The papers discussed in our online seminars are often excellent, but this one is apocalyptic, as well as being an exercise in fine writing. Lee Drummond was once a Chicago anthropology PhD specialising in the Caribbean and later in San Diego's tourist attractions. He taught at McGill University for over a decade before retiring to the wilderness (Palm Springs!). July and August there are his winter when he withdraws into his airconditioned study to avoid the heat. The OAC is a principal beneficiary of this aestivation, as witnessed by the paper attached here. All I can say is you gotta read it, whether or not you participate in the seminar.
Lee's point of departure is Lance Armstrong's confession on the Oprah Winfrey show. The man who perhaps deserves to be known as the greatest American athlete ever admitted taking performance enhancing drugs, thereby triggering an intense public outcry. Lee deconstructs what he takes to be a key feature of the American ideology, the opposition of nature to culture, showing that biology and technology have been inextricably woven together throughout human evolution and even before. If it is impossible to identify the unequal influence of technology in sporting performance, what about other areas of cultural achievement, like literature for example? Should Hemingway's Nobel prize be taken away or Coleridge's poetry eliminated from the canon because they wrote under the influence of mind-altering substances?
Not content with this reductio ad absurdum, Lee then launches into a savage critique of American civilization and of the cultural anthropology it has spawned. Drawing on Marx's happy phrasing in the 18th Brumaire, he argues that the American tragedy (New World genocide) now reappears as farce (reality TV shows), one of which actually replayed the former in a grotesque reenactment of the competitive ideal. Anthropology tends to celebrate cultural achievement around the world, whereas in Lee's view, the current state of American society suggests that culture may be a disease killing off its carriers just as their ancestors once killed off the original inhabitants of what passes for the land of the American dream.
Replies are closed for this discussion.
John, I looked at R for doing this kind of thing. I had developed my organic systems analysis algorithms on a graphical database with a LISP programming environment, but the company started changing the LISP language they supported in ways I could not keep up with, a horrible inconvenience.
I had spent a good thousand hours developing software for, essentially, "looking through the noise" for images of the organic processes hidden by it, to be alerted to and help characterize self-organizing organic processes like cultural developments, to then have more focused questions about. That's what I used to isolate the organic processes in the gamma ray burst records that look like the noisiest possible kind of data. We should talk over the details if it sounds interesting.
That effort to move my work to R failed, however. Like most others I find, that hacker community seems to pride itself in not explaining what anything is for of where to find what you are looking for... The way they learn it largely seems to skip the challenge of learning how to communicate with prose. I'd love to help you go in that general direction, though. Some of my method is just a way of looking at the data, to be alert for emerging continuities. I think software development would benefit from working with a hacker with a creative mind (and willing to speak to non-hackers...) to do and explain the programming.
Mark, I do agree that 'warfare' and 'advertising' share common roots, but I think they probably go even deeper than you suggest. How the creative innovators in each community work is about the same as throughout the general "entrepreneurial" community. They're all people eager to adopt new productivity tools for their particular application taken from wherever they can find them. So, as I see the relation, the techniques for making and using “weaponry” and “livingry” (as Bucky coined it), are two sides of the same coin, and both aim for "overreach" just about wherever they can.
What I find most insidious about advertising is the feedback loop of using business profits to create new consumer appetites. As anything close to "real needs" become satisfied the business model naturally turns to relying on generated demands that serve no need but concentrating wealth and inequities. Most generated demand seems to fall into the category of creating new obsessions and addictions, too, like living for ever greater entertainments, etc.
To me Boulding and Bateson can be faulted for various things, but they were far less successful in controlling the minds of innocent victims, and don't deserve psy-warfare credentials for planting misinformation. They simply didn't have and weren't guided by, the moguls of money needing to make more money, that have more of an effect on "reinterpreting" thing than we often acknowledge.
