed ways of organizing and making sense of the world” (151). In a consubstantial parallel, “emotions provide the experiential basis for values,” so that these two induce each other (153); values and value judgments are in close feedback with emotion. I would doubt that the concepts required for emotions are necessarily very clear, but certainly emotions are in each person hugely inflected by the semantic hierarchies we are most powerfully socialized into (e.g. the undoubtedly strong macho emotions about female virginity or chastity). As for values or evaluations, they are both intimately inflected by concepts and in immediate experience, no doubt, emotional.
It is illuminating, I think, to prolong this argument with help of Gramsci’s and Raymond Williams’s hegemony, an overarching “structure of feeling” unthinkable without emotions. Parallel to and subtending many kinds of direct political control, social group and class control, and economic control, Williams argues, hegemony is a complex of interlocking forces that
[while not excluding] the articulate and formal meanings which a dominant class develops and propagates…sees the relations of domination and subordination, in their forms as practical consciousness, as in effect a saturation of the whole process of living….It [hegemony] is a whole body of practices and expectations, over the whole of living: our senses and assignments of energy, our shaping perceptions of ourselves and our world. It is a lived system of meanings and values…which…constitutes a sense of reality for most people in the society…. (109‑10, emphasis added)
Within this magnetic field of an always “already there” hegemony (or, more rarely, a battlefield of competing hegemonies), emotions necessarily tend toward what Jaggar optimistically calls “active engagements” and what I would more prudently call bearings or stances (cf. Suvin “Brecht: Bearing”). Though the dominant notion about emotions is that they must be largely involuntary and private, they are never only such. In the most significant cases (e.g. in art, which is among other things an education of cognitive emotions), they are indeed active engagements of the whole personality, integral psychophysical stances. As social constructions they are perhaps similar to deeply socialized roles which “we ordinarily perform so smoothly and automatically that we do not realize we are giving a performance”; only to a rather limited degree are we entitled to disclaim responsibility for them. As is also found in Marx (and any self‑reflective activism), emotions are necessary concomitants of any horizon of action. This is particularly true for long‑term emotions, which are obviously not simply point‑like feelings or affects. It is thus not very useful to apply the hackneyed “action/passion dichotomy” to emotions. Once we are outside the Cartesian ego, it is possible to see that they are neither fully intentional nor fully non‑intentional or irrational but matters of a holistic practice which is falsified by undue dichotomizing (cf. Jaggar, “Love” 152‑53 and passim).
Second, not only are evaluation and observation not to be sundered, but both of them are closely related to emotions; observation too “influences and indeed partially constitutes emotion.” If emotions are partly intentional stances, this intentionality is deeply enmeshed with observation, “an activity of selection and interpretation,” e.g. in the choice of what to focus on and privilege or of the interpretive frame. What will in a given situation be taken, by given agents, for undisputed facts depends (pace Hume) on socially constructed “intersubjective agreements that consist partly in shared assumptions about ‘normal’ or appropriate emotional responses to situations” (154).
Third but not least, there is a range of subversive and potentially productive emotions incompatible with the dominant perceptions, intentions, and evaluations. Such emotions may follow on our convictions or they may indeed precede them: “Only when we reflect on our initially puzzling irritability, revulsion, anger or fear may we bring to consciousness our ‘gut‑level’ awareness that we are in a situation of coercion, cruelty, injustice or danger” (161). The feedback between emotions and conscious reflecting on them is particularly necessary for societal groups struggling for a “perspective on reality available from the standpoint of the oppressed…[as] a perspective that offers a less partial and distorted and therefore a more reliable view” (162), and their potentiality or horizon is to be epistemologically privileged (cf. also Hartsock; Jaggar, Feminist; Jameson; Lukács; Suvin, “Subject” and To Brecht, ch. 4). This means in turn that people who wish to solidify this point of view have to make sense of what Jaggar has encapsulated as the epistemic potential of emotion.
it is necessary to rethink the relation between knowledge and emotion and construct conceptual models that demonstrate the mutually constitutive rather than oppositional relation between reason and emotion. Far from precluding the possibility of reliable knowledge, emotion as well as value must be shown as necessary to such knowledge. (Jaggar, “Love” 156‑57)
As already mentioned, this does not confer any magical efficacy on emotions as compared to concepts. Like concepts, emotions have an “epistemic potential” (163). But both may be erroneous; both need subsequent validation, though possibly in incommensurable ways (e.g., asymmetrically, by each other). “Although our emotions are epistemologically indispensable, they are not epistemologically indisputable. Like all our faculties, they may be misleading, and their data, like all data, are always subject to reinterpretation and revision.” (163) But both participate in Williams’s “structure of feeling,” a crucial site of social knowledge and conflict, which he defines as:
not feeling against thought, but thought as felt and feeling as thought: practical consciousness of a present kind,…as a set, with specifical internal relations, at once interlocking and in tension…. [S]tructures of feeling can be defined as social experiences in solution….[Yet this solution] is a structured formation…at the very edge of semantic availability…. (132‑34)
- On Topological Cognition
Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the subject matter admits of….We must be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly and in outline….
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, I.3
2.1. Topological Imagination
If understanding, cognition or knowledge is — as I began to argue in 1.0 — a term that should cover anything which allows people to deal with not merely or not fully here‑and‑now objects, aspects, and relationships, making them available for evaluative inspection, reasoning choice, and useful intervention, then it is a series of interlocking events, a process that “provides a means by which we have a shared, relatively intelligible world” (Johnson 209). Our personal and collective coping with the world and its existents validates or invalidates this process at crucial points. Powerful interests of social groups and classes may have illicitly inflected the undoubted necessity of concepts into a metaphysical necessity of the concepts being, first, “literal” (i.e., definite, discrete, and fixed), second, frozen into univalent conceptual systems, and third, the sole constituents of cognitive meaning (cf. Johnson xxiii). No doubt, concepts — e.g. of object categories — intervene in the work of organizing any shape behind what we perceive, but such work is not reducible to their linkage into conceptual systems. As against this, I suggest there is at least one distinct mode or level of cognitive operation which yields highly meaningful orientation — i.e., knowledge — and yet is not only and not always conceptual. Using in this section the handiest review of the field by Mark Johnson, yet also in some places modifying and even tacitly contradicting it, I adopt the usual and perhaps unavoidable term of imagination for this mode. In a first approach, this may be defined as the mental consideration of events, objects, and relationships not present to the senses here and now, and the human faculty for doing so. I use the term faute de mieux and with some unease due to its high degree of polysemy, where meanings range from having it embrace practically all mental operations beyond simple perception (see OED) to Romantic restriction for “creative genius” only. Still, I would propose a middle way by which conceptuality is a very specialized offshoot or precipitate of imagination, unable to escape fully from the mother‑liquor. I hope this may be a cautious sublation of the tradition from, say, Aristotle to Spinoza, which divides mental operations into specific “faculties” (e.g. of perception, imagination, and intellection). From it, I wish to salvage not so much the fact of such distinguishing, though we seem stuck with something like it, but rather the recognition that all of these capacities may contribute to genuine knowledge (cf. Johnson 139‑40).
