Dialogue and Universalism

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1/2013

CULTURE, COMMUNICATION AND COGNITION

 

 

EDITORIAL

 

 

PHILOSOPHY AT THE CROSSROADS: BUILDING BRIDGES BETWEEN MEDIA, COMMUNICATION AND COGNITION

   In an attempt to explain what mind is and how it works, the twentieth century philosophy turned to language. The linguistic turn in philosophy means relinquishing mentalist vocabulary in favour of explanations depicting thought in terms of linguistic activity. Rather than study pure thought, ideas or representations, philosophers elect to talk about language, the meaning of words and sentences, their syntax and points of reference. Since the early 20th century, researchers in various fields of humanities have highlighted the fact that language is neither a transparent vehicle for knowledge nor a neutral instrument of its generation. At the very root of the linguistic turn lies the general conviction that the medium of cognition and communication exerts significant influence on the cognitive process as such. It seems, however, that traditional philosophies of language, mind and science have failed to derive the ultimate consequence from this line of thought. Generally speaking, media as such, with the possible exception of language understood as a public system of representation, lie outside the scope of interest of philosophers of mind and philosophers of language. In particular, the cognitive value of writing and literacy remains highly underappreciated, despite the fact that most philosophical work actually takes place on paper. The failure to consider writing (and other media) as an important factor in the processes of cognition and communication seems to originate from an assumption, deeply rooted in philosophical tradition, that since any given thought may be expressed by means of any given vehicle (medium) the material vehicle of meaning does not impact the message it carries.

   Classic philosophy tacitly assumes that the medium as such is a factor of no significance to the cognitive and cultural process. Research carried out under the theory of literacy (also known as the Toronto School) has been able to convincingly question this assumption. Detailed studies conducted by researchers such as Eric Havelock, Jack Goody, Walter Ong, David Olson, and pertaining to discrepancies in terms of the way in which oral and literate minds function, provide plentiful material to challenge the commonsense belief that a written message simply constitutes an exact copy of a spoken utterance. Numerous analyses performed by literacy theorists corroborate the thesis that writing is not merely a convenient representation and transcription of a spoken message. While it facilitates certain forms of symbolic operations, the process of transcription can also hinder others, thus significantly altering not only the cognitive acts of the subject of communication, but also modifying the very tasks faced by actors engaged in it. The thesis constitutes an exemplification of a more general proposition that in the process of re-description of representation, what is changed is not merely the material vehicle of the message (the medium) but also its actual content and the nature of cognitive processes engaged in by the participants of communication. Intensive research is currently under way within the theory of literacy into the conceptual and cognitive consequences of media as such and the communicational practices correlated with the same.

   This issue of Dialogue & Universalism aims to introduce the problems of media and communicational practices into the scope of philosophical deliberations, by demonstrating that the media of communication significantly influence the relations between language, its users and reality, which in consequence contributes to considerable cognitive and cultural changes. The underlying idea behind this collection of articles is the question of philosophy’s response to the fact, diagnosed by the theory of literacy, of media mediating cognition.

   Topics considered in this D&U issue are divided into three groups of problems. The first part includes papers whose authors aim to answer the question of how and in what sense can philosophical studies and the theory of literacy, or theories of communication, be mutually complementary. What can be gained by philosophy by reflecting on studies of the theory of literacy? Why would the theory of literacy or theories of media and communication benefit from philosophical reflection? The question of communication between representatives of different cultures and languages as well as the problems of understanding incommensurate historical and cultural contexts constitute the second area of interest in this issue. Finally, the third group of articles struggles with the issues of the pragmatic dimension of language and communication.

   Publications contained in the D&U issue Culture, Communication and Cognition (CCC) approach the aforementioned problems from a number of theoretical perspectives. It was the intention of the editors of the issue to establish an interdisciplinary forum where the relations between cognition, communication and media in the cultural context could be discussed. Therefore, authors invited to contribute to the CCC issue represent various fields, from psychology, through anthropology, cultural and media studies, to philosophy itself. By entwining various threads of thought originating from areas where philosophical investigation meets the theory of literacy and theories of communication and media, this issue of D&U seeks to demonstrate how fruitful interdisciplinary cooperation can prove to be.

