You are straying in to deep deep waters. But of course that is where the interesting stuff is to be found. Perhaps the best way to go forward is that I send you a number of what I think are relevantly useful texts (in pdf format). In this way we can both meet and go forward on common ground.
From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Michael Haseler [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 28 October 2012 09:43
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner
it's interesting what you say about mirror neurons. Whether or not these
are "the" physical manifestation, there clearly is a mechanism by which
we learn a "language" of movement by which small individual movements
are combined to bigger movements and then this language of more fluid
movements into something bigger and bigger until we only need to think:
"another drink of coffee" ... and then almost by magic my hand reaches
out, picks the coffee cup up brings it to my mouth, I suck in the
liquid, swallow, put the cup down ... and I can do all this without
barely loosing my concentration. Indeed, after I trod on an old fence
post and hobbled for a few weeks, I couldn't stop limping. Somehow the
fluid movement I had been doing all my life eluded me and try as I might
I could not work out what was the "normal" way one walked. And I had to
ask my son to walk across the room so I could see how it was done. (I
seem to recall whereas I just thought I had to move the legs like a
walker, the problem was that there was a part of the movement where one
actively adjusts the position of the foot for balance and this put
pressure on the injured part - so I wasn't so much limping as loosing
balance each step).
In other words, I had no conscious knowledge of what my body was doing.
Indeed, I have very little language to describe it. Moreover, I could
not dissect the single movement "word" of "walking" into constituent parts.
At the other end of human experience is the "grand unifiers". Physicists
who try to suggest that the world can be simplified to one equation
(which gets longer every time one hears about it). Religions who
categorise the as the single master plan of the god(s). Academics who
systematically codify life, the earth, archaeology, history into nice
organised chunks of this age or that pottery type. I'd call this the
"god instinct", or perhaps the "everything has an explanation" instinct.
So, at one end of life we have "things just happen" ... like walking
although any parents knows that walking (and talking) takes an awful lot
But this is not the "dimension" I have in mind. One of the phrases often
used in organisations to refer to problems is "fire-fighting". The idea
is that if people spent more time thinking through what they do ...
looking at the big picture, they would spend less time fighting. Now
this is all well and good if your job is an administrator ... but it's
pretty useless advice to the firefighters whose job it is to fight fires!
So, their job is to deal with what happens. Not to think it through -
but to act - ideally thinking it through and planning whilst acting.
That is my real interest. It is the philosophies of action ... the
philosophical basis of thought processes when dealing with what is
happening rather than what will happen. And the truth is that an awful
lot of the world is dealing with problems in the here and now. Time &
resource constrained with an evidential base that "is", rather than what
one would ideally want. To name a few:
firefighters (a senior Glasgow firefighter was on our course!)
If we look down this list we will find some of the brightest professions
- so being a "firefighter" doesn't mean you can't think. So I know we
use a great deal of intelligence, strategies and theories in the "here
and now" professions, but the reality of academia is so alienated from
this "just do it" ... "just deal with the next patient" world, that
academia doesn't seem to be able to recognise the profound philosophical
basis of such thinkers.
On 27/10/2012 12:11, WEBSTER D.S. wrote:
> Hello Mike,
> My point about a settled why of the digging relates to what for want of a better word, is the mundane activities of life - the quotidian 'seen but unnoticed' aspects within the hurrly-burrly of life. The JCB driver, for instance, or the grave digger, do their job of digging in the straightforward manner they are expected to do. This is not to say that they do not think about what they are doing in carrying out this operation; they are thinking about the how, not the why. What you describe is a more immediately directed situation as is paradigmatic of archaeological excavation. You learn to talk about, conceive off, digging within the mundane and then is extended reflexively through archaeology. By reflexive I mean in the sense of "the woman washed herself" here the woman is simultaneously the agent and patient of the activity of washing.
> As for mirror neurons. Wittgenstein tells the fable of a people who all have a beetle in a matchbox, but no one is allowed to look in someone else's matchbox. The semantics of the word 'beetle' is governed by the totality of how the word 'beetle' is used by these people. The beetles in everybody's matchbox play no grammatical part in determining the semantics (meaning) of the word 'beetle'.
> When all the excitement about mirror neurons kicked off, many in psychology (and archaeology too) jumped on the bandwagon. But we had seen this kind of thing often enough before. Those of us (my PHD is in developmental and ecological psychology though I now work in commercial archaeology) who favoured the Vygotskian paradigm of culture-historical psychology (e.g. the work done in neuropsychology by Luria) could discern the flaws in the argument without to much effort. Needless to say by 2005 the original authors of the mirror neurone hypothesis (e.g. Giacomo Rizzolatti) were starting to qualify their arguments in the face of both conceptual and experimental problems. Personally speaking, discussions of mirror neurones in the present context is a waste of time.
> From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Michael Haseler [[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: 26 October 2012 20:56
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner
> thanks there is/was a lot to think about there. (Struggling to get
> original Ackermann 1988)
> I'm not entirely convinced of your "When people get down to digging a
> hole, they have already settled the why of it".
> There are some very good strategies that involve thinking after doing:-
> Incrementalism. Described to me as "just doing ... a bit at a time and
> thinking a bit each time". It's a strategy which is the opposite of the
> "grand design". It more or less says: "we'll dig a hole, see what we
> find ... then decide where to dig the next ... see what we find ...
> decide. Bottom-up .... start with the detail and then work out the
> detail into bigger plans and bigger until you have the total over-view.