Though Kant, as I quite briefly suggested in 1.1, was badly served by his reliance on Empiricism, which believed knowledge was produced as in early manufacture: the raw materials of perceptions, acquired from the outside through our senses, being then articulated within each of us; yet I think he contributed a major pointer to a way out of the present dilemma by allowing for two ways of articulation: by concepts and by spatio‑temporal schemata for experience. True, in the first case, the Kantian argument that knowledge of objective experience is organized by means of concepts, which enunciate and stabilize the properties of a series of perceptual representations, builds upon the Empiricist tradition, so that “The concept ‘dog,’ for example, is a rule specifying the properties any object must have if it is to be a ‘dog'” (148). Concepts are then combined in propositions of judgment; e.g., “My dog is faithful” shows “dog” participating in “faithfulness.” In retrospect from full‑blown Objectivism we would have to reject all self‑contained, billiard‑ball‑type entities. Thus we would view the perceptions themselves as at least to an important degree dependent on people’s embodied psychic apparatus — e.g. in the registering of perceptions, their hypotyposis (bringing under or allotment to concepts), and the inalienable emotional aura determining the availability and urgency as well as qualitative feel and connotations of such perceptions or sensations (vividness, salience, etc. — cf. Nisbett and Ross). Our finest traffic with reality fails to provide value‑free or “theory‑neutral” data, the raw materials of reason are already imbued with emotional evaluations and interests. But Kant admitted a second means of articulating knowledge, a structure of spatial and temporal organization for all our experience. For him this was tightly tied to concepts, and this is in the final instance probably correct (see 3.4). Yet there are distinct advantages to analytically isolating the space‑time schemata as a counterpoise to logical formalism. They have therefore largely been (re?)interpreted as being adjoined to and going beyond concepts (see, e.g., Johnson 148, and 165ff.). James remarked, “The time‑ and space‑relations between things do stamp copies of themselves within. Things juxtaposed in space impress us, and continue to be thought, in the relation in which they exist there.” (2: 632) In other words, the space‑time relationships participate in the very setting up of our “life‑world” perceptions. Since this most intimately cognitive activity is expressly not conceptual, and not necessarily verbal either, it seems to me a quite major breakthrough, which ought to be borne in mind as a basis for a not only conceptual cognition, and as a complement to Hegelian dialectics.
Such primarily non‑conceptual cognitive structures have been admitted by psychology as organizing our “scene and event knowledge” (Mandler 465) since the path‑breaking work on “schemas” in children by Piaget in the 1930s. They have by now diversified into sophisticated “frames,” “scripts,” and even “stories” by artificial intelligence theorists (cf. Schank and Abelson, Minsky), where the schema involves personal participation in an institutionalized event with a temporal dimension, and into “personae” incorporating typical characters as knowledge structures (Nesbitt and Ross 35). This approach is interestingly developed by Lakoff and Johnson in their studies of “image‑schemata,” such as space orientation, balance vs. weighting or vectorial force. It is implied in the illuminating work of Gendlin, to which I shall come later. It could also be brought into the vicinity of Bakhtin by calling it chronotopic. However, that term would still seem too general. This kind of cognitive imagination has to encompass Piaget’s dynamic interrelations in a schema such as “object conservation,” that encompasses knowledge of relations between mass, volume, position, and alternative actions, as well as instances of the kind mentioned in 1.0 — e.g. the knowledges necessary for Minsky’s “birthday party scenario” or for the “script” of buying a weekly choice of cheeses, which includes walking, driving a car, recognizing a colour or a smell, counting money, and so forth. Therefore, I propose to call it, more precisely, topological imagination. This uses the OED senses transferred from the denotation of topology as a “qualitative geometry” of situation in space — and in a time analogized as a space — that typically involves transformation and yet continuity (invariance in some respects), and includes the sense 3d, “The way in which constituent parts are interrelated or arranged.” While in orthodox Piagetism one would not call (e.g.) landmarks, routes, and configurations topological, for my purposes of opposing analog qualities to conceptual systematicity they are elements of topological cognition (cf. Piaget and Inhelder vs. Mandler 451).
The topological imagination (which is, of course, not at all reducible to vivid images) can therefore encompass orientation, articulation (into shapes), and the dialectics of variance‑cum‑invariance — in short, relations to an entity’s stances, inner structuring, and shifting continuity in space and/or time. It is not to be sundered from the qualitative aura and connotations stemming from our interests, and it is in close and constant feedback with the bodily perceptual capacities, motor skills, attitudes, etc. Since “an event becomes meaningful by pointing beyond itself,” to other event structures actual or possible in past or future experience or in semiotic space, the always strongly orientational topological imagination is also intentional, i.e. directed at or toward some value‑laden “dimension or aspect of one’s existence” (Johnson 177), and participates in the deeply cognitive induction‑deduction cycle constituting meaning.
One could find very many other arguments in favour of a cognitive status for topological imagination. I shall here mention three:
- Fredric Jameson’s repeated recurrence to the concept of “cognitive mapping,” extrapolated to social structure from Kevin Lynch’s remarkable study of people’s interest‑inflected spatial imagination, presupposes an imagined and imaginary social totality that was to have been mapped; Jameson calls this unrepresentable (“Mapping” 356), but it is obviously a cognitive construct of the highest hypothetical order. Therefore I would rather call it (literally) unconceptualizable or — better, since Jameson gives an excellent partial conceptualization for it — not fully and systematically conceptualizable, but imaginatively presentable as a feedback between two wholes: our global capitalist Lebenswelt and an ambitious plea for (and, in other writings of Jameson’s, sustained attempt at) a global topology of it.
- Such neurological disturbances as “the phantom member” or apraxia (inability to imagine and therefore execute bodily action in spite of an intact nervous system, see Merleau‑Ponty 117ff., Suvin “Performance,” and Wood) testify that imagination is crucial for any literal and metaphorical stance and movement with the intention of manipulating objects, envisaging subjects, and all other orientations.
- Lakoff’s mental exercises in “image‑schema transformations,” such as shifting path‑focus to end‑point‑focus, changing objects from multiple to mass and back, envisaging a trajectory or expanding and contracting images of container vs. contained (see his case study 2), are non‑propositional and non‑conceptual yet clearly cognitive mental operations.
If this rough outline has merit, imagination is richer if messier than conceptuality. Topological imagination might represent the submerged ten elevenths of the iceberg of which conceptual systems show above the surface. Though this metaphor, as well as those of “background,” “context,” and my earlier one of the base vs. frontal lobes of the brain, has the merit of indicating the foundational primacy of imagination, it may insufficiently indicate how intimately concepts are interfused or shot through by it. Possibly the analogy of innervation or sanguine system in our flesh would come nearer. If nothing else, all this points out two crucial matters. First, that I take it as established by metaphorology from Vico and Nietzsche to Eco and Ricoeur that concepts are, verbally speaking, precipitates or a caput mortuum of metaphoric work. In fact, even the term “conceptuality” (the concept of “being a concept”) adjoins to its overriding univocity some metaphoric echoes. Second, that — in diametrical opposition to Christianity, Descartes, and the whole idealist filiation down to most of Kant and to Hegel’s Absolute Spirit — understanding is necessarily embodied, which also means macro‑culture‑bound, class‑bound, and engendered. Though in my opinion all imagination, and even more clearly concepts, can transcend some limitations of such embodiment, the degree to which they can truly do so (rather than pretend to be doing so) is unclear: certainly existing but certainly finite (0>n>oo). Finally, there is a clear choice: meaning and reason are to be grounded either in God or in (personal and collective) human bodies: tertium non datur. We would therefore have to conclude that imagination supplies much (though not all) of the indispensable delimitation and articulation for all knowledge, for “the connecting structure by which we have coherent, significant experience, cognition, and language” (Johnson 165).
