language and mind

June 27, 2011

Objectivism or objectification – could you need to ‘rewire’?

Filed under: Uncategorized — teresapelka @ 7:44 am

The advertising content over the Internet offers hundreds of thousands of ads telling you to ‘rewire’ your brain – for meditation, psychotherapy, even for love – I really doubt the existence of the last mentioned kind of circuitry.

The web content tells how ‘rewiring’ your brain might change you and your life forever. The argument is that ‘objectively’ there are those ‘circuits’ in your head and you could not even try to manage them on your own. Could that work when you really want to learn a language?

The ‘circuits’ or ‘wires’ would be to take the place of the self in the process. Finding a deficiency in your life – like one to make you want to meditate, talk with a therapist, or even fall in love (if things get that bad ;)) – you should no longer think it is yourself to want change. These are some objects in your brain to need changing and here is this wise guy to do this for you just right, provided you drop him or her a little cash.

Ousting the self from decision making is not anything new in human history. The ‘erudite’ Freudian ‘id’ might be a classic example of externalization. ‘It’s not me, it’s the it, the thing’ – the psychoanalyst would be telling throughout his work. Further, Freud would see the thing about others more than about himself, projecting his rather nominalist[1] attitude to language on his patients – classic externalization.

‘Out of my self onto others’: but the thing would not go easy. Part the function of the pronoun – the ancient Latin ‘id’[2] was more or less like the contemporary English ‘it’ – remains anaphoric. As Merriam-Webster says, an anaphoric lexical item would bea word or phrase that takes its reference from another word or phrase and especially from a preceding word or phrase’.

In German, apparently the working language for Freud, the anaphoric functions happen to go into an interplay with articles, like in German demonstratives. German allows omitting the demonstrative before the possessive idiomatically, provided there is a person’s name. Freud tried to employ his patients’ names in his theory.

A possibly interesting interplay when consciously used in a literary workshop and maybe part T.S. Eliot‘s work[3], language structures would not form a separate entity in a human head. By the way, the notion of a drive itself as used by the psychoanalyst is becoming more and more abandoned in contemporary America for the sake of the notion of a preference – comprehensibly, when one looks to the possible implications of the use. Well then, could a language learner, someone aspiring to be not functionally monolingual, ‘rewire’ their brain for better results?

First, there are no literally ‘wires’ or ‘circuits’ in human brains. The ‘objective’ argument is not objective. The learner would need to rely on a kind of fiction to build real language skills. The fiction would take seeing their own language skills as an object, a thing. The learner would not get anything objective. They would get objectification – making a thing of what is not really just a thing or a separate agency.

You might say it is good at least to try to motivate yourself. ‘If I imagine a peacock blue mouse helping me out and I come up with a quality language output, who’s there to tell me to stop imagining the peacock blue mouse?’ OK, I’d say, you keep the peacock blue mouse provided it is not a ghostwriter. Yet, one day it may have no ideas for you.

Therefore, my answer would be and is: definitely, absolutely, and totally – no. Viewing your brain like a thing or circuitry to be managed will not work. However a body part, your brain has got much more to do with your identity and cognition than just some ‘it’, or ‘that’. The student needs to consider language skills workable to himself or herself, not to ‘this something in’ that either makes it or not[4].

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[1] Freud’s language use could be functionally monolingual, that is, of a person having one language for their working capacity. Functionally monolingual persons may be capable of interpreting other languages. However, they translate terms foreign to them into their working capacity and may tend to superimpose this capacity on the other languages they use. Freud’s use of Latin might be an example (‘What time was it for Sigismundus?’ is another project of mine).

[2] Latin would have other interesting language items, like ‘idem’; ‘alter idem’ happened to mean ‘another me’. The Latin ‘ibi’ happened to be used to provide reference in space or time.

[3] T.S. Eliot has been associated with the so-called ‘objective correlative‘ writing technique. ‘Prufrock was not a proper name’, he wrote.

[4] Please allow a little test. Imagine a choice like ‘It having been Lamarck to say’, or ‘It being already Lamarck to have said’. Much is going to depend on your perspective. As a teacher I told the students to try to view language as a dimension in which they would be themselves.

1 Comment »

  1. [...] I don’t mean that Freud took his values from his underprivileged status. His status was much underprivileged, however. He could not have his real name. The matter of the name would show in his work: as a projection. In German, apparently the working language for Freud, the anaphoric functions happen to go into an interplay with articles, like in German demonstratives. German allows omitting the demonstrative before the possessive idiomatically, provided there is a person’s name: feel welcome to read my ‘Objectivism or objectification‘. [...]

    Pingback by Aristotle’s ‘latent mirth’ « language and mind — August 7, 2012 @ 10:11 pm


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