Boulding may have sought a way to take over the planet with “memetics”, but it seems he overlooked what amazing “memetic creation machines” nearly all people are, so his approach suffered from “dopey Prof.” disease as much as anything, no? It’s a lot easier to take the creative thinking of a dopey Prof. with a grain of salt than gigantic money machines driven to use their control of life to multiply their control of life. I would more likely put people like Skinner, and other neo-Darwinians, in that box, for believing that organic systems don't actually exist, just pressures from different kinds of noise, and promoting methods of pressuring people to change to fit the "ideals of society".
Where I’d agree with you more is on what the social “movements” that used some of the ideas of the early systems thinkers, mixing in all manner of urban mythology, group subjectivity, thoughtless redefinition to avoid complexity, etc. I had a real falling out with one important sustainability community recently, when it became apparent they felt is was a deep insult to their ideals and purposes to learn how to work with nature by studying how nature works.
It so confused me at first, for a long time I didn't realize that was the central problem that caused them to "change the subject" whenever I pointed to how to do it an what the advantages are, ,… Once I "put 2 & 2 together", though, I began seeing evidence of it all over, that "moment of conceptual hesitation" that turns people away from learning by careful observation in general. I can’t extensively characterize it, but it seems “learning by observation” is really antithetical to the ethos of “learning by social agreement”, for LOTS of social groups as far as I can tell.
Do you see any of that?
John, I briefly looked at the link, and have a reaction a little like Mark's to the "fathers of systems science" regarding H.T. Odum, who is indeed treated as a God in most places. I also have a reaction to the Journal itself, for having its title "Currently known as International Journal of General Systems" with it unclear where many of the papers it now collects were originally published... I was part of the "Society for General Systems Research" in the 80'sm till that whole conversation broke down. This is actually the first time I've heard of this journal, though it's presented as if recording the research of that era...
My problem with Odum is that four years ago I found he was the a primary source of the greatest scientific error in sustainability science. He left human beings out of his definitions of businesses as systems, so according to his models none of the people running a business are part of the businesses they run as systems!. Pretty miraculous, no!? Look at his diagrams..
Why he did so can be interpreted a various ways. You could say it's the same reason the cave painters of France had for drawing beautifully rendered images of animals but showing humans as stick figures... You could also say he "caved in to social pressure" or that he was "told to do it by the economists", or because "that's how the data is collected" or other things.
The reality in any case is that his accounting models for ecological and biological systems include all the working parts in the systems in question, and it's only his accounting of businesses as systems that excludes their main working parts, the people... Part of the social pressure is that doing the accounting correctly would upset centuries of category names and data collection, that represent businesses as composed only of materials.
Correcting that was part of the initiate in my Systems Energy Assessment paper, by showing that excluding people from environmental impact accounting commonly causes an 80-90% undercount in the true direct impacts of business operations on the environment. In the month before publication, when my co-authors discovered what we were actually implying, they actually mutinied, conspiring with the journal editor to replace the core of the paper with their ersatz version of the standard accounting model, to avoid pointing out the accounting error that the paper was all about. I had to pull rank and raise havoc with their deans to get it published as intended, though at more than a little cost!
So, one has to closely read these papers and journals with "catchy titles" very closely for the subjects they are avoiding too.
Blind Men, Elephants, Environments
Mark: Do the details matter -- of course! Does the "structure" matter -- of course!
Keith: For me STRUCTURE (and SYSTEM) is the problem.
Ah, but so many structures, so many systems (might one even say “intersystems”?).
Let’s begin by taking up the exchange between Jessie and John, on the parable of the blind men and the elephant. In that discussion John makes the invaluable point that the parable in its classical form depends entirely on an observer enjoying a sort of Archimedean perspective on the scene: Laid out before his all-seeing eyes is the tableau of the elephant patiently standing there while several blind men grope its various body parts. Being all-seeing we as observers are also all-knowing: We find it interesting, even rather quaint, when the blind men provide their discrepant reports – after all, we know the truth. That perspective, of course, is an insupportable conceit. We are not extraterrestrials, and if our subject happens to be, as it is in this case, a group of persons who are interacting, communicating with one another, then our perspective on things, sighted or not, is of a piece with those whose experiences we document and study. And a crucial point here: As observers we inevitably arrive late; God or the elephant has departed and we are left with the Babel of reports about him. We have no privileged position or access to an a priori truth (with apologies to German rationalism); what you see is what you get – and we’re left to make the best of it. If we happen to be hard-headed, objective “scientists,” we will hold ourselves apart from the group discussing their various experiences of the elephant. We will take meticulous notes and photographs, that is, assemble data and from those make logical inferences. If, on the other hand, we happen to belong to that upstart breed of “ethnographers,” we will join the group in its discussions, asking questions, getting answers, asking more questions – in short establishing a polylogue. Whether doctrinaire scientist or liberal ethnographer, our aim will be to “make sense” of the discrepant reports, to identify “patterns” in their accounts – patterns which we may even wish, for whatever reason, to call a “structure” or “system.” ………………………….