Of course, as Johnson points out, a huge amount of further work remains to be done if one adopts this stance: we then need a theory of categorization of human experience, which “is basic to any theory of cognitive structure, for it explores the way we organize our experience into kinds” (191, see also 171‑72 and 213 — cf. Lakoff, Bloch), and theories of the attendant central tools of metaphor, metonymy, and narrativity (e.g. in dialogue with Bakhtin, cf. Suvin “Metaphoricity,” and with Ricoeur). As Aristotle’s Poetics (as well as the ancient South and East Asian commentators) knew, these are the very foundations of the pleasure of thinking, cognition or understanding, very much including art (depiction and narration). I shall deal with the possibly basic instance of metaphoricity in one of the later sections of this essay. But in the meantime I would adopt as a central hypothesis Johnson’s conclusion: “Instead of being nonrational, imaginative structures form the body of human rationality. Therefore, if imagination is not strictly algorithmic [i.e. a set of rules, usually in algebraic notation and digital], then this cannot be essential for rationality, either.” (169)
2.2. On the Dialectics of Proposition: Not Only But Also
The distinction between exclusive conceptuality and topological imagination may be furthered by considering propositions. I am using this term in the OED 4a. senses: “(a) the making of a statement about something; a sentence or form of words in which this is done, a statement, an assertion. (b) In Logic, a form of words in which something (the PREDICATE) is affirmed or denied of something (the SUBJECT)…,” sometimes extended to what is more strictly a judgment (1448). Clearly, the first sentence quoted embraces non‑verbal statements too (e.g. “body language”), beyond the main sense of a “statement,” that of a full or definite declaration in words (1889). Johnson enumerates five senses which concur in having any proposition assert something by means of a finite number of clearly delimited elements, but then advances a different sense by which a proposition can be “a continuous, analog pattern of…understanding, with sufficient internal structure to permit inferences” (3‑4). Since I cannot see how concepts could consist of “continuous, analog patterns,” this controversial, added sense is the only means of doubting the monopoly of conceptuality on knowledge. The first group, the usual philosophical and logical senses of “proposition,” put forth conceptually univalent statements, whose basic form is typically of the “My dog is faithful” shape mentioned earlier. They may form an algorithm (e.g. a syllogism) of the digital or binary kind that is characteristic for at least the Socratic use of concepts, which culminates in the “Yes, yes — No, no” (Mat. 5:37) dichotomy of monotheism — the template for all other dogmatisms, such as the “objectivist” one, in the Western tradition.
I am here operating with the distinction pioneered by computer theoreticians, extended by Gregory Bateson, and encapsulated by Watzlawick, between analog and digital modes of communication and understanding. An analog operation “can be more readily referred to the thing it stands for.” It prevails not only in animal mood indication but in human “body movement, …posture, gesture, facial expression, voice inflection [and…] rhythm” (Watzlawick, et al., 62‑63). Its ubiquity and flexibility makes of it the privileged mode for rendering “contingencies of relationship” (66). What it cannot present (at least not explicitly) is perhaps similar to what Freud’s dreams could not represent: the causality as against succession (e.g. “if‑then”), the tense or time‑horizon indication, and the conceptualized abstraction (65; but see sub‑section 3.4 for advances on Watzlawick’s skepticism). Digitalization therefore seems to me necessary for important but particular purposes, and it also seems to always be an ingent simplification of processes from reality: e.g., the analog wavelengths of light are cut up in various cultures into digital oppositions of colours. The analog — spread or spectrum‑like — kind of process is clearly characteristic of topological imagination. I would agree with Johnson (96‑100 and passim) that, if the analog kind of proposition is articulated to judgments and their attendant values, it permits inferences, which have been justly called “the birth of reason” in the child and “the great business of life” (Reid in 1788 and Mill in 1843, cited in OED, s.v. “Inference” 2). If so, an analog proposition is a form of reasoning that may satisfy Mill’s logical condition of advancing from known to “distinct” truths (cited in OED, ibidem 1.a; cf. Nisbett and Ross). The way is then open for it “to enter into transformations and other cognitive operations” (Johnson 4), such as the orientation, articulation, and dialectics of shifting (though not what Hegel would call “muddy”) identity that I argued for earlier. Music, sculpture or body stances — not to forget metaphors and narratives — are therefore potentially cognitive modes of imagination, in ways not only significantly different from purely conceptual systems but also constantly complementing or undergirding them. Even in natural language, “(1) meaning…begins in figurative, multivalent patterns that cannot typically be reduced to a set of literal concepts and propositions; and (2) the patterns and their connections are embodied and cannot be reduced to a set of literal concepts and propositions” (5; see my discussion in 3.4).
In that sense, knowledge may typically come about by complex, dialectical interaction between analog and digital, non‑conceptual and conceptual, fully focussed and multiplex modes:
Take, for instance, a skill like skiing. Our ability to ski is tied up with all sorts of perceptual and motor‑program schemata that have plenty of internal structure. The term “skiing” calls up (potentially) all of these structures as part of its meaning when it is used in an utterance. (189)
Replacing motor programs with hyperactive imagination, I claim the same holds for, e.g., theatre performance (see Suvin, “Performance”) or poetry. Ricoeur has repeatedly elucidated how in poetry the reduction in “referentiality of ordinary discourse” (which is, I think, coextensive with clichetized, closed conceptual systems) “allows new configurations expressing the meaning of reality to be brought into language,” and obversely that poetic discourse necessarily brings to language “modes of being that ordinary vision obscures or even represses” (Interpretation 60). Though in our meta‑language, striving for precision, such matters must begin to sound formidable, the learned detour is there for the purpose of a much closer feedback with people’s everyday practice. In that non‑elitist sense, as Gramsci and Brecht stressed, each person is a philosopher and every planning of action has to do with reason. Especially today, faced as we are with a concerted assault on reason, nothing in this essay is to be taken as speaking against it.
In this perspective, there are many collective, cognitive meanings not reducible simply to the binary mode fostered by conceptualization. While the “either‑or” logic is necessary at a number of crucial junctures, the “not only but also” logic (Brecht’s nicht nur sondern), dialectically subsumptive rather than adversative, is not only older but also richer and more frequently applicable. In Williams’s proposed epistemic concept “structure of feeling” the first, binary mode of cognition supplies the “hard” element of structure, and the second, analog mode of cognition the “soft” but primary element of feeling, an emotionally imbued yet not merely individual imagination, which is precisely why it seems to me superior to Foucault’s exclusively conceptual and systemic “episteme.” What all of this implies about priorities that emotions may (in some respects) have in relation to concepts will be faced in the Conclusion.
