Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Eidetic Images & Memory

Walter Ong, in his text Orality and Literature, talks about mnemonic formulas that early people used to be able to remember. This is what enabled the early rhapsodian's to "weave" or stitch( Ong 13) their songs (stories) together. Ong has much to say and alot of it was alright and, I guess, and it gave lead to Frances Yate's The Art of Memory and her exemplification of memory theaters. I personally found each of these texts to rather dry and long winded, but I learned many things from each. I guess learning, of some things, is not always that exciting.

However, my point is that each of these texts speaks about memory. Ong talks about how, in chapter two, "Homeric Greeks valued cliches because not only the poets but the entire oral noetic world or thought world relied upon the formulaic constitution of thought. In a oral culture, knowledge, once acquired, had to be constantly repeated or it would be lost: fixed, formuliac thought patterns were esential for wisdom and effective administration"(Ong 23). In chapter three, Some Psychodynamics of Orality, Ong goes on to talk about how there are certain characteristics that are employed, or manipulated, to bring about "thought and Expression"(Ong 36) within oral cultures. Ong calls these mnemonic bases which help to enable the oral speaking culture to be able to remember their stories. Ong goes on to list nine characteristics that help to implement memory: additive rather than subordinative, aggregative rather than analytic, redundancy or copius, conservative or traditionalist, close to human life world, agonistically toned, participartory (audience), homeostatic, and situational. Furthermore, Ong says that to be able to remember and ground your thoughts in an oral culture, which did not yet have writing, one was to "think memorable thoughts...In a primary oral culture, to solve effectively the problem of retaining and retreiving carefully articulated thought, you have to do your thinking in mnemonic patterns (Ong 34)"; hence, the nine characteristics.
Simialarily, Yates' The Art of Memory talks about in her first chapter "The Three Latin Sources for the Classical Art Of Memory", which are De oratore, Ad C. Herennium libri IV, and Institution oratoria.

April 19th memory presentations

Well once again everyone was totally amazing with their memory feats. Debbie was good with the Simpson characters. Juliet made everyone hungary, Jenny was awesome with the Dr.Zuess book, Josh, as usual singing, Opai and his poem, Ed Shanley (my Slavic rogue) with his German, Wow!, Jeremiah and his 50 top songs, Heathers list of albums, very good, Allison and the Rolling Stone memorization, gee, did I forget anyone? Oh yah! Kristi, Courtney, Brian, Hannah, Valerie, wow, Valerie you were great! I, on the other hand, do not have the ability to focus long enough to be able to do such wonderful and amazing memory feats. Dr. Sexson, you should be proud!!!!!! Peace Out, Cindy

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Memory-Ideas and Thought


Memory Guide > Mnemonics > The myth of imagery

images are effective to the extent that they link information
images are not inherently superior to words
bizarre images are not necessarily recalled better than common images
imagery is chiefly effective when used with an organizing structure
Most mnemonic strategies are based on imagery. There is no doubt that imagery can be an effective tool, but there is nothing particularly special about imagery. The advantage of imagery is that it provides an easy way of connecting information that is not otherwise readily connected. However, providing verbal links can be equally effective.
The critical element is that words or images provide a context which links the information. Thus, imagery is only effective when it is an interactive image — one which ties together one bit of information with another.
Visual imagery on its own is of limited value without an organizing structure, such as the method of loci or the pegword method (see list-learning mnemonics).It is usually emphasized that bizarre images are remembered much better, but there is no evidence for this. In many studies indeed, ordinary images are remembered slightly better. One of the problems is that people tend usually find it harder to create bizarre images. Unless you have a natural talent for thinking up bizarre images, it is probably not worth bothering about.
Further reading:
for a long, scholarly article on mental imagery, you can see the entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at:

