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Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity between Life and Language - Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Elena Clare Cuffari & Hanne De Jaegher

You, dear reader, are a linguistic body. #LinguisticBodies
You are bodies. Yes, bodies. Organic, sensorimotor, intersubjective.

As a linguistic body, which exists as a process of navigating and blending social and personal orders, you bear a simultaneous relation of distancing and ongoing orientation toward your own sensorimotor and organic dimensions. #LinguisticBodies
As a linguistic body, you are made up of utterances and relations between utterances. Your linguistic agency consists in orchestrating and ordering these utterances.

[Utterances] are acts. They are embodied, material patterns enacted by organic and sensorimotor bodies. They unfold in space and time. They have consequences. Unlike other acts, utterances have an inherently dialogic structure.

[Utterances] orient and position people—speakers, hearers, characters—vis-à-vis one another and situations. Utterances engender recognition and interpretation. They are acts that demand, and create, participants. Like you. #LinguisticBodies
[T]he paradox of being a linguistic body: you must make yourself out of others. #LinguisticBodies
These are exciting times for the sciences of the mind. #LinguisticBodies
Language is embodied.

Bodies are not taken seriously enough. They are either impoverished (reduced to factual structures and constraints), or mystified. Either way, real, concrete bodies fail to be properly theorized by the sciences of the mind. #LinguisticBodies
Bodies are inherently complex, convoluted, in flux, of-a-piece, and self-contradictory.

In selecting one aspect out of a living body we can hardly avoid pulling the threads to many others, so that we are ultimately compelled to take the entire creature into account, with its relations to the world and its history.

<- In this, bodies seem quite different from machines. We need to elucidate these intricacies, using principles that can orient us toward a better understanding. We have to let bodies tell us their story. We need a theory of bodies. #LinguisticBodies
The enactive approach is a research endeavor that can answer this need for a theory of bodies.

The explanatory principles that help us study the organization of life are continuous with those that help us understand the mind, without reducing the latter to the former.

The continuity between life and mind is a guiding statement for a nonreductive naturalism that takes our experience as concrete human beings seriously, without dualisms. #LinguisticBodies
The thing about bodies: we cannot separate what they are from what they do. Bodies are animated by flows of matter, open-ended, innumerable relational possibilities, potentialities, and virtualities. #LinguisticBodies
[Bodies] also have points of view, commitments, personal experiences, joys, grievances, life projects. They change the world they live in. Bodies make history together. #LinguisticBodies
We cannot be satisfied with intuitive notions about bodies, vaguely comprising their organic, physiological & anatomical aspects & boundaries. Bodies are better conceived as processes, practices, & networks of relations; they have more in common with hurricanes than with statues.
The universal human body does not exist; we should begin to phase it out of our theories. In this, we depart from previous work that has used bodies as universal templates for explaining the mind. #LinguisticBodies
Bodies are unfinished, always becoming. Linguistic bodies, particularly so. They are always constituting themselves through their activities in linguistic communities. #LinguisticBodies
Language is a living stream of activity in the sociomaterial world of practices and history. Language is a field of struggle, transformation, criticism, of human enaction. #LinguisticBodies
The key to our sociality is not in our heads or in our genes, but out there in the world. #LinguisticBodies
End of chapter 1

Here's a brief overview of #LinguisticBodies

A novel theoretical framework for an embodied, non-representational approach to language that extends and deepens enactive theory, bridging the gap between sensorimotor skills and language. mitpress.mit.edu/books/linguist…
Shall we do chapter 2 today?
Human bodies are no longer universal blueprints, whose very universality is their strong theoretical suit (as in cognitive linguistics), but they are historical, gendered, stylized, politicized, with varying forms of ableness, powers, and sensitivities. #LinguisticBodies
They are actual living material bodies, subject to disease, compelled to work for a living, to eat, breathe, sweat, feel pain, and give birth. [They] escape the abstract textualization within which different postmodernist & poststructuralist accounts have tried to contain them.
[Cognitivist/functionalist] sciences of the mind are predominantly questions about the way the mind works, not so much about what it is. #LinguisticBodies
Much has been said about why [functionalist] picture is unsatisfactory, how it puts too much emphasis on intellectual, problem-oriented, and individual aspects of mental life and how it perpetuates a dualistic way of thinking that it is supposed to overcome. ->

<- Yet even those openly critical of it can find it difficult to shake off its influence. #LinguisticBodies
The influence of [cognitivist] framing is pervasive; it lives in the language researchers use.

The question “If participants do not make inferences, what else could be going on?” is not given a proper shot. #LinguisticBodies
Putting real bodies center stage invites us to rethink how the inner and outer realms are linked, even defined, or whether they exist at all. At least such has been the expectation generated by research on embodied cognition: ->

<- that it would provide a view of the mind not as the detached manipulation of information traveling from the outside into the inside of an agent but as the actions of engaged, living, material bodies situated in the concrete, historical, and social world. #LinguisticBodies
The mind is what occurs in these enactments and not what goes on in the head.

Cognition [is] less about maintaining and manipulating internal representations and more about engaging in complex, multi-timescale couplings involving the dynamics of world, body, and brain. #LinguisticBodies
With equal footing in complex systems thinking in biology and neuroscience, on the one hand, and existential and phenomenological traditions, on the other, enactivists propose a different set of guiding metaphors. ->

Rather than picturing minds and bodies as machines, without any explicit principle of individuation other than external ascriptions of identity by convention, the enactive approach thinks in terms of situated, precarious networks of material circular processes.
<- Traditional distinctions (body/mind, agent/environment, subject/object, self/other, inner/outer, etc.) emerge from these networks not as dichotomous gulfs but as codefining, cooriginating, codeveloping pairs, intimately linked, yet differentiated. #LinguisticBodies
Here’s how living bodies are vastly different from machines.

Only in stationary conditions may [bodies] momentarily resemble machines, with approximately well-defined functional aims.
Cognition is not about transposing a world of predefined significance into the inside of an agent. It is about agents moving within the world and singly or collectively changing it in ways that are significant according to the forms of life they enact. #LinguisticBodies
To understand the basic phenomenality of living bodies, we must understand their operation at its most fundamental, what they are and their hold on the world. #LinguisticBodies
Organisms actively and continuously produce a distinction between themselves and their environment where none existed before they appeared and where none will remain after they are gone. They achieve this through an ongoing process of self-individuation. ->

<- The relations between self-individuating bodies and their world are the substance from which everything mental emerges—the dynamic matter of the mind. #LinguisticBodies
Mental phenomena do not belong to a realm separate from materiality, but are rooted in the concrete relations between organisms and the worlds they inhabit and transform. Organisms are unfinished, historical, processual entities. #LinguisticBodies
The key attribute of bodies qua living is their self-individuation—that is, the process by which they make themselves distinct from their immediate surroundings. ->

<-This ongoing process occurs under precarious conditions, & far from thermodynamic equilibrium, in conditions where fluctuations can be unpredictably amplified, events resonate at multiple timescales, & complex spatiotemporal patterns emerge & become sustained over long periods.
Self-individuation establishes an important difference between living bodies and other objects of study in science that are typically “individuated” by observers following some convention. #LinguisticBodies
What is autonomy?