   The editors of the CCC issue would like to extend particular thanks to David R. Olson for his participation in the conference “Culture Communication and Cognition: Explaining Cognitive-Cultural Components of Media and Communication” organised in Lublin in May 2012 and for his contribution and support. We would also like to thank Jan Sleutels for highly inspiring conversations. Both the conference in Lublin and this volume itself would certainly have been greatly diminished if not for the help of Grzegorz Godlewski, Zbysław Muszyński and Tomasz Komendziński.

  Marek Hetmański
Marcin Trybulec

 

 

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Renata Jasnos

THE CONSEQUENCES OF EARLY LITERACY FOR THE DISCURSIVE TRANSMISSION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

   The books of the Old Testament contain elements of oral communication as well as the characteristic features of written elaboration. S. Niditch attempts to determine the probable oral-literate processes leading to the formation of the biblical message but does not answer the question concerning the history of the creation of any of the books. Biblical scholars examine the process of the shaping of the books as redaction criticism. This shaping, however, progressed according to different standards as evidenced by the literary characteristics of the text and literary “deficiencies” as well explicit elements of oral communication. The use of the term “editing” in relation to the process evokes inadequate ideas drawn from contemporary literary culture.

   Attempts to discover the essential elements of the processes shaping the biblical books, based on the, to some extent, recreated history of The Gilgamesh Epic, leads us to a new concept of what such a book is. The discovered specificity of the biblical books can consequently propose a new, more adequate perspective of interpretation—the interpretation which has the characteristics of a discourse.

Keywords: Bible; Deuteronomy; the culture of writing; the scribal culture; ancient Near East; orality – literacy; discourse; interpretation.

 

Affiliation: Jesuit University Ignatianum, Krakow, Faculty of Education, ul. Kopernika 26, 31-501 Kraków, Poland

Email: gpjasnos@wp.pl

 

 

 

Olga Kaczmarek  

EYES BANDAGED WITH TEXT. THE CATEGORY OF COUNTERTEXTUALITY AS MEANS OF ANALYZING THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF TEXT

   The paper presents a mode of researching epistemological and conceptual implications of text focused on the category of countertextuality. Parallel to the development of the orality / literacy theory within different areas of humanities and social sciences there runs a thread of various reconceptualization of text and textuality. It implies an increasing awareness of the non-neutral character of text (as a means of communicating knowledge within the academia) for the research results, which appears on both methodological and ethical grounds.

   In the paper the example of the project of postmodern anthropology is invoked to show how the constraints of the norms of writing texts specific of anthropology in mid-1980’s are articulated and what the proposed ways of writing are that would overcome the perceived flaws of text. The article focuses on the major manifesto of the postmodern turn in anthropology (Writng Culture), some other methodological articles of its authors, as well as some of the actual ethnographic researches. I highlight some of the major charges laid against text in these works and some of the major countertextual writing strategies.

Keywords: countertextuality; postmodern anthropology; orality/literacy theory; text; visualism; coevalness; dialogue.

 

Affiliation: Institute of Polish Culture; University of Warsaw, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00- 927 Warszawa, Poland

Email: okaczmarek@wp.pl

 

 

 

Zbysław Muszyński

THREE MESSAGE DIMENSIONS. A NATURALISTIC APPROACH

   Communication is perceived as a means of obtaining knowledge possessed by others and transmitting this knowledge from subject to subject. This process takes place in a communication area defined by a variety of parameters. The communication content (message) transmitted in the course of communication requires consideration of many aspects, therefore its description must take place in many aspects of the communication area.

   Messages can be distinguished in three dimensions of the communication area: (1) semantic (referential, informative); (2) subjective (individual) and (3) cultural (social). Communication theory based on the multi-dimensional character of the communication area should enable the resolution of important problems. For instance in the first dimension it should be able to solve issues relating to the transmission of the semantic properties of a message and the connected problem of the constancy of the subjective reference in successive acts of the communication process; in the second, the problem of the variability of subjective content resulting from the diversity of experience and linguistic competence; in the third, the problem concerning the existence of a community of cultural meanings and the problem concerning the mechanisms of building common representations of the world.