Mental ImageryMental imagery (sometimes colloquially called visualization, or "seeing in the mind's eye") is experience that resembles perceptual experience, but which occurs in the absence of the appropriate stimuli for the relevant perception (cf. Finke, 1989; McKellar, 1957). Very often these experiences are understood by their subjects as echoes or reconstructions of actual perceptual experiences from their past; at other times they may seem to anticipate possible, often desired or feared, future experiences. Thus imagery has often been believed to play a very large, even pivotal, role in both memory (Yates, 1966; Paivio, 1986) and motivation (McMahon, 1973). It is also commonly believed to be centrally involved in visuo-spatial reasoning and inventive or creative thought. Indeed, it has usually been regarded as crucial for all thought processes, although, during the 20th century in particular, this has been called into question.
1. Terminological and Definitional Problems
2. Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Imagery [not yet available]
3. The Eclipse of Imagery in Scientific Psychology
3.1 Founders of Experimental Psychology: Wilhelm Wundt and William James
3.2 Edward B. Titchener: The Complete Iconophile
3.3 The Perky Experiment
3.4 The Imageless Thought Controversy
3.5 European Responses: Jaensch, Freud, and Gestalt Psychology
3.6 The American Response: Behaviorist Iconophobia (and Motor Theories of Imagery)
4. Imagery in Cognitive Science [not yet available]
Other Internet Resources
Related Entries
1. Terminological and Definitional ProblemsWe have defined mental imagery as a form of experience, but, of course, evidence for the occurrence of any experience is necessarily subjective. Because of this, some authors, most notably the arch-behaviorist J.B. Watson (1913a), have cast doubt on the scientific status and even the existence of imagery. However, if imagery serves certain functions in our mental life (as suggested above) then perhaps some objective validation and study of it might be possible through the study of the performance of these functions. In the light of this, some authors (notably the psychologist Stephen Kosslyn, who is probably the most influential contemporary imagery theorist) prefer an alternative definition of "imagery" to that given above. Instead of understanding it primarily as a sort of experience, they prefer to view the term as referring to the particular type of cognitive process or "underlying representation" (Kosslyn, 1983) that is involved in these functions. These representations or processes are generally understood to be such that their presence or activity can (but need not always) be consciously experienced as imagery in our original sense.
However, characterizing imagery in this way (as explanans rather than explanandum) begs important questions about the nature of the mind and about the causes of imagery experiences (conceivably they are not experiences of cognitive processes or underlying representations). On the other hand, it should be admitted that defining imagery as a form of experience, is also problematic, and might deflect attention away from the possibility that importantly similar underlying representations or mechanisms may be operative both when we experience imagery and during certain unconscious mental processes (some evidence suggests that this is so). To avoid such problems we might replace "imagery" with some special jargon: we could speak of "quasi-perceptual experiences" on the one hand and "image representations (or processes)" on the other. However, this is not an established convention, and using these terms exclusively throughout this entry would seriously complicate discussion of the views of those thinkers (probably the vast majority) who fail to disentangle these notions. Thus, the (more or less) ordinary language term "imagery" will continue to be used where appropriate.
But our initial definition of "imagery" may well be thought unsatisfactory even in its own terms. Not only does it duck the difficult task of specifying what dimensions and degrees of similarity to perception are necessary for an experience to count as imagery; it also elides the controversial question of whether imagery is a sui generis phenomenon, conceptually quite distinct from true perceptual experience despite the surface resemblance, or whether it is more appropriately regarded as lying at one end of a continuum stretching from ordinary veridical perception at one end, to ‘pure’ imagery, where the character of the experience seems to be quite independent of any current stimulus input, at the other. In between would come cases, often held to be due to the effects of imagination, where the character of the experience seems to be only partially determined by the character of the current stimulus: both mistaken or illusive perception and non-deceptive seeing as (such as seeing the notorious duck-rabbit figure as a duck [or rabbit], or, for example, "seeing" the shapes of animals, or whatever, in the clouds or constellations). Many philosophers and cognitive theorists implicitly take this line, treating percepts as, essentially, special cases of imagery, differing only in causal history and, perhaps, "vivacity". For example: for Descartes (in the Treatise on Man) both images and percepts are ultimately embodied as pictures picked out on the surface of the pineal gland by the flow of animal spirits; for Kosslyn (1994) both are depictive representations in the brain's "visual buffer"; for Hinton (1979) both are "structural descriptions" in working memory. However, other theorists (e.g. Sartre, 1936) try to draw a sharp conceptual and phenomenological distinction between perceptual and imaginal experience.
But in the absence of consensus about such issues, or about the underlying mechanisms and the psychological functions of imagery, our initial rough characterization is probably about the best we can do without begging important questions. Perhaps it is sufficient. Imagery is a common, everyday phenomenon that is indicated by a whole range of colloquial expressions: "having a picture in the head", "picturing", "visualizing", "having/seeing a mental image/picture", "seeing in the mind's eye", and, in some contexts, simply "imagining". Although a small percentage of people seem inclined to deny ever experiencing it, for the vast majority of us, our imagery, like our consciousness itself, is something with which we seem to be thoroughly familiar and intimate.
However, the term "mental imagery", and all the colloquial equivalents mentioned above, may be potentially misleading in itself. For one thing, all these expressions suggest, more or less strongly, a purely visual phenomenon. In fact, most discussions of imagery, in the past and today, have indeed focused upon the visual mode. Nevertheless, there is every reason to believe that other modes of quasi-perceptual experience are just as common and important (Newton, 1982), and "imagery" has come to be the accepted scientific term for referring to them too: interesting studies of "auditory imagery", "kinaesthetic imagery", "haptic (touch) imagery", and so forth, can be found in the contemporary psychological literature.
A related, and perhaps a more serious problem with the term "imagery" and with most of the colloquial alternatives is that they strongly suggest that the phenomenon involves some sort of picture (the image) entering into or being created in the mind. Indeed, this theoretical story seems to have gone virtually unquestioned during past ages (which may explain how the terminology in question became entrenched), and probably remains the majority, lay and expert, view today. Nevertheless, during this century it has come under strong challenge, and can no longer be regarded as uncontroversial. The confusions arising from this (as well as the other ambiguities of the term "imagery" that we have mentioned) continue to bedevil discussions of the topic. In particular, people who deny the existence of mental pictures seem frequently to be misunderstood as (implausibly) denying the occurrence of quasi-perceptual experiences, and in some cases they may themselves come to believe that the first denial commits them to the second (Thomas, 1989). Indeed, there is some reason to think (although it is certainly not established) that that minority of people (about 10% of the population by some estimates) who deny ever experiencing imagery, or who deny that it plays any significant role in their mental lives, may simply be understanding the terminology in a somewhat idiosyncratic fashion: what they intend to deny may not be so much that they have quasi-perceptual experience, but, rather, that what they do have is predominantly visual, or that it involves inner pictures, or that it resembles perceptual experience to the extent that they (perhaps wrongly) understand other people to be claiming for their imagery (or some combination of these claims). This is a theoretically important issue because if it is true that some people really do not experience any imagery then imagery (understood as experience rather than representation) cannot play the vital role in mental life that has very often been attributed to it.
On a more consensual note, with only rare exceptions (e.g. Wright, 1983) nearly all serious discussions of imagery take it for granted (explicitly or implicitly) that it exhibits intentionality (i.e. imagery is normally of something or other, in the same sense that perception is perception of something), and that it is, for the most part, subject to conscious control. Although images often come into the mind unbidden, and sometimes it is hard to shake off unwanted imagery (say, of the horrible accident that one cannot get out of one's mind) in general one can conjure-up, manipulate, and dismiss images at will. In this regard, imagery appears as an unequivocally mental phenomenon, quite distinct from other quasi-perceptual experiences, such as after-images and phosphenes (Oster, 1970), that are not subject to direct conscious control, and which are probably best explained in straightforwardly physiological terms. It is also distinguished from cognitive and representational, but nevertheless unconscious and automatic functions such as the postulated high capacity but very short term visual memory store known as "iconic memory" (Neisser, 1967). On the other hand, so called eidetic imagery, if, indeed, it exists at all as a distinct phenomenon (see Haber, 1979, and the appended commentaries), is probably best understood as a species of mental imagery proper, despite the fact that it is characterized by a vividness, detailed articulation, and stability that far exceed what most normal subjects seem to want to claim for their imagery experiences.
It may also be worth pointing out that mental imagery should be distinguished from "imagery" as the term has come to be used in a literary context, where it seems to refer to a linguistic trope that employs highly concrete, perceptually specific language in order to evoke certain emotions or otherwise convey some more abstract and elusive underlying sense. Very likely, literary imagery originally got its name from a supposed power of the words in question to induce mental imagery in a reader, and some contemporary literary critics defend such an interpretation (Esrock, 1994; Scarry, 1999), but it is surely not the case that the expression is now universally, or even generally, understood this way.
3. The Eclipse of Imagery in Scientific Psychology
For the late 19th century researchers who established psychology as an empirical scientific discipline, mental images (usually, in English, referred to as ideas) held just the same central place in the explanation of cognition that they had held for philosophical psychologists of earlier times. However, developments within psychology at the beginning of the 20th century began to cast doubt on this long established consensus. A group of psychologists working in Würzburg, Germany claimed to have found empirical evidence for conscious thought contents that were not imaginal or perceptual in character. Their results were challenged on several grounds, and were certainly never definitively established. Nevertheless, the bitter dispute that ensued, the so called imageless thought controversy, had a profound effect on the development of psychology as a science (and, I would argue, on philosophy also). Most psychologists became, in effect, profoundly disillusioned with the notion of mental imagery, and either avoided seriously considering the topic, treated it dismissively, or, in some extreme cases, denied the existence of the phenomenon outright. These attitudes noticeably influenced other disciplines, including philosophy. Although the psychological study of imagery revived with the rise of cognitivism in the 1960s and 70s, when new experimental techniques were developed that enabled a truly experimental study of the phenomenon, current views about, and attitudes towards, mental imagery cannot be properly understood without an awareness of this history, versions of which, of varying degrees of accuracy, have passed into the folklore of psychology.