Any constitutive process in the autonomous system operates thanks to other constitutive processes as well as processes in the environment. #LinguisticBodies
The boundaries between an autonomous system and its environment emerge not as a matter of convention but as a result of how an autonomous system is organized. #LinguisticBodies
[W]e must understand these relations, not as involving static, once-and-for-all, conditions (process A enables process B), but as made up of complex temporal and intensity conditions such as speeds, deadlines, rhythms, timescales, thresholds, etc., as we have already suggested.
We cannot divorce the notion of autonomy from complex relations involving time and intensity and linkages between various systems. #LinguisticBodies
Precisely because the temporal dimension makes explicit the possibility of change, we must also acknowledge that, in changing, relations between organism and environment can become constitutive processes for one or the other. They can become incorporated. #LinguisticBodies
These changes can sometimes be reversible or they can be cumulative and lead to potentially irreversible transformations. To different extents, organisms are always historical. #LinguisticBodies
[Sense-making] is constitutively what distinguishes mental life from other material and relational processes. #LinguisticBodies
Through the relations between precarious autonomy, adaptivity, and sense-making, the core aspect of mind is naturalized. #LinguisticBodies
A sense-maker relates to its own world in terms of significance. However, sense-making is not an act of “adding meaning” to a physical coupling with the environment, as if the latter was a vehicle of information that must be communicated to the agent. #LinguisticBodies
<- Quite the opposite: information, in the functionalist view, implies an already interpreted and prejudged frame of reference whereas sense-making is precisely the ongoing activity of selecting, modifying, and even constructing such frames, by and for the autonomous sense-maker.
The condition of being an agent does not depend on demonstrating complex dynamics, nor does it ultimately rely on the success of following a particular norm. #LinguisticBodies
Autonomy, sense-making, and agency have been described in terms of the organization of material processes. Here, unlike in the case of functionalism, materiality is fundamental for these notions not to become trivial. #LinguisticBodies
We cannot extricate time, matter, and form from each other in the concepts of autonomy, sense-making, and agency, without losing their conceptual coherence. They are concrete concepts. #LinguisticBodies
End of Chapter 2

Feelings of Agency

Everyday actions (walking, standing still, opening doors) are the result of many processes in the body interacting over a multiplicity of interdependent scales involving loops of proprioception, acoustic, haptic, and optic flows, & contextual regulation of breathing & balance.
Paying attention to this basic organization of animal bodies should help us dispel the common perspective according to which the body is like a puppet controlled by the brain. #LinguisticBodies
The [other] pervasive myth is that the coupling of sensors and effectors with the environment should be conceptualized as inputs and outputs. #LinguisticBodies
Instead, sensorimotor coupling is better understood as 1 of the several dimensions in which bodies & envrmnts influence e/ other, specifically as a dimension where perturbations are induced into an ongoing flow of nervous activity, itself also coupled w/ other systems in the body
To sense the world or to act on it therefore always involves mediation through the activity of the body. #LinguisticBodies
Sensorimotor Networks and Habits

Although 👆🏾 does not immediately answer all the questions, habits—conceived organically not as automatisms but as autonomous, ecological systems—can help us think about questions such as why we reach for the glass with a certain style or why people find it hard to quit smoking.
Sensorimotor Agency: Looking past the single habit, sensorimotor agency depends on the broader integration of acts, powers, and sensitivities, into historically structured networks of sensorimotor schemes and activities. #LinguisticBodies
The processes that individuate a sensorimotor agent are acts themselves. An agent’s acts constitute and reassert a new kind of agency, one that is enabled and constrained, but underdetermined, by biological autonomy. #LinguisticBodies
The idea of sensorimotor agency transforms our conception of bodies. We are not only speaking here of organic bodies, but also about their relational and self-individuating modes of operation in the world. #LinguisticBodies
Sensorimotor bodies are made up of networks of relations between precariously equilibrated sensorimotor schemes, of organized enactments. #LinguisticBodies
The evolving structure of networks of schemes is coherent with views in psychology that avoid thinking of the isolated act in abstraction and instead advocate the relevance of social and environmental situatedness as strong determinants of sets of relevant behaviors.
The socially & environmentally mediated enactment of daily activities (preparing meals, holding meetings, caring for a sick person) is punctuated by shifts from 1 microworld to another, sometimes happening smoothly, sometimes as a result of breakdowns or changes in our situation.
What about the brain? It is definitely a crucial actor in the enactive story. But the view of the brain that emerges from this picture is not that of a controller overseeing every detail of sensorimotor activity. #LinguisticBodies
The brain is an excitable medium that enables the closing of multiple sensorimotor loops as well as the regulation and amplification of complex nonequilibrium neural dynamics. #LinguisticBodies
[The brain] regulates the transitions between enacted schemes, and contributes to the context of these transitions by preactivating or inhibiting other schemes directly or indirectly via the ongoing dynamics of the nonneural body. #LinguisticBodies
The importance of the material and temporal substrates of sensorimotor bodies must not be overlooked. #LinguisticBodies
The life of the sensorimotor agent emerges first as anchored in the organic body and depends on engaging with a complex temporality of flows of active matter not only to sustain the living body but also a sensorimotor way of life. #LinguisticBodies
When we think about a person we know, we don't picture an organic body the way it looks while lying on operating table, but a body-in-the-world, a way of moving, gesturing, making sounds, a style of doing things, holding things, being annoyed by things, & of making things happen.
This activity is carried around with this person’s organic body, but it is also very much present in what surrounds this body and could not happen or make sense if we were to sufficiently alter these surroundings. #LinguisticBodies
A sensorimotor agent is a fluid body, a “cloud” or “whirlwind” of activity, which is no less concrete for not always taking the shape of the same semisolid object. Quite the contrary, it is more concrete than any “inert” matter in that it is rooted in ongoing dynamic relations.
Sensorimotor bodies are enmeshed in their situation & their history & in a web of social encounters & relations. The difficulty is precisely in conceiving of them abstractly, separate from their activity. This makes it harder, but not impossible, to theorize sensorimotor bodies.
They can be too idiosyncratic and context-dependent, holding a continuity across moments but transiting between activity genres that may be radically different and would each deserve a dedicated investigation. #LinguisticBodies
End of chapter 3

Chapter 4, #LinguisticBodies coming up shortly. Grab a coffee and get comfortable ;)
From birth our experience is fundamentally an experience of relating to other bodies. We inhabit a world of others.

The bodies we encounter there are not given to us as objects of contemplation but as powers of interpellation that can look at us or ignore us, question us or support us, move us & respond to us, smile, cry, and just be alongside us in sharing a world of concerns and activities.
Participation in social activities happens naturally from birth and weighs on our existence as persons to the point that social exclusion is painful to suffer as well as to watch others suffer.

The mere observation of another person engaged in some activity that does not include us draws us in and realigns our perspective as we embody concerns that are not immediately our own, and thus we partially reinhabit the world through the eyes and hands of another body.
“Intercorporeality is this bodily perception of another body—a perception which consists not in an intellectual grasp of something that is other to us, but in a bodily mirroring, or a bodily resuming (reprendre), of an intentionality that we inhabit over there” Merleau-Ponty
Intercorporeality does not pop up as if by magic but depends on synergies that occur between bodies in moment-to-moment encounters, particularly during social interactions, but not only then.

Our exper's of other people, even when we observe them remotely, r grounded on embodied intersubjectivity & are thus an inherently social aspect of personal exp, not a rationalization that internally supplements the image of the other w inferences about their presumed mindedness.
Social encounters with other bodies are sometimes marked by the emergence of a new phenomenal domain, one that (temporarily) establishes its own horizon and conditions of continued existence. ->
<- This does not always happen when two or more people coincide in time and space, but when it does happen we refer to this with the term social interaction.

Social interaction connotes an active engagement of dynamic complexity.Interactions are often described as “taking a life of their own” (Goffman) & sometimes as forming complex systems, which matches our experiences of interacting w people & the openness these interactions imply.
How many times do we experience interactions as unpredictable, shifting in mood, aims, levels of intimacy, and so on, without any of the participants seeking or intending any of these changes? #LinguisticBodies
Social interaction is not the mere copresence of two or more embodied agents (they may just stand there & ignore each other), nor is it just the presence of a mutual coupling between these bodies (such as the transfer of body heat, or merely noticing each other) #LinguisticBodies
The definition of social interaction relies on two strong conditions.