   The essay also seeks to specify theories enabling cohesive descriptions of the discussed message dimensions in keeping with the adopted naturalistic methodological and ontological assumptions.

Keywords: communication; message; semantics; individualism; naturalism.

 

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Pl. Maria Curie-Skłodowska 4, 20–031 Lublin, Poland

Email: zmuszyn@bacon.umcs.lublin.pl

 

 

 

 

David R. Olson 

WRITING, THE DISCOVERY OF LANGUAGE, AND THE DISCOVERY OF MIND 

   In the 1960s claims were made about the role of literacy in restructuring the mind. While those claims were frequently criticized, this paper revives the claim by showing that reading and writing require a new consciousness of properties of language, properties relevant to a distinctive modes of literate thought.

Keywords: literacy; mind; consciousness; thinking; quotation.

 

Affiliation: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1V6 , Canada

Email: david.olson@utoronto.ca

 

 

 

 

Jari Palomäki 

THE WORD “WORD” AND THE CONCEPT “WORD” THREE SOLUTIONS TO GRELLING’S PARADOX 

   In this paper three different solutions to Grelling’s paradox, also called the heterological paradox, are given. Firstly, after given the original formulation of the paradox by Grelling and Nelson in 1908, a solution to this paradox offered by Frank Plumpton Ramsey in 1925 is presented. His solution is based on the different meanings of the word “meaning.” Secondly, Grelling himself advocated the solution proposed by Uuno Saarnio in 1937. Saarnio’s solution is based on the exact definitions of the concept of word, and the concept of denoting. Thirdly, a solution to this paradox was proposed also by Georg Henrik von Wright in 1960, but his solution consists of saying that the word “heterological” does not name a concept—or it names a concept only up to a singular point.

Keywords: Grelling’s paradox; word; concept; meaning; denotation.

 

Affiliation: University of Tampere, FI-33014 Tampereen yliopisto, Finland

Email: fijapa@uta.fi

 

 

 

 

Marta Rakoczy 

LITERACY, POWER, BODY—TOWARDS ALTERNATIVE PHENOMENOLOGY OF WRITING 

   The classical phenomenology of writing, postulated by such literacy theoreticians as Walter J. Ong, and Marshall McLuhan, focuses on writing as an instrument of intellectual emancipation, as a technology of intellect. In this article I claim that their view is too narrow. Firstly, as David R. Olson, Harvey Graff and Michel de Certeau point, writing may be an instrument of power and discipline. Secondly, reading and writing are not only the mental practices of scripts organization and interpretation. They are strictly related to specific bodily practices which have important implications for the cultural functioning of literacy.

Keywords: literacy practices; bodily practices; alternative phenomenology of writing.

 

Affiliation: Institute of Polish Culture; University of Warsaw, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00–927 Warszawa, Poland

Email: marta.rakoczy@wp.pl

 

 

 

Rui Silva 

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND THE CHALLENGE OF LINGUISTIC AND CULTURAL RELATIVISM 

   The paper analyses the conditions and limits of intercultural communication in the light of a critical assessment of linguistic and cultural relativism. The analysis of linguistic relativism departs from Humboldt’s claim that every language contains a specific world-view and from the famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, according to which our thought and perception of reality is influenced or even, in a stronger version, determined by language. Many cognitive scientists consider that the cognitive influence of language on thought is negligible; however, several studies show that language can enhance (or obstruct) some cognitive functions. At any rate, it is at the cultural level that the challenge of linguistic relativism is more relevant, because different cultures generate different webs of concepts. Davidson’s critique of the idea of conceptual schemes fails precisely because he privileges the cognitive dimension of language (as representation of an empirical reality), neglecting its role in the constitution of a cultural space.

