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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Ideology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0489.  Wednesday, 23 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Thomas Bishop <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Apr 1997 12:16:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0487  Re: Ideology

[2]     From:   Paul Hawkins <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Apr 1997 12:53:53 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Ideology

[3]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Apr 1997 23:13:33 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Bishop <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Apr 1997 12:16:55 -0500
Subject: 8.0487  Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0487  Re: Ideology

I have another non-rhetorical question about ideology.  If I understand
correctly, one version of an argument about ideology runs that it
pervades the entire structure of cognition, from deliberate political
commitments, through half-glimpsed assumptions and unacknowledged
structures of feeling, all the way down to the most basic foundations of
one's orientation in the world as a functioning being. I think Gabriel
Egan was arguing something like this position a while ago.

At some point in this descent to the more and more basic, ideology as a
system of organizing information ought to encounter the biological and
Darwinian apparatus of the brain, which, as neurobiologists and
evolutionary theorists can show, is a highly structured system designed
to facilitate the survival and reproductive success of the organism that
owns it. One of the faculties structured at least in part by Darwinian
processes in the brain (as several important theorists have argued) is
language, for which certain universal properties can be traced (such as
childhood acquisition). My question concerns the intersection between
ideology and biology at this very basic level, one that seems, for all
the reading I can do, not to have been addressed by any theorist.  Do
"deep" ideology theorists posit an absolute gap between the biology of
language function in the brain and the formation of ideological
commitments to concepts like "self as individual", a concept with
potentially powerful Darwinian resonances? Or is there some complex
anastomosis between these two sets of structuring pressures? What are
the consequences for a philosophical materialism of embracing either of
these positions?

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Apr 1997 12:53:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Ideology

I was interested to read in the second paragraph of Stephen Greenblatt's
General Introduction to the Norton Shakespeare the astonishing
post-modern advice that, "The starting point, and perhaps the ending
point as well, in any encounter with Shakespeare is simply to enjoy him,
to savor his imaginative richness, to take pleasure in his infinite
delight in language."

Since Greenblatt does not add, "except for anything in the canon that
our betters would not have us enjoy-by no means enjoy those things,"
does his advice make Terence Hawkes or any other list members squirm?

Paul Hawkins

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Apr 1997 23:13:33 GMT
Subject:        Re: Ideology

It's entirely possible Robert Appelbaum is joking and I don't get it,
but assuming not...

> ...it doesn't seem to me that "changing one's mind"
> is exactly the point. Of course, Gabriel Egan
> would probably find a way of arguing that "changing
> one's mind" is either impossible, tautological, or
> delusional-in any case, an ideological "effect."

Quite the opposite. Since the one essence the anti-essentialist Marxist
believes in is conflict and its by-products, meaning and social change,
changing minds is entirely the point.

> But what I mean is that the sheer act of arguing ideas
> the way Egan and the others have done has changed the
> ideas themselves....I suppose I am still subject to the
> same  predispositions on the subject of Shakespeare and
> ideology as I ever was.

The conviction that one's consciousness is a stable rock in a sea of
shifting meanings is, indeed, an ideological effect. Capitalism's denial
of all social intercourse other than the cash-nexus extends into
language, which rather than being a social phenomenon which constitutes
individuals on the basis of their (albeit incomplete) sense of shared
experience, becomes the swirling sea between islands of consciousness.

For example:

> I have not been persuaded by anyone's argument to change
> my "mind"--but I do see different ways of getting engaged
> with the ideas in question if and when my mind feels
> called upon to enter into discourse about them.

'Discourse' means the active process of the generation of meaning in
acts of discussion, but is here used simply as though it were a synonym
for 'discussion'. The Marxist notion of 'meaning-in-process' is deformed
back into the old Romantic idea of 'meaning-in-self'. In this model, the
'mind' is not immersed in process (the conviction which usually makes
people emphasize 'discourse' over 'discussion') but rather can dip its
toes into those swirling seas "when [it] feels called upon to enter"
them.

Gabriel Egan
 

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