Condition 1: there is a coregulated coupling, which originates as a series of dynamic processes that become self-sustaining (autonomous) in the relational domain.
Condition 2: the participants are & remain autonomous. They don't lose the possibility of exerting their powers on the interaction pattern or acting so as to attempt to change it or terminate it. This doesn't mean that interactions always unfold according to individual intentions
To speak of a social interaction is to speak about relational patterns and individual participants as equiprimordial.

Precariousness and vulnerability are not “unfortunate” empirical aspects of how autonomous systems (individuals and interactive patterns) are realized in the real world. They are constitutive of this autonomy and without them the concept of autonomy would be empty.
Autonomy implies self-individuation under precarious conditions whereby component processes form a network of enabling relations & mutually sustain themselves only in the presence of this organization. Meaning, there cannot be autonomy, at whatever level, without vulnerability.
Not all social encounters become interactive ones since we do not always enter into autonomous relational patterns involving other people. ->

In fact, several everyday encounters, such as buying a ticket at a train station or waving good morning to a neighbor, do not often result in the self-sustaining dynamic engagement that we have described as the autonomy of social interactions. Occasionally they do. ->
This means that there is an interactive potential in such encounters, even if they are frequently actualized in more or less standard, almost “scriptlike” patterns. #LinguisticBodies
The enactive approach makes explicit a necessary tension between individual participants on the one hand, and the interaction as a process on the other—a tension that forms a leitmotif for the main argument of this book.

If one of the participants completely dominates the encounter, we are not dealing with a social interaction (it would be like someone interacting with an object, not with another subject). ->

Imagine a couple dance: one cannot lead unless the other assumes the role of follower (as tango dancers know well, this is a very active role), and if one participant does not contribute and remains passive, it would be like carrying a doll across the dance floor. ->
Thus, not only is the interaction process autonomous in terms of its internal organization, it also depends, crucially, on the autonomy of the individuals participating in it. Social interactions require both interactional and individual autonomy. #LinguisticBodies
Sense-making activities can become interdependent. ->

<- This is what we call participatory sense-making: “the coordination of intentional activity in interaction, whereby individual sense-making processes are affected and new domains of social sense-making can be generated that were not available to each individual on her own”.
[Participatory sense-making] is not restricted to specific forms of human interaction, say a conversation. Rather, since it is defined in systemic terms, it applies in general across species too and for the whole gamut of interactive possibilities. #LinguisticBodies
[Participatory sense-making] goes beyond the simple conjoining of sense-making and a social situation. It is not merely sense-making about something social (e.g. expressions of another person) but it is sense-making performed socially, enacted as a shared practice.
<- This implies sense-making that is perturbed, enabled, modulated, regulated, or even constituted by what goes on in the interaction (the activity of other participants or the interactive patterns or both). #LinguisticBodies
Given the vulnerability of interactions and of individual sense-makers, breakdowns are unavoidable. But this is precisely what drives participatory sense-making.

Without breakdowns, without the constant risk of misunderstanding or worse, there would be no participatory sense-making (i.e., no social understanding) at all.

This does not mean that actual breakdown must be present in each and every interaction, but that without the possibility and risk of breakdown, there is no participatory sense-making.

Breakdowns are not mere obstacles to social understanding that must be overcome, but lie at its root, even when interactions go smoothly.

Participatory sense-making was proposed as a response to individualistic approaches to social cognition in cognitive science and neuroscience. The concept has resonated across disciplines and has found numerous applications.

In autism, for ex, different ways of sense-making are linked with particular characteristics of interpersonal coordination & of the sensorimotor body e.g., sensory hyper- or hyposensitivities, difficulties w timing & integrating movement & perception, muscle tone differences,...
Taking an enactive perspective entails asking why something means something for someone, in the particular historical and interactive situation. #LinguisticBodies
One upshot of this for autism is that behaviors that may in classic accounts be considered inappropriate, such as restricted interests, stimming (self-stimulatory behaviors such as rocking back and forth) are seen in terms of the meaning they have for the person in the context.
An enactive approach takes as a starting point what is at stake for a person in the concrete interactive situation. #LinguisticBodies
Of note is also that looking at disability, disorder, or handicap through an enactive lens forces us to understand differences not always as symptoms or lacks but as ways of meaningfully engaging w/ the world (even if behavior, actions, or meanings seem strange to other people).
This lends support to specific patient-centered forms of care and intervention, ranging from embodied and interactive kinds of therapy to self-advocacy movements.

Human experience is intercorporeal.

The “cloud” or “whirlwind” of activity surrounding organic bodies as they become sensorimotor agents includes most of the time social encounters (with other “whirlwinds”), and even when it does not, the virtual traces of these encounters impinge on our actions. #LinguisticBodies
To care about the world and our place in it means, as intersubjective bodies, to care about how we relate to others.

End of chapter 4

Being a sensorimotor agent or living in a social world not only “helps” the organism to sustain its viability, it can actually change the way it is organized. #LinguisticBodies
The moving center or anchor of our bodies can be experienced as the changing vantage point that comes to the fore in different situations. ->

A moment of connection with a loved one, or a moment of grave loss, brings the full body to an anchor point in our intersubjective dimension, provoking physical joy or pain, sometimes tiredness and weakness, awkwardness in our movements, posture, and balance.->

Other times extreme hunger, fatigue, or illness makes our organic being more present and the world as a consequence more meaningfully directed toward the needs of the organism. #LinguisticBodies
Illness is revealing of these complex relations. An illness is enacted in that it involves a series of practices (treatments, diets, schedules, etc.) and changes to lifestyle and social behavior that both regulate and are regulated by the physiological aspects of the disease
Bodies are best described as these practices themselves rather than something we possess or something we are. #LinguisticBodies
Human bodies are not merely plastically shaped, but are actually defined by a history of enactments, each of which affirms or challenges in the short or in the long term the various kinds of autonomy involved. #LinguisticBodies
Each body is a path-dependent ongoing achievement, a history of adaptations and compensations, of incorporations and environmental modifications that span the three dimensions of embodiment.

It is neither an object nor a subject (these dichotomous, static notions downplay the constitutive role of active world-involving engagements and ongoing operations of individuation), but a practice of embodiment that intertwines, ->
<- following a sometimes idiosyncratic logic bringing together biology, personal history, milieu, cultural and economic embeddedness, class, occupation, ethnicity, gender, and so on.

There are literally billions of different human bodies. We should beware of drawing general conclusions from their apparent universals. #LinguisticBodies
The richest lessons are to be found in particular bodies since each concrete history helps us better understand the myriad open-ended possibilities of the entangled dimensions of embodiment.

Human diversity is itself a key datum that would seemingly crush any hopes for a scientific theory of bodies in that presumably such a theory should rely on abstracting universals from “mere” contingencies, tacitly conceived as unimportant. #LinguisticBodies
Bodies grow, develop, and die in ongoing attunement to their circumstances... Human bodies are path-dependent, plastic, nonergodic, in short, historical. There is no true averaging of them. #LinguisticBodies
The enactive conception of bodies differs from other ideas about the body. In the 1st place, we stop thinking of “the body” in the universal singular, using instead “bodies” in the particular plural: bodies as they are concretely realized in the world & together w/ other bodies.
We find the construction “the body” acts as an obstacle beckoning most of the familiar disjunctive patterns of thought (the body vs. the world, the body vs. the mind) & hides the intricate complexity & diversity of bodies under a false universality (“the”) & singleness (“body”).
The image the phrase [the body] invokes is that of an abstract, adult, healthy, isolated, nondescript, typically male, typically white body. #LinguisticBodies
No body exists on its own, not even the body of the abandoned astronaut struggling to survive on a lifeless planet, since each body carries with it multiple centers of historically constituted otherness.