Continued from October 30:
The parable, apparently straightforward and dramatic in its description of a situation (as parables are supposed to be; you don’t want an obscure parable, right?), contains blank spots. These are assumptions that, if closely examined, color the whole, diminishing its immediate impact. There is, first of all, the general assumption as to what categories of beings exist that might be described by people, sighted or not. Here it is enough to draw on that children’s guessing game: “Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?”. The blind men and their observer (scientist or ethnographer) are presumed to operate with the same basic categories, to divide up the world in the same way. If the elephant is warm to the touch, moves around while being examined, or, especially, decides to relieve itself while the blind men are in attendance, its inspectors will likely describe it as “animal,” and dismiss the other two major categories.
But things get complicated after that general level of description. Suppose the observer, the blind men, or both had no previous experience with elephants, didn’t know such a creature existed. It is a simple matter to construct such possible, though improbable scenarios. For example, the blind men could be American farmers from the very early 1800s, who had not seen or heard of the first elephant introduced to the United States, while the observer could be an urbane individual who had or had not seen that rare specimen. Here the category, “animal,” would have no ready referent. The blind farmers (there’s a tough job!) would provide discrepant identities of the creature, but their accounts would likely be more knowledgeable than whatever labels the city slicker observer might infer from those accounts.
The crucial, if banal, point here is that observation, description, and communication are not transparent activities; all presuppose the operation of perspective. Looking is not seeing; labeling is not a reflex act. Another crucial point following on this is that perspectives are bundled; individuals and groups possess them, not as random, market-basket accumulations, but as organized sets. The perspectives held by an individual seem to him natural, whole, a way of seeing the world and of living in it. An excellent term for this more-or-less integrated nature of perspective is Umwelt. I like this term because it originates in the close studies of animal behavior by Jakob von Uexküll early in the 20th Century and has migrated successfully into social theory by way of Erving Goffman and semiotics in the work of Thomas Sebeok. The concept thus has a fairly long pedigree and enjoys diverse and highly distinguished support. Since Umwelt and Umwelten are central to approaches in ethology, social analysis, and semiotics, the terms are immune to charges of being hopelessly prejudiced in favor of either naïve realism or starry-eyed idealism. In my view the concept provides a sound foundation for ethnography and the anthropological theory that issues from it.
In the context of our seminar the concept of Umwelt is also important because its direct translation is “environment.” Living things, including humans, exist in a perceptual-conceptual web that constitutes their world, that is “reality.” In our discussions Mark has emphasized the importance of “environment” for understanding the digital transformation of life – how might his usage articulate with that I’ve outlined here?
To come: “Hero with More Than a Thousand Faces”
Meanwhile, here comes BIG DATA! Now every time someone generalizes from an ethnographic case or bit of cultural analysis, someone else will be able to check that generalization's plausibility. Won't work all the time. Relations between generalizations and observable events need to be worked out, and the available data may or may not be relevant. But in a growing number of cases, BS (bovine excrement) will be easily detectable. Interesting times. Interesting times.
Jessie, you write,
Like most others I find, that hacker community seems to pride itself in not explaining what anything is for of where to find what you are looking for... The way they learn it largely seems to skip the challenge of learning how to communicate with prose. I'd love to help you go in that general direction, though.