3.1 Founders of Experimental Psychology: Wilhelm Wundt and William James
When psychology first began to emerge as an experimental science, in the philosophy departments of the German universities in the late 19th century, the central role of imagery in mental life was not in question. Wilhelm Wundt, acclaimed "the father of experimental psychology", established the first psychological research and teaching laboratory in the Leipzig Philosophy Department in around 1876 (Fancher, 1996). He regarded his psychology as a branch of philosophy, an attempt to apply the experimental method of natural science (particularly, the physiology of Helmholtz) to essentially philosophical problems concerning the nature of mind and its metaphysical status. This view of the subject persisted, in Germany, at least until the Nazi era. Wundt's research program aimed to investigate the "elements of consciousness," and the laws governing the combination of these elements (Wundt, 1912). Although his theoretical system made a place for emotional feelings as one class of element, in practice the main focus of Wundt's experimentally based research program was on the elements of sensation and their compounding into ideas. As has been the case in the empiricist philosophical tradition, these ideas were conceived of as, to all intents and purposes, mental images. Indeed, Wundt insists, much in the spirit of Hume, that there is no fundamental difference in kind between the ideas arising directly from perception and "memory images" (Wundt, 1912). Thus, Wundtian experimental psychology was largely a study of cognitive processes, and, for him (and most of his numerous students and imitators), the mental image (under the rubric idea) played essentially the same crucial, representational role in cognition that it had played for most of his philosophical predecessors.
Wundt's American counterpart, and contemporary, William James, took a not dissimilar view, although he was careful to acknowledge that in some people the "thought stuff," as he called it, might consist not so much of visual imagery as of imagery of other modes, especially the "verbal images" of inner speech (James, 1890 ch. 18). In his textbook The Principles of Psychology (1890) James has much that is insightful to say about psychological processes in general, and about the role of imagery in them in particular, but, although he carried out experimental demonstrations in his psychology teaching at Harvard, James had little interest in the actual pursuit of experimental research, and established no graduate teaching program in experimental psychology (Fancher, 1996). Thus, despite the lucidity of his justly famous text, and the wide readership it has continued to find, his direct influence on the disciplinary development of scientific psychology, even in his native America, probably never equaled that of Wundt (or even lesser German pioneers, such as G.E. Müller), who trained many Americans (as well as many Germans, and students of other nationalities) in the techniques of experimental research. Just around this time, when psychology was the latest intellectual fashion, the American Universities were undergoing a tremendous expansion. Thus many of these students were able to return from Germany to the United States to found experimental psychology teaching programs of their own. It was because of this, much more than the intellectual influence of James, that, well before it grew into a dominant world power and achieved its current leadership in the sciences generally, the U.S.A. quickly grew to rival, and eventually surpass, Germany's initial preeminence in scientific psychology.
Although psychologists of this era have often been portrayed (notably by Boring (1950)) as using an introspective methodology, in fact Wundt, in particular, was very sensitive to standard criticisms of introspection, such as the contention that the very attempt to observe our own mental activities will itself alter them. He thus limited its use to situations where he was satisfied that the causes of the relevant mental events, the experimental stimuli, could be strictly controlled and the results shown to be replicable, with any introspective reports being made unreflectively, as soon as the relevant content appeared in the mind (Mischel, 1970; Danziger, 1980). Wundt's research did not rely upon discursive descriptions of mental contents. An "introspective" report in his laboratory might typically have involved no more than indicating the moment when a certain sensation entered consciousness, or saying whether a musical tone seemed higher or lower than the one presented just before. Such "introspective reports" differ little from the sorts of responses that might be called for in a modern cognitive psychology experiment. Wundt's methodological discipline meant that the data collected in his laboratory were primarily such things as reaction times or discrimination thresholds, rather than discursive introspective reports; it also meant, in practice, that his experiments were restricted almost entirely to the study of "lower" psychological processes, principally sensation and perception. Thus, although Wundt did hold that "higher" mental process, such as thought and memory, depended largely upon mental images (including verbal imagery, silent speech), in practice his experimental work did little directly to illuminate these. "Higher" mental processes, for Wundt, were best investigated non-experimentally, via a methodology that he called völkerpsychologie, a hermeneutic study of cultural products to which he devoted much of his later career, but which never achieved anything like the influence of his experimentally based work.
3.2 Edward B. Titchener: The Complete Iconophile
An Englishman, Edward B. Titchener, became one of Wundt's most influential students. After graduate studies with Wundt, Titchener moved to the United States and became professor of Psychology at Cornell, where, as well as being responsible for translating many of the more experimentally oriented works of Wundt into English, he established a successful graduate school and a vigorous research program (Tweney, 1987). Despite the fact that Wundt's and Titchener's philosophical and theoretical views, and their scientific methodologies, differed in important ways (Leahey, 1981), Titchener, much more than most of his American born colleagues, shared Wundt's vision of psychology as a pure science, with essentially philosophical rather than pragmatic ends, and he gained the reputation of being Wundt's leading disciple and representative in the English speaking world. However, he had no interest in his master's völkerpsychologie. Titchener had been deeply influenced by positivist optimism as to the scope of science, and he hoped to study even the "higher" thought processes experimentally (Danziger, 1979, 1980). Thus he attempted to push the method of controlled laboratory introspection far beyond the bounds that Wundt had so carefully set for it.
Titchener appears to have been both a particularly vivid imager, and a firm believer in imagery's cognitive importance. He had studied British Empiricist philosophy whilst an undergraduate at Oxford, and was well aware of Berkeley's argument that "general ideas" (i.e. mental images that, in-and-of-themselves, represent a kinds or categories of things, rather than particulars) are inconceivable. Berkeley argues that, for instance, the general idea of a triangle, which would need to be:
neither oblique nor rectangle, neither equilateral, equicrural, nor scalenon, but all and none of these at once. In effect it is something imperfect that cannot exist, an idea wherein some parts of several different and inconsistent ideas are put together. (Berkeley, 1734). Many philosophers take Berkeley's argument to amount to a knock-down refutation of the traditional theory -- first articulated by Aristotle (De Interpretatione 16a; De Anima 420b), and reiterated by Locke (1700) -- that images (ideas) are the primary vehicles of thought and that they ground linguistic meaning. If mental images can only, intrinsically represent particulars (as Berkeley, relying on the empiricist view of the nature of imagery as consisting of copies or fading echoes of sensory impressions, argued) then they are surely inadequate for grounding the meanings of the general, categorical terms that are fundamental to thought. However, Titchener, on introspective grounds, flatly rejected Berkeley's claim:
But I can quite well get . . . the triangle that is no triangle at all and all triangles at one and the same time. It is a flashy thing, come and gone from moment to moment: it hints two or three red angles, with the red lines deepening into black, seen on a dark green ground. It is not there long enough to say whether the angles join to form the complete figure, or even whether all three of the necessary angles are given. Nevertheless, it means triangle; it is Locke's general idea of a triangle; (Titchener, 1909).
Of course, Titchener was well aware that the image described here was thoroughly idiosyncratic. However, he did want to claim that such images (in virtue not so much of their individual, intrinsic characteristics, but of their place in a whole associative network of imagery) do carry meaning, and are thus fitted to be the vehicles of thought. He also described examples of his own visualizations of abstract concepts (such as the concept of meaning itself: "the blue-grey tip of a kind of scoop … digging into a dark mass of what appears to be plastic material") and even claimed to experience imaginal meanings of connectives such as but (Titchener, 1909). Titchener plainly held that (together with actual sensation) mental content is mental imagery.
3.3 The Perky Experiment
Titchener's theories, and, to a very large extent, the introspection based experimental methods he used to test and refine them, have long since fallen into disrepute. (By contrast, Wundt's reputation has seen a considerable revival in recent decades (e.g. Blumenthal, 1975; Bringman & Tweney, 1980; Fancher, 1996).) However, one series of experiments carried out in Titchener's laboratory, by his student C.W. Perky (1910), has achieved something of a classic status in the literature on imagery. Perky asked her subjects to fixate a point on a screen in front of them and to visualize various objects there, such as a tomato, a book, a leaf, a banana, an orange, or a lemon. As the subjects did this, and unbeknownst to them, a faint patch of color, of an appropriate size and shape, and just above the normal threshold of visibility, was back projected (in soft focus) onto the screen. Apart from on a couple of occasions when the projection apparatus was mishandled, none of Perky's subjects (ranging from a ten year old child to her colleagues, the trained and experienced introspectors of Titchener's laboratory) ever realized that they were experiencing real percepts; they took what they "saw" on the screen to be entirely the products of their imagination. In fact, however, the projections did influence their experiences: some subjects expressed surprise at finding themselves imagining a banana "upright" rather than the horizontally oriented one they had been trying for; one was surprised to wind up imagining an elm leaf after trying for a maple. On the other hand, purely imaginary details were also reported: One subject could "see" the veins of the leaf; another claimed that the title on the imagined book was readable.
Perky's results have been read as evidence that imagery may be systematically confused with genuine visual experience, that images and percepts, as Hume believed, differ subjectively in, at most, only their degree of "vivacity" or vividness. However we should note that the projected color patches were clearly visible as such to people who were not under instructions to form an image (Perky, 1910). Furthermore, Segal (1971b) reports that when she initially tried to replicate the "Perky effect" with "the suspicious, pragmatic students who populated our campuses in the late 1950s and early 1960s," they quickly saw through the deception. Eventually, she achieved better replications by taking steps to induce a state of relaxation in her subjects (Segal & Nathan, 1964). Several subjects, for example, asked to imagine a New York skyline whilst a faint image of a tomato was projected on the screen, reported imagining New York at sunset (Segal, 1972). Nevertheless, Segal concludes, from her extensive experimental studies over many years, that the Perky effect arises not so much from the indistinguishability of mental images and (faint) percepts, as from the fact that the effort to form an image, under certain circumstances, interferes with the normal course of perception and raises perceptual detection thresholds (Segal, 1971b; Segal & Fusella, 1971).