Bodies must therefore be conceived from a processual and relational perspective that steers us into conceiving their engagements with other bodies and with the world not as something that comes after they are constituted but as part of their constitution. #LinguisticBodies
Enactive ideas, however, are put to use in a particular mode of theorizing, one that works in accordance with certain ontological commitments. ->

We propose that organizing principles, often described using dynamical systems terms, such as the idea of operational closure, fruitfully place bodily phenomena into an order or logic of sorts. ->

This logic points to various developments that emerge from the concepts of autonomy, viability, precariousness, agency, and sense-making. ->

At the same time, we must move beyond a formalism and make these ideas concrete by ongoing confrontation with experience and empirical work, which help us reconceive and reorient the activity of formalization, thus arriving at concrete, growing concepts, ->
<- which our experiences animate and our formal definitions continue to track. #LinguisticBodies
Making bodies concrete starts by rejecting any principled separation between form and matter and thinking instead of processes of active matter turning into material form, flowing and transforming themselves, coordinating different orders of magnitude, ->
<- and sometimes reaching precariously organized metastable patterns (“forms”) open both to unpredictable influences and unpredictable fluctuations (“matter”).
If we stay on the formal plane and treat matter as no more than an implementation detail, we end up turning tensions and ambiguities operating in time into static dichotomies. #LinguisticBodies
The world, especially the world created by bodies, doesn't just inform them, it constitutes them, which explains their open-ended participation in several cycles of autonomy at d/t scales & their unfinished, precarious nature, w/out either of which nothing would have any meaning.
End of chapter 5

Y'all ready for some #LinguisticBodies ?
Language has no abstract, self-standing theoretical center, but is instead a concrete open totality embedded in networks of material, biological, and sociocultural codetermining relations. #LinguisticBodies
If language cannot be approached, as we suspect, using a theoretical strategy that postulates abstract central concepts that describe the core features of linguistic phenomena, what is the alternative? Should we just give up? No, we should find a different strategy.
We should look for inspiration in ex's of how study of concrete totalities has been successfully performed in other areas of human knowledge. In human sciences, the study of concrete, open, complex totalities has 1 important tradition that can serve as an alternative: dialectics.
Enactive thinking is nourished by a number of research traditions. It weaves together insights and methods from phenomenology, organizational approaches to biology, embodied cognitive science and neuroscience, the sciences of complexity, and dynamical systems theory.
Should we now add dialectical thinking to the list? Not quite. The fact is that, more or less explicitly acknowledged, enactive thought has always been populated by “dialectical moves.” dialectics has been part of the enactive toolkit for quite some time. #LinguisticBodies
Many dialectical motifs in enactive theory have been approached using the language of dynamical systems theory as in cases of emergence and nonlinearity. #LinguisticBodies
Just as dynamical sys approaches describe lawful, operational rlns between systems & provide a rich vocabulary, with concepts such as coupling & dyn'al landscapes, so dialectical thinking is useful for tracking the changing rlns b/n systems & the evolution of concepts themselves.
Use of dialectical thinking is also a way to avoid the dangers of reification that come from dyn'al formalisms that can give impression of being too neat & complete. Like all formalisms, dyn'al models depend on a set of limiting conditions;they are valid only within those limits.
<- With relatively simple systems this is often not an issue, but complex material systems with multiple relations will inevitably “escape” dynamical idealizations the moment seemingly innocuous interactions are amplified and start to play important roles in unforeseen ways.
Dynamical models can help us explore the consequences of particular dialectical moments, as when we describe certain tendencies that should be expected to arise from a situation, other things being equal. ->
<- But dynamical models must fix constraints, laws of change, and variables—once the latter are selected “they are then treated as unitary ‘things’ whose only property is quantity”. #LinguisticBodies
Dialectics in turn can critically help us decide when the heterogeneity & internal structure of processes can no longer be captured under a single quantity, thus emphasizing “the provisional nature of the system and the transitory nature of the system’s model”. #LinguisticBodies
Not only do we have minds that are material and biological, but with minds, biology and materiality become minded, or partake of the complexities of the mind.

This way of looking at life-mind continuity dialectically, as contrasting terms interpenetrate each other, differs from hierarchical approaches that focus on levels of causality.

Dialectics is, and has been since the start, one way of thinking enactively.

The Abstract and the Concrete #LinguisticBodies

(cc: @JCvandenherik & @theblub)
Dialectics: a method of inquiry that moves thought from the abstract to the concrete. What does this method consist in? It is not about the blind application of a formula (thesis-antithesis-synthesis, negation of negation, etc.). ->

<- Nor is it a procedure that takes place solely in the realm of ideas. [Dialectics] is an ongoing confrontation between patterns of thoughts and real situations. #LinguisticBodies
Dialectical perspectives tend to criticize idealizations such as that of language as a self-standing formal system of rules and meanings arbitrarily or conventionally related to practical activity in the world, or idealizations such as language existing as purely constituted ->
<- and learned by individuals simply as the incorporation of particular skills.

Several dialectical approaches recognize language as a totality, but one inherently embedded in human practices and the sociomaterial environment. #LinguisticBodies
[Dialectical approaches] see language as always already concretized into a “language of real life,” in sharp contrast to the abstracted, isolated views of language as one additional cognitive capability or a formal lexicogrammatical system. #LinguisticBodies
Language is a social, historical, & material phenomenon that cannot be dissociated from political configurations and struggles. It also constantly interpellates and constructs subjective attitudes rather than simply being a vehicle for communicative intentions. #LinguisticBodies
While both Habermas & Grice can be credited for placing the pragmatic situation of communicative action center stage, the contractual agreement regarding the conditions of communication (honesty, normativity, intelligibility, etc.) that their views presuppose divorces language ->
<- from real and wide spread agonistic phenomena such as debates, disputations, struggles, and so on and misses the subjectivizing force of language itself. #LinguisticBodies
The challenge for an embodied approach to language is not to dodge the task of explaining how the conditions for conversations come to be in place.

By the time the conditions for Habermasian or Gricean communicative acts are met, the real, creative acts of engagement between people have already taken place. #LinguisticBodies
Without the possibility, constant risk, and actual occurrence of conflicts and misunderstandings, there is no participatory sense-making of any kind, no communication; in fact, no reason for communication. #LinguisticBodies
“A definition of language is always, implicitly or explicitly, a definition of human beings in the world.” Williams

The Bakhtin Circle

Dialogues are anything but simple. #LinguisticBodies
Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. Bakhtin

The struggle over language is in a very real sense a struggle over group existence and recognition. #LinguisticBodies
“Word meaning is a phenomenon of thought only insofar as thought is embodied in speech, and of speech only insofar as speech is connected with thought and illuminated by it. It is a phenomenon of verbal thought, of meaningful speech—a union of word and thought” Vygotsky
A desperate search for unifying explanatory principles make psychologists grab for any fashionable idea, no matter how unreliable. Instead, Vygotsky argues for the need to build a science that reveals the laws of concrete psychological phenomena. #LinguisticBodies
Dialectical Motifs #LinguisticBodies
End of chapter 6

Taking a break from tweeting #LinguisticBodies this weekend. You can still read through this thread if you haven't already (and if you're interested)
Okay, #LinguisticBodies tweetstorm shortly
How do we go from the dynamic processes that constitute organic, sensorimotor, & intersubjective bodies, & the synergies & coordination they enter into during social interactions, to a more specific discourse about utterances, dialogues, interpretation, signs, symbols & syntax?
Since all the concepts presented in part I are naturalized (in the nonreductionist sense in which enactivists understand naturalization), then explicating what goes on in linguistic engagements in terms of these concepts will also lead to a naturalization ->
<- of the vocabulary used to describe the way language is enacted in real life.

