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Can inanimate objects carry expressive meaning?

User Thread
 87yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that coberst is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Can inanimate objects carry expressive meaning?
Can inanimate objects carry expressive meaning?

'Expression resides in perceptual qualities of the stimulus pattern'-Rudolf Arnheim

In achieving great quantifying skills we have seriously damaged our ability to focus upon the qualities of our surroundings and the effects of those qualities upon our worldview. With a little thought we can readily recognize that 'we do not do justice to what we see by describing it only with measurements of size, shape, wavelength, or speed. The dynamic qualities of shapes and events have proved to be an inseparable aspect of all visual experience.'

When we consciously open our eyes to the dynamic qualities conveyed by any object we will inevitably see these objects as carrying expressive meaning. 'All perceptual qualities have generality. We see redness, smallness, remoteness, swiftness, embodied in individual examples, but conveying a kind of experience, rather than a uniquely particular one...The dynamic differences between Romanesque and Gothic architecture translate themselves automatically into states of mind characterizing the corresponding cultural periods.'

Arnheim defines 'expression as modes of organic or inorganic behavior displayed in the dynamic appearance of perceptual objects or events.

In a narrow sense expression is said to exist only in confluence with mind wherein facial muscles give rise to structures that relate to what is going on in mind. In this narrow view non animate materials have expression only in a figurative sense.

Theodore Lipps' 'theory of empathy' was developed to explain how we find expression emanating from our vision of inanimate objects. When I see the columns of a temple I feel the physical forces sustained by that column because of my past experience. I project my stress feeling onto the columns. I have the capacity to project such things as 'my pride, my courage, my stubbornness, my lightness, my playful assuredness, my tranquil compliance. Only thus my empathy with regard to nature becomes truly aesthetic empathy...expression resides in perceptual qualities of the stimulus pattern

'One aspect of the wisdom that belongs to a genuine culture is the constant awareness of the symbolic meaning expressed in a concrete happening, the sensing of the universal in the particular...There are people who cannot swallow because there is something in their lives they 'cannot swallow' or whom an unconscious sense of guilt compels to spend hours every day on washing and cleaning.'

All perceptual, as well as expression, qualities have generality. This is why it is correct to say such things as Picasso's picture can symbolizes gentleness or that Michelangelo's Creation of Man, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, is generally understood to be a symbol of Genesis.

Quotes from Art and Visual Perception: Psychology of the Creative Eye by Rudolf Arnheim

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 38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that eye is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
i think the key question here is if that expression is intended or not. Or at least if it is a "common" meaning.

After all we can interpret anything by forcibly connecting it to everything.

i do relate to the fact that if we see or observe something, it carries us into a chain of thought that would've been absent without the object, thus giving us meaning. But that meaning would not have been present without our interpretation

I do think inanimate objects can inspire us, but i don't believe we should put significance on a meaning that wasn't intentional.

in another sense, a meaning of an object that has been animated and effected by previous actions, and then inanimate gives us the history of that object holding a historical meaning of some sorts.

Now if that object was intentionally effected by a life of sorts, in terms of expressing something. we sometimes call it art.
And that holds the attempt of expression of an emotion or concept that the artist once tried to achieve. Now we do not always comprehend the meaning, but sometimes we relate and understand the piece (as it was intended by the artist to be understood), That i think is the only way to carry meaning through objects.

The rest is just interpretations, we see it however we chose to see it. Sometimes it is a common meaning that is inspired, sometimes it's got nothing to do with anything.

but i do think the meaning lies in us, not the objects.

our interpretation of that object, as inspiring as it can be, is still our personal interpretation that inspired a meaning to us.

In the end meaning does not exist without interpretation.

I believe i'm talking abt carrying a form of specific expression of a certain meaning that was intended, or at least that is common to most people that perceive the object.

anyway, just thoughts on the subject.

the answer would always be relative, since the question is about perception.

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"i think therefore i think i am"
 87yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that coberst is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.

I think that there is a close association between comprehension and meaning. I also think that understanding is a work of art.

Understanding does not come easily but it can be 'a kind of ecstasy'.

I think of understanding as being a creation of meaning by the thinker. As one attempts to understand something that person will construct through imagination a model--like a papier-mâché--of the meaning. Like an artist painting her understanding of something. As time goes by the model takes on what the person understands about that which is studied. The model is very subjective and you and I may study something for some time and we both have learned to understand it but if it were possible to project an image of our model they would be unidentifiable perhaps by the other. Knowledge has a universal quality but not understanding.

Understanding is a tipping point, when water becomes ice, it is like a gestalt perception it may never happen no matter how hard we try. The unconscious is a major worker for understanding. Understanding is that rare occasion when there develops a conflation of emotion and intellection.

I have concocted a metaphor set that might relay my comprehension of the difference between knowing and understanding.

Awareness--faces in a crowd.

Consciousness-smile, a handshake, and curiosity.

Knowledge-long talks sharing desires and ambitions.

Understanding-a best friend bringing constant April.

I am a retired engineer and my experience in the natural sciences leads me to conclude that these natural sciences are far more concerned with knowing than with understanding.

