Lifescape and Conceptscape - Point 7
What is important to convey here is a different way of handling the map and territory metaphor. This metaphor reflects the fantasy that the problem is one of ignorance and accuracy; the maps are our error-prone illusions and the territory is what is really out there.
The challenges of today do not involve elusive accuracy; there is more than enough studies and data around to get very precise accuracy. The challenge today is with coordinating meaning and using it to give us more satisfaction. The concepts of lifescape and conceptscape parse the world differently into the 1) the sum of all actual meaning of all people and creatures irregardless of its accuracy as a given fact of existence and 2) the shared meaning that we construct and enjoy with others. The first is the lifescape and the second the conceptscape.
This Page, this Point:
The notion of lifescape is important in order to simply acknowledge the existence of the vast, idiosyncratic and always intrusive nexus of relationships that living creatures, especially humans, have woven into the world. Before rushing off to debate any specific issues it is better to just behold the enormity of the subtle connections, the unconscious connections, the dependencies, the biases, the myriad wishes, cultural predilections, unlikely associations, strange viewpoints that actually exist. This initial assessment makes sense of meaning and knowledge as natural aspects of the environment. Relationships exist; we make them; all creatures make them; they have effects irregardless of any questions of legitimacy or accuracy; there are more of them than we will ever be able to manage even for ourselves. Looking at the dense web of meaning, the lifescape, is an acceptance of our enormous creativity and ignorance at the same time. We cannot help making meaning; our meaning will hopelessly far from any normative, central rightness. The lifescape shows that meaning shares the conditions of our physical thermodynamic drift to entropy and our physical-logical conditions of uncertainty. By being able to refer to this large reservoir of actual and overflowing meaning relationships, we will gain a sane reservoir where we can leave our disputes of truth to gain a fallow fields enrichment of what actually matters to us.
The notion of conceptscape is intended to form a background ecology to culture and shared meanings. Each friendship, each group, each culture and each disciplinary field can be seen as their own societies or even from the viewpoint of systems theory as systems within the lifescape. Each of our subsocieties feeds off meaning to build and maintain itself. The conceptscape is the shared meaning ecology where groups process meaning in particular ways and with particular characteristics similar to how biological species process energy and matter in unique ways. In contrast to an impossibly large actual lifescape the conceptscape points to the many collectivities, particularly human groups, which have assembled self-supporting concepts, relationships and practices. Concepts too are embodied, but in groups rather than in individuals. These concepts are interdependent with the group's needs, dependencies, assumptions, history and so forth. But the point is not to say that any group's concepts are undone by their social class, by their cultural biases or by some such but to simply acknowledge that shared meaning is, as for personal knowledge, to some inextricable degree intertwined with the group's identity and conditions of existence. This shifts the social debates of today to: how are a group's beliefs tied to other aspects of its meaning and existence, how healthy is any given group and how can we get along that group. All these questions are first or second person points of view rather than third person points of view that attack groups from afar or that undermine groups from the presumption of special places of judgment.
“Neither totalizing structures that repress differences or oppositional differences that exclude commonality are adequate in the plurality of worlds that constitute the postmodern condition. To think what post-structuralism leaves unthought is to think a nontotalizing structure that nonetheless acts as a whole. Such a structure would be neither a universal grid organizing opposites nor a dialectical system synthesizing opposites but a seamy web in which what comes together is held apart and what is held apart comes together. This web is neither subjective nor objective and yet is the matrix in which all subjects and objects are formed, deformed, and reformed. In the postmodern culture of simulacra, we are gradually coming to realize that complex communication webs and information networks, which function holistically but not totalistically, are the milieu in which everything arises and passes away.” Taylor, Mark C. The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. University of Chicago. 2001. p. 11.
“Different theorists tend to approach society from one perspective or the other. Someone like John Rawls would, implicitly at least, consider society from a lifeworld prespective, looking for the overlapping consensus that participants in a political community might share and communicatively reproduce. Conversely, theorists such as Emile Durkheim and Niklas Luhmann adopt, indeed develop, the systems-theoretic approach, ‘realistically’ looking at the constraints and imperatives that various subsystems impose upon social actors....
“Yet even as he integrates both the lifeworld and the system perspective into his analysis, Habermas notices that there has been an increasing differentiation or decoupling between the system and life-world aspects of society.” McAfee, Noelle. Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship. Cornell U. Press. 2000. p. 86-7.
"Almost invisibly to consciousness, conceptual blending choreographs vast networks of conceptual meaning, yielding cognitive products that, at the conscious level, appear simple. The way we think is not the way we think we think. Everyday thought seems straightforward, but even our simplest thinking is astonishingly complex." Facuconnier, Gilles and Mark Turner. The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. Basic Books. 2002. p. v.
“Rather than representations being the primary locus of understanding, they are similarly islands in the sea of our unformulated practical grasp on the world.”
