Object as Society - Point 5
The best way to show how our common concept of object should better be conceived as a society is to illustrate by examples. Think of a chair, a green wooden chair in, say, Marburg, Germany. We might imagine that the people who use it think that it should be kept in different locations in a room and always tend to move it in contrary directions. We can imagine that an earlier decorator imagined that it should be used in conjunction with other decorations but that a new decorator is using new schemes that are not favorable to the continued use of the chair. We can imagine a wood specialist coming in to give an accurate assessment of the strength, degree of dryness, list of imperfections, glue qualities and so on.
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And we can imagine the same wood specialist coming in a year later with slightly different measurements but with some reservations about one or more meters and their accuracy under certain conditions. Now imagine that a baby thinks the chair is the best place to hide a doll or that a house dog prefers to sleep under the chair. There also might be a household story in which the chair plays an important part. And there is the history of the chair that could include a manufacturer's certificate of origin. And on top of all these connections and attempts to fix the identity of the chair the matter of the chair is changing--a crack is wider than the way we remembered it, stains show where new materials have mixed with the wood and paint. And then there are the studies on wood and the type of wood used in the chair that are scattered around the libraries of the world and that have a bearing on what "is" this chair.
This fictional list for a fictional green, German chair can be used for any actual chair with virtually unlimited factors adding, subtracting or coloring what the chair actually "is." The point is that the "chair" is a batch of properties of indefinable limits and that these are ever changing.
"What is wrong with the notion of objects existing 'independently' of conceptual schemes is that there are no standards for the use of even the logical notions apart from conceptual choices." Putnam, Hilary. Representation and Reality. Bradford, 198?, p.114.
"Dynamic objectivity aims at a form of knowledge that grants to the world around us its independent integrity but does so in a way that remains cognizant of, indeed relies on, our connectivity with that world. In this, dynamic objectivity is not unlike empathy, a form of knowledge of other persons that draws explicitly on the commonality of feelings and experience in order to enrich one's understanding of another in his or her own right. ... Dynamic objectivity is thus a pursuit of knowledge that makes use of subjective experience (Piaget calls it consciousness of self) in the interests of a more effective objectivity." Reflections on Gender and Science, Evelyn Fox Keller, Yale, 1985, p. 117.
"What is an elephant's trunk? What is it phylogenetically? What did genetics tell it to be?
"As you know, the answer is that the elephant's trunk is his 'nose.' (Even Kipling knew!) And I put the word 'nose' in quotation marks because the trunk is being defined by an internal process of communication in growth. The trunk is a 'nose' by a process of communication: it is the context of the trunk that identifies it as a nose. That which stands between two eyes and north of a mouth is a 'nose,' and that is that. It is the context that fixes the meaning, and it must surely be the receiving context that provides meaning for the genetic instructions. When I call that a 'nose and this a 'hand' I am quoting--or misquoting--the developmental instructions in the growing organism, and quoting what the tissues which received the message thought the message intended.
"There are people who would prefer to define noses by their 'function'--that of smelling. But if you spell out those definitions, you arrive at the same place using a temporal instead of a spatial context. You attach meaning to the organ by seeing it as playing a given part in sequences of interaction between creature and environment. I call that a temporal context. The temporal classification cross-cuts the spatial classification of contexts. But in embryology, the first definition must always be in terms of formal relations. The fetal trunk cannot, in general, smell anything. Embryology is formal.
"Let me illustrate this species of connection, this connecting pattern, a little further by citing a discovery of Goethe's. He was a considerable botanist who had great ability in recognizing the nontrivial (i.e., in recognizing the patterns that connect). He straightened out the vocabulary of the gross comparative anatomy of flowering plants. He discovered that a 'leaf' is not satisfactorily defined as 'a flat green thing' or a 'stem' as 'a cylindrical thing.' The way to go about the definition--and undoubtedly somewhere deep in the growth processes of the plant, this is how the matter is handled--is to note that buds (i.e. baby stems) form in the angles of leaves. From that, the botanist constructs the definitions on the basis of the relations between stem, leaf, bud, angle, and so on.
"'A stem is that which bears leaves.'
'A leaf is that which has a bud in its angle.'
'A stem is what was once a bud in that position,'"
Bateson, Gregory. Mind and Nature. Bantam. 1980. pp. 16-18.
“Alternative worlds are, in Aristotle’s eyes, strictly disjunctive; and since ours exists, they do not. Our universe is unique, and nothing in it could profitably be taken out of its context and examined under ideal, non-existence conditions. These are the deeper reasons why Aristotle was not willing, as Clauberg rightly observed, to see things ‘as they are in themselves’ but always insisted that we should see them ‘as they are in respect to each other.’” Funkenstein, Amos. Theology and the Scientific Imagination From the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century. Princeton University Press. 1986. p. 163-4.
SEE ALSO QUOTES UNDER POINT 1
See above at "General Elaboration."
The “society” of what has been called object and subject is the most salient society from which to view the compact of mind and matter. Every object exists as object by being embedded in a subject’s patterns of relevance. An object is an adaptation into our relations, a domesticated partner, an agreement. “It” is a society by its multiplicity of relatability.
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Page updated 3/5/03