2.3. Analogical Reasoning, Verisimilitude
In this perspective it is also useful to revisit reasoning by analogy, which I shall do by incorporating in this sub‑section some illuminating arguments brought forward by Marc Angenot. It is an operation treated with the greatest suspicion by the hegemonic tradition, which has defined reasoning as a partially redundant horizontal chain of “literal, univocal, context‑independent” (see 2.1), and non‑contradictory propositional judgments. Yet this one‑dimensional syntagmatic chain has huge in‑built problems both as to its coming about and in its internal aporias. As to the former, unless one takes Plato’s Ideas or the monotheistic God literally, it is not clear how it ever could have arisen from brute matter in the fully hermetic form of logical space. As to the latter:
All “normal” reasoning standardizes its data by effacing variables, bracketting the contingent, and mediating between different levels, so as to permit the compatibility and derivability of propositions…, the passage from qualitative threshold to the quantifiable, the reduction of multidetermination to univocity, the polarization of ambivalences, and the axiomatic introduction of preponderances and hierarchies in places where to begin with only disparate tendencies were perceived which were not co‑intelligible. (Angenot 154)
Thus, this “classical model of reasoning” is brought about by a series of strong interventions levelling the analogical mode onto a conceptual projection, where “the proof’s purity was in proportion to its poverty” (154). This holds particularly for the traditionally “noblest” form of reasoning, deduction. Already reasoning by induction and examples were rather suspect as too plebeian, while the final mode, reasoning by analogy, was marginalized as unformalisable. Yet it is not clear why it should have an inferior cognitive status. Of course, any proof by analogy is only as “right” as its constituent parts and relational presuppositions — e.g., the standard 19th‑Century bourgeois analogy between father‑child and capitalist‑worker, extending to the academic position of professors in loco parentis to students. But then, the same holds for reasoning by deduction and induction. All of them, though in different ways, owe their efficacy to cultural and ideological verisimilitude. Just what is the difference between the verisimilar on the one hand, and the true and necessary on the other, has never been clarified since it reposes on the ideological maxims or common sense of a given period, so that one can at best oppose deep and long duration maxims to short duration ones (which is, no doubt, of great importance for any particular investigation). Beginning with Aristotle, “the theory of topoi is essentially a reflexion on the implicit, in its twin character of occultation and regulation” (163). Regardless of how general the validity they pretend to, all of them formalize social experiences and relationships in culturally highly specific ways. We have rightly learned to suspect the self‑evidence of any such ahistorical stance, e.g. an eternal distinction agent‑action (Yeats’s knowing the dancer from the dance).
I believe this sub‑section has, among other things, added an important cognition to our arsenal: the difference in all seemingly factual propositions between the horizontal and vertical orders or modes of establishing the correctness (veracity) of a proposition. I call “horizontal” the concept‑driven reliance on the syntagmatic chain of formalized, presumably literal, univocal, and non‑contradictory, propositions; and I call “vertical” verification a frequent experience‑driven interruption of such a chain in favour of confrontation with other (possibly non‑conceptual and thus less formalized) derivations from material empirical evidence. This is analogous to Locke’s distinction between “mental truth,” which is always hypothetical, vs. “real truth,” which depends on experience (see James 2: 664) . It participates in the widespread modern complaint (e.g. in Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences) that scientific rationality has become alienated from praxis, in other words that a collective human project has by now been so coopted as be at best indirectly related and at worst inimical to the need for a livable world.
Both the horizontal and the vertical mode rely on a system of “topical” presuppositions (cf. Angenot 187), that makes possible the melding for which I shall argue in the Conclusion. If thinking is, in the first and possibly still best metaphor of European philosophy, Heraclitean fire, then reason might be the flame and emotion the consubstantial heat. I would conclude, with Johnson, that “we [might] expand our notion of logical correctness” (12); and with Angenot, that
[reasoning by analogy] is not a less rigorous type of reasoning than deduction; it corresponds to a different way of thinking and a different establishing of proof, which is here regarded as a transfer of evidence….[It] constructs around the object being proved a relational structure capable of being perceived as isomorphic to another structure situated in a quite different field. (197)
In its clearest form, it is a rigorous homology of the rule of three (A:B = C:D) kind, and it can render much more closely the sinuosities and contradictions of people’s relationships to each other, their institutions, and universe — and indeed of their natural languages — than grand universal syllogisms. I shall return to this in the discussion of metaphor; as Blumenberg notes, “analogy is the realism of metaphor” (88). The undoubted affinities between analogical thinking and emotion‑suffused evaluation can once more be seen as qualitatively different from deductive conceptualization but no less (potentially) cognitive.
2.4. Operativeness, Eduction From Psychotherapy
Assuming the class of “not conceptually sayables” (or even not only and not primarily conceptually expressibles) was not empty, as advanced in 1.0 above, I have been worrying in this essay at the question which part of that class may be cognitive, and in what ways. One precondition for cognitiveness is articulation which allows operativeness or manipulability. Articulation means the division of a cognition or cultural unit of knowledge into definable parts together with some syntactic indication of the parts’ relationships to each other and some pragmatic indication of their relationships to other units or articulated parts thereof. It is because they are suitable to recombination that the articulated units may participate in cognitive operations which make sense of some segment or aspect of our Lebenswelt. Thus, when Jaggar speaks of the emotions’ inner articulation, when Kant speaks of spacetime schemata, when psychologists (with some philosophers and some sociologists such as Goffman) differentiate this into scripts, frames, and personae, or when the language proposed here speaks of topological imagination as one epistemic way of articulating knowledge, it is implied that such analog‑type mental operations — in spite of having a crucial non‑conceptual aspect — can permit subdivision, anamorphic transformation, and rearranged aggregation or re‑constellation of units of understanding (sememes, if you wish) into valid cognitive operations, such as intentional orientation or reorganization of identity and indeed of categories. While concepts seem to be already enmeshed with some basic topological categories, and while the greater part of institutionally formalized knowledge will at some (possibly early) point in its operating advance from this to a conceptually systematized organization of knowledge, the non‑conceptual mode will, I believe, always remain a part of the resulting structure — at the very least as a system of presuppositions and implications (e.g. about what domains and stances are proper for a scientific discipline). This non‑conceptual, analog aspect of knowledge is not only prior to the great phylogenetic and ontogenetic divide of language, as has been shown both by child psychologists — from Freud’s fort‑da to the systematic observations of Piaget — and by ethologists. Even simultaneous to the use of language, topological cognition reigns supreme in all the bodily activities, crafts, techniques, and arts I hinted at earlier, from swimming to painting. Furthermore, it accompanies, founds, and infiltrates all language in the form of metaphor (which Goodman nicely defines as “a calculated category‑mistake,” 73), rhetorics (cf. Angenot), and narrative organization.
