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Knowing Plants and Animals: Towards Day 6 (Thurs, 2/5/15)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
last round of tests for naming one another (and user names)

by tomorrow @ midnight, revisit your site-->
in an earlier book than the one we read,
Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton argued that
our idealistic "ideas of nature" are actually holding
us back from meaningful engagements w/ nature,
preventing us from registering "the feeling of being
surrounded otherness,  something that is not the self."
So listen to Morton-->try to be open to what is there,
what you might otherwise not have noticed, been disturbed by;
cf. how the site seemed to you last week,
experiment with scale, time, representation--
think of this as a dream space, a play space;
& tag your posting "site sit"

by Monday @ midnight, post your first 'web-event' (and tag it also)

by classtime on Tuesday, finish Coetzee's novella, Part II: "Reflections."

also, just out! 7-8:30 p.m., Tues, Feb. 12: Jacqueline Patterson,
"Race, Class and Power in the Climate Justice Movement." Dalton 300.

II. working on your web events
I'll talk with Ariel, Rosa and Teresa after class, have met w/ the rest of you
(so have a better sense of your projects). Based on those meetings,
(though I wanted 3's...), you've fallen quite nicely into pairs.

So, pair up and tell each other what's in the clouds and what's on the ground:
what large philosophical/theorical claim are you making,
and how you will exemplify it in a concrete, grounded project;
also: who is your target audience?
if it turns out, when you're talking, that this is shared project--then do it collaboratively!

Abby and Caleb
--are interested in a pedagogical art projects
Tosin and Maddie--
are interested in h.s. eco-math and science projects
Joni and Nkechi--
are interested in camp and neighborhood youth programs
Marian and Amala--
are each developing a h.s. "club"
Celeste and Rosa--
are interested in immigration and colonization (though your projects are very different...)
Liz, Teresa and Ariel--
are interested in systems and networks (? -> loosest confederation...)

what was helpful....? what emerged from these conversations?

III. Today we turn to (and settle down with) a very different text, genre-wise
not prophetic, like Maniates or Morton--telling us what we need to do--
or scientific, like Garzón--telling us what we know--but refracted:
a fictional account of a prophet that explores the complexities of taking a stand.

I hope it will also encourage you to think about presentation of your own work:
what format, what genre speaks most compelling to people?
(different formats for different audiences?)

The editor of Coetzee's text is Amy Gutmann, the
political theorist who is now president of UPenn. She explains in the intro
that when Coetzee was invited to give the Tanner lectures @ Princeton, he
substituted a fictional form for the philosophical essay that was expected;
the norm, in other words, was something like Morton's The Ecological Thought.

At the center of Coetzee's fiction (as you now know) he places a novelist,
Elizabeth Costello, who demands a radical change in the treatment of
animals: our radical sympathy for their "sensation of being." Along the way,
she makes a profound claim for fiction: it serves an ethical purpose,
in extending our sympathies, opening our hearts, in showing us
that "there are no bounds to the sympathetic imagination."

So--let's see if this worked! I asked you to
write out on a sheet of paper a quotation that (for
whatever reason) you found striking, a passage
that you think merits further discussion.

Put these in the center of our circle. Pick up
one, and (in silence) comment on the quotation.
(Or read it, and if you don't have a comment, just return.)
Then pick up another. After others have commented on
the quote you selected, you write a second time....

Everybody can be talking @ once...while nobody is talking!

Now: retrieve your quote. Read the commentary....
What do you think? Any new angles of vision...?
What do we see/are we highlighting/do we want to discuss?

IV. Moving up a level of abstraction, to "form"

* why does Coetzee use the genre he uses?
* what does a fiction accomplish that a polemical text does not?
* what is the function of the "frame tale" (the son's perspective?)
* what effect does the story have on you?
* what is the relation between the "philosophers" and the "poets" sections?
* what are the bounds of the imagination in this text?

as you read for Tuesday, ask yourself: what is the function of the reflective responses?

Bring in Garzón's essay on "The Quest for Cognition in Plant Neurobiology"--
which challenges the concepts of both plants and animals as individuals,
describes them both as "open systems coupled with their environments,"
claims that they can process representations of things that are unavailable,
they can predict the future, remodel their behavior--in short! they can think!
(bio-chemists--Tosin, Ariel--or others!? want to weigh in on this...?)
Reading Notes from Garzón

central processor….The concepts of both plants and animals as individuals are equally misleading…learning consists in the local adjustment of synaptic patterns of connectivity…it is the interactions that take place among processing units where…cognition arises…we look at the level of…an extended individual or an individual-coupled-with-its environment…Cognition is…an emergent and extended self-organizing phenomenon whose explanation requires…environmental factors as they interact with each other in real time….plants and animals, as open systems coupled with their environments, are on a par…the continuous interplay…in relation to the environmental contingencies….

Plant neurobiology interprets plans as information-processing networks….Cognitive activity is…marked by the processing of representational states…for a physical state to become representational, the state must be able…to stand for things…that are temporarily unavailable…
Plants do model environmental regularities in order to predict the future…exploit an internal memory that allows organisms to remodel their behavior in…Nothing prevents other information-processing systems from possessing minds….Plants compute insofar as they manipulate representational states….