3.4 The Imageless Thought Controversy
Perhaps Wundt's most important German student was Oswald Külpe, who had for several years served as Wundt's assistant professor, but eventually left to set up his own laboratory in the philosophy department of Würzburg University. He and his students there developed a direct challenge to the prevalent imagery theory of thought. Under the influence of both Machian positivism and, later, the act psychology of Brentano and the phenomenology of Husserl, Külpe, like Titchener (whom he had helped train), rejected what he saw as Wundt's unnecessarily strict methodological restrictions on the scope of empirical science, and encouraged his students to extend the scope of the introspective "experimental" method to the study of the "higher" processes of thought and reasoning (Danziger, 1979, 1980; Ash, 1998). In 1901, two of these students, Mayer and Orth, performed a word association experiment in which subjects were asked to report everything that had passed through their mind between hearing the stimulus word and giving the response. Note that it was normal practice, in this era of psychology, for experimental subjects, or "observers" as they were often called, to be drawn from among fellow researchers within the same laboratory, often including the supervising professor. Present day psychologists would, with good reason, suspect such subjects of being liable to produce results strongly biased by theoretical preconceptions (Orne, 1962; Intons-Peterson, 1983). Great pains are usually taken, today, to ensure that subjects in psychological experiments have no idea what hypothesis the experiment is supposed to be testing. In 1901 however, it was thought that experienced and knowledgeable "observers" were more likely to produce consistent and meaningful results than the psychologically untrained. In the case of the Meyer and Orth experiment, two amongst the four subjects were Meyer and Orth themselves. Nevertheless, they professed to be surprised by some of their findings. In particular:
The subjects frequently reported that they experienced certain events of consciousness which they could quite clearly designate neither as definite images nor yet as volitions. For example, the subject Meyer made the observation that, in reference to the stimulus word "metre" a peculiar event of consciousness intervened which could not be characterized more exactly, and which was succeeded by the spoken response "trochee".(Meyer & Orth, as quoted and translated by Humphrey, 1951) The jargon term bewusstseinslagen ("states of consciousness" -- Humphrey, 1951) was coined to designate these indescribable non-sensorial states, and they soon began to turn up in more and more profusion in the introspective reports generated in the Würzburg laboratory, taking on an increasing theoretical significance as time went by. In 1905 another Würzburg researcher, Ach, also introduced the largely overlapping, but more explicitly intentionalistic concept of bewusstheit or "awareness", an unanalysable "impalpably given ’knowing’" (Ach, quoted and translated by Humphrey, 1951), and by 1907, Karl Bühler, perhaps the most radical of Külpe's students, was simply referring to gedanken ("thoughts"). Bühler's experiments might, for example, involve giving a subject (often professor Külpe himself) a somewhat gnomic sentence to interpret (e.g. "Thinking is so extraordinarily difficult that many prefer to judge.") and then collecting introspective reports of the conscious, but allegedly non-imaginal, gedanken that had occurred between the hearing of the sentence and the giving of the interpretation. Although the Würzburg school never denied that imagery does occur, by this time the greater part of the conscious contents of minds examined in Würzburg seemed to be non-imaginal.
Unsurprisingly, Wundt, and others, refused to accept these new methods and conclusions, and a heated debate, the so called imageless thought controversy, ensued. Though Wundt was surely skeptical of the existence of imageless thoughts, his primary criticisms were methodological. He was very much concerned with the fact that the experiments were necessarily constructed so that the introspective reports were given after the completion of the experimental task (word association, sentence interpretation, or whatever). The Würzburg research thus involved discursive recollection (or was it reconstruction?) of conscious contents that were no longer present to the mind. Such experiments, Wundt argued, were open invitations to suggestion, and, indeed, were
not experiments at all in the sense of scientific methodology: they are counterfeit experiments that seem methodical simply because they are ordinarily performed in a psychological laboratory and involve the coöperation of two persons, who purport to be experimenter and observer. In reality, they are as unmethodical as possible; they possess none of the special features by which we distinguish the introspections of experimental psychology from the casual introspections of everyday life. (Wundt, quoted and translated by Titchener, 1909. Original German, 1907.)
Titchener also strongly objected to the imageless thought demonstrations, but for different reasons. He did not object to the aims or the introspective methodology of the Würzburg school, but to their purported results, and, for him, the experiments were not so much misconceived as incompetently executed: In particular, he felt, the "observers" (experimental subjects) in Würzburg had been inadequately trained in the art of introspection. According to Titchener, the main pitfall of introspection was what he called the "stimulus error," the strong tendency to confound the conscious experience itself with whatever it might represent: Thus, to report, when looking at a rectangular table top, that one experiences a rectangle, would be to commit the stimulus error: The "real" conscious content would (on Titchener's view) have the trapezoidal shape that the table top projects upon the retina. For Titchener, the intentionality generally ascribed to imageless thoughts only showed that the Würzburg introspectors were systematically committing the stimulus error: They were not reporting the intrinsic nature of their conscious contents, but what those contents signified. Titchener suggested that the purported bewusstseinslagen etc. were, in fact, faint and fleeting kinaesthetic sensations, feelings of muscular tension and the like (Tweney, 1987). In his laboratory, experiments quite similar to those done in Würzburg, but carried out using introspective "observers" well trained in avoiding the stimulus error (Titchener himself, or his own graduate students), produced no reports of imageless thoughts. Instead, they found the fleeting imagery or the subtle bodily sensations that Professor Titchener's theory predicted (Titchener, 1909; Humphrey, 1951).
This work of Titchener's (like other responses to the imageless thought controversy from America, Britain, and elsewhere) had relatively little impact in Germany, which, with some justification at that time, still regarded itself as very much preeminent in psychological science. Nevertheless, on both sides of the Atlantic the controversy was recognized as touching on deep foundational issues in the science of mind. Although largely forgotten today, it seems to have had a lasting impact on the development not only of psychology, but (especially in the German speaking world, where the fields were more closely intellectually and institutionally entwined) philosophy as well. The Würzburg school's claims, despite their shaky basis, undoubtedly contributed to a sense that imagery could not be so psychologically important as had traditionally been assumed, and that an alternative way of thinking about cognitive content was needed. Many psychologists and philosophers of this era came, partly for this reason, to feel that thought should be understood in terms of language per se, and that it was a serious mistake ever to have thought that the representational power of language derives from that of some more fundamental form of representation, such as mental imagery. Bloor (1983) goes so far as to suggest (though without citing any evidence) that the work of the later Wittgenstein largely grew out of the reaction to the imageless thought affair. Bloor may be overstating the case, but certainly a leading Würzburg alumnus, Karl Bühler, was established in Vienna during the inter-war years, and Wittgenstein is known to have met him there, and seems to have reacted strongly to his views (Toulmin, 1969; Bartley, 1973). Bühler also taught, and deeply influenced, the young Karl Popper (Popper, 1976), and undoubtedly his views would also have been quite familiar to the Vienna Circle positivists.
But the imageless thought controversy was never satisfactorily resolved, at least in the terms in which it was originally posed. Although the Würzburg school has been praised for drawing psychological attention to the intentionality of mental contents, and for the introduction of once important concepts such as "mental set" into psychology, it would certainly be grossly misleading to suggest that their work provides evidence for the existence of non-sensorial conscious mental contents (i.e. imageless thoughts) that comes anywhere close to meeting contemporary scientific standards. Indeed, the fact that Külpe's and Titchener's laboratories each produced results that fitted their directors' contrasting preconceptions did not go unnoticed by their contemporaries. The unresolvable debate contributed significantly to a growing sense of intellectual crisis within psychology, leading to a deep loss of confidence (persisting to the present) in the scientific value of introspection. It also led to a precipitous decline in scientific interest in imagery. On the one hand its importance in the cognitive economy was now subject to doubt; on the other hand it had come to seem that it was very difficult, if not impossible, to study it experimentally and objectively.
3.5 European Responses: Jaensch, Freud, and Gestalt Psychology
In Germany, some psychologists responded to this crisis by turning away from the experimental study of "cognitive" questions about the workings of the mind in general, and moved instead toward an understanding of their subject as concerned with interpretive studies of persons, or the differences between them. They, generally, became more interested in their subjects' dispositions, values, motives, etc. than in either their imagery (unless, perhaps, its contents were interestingly idiosyncratic) or their bewusstseinslagen (if any such existed) (Danziger, 1980).
An exception is the work of Jaensch (1930) on eidetic imagery (i.e. visual imagery that is experienced as before the eyes rather than "in the head," and that is unusually vivid and stable -- most evidence for the existence of eidetic imagery comes from studies of children, and it seems to be rare in adults (Haber, 1979)). However, although this work has not been without influence, and is not necessarily entirely devoid of scientific value, it is deeply tainted by Jaensch's enthusiasm for the Nazi racist ideology that was then taking hold in Germany. Eidetic imagery, he claims (on meager evidence), is characteristic of the less developed minds of not only children, but also members of "southern," "sun adapted" (i.e. darker skinned) races. (Jaensch later won notoriety for performing an experiment designed to show that "northern" chickens are racially superior -- as evidenced by more careful and intelligent pecking -- to "southern" ones (Ash, 1998).)
However, the idea that thought processes that rely upon visual imagery (as opposed to verbal thought) are characteristic of minds that are somehow defective or inferior is not confined to Nazi thinkers such as Jaensch in this era. Sigmund Freud (a Jew, who had to flee his native Austria to escape the Nazis) seems implicitly to have regarded visual images reported by his patients as part and parcel of their neuroses, as something to be exorcized and replaced by verbally mediated, "rational" insights (Esrock, 1994 ch. 3). This may well be related to the sensibility that Jay (1993) finds to be pervasive in 20th century French intellectual life, wherein visually based thought and experience is actively disvalued in comparison to other modes of sense experience, and verbally mediated thinking. Arguably, signs of a similar attitude are evident some decades earlier in England, in the responses Francis Galton received to his pioneering questionnaire about mental imagery vividness. Unlike the regular folk he questioned, many of the scientists and other intellectuals amongst Galton's respondents were distinctly unwilling to admit to ever experiencing mental imagery (Galton, 1880, 1883), a finding that more recent research has failed to reproduce (Roe, 1951; and see Ferguson, 1977, 1992; Shepard, 1978a,b; Deutsch, 1981; Miller, 1984). It is hard to say how widespread such attitudes were, or how they originated (or why they now seem to have faded), but they may well have contributed to the sharp decline in intellectual interest in imagery, apparent not only in psychology but also philosophy and literary studies, that is very apparent in the early decades of the 20th century (Esrock, 1994), and which, among philosophers and literary critics at any rate, has only quite recently shown signs of reversal (e.g. Rollins, 1989; Ellis, 1995; Scarry, 1999).