I want here to add to the post‑Piaget turn (and one would have to mention also parallel Soviet experiences of Vygotsky’s and his followers such as Luria) the illumination from a philosophical approach to therapeutic psychology in the work of Eugene Gendlin. In numerous contributions of the last three decades (from Experiencing through “Critique” and “Thinking”), Gendlin has been appealing to self‑ordering patterns in “experience (situations, practice, the body, intricacy…)” to argue that syntactically definite and pragmatically precisely oriented univocal forms of a more than conceptual nature are always already at work in thought (“Thinking” 28‑29).3/ I shall in this sub‑section mostly use his long study “Thinking Beyond Patterns,” to which all citations refer unless otherwise noted. Arguing with Dilthey that experiencing is an implicit understanding (34), he also reveals his own standpoint from experience: “Today…[the] old forms still exist, but often as official demands….But body‑life is no longer carried forward by them. Our more complex and partly undefined situations are another ‘social reality’.” (“Critique” 275)
Gendlin reminds us that practice, the sum of people’s relationships to each other and the universe, is richer: “practice must always be permitted to surprise the theory” (45). He would have agreed with the great Japanese Confucianist Ogyû Sorai’s remark: “The great sage rulers of the past taught by means of [particular] ‘things’ and not by means of [universal] ‘principles.’…In ‘things’ all ‘principles’ are brought together, hence all who have long devoted themselves to work come to have a genuine intuitive understanding of them.” (Nakamura 537; cf. Lee 148) Convincingly inducing from experiences of his therapeutic practice, Gendlin pleads for a revaluation of cases or instancing, as opposed to hypotyposis that strives to filter or “drop out” all elements that do not fit a concept; of story‑telling; and of what one could call pre‑implications. In his own wonderful “Stories from psychotherapy: The bodily ” (86‑98; see especially the “house on stilts” metaphor, 92), the underlined three dots stand for the patients’ groping toward full cognitive formulation. The apparent blank in a sentence is syntactically clearly defined and modally clearly oriented but semantically not yet formulated. This groping forms something new, simultaneously continuous with and different from what was realized before. It is what James in an analogous discussion called a “feeling of tendency” or “a sign of direction in thought”:
…a gap that is intensely active. A sort of wraith of the name is in it, beckoning us in a given direction….If wrong names are proposed to us, this singularly definite gap acts immediately so as to negate them. They do not fit into its mould. (1: 251; cf. 249‑57)
The gap is eventually exfoliated and evolved into a powerful semantic turn that will, at least in ideal cases, “maximize (reinforce, nurse, feed, help one savor) the mood” (100). This accords astoundingly well on the one hand with poetic practice, as testified to by all accounts of how a poem is written with help of rhythmically and modally precise blank spots (e.g. the famous essay by Mayakovsky) and remarked on by Gendlin too (61‑66), and on the other with the macro‑structures of feeling that Williams defines as “pre‑formations” preceding semantic figures, as “social experiences in solution” and as “structured formation[s]…at the very edge of semantic availability” (133‑34, see end of 1.3). With the help of such proceedings, Gendlin attempts to “think the actual situations” (112) as an implicit and intricate multiplicity, whose possibilities fan out to other possible situations. Or, more personalized: the initially unclear , where the “silent sensing” situation contains implicit possibilities of language, opens up through a series of precise if zigzagging (because not logically deductible) steps, unfolding its latent protean intricacy. “Each such step arises from a bodily sensed , her bodily sensed social reality” (“Critique” 288 and 283). Each step retroactively revises the meaning and the time‑horizon of preceding steps. The AI theorists might have said that the frame’s terminals have only loosely attached default assignments functioning as variables or a special kind of reasoning by example (see Minsky 212‑13). This also does away with a fixed nuclear Self. As in Laplace’s explanation to Napoleon about God, any post‑Freudian “unconscious” becomes here an unnecessary hypothesis (cf. “Critique” 277‑89 and “Thinking” passim).
The (pre‑)implications resident in an individual or collective situation for each of us, and which have to be teased out of it by means of not primarily conceptual analysis, are a founding notion of Gendlin’s. What we retroactively see was implied is the eventual articulation through “carrying‑forward” steps: “A situation is the implying of further events”; it “consists of implicit action‑possibilities”; “it sets itself apart because it implies a change in the stories that it now implies” (118‑19). These implications are what is to be cognitively defined, in the sense of rendered sufficiently definite. They are different from logical or mechanistic determinism: “The whole series cannot be predicted from one step, because each step carries forward an implied change in implying” (121). In a bodily sensed way, which makes nonsense out of the dichotomies body/mind or emotion/reasoning, the situation implies statements about‑to‑be‑said (cf. 130‑32) — the semantic blanks induced by the subject/situation feedback and awaiting cognition. “Body, situation, and language imply each other, but that means we cannot do with less than all three….The body provides the focal implying without which there would not be situations or language….Indeed, all the functions of implicit intricacy in language and situations are functions of the body.” (132‑33)
Finally, Gendlin claims that such inventing and filling in of semantic blanks, which redefines a poet’s, a psychiatric patient’s or indeed everybody’s meanings‑in‑situation, is more realistic or adequate to the situation. In the language of my sub‑section 2.3, the horizontal order of veracity for a proposition (relying on the sequence of formalized and non‑contradictory conceptual arguments) is at all crucial points which require new formulations of a newly arisen situation backgrounded in favour of “vertical” confrontation with the material reality. This is cognized largely by means of topologically articulated emotion (cf. the mentioned patient’s “house on stilts” feeling, and Gendlin’s discussions of spatial imagery in 88‑89 and 106‑07), by means of a “structure of feeling.” The “truth” resides in the bodily “implying of situations” (121), in what Ernst Bloch would call the dialectical tendency‑latency of human reality (144ff.). And since “anything concrete belongs to other systems as well” (“Critique” 295), Gendlin has some interesting though preliminary reflections on how it would be necessary to move from personal experience to larger economico‑political, collective situations determined by social forces, such as the US Federal Reserve Bank’s restrictive policies which have radically affected the bodily situation of millions by destroying their livelihood (295‑96). The evidence of senses here becomes quite insufficient: as Brecht remarked, almost no “statement about reality” (cognition) can be drawn from a photograph of the reified Krupp factory (18: 161‑62) — “artful” statistics, graphs, and narratives would have to be also called in.
2.5. Briefly on Metaphoricity, With a Pointer to Narrativity
In an earlier and lengthier study (Suvin, “Metaphoricity”) I adopted a working definition of metaphor which I would render slightly more precise here as a unitary meaning arising out of the interaction of disparate semantic units from different category domains; and I argued that metaphor presents a complex cognition not by literal or analytic statement but by sudden confrontation. Whether verbal or visual (e.g. on the stage, cf. Suvin, “Brecht’s”), metaphor results in the perception of a possible relationship with a new norm of its own, and it always embodies a value‑judgment correlative to an integral, i.e. also emotional, involvement. From literal dictionary meaning current in a given culture and sociolect, the new metaphoric meaning modulates into an imaginary entry from the encyclopedia of cultural commonplaces, presuppositions, and categories (cf. Eco Lector and “Metafora”); or indeed into a newly posed entry, invented ad hoc by the metaphor’s author and enforced by its context. Such determinations hold fully only for the so‑called full or true metaphor, a unique presentation of previously non‑existent meaning. In it experiential orientation accessible to us in no other way is being formed and explored: we have no other ways at hand for “thinking through” the relationship such a metaphor refers to. The full‑fledged, interaction or transformational metaphor cannot be paraphrased into conceptual propositions without a significant loss of cognitive yield (Black Models 45‑46), as opposed to the low‑grade, substitution or comparison metaphors which can be exhausted by paraphrase into concepts and commonplaces.
As Ricoeur has not tired to remind us, however, metaphor is not an atomic unit but the function of “the operation of predication” in a complete sentence (Interpretation 50, and cf. Rule). In the language of 2.2 above, metaphor is a function of an analogical proposition permitting inference, transformation, orientation, and other cognitive operations (that “transference by analogy” is the strongest form of metaphoric functioning has been clear since Aristotle’s Poetics, 1457b). The sum of all the cultural topoi and categories advanced, presupposed, and implied by the sentences and propositions of a text constitutes the ideological system of its social addressee, whose maxims encompass the connotation chosen in a metaphor. In “This man is a wolf,” the stock metaphorological example, “The wolf‑metaphor…organizes our view of man” and viceversa: when wolf and man are projected upon each other, a new whole emerges (Black Models 4l and passim; cf. Eco “Metafora”) in feedback with, e.g., a Social‑Darwinistic or obversely a totemic system of maxims about wolves/people.