Thank you so much for the kind thought. Purely serendipitously, the focus of my effort just as this moment is what I call my Little Book of Pajek. It addresses precisely the gap between what is, in fact, an excellent introductory textbook Exploratory Social Network Analysis with Pajek, which provides a good introduction both to the software and to basic concepts in social network analysis but stops at the level of toy examples, and the Pajek Manual, which is inscrutable in precisely the ways you attribute to the R community. My little book will be a case study of a researcher using some of the software's basic features to explore a middling large two-mode affiliation network (7018 Creators, 3634 Ads, 22,719 Roles connecting them) and focused on three sets of basic questions.
It turns out there's a lot you can learn, but to do so requires knowing which data objects to create or generate and what procedures to use in what particular order—none of which is covered in either the introductory textbook nor the highly technical manual.
In sum, my current task is like writing a small cookbook that gets you beyond here is how to boil water and doesn't jump you immediately to adding Hollandaise sauce (while assuming that you already know how to make the sauce).
That's why formal causality is captured succinctly in the phrase "The Medium (i,e. the communications environment) is the Message (i.e. the effect that causes your life).
'The medium is the message' is a bold phrase that draws some of its life from similar bold assertions such as Marx' that the ideology is (results from) the mode of production. Like all symbolic statements of this kind, it sits on ambiguity, since we know perfectly well that the communications medium does not determine our lives, however powerful an element of them it can be. I have always liked Lee's notion of intersystems that unfold in relation to other intersystems; people occupy perspectives (partly as a means of self-preservation) and they find it frustrating that others don't occupy the same view, but that does not mean that their lives are determined by the perspectives they take; after all, they created those views and they can adapt them. Jessie finds it frustrating that scientists and others cannot understand her perspective on natural systems - but perhaps it is fair to ask 'why would they not be wilful in that way?'
Below is an image of upper palaeolithic cave engravings in Addaura Italy. The medium is stone incision onto a stone surface. The message is clearly impressive but, ultimately ambiguous. What are these figures doing; holding a ritual? dancing? acrobatics? What perspective is being indexed? I agree with Mark that a purely analytical or dialectical approach - say one that works from data sets, takes us almost nowhere. Formal analysis of the medium itself tells us relatively little. We do, however, have the experience of the use of our own bodies; that gives an intuitive/imaginative foundation for an interpretation: we know the poise of the man lower left from having held a pose like that ourselves - it 'feels' like he is getting ready to run and jump. And we know what it is to gesture a line indicating a movement as the engraver or engravers have done here. This is quite distinct from our awareness of the special medium in which this particular arrangement has been expressed. We know that these are human beings like ourselves engaged in gestures we know well, but the semantics we will never know. Far more of human life is like that than we might readily admit.
What *is* our PERSPECTIVE and where did it come from? The "Umwelt" in which we live was (largely) crafted by the English Protestants in the 17th/18th/19th centuries, with very important additions from the German Protestants. America *is* the greatest "export" from this Protestant Unwelt, with Russia being the second greatest (largely from the German side.) But where did their perspective come from? All this was under the *formal* impact of the "environment" of the printing-press (more on this in my reply to Lee below.)
From the days of Britiania Rules the Waves (having defeated Spain et al) to the COLD WAR (being fought between the Eastern and Western "exports" of the same Protestant powers that brought us WW I and WW II and its surrounding colonialism), world history has been the *direct* result the over-powering reach of these two *imperial* powers -- England and Germany. Why do you think English is the Lingua-Franca of the Internet?
Where did CAPITALISM come from? Where did COMMUNISM come from? Where did INDUSTRIALISM come from? (Not Islam, not Catholics, not Hindus, not Confucians not anyone else, including the Jews). ALL from the same Protestant *UMWELT* . . . !!
So, what were the Protestants PROTESTING about? And, what are they *still* protesting about? What did they want instead? A "better world"?
What they were (and are) upset about is imperfection. Impurity. Uncleanness. Ungodliness. In short, human *nature* was the target of all their efforts and still is -- since, having been "made in the image of God" (but not actually God themselves) humans have free-will and, therefore, can choose "evil." The Protestants don't like that. Not at all.
