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Thu, Feb. 3rd, 2005, 12:19 pm
Barthes and Cognition: Note to Self

This post may not be of interest to anyone but me, but I think I need to start using this space more as a place to work out the things that I'm thinking about.

So, despite people who may not like Barthes, I found Mythologies to be very hard to put down. His basic argument is that we create "myths" out of objects that already have a concrete meaning by adding a second layer of meaning to them. For example, we have a mental concept of "rose" which is exemplified by a red rose, but the red rose also symbolizes passion. Because the symbolic concept is woven so tightly into the apparent meaning of the thing, we "naturalize" it. By this, Barthes means that we become unable to think critically about the concept because it seems such a natural part of the thing that we examine, even if it's actually completely historically and culturally dependent.

I want to try to relate this to the ways in which people naturalize things at a cognitive level. I know that I've read studies about this in economics - I think in The Winner's Curse, but my copy of that is at home - where people will become accustomed to a given level of income and see losing income as a loss even if it was unearned and temporary. I also remember reading something about how we can adapt to seeing the world backwards (there were experiments with people wearing weird glasses), but I'd prefer more psychologically rather than physiologically oriented stuff. Can anyone think of studies I should be looking at?

Of course, I have no idea what this has to do with the work that I'm actually doing these days . . . .

Fri, Feb. 4th, 2005 06:51 am (UTC)

Hm, sounds to me like you ought to read some Heideggerian phenomenology. It's all about ontological meaning, and stuff. I've only read the stuff of his that pertains to art, but if you want to dig down into a book, I'd be a happy study buddy. =)

Fri, Feb. 4th, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC)

Hmm, do you have any idea where I should start? I've never touched Heidegger, and he sounds kind of intimidating. :)

Fri, Feb. 4th, 2005 10:56 pm (UTC)

Yeah, he can be a little intimidating, but he's really stimulating at the same time. Just make sure you get a good translation.

The place to start with Heidegger is "Being and Time," which is an amazing, mind-bending piece of work, usually considered to be his magnum opus. I've never read the whole thing, but someday I intend to.

Alternately, his essay, "On the Origin of the Work of Art," is INCREDIBLE, but pre-supposes that you have a working knowledge of his principles of fundamental ontology. You can slog through it, though, especially if you get an annotated copy.

Sun, Feb. 6th, 2005 04:48 pm (UTC)

Okay, "Being and Time" just made it onto my reading list. What's a good translation? Or should I just research it on Amazon?