Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0815. Monday, 11 November 1996.
From: Thomas Bishop <
Date: Monday, 11 Nov 1996 14:30:03 -0500
Subject: 7.0805 Re: Interpretation
Comment: Re: SHK 7.0805 Re: Interpretation
Bill Godshalk and Norman Holland raise some interesting points. Since we cannot
put the objects of our perception actually in our thoughts, we humans, assisted
by God Biology, have evolved ways of representing them for thought. My visual
cortex (and most other people's) is very good at distinguishing edges, changes
in contour, color and so forth, particularly where faces are concerned.
Neurology can explain this process in detail. I suppose one could call this
hard-wired neurological activity "interpretation", but I'm reluctant to use
that term because I find it conflates it with a much more deliberate and
conscious activity which seems to me qualitatively different. I'm inclined to
want to say that "interpretation" proper arises when there is a puzzle,
question or dispute (this can be at any stage of perception), but that failing
any puzzle what we have is better named "perception". I do not "interpret" my
mother's face at the breakfast table, unless I'm unsure how she's feeling today
and want to know. Otherwise I merely perceive and recognize my mother. To say
otherwise goes against the grain of what I feel I am doing.
On the question of language and narrative, I can't concede that their relation
is merely tautological, except in the same way that statements like "Humans are
mortal" or "Alcohol contains carbon atoms" or "Horses are quadrupeds" are. Are
aphasics with no narrative capacity no longer capable of language? We would say
they had a reduced capacity for it surely, but not that they no longer had it
altogether. If we deny that Basic is a sort of language (a computer langauge)
what are we to make of our impulse to call it one in the first place? Were we
wrong? Joking? Stupid? It may indeed be that humans must first learn language
in order to be able to understand narrative, but if so, their relation is far
from an empty tautology. It tells us something about the history of homo
sapiens as an organism perceiving its world.
Perhaps we have been over this ground before. But some of us never learn. :-)
Excuse me, I must go dig my car out of all this snow.