Understanding is a long step beyond knowing and most often knowing provides the results that technology demands. Technology, I think, does not want understanding because understanding is inefficient and generally not required. The natural scientists, with their paradigms, are puzzle solvers. Puzzles require ingenuity but seldom understanding.

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 38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that eye is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
hmm, i admit that "understanding" might not have been a specific word over there.

still, it has a sense of it's own.. let me explain as i see the words.

knowing :: knowledge of something irrelevant to another person's perception, it is to the beholder's mind and his alone.

understanding :: knowledge of a "point of view" of another person, it is concentrated with some emotional responses, but does not exist in our own mind, it is always a shared point of view.

meaning :: it is the essence of understanding. meaning is never complete, it is only relative to how much we see of it.

Thus by understanding a piece of art, means relating to the artist's chain of thought behind it.
If an artist draws on a black canvas a white dot. some would understand it as a light at the end of a tunnel, or whatever interpretation mixing dark with light.
Now i think the key point to understanding the point of an artist, is to look to the person first, and try understand the person before the piece (usually helps if we read biographies and or see his/her old work)

i think personal interpretation of an art piece with disregard to the artist's point of view is objectifying the piece and completely removing the "human" element from it, thus diminishing it's value me thinks.

anyway, back to knowledge (facts with nothing living in the equation)

my question. Is the expressive meaning we're talking about, is it knowledge based ?

does knowledge even have expression ?

(please look to my interpretation of the words, and if they don't relate to your interpretations, please explain how)

But the point of the matter is that an object(unaffected by anything) with certain patterns that inspires us to solve an inner puzzle concerning something we experienced before and did not understand, can lead to understanding, but at best it is a guide for us to better understand other aspects of our life.

As in, looking at the skies often inspires us with some better understanding of our significance or either insignificance to the world.

But again, the meaning is in thinking creatures, the object would be a tool not a vessel i think.

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"i think therefore i think i am"
 87yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that coberst is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.

Rugged individualism might be an appropriate expression for all the creatures in the world, with one exception. Humans have, in the last few hundred years, moved from being rugged individuals to our present state in which we have fashioned an alien environment in which we have become chess pieces or ciphers. We have invented the Artificial Kingdom where, as Simone Weil once noted, 'it is the thing that thinks and the man who is reduced to the state of the thing'.

We are meaning creating creatures and the meaning that we have created has made us into ciphers.

I think that we, women and men, have become chess pieces. We have become objects to be manipulated by the market and the corporation. We spend our days like the chess piece; we have a quantified value and are placed on the board and used as desired by some one who may be a real person. The real person has still the human characteristics of creativity, spontaneity, improvisation, spontaneously reactive, discontinuous, a mosaic more than syntax or cipher. Just what we find is missing when using the telephone to contact someone out there.

In an effort to understand where we are now it might help to start back in time and move forward. In frontier days each person was very much an individual. Rugged individualism was a popular expression. Each man and woman was a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Each husband and wife was a team that together could and had to do everything that was needed.

In early America we were an agricultural economy. Most families were farm families we were all rugged individualist. The farmer was very much the jack-of-all-trades and the master of his or her domain.

As we move forward in time we see this team become a man working in a factory or office and the woman was at home raising the children and maintaining the day to day necessities for all family members. She washed, cleaned, shopped, sewed, and was still much of a rugged individual. Slowly the man became a specialized worker in a clockwork factory or office.

Moving forward in history we arrive at the present moment where not only is the man working in the factory or office but the woman joins him there also.

When we examine the factory or office workspace we find a very different occupation for the man and woman than the rugged individualism of emerging history of human evolution. We no longer are masters of our own domain but are ciphers in a clockwork that functions upon modern economic principles.

A pertinent example of this mode of commodification is how we have converted what was political economics into the modern economics. Political economy is the study of social relations. It is the study of culture. Political economy focuses upon the problem of how to regulate industrialization within the context of a healthy society, it worries about the problems of labor within a context of the laborer as an end and not a commodity-an object of commerce.

Economics, however, in its modern form, has replaced political economics. Economics has removed the pesky concern about labor as being human and has replaced labor as being a commodity-an object of commerce. Modern economics is now the study of scarcity, prices, and resource allocation. Economics has legislated that labor, as an end, is no longer a legitimate domain of knowledge for economic consideration. In doing so, over time, society has become ignorant of such concerns. Our culture has replaced concern about humans as ends with humans as means to some other end.

In the rugged individualist mode of living the individual was creative and master even though the domain of mastery was small. An individual's personality is dramatically affected. Labor has become an abstract quantity and calculated into the commodity produced. We are the only creatures who have completely removed our self from what we were evolved to be. We are the only creatures removed from our grounding in an organic world. We came from a long ancestry of rugged individualist and now reside in the Artificial Kingdom. To what end only time will tell.

Do you feel like a cipher in our culture?

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 69yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that NicOfTime is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Can inanimate objects carry expressive meaning?


"Expressive" is a highly subjective term -- it has more to do with individual interpretation than some objectively quantifiable value. So any "expressive" meaning that an inanimate object "carries" is likely to be highly variable in both nature and significance.

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Can inanimate objects carry expressive meaning?
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