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Schwemmer, Oswald. Das Ereignis der Form. Zur Analyse des sprachlichen Denkens.

SCHWEMMER, Oswald. Das Ereignis der Form. Zur Analyse des sprachlichen Denkens. Munchen: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2011. Paper, 24.90[yen]--The forms of linguistic articulation and expressivity in contextualized (and situated) cognition and knowledge production have been the focus of a lot interesting work in philosophical anthropology as well as in cognitive science (including cognitive anthropology) over the past forty years or so. The book under review stands out against the background of this work. With his previous studies, Oswald Schwemmer made a name as one of the most important figures in Continental philosophy who rehabilitated the German tradition of philosophical anthropology (Max Scheler, Helmuth Plessner, Arnold Gehlen). He also contributed significantly to the formation of fields of trans-disciplinary inquiry beyond the borders of philosophy of culture and research programs in cognitive psychology, linguistics, discourse analysis, theory of communication, and informal logic. Schwemmer's principal goal is the development of a theory of cultural existence by transforming Heidegger's hermeneutic ontology of the meaning of Being into a transdisciplinary study of the being of meaning. The book shows how this study can steer a course between the Scylla of naturalism and the Charybdis of restoring a kind of transcendental idealism in reflecting upon the constitution of meaning from the viewpoint of philosophical anthropology. The Emergence o( the Form is a book that specifies the linguistic thought (das Sprachdenken) as an aspect of the theory of cultural existence.

The linguistic thought is circumscribed by placing emphasis upon the contingent contexts generated by intertwined discursive practices. At issue is, in particular, the synergy of gestures, verbal expressions, and cognitive activities. Schwemmer's approach defines the relationship between language and thought in opposition to the computational theory of mind. He repudiates not only the algorithmic view of the linguistically designed cognitive processes (cum representational epistemology), but also the standpoint that a theory of language's designative function gives the primary conceptual access to the linguistic thought. (This is why Schwemmer's "linguistic thought" has nothing to do with Fodor's "language of thought." The former is characterized by the continuity of contextualized discursive practices and interrelatedness of symbolic forms of expressivity, whereas the latter is represented by means of discrete semantic structures.) Linguistic thought is not to be reduced to the ways in which human beings are articulating ideas (Gedanken) in sentences (Satze). What the practices of speaking and writing do articulate is by no means confined to a reproductive report (Wiedergabe) of event of perception and cognition. Linguistic thought is an ongoing crossing-over (Verschrankung) of dynamic trajectories of symbolic expressivity in which thought and language are interpenetrating. (Accordingly, the thought is not represented by linguistic units. The thought is rather constantly intervening in the course of discursive practices). Based on the assumption that the "flowing discourse" has (with regard to the "being of meaning") a priority over language's morphosyntactic structures, Schwemmer is looking for the "immanent idiomaticity of language."

The author's discussion of several issues revolves around a notorious Heideggerian claim: The visual recognition of images presupposes a linguistic articulation of the world (or, a linguistic world-horizon). Human beings are primarily spoken the world in order to make it a visualizable totality of objects. In the tradition of philosophical anthropology, this is also an argument for the thesis that homo sapiens is the only species which is able to form cognitively identifiable Visual images. Schwemmer specifies tiffs argument by bridging in an original fashion Heidegger's interpretation of hand as a prerequisite for the openness to the world and Cassirer's conception of symbolic pregnancy. Heidegger's dictum that thinking is handwork plays an important role in author's elaborations. At stake in the book are various aspects of the constellation of readiness-to-hand, handling-with, handling (Handhaben), "despaired hand," handwork, and the hand that incorporates human being's essence. The emphasis is placed upon the linguisticality (die Sprachlichkeit) of hand. Schwennner follows the thread of Derrida's celebrated exegetical scenario of Le main de Heideggew. The unity of the "hand's thinking" and the "thought's hand" belongs to the essence of donation. The hand is never a pure presence-to-hand. It should not be treated also simply as a part of human body. Yet, there is an important difference in the accent as compared with Derrida: In the analysis of "Heidegger's hand," Schwemmer is not interested in the deconstruction of phonocentrism, but in a sort of non-transcendental anthropology of linguistic thought that is freed from any kind of linguistic-mentalist essentialism.

For Schwemmer, it is the linguisticality of hand which not only brings together being (Sein) and meaning (Sinn), but makes them intertwined. The epiphanies of the intertwined expressivity of being-meaning (prayer, murder, greeting, gratitude, oath, and wink) are delineated in a manner that brings into focus the transition from the forms of non-verbal communication to the forms of linguistic articulation. The linguisticality of hand informs to a certain extent the schematizations taking place in perception. In this regard, the book offers also an interesting interpretation of Merleau-Ponty's claim that the "I" of the speaker bears already the germ of language's depersonalization. Cassirer's concept of symbolic pregnancy (qua a continuous interaction of sensuousness and meaning [Sinnlichkeit und Sinn]) is construed as a prelude to a theory of meaning constitution (Sinnerzeugung) that opposes in a radical manner epistemological foundationalism. In conjugating successfully "Heidegger's hand" with Cassirer's symbolic pregnancy, Schwemmer provides an account of the emergence of forms in linguistic thought without presupposing a dichotomy between outer experience and inner' experience. By implication, the author suggests an outlook that contradicts all views entitled to say how the world strikes a perceiver. Schwemmer's approach not only gets rid of simplistic distinctions--like that between sentient creatures (who are capable of differential responsiveness, but are incapable of inference) and sapient creatures (who form and assess inferential connections in their comportment)--but avoids any kind of hypostatization of language as well. There is no linguistic form that can be exempt from individual productivity. The intertwined expressivity of being and meaning is in the circularity of the trans-subjectivity of linguistic forms and the individual articulation of language. Though the linguistic forms are anonymous, they do not have a being-in-itself.

The book can be read as an alternative to two major developments in philosophy of mind. On the one hand, it is alternative to those assumptions which are tacitly shared by all protagonists in externalism-internalism controversy. The processual primacy of the form (as a unity of "thinking-as-handwork" and symbolic pregnancy) is directed not only against the representationalist assumptions of internalism, but also against the idea of "direct vision" that leads to a sheer absurdity in the programs of externalism. The book suggests, on the other hand, a promising alternative to the Kantian approach to mind as it is sketched out, in particular, in the program of "minimal empiricism."--Dimitri Ginev, Sophia University, Studia Culturologica.
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Author:Ginev, Dimitri
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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