Mannoury's significs, or a philosophy of communal individualism

Pieter Wisse

Introducing an introduction

For consistency's sake, I'd better make this a personal account. Let me start by illustrating one of my idiosyncratic research methods. Well, method might be an exaggeration. I regularly enter second-hand bookshops to browse their collections. For there I just might discover books that are both as yet completely unknown to me and relevant to my research interests. In an attempt at explaining my behavior at least to myself, I've also developed a hypothesis why especially second-hand books offer surprising opportunities for advancing intellectually. Hypothesis or not, I'll disclose it later on. Here at the outset, one bibliomaniac discovery in particular deserves mentioning as it has directly led me to eventually write what you are now reading. What was the situation? I had more or less finished a book manuscript. It has since appeared as Semiosis & Sign Exchange (Wisse, 2002 a). There, I present a "design for a subjective situationism," arguing that behavior is uniquely individualistic with the individual's intellect (subjectivity) instrumental for behavioral punctuation (situations). One individual exchanges signs with himself and/or (an)other individual(s) at the essential level of motives, i.e. "every sign is a request for compliance."

Now I certainly don't expect anyone to grasp my 'system' from such a briefest of outlines. At this point, all I want to establish is my preoccupation with the concept of sign as I stepped through a bookshop's door. My eyes traveling over the spines of the books aligned in the philosophy section, it was therefore only natural a title displaying the sign of sign caught my attention. Or was it my attention that caught the title? Anyway, side by side there they were, two volumes written in Dutch. I'll give you my translation of the book's title: Handbook of Analytical Significs. I had never seen it before, nor had I ever heard or read about it. Neither did the name of its author, Gerrit Mannoury, even remotely ring a bell.

My first dip into the Handbook, right there in the bookshop, raised mixed feelings (or do I mean: mixed motives? See the semiotic ennead, below, for explanation.). I immediately recognized strong similarities. What I had developed as subjective situationism indeed corresponds in many respects to Mannoury's significs. Sure enough, I had practiced due diligence for Semiosis & Sign Exchange by referring to related work as I could identify texts and also documenting what I believed to constitute differences with my own design. Mannoury's work however, I repeat, had definitely escaped me so far. And originality was simply not at stake; the volumes I was holding had been published more than half a century earlier. That was, in fact, some five years before I was even born. So I felt slightly threatened, to be honest. Equally sincere, though, was my feeling of excitement at immediate appreciation of an important rediscovery. On the balance, I happily paid the shopkeeper and took off with my latest treasure. I still managed to include several references to Mannoury in my own book to at least acknowledge his pioneering work. Here, I aim to provide a proper introduction to his — theory of — significs. I admit to selecting from Mannoury's work especially what I hold relevant from my own perspective on concepts such as information and communication, i.e. on subjective situationism. I'll especially apply my own enneadic concept of semiosis to emphasize the comprehensive nature of what Mannoury essentially constructs as a philosophical system. As Mannoury's interest is in the workings of human community which he explains by assuming differences between individual persons, I find his philosophy is aptly labeled: communal individualism.

 

 

A designer of foundations

Regretfully, an encompassing biography of Gerrit Mannoury (1867-1956) hasn't been written yet (that is of course, again, only as far as I know). I sincerely hope it will be, and rather sooner than later. This doesn't mean, though, that biographical information about Mannoury is entirely lacking. From several sources (Schmitz, 1985; Stegeman, 1992; Van Dalen, 2001), a picture of Mannoury emerges as an original thinker and inspiring teacher. Especially relevant for my reconstruction is his relationship with Brouwer (known for assuming an intuitionist foundation for mathematics). Mannoury is first his informal mentor during Brouwer's student days. In 1917 they become colleagues at Amsterdam University when Mannoury's privately undertaken contributions to mathematics also earn him a professorship. His appointment is especially remarkable as Mannoury doesn't have any formal academic credentials to show for himself.

I emphasize that this paper is not meant to qualify as a serious biography of Mannoury. Therefore I don't feel obliged to explain his motives. Why is he consistently drawn to inquiring into foundations? I simply limit myself to the hypothesis that he does. It helps to interpret his work, especially against the background of Mannoury's concept of inquiry. He doesn't seek to identify in any absolute sense. It is not a matter of metaphorical digging toward a fixed objective. For Mannoury, a foundation doesn't exist independent from inquiry. A foundation is not just there, passively awaiting discovery. Rather, inquiry is design. Any foundation is the motivated product of active intellectual construction.