Since the Protestants wrote the history (in English), it's damned difficult to find anything *honest* about any of this. If the person writing the history is themselves staging a "protest" (whether they know it or not), then their history will not accurately reflect the situation against which they are taking a "moral" stance. Their "perspective" will get in the way every time. And, if they don't try to figure out where *perspectives* come from (starting with their own) then they will only compound their own errors.
One of the only HONEST historians I've found in the English language (alas, the only one I can read) is Hilary Belloc, who happened to be a "mentor" to Marshall McLuhan. He was known to "everyone" in the Anglophonic world in the early 20th century but is rarely read today. Yes, the Protestants wrote him out of the "canon." <g>
Belloc made an "important observation" in passing that John Calvin was the "descendant" of the Cathars. For those with a smattering of "comparative religion" this comment will likely seem quite odd. For those with a deeper understanding of European religious history, after some meditation, it will likely make a lot of sense.
The Cathars (from the Greek for "pure") were the "original" Protestants. Obsessed with PERFECTION (which they considered becoming God-like, while still, technically, human), their "sacrament" (yes, the "formal cause" of their religion) was called the "Consolamentum" and those who went through it were called "Perfecti." For many of them, even eating was "impure," so they soon starved to death.
Typically associated with Southern France and Northern Italy, in fact, they were all over the place, Germany was shot-full of little "Catharist" groups as was England. The English Civil War was, in many ways, a "Catharist" uprising, drawing from "protesters" all over the Continent, which was then submerged in the 30 Years War. The resulting Calvinist Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony were their descendants. So are the Quakers, who were too radical for the Puritans, so they were pushed off to the fringes -- like the Berkshires and Nantucket -- as well as founding Pennsylvania and later becoming the tip-of-the-spear for the British Empire worldwide as "missionaries."
Kenneth Boulding -- who I know was a friend of your father, so I apologize for any insult in what I'm saying -- was a 20th century Quaker MYSTIC. That makes him a SUPER Protestant. That means he believed that *his* "inner light" was actually the voice of GOD. That's *exactly* were this whole problem begins. (Btw, Bucky Fuller had a similar problem.)
I never said that he was "effective" in his own personal efforts. Peace Research doesn't happen much anymore and SDS is long gone. Yes, he *was* a wacky professor! But his Protestant UMWELT (typically in milder forms) is still the one that "rules" our world.
Bateson, a descendant from a long-line of "atheists," was so much of a English "dissenter" that his family's "protest" was off-the-charts. His father helped "invent" genetics, so that humanity could be PURIFIED through *eugenics* and the son became a "disciple" of Count Alfred Korkybski's "Human Engineering" movement (aka "General Semantics," that sought to use language to "perfect" humanity through language.) He helped Neuro-linguistic Programming (i.e. self-brainwashing) get off the ground and was deeply involved many *military* projects to eliminate (and-or take advantage of) human weaknesses. For Bateson, LSD and linguistics were meant to "purify" humanity. Same problem.
Boulding and Bateson were modern-day Cathars and our version of the most dedicated Protestants. This doesn't mean that we need to dig them up and set their corpses on fire but we had better be able to recognize them for what they were! They (and those like them) are ones who continued to f*ck things up in our lifetimes. For the same reasons.
I agree that Umwelt is a very useful term (which is why I borrowed it to address Jessie), even if it comes from German Protestants. <g>
However, the social Umwelt is "formally" caused (not "determined," which is efficient causality) by our communications technologies. Cave walls and the Internet produce different "perspectives." Ethnography among people who watch television (as done by Danny Miller, for instance) will tell you more about the effects of television than it will about the people involved. Enter Lance and Oprah et al -- stage right.
If the "observer" doing the ethnography understands this, great. Biases such as "naive realism" and "starry-eyed idealism" are themselves products of the same technological biases. There's no escaping this conundrum unless you "understand media."
This, in turn, cannot be done unless credit is given to an actual REALITY that "lies beyond" all these observer-biases. It was the denial of that reality by people like William of Ockham that set-up the great 13th century *metaphysical* debates -- occurring when the first Christian Universities developed, thus the first opportunity for such arguments in Christendom (i.e. the Greco-Roman culture we call the "West") -- that got the PROTEST (over "purity") ball rolling.