Many other German psychologists, in the wake of the imageless thought controversy, continued to adhere to the Wundtian ambition of developing an experimental science of the mind, and returned to something like the sort of methodological caution in the use of introspective reports that Wundt himself had advocated, often insisting on the direct corroboration of introspective evidence by observable effects on behavior (Danziger, 1980). This usually meant that, as with Wundt himself, although their experimentally based psychology did not explicitly repudiate the essential role traditionally assigned to imagery in thought and memory, in practice it had rather little to say about it. (Plausible behavioral correlates of imagery processes were not established until the rise of the cognitive psychology movement.)
Perhaps the most influential movement arising from this strand of German psychological thought was Gestalt Psychology. It was also perhaps the last German bred movement to make a major impact in the United States, where it became a sort of "official opposition" to the indigenous and dominant Behaviorism. This was facilitated by the fact that, under the pressure of the rising tide of German Naziism, a significant number of Gestalt Psychology's adherents -- including the acknowledged leaders, Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka -- emigrated to America during the 1920s and 30s (Ash, 1998). Gestalt Theory attempted to explain "higher" thought processes in terms of a sort of hypothetical neuroscience (field theory) rather than in terms of the vicissitudes of introspected thought contents (Thomas, 1987; Ash, 1998). Although the Gestalt psychologists were much concerned with the experimental investigation of subjective experience (from whence they sought most of the evidential support for their views), in practice this research focused almost entirely on perceptual experience. The typical Gestaltist experiment sought immediate, unreflective descriptions of the appearance of a carefully constructed stimulus (frequently complex and illusional), and preferentially used subjects naïve to the theoretical views and concerns of the experimenter. This was something very unlike the deliberate "looking within" practiced by the psychologically sophisticated, trained introspectors of Titchener's or Külpe's laboratories. In certain respects Gestalt psychology foreshadowed, and, indeed, importantly influenced, the cognitivist movement of recent decades (Gardner, 1987). Nevertheless, it had little directly to say about the nature or function of imagery.
3.6 The American Response: Behaviorist Iconophobia (and Motor Theories of Imagery)
Where the Gestalt Psychologists, for the most part, ignored the concept of imagery, the Behaviorist movement, which came to dominate American (and, eventually, international) scientific psychology for almost half a century, actively attacked it. To borrow a coinage from Dennett (1978), Behaviorist psychology was thoroughly iconophobic. Although the rapid rise of Behaviorism in the United States in the early years of the 20th century certainly had multiple causes, social and institutional as well as intellectual (O'Donnell, 1985), the imageless thought controversy, and the questions it raised about introspection as a viable scientific methodology, was certainly prominent amongst the intellectual causes. In the famous "manifesto" by which John B. Watson publicly launched Behaviorism as a self-conscious movement, the controversy over imageless thoughts is cited as the prime example (indeed, the only really explicit example) of the malaise of psychological methodology, for which Behaviorism would be the cure (Watson, 1913a). In a lengthy footnote to this paper, and in a follow-up article, Watson (1913b) cast doubt on the very existence of mental imagery, a position he was to state more forcefully in later work, where he stigmatized the concept (together with all other remotely mentalistic concepts) as a thoroughly unscientific, "medieval" notion, inextricably bound up with religious belief in an immortal soul, and, as such, barely one step away from "old wives tales" and the superstitions of "savagery" (Watson, 1930). He described personal reports of such things as memory images of one's childhood home as "sheer bunk," nothing more than the sentimental "dramatizing" of verbally mediated memories (i.e. conditioned tendencies to say certain things, either out loud or sub-vocally) (Watson, 1928).
Not all American psychologists, even overt Behaviorists, were quite as vehement as Watson in their denunciation of mentality in general, or imagery in particular, but his views certainly resonated with many. The publication of Watson's manifesto (1913a) had, in fact, been preceded by several less radical critiques of introspective methodology from other American psychologists (Danziger, 1980). Particularly relevant here is Knight Dunlap's "The Case Against Introspection" (1912), because Dunlap, who was a junior colleague of Watson in the Johns Hopkins University Psychology Department, seems to have played a crucial if inadvertent role in the formation of Watson's attitude towards imagery, and, thereby, in the crystallization of Behaviorism itself (Cohen, 1979; Thomas, 1989).
During his early days at Johns Hopkins (where he arrived in 1908) Watson, by his own account, believed that "centrally aroused visual sensations [i.e., images] were as clear as those peripherally aroused" (Watson, 1913a), and when Dunlap told Watson of his skepticism concerning what he (Dunlap) called "the old doctrine of images" Watson initially demurred, insisting that he himself made important use of visual imagery, for example in the process of designing experimental apparatus (Dunlap, 1932; cf. Watson, 1936).
However, by this time Watson already seems to have been ambitious to approach human psychology using the methodology that he had already successfully developed for the study of animal behavior (Watson, 1924, 1936). By 1910, and perhaps before, the only real factor preventing Watson from conceiving of the study of behavior as embracing the whole of psychology seems to have been "the problem of the higher thought processes" (Burnham, 1968): Thought was supposed to be carried on primarily in imagery, and imagery was not behavior (see Watson, 1913b). Dunlap's objections to the "old doctrine" that held visual imagery to consist in "centrally aroused visual sensations" seems to have played a crucial role in emboldening Watson to deny the existence of imagery altogether, thus enabling him to present the study of behavior as a fully sufficient methodology for psychology (Watson, 1924; Thomas, 1989).
However, Dunlap never became a Behaviorist himself (Dunlap, 1932), and when his actual views about imagery are examined (Dunlap, 1914) it becomes apparent that he did not intend to deny that people have experiences that are, in a significant sense, quasi-perceptual. Although he described himself as an "iconoclast" (1932), and held that "the image, as a copy or reproduction of sensation . . . does not exist," (Dunlap,1914), Dunlap also asserted that Watson went much too far in rejecting "imagination" as well as "images" (Dunlap, 1932), and he continued to hold that we are in need of an account of the nature of "ideas". Something, something mental and, indeed, quasi-perceptual, is needed to fill the functional role that images played in the traditional psychology of thinking. It is clear that he (unlike Watson) did not deny the existence of imagery in the sense in which it was defined at the beginning of this article (i.e. quasi-perceptual experience). Dunlap's theory would seem to be best understood as a pioneering (though perhaps, ultimately, unconvincing) attempt to explain both the experience of imagery, and the functional role that it plays in thinking, in a way that avoids postulating the presence of pictures in the head, or inner copies of former sense impressions.
According to Dunlap, ideas are actually complexes of muscular sensations, caused by outwardly imperceptible movements, or, at least, tensings, of the muscles, particularly (though not exclusively) the muscles associated with the sense organs themselves, such as those that move the eyes. Particular patterns of muscular response, Dunlap holds, occur during the perception of particular types of objects or events, and may be aroused not only in the course of the actual perception of a relevant object, but also through associative links with the sensations produced by other muscular response patterns appropriate to other sorts of objects or events. These latter patterns may have arisen in actual perception, or may themselves have been aroused associatively in a similar way. Thus, associative trains of thought can be sustained. When the muscular response is aroused associatively, rather than by the actual perceptual presence of the relevant object, we experience the idea, or image, of the object. Visual imagery consists not of copies or echoes of visual sensations, but rather of actual current sensations in the muscles involved in the process of seeing something.
There is indeed a present content essentially connected with imagination or thought; but this present content is in each case a muscle sensation, or a complex of muscle sensations. We are therefore, in investigating images, dealing not with copies, or pale ghosts, of former sensations but with actual present sensations. (Dunlap, 1914) These muscle sensations are, explicitly, not to be confused with the impalpable imageless thoughts of Würzburg, rather, "This sensation is the true image" (Dunlap, 1914, emphasis in original). (For a more extensive account of Dunlap's theory of imagery, and its influence on Watson, see Thomas (1989).)
Dunlap's theory of imagery/ideas was publicly presented only in one brief and rather obscurely published article (Dunlap, 1914) and (apart from its unintended and covert influence on Watson), it seems to have attracted very little interest from his contemporaries. The theory probably owes much to the influence of Hugo Münsterberg, whose "motor theory" of the mind had a considerable vogue amongst American psychologists at the time, but which was soon to be eclipsed by the rise of Behaviorism (Scheerer, 1984). Münsterberg was a German, a former student of Wundt, who had been hired to teach psychology at Harvard when William James moved on, and Dunlap had studied under him before coming to Johns Hopkins (Dunlap, 1932). An earlier "motor" theory of imagery can also be found in the work of the French psychologist Theodule Ribot (1890, 1900) (predating Münsterberg's influence), but the most developed version was surely that of Margaret Floy Washburn, a former student of Titchener. Washburn (unlike Dunlap) is quite open in acknowledging her intellectual debt to Münsterberg (Washburn, 1932), and her book Movement and Mental Imagery (Washburn, 1916) goes into considerable, if speculative, physiological as well as psychological detail. However, by the time this was published Behaviorist iconophobia was already taking firm hold, and Washburn's version of the motor theory of imagery seems to have failed to attract any more adherents than Dunlap's had.
Infamously, during the period of Behaviorist dominance, up until about 1960, mental imagery received minimal attention from scientific psychologists. According to Paivio (1971), the 1920s and 1930s were "the most arid period" for imagery research, but Kessel (1972) reports that even through the 1940s and 1950s a scant five references to imagery are to be found in Psychological Abstracts. Admittedly some interest in the psychology of imagery continued outside the United States in this era. In Britain, for example, psychologists such as Pear (1925, 1927), Bartlett (1927, 1932), and, latterly, McKellar (1957) kept an interest in the topic alive. However, this work did not have much contemporaneous impact in the United States, which by the 1930s had already achieved its dominant superpower status in psychology, if not yet in other domains. A general revival of interest in imagery did not get under way in America before the1960s. By that time the Behaviorist consensus was beginning to break down (as can be seen in the work of Mowrer (1960), who tried to patch-up Behaviorist learning theory by introducing the alien concept of imagery into it), and new and striking empirical findings about imagery emerged to play a significant role in the cognitive revolution.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Group Presentations