 

 

Foundation of mathematics, and beyond

At first, Mannoury (1909) directs his attention to the foundation of mathematics (for mathematics?). Or so it seems. I will deal with it at some length here, because much survives in his subsequent design for a foundation of significs.

During the nineteenth century, many of what are now considered separate scientific disciplines become academically established. After initial development, inquiry is soon also directed at foundations. What constitutes a foundation for justification? Does justification differ between disciplines? If so, does a particular foundation control a discipline's characteristic procedures etcetera?

Mathematics is no exception. Euclid's system of geometry loses its fundamental standing. For example Hilbert and Russell seek to replace it with other axioms. They are in turn contested by Brouwer (1907) who argues for all of mathematics originating from a single primary intuition. He makes sense only when — as compared to any layman's concept — his largely extended view of mathematics is appreciated (Brouwer, 1907, p 8):1

We will treat the primary intuition for mathematics (and for all the workings of the intellect) as consisting of the substrate of all perception of change, a substrate from which quality has been eliminated. This primary intuition establishes a unity between continuity and discrimination. It is a possibility of the thinking-together of several units. The units are connected, with their "between" never exhausted as new units may be adjoined.

Reviewing Brouwer's dissertation, Mannoury (1907) labels him both a "renegade" and a "conservative." He deserves to be called the latter for "[Brouwer] is throughout engaged to maintain the old, conventional certainties for mathematics." Mannoury rounds up his review with an appeal (1907):

Brouwer, indeed, the logicians do not guarantee the reliability of "mathematical properties." However, neither do you on the basis of your intuition of continuity, the reason simply being that such intuition doesn't exist. Mathematics is a human artifact. It does not contain any truth except for what is relative to human language, purpose and society. […] Detach yourself, but do so completely, from all convention and arrangement, from all language and terminological edifices. Then I am sure you will arrive to recognize the one and only true foundation for mathematics: there is no invariable truth, no invariable measure of truth, there is no absolute unity, no absolute space and no absolute time, there is no mathematics.

Such criticism doesn't seem entirely fair, though. What I myself take from Brouwer is that his concept of intuition pertains to punctuation as a principle of cognitive dynamics, rather than continuity. On this assumption, their epistemological views are more similar than Mannoury makes out, not to mention their agreement on actual method.

Two years later, in 1909, Mannoury publishes his own book-length treatise on the foundation of mathematics. More explicit than Brouwer, indeed, Mannoury delivers a critique in the Kantian sense. What remains largely implicit with Brouwer is now immediately set as a wide scope (1909, p 1):

The mathematician cannot […] escape from engaging himself with the philosophical foundation for all exact knowledge.

Along this trail Mannoury notes (1909, p 9) that the area occupied by Kant's »a priori« almost completely evaporates. For (1909, p 11)

nowhere is sustainable discrimination, unconditional certainty to be found.

It is the lack of "unconditional certainty" which determines knowledge as relativist. However, Mannoury's full label for his epistemology reads: relativist psychologism. With his argument for psychologism he directly approaches Brouwer's intuitionism, i.e. mathematics rests on discrimination, or the concept of unity. The fundamental qualification for psychologism is that (1909, p 7),

in search of conditions enabling unity, we should only look in the mind, in the »inner world«.

Mannoury elaborates:

Then it immediately transpires we cannot consider a characteristic »judgment« or an »interpretation« as supporting unit-ness. On the contrary, we should rather attempt to decompose all such complex and intricate »thought-things« into their possibly most simple and isolated components. And applying rules for grouping those resulting »mind atoms«, and perhaps for changing them, the whole might be reassembled.
Now let us consider such a possibly most unitized and (for us) irreducible experience. Then we meet the impossibility of isolating it from the manifold relationships connecting it to other experiences which vary from similar to dissimilar.

A foundation in an absolute sense remains elusive, as Mannoury continues to argue (1909 pp 8-9):

When we [generally] cannot observe within ourselves anything to satisfy the concept of something really unitary, it follows that also the unit in mathematics, which can after all only exist as a product of our mind, should exhibit this basic property of vagueness and relativity. The appearance, therefore, of exactness is all we can attribute to mathematics. For our mathematical success we should, as much as possible, forget about how the concept of unit is defective. In short, we should ignore its defects as much as possible. […]
So, mathematics, too, is not »unconditionally« certain. Rather, mathematics is only certain to the extent that … it is mathematical! […]
Inasmuch the concept of unit is defective, upon closer investigation it is equally impossible to maintain their mathematical character completely intact for the additional conceptions — time, space and causality — brought into consideration for applied mathematics.

