Cognitive Semiotics: Johan Blomberg (Nicolaus Copernicus University) and Peter Woelert (University of Melbourne): From body to culture – An outline of a generative phenomenology of measurement
All are warmly welcome to this Cognitive Semiotics seminar. The only request is that you have you camera on, at least when you enter and ask questions. It will take place two earlier than usual so that Peter (in a time zone 9 hours earlier) can join us. We enter the "zoom room" at 1pm to say hello, and the talk by Johan and Peter will begin at 13:15.
We discuss the role of the lived body in both providing spatial measurements with meaning, and how its role in material-cultural practices facilitates the application of measuring practices to increasingly abstract forms of spatial understanding. Husserl’s analyses of space are comprised of two seemingly opposing aspects. On the one hand, space is approached as fundamentally a lived space given through and mediated by the perceptual configuration and capacities for movement of the lived body. Lived space has its immediate roots in the functioning of the lived body, where basic spatial features like location and distance emerge only in relation to its activities (Husserl 1989, 1997). On the other, Husserl analyses space as a historically constituted phenomenon, with particular emphasis on the sort of ideal spaces that can be found in geometry and mathematics. This idealizing constitution is based upon a progressive abstraction of spatial concepts from lived experience – to the point that these embodied dimensions of the constitution of space become ultimately unrecognizable and even forgotten (see Husserl 1970a, b).
We propose that the spatial practices of measuring are specifically illuminating for clarifying the processes of typification and standardization that are likely to have anticipated the development of more full-fledged idealizing conceptions of space. We propose that such proto-idealizing processes of ever-increasing detachment from the concrete spatial practices have some of their roots in the lived body’s peculiar capacity to function as a constantly available resource for measuring space, indicated by “anthropometric measures” (Kula 1986) such as foot, ell and inch. We further outline a generative account for the development of spatial measurement and its place in the transition to idealized conceptions of space. It is on this basis that that the transition from lived to idealized space can best be described as a process already founded in the body as both a phenomenological basis and cultural-technological device instituting measurements not only in the sense of my foot but foot-in-general. In this way, the lived body is not only the ground for spatial experience, but an indispensable material template for organizing space in more abstract and intersubjectively valid ways.
Husserl, E. (1970a). The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental phenomenology. An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Husserl, E. (1970b). Origin of Geometry. In Husserl (1970a).
Husserl, E. (1989). Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy - Second Book: Studies in the Phenomenology of Constitution. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Husserl, E. (1997). Thing and Space: Lectures of 1907. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Kula, W. (1986). Measures and Men. Princeton University Press.