Quotes from New Beginnings

“Just as the Greeks and Latins reduced philosophy’s concern to what they supposed to be what it is, independent of human thought, so the moderns reduced philosophy’s concern to what was supposed to be distinctively rational or natural in the content of the mind’s workings. Postmodernism rejects all such reduction, and for the first time insists on bringing to the foreground the whole of experience, not just a distortion of it made in view of a selected part.” (John Deely, New Beginnings : Early Modern Philosophy and Postmodern Thought, p.17)

“Being is not only “that which can only be said in many ways” (Aristotle), but that out of which the division between what is and what is not independent of the mind arises (Aquinas), and not in any finally fixed way, but differently according to the time and circumstances of the one experiencing such a contrast among objects. / Hence the central importance for the nascent postmodernism of ideas of illusion, irrationality, and deconstruction, even though these fashionable preoccupations are far from the whole story and, in the nature of the case, incapable of adequately defining the contours of what postmodern philosophy must inevitably move toward realizing, namely, an adequate appreciation of the richness of human experience as the ground of all art and science, and the only means we have for testing what is true.” (p.19)

“[H]istory provides for the philosopher what the laboratory provides for the scientist, namely, the arena in which the consequences of ideas are played out. Miller (1993: 41) describes this idea that the work of philosophy must proceed through a study of history in order to achieve its best results as among “the most lasting lessons Foucault learned from his teacher”, Jean Hyppolite. In any event, it is one of the defining ideas of postmodernism.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.38)

“Modern philosophers distinguished within the list between primary and secondary qualities of objects, meaning by the latter color, odor, taste, sound, and warmth or coolness in particular; Greek and Latin philosophers distinguished rather between proper (or ‘special’) and common sensibles, meaning by the former color, odor, taste, sound, and texture or relative warmth.” (p.77)

“The question answered in their distinction between proper and common sensibles concerns the relations of environmental things to the channels of sense through which and on the basis of which these things become aspectually and in part objectified: some aspects of the physical environment, namely, the proper sensibles, are objectified, cognized, or known through a single channel of sense only, while other aspects are assimilated to experience through more channels than one, namely, the common sensibles.” (p.81)

“[T]he status of sign as ontologically relative is not that of a genus respecting natural and conventional signs as its determinate species. The status is, rather, an existential condition which can be physically realized in the natural and cultural orders indifferently according to the role of the fundament (the foundation of the sign-relation, the sign-vehicle) together with the circumstances which surround it but do not constitute it within cognition as a sign. For only a triadic relation can constitute a sign as such. Whether this relation will be objective only or will include a physical intersubjectivity as well is determined not only by the role of the fundament engendering the sign relation, but also by the circumstances under which that fundament operates in generating the relation.” (p.104)

“What Poinsot has presented in his thematization of the sign is a thoroughgoing demonstration that the action of signs is what gives structure to our sensations, perceptions, and understanding, both practical and theoretical—in a word, to our experience as a whole.” (p.106)

“But the immediate point to be made here is that the contemporary term “species” in English is not in any way helpful for understanding the Latin epistemological discussions of species. In fact, the main sense of the epistemological Latin term species, namely, the sense of giving specification or specifying form, is one that has never been really brought out in modern English discussions or translations of relevant Latin texts prior to the 1985 edition of Poinsot’s Treatise on Signs.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.127)

“Indeed, at the level of impressions, the species itself does not appear at all. … The species does not appear, it merely conveys the specific energy which determines that the power able to know becomes aware of the influence at work in the environment here and now.” (p.133)

“The species impressa, as a theoretical entity and technical term of philosophical vocabulary, is, at least in Poinsot’s tradition, as far removed from Hume’s impressions or Locke’s “simple ideas of sense” as could be, for the species impressae as such are neither sensations nor ideas, but simply that specification according to which the power of sense forms a sensation under some environmental stimulus. There are no simple ideas of sense as distinct from the complex ideas of perception. At the level of sense, prescised and distinguished as such within perception, there are no ideas at all, but only aspectual manifestations of the environment as influencing some particular type of organism here and now.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.135)

“By Poinsot’s day … Augustine’s question-begging definition of the sign as something per se sensible had been rejected in favor of the more neutral definition, “anything that represents something other than itself to a cognitive power”. This definition, it was argued, would then apply both to sense-perceptible objects which function as signs (such as words and cultural artifacts generally, along with natural occurrences such as clouds and smoke), and to ideas and images in our minds.” (pp.136-137)

“Formal causality in the specificative sense best explains the action of signs from every point of view. This causality can be exercised through the intrinsic constitution of the sign-vehicle (in the case of a natural sign) or not (in the case of an arbitrary sign), as the situation calls for. It is more general than the final causality typical of vital powers, inasmuch as it specifies equally both vital activity and the chance interactions of brute secondness at the level of inorganic nature. This is the causality that enables the sign to achieve its distinctive function of making present what the sign-vehicle itself is not, regardless of whether the object signified enjoys a physical existence apart from the signification.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, p.170)

“The prime interpretant in the case of cognitive organisms, of course, is the biological nature of the organism itself, which determines indeed not what sensations will be actual, but what will be possible in the first place for perception to elaborate and, in our case, intellection to assimilate as best it can.” “The first interpretant is the nature of organism, its biological heritage; the first object is the environment aspectually influencing the organism through its cognitive channels; but the first sign is the idea objectifying the environmental influences as desirable or undesirable, i. e., constituting experience in the first place.” (John Deely, New Beginnings, pp.226-227)

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