Consistent with the principle he develops, and let me here take the opportunity to label such a procedure as reflexive, Mannoury gradually places mathematics within a broader, philosophical orientation (1909, pp 11-12):

Precisely the development of mathematical philosophy forces us to drop the traditional perception of two fundamentally different worlds. And so we should also declare their difference as being gradual, i.e. inessential.
Mathematics provides an approach for interpreting reality, an approach eminently suited to human, in particular to social, needs. It should never be mistaken for a sufficient approach, though. […]
Only after we have »imposed« our systems for counting can we apply the principle of generality and causality to reality.

If they have ever diverged at all, I would say here is where Mannoury and Brouwer meet again. They may hold different opinions on what underlies "counting" (Brouwer: primary intuition; Mannoury: relativist psychologism). Methodologically, however, both take unit-ness as the point of departure, i.e. a foundation for the practical purpose of developing mathematics, and beyond. What distinguishes them, say, philosophically is that Mannoury remains active denying certainty. He is therefore not content to let his foundational design rest, and get on with the superstructure, only. Instead, Mannoury always returns to include foundation in design as his principle of graduality demands. And whatever adjustments are (1909, p 9) "only products of normal and arbitrary convention, too." The seeds for his work on significs are, in hindsight of course, clearly recognizable where he already attempts to bring language within his scope while even extending the foundation for his principle of graduality (1909, pp 4-5):

All thoughts and all words referring to the concrete have a more or less indeterminate content; it shifts according to place and time, and to person and circumstances. […]
Nature is continuous. It doesn't entail acute differences, there are no sharp boundaries. Nature holds no absolute similarities, nor is anything absolutely stable. And when we try to apply words for referring to an object or an appearance that belongs to this nature, we find it impossible to overcome this indiscriminate character, that is, a relatedness of one to the other.

In fact, in distinguishing between speaker and hearer a key concept of Mannoury's later significs is already plainly announced (1909, p 5):

Sentences appear different or, more precisely, opposite from the perspective of their relationship to either the speaker or the person that is spoken to.
Suppose a person says: »it burns«. Not only doesn't the hearer completely know what is meant. He also doesn't know whether it is »true«. And even under the most favorable conditions, let us say for the speaker himself, can uncertainty be totally absent: for the speaker knows he may be mistaken, he may for example be the victim of an optical illusion!

I don't want to elaborate on his distinction, here. I'll return to it at length. At this point, I merely emphasize that Mannoury already widens his foundation. In a similar vein he writes that (1909, p 130),

ultimately, language is nothing but a particular group of human acts (acts performed by speakers as well as by hearers). These acts may only be approximately considered as units and, as such, can be only approximately compared.

Mannoury, as part of elaborating upon his foundation for mathematics, even models the mind in a way that would nowadays deserve to be called connectionist. For example (1909, p 31),

a unit is an experience-complex and a multitude consists of mutually associated units.

At this stage of his work, Mannoury limits development of dynamic associative networks of mind to a critique of the mathematical concept of infinity. In his later, even more explicit relativist-psychologist philosophy he distinguishes between word-word-, word-thought- and thought-thought-associations. I'll provide some critical comments below but only after I've sketched Mannoury's encounter with and his own further development of significs.

 

 

The Signific Circle

An important reason for writing this article in the English language is to increase the chances of reaching a larger audience. Mannoury certainly deserves wider recognition. I therefore regret it that Schmitz's wonderful book (1985) on the early history of Dutch significs has not (yet) been published in English. Let me just recapitulate how significs is taken up in the Netherlands (Schmitz, 1985; see also Schmitz, 1990). It starts in 1892 with Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932) meeting Victoria Welby (1837-1912). Van Eeden, then a psychiatrist by profession, is also a poet, novelist and essayist whose interests include inquiries into language, knowledge and communication. Welby is continually trying to enlist supporters for what she has come to call significs, an inquiry into the meaning of meaning with the express purpose of improving communication and, as a consequence, relationships between men. They maintain contact through visits Van Eeden makes to England and their correspondence. Actually, it seems only after Welby dies that Van Eeden fully realizes structural similarities between his own studies and Welby's work. First Brouwer joins Van Eeden in discussing philosophical issues of language, and Mannoury follows. They are involved in establishing an international school of philosophy. It doesn't take off. In 1922, Jacques van Ginneken (1877-1945) joins for a fresh attempt. There are now four men meeting privately on a more or less regular basis. They entertain, at least initially, plans for explicitly developing significs into a more widely accepted program and movement. Naming their congregation the Signific Circle is indicative of their ambitions. As it turns out, members experience other pressures on their time and appear to hold opinions too different for productive synthesis. So, their venture also doesn't succeed. The group dissolves in 1926. Yet, while it lasts Mannoury has put forward proposals for programmatic development of significs. He clearly sees opportunities and therefore continues to pursue it on his own.

