Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson

Subject: Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson
From: Richard Wentk (
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 15:54:35 EDT

At 23:21 04/10/2005, you wrote:

>Ok, well that's Jaynes' other criteria: consciousness is an analogical
>simulation of actual behavior. The
>behavioral analogy of c-d is "I went from here to there." (The Jayne's
>stuff I'm quoting from is
>"consciousness and the voices of the mind," 1986, available online.)

Okay, but I'd see that as analogy, not narrative. Analogy can be a *part*
of narrative, but isn't sufficient in itself.

>I would like to know whether amusics -- people who can't understand music
>-- fail to make those
>connections. and I once asked Isabelle Peretz whether she'd examined this
>but she hadn't. It wouldn't
>surprise me if the connectivity narratization were lacking.

I'd wonder how to tell the difference between analogy and narrative in this

For example - if I play a C today and a D tomorrow, the analogy will still
be there. But I'd guess the direct experience won't be. So what's changed?
Apparently it's not just a conceptual simulation, but a somatic one. And if
it's somatic one, it's no longer just about story telling and semantics,
but something else.

>There could be some different explanations. One is that the moral premise
>is simply wrong, as is proved
>by the existence of music.

Um - no. That looks like a circular argument to me. You're assuming musical
narrative exists and then arguing backwards, rather than by defining its
properties first.

>And I think it may be wrong. The moral premise idea seems like the
>evolutionary psychology idea that our minds evolved as they did to confer
>upon us certain
>social advantages. For instance, we know how to reason because it's
>advantageous to be able to detect
>cheaters. The moral premise theory is giving a certain social purpose to
>storytelling -- it's reining us in
>and teaching us right from wrong.

Only in a functional, not a metaphysical sense.

And I don't think any evolutionary psychologist would see the ability to
reason as having roots that are that simple. My take on it is that reason
is an abstraction of narrative. Narrative logic, which tends to be emotive,
eventually leads to questions about the internal consistency of
propositions and their accuracy wrt consensus experience.

So logic is a kind of distillation of narrative with an added element of
reality checking. (Which, incidentally, is why many people will swallow a
good story whole, even when it's nonsense. If narrative comes naturally -
and I think it does - it has an emotive authority all of its own. But
critical thinking and rational modelling are learned skills, and only
innate to a limited extent. Which is why it's so easy to fool so many of
the people so much of the time - they mistake the authoritative pull of
narrative logic for rational modelling and prediction.)

>And as evolutionary psychology has no explanation for music, I find the
>whole theory
>implausible! Music is our main defense against these too-simple theories
>of the mind.

I recommend:

>I've recently become interested in children's games as something related
>to the biolofgical origins
>of music. A simple example of such a game is "rhyming" -- so you see this
>can go pretty far. The narratization of
>a rhyme is nothing more than the expectency that the pattern will be
>pursued -- the rhyme in itself
>gives us pleasure as children or adults in some way that seems to me
>related to the problem of
>object constancy. Psychoanalytically this is easy to explain as being an
>analogy from the disappearance and
>reappearance of mom, so it could value-driven in that way, and bring in
>the universe of morality. Of course
>that's a rather coarse theoretical narratization. Even so I don't see how
>to make the evolutionary psych leap
>(if paid, maybe I could come up with something.)

Don't many rhymes have a moral element? It may not be explicit in a 'Thou
shalt not...' sense, but rhymes tend to have an emotional point to them,
even if it's just vestigial and they sound like nonsense now.

E.g. Ring o roses is supposedly about disease. It's true it doesn't say
anything profound or useful about disease. But I think it *tries* to, which
is more to the point.

Meanwhile elements like rhyme, assonance and alliteration are one of the
few places where the timbre of speech really matters. :-) But it's still
speech operating on two information channels - medium, and semantic
content. Rhyming is about playing tricks with the medium, in the same way
that graphic design plays tricks with typography. Both can make a message
more memorable, but I think their ability to alter semantic content is very

The point again here is that there's a difference between semantic
narrative and what seems to be a purely somatic response to repetition and
relaxation. They're possibly related, but I think it's a stretch to suggest
they're identical.

>So let me put the question to you: what's the moral premise underlying our
>enjoyment of rhymes? Or of
>my favorite nursery rhyme -- "ring a round a rosy?" Does the
>narratization go anywhere? (I think
>I could take both sides on this.) It seems to me that it's the process of
>getting to the end that's critical.

There's also the ritualistic element of doing something together in a
group. Which seems to be an important element in narrative - it's
participatory, even when it appears didactic.


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