The group presentations were, once again, phenomenal! I enjoyed everyone's, some were a might long winded, but nonetheless all were excellent. This has been such a great experience for me to be able to work in groups where everyone had fun and came together to bring about something that was unusual and entertaining. And you know, Dr, season always says he wants to be entertained, and that we did. I used to not like to do group work because it was always a pain in the !@#, but in the classes that I have had with Sexson we have always had a great time. Everyone is always full of fun and unusual ideas, and we know that Sexson loves this. I guess his enthusiasm rubs off on everyone else. This has been a good class and it has been a different class. But, then again, all my classes with Sexson have different, and that is a compliment to him. It has been a terrific end to my Jr. year. Yahoo!! Its finally near the end. Peace Cindy

Epic poem by Ed Shanley for Cindy Kasner(Thank you Ed!!!)

I sing of the Mother-Earth Goddess
The protectress of all animal kind
The Goddess of the Feast and of Celebration,
The Goddess of Wisdom- I sing of the omni potent Cindy Kasner
May we all envoke her mighty grace.

I sing of she who was conceived out of the fiery orange ethers of the universe,
By her own energies and humors not yet contained within a human vessel;
Yes, no mother or father could provide a lineage worthy enough for the omni potent Cindy Kasner.

I sing of she who was born in a land where the father spirit, the great Grizzly bear, towers above all else, even life itself; A land where the sun is bi-polar: yearly giving forth great abundance and continuous fiery orange illumination before utterly deserting all it had once cherished and reside over.

I sing of the Mother-Erarth Goddess, who in her birth and rebirth provides for the multitudes of man.

I sing of the protectress of all animal kind, who is so loved by her simple disciples within the natural world that they have vowed to follow her through whatever hardships she may face, willingly sacrificing their individual lives for her safety so that their progeny maybe plentiful. Yes! this is she who is surrounded when venturing through the treacherous waters of the deep unknown waters which had once swallowed her mortal love extinguishing his life; surrounded by the mighty wolves of the sea; the Killer Whale.

Of this voluptuous, hazel eyed, browned haired, omni-potent deity; may we all invoke her mighty grace.