For the direction in which he himself has actually already taken significs, and will now develop it further, Mannoury hardly orients himself at Welby's original work. He recognizes her as (Mannoury, 1949, pp 11-12) "a most remarkable person," but adding the remark that

the apparent legacy of her powerful and vitalizing influence remains more or less limited to a single, and rather short, magazine article […], while dealing with [the article's] purport and main idea at somewhat more length a few years later in the form of a book but without adding any new perspective or scientific-systematic development whatsoever.

I don't agree with Mannoury's evaluation. Though indeed lacking in rigor, Welby's work is far-sighted and definitely relevant in its own right (Schmitz, 1985; Wisse, 2003). All Mannoury consciously retrieves, it seems, however, is significs as the — alternative? — title for his philosophy of relativist psychologism. And Mannoury is not alone in referring to Welby while overlooking her conceptual subtlety. Here I find it relevant that Korzybski seems equally superficial in his criticism-veiled-as-compliment (1948, p xxi):

The 'significs' of Lady Welby was closer to life [than philological semantics], but gave no techniques for application, and so did not relate linguistic structures to the structures of non-verbal levels by which we actually live.

The application side is what Mannoury labels synthetical significs (see below). As far as Welby goes, I would say she already clearly recognizes the relationship Korzybski now aims at (Wisse, 2003). Indeed, what she doesn't yet accomplish is structural modeling of "non-verbal levels," let alone a rigorous integration with "linguistic structures." It is precisely in this direction that Mannoury first structurally develops relativist psychologism for his foundation of mathematics and later incorporates it into significs (see also below).

Korzybski still calls significs "unworkable" (1948, p xxii) which I take as a clue that he is unaware2 of Mannoury (K. refers to Brouwer, though). Especially on the basis of Mannoury's significs, I'm sure that Korzybski would have expressed a different evaluation. Anyway, I recognize strong similarities between, on the one hand, significs and, on the other, Korzybski's general semantics. As he more or less admits, he shares objectives with Welby. And many of his concepts on the structure of cognition and cognition's dynamic relationship with behavior are already present with Mannoury.

 

 

The concept of language act

Mannoury was a prolific, polymath writer who published books, articles, reviews, pamphlets, etcetera (Stegeman, 1992). For my introduction to his significs I concentrate on several of his books, only.

As with his book on the foundation for mathematics (1909), Mannoury also features the term "mathematics" in the title of a small book published in 1925: Mathematics and Mysticism. So, more than a decade and a half have passed. Despite the continued reference to mathematics, he now seems to have completed what I would call a signific turn: significs appears as providing for a dynamic balance between mathematics — please note, as always with Mannoury in an extended epistemological sense — and mysticism.3 His concept of the latter, mysticism, I mean, was actually already hinted at in the earlier book, in its closing sentences (1909, p 268):

We shouldn't forget there are »values« and »interests« beyond »measure and number«. […] Living proper requires more than formulas and dimensions. It needs the unmeasured and immeasurable mindspace for its struggle.

Where Mannoury argues earlier that (1909, p 130, see also above) "language is nothing but a particular group of human acts," he now places the condensed concept of "language act" at the center — or should I, still for consistency's sake, say: at the foundation? — of explanation (1925, p 9):

All language acts are distinct: in beauty and in truth, in emotion and in indication.

Before I continue quoting from Mannoury's work, let me remark on some obstacles that might hamper understanding his inquiry.4 I suppose it has much to do with the prevailing academic culture and with current recognition standards for knowledge in general. There is pressure to specialize, to objectify, to simplify, etcetera. Mannoury, on the contrary, integrates with respect for variety. And his design for a foundation entails subjectivity as a precondition for realism. Today, therefore it must all sound like heresy for any career-oriented scientist. The question is, of course, whether Mannoury's foundation is flawed or whether it is modernist, so-called analytical science that is habitually off course. From my own perspective of subjective situationism I'm of course all with Mannoury on this. I would say that the scientist who sacrifices relevance for rigor is like the drunkard losing his keys. He is looking for them under the bright light of a street lantern. He knows it is far from where he has lost them but at least, he argues, it is where he can see clearly.

