continuity vs binary:long

Mon, 30 Oct 1995 11:08:00 PST

Let me see if I can add/clarify (or hopelesly muddle things) the comments so

External world -- continuous at a human scale

external phenomena
comes in a contiuum without coherent units (sound waves, light waves, odors,
etc.)-- let's represent it via: %^^*(*&*^$##$&*(())??(*&*()

data arrive to the senses in this "unorganized" manner. The brain then
organizes that sensory input into units that are meaningful to the brain:

[%^^*(] [*&*^$##] [$&*] [(())??(] [*&*()] (the [] indicate that "chunking"
or coding has taken place at the level of the processing by the brain; that
is we "see" individual objects, hear individual sounds, etc.)

Let's put these together with cultural constructs:

external inputs to the senses cognized inputs (coherent to brain)
%^^*(*&*^$##$&*(())??(*&*() ---> [%^^*(] [*&*^$##] [$&*] [(())??(] [*&*()]
| cultural constructs
binary structures (e.g. L.S.)
mediated structures (e.g. El Guindi)
kinship terminology
structures (e.g.Read)

The vertical arrow marked "cultural construct" is at right angles not just
because of screen size but to indicate that cultural categorization is NOT
just further "unit" construction, but has its own logic for the production of
structure. I give three examples of research into structures, each
characterized by viewing structure as a CONSTRUCT with an internal logic
(though Levi-Strauss is not always exactly crystal clear on that
internal logic). An example of a binary structure in the sense I am using
it is something like:

Enemy/Friend, WITH the following rules: An Enemy of an Enemy is a Friend
A Friend of a Friend is a Friend
An Enemy of a Friend is an Enemy
A Friend of an Enemy is an Enemy

The rules CREATE the following structure:

--> --
| E --------> F |
-- <------- <--

where "--------->" or "<----------" represents the 3rd and 4th rules,

and the funny arrow (its supposed to be an arrow starting at E and pointing
to E, or starting at F and pointing to F) represents rules 1 and 2. This
structure, by the way, arises in a number of contexts (e.g.,
positive/negative numbers, with the four rules representing multiplication by
positive and negative quantities; e..g., a positive number times a positive
mhumber is a positive number, etc.)

Note that this structure of Friend and Enemy is built upon a notion of
friends and enemies that may originate at the more cognitive level of how the
brain processes external sensory information in terms of its representations
of the external world, but it is not PREDICTABLE from the cognitive level as
it is a structure that arises ONLY when the 4 rules are also given cultural
expression and as such is an abstract structure (and can be modeled as such)
which need not have concordance with empirical reality (real friends and
enemies do not neatly match the 4 rules for example). But the existence of
the structure is NOT dependent upon concordance with external reality as it
is NOT a model of external reality, but an cultural construct built up
logically out of those four rules. Further, the example suggest that for
reasons of logical completeness it is NECESSARY to either have all 4 rules or
none of the rules. But enought of that.

The point of the example is to highlight that, in my opinion, the
level of the cultural construct is not a simple extension of the cognitive
level of the brain but stands to that cognitive level as the cognitive
level is to the level of sensory inputs; i.e., there is a whole apparatus
that needs to be understood. The reference I give to El Guindi is to the
most complete work there is on the structural analysis of ritual. In her
work the underlying cultural construct is derived from the behavior
events during ritual (birth, death and marriage among the
Zapotec). The reference to Read is to work on modeling the conceptual
structure of kinship terminologies viewed as a conceptural structure in its
own right.

Further, I suggest, one of the problems we constantly run into is inadequate
sorting out of levels. For example, Pate started this discussion by asking
about disjunction between binary oppositions, such as Hot/Cold and the
continuum of termperatures in the real world. His comment is not "wrong;"
rather, it confounds phenomena at different levels and treats them as if they
are at the same level.

D. Read