Thus, the delicate negotiation between immanence in and transcendence of discourse is at stake in metaphor too. Another argument by Ricoeur upgrades Frege’s distinction between sense and meaning (Sinn und Bedeutung) into one between sense and reference. Sense results from a largely horizontal, semantic, proceeding and identifies an entry in the imaginary cultural encyclopedia subtending what one could in short call the metaphoric proposition. Reference is “[the proposition’s] claim to reach reality” (Ricoeur, Hermeneutics 140), even if often a redefined reality, and it adds to sense an emotional and imaginative, pragmatic verticality which in the final instance can also be connected to bodily stances. If metaphor is thus a specific cognitive organon, what is its specificity of reference? Despite much solid spadework documented in my “Metaphoricity” study, this seems to me still poorly understood. I believe metaphor is directed toward and necessary for an insight into continuously variable and internally contradictory processes, Eco’s “dinamismi del reale” (“Metafora” 212), when these are being handled by language, which is composed of discrete and fixed signs (Hesse, Ortony; curiously, Thom [Paraboles, 120 and 159] founds mathematics in the same insight). If metaphor is this dialectical corrective of all analytical language centered on concepts, as all language it also refers, among other things, to what a given culture and ideology consider as reality. This means that some conclusions educible from any metaphor — e.g., “people are cruel,” “wolves are conscious” — are pertinent to or culturally “true” of given understandings of relationships in practice. The metaphor can affirm such an understanding or, in the best case, develop “the before unapprehended relations of things” in ways at that moment not otherwise formulatable (Shelley 357). Cognition through a full metaphor reorganizes, on the basis of topological analogy, the logical space of our conceptual frameworks. It is only from the point of view of Objectivism or positivist metaphysics that the literal coincidentio oppositorum of metaphor is Goodman’s “category mistake” or an absurd impertinence: a Man is a Man is a Man and NOT a Lion. Exploding literal referential pertinence and literal semantic statement, frozen into univalency and binary‑choice linkage, metaphor proposes a new, imaginative pertinence by rearranging the categories that shape our experience. This imaginative cognition is not to be reduced to mystical insight or magical transfer but rather thought of as an analog (rather than digital) hypothetic proposition with specifiable yields and limitations; parallel to other forms of cognition, metaphoric analogies can be partly or wholly accepted or rejected by feedback from historical experience, verbal and extra‑verbal.
In my study I also went at length into what might be the basic conditions for a full‑fledged metaphor. I proposed there were three: coherence or congruence, complexity or richness, and novelty. This means that metaphor is necessarily (at least in part) historico‑referential insofar as it disrupts the synchronic cognitive system current when it was coined. The criteria for deciding which metaphors are to be seen as dead, remotivated or farfetched are all drawn from historical semantics and pragmatics. Beardsley — who admits only the first two — notes that such axiomatic conditions may be considered as analogous to Occam’s razor in literal, e.g. scientific, texts (145). These conditions are the presuppositions of metaphor — i.e., they are simultaneously inside it and overarching it. They allow for Ricoeur’s argument that “the relation between literal and figurative meaning…is a relation internal to the overall signification of the metaphor,” i.e. that both denotation and connotation are legitimately cognitive. Ricoeur concludes that “such semantic innovation marks the emergence of [conceptual] thought,” that “new possibilities for articulating and conceptualizing reality can arise through [it]” (Interpretation 47 and 57).
In that sense metaphors, when expanded into metaphorical sequences and metaphorical texts (i.e., as I argue in “Metaphoricity,” finally into narratives which add a chronotopic organization), both literally and technically create for their addressees another, Possible World, as a dialectical fusion of vertical and horizontal, syntagmatic and paradigmatic reference: “the poetic world is just as hypothetical a space as is the mathematical order in relation to any given world”; both are “a second degree reference, [in…] the fictive dimension revealed by the theory of models” (Ricoeur, Interpretation 59 and 68). Metaphor may thus sketch in lineaments of “another world that corresponds to other possibilities of existence, to possibilities that would be most deeply our own…” (Ricoeur, Rule 229). On its own and as underlying any narrative, metaphor is one of humanity’s great cybernetic machines for interpreting the world — not only Wittgenstein’s “all that is the case” but also Bloch’s “not yet” (to mention what I take to be the two poles of modern philosophical revision of classically undialectical categories, allowing for more elastic boundaries, bases for category membership, prototypical status for members, etc.).
Without entering upon a fuller discussion of narrative text, it may be provisionally identified as a finite and coherent sequence of actions, with correlative agents located in the spacetime of a possible world, proceeding from an initial to a final state of affairs, and embodying a paradigm or macro‑metaphor. Its minimal requirements would be an agent, an initial state changing to a commensurate final state, and a series of changes consubstantial to varying chronotopes (cf. Eco, Lector 70, 107‑08, and passim), unified by a plot with metaphoric tenor. In comparison to “propositional metaphor,” narrative permits much more detailed and articulated exploration of its key hypothesis — which is also its founding metaphor — as to its properties, most prominently the relationships between people it implies. Such evaluation of its thought‑experiment is always in feedback with the reader’s vision of empirical reality. The intense flash of metaphor is too brief to be judged by anything except its fruits, the “thick” and immediate shock‑effect of a “category‑earthquake.” In any story or tale, however, it ought to be possible to verify examined aspects of the central propositions which have by means of coherence, plenitude, and novelty created the narrative universe of that tale. In so doing, both metaphor and narrative redescribe the known world and open up new possibilities of intervening into it: they are — potentially — what Brecht called “meshing thought” (eingreifendes Denken).
- Concluding Horizons
I do not like the following model very much, but something of the sort seems needed.
Minsky, “A Framework…”
3.1. The Archimedean point from which the fruitful intricacy of cognition may be raised is the proposition that our social existence is both source and goal of human concepts and emotions. The horizon of this proposition is a pragmatics of social productions. Only pragmatics can insert into this discussion the empirical situation of people and their relationships within given epistemological (cognitive and ideological) presuppositions, conventions, economical and institutional frames, etc.4/ Exclusively conceptualized veracity, I began to argue in 2.3, implies a horizontal chain of mutually reinforcing concepts which, like any other syntagmatic system of abstract symbols, cannot by itself provide any meaning. While conceptual chains have historically — e.g. when based on Baconian experiment — led to world‑historical breakthroughs in understanding, this type of veracity is by now showing the drawbacks of (as a poet can best note it) being “spitted on fixed concept like/ roasting hogs, sputtering, their drip sealing…” (William Carlos Williams, Paterson). However, this rejection of Objectivism and of pure logical formalism does not land us in the quagmire of absolute relativism. There are important material, historico‑political constraints built into all human productions (actions), that largely determine what inferences and propositions can be held, though themselves up to a point in significant feedback with socialized imagination. Refunctioning terms from Putnam, who builds on the Lockean opposition of “theoretical beliefs” and “experiential beliefs,” I propose to call the horizontal consistency of conceptual cognitions with each other “coherence,” while the vertical recourse to experiential beliefs consistent with practical tryout could be called “fit” (54‑55, and see Johnson 211‑12). As I further argued after Gendlin, horizontal coherence can be saved from pure conceptual chimeras (Hirngespinste, “brain cobwebs”) by interrupting, verifying, and supplementing it at strategic points by means of an imaginative fit immediately rooted in topological imagination and closer to bodily emotions.
