Tuesday, August 11, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] Creativity as social mind

Wittgenstein wrote:

It is misleading then to talk of thinking as of a 'mental
activity'. We may say that thinking is essentially the activity
of operating with signs. This activity is performed by the hand,
when we think by writing; by the mouth and larynx, when we think
by speaking; and if we think by imagining signs or pictures, I
can give you no agent that thinks. If then you say that in such
cases the mind thinks, I would only draw attention to the fact
you are using a metaphor, that here the mind is an agent in a
different sense from that in which the hand can be said to be
the agent in writing.

If again we talk about the locality where thinking takes place
we have a right to say that this locality is the paper on which
we write or the mouth which speaks. And if we talk of the head
or the brain as the locality of thought, this is using the
'locality of thinking' in a different sense.[1]

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Preliminary studies for the
"Philosophical investigations".

The argument Wittgenstein is proposing here is that thinking is an activity
that might be located in all sorts of places other than the mind. He
suggests that mind itself might be little more than a metaphor, a conceptual
receptacle we can use so as to be able to identify where we subjectively do
things like thinking, talking, perceiving and feeling. Wittgenstein suggests
that the mind might not exist as anything more than metaphor or, that if it
does exist, it might exist in place(s) we do not expect.

I¹d like to add to the places mind can exist the creative space that exists
between us all; the social relationships we forge and are forged by, through
our exchanges, whether large (a significant cultural intervention, for
example) or so small we are not aware anything is there at all. I would like
to think it is in the innumerable small things we share that we largely
exist, only being reminded of ourselves as a phenomenon of this process of
culturation when we encounter the big event (what might sometimes be called
genius ­ a word I find unuseful). Through this view we might gain a more
profound understanding of what is often called popular culture but which
might be better characterised as of the same ilk as Fernando Ortiz¹s concept
of transculturation.



Simon Biggs
Research Professor
edinburgh college of art

AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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