From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Mon 23 Dec 2002 - 00:14:00 GMT

  • Next message: "Statistical thought in the Social Sciences"

    At 04:50 PM 12/22/2002 -0600, you wrote:

    > Back to Maurice. We have two more questions to ask of him
    >before we proceed: (1) how is an Other recognized? and (2) is there an
    >essential nature, accessible by probability, to being-among-Others? As
    >to the first question...
    > "From the depths of my subjectivity I see another subjectivity
    >invested with equal rights appear, because the behavior of the other
    >takes place within my perceptual field. I understand this behavior, the
    >words of another; I espouse his thoughts because this other, born in the
    >midst of my phenomena, appropriates them and treats them in accord
    >with typical behaviors which I myself have experienced. Just as my
    >body, as the system of all my holds on the world, founds the unity of the
    >objects, which I perceive, in the same way the body of the other - as the
    >bearer of symbolic behaviors and of the behavior of true reality - tears
    >itself away from being one of my phenomena, offers me the task of a
    >true communication, and confers on my objects the new dimension of
    >intersubjective being or, in other words, of objectivity."
    > All very well and good. I see another 'myself' manifested,
    >through behavior and meaning congruent with my own, within my
    >perceptual field. Now it is time to answer the second question.
    > "The For-Themselves - me for myself and the other for himself -
    >must stand out against a background of For-Others - I for the other and
    >the other for me. My life must have a significance which i do not
    >constitute; there must strictly speaking be an intersubjectivity; each one
    >of us must be both anonymous in the sense of absolutely individual,
    >and anonymous in the sense of absolutely general. Our being-in-the-
    >world is the concrete bearer of this double anonymity."
    > Thus we are all different in that we are different subjects, but
    >this difference is adjectival, not essential. Likewise we are all the same
    >in our very identity of mode of subjectivity (without which it would be
    >impossible to distinguish between subject and object), but once again
    >this sameness is adjectival rather than essential. For beings-in-the-
    >world, difference and sameness are the thesis and antithesis which
    >correlate to comprise a synthetic social essence, one in which statistical
    >thought has a sound phenomenological basis. Merleau-Ponty stated
    >the need for such a basis; if he had sufficiently perused his own writings
    >he would have found it there.

    What does the term 'adjectival' mean?

    > Even human will strives for such a social synthesis, as erving
    >goffman demonstrates.
    > "When an individual plays a part he implicitly requests his
    >observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them.
    >They are asked to believe that the character they see actually
    >possesses the attributes he appears to possess, that the task he
    >performs will have the consequences that are implicitly claimed for it,
    >and that, in general, matters are what they appear to be."
    > Thus one consciously strives to be accepted and categorized
    >by others. Furthermore...
    > "One cannot judge the importance of definitional disruptions by
    >the frequesny with which they occur, for apparently they would occur
    >more were not constant precautions taken. We find that preventive
    >practices are constantly employed to compensate for discrediting
    >ocurences that have not been successfully avoided. When the
    >individual employs these strategies and tactics to protect his own
    >projections, we may refer to them as 'defensive practices'; when a
    >participant employs them to save the definition of the situation projected
    >by another, we speak of 'protective practices' or 'tact'. Together,
    >defensive and protective practices comprise the techniques employed
    >to safeguard the impression fostered by an individual during his
    >presence before others. It should be added that while we may be ready
    >to see that no fostered impressions would survive if defensive practices
    >were not employed, we are less ready prehaps to see that few
    >impressions could survive if those who received the impressions did not
    >exert tact in their reception of them."
    > ...the individual is consciously aided and abetted conspiratorily
    >by the others, who consciously strive to accept and categorize. With
    >the explication of this conjunction between essence and accidence
    >towards similarity, the phenomenological basis for statistical thought is

    What is an 'explication'?. What is an 'accidence'?

    > But what form may the representation of this thought take?
    >Humans are not absolutely different, nor are they absolutely the same.
    >However, neither are the similarities arising from their sameness-
    >difference dialectic absolutely delineated, nor are all aspects of these
    >similarities identically patterned. By what means may such a variable
    >(the consequence of probable) multiplicity be uniformly represented?
    > I suggest that the representation already commonly in use, the
    >Bell curve projected on an XY axis intersection grid (abscissa and
    >ordinate), faithfully represents the phenomenological realities of the
    >referent situation. The degree of difference within an anonymous
    >aspect of humanity's actions or intentions may vary narrowly or widely.
    >Also, the locus of greatest agreement may not be fixed a priori. The
    >Bell curve is compatible with these requirements. The possible
    >differences may vary to infinity, and the slope may be adjusted to
    >intersect the X axis where appropriate, or not at all. The apex of the
    >curve is determined by the locus of greatest agreement, not vice-versa.
    >The number of individuals within this locus also determines the Y axis
    >intersection point. Thus, the Bell curve is a variable tool well suited to
    >this particular purpose. Also to be kept in mind is the a posteriori
    >nature of its implementation, as a display of previously garnered
    >experimental and phenomenal data. Lastly, as mentioned before, it is
    >already in use in the social sciences, and the weight of its empirical
    >veracity is a strong argument in its favor.
    > Would Maurice agree? Would the use fo the Bell curve as a
    >statistical tool in the social sciences be compatible with Merleau-Ponty's
    >conception of Freedom?
    > "We are always in a plenum, in being...I may defy all accepted
    >form, and spurn everything, for there is no case in which I am utterly
    >committed: but in this case I do not withdraw into my freedom, I engage
    >it elsewhere...Far from its being the case that my freedom is always
    >unattended, it is never without an accomplice, and its power of
    >perpetually tearing itself away finds its fulcrum in my universal
    >commitment in the world."
    > I think so.

    All I can gather from this piece of writing (which I have a great deal of difficulty understanding) is that you have some proof that people perceive and act on the world differently because of the uniqueness of their position, but that their actions and perceptions fall within certain ranges because of the advantages of being able to understand the perceptions and actions of others.

    Perhaps the difficulties I have in comprehension are because of my lack of familiarity with the philosophical style of writing and my own lack of intelligence, but I'm also reminded of the position taken by Agner Fog that obscurity is encouraged in certain social sciences because it makes arguments more difficult to refute.

     From what I do I understand I might suggest that the multi-dimensional fitness landscape provides a better model than the simple bell shaped curve. The fitness landscape model treats fitness as one dimension and each possible characteristic as another. To the extent that difference can be called 'adjectival' if might fit in well with Manfred Eigen's concept of
    'quasi-species' where a constant influx of variation ensures that a population clusters in the area of a peak without its members actually sitting atop that peak. Perhaps differences are 'adjectival' when they are such that they don't cause individuals to actually leave the slope. When such differences aren't adjectival they cross the 'error catastrophe threshold' which prevents a fitter peak from becoming prevalent within a population.

    Your essay also brings to mind another point when you discuss the need of individuals to develop common perceptions to build on, and that is the notion of a fitness peak within the memetic realm becoming fitter because in certain cases common usage creates fitness. Where a meme is a tool, having the tool be the same for everyone, where there would be a fitness cost associated with learning how to use a different tool every time. A tool with less than maximal absolute fitness can become have a greater fitness because of its common use.

    Ray Recchia

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