To achieve this goal, we must look more closely at what goes on in social interactions and during processes of participatory sense-making.

Living language is directed, signified and resignified, vitalized, framed, and sculpted by the carnality of interactive engagements between real people in ways that cannot be fully determined ->

<- nor fully predicted by the capabilities, intentions, and experiences they bring to the encounter, nor by the broader constraints of social norms, environmental situation, or grammar rules.

The locus where language is enacted is the often neglected middle term between the individual mind and broader sociocultural patterns. #LinguisticBodies
Mainstream approaches to the study of language put the weight either on the biological and computational capabilities that enable the acquisition of linguistic competence or on the structures of language as a system of rules, norms, and historical and geographic changes.
But language must be enacted to continue to exist in actuality, a fact that seems to be the unproblematic background to these approaches. #LinguisticBodies
The first step toward understanding language in enactive terms is to invert this picture—the same way that we moved the picture of the body from periphery to center—and put social interactions, actual or virtual, right at the heart of our theoretical efforts. #LinguisticBodies
Social interactions are not merely places where the individual and cognitive meet the social and cultural. Social interactions, and the practices they underpin, are the kiln where both culture and cognition are forged; they are a source, not a meeting point. #LinguisticBodies
Language as a system is the result of past and ongoing interactive labor. #LinguisticBodies
To postulate a continuity between life and mind is not to reduce one to the other,the way sensorimotor bodies are not reduced to organic bodies and intersubjective life is not reduced to sensorimotor life.

<- Similarly, the goal is not to explicate languaging as the additive result of putting together a series of nonlinguistic behaviors.

We are aiming for a constitutive approach instead, and so we are not “particularizing” general conceptions (e.g., of embodied social interaction) to deduce from them increasingly language-like notions.

<- Instead, we are subjecting enactive concepts to a dialectical treatment in order to explore the novelties that emerge not just at the end but at each step of the model.

In the case of an enactive conception of language, one would suppose that we should always begin with the linguistic givens of human experience. But these are too many and too complex and they relate in unclear ways to one another. ->

The concrete “given” of human action and experience is the group and community life of historical transformations of the lifeworld, with its norms, rules, institutions, and relations evolving heterogeneously, at different paces, sometimes in unforeseeable directions. ->
<- This is the world that is immediately out there for us since the day we are born and even during gestation. Language is an integral part of it.

Language is like a mesh that fractally penetrates the lifeworld without ever covering it entirely, without fully determining it, and yet, given any phenomena of interest, language is always to be found infinitesimally close to it. #LinguisticBodies
The interactive situation of participatory sense-making offers the best entry point into the categories we need to develop and describe for a deeply embodied approach to the study of language, one that eventually “links up” with other linguistic aspects and phenomena.
The development of categories in the dialectical model is inseparable from the concrete relations we find in the human lifeworld. It is also inseparable from history and from cognitive and social development. #LinguisticBodies
The model is not purely abstract and devoid of any link to actual historical and social relations. But it is not a chronology either, nor meant to provide an account of the evolution or the development of social forms of agency and eventually languaging. ->

<- [The dialectical model] is instead a tool that provides guidance for studying the relations between the two domains: historical and conceptual.

The model is a synthesis (not a summary or abridgment, but a conceptual synthesis) of the historical processes that take a social species, or a social individual, from nonlinguistic to linguistic forms of sense-making.

Summary of the first part of the dialectical model. Each central node represents a step in the concretization of participatory sense-making. Each new kind of social agency breaks down into its main form of tension. #LinguisticBodies
The model shows how from a stripped-down version of participatory sense-making (i.e. an interactive situation between autonomous agents without any other concrete presuppositions) it is possible to elaborate increasingly concrete stages involving different kinds of social agency.
A few things should be noted. First, the introduction of new forms of social agency alters the existing tensions and how they are managed, but does not fully overcome them. ->

<- So each stage should not be understood as a “synthesis” of contradictory moments in a previous stage, but as a move forward in clarifying and modifying internal relations. #LinguisticBodies
At any point in the model, previous stages do not fully disappear. They are present both in elaborated fashion in the more advanced forms of social agency and in their original forms. #LinguisticBodies
These categories are “spread out” in our model in order to present them as precisely as possible. However, in an actual social interaction several or all of these forms of social agency are often found collapsed in single observable actions. #LinguisticBodies
A sensitivity for others and for the self is gradually built into the skills and capacities of the participants as we move through the stages of the model.

Participants engage in interaction and mutually influence each other’s sense-making without implying that they see themselves as “selves”/“others,” a capacity that is often assumed as fundamental but, as we see in this first part of the model, is anything but trivial.
End of chapter 7

Chapter 8 coming shortly

The lifeworld of sociomaterial practices, of collaboration, conflict, and survival, is not something that emerges from our model. Rather, it constitutes the already existing conditions that constrain it.

Guided by the internal tensions at each stage of the model, these factors enter our story not all at once, but through particular constraints that take us from one stage to the next. #LinguisticBodies
Moving the model forward to a form of agency that we will call linguistic, the development is oriented toward the conceptual emergence of personhood through processes of social recognition. #LinguisticBodies
To see that others are autonomous beings involves not only a sensitivity toward others, but a new kind of sensitivity to one’s own effect on the interaction dynamics: the incorporation of a new interactive skill of taking others into account. #LinguisticBodies
Most reported utterances are refractions of the original. By the very fact of being reenacted (even if the same participant was the producer of the original), they go through a process of interpretation that makes them already take the shape of a commentary. #LinguisticBodies
The power of enacting dialogues through the use of reported utterances makes them simultaneously transformative of both social relations and individual minds. ->

<- It is in this transformative potential that we encounter the last tension of our model. The ongoing management of this tension is what defines a new kind of embodied agency: linguistic bodies. #LinguisticBodies
#Linguisticbodies made up of utterances & relations between utterances. The continuity with the dimensions of embodiment should be stressed here, in that utterances themselves are embodied and material patterns whose enactment always includes the sensorimotor and organic bodies.
Yet an utterance is not just any act, but a dialogically structured one. #LinguisticBodies
Utterances, in other words, are acts that embed relations between people.
The traces of others (concretely experienced others and others entailed by wider community patterns) are not erasable from the processes that sustain the identity of a linguistic agent. To incorporate an utterance, in consequence, is in part to incarnate others.
The paradox of #linguisticbodies: acts of utterance incorporation define a linguistic agent, but the process of incorporation simultaneously entails the incarnation of other linguistic agents
In a fundamental sense, a linguistic body is a socially situated performance where different agencies may be incarnated in different situations and where the outcome depends as much on the audience as on the performers. #LinguisticBodies
It is telling just how much of a stretch of the imagination is required for the vast majority of us to envision life without language.