Ockham claimed there was no *reality* because if there was such a thing then GOD's powers would be limited (since He couldn't just change history or the laws of science whenever He wanted to)! This stance put him in bed with the Cathars, who, by then had morphed into the Spiritual Franciscans in Italy and, when he was brought-up-on-charges, Ockham high-tailed it off to Munich with the "dissenters" of his day.
Nihilism has always been in bed with the "perfecti." The fact that the MAP isn't the TERRITORY doesn't mean that there are no mountains or rivers. The fact that we are *all* SINNERS (i.e. imperfect) doesn't mean that SAINTS (i.e. the recipients of Divine Grace) don't *really* exist.
We all agree that the mentality of those living in the Upper Paleolith was *radically* different from ours, right? They were biological humans, just like us, but since their UMWELT was "stone" (and not "steel" -- which, of course, is my name -- or television or the Internet), they didn't *think* like us at all. Here is where Merlin Donald comes in.
However, having more-or-less the same bodies, they were able to generate more-or-less the same postures as we do. Standing, Kneeing, Sitting and Lying-down are the four postures that Eric McLuhan (my friend and Marshall's son) decided to write about with the professional MIME, Wayne Constantineau (and Heidi Overhill), in a series of four books called the "Human Equation Toolkit."
I highly recommend them (and if I were more proficient in their insights, would be quoting them in this discussion.) Only three have been published but if you enter "Human Equation McLuhan" into Amazon, you'll find them -- then just LOOK INSIDE! <g>
I highly recommend them (and if I were more proficient in their insights, would be quoting them in this discussion.) Only three have been published but if you enter "Human Equation McLuhan" into Amazon, you'll find them -- then just LOOK INSIDE! <g>
That book looks a lot of fun, thanks: but isn't the implication that we have a medium, our body, that cuts across the particular medium of the internet, of the printed book, of the television of the scratch and sniff sticker; and that all these cut across (and open vistas on) each other, rather than that one of them 'produces' or 'causes' all? Perhaps I am misunderstanding you. So, there is at least one aspect of upper palaeolithic mentality which is not alien to us: this was what I was gesturing at.
Might be worth pointing out, just to be a little contrary, that purification seems to be a feature of all religions at a degree of institutionalisation and that apocalyptic protest/ eschatology were features of life in Galilee before Christianity was appeared. The pharisees perhaps got it from the Zoroaster and so on; the end of the world has been going on for a long time. Doesn't God tell Job that it is none of his business inquiring into how or why the universe is the way it is? That is bound to get people down. Meanwhile, the Spanish were surprised to find that the Incas already had a highly developed practice of public confession of sins, which they did in family groups. The protestant configuration of all this is fairly unique of course, but the elements aren't; they seem to have been invented independently in a variety of places.
From what I can make out from the LOOK INSIDE at the Human Equation books by Eric McCluhan, most of what is there is anticipated by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh. Having written in the introduction,
The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought is mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.
These are three major findings of cognitive science. More than two millennia of a priori speculation about these aspects are over. Because of these discoveries, philosophy can never be the same again. (p. 3)
Lakoff and Johnson continue a few paragraphs later with a series of statements about Reason, traditionally held to be the distinguishing feature of humanity (p. 4)
Reason is not disembodied, as the tradition has largely held, but arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experience. This is not just the innocuous and obvious claim that we need a body to reason; rather, it is the striking claim that the very structure of reason itself comes from the details of our embodiment. The same neural and cognitive mechanisms that allow us to perceive and move around also create our conceptual systems and modes of reason.....
Reason is evolutionary, in that abstract reason builds on and makes use of forms of perceptual and motor inference present in "lower" animals. The result is a Darwinism of reason, a rational Darwinism: Reason, even it is most abstract form, makes use of, rather than transcends, our animal nature. The discovery that reason is evolutionary utterly changes our relation to other animals and changes our conception of human beings as uniquely rational. Reason is thus not an essence that separates us from other animals; rather, it places us on a continuum with them.
