Re: Narrative and Semantic (I)

Subject: Re: Narrative and Semantic (I)
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Tue Oct 11 2005 - 17:54:58 EDT

Richard Wentk wrote:

> At 09:18 11/10/2005, you wrote:
>> That was Richard with whom I differ in our location of primitive or
>> Urmind, which I locate in dreaming,
>> hallucination, or in a state of objectless affect that could be like
>> the baby mind in utero.
>> I think you can get the life-useful adaptations from that.
> How? I have no problems with dreaming or hallucination, but surely
> there has to be some relationship to reality otherwise they're the
> definition of non-adaptive.

The problem is how to grow a mind. We all accept this begins in the
womb, where
there's not much else to do but dream and hallucinate. Whatever else
mind does has
that as its basis.

There's no good theory of why we dream, or why we sleep. Someone says of
dream "it's a rehearsal strategy" but that's
some guy whose concept of the mind is that it's structured a bit like

My short view is that sleeping and dreaming IS basically what a mind
does. It turns
out that the machine so outfitted can also invent symphonies, microwave
popcorn etc.

How it so turns out I don't exactly know, or I haven't thought about it
sufficently, or
I can't see what advantage a theory of this kind would confer on me.

>> Music is, I think, more about dreaming and hallucination than about
>> things that help us learn to speak but
>> whose intrinisc merit seems questionable, a mere bag of tricks.
> There isn't necessarily a contradiction here. It seems there's a
> fairly straightforward path from the vocal noises other animals make
> to the ones humans make.

Not so -- animals don't do recursion, as I learned from Mark Hauser.
We're not sure
how to get there from what animals can do.

This applies to human music as well, since human music is recursive.

> But as far as anyone knows, bird song, dog barks and chimp hoots
> aren't primarily about dreaming and hallucination.

We don't know that music is related to hoots and barks. That presents
music as a kind of communication
system, wheras I see music as an induction system -- it's a kind of

We can make music entirely for ourselves, but music's social meaning is
that "others find it pleasing." Minimally,
social music has to induce the feeling of being "pleased," however
that materializes.

In the same way, music-making animals, to be musically social, would
have to do what they do
as a way of pleasing other animals.

By the way, I had a long dream where I was talking to a really
intelligent crow. That is to say,
I expect the best of animals.

>> This leaves open the problem how music does create feeling, whereas
>> I'm not sure what sort of
>> problems Richard's analysis raises which may be favorable to the
>> development of a
>> theortical understanding of music.
> Does a dog bark create feeling in other dogs?

It probably does. When we hear music, we don't think "gosh -- someone is
around, signalling to
me that they want to dig in the mud!" We feel: "oh my, what pleasant
music." If the dog feeling
is irreducable to a social signal, then perhaps the bark is like music.
But I
suspect the dog does reduce. Its musical world, I'd guess, has more to
do with smell than with
hearing, that is, smell may operate in a domain of non-signifying

>> Music is one of the mind's codes. In that capacity it comes first. I
>> don't need to reduce it to other things, like speech.
> Have you read Mithen yet? ;)

No, and from what I read of his explanation of cave-paintings I may not.
I find the evolutionary psych
people are doing a stupendously poor job of getting some basic
characterization going of what the thing
they think needs explaining is.

-- eliot

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