The Story of My Intellectual Life
In the early 1970s I discovered that “Kubla Khan” had a rich, marvelous, and fantastically symmetrical structure. I’d found myself intellectually. I knew what I was doing. I had a specific intellectual mission: to find the mechanisms behind “Kubla Khan.” As defined, that mission failed, and still has not been achieved some 40 odd years later.
It’s like this: If you set out to hitch rides from New York City to, say, Los Angeles, and don’t make it, well then your hitch-hike adventure is a failure. But if you end up on Mars instead, just what kind of failure is that? Yeah, you’re lost. Really really lost. But you’re lost on Mars! How cool is that!
Of course, it might not actually be Mars. It might just be an abandoned set on a studio back lot.
That’s a bit metaphorical. Let’s just say I’ve read and thought about a lot of things having to do with the brain, mind, and culture, and published about them as well. I’ve written a bunch of academic articles and two general trade books, Visualization: The Second Computer Revolution (Harry Abrams1989), co-authored with Richard Friedhoff, and Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture (Basic Books 2001). Here’s what I say about myself at my blog, New Savanna. I’ve got a conventional CV at Academia.edu. I’ve also written a lot of stuff that I’ve not published in a conventional venue. I think of them as working papers. I’ve got them all at Academia.edu. Some of my best – certainly my most recent – stuff is there.
A couple of weeks ago I started blitzing my way through one of your posts on natural abstraction and, wham! it hit me: J.J. Gibson, ecological psychology. Are you familiar with that body of work? Gibson’s idea was that the environment has affordances (he’s the one who brought that word to prominence) which are natural “points of attachment” [my phrase] for perceptual processes. It seems to me that his affordances are the low-dimensional projections (or whatever) that are the locuses of your natural abstractions. Gibson didn’t have the kind of mathematical framework you’re interested in, though I have the vague sense that some people who’ve been influenced by him have worked with complex dynamics.
And then there’s the geometry of meaning Peter Gärdenfors has been developing: Conceptual Spaces, MIT 2000 and The Geometry of Meaning, MIT 2014. He argues that natural language semantics is organized into very low dimensional conceptual spaces. Might have some clues of things to look for.