I sing of the Goddess of the Feast and of Celebration, who having joyously concocted within her orange hued palace in the heavens the divine dish of spaghetti and meatballs then gave this food of divinity unto the masses of humanity so that they would be, when standing in her favor, sorrowful and starving no more.

I sing of the Goddess of Wisdom, who basks eternally in the light of universal knowledge. It is she who, unlike her fellow Gods having once attained greatness and now lay lazy and fallow, she who not only inspires man to be a seeker of knowledge, but she, also herself, endeavors to be a non-traditional university student.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Oral Traditons -Epic/Heroic Poems

I was so amazed by the heroic/epic poems that everyone presented on Thursday! Everyone's was so good. I was just blown away, and I enjoyed listening and watching everyone, this was an excellent idea Dr. Sexson!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Salmon Rushdie"Freedom of Choice"

OH MY GOD! Rushdie was incredible! One of the best times I have spent here in Montana.
Here are some of the many note worthy things Rushdie had to say:
*Juggling act of oral narrator-5 balls in the air at once and not dropping any-Rushdie did a excellent job of this
*Rusdie is a good "juggler" as seen in Haroun-he is well accomplished as is Scheherazade at story telling
* Blasphemy-he thinks not-his family excused Religion-they did not give a damn
* Subject of Religion was not important until it came after him-religion coming after all of us
* Frontier use dto be optimistic-potential and hope-aftermath of 911 -alarmed frontier-America thinks it has something to close/seal-putting walls up to keep people out-instead of to keep people in-Walls-Berlin-Dark shadow of Soviet Union-America must question this
* Rushdie speaks of a book by Saul Bellows where a dog thinks 'for God's sake open the universe a little more-you must push against the wall-you do it by pushing out against the universe-go to the edge and push-we as people-artist's do not take the safe/middle ground
* in order to not be defeated by the enemy we must continue to be what we are!
*homeostatic-ability to retell stories 'freedom of choice'/free speech
*a man's character is his fate/destiny-writing novels in the world of- your character may not be your destiny-how to do this now?
*no such thing as a ordinary life-inside the walls of every home/family there is mayhem-our lives are not ordinary/ fiction of ordinary life-this is the power of the novelist 'to shape life' who has the power over the story-Satanic Verses-power and art power and intellect
*Battle between those who are into books and those who are not-journalists? They only want the facts-but who's facts are they? yours, the journalists?
He is outrageous!
*Society -Religion they are the grand narrators!
What an amazing lecture or story or what ever you want to call it, I found Rusdie to absolutely amazing! Peace Out

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ong "Space and Meaning"

logomachy a controversy of no real substance, depending on a merely verbal dispute ( Derrida probably would not agree with this)

A dispute about words.
A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.

logocentrism - Derrida: all forms of thought based on a desire for (absolute) truth.

DERRIDA, RE ARTAUD BY WAY OF NERVAL - "Necessity of a logomachy. That is to say beyond the becalmed politeness of a cultured language, the war with words, the drilling and maddened destruction of a language policing and reigning over its subjectiles. In this conflagration of words, against words, the guardians of language will denounce a logomachy; they will require that discourse conform to pedagogy and philosophy, indeed to dialectic. But logomachy aims at taking breath back from them, in a war of reconquest." --Jacques Derrida,

logos - cf KJV John 1:1- "In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God." [In the original Greek, the word for word was logos.] This is a complicated idea central to much of Western poetics. So to say that a poet is searching for the Logos means that he is searching for the power that gave birth to the universe. In some sense, Logos refers to the idea of perfected language, speech that can conjure & create. It is often used by contemporary critics to refer to a non-existing speech or language that can capture the essence of reality; the opposing idea is that no language can ever truly depict the world as it really is. Some people [nearly all literary critics] also slag it off as just meaning rationalism. Rhet: appeal to logic or reasoning using various kinds of evidence supporting the speaker's arguable claims.(this is an interesting definition compared to our's in class)

Language is perhaps the most anthropomorphic and anthropocentric of all the great human ficta (inventions). It is the prerequisite myth for the existence of any other myths.

In Ong's 5th chapter of "Print, Space, and Closure" he refers to Derrida's logomachy and I have spent some time researching the meaning. Ong says "Writing has reconstituted the originally oral, spoken word in visual space"(pg 121). Yes, I agree. It seems that Derrida had a 'war with words' and it seems to me that Ong too is at a war with words; granted the oral culture and how it developed and survived is really interesting and the whole memory system is as well. However, I think that we need words and that words on paper are a good thing for many reasons. It lets us learn new things, review old things, it gives us a privacy with words, which Ong speaks of, and it lets us know what we mean because we can see what we say.
I am not sure why Ong brings up Derrida, it seems that if he is to bring up Derrida that he should mention Saussure, Lacan, Kristeva and others. All of these critics and word professors had much to say about words, where they came from, what they mean, what they do not mean, how they came about, and so on. I think that Ong contradicts himself at times and that he liked the oral tradition and he also likes the literary tradition, or the secondary orality. I wish that when he mentions someome like Derrida that he would address the importance of addressing them. I have spent over an hour trying to find something that Derrida said about logomachy and so far I have not been able. However, that may due to my research skills. I am dertermined to find more and will post it.
Ong goes on in the chapter to say "print created a new sense of the private ownership of words" and "the drift in human consciousness toward greater individualism had been served well by print" I think that print is and was a good thing.I am never quite sure if Ong agrees or disagrees and that irritates me. Cindy

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Myth & Mythology

Mythologyby Bernard Doyle

Definitions of MythBefore defining the term "mythology" one needs to define the meaning of the word "myth". The word itself comes from the Greek "mythos" which originally meant "speech" or "discourse" but which later came to mean "fable" or "legend". In this document the word "myth" will be defined as a story of forgotten or vague origin, basically religious or supernatural in nature, which seeks to explain or rationalize one or more aspects of the world or a society.
Furthermore, in the context of this document, all myths are, at some stage, actually believed to be true by the peoples of the societies that used or originated the myth. Our definition is thus clearly distinguished from the use of the word myth in everyday speech which basically refers to any unreal or imaginary story.
A myth is also distinctly different from an allegory or parable which is a story deliberately made up to illustrate some moral point but which has never been assumed to be true by anyone.
Some myths describe some actual historical event, but have been embellished and refashioned by various story tellers over time so that it is impossible to tell what really happened. In this last aspect myths have a legendary and historical nature.
Definitions of MythologyFor our purposes the word mythology has two related meanings. Firstly it refers to a collection of myths that together form a mythological system. Thus one can speak of "Egyptian Mythology", "Indian Mythology", "Maori Mythology" or "Greek Mythology". In this sense one is describing a system of myths which were used by a particular society at some particular time in human history. It is also possible to group mythologies in other ways. For example one can group them geographically and then speak of "Oceanic Mythology", "Oriental Mythology" and "African Mythology".
A second meaning of the term mythology is the academic study of myths and systems of myths in general.
The types of individual myths and the purpose of mythologyBroadly speaking myths and mythologies seek to rationalize and explain the universe and all that is in it. Thus, they have a similar function to science, theology, religion and history in modern societies. Systems of myths have provided a cosmological and historical framework for societies that have lacked the more sophisticated knowledge provided by modern science and historical investigation.
Creation myths provide an explanation of the origin of the universe in all its complexity. They are an important part of most mythological systems. Creation myths often invoke primal gods and animals, titanic struggles between opposing forces or the death and/or dismemberment of these gods or animals as the means whereby the universe and its components were created.
Apart from an explanation of the creation of the universe, mythologies also seek to explain everyday natural phenomena. The Egyptian scarab god Khepri, who rolled the ball of the sun across the sky each day thus provided an explanation of the rising of the sun each day, its progress across the sky and its setting in the evening. Similarly, the Maori of New Zealand attributed the morning dew to the tears of the god Rangi (Heaven) for the goddess Papa (Earth) from whom he was separated. This class of myth is sometimes called a nature myth.
Myths are also often used to explain human institutions and practices as well. For example, the Greek hero Pelops was reputed to have started the Olympic Games after Poseidon helped him win the hand of Hippodameia in a chariot race. This type of myth is thus etiological. It seeks to account for some human institution through a myth.
Another class of myth is the Theogenic myth. This sets out to delineate the relationships between various gods and other mythical personages and beings who are mentioned in previously existing myths. Theogenic Myths are thus secondary in their purpose. They set out to provide a reinforcement or framework for an existing system of myths. The best known example of this is the Theogeny of Hesiod.
It should not be thought that the functions of myths as delineated above are mutually exclusive. For example creation myths by their very nature are usually Theogenic as well. Myths can, and have, served many purposes. Myths and systems of myths have been created by human beings for many reasons over thousands of years. They are a superb product of humanity collectively and a rich resource for the enjoyment of all mankind. Their fantastic and unreal nature to our modern eyes should not prevent us from enjoying them.