We have of, course, witnessed in this century only too many variants of polluted emotions: “The sources of [a person’s] feelings and passions are just as muddied up as the sources of his cognitions,” noted Brecht (15: 295). Indeed, his life‑long advocacy of interruptory Gestus may be the most illuminating systematic inquiry into this verticality (cf. Benjamin), within his struggle against uncritical empathy which led to a “theatralics of fascism” (and of “patriotic” nationalism, and of Stalinism). Therefore I have repeatedly stressed that emotions, the body, analogy, imagination or topology are by themselves no talisman guaranteeing cognitivity. What I argue for is the interactive feedback between vertical (topological, analog, referential) fit and horizontal (purely conceptual, binary, sense‑producing) coherence. Hegel’s dialectical three‑step of conceptuality (the Schoolmen would have said scientia) negating mere feeling or shapeless intuition but then being itself sublated — preserved and simultaneously subsumed — under a thinking wisdom (sapientia) that follows the contradictions in reality seems to be an early approximation to such spiral induction‑deduction with goodly space for analogy. What such a feedback unity in topological imagination, based on common topical presuppositions (see 2.3), produces could be called figuration in Jameson’s sense. He notes that this englobes, e.g., Lévi‑Strauss’s Amerindian myth shapes, the Deconstructionists’ — to my mind, quite one‑sided, though at times destructively useful — emphasis on all discourse being tropes, and Freud’s insight that instincts always already “come with their own figuration, …bound in the forms of certain fantasies.” so that “reality is always figured” (Theory 113‑14 and 162).
3.2. Yet at this point I have to confess that we seem to be caught in an unresolved halfway house between two discourses, the old emotion vs. reason one and a newer one on conceptual imagination in mutual induction with topological imagination. This impurity may not be too exhilarating but I shall argue it is not only a faithful reflection of the mess we are at, inside the present historical epoch, but also allowable for my present purposes.
I started from the muddy opposition emotion/reason and argued that the dumbbell constellation of dry, calculating, male reason vs. fluid, intuitive, female emotion had a goodly Hellenic and Hebraic pedigree. Yet the post‑Cartesian foregrounding of this dichotomy arose with the coming to power of the bourgeoisie and precluded further useful reasoning about how to cope with our world. I therefore incline to think it would be better if we scrapped this polarizing configuration entirely (e.g., I’d much prefer the Buddhist identification of the six senses as vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and cognition), perhaps putting an at least provisional embargo — say during the next century — on the term of emotion. However, only a qualitative reversal of social practice would give us that opportunity. No individual can radically alter language in its central classifications before such time; at best, I might persuade my readers we should redefine a few of the important categories of the doxa. Then, by the middle of this essay I arrived at my second discourse, which features the more graspable and fertile difference — not dichotomy — and feedback between topology and conceptualization within imagination and cognition. It proposes a topological imagination, functioning by analogy and having much better chances (if they will but be used) to draw corrections from a dialectical verticality that plumbs experience. Of course, to develop this we should have to scrutinize much further the close relationship to topological imagination of conceptualized thought, and conversely of the body bearings, stances or orientations; upon both of them there are inscribed our class, gender, and other identifications, and they seem to me to meet in at least two key points: first, in the categories of intention and interest; second, in the activity itself of categorization. The latter is “a basic ability…that almost certainly must be posited as a primitive of psychological functioning,” so that on the one hand “in its basic sense [it] cannot be distinguished from schema formation” (Mandler 466), but on the other hand it is also highly culture‑specific, shaped in and by historical epochs and sociolects (cf. Lakoff’s arguments, e.g. about the category of anger in English, 68). At the latest since Marx, we should have detheologized our discourse so as to draw full consequences from a defining of human potentiality as historically delimited: in the double sense of concrete historical possibilities and concrete historical alienations from them (cf. Marcuse Luther 28‑29 and passim). If we embarked on such scrutinies, I believe we would end up by making much better sense of our feedback relations with the world. However, at the moment I have to balance bits and aspects of this second discourse with the first or dichotomizing one, which threatens to reproduce itself parasitically in my new proposals too. History is real, the hegemony also.
But, as Beckett tells us through the exemplum of the two thieves on the Cross: do not presume, yet do not despair either. I think a number of differences between the two discourses are very technical, and thus doubly foreclosed for me and my readers. First, we are probably (and I am certainly) not competent to enter into many of those details. Second, for my possibly foolhardy purposes of clearing the ground for a discussion of cultural texts and social discourse, even this halfway house would be a great deal further along the road than where I set out from.
3.3. How is, for example, the intense va‑et‑vient traffic between topological imagination and conceptuality to be grasped? It can only be conducted by a “chromosomal” transfer of traits (units of articulation) through shared intentions, observations, assumptions, inferences, etc.,5/ adumbrated by Jaggar as a “mutually constitutive rather than oppositional relation between reason and emotion.” Beyond already presented arguments, such as the unity of our social existence and of the sensorium, and the ubiquity of categorization, this is made possible by two further central reasons. First, concepts are all founded on judgments, many if not most of which, e.g. judgments of logical quality — assertion and negation — , depend on evaluation (cf. Bloch 42) and thus, I would conclude from this whole discussion, on interests and emotion. Even our central categories such as spatial orientation (up‑down, left‑right, here‑there), pressure and weight (gravity), similarity and difference, etc., largely involve imaginative structures of understanding which are of a topological, very often metaphoric, kind. Thus it is the melding of conceptual and topological that brings about the “wise,” hypothetical, cognitive space; the best studied examples we have of it are the thought‑experiments of art (metaphoricity, narrativity, music, the spatial arts, etc.), but it is at least equally present in the practice of action (e.g. in love, or in great movements of political liberation). I believe all of this is implied in the Fifth (and the Ninth) of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: “Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, appeals to sensuous contemplation; but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical, human‑sensuous activity” (Marx‑Engels 108).
Second, topological imagination is strongly socialized; it is not reducible to inchoate feeling or biological instinct. As I argued earlier by way of Angenot, both topology and concept are based on historical topics. In the sense proposed in 3.1 and 3.2, concepts are obviously also (and always already) historical. There is no eternal ahistorical matrix for anchoring the nature of knowledge, truth, rationality, or indeed reality. For one thing, e.g., what is a fact notoriously depends on the filter for or frame of recognition, chosen by changeable imaginative inclinations and constraints which are as a rule shaped into ideologies. For another, the frame of categories is itself a quintessentially historical and indeed ideological construct. There are, however, some “long duration” concepts that may last through an entire social formation, and a few that may last through several, in topologically mutated but still recognizable shapes. I would not shy away from saying that, within an entirely historical horizon of material relationships, there should be a place for (possibly very few) long‑duration concepts that may last through the entire history of class society — e.g. “war.”