> (Top-down .... start with a grant plan, then divide into sub-plans and
> then sub-sub plans until you "just do it". )
> So, "just doing it", can be part of a much wider strategy. At the other
> extreme we can act without ever thinking as that is implied by learning
> by gesture or the coupling of movements together and whilst it is
> disputed, this is linked with the idea that Mirror neurons enable us to
> "visualise" actions and again create movement "sentences" out of
> movement syllables.
> Interestingly, I've struggled to find the words to describe the
> intention of a "think after you do" strategy, as all the words for
> intended strategies imply top-down: "orchestrated", "thought-through",
> "thought out". It is as if "just do it" ... is the absence of any
> thought ... there it is again ... I can't say: "lets plan to 'just do
> it'". ... After we dig this whole we'll just go down the pub ... that
> works. What's that strategy?
> On 26/10/2012 15:51, WEBSTER D.S. wrote:
>> A Few Comments:
>> 1. When people get down to digging a hole, they have already settled the why of it, so no need to cogitate further on the matter.
>> 2. All actions contain an understanding of its adequate completion. If asked, what did you do? "Why, I dug a hole, and here is the hole that I have dug", and this, and this, and this I what I did in the digging of it".
>> 3. Digging holes is part of the grammar of sentences like "I will dig a hole, "I have dug a hole" etc.
>> 4. It is within a pattern of living (lebensform) that includes digging holes that sentences like "I will dig a hole" find their meaning; the practice and the sentence are of the same weave. To understand, why dig a hole, and speak thereof, is immanent in the mastery of the language of those who would dig holes. No theory is at issue here, but rather, a 'one-step hermeneutic' (Ackermann 'Wittgenstein's City') that collapses the hermeneutic circle. Meaning is given directly because the relevant hermeneutic horizon is imminent in the language that we already speak (cf. Ackermann 1988).
>> 5. Concepts are not theories; concept are acquired within the mastery of language. Theories are representations. Or if you like, concepts provide the content of theories but are not themselves theories.
>> 6. As Goethe would have put it: digging holes, excavation, just is the theory of archaeology in its fullest expression.
>> A good thread
>> From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Michael Haseler [[log in to unmask]]
>> Sent: 26 October 2012 09:23
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: [BRITARCH] The theory of the Archaeological Practitioner
>> When people dig a hole, they don't tend to spend a lot of time thinking
>> why they dug the hole ... except archaeologists.
>> But normal people just "do it". Now, that is in itself a theory ... that
>> allowing oneself just to "get on with the job" ... will get the "job"
>> done. A lot of theoretical constructs come into play ... about the
>> mind-body dynamic, about have materials behave and the way "things
>> work". These are usually so intuitive to us, that we don't even think
>> about the theoretical constructs we use to create this dynamic with the
>> Now, in archaeology, this is important. Because the whole of archaeology
>> could be described as people "just doing things".
>> Or "we did holes" ... in order to find when,why,how ... "people dug holes".
>> But archaeology has this concept (theory) of the "ritualistic" ... which
>> I couldn't understand until someone whispered to me "that really means
>> we don't know". But, ritualistic implies a lot more, it implies a
>> purpose and meaning ... whereas "just digging a hole" ... implies
>> functionality. One could liken the "ritualistic" versus "practitioner"
>> to the debate "creationism" versus "evolution". One a theory implying
>> meaning and purpose, the other a theory that there is no meaning or
>> purpose. It is just "what happens".
>> So, just as we can have a "theory of evolution", it should also be
>> possible in archaeology to have a "theory of just doing things". I
>> suppose, the equivalent of "just doing things" in the present would be
>> considered economics. Animals clearly don't have money, but other
>> resources like energy could be a proxy for money creating what I term
>> "enerconics", or I suppose land, or other resources could be other
>> proxies so we get "any-conics". But leaving aside the unnecessary pun,
>> we could apply the theory of economics to pre-history and create a
>> theory of archaeology with NO MEANING. You could say that this is a
>> deterministic theory ... that we are all pre-ordained by economic
>> necessity to do what we do and like the peacocks feathers are just a
>> obscure artefact of evolution, so all this symbolism we see, all the
>> apparent beauty and symbolism in archaeology, is merely an artefact of
>> economic needs.
>> But this approach that we are "pre-ordained" and really have no choice,
>> ignores the fact that people spend an awful lot of time thinking, and we
>> even think a lot even when we are t "just doing things". Time-team "just
>> dug holes", but they spent a lot of time thinking about where to put
>> those holes and responding to what they found in the holes. There was
>> the economic resource constraint (3 days, x-workers and Tony), but the
>> resource constraint didn't dictate WHERE the holes where dug, only how
>> many/how big.
>> So, what was the theoretical model used? Apparently it was "there's
>> something interesting here - let's dig". Or perhaps more accurately "the
>> most interesting place looks to be ...". Usually done to combine a
>> number of features or where experience suggests that most information
>> will be found in terms of datable artefacts. This is a theory ... but
>> it's not a theory I find in the archaeology book of theory.
>> Also, there is a clear ethos (theory) in archaeology that "experience
>> counts". ... age and experience seemed to be quite critical when
>> deciding where to dig next. This could just be that those with grey
>> hairs spend least time in holes on their knees, and so have more time to
>> look at the big picture, but I suspect, there is a fundamental theory in
>> archaeology that experience IN ITSELF is a basis for better
>> understanding of how to research sites. Maybe it doesn't need stating,
>> but in the "theory of the practitioner", the theory of "just doing
>> things" which is what archaeology tries to understand ... i.e. the
>> ordinary pattern of the past ... if experience is important in the here
>> and now, it is important in the past.
>> Which brings me to the question ... if anyone understands what I'm
>> talking about and could tell me where to find/thinking work along
>> similar lines, I would be very very pleased to receive any references or
>> suggestions for reading.