“Seeing that our understanding resides first of all in our practices involves attributing an inescapable role to the background. The connection figures, in different ways, in virtually all the philosophies of the contemporary counter-current to epistemology, and famously, for example, in Heidegger and Wittgenstein.” Taylor, Charles. “To Follow a Rule...” Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. University of Chicago Press. 1993. p. 50.
"That is to say, every social contact is understood as a system, up to and including society as the inclusion of all possible contacts." Luhmann, Niklas. Social Systems. Stanford University Press. 1995. p. 15.
“It [communication by linguistic reference only] is theoretically inadequate, as demonstrated by the philosophers Wittgenstein and Quine, and it is empirically inadequate in many ways, perhaps especially its inability to account for the acquisition and use of linguistic symbols whose connections to the perceptual world are tenuous at best, that is to say, most linguistic symbols that are not proper names or basic level nouns (e.g. verbs, prepositions, articles, conjunctions). We must therefore explicitly acknowledge the theoretical point that linguistic reference is a social act in which one person attempts to get another person to focus her attention on something in the world. And we must also acknowledge the empirical fact that linguistic reference can only be understood within the context of certain kinds of social interactions that I will call joint attentional scenes.
“Joint attentional scenes are social interactions in which the child and the adult are jointly attending to some third thing, and to one another’s attention to that third thing, for some reasonably extended length of time....
“The first essential feature concerns what is included in joint attentional scenes. On the one hand, joint attentional scenes are not perceptual events; they include only a subset of things in the child’s perceptual world. On the other hand, joint attentional scenes are also not linguistic events; they contain more things than those explicitly indicated in any set of linguistic symbols. Joint attentional scenes thus occupy a kind of middle ground–an essential middle ground of socially shared reality–between the larger perceptual world and smaller linguistic world. The second essential feature needing emphasis is the fact that the child’s understanding of a joint attentional scene includes as an integral element the child herself and her own role in the interaction conceptualized from the same ‘outside’ perspective as the other person and the object so that they are all in a common representational format–which turns out to be of crucial importance for the process of acquiring a linguistic symbol.” Tomasello, Michael. The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Harvard University Press. 1999. p. 97-8.
“The point is not that language creates ex nihilo the ability to categorize, to perspectivize, or to make analogies or metaphors. That is impossible because language depends on these skills, and they may be present in basic form in either nonhuman primates or prelinguistic infants. But what has happened is that in collaboration over historical time human beings have created an incredible array of categorical perspectives and construals on all kinds of objects, events, and relations, and then they have embodied them in their systems of symbolic communication called natural languages. As children develop ontogenetically, they use their basic skills of categorization, perspective-taking, and relational thinking–in concert with their ability to comprehend the adult’s communicative intentions–to learn the use of the relevant symbolic forms. This enables them to take advantage of a vast number of categories and analogies that other members of their culture have seen fit to create and symbolize, and that they very likely would never have thought to create on their own.” Tomasello, Michael. The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Harvard University Press. 1999. p. 170.
“There is agreement within the discipline [of sociology] today that the point of departure for all systems-theoretical analysis must be the difference between system and environment. Systems are oriented by their environment not just occasionally and adaptively, but structurally, and they cannot exist without an environment. They constitute and maintain themselves by creating and maintaining a difference from their environment, and they use their boundaries to regulate this difference. Without difference from an environment, there would not even be self-reference, because difference is the functional premise of self-referential operations. In this sense, boundary maintenance is system maintenance.” Luhmann, Niklas. “The Autopoiesis of Social Systems” in Essays on Self-Reference. Columbia University Press. 1990. Quoted in: Taylor, Mark C. The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. University of Chicago. 2001. p. 91.
"To begin with, we could say that reality is that which is immediate. Yet this immediacy itself refers to two different realities: the one temporal, the other factual.
“The first has to do with the reality of the present. This reality is quite strong and has abolished a part of yesterday’s reality, but it is also very weak, as it will itself be partially abolished by the reality of tomorrow.”
“...The factual meaning of the term reality refers to situations, facts, and events that are visible in the present. Yet perceptible facts and events often hide facts or events that go unperceived and can even hide a still invisible reality.” Morin, Edgar. Homeland Earth: A Manifesto for a New Millennium. 1999. Hampton Press. p. 99-100.
The public space of our traditional social life should be separated like meaning and knowledge into the radical sum of all actual meaning in the environment and into the aware space discovered and usable in public interaction. The names coined for these are the lifescape and the conceptscape. The conceptscape corresponds closely to culture with the only difference being that the conceptscape is much more inclusive and includes not only small subcultures but also even the “cultures” of individuals. The lifescape, the web of all meaning of all creatures stands between the aware sphere of the conceptscape and the sum of all possibilities, the physical space. We can never leave the conceptscape but the lifescape can grow into physical space and the conceptscape can grow into both.
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Page updated 3/5/03