One might notice that we part ways with the Habermasian framework in remaining modality generic. ->

In fact, this marks a deeper d/ce, b/se, unlike the starting point of the disembodied sentence, we define utterance from the beginning in terms of role-constituting acts made in sociomaterial envrm'ts, not in terms of received ideas of propositions, grammar, or speaker activity.
<- Another consequence of our starting point is that it doesn’t always make sense to neatly categorize an utterance as staking a single or distinguishably objective subjective, or intersubjective relation to the lifeworld. #LinguisticBodies
😂 I make silly nerdy jokes as I read along okay and I'm not embarrassed to admit
To be sensitive to the rightness of an utterance means to understand how it fits in the intricate web of norms that constitute the autonomy of languaging patterns in a community, the autonomy of the interactive encounter, and the autonomies of interacting bodies. ->
<- It also means to understand whether the utterance itself, or further reports on it, can bring these autonomous realms into a relation of coherence. #LinguisticBodies

(reminded me of this passage from Geertz's, The Interpretation of Cultures. cc: @participha)
Constituent factors for linguistic bodies always originate and progressively regulate different kinds of social interaction. However, they do not reduce languaging strictly to a form of communication. #LinguisticBodies
Languaging is cast as a web vaster and differently spun than we would expect if we were to take its more salient features as primary. The web reaches beyond human beings since the model is applicable to any species meeting social and material constraints relevant to each stage.
Human linguistic bodies, as they are today, cannot escape the contradictions of incorporation and incarnation; there is, as far as we know, no superseding form of agency that can systematically regulate this tension. ->

<- This always remains a daily task and accomplishment for us. In this way, we are unfinished and potentially aware of being so. #LinguisticBodies
Incorporation and incarnation, these two faces of embodiment, describe the primordial tension of participatory sense-making at the level of human languaging ->
<- that is, the tension between the self-assertion of embodied agency through the engagements with its sociomaterial world and the assertion of social, interactive paths that reproduce ways of being human and that incarnate in human bodies.
Several of the pervasive ambiguities of the human condition (between the personal and the collective, between repressive norms and emancipatory struggles, etc.) are somehow linked to the unresolved tension in the last stage of the model. #LinguisticBodies
Others, such as the nature/culture divide, are revealed as false dichotomies once we grasp the open dynamic totality of linguistic bodies and the societal linguistic patterns they sustain and change. #LinguisticBodies
End of chapter 8


Shall we do chapter 9?
What do children learn when they learn language? This is a question that drives a vast, multidisciplinary research effort on language acquisition. Yet this question knows too much to begin with.

When it comes to looking at the development and learning of language for humans, the questions we want to ask are: How do we become properly perceptive and powerful so that we are able to do (all) this? How do we become linguistic bodies? #LinguisticBodies
Becoming is built into the very notion itself. Linguistic bodies ARE those that navigate a constitutive tension between incorporation of utterances into their flow of self-directed acts and the incarnation of other agencies embedded in those incorporated utterances.
Linguistic bodies are constantly putting themselves together out of the spare parts of others’ acts and utterances; they are constantly fine-tuning, breaking down, needing something missing, in short, learning how to be what they are again and again. #LinguisticBodies
Linguistic bodies are always in becoming. Sense-making is always underway. #LinguisticBodies
One does not achieve linguistic agency once and for all, and the process of such achievement is not a simple additive concatenation of skills. #LinguisticBodies
An autonomous system, of any kind, cannot exist in a vacuum. It requires an associated milieu that enables it and is in turn affected by it. #LinguisticBodies
Autonomous systems that operate over a large range of timescales and orders of magnitude establish a historical domain of durable but not fixed relations between system and milieu. #LinguisticBodies
To be a linguistic body is to incorporate powers and sensitivities to participate in group and community engagements involving the different kinds of social agency described in the dialectical model. #LinguisticBodies
If under normal circumstances we don’t seem to be aware of this alien presence it is because “we” are it. #LinguisticBodies #Autonomy
The lang-learning child exists in a complexly nested envt, not only full of highly structured objects, places, & events, but is also populated by other people who spend a significant portion of their time while interacting w the child in emphasizing & reshaping these structures.
Far from being ‘noise’ which creates a problem for lang learners, both the linguistic variations & nonlinguistic variations (contexts, gestures, games) in the use of lang provide crucial info to the lang-learning child about the way lang is structured in his linguistic community.
It is indeed the presence of conflict, tension, and complexity that we deem not merely relevant, but essential for a child to become a linguistic body.

A process of unfinished becoming is both constituted and instituted in linguistic bodies. #LinguisticBodies
What has usually been cast as a problem of acquiring or mastering a set of skills is in reality a problem that is part social (re)production, part constitution of individuality, and part active participation by a developing agency. #LinguisticBodies
On the one hand, questions of language acquisition cannot be separated from questions about becoming a new kind of embodied agent. #LinguisticBodies
If conflicts between the individual & the collective exist (and they do exist), this is not due to some fundamental opposition between 2 forces fighting each other over determining who a person is. They arise contingently from the fact that various kinds of autonomy are at play.
The individual need not lose herself in the collective, nor lose those idiosyncrasies that make her a particular person: contrary to what our deformed common sense might tell us, collective life is the opportunity for a further, more complex individuation. #LinguisticBodies
In Paulo Freire’s (1996) words, human beings are, and always remain, unfinished. The messy interactive context is creative and demands ongoing learning. #LinguisticBodies
Parents are neither perfect nor neutral nor trained teachers. Parents are simply concerned linguistic bodies, embedded in cultures and habits, ready to interact. #LinguisticBodies
Parents are not just leading children along a straightforward path to knowledge or skill acquisition; as co-participants, even leading ones, they are also admitting another agent into their acting. #LinguisticBodies
Any learning that happens is not the result of passive stimuli processing but a process that involves the active participation by children as agents that normatively regulate their own environmental and social couplings. #LinguisticBodies
Process of becoming a linguistic body can fully break down, possibly irrevocably. We are dealing with precarious, material bodies at all levels. #LinguisticBodies
Centuries of Western scholarship and folk wisdom alike hold adults to be the finished version of the human product. ->

<- In parallel to the capacity to speak and reason that places humans at the top of the hierarchy of beings in ancient and modern Western ontologies, a key mark of adulthood is presumed mastery of language (if not reason). #LinguisticBodies
Despite mutual sedimenting of habits & habitats that makes adult living theoretically smoother & more ordered than that of children, the messiness of unfinished, precarious, needful sense-making bodies in complexly sustaining r/ns & ongoing interactions persists throughout life.
Despite myths of independence that haunt Western ideas of model citizenship and maturity, the need for and the provisions of help also remain. #LinguisticBodies
Idiosyncrasies or differences among adult linguistic bodies are the rule rather than the exception, which means we should expect variations in patterns and processes of sense-making. #LinguisticBodies
Once we take ourselves as the phenomena to explore, we enter a conversation where the leading concerns are ethical. #LinguisticBodies
To talk of agency and acting with others, of upholding and critiquing community, is to talk of ethics. To talk of loved ones and life courses is to talk of what matters, of what can be won or lost, celebrated or mourned. #LinguisticBodies
In the enactive view an authentic human self is one that understands her own constitutive dependencies and her own incompletion, and in so doing contributes creatively to—and struggles critically against—the framing that community processes impose on herself and her people.
A “self” deeming itself individuated and primordial is always, in contrast, inauthentic and for this very reason, easily falls victim of ideologies it does not, and cannot, question. #LinguisticBodies
For linguistic bodies, keeping the course of one’s life coherent for oneself is the inherited and ontologically definitive struggle. #LinguisticBodies
Whether and to what extent this becomes a self-conscious, salient pursuit of authenticity—that is, an ethical endeavor—is undetermined; it need not befall every linguistic body as such. But it can, and that is part of the point. ->

We are bodies whose being is an issue for ourselves (to paraphrase Heidegger). This ethical question can show up in a variety of ways related to the ever-shifting terrain of linguistic self-construction. #LinguisticBodies
End of chapter 9

People w/ autism, just like everybody else, are sense-makers. Perhaps it's strange that this has to be said. However, it bears repeating in light of many approaches to autism that still attempt to “treat away” behaviors that nonautistics find hard to understand. #LinguisticBodies
<- Take for instance rocking or hand flapping. These behaviors may seem inappropriate and in need of remedial therapy, until we understand what they are for, what they do for the person enacting them. #LinguisticBodies
It is becoming increasingly understood that “stimming”—self-stimulatory behavior, often in the form of repetitive movements of the body or body parts or an object—is an important way for people with autism to cope with sensory overwhelmedness. #LinguisticBodies
Being a sense-maker, things matter to you, and they matter to you as the particular intersubjective, sensorimotor, organic body that you are in your world. #LinguisticBodies
Most theories of autism have—in keeping with good old-fashioned cognitive science—focused on theories-in-the-head, on executive functions, and on capacities for drawing coherence, or rather the absence of these. #LinguisticBodies
<- But recent years have seen an encouraging change of thinking in the direction of autistic embodiment.