Article created on 17 April 1997; last modified on 02 August 2004.© MCMXCV - MMV Encyclopedia Mythica. All rights reserved.

Myth Tellers....


"it seems as if the whole of human life is contained within the mythical framework, as if the difference between the sacred and the profane no longer existed. Mythology provides man with models on which he must base his conduct, from the gesture of sowing seeds to the act of love, from house building to the touch of the fingers on the musical skin of the drum."

'In Africa it seems as if the whole of human life is contained within the mythical framework, as if the difference between the sacred and the profane no longer existed. Mythology provides man with models on which he must base his conduct, from the gesture of sowing seeds to the act of love, from house building to the touch of the fingers on the musical skin of the drum....for the whole of Black Africa we can affirm the primordial importance of the myth both as...the basis of a theory of symbolic knowledge and as the basis of social, political. even economic structures, which are nothing more nor less than exemplifications of mythical patterns.'
This concept of myth as a vast and complex determinate structure for both social and spiritual life is one that we may find difficult to comprehend. We are used to visiting the world of myth in the same way we visit a museum. Around us are excerpted exhibits, plundered from their own worlds and displayed for our amazement. Whether glorious or crude, they are presented to us as solemn reminders of the incomprehensible products of the human mind in a state of innocent ignorance. We may wonder at the extravagance and fertility of the invention, marvel at the impressive achievements or smile at the uncouth nature of the more exotic tales, but the overriding impression we are led to receive is that here are the products of the childhood of understanding, things which we have put aside. Even when we have been introduced to the works of the Jungians, with their attempts to describe myths as the 'manifestations of the unconscious', or to those various theorists who have analysed myths in terms of symbolism, of functionalism, of structuralism or even of ecology, it comes as something of a shock to discover this world of mythical complexity and organization. Clearly this is a product of minds far removed from their infancy. Within this complexity whole societies find their inspiration for intricate and sophisticated models of social structure, models which have proved sufficiently sustainable to survive apparently little changed across thousands of years.
In Equatorial Colombia, for instance, Reichel Dolmatoff describes the world of the Desana Indians:
'The six corners of the tribal territory are marked 'by six waterfalls, each a place where the head of one of the six original giant anacondas meets another's tail. Each of these snakes stands for one of the six rivers that frame the traditional homelands'.
This hexagon of landmarks is the earthly equivalent of a 'giant hexagon of stars, centred on the belt of Orion'. The terrestrial hexagon is centred on the 'intersection between the Pira-Parana River and the earth's equator.
'Here where the sky is said to cohabit with the earth, is the place where Sun Father erected his shadowless staff and fertilized the earth'.
This spot is the whirlpool entrance to the womb of the earth, and from here the first people emerged at the beginning.
'Because of its importance as an organizing principle of thought, the hexagon metaphor reappears in one aspect of Desana tradition after another. All hexagonal shapes in nature have significance for them... even the shell of a particular land tortoise. Each cell in the shell's pattern of hexagons symbolizes a character in the creation myth or an organizational principle of society - the family, for example, or marriage into another family. Desana rules for marriage exchange are visualised in terms of a hexagon'.

Here are sky, earth, nature and myth united into one model of the universe, a model still actively inhabited by a tribe of equatorial Indians, but built of images as ancient as any we know of. We would make a major step forward if we were to describe these earliest expressions of understanding as 'prime' thought, rather then 'primitive'. We would then have in one word the notion of 'first', together with that of 'quality' but also with the sense of 'an indivisible quantity'. At least we should then be better prepared to face the full impact of myth, which beneath the museum-exhibit surface of the populist imagery, is seething with an abundance of concepts so complex and obscure that it threatens to sweep us away on a tide of incomprehensibility
Nor is this a characteristic only of those myths reported from remote and isolated contemporary societies. When we look more closely at the most ancient records, from Egypt, from Mesopotamia, from India and China, the myths of creation stand complete and almost incomprehensibly elaborate. All aspects of life seem to be embraced by their intricacy. Art, government, music, ritual, family relationships, architecture, even writing and the alphabet, appear as part of this completeness. Even a preliminary reconnaissance of the material reveals that, whatever else they are, myths are much more than the product of minds in a benumbed sense of uncomprehending fear before the forces of nature. They represent the products of highly developed intellects, revealing an immensely complex and profound awareness of that most fundamental of human endeavours, the art of organizing experience.
The ancient Hindu scriptures of the Rig Veda, considered amongst the earliest of sacred writings, reveal this complexity both in their language and in their structure. In her introduction to her translation Wendy O'Flaherty discusses the formidable difficulties of making sense of such dense and paradoxical writings. One such difficulty, which she describes as a 'form of deliberate confusion', is the use of
'mutually illuminating metaphors. Certain concerns recur throughout the Rig Veda..the themes of harnessing and unharnessing, which shift in their positive or negative value (sometimes good, sometimes bad)..the closely related theme of finding open space and freedom in contrast to being hemmed in or trapped. (T)hese are linked to other constellations of images; conflict within the family; the preciousness of animals; the wish for knowledge and immortality. The problem arises when one tries to determine which of these are in the foreground and which in the background of a particular hymn. Are the cows symbolic of the sun or is the sun a metaphor for cows? The careless or greedy exegete finds himself in danger of rampant Jungianism: everything is a symbol of everything else; each is a metaphor for all the others. ..when asked to pinpoint the central point of a verse, he will (answer) 'all of the above'
In addition to its immense linguistic and semantic complexity, the RigVeda also reveals structural characteristics which are far from accidental. It is composed of 10800 verses, each of 40 syllables, making a total of 432,000 syllables in all. This is no arbitrary number. The fire altar, assiduously dismantled and rebuilt each year for the agnicayana ritual, contains 10800 bricks, each one representing an individual part of the created universe. There are 108 classical upanisads, and the same number, together with its factors, reappears throughout Indo-European myth and temple architecture.
The Rig Veda is a concentrated expression of the immense web of relationships which the myth tellers created from their experience, from the messages they read in the world around them. It is this web of mutual affinities, this ever-increasing texture of organization, which generated the meaning upon which their society was constructed.
In weaving this web, the myth tellers were laying down the foundation for all the fundamental ideas about human spirituality and culture, from 'fertility cults' and ancestor worship to Plato's doctrine of essences and the unity of all existence, from original sin and salvation to the concept of law and order, from domestic architecture and family relationships to immortality and the eternal godhead.
Each of these ideas is linked to the others, not in any nebulous way but according to a fundamental set of principles, expressed in the myths of creation and organization. Our task is to reclaim these principles. However 'wild' the kind of thought which constructed them might appear, it was never undisciplined. The relationships it explored and celebrated all referred back to one primal model for their classification, a model which has shaped the way we view the world and the sense we make of our experience of it. The source of inspiration for this model, the originating referents that laid down the 'warp and weft' of the fabric of meaning, must date from the earliest history of the human mind in its present form.