   Linguistic relativism can be easily articulated with cultural relativism, the view that it is not possible for outsiders to evaluate and criticize values, practices and basic beliefs of substantially different cultures. Against relativism, ethnocentrism and a naive universalism that presupposes the existence of universally valid standards that make intercultural communication always possible, the paper proposes a contextualist account of human communication (inspired by Wittgenstein and Gadamer) that is sensitive to linguistic and conceptual differences and recognizes the existence of limits to intercultural communication. However, from a contextualist standpoint, these limits are not rigid and they can be overcome, at least partly and gradually, in the course of a cross-cultural dialogue in which the participants engage in a critical reflection aimed at correcting initial assumptions and divergent standards.

Keywords: Communication, culture, language, relativism, contextualism

 

Affiliation: University of the Azores, Ladeira da Mãe de Deus, 9501–855 Ponta Delgada, Portugal

Email: rsilva@uac.pt

 

 

 

Marcin Rządeczka 

EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY AND SOME CONTEMPORARY DEBATES ON THE QUESTION ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE 

   Natural language is one of the most enigmatic and sophisticated human capabilities with regard to both its evolutionary history and the level of complexity. The diversity of positions and debates on this subject clearly demonstrates that it is not yet a part of a science but rather an amalgam of different issues capable of being analyzed philosophically. The scarcity of evidence, restrictions of the comparative method and continuous discussions on the adaptive status of language are only a handful of current issues. The main aim of this paper is to provide a critical analysis of crucial current approaches to the problem of the reconstruction of language evolution and pinpoint the most important methodological and philosophical arguments in the discussion. The paper also supports the view that only the multi-level approach to the problem, which encompasses both the genetic and cladistic levels, can offer a satisfactory explanation.

Keywords: language evolution; comparative method; adaptationism; deep homology.

 

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Pl. Maria Curie-Skłodowska 4, 20–031 Lublin, Poland

Email: mrzadeczka@o2.pl

 

 

 

 

Jan Sleutels 

THE FLINTSTONES FALLACY 

   A leading idea in evolutionary psychology and philosophy of mind is that the basic architecture and dynamics of the mind are very old, presumably dating back to the Stone Age. Theories based on this idea are liable to paint a caricature of our ancestors by projecting our modern self-conception onto earlier minds. I argue that this ‘Flintstones Fallacy’ is an underrated risk, relieved neither by standard biological arguments nor by arguments from psychology and philosophy. Indeed, each of these fields has better arguments for the contrary view that the mind as we know it from present-day experience is not ancient at all.

Keywords: philosophy of mind; ancient minds; evolutionary psychology; folk psychology; Flintstones fallacy; overinterpretation; cultural variation.

 

Affiliation: Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University, Rapenburg 70, 2311 EZ Leiden, The Netherlands

Email: j.j.m.sleutels@hum.leidenuniv.nl

 

 

 

Eulalia Smuga-Fries 

THE POTENTIAL RELEVANCE OF THE TEST OF THE NEWS BY LIPPMANN AND MERZ FOR CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS 

   This paper attempts to signal the potential relevance of A Test of the News, written by Lippmann and Merz, for Critical Discourse Analysis. It seems that the study is overlooked by CDA’s experts as a pioneering work in press analysis. In order to demonstrate links between CDA and the research, in the first part, the work of Lippmann and Merz is situated within a wider picture of the theoretical and historical background as well as common views on politics and the role of the press. Then, the reasons for the choice of the Times as a medium of research and the Russian Revolution as a topic are stated. The authors’ methodological assumptions are discussed in brief. The second part begins with an attempt to define the concept of CDA. The next section presents a theoretical framework of CDA in order to indicate that Lippmann’s and Merz’s analysis demonstrates a similar theoretical approach. Additionally, the tools used by authors are compared with those used in CDA. The parallel between the central role of the media discourse in CDA and the concern of the authors of the role of the press is also discussed. Since the active role of the reader and the hearer in constructing the meaning of the text corresponds with the views of the authors on the discrepancy between the real world and its representation, the next section is devoted to this issue. Finally, readers’ abilities, discussed by Lippmann and Merz, are viewed in relation to the significance of reader’s experiences in constructing the meaning of a text.

