Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
In my research this afternoon, I came across the following essay (which looks relevant to several of the themes regularly explored here): Enactive Realism, by Kyle Takaki.
Enactive realism is, in brief, an informational realism about emergent entities. The “enactive” dimension concerns information that is always processed within some context: as Evan Thompson writes, a living being “brings forth or enacts meaning in structural coupling with its environment. The meaning of a [living being’s] states are formed within the context of the system’s dynamics and structural coupling.”20 Thus I propose the following reconstruction of Polanyi: while it appears that there is a residual dual-ism in Polanyi’s thought—perhaps due to his residual employment of certain Cartesian presuppositions—duality (boundaries, hierarchies) need not fall prey to the entrapments of dualism or representationalism. Additionally, the term “representation” receives the following reconstruction by Thompson on his enactive approach:
Representational ‘vehicles’ (the structures or processes that embody meaning) are temporally extended patterns of activity that can crisscross the brain-body-world boundaries, and the meanings or contents they embody are brought forth or enacted in the context of the system’s structural coupling with the environment. . .Instead of internally representing an external world in some Cartesian sense, [such systems] enact an environment inseparable from their own structure and actions. In phenomenological language, they constitute (disclose) a world that bears the stamp of their own structure (ML 59).
Rather than recasting the Cartesian body-mind problem, an enactive approach allows for a “recasting of this recasting,” as it were. That is, instead of arguing for Polanyi’s recasting of the mind-body problem (which apparently ends up ensnaring even Polanyi21), an enactive approach proposes a “body-body problem,” which “concerns the relation between one’s body as one subjectively lives it and one’s body as an organism in the world” (ML 244). The “gap is no longer between two radically different ontologies (‘mental’ and ‘physical’) but between two types within one typology of embodiment (subjectively lived body and living body)” (ML 224).22 On this reading, Polanyi’s dual control theory and Merleau-Ponty’s use of duality are still broadly compatible, as they (differentially) explore the overflowing, embodied ways of “singing the world.”
Enactive realism is an epistemic position that inquires into informational hierarchies of achievements via a two-fold strategy: it investigates each side of a dual to disclose differences that make a difference, specifically the emergent features of achievements (e.g., recall the discussion of duality, boundaries, levels, and emergence in the rainbow example). In other words, an enactive approach to the body-body problem is “best understood not as an attempt to close the comparative explanatory gaps in a reductive sense, but instead as an attempt to bridge these gaps by deploying new [non-Cartesian] theoretical resources” (ML 255). These gaps between duals still crucially fall within “one typology of embodiment,” whose duals mutually in-form one another.
A few things stand out for me in this article. One is that, per Dial's recent comments, the difference between a logic of implicit knowing versus an emphasis on lived experience. Takaki makes a case for the usefulness of a logic of understanding that is, in a sense, a higher-order principle beyond a bodily-felt, lived and creative experience.
Another is that implicit knowing seems to be embodied and enactive. That is, even though there is a higher order contextualizing it cannot exist without the lower parts that afford it. When such higher orders emerge then the lower orders are implicit to its explicit knowing. In other words, it is a bottom up system in that there is no higher order whole without its parts. In still other words, there is no totalizing whole that existed before manifestation that involves into the parts. The parts evolve into particular wholes, always set in specific contextualization, with the implicit arising from such evolution, not the other way around. We see this same notion of embedded, embodied and immanent objects in Bryant's dynamic, and uniquely particular, systems.
Coming back to this thread from my last comment in the Spheres thread, Takaki lays of the issue as one of integrating the representational divide of dualism via hierarchical enaction. Whereas Latour in “The whole is always smaller than the parts” makes the issue the presupposition that there are hierarchical levels in the whole to begin with. For example:
“But is there an alternative to the common sense version that distinguishes atoms, interactions and wholes as successive sequences (whatever the order and the timing)... A monad is not a part of a whole, but a point of view on all the other entities taken severally and not as a totality.... What is so refreshing with the new habit of circulation is that they never end up tracing an entity as 'part of a whole;' since there is never any whole.... The reason is that ...there are, strictly speaking, no individual atoms...nor aggregates....you move from one entity —the substance— to its network —the attributes— you don’t go from the particular to the general, but from particular to more particulars” (7 - 8).