Friday, November 20, 2009

The Humanities and the Sciences

8 comments:

diamond jim said...

Hi. I've just written a Masters Thesis that ended-up saying a lot about Barfield's question of a "true metaphor." See Poetic Diction, pp 55,56, and following chapter. If there is anyone out there who is intersted in such things, I would love to chat.

James

Ken McClure said...

James,

You've hit upon a crucial element in Barfield's poetics. Three cheers for grasping that. What, then, is your thesis?

Ken

diamond jim said...

Hi. Poetic Diction is the only book of his I have read, although I have Saving the Appearances and History in English Words.

I can tell you what my thesis is about in 150 words: my abstract. I think it is understandable enough. Here it is, starting with the title. I'd be interested to know if there is anyone else out there who has written similarly.


Understanding the Holistic Nature of Cognition and its Consequences for Science:

A Study of Cognitive Development using Goethe's Phenomenological Method.



ABSTRACT :

This thesis integrates embodied cognition and cognitive semantics with Goethe’s phenomenological method, in a lateral study of cognition seeking the relationship between holistic and reductionist thought. A cognitive law is found, governing both methods of finding meaning. This law is a fractal-like sequence of four progressively conscious cognitive facilities: reason, imagination, insight, and intuition. Each leads to a form of lawfulness differing in scope, and in its emphasis, characteristic of a particular world-view. “Reason” develops in childhood from the logic of solid bodies. This logic considers a whole as the sum of its parts—its application epitomizing reductionism. “Intuition” is formalized in metaphor-use, which recognizes lawfulness in the image-like correspondence between phenomena across otherwise disparate domains of experience. Regarding nature, such an understanding is prototypical of holism, while as a manifestation of the same cognitive law, demonstrates the underlying unity of holistic and reductionist thought—validating Goethe’s scientific method.

James

Ken McClure said...

Well, that is genuinely impressive, James. Terms like "embodied cognition" and "cognitive semantics" may be off-putting to a nonspecialist -- they are to this one. But even they may not be entirely opaque, for instance, if disembodied cognition means AI and noncognitive semantics means semantics in domains other than the conventionally linguistic.

The cognitive law that you've found sounds particularly enticing. While the "four progressively conscious cognitive facilities" may speak to the evolution of consciousness and the genesis of consciousness in each of us, I will bet they can be seen to continue to coexist in each of us, and that may speak to the poetry-prose polarity which engenders consciousness. And if the reach of intuition is to be something more than an endless glomming together of elements from otherwise disparate domains, we've got to discover what true metaphors may be; and there's the song they were playing when we came in.

It seems to me, oddly enough, "Goethe's phenomenological method," which should have considerable currency even in our world today, may be your hardest sell. But you might dazzle them sufficiently with "embodied cognition," to get in the door and get to the jury. This sounds like a pearl (or a diamond?) of a master's thesis. Which, in a way, is how Poetic Diction began too.

Let's get this somewhere in cyberspace where the Gutenberg Galaxy still has some sway so others can read it. I will be the first on line to buy a ticket.

Thank you very much.

Ken

diamond jim said...

Hi Ken! Nice comments to wake-up to. I'm a little shy of putting it up, but only because there is so much garbage out there - do you have any suggestions?

"Embodied Cognition" and "Cognitive Semantics" are well-known disciplines in the cognitive sciences. I would say (and do say in my thesis) that Barfield is one of the progenitors of cognitive semantics, and as I recall, it is in the second preface to Poetic Diction that he basically predicts it (along with the materialistic bias). Still, these two disciplines are finding some very good stuff - if straight-jacketed somewhat by Darwinism.

Good comment about recapitulation of the three I's. We may or may not mean the same thing by them, but probably pretty-close. I feel very confident about the cognitive law - and although I do not have the whole chess-board arranged, the solution to the question of a true metaphor falls-out like a... pearl. The thesis is a bit intellectual in places, but overall pretty well-written, I think. It was accepted in August, but I have continued to make some changes - my advisor was too busy to make many editorial comments (things get that way when you are buddies with the likes of the Dali Lama - really). I'd like to rewrite the final chapter still, but would need a month of solid imagination, inspiration and intuition. If you would like a copy, or have some suggestions for getting it on the net, let me know.

Thanks for the feedback. I know nothing of the Barfield culture, but if there is someone out there who is a professor, I'd like to do a PhD.

James

Ken McClure said...

James,

I would indeed like a copy.

There is much to learn about "the Barfield culture," but the best way to do that is through active thinking, and that, I'm happy to say, you're doing.

Thanks,

Ken

diamond jim said...

Hi Ken,

Just give me your email address (?)

James

Ken McClure said...

James,

kkagee@aol.com

I look forward to it.

Ken