Keywords: Critical Discourse Analysis; Lippmann; news analysis; public opinion; media discourse.

 

Affiliation: John Paul II University of Lublin, Institute of Philosophy, Al. Racławickie 14, 20–950 Lublin, Poland

Email: eulalias@wp.pl

 

 

 

Marcin Trybulec 

BETWEEN MEDIA AND CULTURAL PRACTICES: SEARCHING FOR IDENTITY OF THE TORONTO SCHOOL 

   The problem of the Toronto School’s theoretical identity emerges from the recognition that the most influential figures of this orientation do not agree regarding the general idea of the School as a coherent theoretical trend. Moreover, the idea of “medium” central to this orientation is fundamentally ambiguous. Therefore the aim of the paper is to consider the identity of the Toronto School by referring to the so called materialistic interpretation of the media. The paper supports the thesis that the minimal definition of communication technologies in terms of physical artifacts comprises the conceptual core of the Toronto School’s identity. The failure to consider the minimalistic definition of media results in the general blurring of the Toronto School’s theoretical identity.

Keywords: media; communication technologies; Toronto School; theoretical identity; technological determinism.

 

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Pl. Maria Curie-Skłodowska 4, 20–031 Lublin, Poland

Email: marcin.trybulec@umcs.pl

 

 

 

Michał Wendland 

CONTROVERSY OVER THE STATUS OF THE COMMUNICATION TRANSMISSION MODELS 

   The article focuses on the status of the transmission approach to communication. The approach is derived from Claude Shannon’s and Warren Weaver’s mathematical theory of communication, and is primarily used for the analysis of telecommunications processes. Within the model a metaphorical conceptualisation of communication is adopted. Despite the great popularity of the transmission approach, it is subjected to multilateral criticism. Alternative approaches were formulated in which the transmission metaphor is exceeded, extended or even overcome (e.g., the constitutive, transactional, or the ritual approaches). This paper discusses this criticism. The doubts are raised primarily by the characteristic reductionism and the postulated exclusivity of the transmission approach. The polemic also concerns the psychologism elements which are present in the transmission models. Wittgenstein’s criticism of psychologism conducted within the framework of his everyday language philosophy is of particular importance. In conclusion it is assumed that the transmission metaphor is important as a tool for the study of many, but not all the aspects of communication. Its importance also lies in the fact that it is the first scientific approach to communication. The exclusivity claims of the transmission model, however, have several limitations, inter alia, it hinders research on the history of communication practices, although the model itself is embedded in a specific historical context.

Keywords: communication; transmission; psychologism; metaphor; universalism.

 

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, Adam Mickiewicz University, ul. Szamarzewskiego 69, 60–568, Poland

Email: michalwendland@poczta.onet.pl

 

 

 

Maciej Witek 

THREE APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF SPEECH ACTS 

   The paper reconstructs and discusses three different approaches to the study of speech acts: (i) the intentionalist approach, according to which most illocutionary acts are to be analysed as utterances made with the Gricean communicative intentions, (ii) the institutionalist approach, which is based on the idea of illocutions as institutional acts constituted by systems of collectively accepted rules, and (iii) the interactionalist approach the main tenet of which is to perform illocutionary acts by making conventional moves in accordance with patterns of social interaction. It is claimed that, first, each of the discussed approaches presupposes a different account of the nature and structure of illocutionary acts, and, second, all those approaches result from one-sided interpretations of Austin’s conception of verbal action. The first part of the paper reconstructs Austin’s views on the functions and effects of felicitous illocutionary acts. The second part reconstructs and considers three different research developments in the post-Austinian speech act theory—the intentionalist approach, the institutionalist approach, and the interactionalist approach.

Keywords: Austin; illocutionary acts; communicative intentions; constitutive rules; verbal interaction.

 

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, the University of Szczecin, ul. Krakowska 71–79, 71–017 Szczecin, Poland

Email: witek@whus.pl


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