Handmade: Understanding Creative Gesture in Pottery Making
Principal Investigator: Dr Lambros Malafouris
As a postdoctoral researcher in the project, I focus on exploring the semiotic dimensions of the materials and bodily techniques involved in pottery making. In order to study this creative practice, I draw upon the theory of material engagement, developed by Dr Lambros Malafouris. I specifically implement a working hypothesis known as the hypothesis of enactive signification, which I complement with the pragmatic semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce. By applying a pragmatic and enactive theory of cognitive semiotics to the case of pottery making, I seek to illuminate the nature and emergence of ceramic material signs, aesthetic and symbolic alike.
Material Engagement Theory and its philosophical ties to pragmatism
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Mind and cognition
The encyclopedia of archaeological sciences
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Replacing Epiphenomenalism: a Pluralistic Enactive Take on the Metaplasticity of Early Body Ornamentation
Garofoli, D, Iliopoulos, A
Philosophy & Technology
In the domain of evolutionary cognitive archaeology, the early body ornaments from the Middle Stone Age/Palaeolithic are generally treated as mere by-products of an evolved brain-bound cognitive architecture selected to cope with looming social problems. Such adaptive artefacts are therefore taken to have been but passive means of broadcasting a priori envisaged meanings, essentially playing a neutral role for the human mind. In contrast to this epiphenomenalist view of material culture, postphenomenology and the Material Engagement Theory (MET) have been making a case for the active role of artefacts on the count that they can actually shape and restructure the human mind. By bringing these dissenting voices together, the paper at hand employs an enactive way of thinking in order to challenge the epiphenomenalist take on early body ornaments. In fact, two variants of enactivism are presented, each advancing a unique explanation of how the engagement of early humans with body ornaments transformed their minds along the two postphenomenological categories of embodied and hermeneutic cognition. Our theoretical frameworks specifically seek to explore how early beadworks could have scaffolded the creation of semiotic categories and the development of cognitive processes. Despite relying on inherently different premises, both theories suggest that beads fostered the emergence of an epistemic apparatus which thoroughly transformed the way humans engaged with the world. Having concurred on the ornaments’ transformative effects, we ultimately conclude that the epiphenomenalist paradigm best be replaced with an enactive approach grounded on the dictates of postphenomenology and the MET.
Cognitive archaeology, Early body ornaments, Enactivism, Material engagement theory, Postphenomenology, Pragmatism
The Evolution of Material Signification: Tracing the Origins of Symbolic Body Ornamentation through a Pragmatic and Enactive Theory of Cognitive Semiotics
Signs and Society
Prehistoric archaeologists generally treat early body ornaments, such as the Blombos shell beads, as inherently symbolic artefacts that were created by symbolically capable brains. Essentially, they treat material signs in strictly linguistic terms and view them as the epiphenomenal products of internal representations that were used as templates. Yet material signification is neither inherently symbolic, nor the a priori product of innate neural structures. We must thus opt for a pragmatic semiotic theory that can describe the physical qualities and relations of material signs, and an enactive theory of cognition that can explain the anchoring of novel concepts to the material world. In synergistically fusing these strands, this article puts forth a pragmatic and enactive theory of cognitive semiotics. By applying this evolutionary epistemology to the case of early body ornamentation, this study traces the prehistoric process of semiotic scaffolding that eventually led to development of symbolic artefacts and practices.
The material dimensions of cognition: Reexamining the nature and emergence of the human mind