Obversely, one could go on to argue that beyond judgments of quality, even the logical judgments of quantity (what is singular, particular or general) are, at least in their presuppositions and horizons, deeply enmeshed in history, evaluation, and indeed ideology. On the one hand, a sanitized rational generality, the representative in logic of bourgeois society, is deemed superior to particulars, e.g. in the equality of individuals before the law. “The Law forbids sleeping under bridges with equal majesty to beggars and millionaires,” quipped Anatole France; the Law also allows a single mother to compete for a job on “equal” basis with a bachelor. On the other hand this individualism is extolled as superior to any claims of totality, which is implicit in the very definition of mental operation, and yet which is in a bad Cold War pun equated to the muddy category of totalitarianism. In spite of this obfuscation, a central axiom of economy in reasoning argues in favour of stressing totality, in the sense of a semantic thesaurus with provisional hierarchies of categories, while complementarily “[w]ords expressing totality, such as all, always, forever, never, and only, are the key ingredients of many popular songs…whose meaning is aimed at stirring up all sorts of strong feelings” (Bohm and Peat 218). Finally, we have one brain and body, the senses and the sensorium mesh. Finally also, I agree with Jameson that the “mode of production” — in the widest Marxian and Brechtian sense in which one produces not only shoes but also love, not only pianos but also music (cf. Suvin, “Brecht: Bearing”) — is “a total synchronic structure” which is for the foreseeable future the “ultimate and untranscendable” (Jameson, “Marxism” 149) imaginative horizon of illumination. It does not have to be treated as a master code, but as a user‑friendly code: on the penalty of “the obscurity of nearness, so convenient for every ruling class” (Bloch 67), the lack of appropriation because of the lack of distanciation, which means slavery to the eternal consumption‑cycle return of the masters’ wars, depressions, and other daily catastrophes.
3.4. Let me indicate, finally, that some interdisciplinary depth developments seem to bear out my approach. Potentially perhaps the most sensational is a remarkable turning point in or out of recent linguistics (since it perhaps should by now be given a different name) which may be represented by some implications of Langacker’s “cognitive grammar.” Radically jettisoning the logico‑algebraic formalism of classical linguistics as a self‑enclosed horizontal chain of propositions (Hjelmslev, Benveniste, Martinet, etc., down to Greimas — see their thorough demolition by Coquet), this approach derives all linguistic concepts from positions and configurations in “basic domains” of perceptive and representational space. All that is necessary for such a derivation are the topological properties of dimension, articulation, distance, degree of intensity, etc., and their sufficiently precise mathematical processing. This is elegantly based on the cognitive operation of scanning, that by registering qualitative contrasts finds shapes by means of borders drawn against a basis, and by which all things or entities of and in language may be defined as “regions” in some domain. There are various types of scanning, and they all dovetail with Thom’s definition of morphology as a system of borders or qualitative discontinuities. Since Langacker proposes to satisfy the constraint of informationally finite local scannings as well as of defining the routes of propagation from local to global, this morphological cognition may be transformed into conceptual cognition in the sense of a theory of scripts or frames, or indeed of Lakoff’s and Johnson’s schemas (also of Kosslyn’s work in cognitive psychology, etc., see Danesi). In the best synthesis of the field that I could find, Petitot has put forward very strong arguments for integrating this on the one hand with Jackendoff’s cognitive linguistics and Talmy’s “force dynamics” in cognition, and on the other hand with Thom’s mathematical models of morphogenesis or shape‑changes latching on to the mathematical theory of catastrophes. Even if one doubts that this is the final solution to all gaping problems on the borders of linguistics and psychology (for one thing, there is more than a touch of illicit extrapolation toward biological essentialism in some protagonists of this paragraph), the way may be thus open for a materialist “bottom‑up” treatment of language and cognition. In it, concepts and topology (or reason and emotion) are no longer even notionally to be sundered, and the brain’s analog ability of topological orientation, articulation, and anamorphosis is basic to and permanently involved in all digital conceptualization.
Such a horizon would take us beyond that of Jaggar’s brilliant and seminal essay. Yet located where we are now, we still have to argue for an emotion which is ontogenetically and phylogenetically prior to conceptuality, but axiologically a necessary intimate component of all reasoning or cognition, topological or conceptual. Her indication that the clarifying feedback between emotions and conceptual reflecting on them is particularly necessary for oppressed societal groups is for me still central, even if rephrased as a feedback traffic between the submerged topological and visible systematico‑conceptual parts of an iceberg. This plebeian point of view from below belongs, I would add, to social classes and groupings where it is in people’s interest, in order both to survive under and work to change exploitive and humiliating conditions, to yoke together and mutually clarify “gut feelings” and cognition; as opposed to people in the upper classes who have a strong vested interest in their isolation and muddying. True, in hegemony‑ridden practice the plebeian imagination and plebeian interests are repressed and as a rule coopted, thus often not recognized by themselves. Nonetheless, their potentiality or horizon must be given a preferential epistemological option. Obversely and complementarily, this means that those of us who wish to turn such an orientation into a stable stance have to begin by taking seriously “the epistemic potential of emotion” (Jaggar, “Love” 163) — and of the topological imagination.
The only useful definition of reason, taking off from the OED sense 10.a: “intellectual power…employed in adapting thought or action to some end,” necessarily includes emotion — for how could one adapt thought or action to some end without evaluation, intention, and similar epistemic goads or stimuli? In that case, reason should be added as yet another pseudo‑synonym to the cognition, knowledge, and understanding from 1.0. I strongly wish to retain and indeed expand the concept of reason (as well as others developed to deal with its internal articulation and connections, such as inferences or entailments). But in face of the terrible ravages of capitalist ratio and bureaucratic binarism, this can today only be defended on the understanding that “the structure of rationality is much richer than any set of [disembodied] logical patterns…” (Johnson 5), or any horizontal recombination of such exclusively conceptual sets considered without the vertical body stances, evaluations, emotions, and other imaginative, topological interactions with collective reality.
1/ My thanks for support in research leading to this article go to the SSHRC of Canada as well as to the Killam Award of the Canada Council; for our indispensable discussions to Marc Angenot, Chang Huei‑keng, Fredric Jameson, and particularly to Gene Gendlin, whose generous comments made me rewrite much of the emotion vs. concept argument, even if not radically enough for his taste; and for critical reading to Paul Coates. All translations from non‑English texts, unless otherwise indicated, are mine.
2/ In particular, I have for practical reasons chosen not to instance here from a great number of fields and approaches which I suspect could also be useful. Let me mention only — exemplarily — the post‑Marx analyses of capitalism, the Durkheimian micro‑sociology of group “rituals,” and the post‑Weber sociology of knowledge and religion or myth, where I am aware of substantial contributions by (e.g.) Mauss, Mannheim, W. Mills, Garfinkel or Goffman. But such fields may be endless: Mauss already implies anthropology, and what would Lévi‑Strauss be without topology (spatial and tonal)?
3/ As can be seen from his title, Gendlin is actually dubious about the terms “form” and “pattern,” and assigns them usually to logical or conceptual thought only. But then he rightly finds (e.g. in 77, 102, 145‑47) that he can use them for non‑conceptual articulation too, and I shall follow the latter practice which does not surrender the terms to Objectivism. The ellipse in the first quote is Gendlin’s.
4/ See Suvin, “Performance” 11‑13 and passim (with a lengthy bibliography). Investigation of socialized action, I argue there, englobes formalized semiotic procedures. They were not addressed in this first approach, but considerations of signic meaning and systems, in particular the central organon of historically induced Possible Worlds, would at a later stage of discussion become indispensable.
5/ I would situate here also entailment, which I would attempt to redefine (just as inference and reason itself may be redefined by foregrounding their hegemonically recessive senses), in this case by using the recognized but downplayed sense of entailment as “material implication” (rather than the strictly conceptually necessary, “strong” implication — see OED 519).
- Cognitive Reason vs. Non‑Cognitive Emotion?
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2‑3. On Topological Imagination and Concluding Horizons
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