The upshot of an enactive approach to (inter)subjectivity, especially when applied to challenging phenomena, is that the basic questions to ask are always versions of: Why does something mean something for someone in this situation?

<- What matters to this person, what is at stake for her? And how can and do they participate here?

The effort required to understand people with autism and their varieties of sense-making is itself a social effort. The fact that this effort is often considerable is due not only to autism, but also to a world organized largely by & for nonautistics. #DeJaegher #LinguisticBodies
Just as there are billions of linguistic bodies, so too are there tens of millions of autistic bodies. Each person with autism has their own autism, is their own person. Autism, and autistic language, manifest themselves in heterogeneous ways. #LinguisticBodies
The environment, the linguistic world of the person with autism, and the “match” between the two, is absolutely crucial... to what [the person with autism] can do, to their concrete linguistic becoming. #LinguisticBodies
There is one general maxim that we think applies to all forms of linguistic becoming & is even more relevant for the case of autism: Make sure that participation happens, at whatever level. Find ways of engaging that promote & allow continued and expanding forms of participation.
<- This is important precisely because there is such variability in how people with autism engage with the world and with language that no method will necessarily work for everybody, except this one: Do whatever helps and promotes participation. #LinguisticBodies
Participation, as we saw, requires efforts from all sides, particularly the effort of knowing when to let things be. This is not simply a positive or politically correct message for the sake of it. Nor is it wishful thinking. It is strictly a consequence of the model.
By going through participation, including breakdowns and reconnections, the conditions in which autistic people must and can coregulate and coauthor social acts with others can be understood, identified, and dealt with, for each particular case. #LinguisticBodies
This brings together a plea of both self-advocacy groups and nonautistics seeking to build bridges: Let everybody learn to enhance participation. #LinguisticBodies
End of chapter 10 - a short chapter on autistic #LinguisticBodies
Last two chapter to go and chapter 11 is all concentrated on language, which not my strong suit + found the chapter difficult to follow.

So options are:
Chapter 11: an account of living, emergent grammar. #LinguisticBodies
[w]e sketch an enactive take on symbolizing, gesturing, and reading and storytelling. We recommend that readers not expect that from this point we will derive everything that students of grammars (or narratives, etc.) study. #LinguisticBodies
We are proposing general concepts grounded on our account of linguistic bodies, which is itself grounded on the life-mind continuity. In offering our account of grammaticalizing, we have not stepped out of this continuity. #LinguisticBodies
Just as somebody studying the role of the gaze in interactions may find that participatory sense-making does not directly formulate an answer to her questions, somebody interested in ergative languages may find our emergent grammar falls somehow short of her target.
<- In both cases what is missing is traveling the road from the general to the particular, which is of course work to be done. #LinguisticBodies
[W]e present living emergent embodied grammar—enactive grammar—as a general concept that further work could link with more specific aspects of grammar as studied by linguists. #LinguisticBodies
From an enactive perspective, linguistic norms should not be understood so much in terms of rules of grammar or lexicography as typically studied by the science of linguistics. Such categories ultimately derive from more fun damental autonomous patterns in a linguistic community.
“We do not first have a grammar a priori, and then start building utterances in accordance with it. Instead, we are always immersed in languaging, in and through which we develop habits of using and reusing elements of language and routines of enacting communicative ->
<- projects through linguistics and other semiotic means. As a result of this continuous process, regularities emerge and rules of linguistic behavior get established and conventionalized” Linell in #LinguisticBodies
The effects of emergent grammars of interaction that sediment into community norms extend beyond what is typically considered the domain of linguistic behavior. #LinguisticBodies
Just as linguistic bodies are grounded on the sensorimotor dimension of embodiment, so the shared grammatical know-how for structuring utterances into sequences, embeddings, correspondences, conjugations, relatively fixed and variable combinations, interrogatives, ->
<- imperatives, topics and comments, and so on, helps to shape novel forms of sensorimotor sense-making. #LinguisticBodies
Meaning applies to and happens for whole situated organisms. #LinguisticBodies
Nonrepresentational explanations of reference & content, normativity and intentionality, are viable when these phenomena are understood as living, dynamic activities of precarious bodies situated in—that is, sensitive to & powerful in—social and semiotic space. #LinguisticBodies
A gestalt switch is called for: let us not talk about “reference” “rules” “content” “symbol” or “well-formedness judgments” but about referring, regulating, judging, symbolizing & sensitizing & thus be able to preserve the materiality, agency, & susceptibility of these processes.
All living symbols, like all acts, are material, whether spoken or gestured, whether propped up by tools, objects, buildings, star constellations, or bits of the landscape. #LinguisticBodies
The material instantiation of some symbols, however, allows their constraining effects to endure beyond the acts that produced them, to suspend in time the matching of partial acts of participatory sense-making. #LinguisticBodies
<- Such is the case of graphic marks, engravings, tools, artifacts, places, and arrangements of objects produced or used as symbolic constraints on action. #LinguisticBodies
What scholars call grammar has a basis in the real life of linguistic practices. Symbols materialize virtual relations that emerge out of the open dialectics of spontaneity and sedimentation.
Even if the words in an utterance stick to their dictionary meanings and the phrasing is commonplace, there is, because of their materiality, always an openness in the moves and sounds that do the symbolizing in linguistic encounters. ->

<- Gestures are probably some of the clearer exemplars of this openness. But like spoken words, they might lead us to think that openness somehow goes together with the fleeting temporality and materiality of action, of moves and sounds. #LinguisticBodies
Writing and reading, we may conclude, are particularly powerful modes in which material practices give rise to ideality. #LinguisticBodies
In reading, a linguistic body enacts herself through engagements with the utterances of another. In reading, one is also writing. In writing, one is also reading & inevitably deploying utterances of another, styles of another (not just one particular other), styles of a genre.
While remaining interactive in nature, language thus freed is no longer easily owned or authored, but it becomes a way a community as a whole talks and writes to itself. #LinguisticBodies
<- This passage to language as a powerful and manipulable voice/text of a community leads us directly to face the ethical and political dimensions of our account of linguistic bodies. #LinguisticBodies
End of ch 11, #LinguisticBodies