I especially urge anyone accustomed to traditional linguistic categories to suspend judgment as much as possible. I am aware it is problematic for suspension is essentially impossible (Wisse, 2002 a). Please pretend. And please don't assume that Mannoury's concept of language act in any way resembles, for example, what independently Austin (1962) and by extension Searle (1969) have later popularized as the concept of speech act. The latter, i.e. speech act, is narrowly kept within the boundaries of objectivist linguistics, which is precisely why it is unproductive or, putting it more diplomatically, of limited relevance (Schmitz, 1984; Wisse, 2002 a).

Mannoury himself is actually far too diplomatic. He doesn't oppose significs to linguistics but promotes it as an additional perspective. He is not only prudent but evidently misleading. Applying his significs should revolutionize linguistics, significantly increasing its relevance (and thus its relevant rigor; rigor without relevance is academic escapism).

For the reader who is still with me I'll now return to let Mannoury speak for himself. How does he conceptualize language acts? For example, the concept critically appears in one of his repudiations (1925, p 20):

Definitions! As if a word could be different from an agglomerate of memories of language acts — reader, I only give my definitions as examples to deter you — and as if any two language acts could be "similar," that is, really, formally, contractually similar!

Preoccupied as I am with subjective situationism, I cannot resist the temptation to point out that, precisely, formal contracts only have practical value as a strong mechanism for regulating differences. A definition, then, is not at all an absolutely agreed-upon concept. Rather, a definition reflects the distribution of different concepts among the participants in community where those participants agree5 to behave accordingly, i.e. to behave differently in a coordinated fashion (or in what is minimally an attempt at coordination). (Social) norms are therefore definitions, too.

Mannoury not only 'defines' language act by exclusion, but also includes constructive attempts to describe his concept of language act. I have lined up some pertinent passages (Mannoury, 1925):

[p 18] A language act has a (signific) meaning in which might be distinguished: on the one hand the relationship to the "speaker's" — a thinker, an orator, a scribe, a typist, a type setter, a sculptor, a transcriber of musical scores, etc., etc., etc. — ingredients of consciousness and movements of mind: this includes such ingredients and movements of everybody who has had a traceable influence of those of the speaker: the speaker's meaning, and on the other hand the corresponding relationship regarding the "hearer" — a companion thinker, a spy, a visitor of musea, a stenographer, a telepathist, etc., etc., etc., especially not forgetting the speaker himself in his capacity as hearer — as well as regarding everybody who is now or later influenced by the language act: the hearer's meaning.
[p 19] Let me think, isn't it less of a question whether speaker's meaning and hearer's meaning may sometimes differ than whether they might ever be considered equal? […] And let me thus simply raise the question whether cause and effect are just as relevant for a theory of meaning as they are for strategy or the art of medicine?
[p 29] There are few words of which the speaker's meaning so immensely differs from the hearer's meaning, yes, even from the self-hearer's meaning, as does the word referring to the first person singular.
[ p 76] Speaking "normally" is ultimately always somewhat ill-intentional, or let me say other-intentional: it's a kind of wireless control of my fellow men to direct them where they would not have moved on their own accord.
[pp 78-9] Men fight a battle of habits. Their daily routine consists of minute, hardly noticeable, personal skirmishes over minute, hardly known goals while applying minute, hardly felt amicabilities and inimicalities as their weapons. […] And then, called life, there is a battle among men and in humanity for which no words exist. In this battled life, the birth and death occur of word and act, doubt and certainty, repugnance and aspiration. There, all remains uncounted and unknown, with every word a mystery and every motive a miracle. […] Yet every word has once become and been born as a living miracle of human reality: as human will and act.
[p 100] Mathematics leads to mysticism, vice versa, covering the complete spectrum for thought and emotions of human individuals and communal men. […] Living man fights with the word and against the word, holds on to it and casts it from him, controls it and is enslaved by it.