Reason is not "universal" in the transcendent sense; that is, it is not part of the structure of the universe. It is universal, however, in that it is a capacity shared universally by all human beings. What allows it to be shared are the commonalities that exist in the way our minds are embodied.
Reason is not completely conscious, but mostly unconscious.
Reason is not purely literal, but largely metaphorical and imaginative.
Reason is not dispassionate, but emotionally engaged.
If this rather large, 600+ page book seems too much to tackle, much of what is written here is suggested in Lakoff and Johnson's earlier and much slimmer volume Metaphors We Live By. (2003 is the second edition).
Also of interest is the following, one of my notes from Chapter 8 "Telling by Hand" in Ingold's Making.
From Making: Anthropology, Archeology, Art and Architecture.
"It is a fact, declared Michael Polanyi, introducing a series of lectures on The Tacit Dimension, ‘that we can know more than we can tell (Polanyi 1966:4). Polanyi was referring to those ways of knowing and doing that grow through the experience and practice of a craft, but which adhere so closely to the person of the practitioner as to remain out of reach of explication or analysis. His argument was that knowledge of the sort that can be rendered formally and self-consciously explicit is but the tip of an iceberg compared with the immense reservoir of know-how that lies beneath the surface and without which nothing could be practicably accomplished.”
“Whereas Polanyi, however, was primarily interested in what it means to know, my concern just now is with what it means to tell. In his reflections on the nature of personal knowledge, Polanyi seems to have assumed that telling is tantamount to putting what what knows into words, in speech or writing, and that this entails to things: specification and articulation. Thus he regards as the unspecifiable part of knowledge ’the residue left unsaid by defective articulation’ (Polanyi 1958:88). In this chapter I want to argue, to the contrary, that we can tell of what we know through practice and experience, precisely because telling is itself a modality of performance that abhors articulation and specification. It follows that personal knowledge is not quite as tacit as Polanyi thought.”
“….What remains unspoken need not be left unvoiced; nor need what remains unwritten be left without any inscriptive trace. Moreover, what is not explicated may still find expression in spoken or written words. As anthropologists who have worked with skilled practitioners are all too aware, their mentors are often inclined to expound upon their crafts vociferously and at very great length.”
"The protestant configuration of all this is fairly unique of course, but the elements aren't . . ." Correct!
The Protestant "configuration" is unique in many ways -- starting with the fact that it is OUR configuration!
It was also a "protest" against a couple millennia of Greco/Roman/Christian society, coming from that Mediterranean culture's geographic periphery -- so it was an "opposition" that expressed the long-simmering "barbarian vs. civility" inherent in European history.
It was also a movement that seized power (and property) from an earlier "priesthood" -- removing itself from the constraints of "tradition" and, therefore, setting itself up for (and implicitly placing itself as the instigator of) massive social upheaval. Oh yeah, then there's the "minor" matter of *regicide*!
It was also a movement that was explicit about its intent to use TECHNOLOGY to provoke those changes -- as reflected in the Invisible College, which became the Royal Society of London etc -- self-consciously thinking of itself as authorized for the unfettered use of *engineering* to "architect" the totality of the "landscape," thereby building a Garden of Eden in which the "chosen" could enjoy the End-of-Times.
And, crucially, it was based on a printed book (so that everyone could have a copy and read it silently, in private) that in its final "chapter" spelled out how all this was going to happen, with the inerrant certainty of the voice of the one-and-only God, who had sent his one-and-only Son to *redeem* us. Now if that's not a FINAL cause (lending itself to a "final solution"), then Armageddon isn't a monkey's-uncle.
Yes, I'd say that's a pretty unique configuration . . . <g>
As I've said before, the closest we have to a modern reflection of this collection of book-induced cluster of 17th century behaviors and attitudes is probably The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons.) If you needed any further illustration of how all this persists, note that the USA came very close to electing one of them as President *last* year -- whose candidacy was likely only defeated because many "evangelical" Protestants consider Mormonism to be a "cult" and 3M+ of them abstained from voting.