Ch 12, the last chapter and one of my favourite chapters of the book, next weekend.
There is no neutral perspective on how we decide to study the human mind; nothing is just the way it is, untouched by an ideology. #LinguisticBodies
The very attempt at formulating a truly embodied, nonrepresentationalist approach to language is non-neutral, even if it might seem to belong exclusively to the realm of dry academic debates. #LinguisticBodies
In fact, non-neutrality characterizes as much the content as the epistemic attitude of the enactive program. #LinguisticBodies
It is our responsibility to express as clearly as possible and to critically examine our own ideological framework and be skeptical of those who claim they haven’t got any. #LinguisticBodies
Ethical concerns follow directly from the heart of the enactive approach. We care about life and about the world because we are precarious organic, sensorimotor, and intersubjective bodies. #LinguisticBodies
Immediately, this entails an ethical stance toward our objects of study, which is also a stance toward life, human beings, our own activity as practitioners of research, and the world we inhabit. #LinguisticBodies
A concern for enactivists is that theories of life and mind should avoid obfuscating this inherent ethical stance. Obfuscation occurs if we choose the wrong language or do not dare to push existing categories outside their frames when this is called for. #LinguisticBodies
Our understanding of linguistic communities, of the continuities between life and language, implies that language is a field of struggle. Entrenched perspectives will never be really challenged if we do not learn to speak differently. #LinguisticBodies
Linguistic practice is a practice of otherness and, as such, involves inherently ethical concerns. To become a linguistic body is to place oneself in a responsible relation of care about others and concern for others. #LinguisticBodies
Ethical concern is not something that is added to already constituted linguistic bodies, as sociocultural normativity is supposedly added to a presumed original nature in dualistic thought. ->

<- On the contrary, ethical concern is the essence of every linguistic act, whether oriented toward other linguistic bodies, toward the self, or toward the world. #LinguisticBodies
Linguistic bodies are nourished by communal and interpersonal relations. Identity processes in linguistic bodies are therefore complex and relational. #LinguisticBodies
The tensions that must be navigated by linguistic bodies arise from joint histories of linguistic becoming and from the living stream of languaging in a community. #LinguisticBodies
The integrity of linguistic bodies depends on the exercise of certain forms of agency and participation in community practices. It is also a consequence of the activity and attitudes of others. #LinguisticBodies
Linguistic bodies are vulnerable in ways that surpass sensorimotor or organic vulnerabilities (even though these vulnerabilities become inextricably entangled). ->

The specific vulnerabilities of ling bodies include systematic impairments of ling becoming (isolation, neurological conditions), taking the form of systematic affronts to their integrity & processes of reaffirmation (both as capable ling agents & as belonging to a community).
<- Examples include exclusion, impairments to participation, lack of recognition, not being skillful in a foreign language or the language of a subcommunity, neurophysiological impairments, mental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, trauma. #LinguisticBodies
While the vulnerabilities listed indicate that there are “bad” ways of existing as #LinguisticBodies—that is, ways that expose ling bodies to systematic risk and damage—it is perhaps misleading to think that one way of being a viable ling body is necessarily better than another.
[E]thical stance is a practical one, a type of ethical know-how. We should think of it as a form of expertise, like riding a bicycle, with the double implication that we can be more or less ethically skillful & that our ethical attitudes are often prereflective. #LinguisticBodies
We may learn something about the norms in our community in the form of abstract rules (e.g., popular refrains), but the deeper learning only happens through practice, including, as a matter of necessity, breakdowns. We should not be afraid of ethical breakdowns. #LinguisticBodies
There cannot be ethical agency that at some level is not also potentially critical. #LinguisticBodies
Languaging is never free from risk and sometimes it can feel like walking a tightrope. #LinguisticBodies
The voices of others find an echo chamber in the flow of self-directed utterances & may not be easily silenced. Since utterances are constitutive of the ling self & of relations to others, in these embodied resonances, words sometimes cause harm & other times remedy injuries.
A frequent arena in which linguistic vulnerabilities are met and undergone is the scene of social interactions. #LinguisticBodies
The primordial tension of participatory sense-making is a tension between individual and interactive orders of constitutive normativity, but for linguistic bodies, tensions between past and present, and self and community, amplify and distort this basic ongoing challenge.
<- Such complexity manifests in a variety of ways in interpersonal exchanges, and sustains an excitable field—in some cases one is tempted to say a minefield—of potential harms. #LinguisticBodies
Consider the phenomenon of microaggression. “the major vehicle for racism in this country [the US] is offenses done to blacks by whites in this sort of gratuitous never-ending way..." #LinguisticBodies
Microaggressions are utterances directed at bodies that are in fact entanglements of organic, sensorimotor, & intersubjective bodies, thus showing up in a particular way in a social world—gendered, raced, weighted, abled, accented, literate or not. #LinguisticBodies
Microaggressions threaten to dismantle linguistic bodies, functioning through a sort of reductive strategy: a person is described through some bodily feature (e.g., sexual aspects, hair texture, apparent disabilities). #LinguisticBodies
Microaggressions are real and damaging behaviors; they are material carriers of domination and privilege, regardless of the varying degrees of privilege that the bodies enacting them enjoy. #LinguisticBodies
Enactive theory cannot endorse a plea for neutral discourse. Sense-making is never neutral. #LinguisticBodies
Linguistic bodies struggle for meaning, recognition, and self-determination not only within institutional settings but also with institutions and other instruments of power and authority. #LinguisticBodies
<- Put differently, we are addressed not only by other linguistic bodies, but also by utterances that issue seemingly from nowhere and no one, utterances without an enunciator. Consider billboards, buzzwords, and many forms of signage. #LinguisticBodies
It seems a stretch to claim that participatory sense-making takes place in these situations, but ling bodies do make sense of posted parking ordinances, political messages on bumper stickers, advertisements, abruptly ubiquitous phrases (e.g., “fake news”), the memes of the day.
If bodies bring forth a world through their enactments, then in facing another body I am confronted with a radical difference, I am confronted with someone else’s world, irreducible to mine. #LinguisticBodies
Self and other (or rather “selfing” and “othering”) are material processes and not metaphysical boundaries that precede these activities. ->

<- If we are to avoid walking those alleys that lead to dualism and mysticism, we must keep close the notion of ethical know-how as a practice while acknowledging the multiple fundamental ambiguities of linguistic bodies. #LinguisticBodies
Human “nature,” if we can say anything about it, is the struggle for resolving tensions in community being and collectively and individually abiding in potentiality, and often failing to do one or the other. #LinguisticBodies
Being with others is indeed a given and participation a constitutive part of existing in a linguistic community, but this does not immediately set us on the path of universal collaboration toward the good. ->

<- If it did, there would be no ethical agency to worry about, only pathologies: we would just have to cure those who have strayed from becoming “true” human selves. #LinguisticBodies
On the contrary, because outcomes are not guaranteed, because ideologies can endure that create massive inequalities, systematic injustices, and pervasive suffering for generations (and do so by morally recuperating self-centered interest as “natural”) ->

<- changes to this state of affairs must come from struggles over how to best become ethical-critical linguistic bodies in communities of human practice and relating—struggles over ideas, over language, over meanings and power. #LinguisticBodies
Too often one encounters this separation between knowledge and ethics in the black-and-white epistemology of scientism (knowledge is value-free, what we do with knowledge is not). #LinguisticBodies
<- When such barriers frame research language (scientific on one side, ethical-political on the other), we should question them critically and, as we have tried to do in this book, subvert linguistic and disciplinary conventions. #LinguisticBodies
Institutionally sanctioned separation between science, ethics & politics, between the “Main Research Proposal” & “Ethical Issues Appendix” confines research conversations to the echo chamber of unending commentary; academic knowledge is thus kept apart from other human practices.
<- This segregation is unfortunate since those engaged in nonacademic pursuits may be more skilled in the ethics of participation, that is, in the art of engaging the world as a coparticipant. #LinguisticBodies
We have often seen in this book that the experience and knowledge of practitioners, parents, workers, children, and social movements provide the richest examples for counteracting the functionalist hegemony in the sciences of the mind. #LinguisticBodies
And that's it! The end of #LinguisticBodies
Imho, this book is a landmark in the enactive landscape that redefines the field (like The Embodied Mind, Thompson et al did), if not immediately in the years to come. I admit I found it difficult to penetrate at times but it certainly is work I will continue to heavily lean on.
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