If I may call it a theory of language, it is what Mannoury consistently presents. So, the two volumes of Handbook of Analytical Significs through which I first learned about it, while standing in a bookshop during one of my browsing excursions, immediately struck me with Mannoury's adequate design for requisite variety. He acknowledges necessary and sufficient differences, prominently figuring speaker and hearer and also distinguishing between circumstances in which they find themselves. For explaining precisely such variety I had come up with subjective situationism (Wisse, 2002 a) which I now had to revalue as my independent re-design. Differences remain, though. For example, what I believe still distinguishes my theory from Mannoury's is that I am more outspoken about the will-as-foundation. A language act, or a sign as I call it according to semiotic custom (cf. Peirce), originates from the will (cf. Schopenhauer): every sign is a request for compliance. Mannoury's image of "wireless control" is apt, his insistence on cause and effect also pertaining to language use extremely insightful (but already present with Schopenhauer). My interpretation is that any unique individual-as-will, say a person, may be viewed as — additionally — punctuated through interests, or motives. Such punctuation (cf. Brouwer) serves concentration of behavior, making the act situational with the corresponding advantage of increased precision (and the disadvantage of decreased opportunity, and/or lost preparation for risk). A speaker's motive, then, is a particular cause. A — further — chain of cause and effect involves the sign and the hearer's motive(s). The ultimate effect from the perspective of the speaker is the hearer's own-motivated behavior, compliant with his, i.e. the speaker's, motive as original cause. Getting a request for compliance across might 'cause' the speaker to emphasize his emotions and/or to provide more or less detailed instructions for behavior including a sketch of — the speaker's idea of — the state of the relevant part of the world. As such, (self-)expression and indication or assertion — including argument — are only possible aspects of the sign as essentially volitional (also read: imperative). In linguistics, however, expression and indication are usually considered more or less independent functions of language. Mannoury seems largely to adopt these categories, without bothering to arrive at structural models of the sign from the speaker's and the hearer's perspective, respectively. So, if only for the time being there is something left about which I may indulge in pride at originality.

 

 

Dynamics: from individual mind to community, vice versa

Without being aware of his significs, I have advanced beyond Mannoury by designing a foundation which enables me to treat the concept of sign positively, i.e. approaching it as an object with the rigor appropriate for the increased scope of relevance. A semiotic ennead (Wisse, 2002 a) integrates as irreducible the modeling of reality, cognition and sign. I have reproduced a model of the ennead (see figure 1) because I refer to it regularly below.

Figure 1. The semiotic ennead.

 

 

I certainly wouldn't blame Mannoury for refraining from structural analysis of language acts. Still, from the vantage point of the semiotic ennead it may now be recognized that he positions the nexus of relevant structure along just one of its three dimensions, only. As I've already mentioned, his book on the foundation for mathematics (1909) contains a model of cognition (as it is nowadays called). He subsequently applies the relativist-psychologistic framework throughout as a foundation for his significs. He does so largely implicitly in his popular book from 1925. Written in a more scientific style, a book appears in 1946 in which relativist psychologism resurfaces and is developed further: Relativism and Dialectics. In a preface, Mannoury offers it as a systematic overview of his work, guided by (1946, p 5)

the principle of graduality, as it follows from the ultimate indivisibility of our immediate, introspectively given, life consciousness.

Again, I have selected only a few passages. I steer away from details of Mannoury's model of cognition, concentrating instead on what I find relevant for tracing his philosophy of significs. I'm of course aware Mannoury considers relativist psychologism an integral part of significs. So it is. But so do I, here, limit myself to an introduction to it.

In a way that, once again, acutely reminds me of Schopenhauer, Mannoury conceives of conceptual dualism (1946, pp 8-9). We actually experience two worlds, strictly separated. One is the external world of objects, he says, the other is the internal world of will and affect. And it is precisely this (1946, pp 9-10)

conceptual dualism which has dominated idiom. In turn, it has led to a "language dualism" blocking detailed analysis of conceptual dualism.

Mannoury suggests a start can be made by more consciously distinguishing between I- or we-language on the one hand, and it-language on the other. And (1946, pp 10-11)

as the principle of graduality entails that all objects of knowledge are secondary with respect to our knowledge faculty, the best practice surely requires drawing attention first to our own, introspectively recognizable life phenomena (auto-psychic phenomena). Then, from that perspective we may attempt to apply specialization for arriving at conceptions of the corresponding life phenomena of "others" (hetero-psychic phenomena) and at conceptions of physical phenomena pertaining to "things."

As he considers it a principle, it is not surprising Mannoury seeks pervasive application for graduality. For he continues (1946, p 11):

My faculty for introspective recognition is liable to gradation, in that a continually shifting focal area — the sphere of attention, constituted by contents that are most sharply drawn against the psychic background and most easily recognizable as such — passes both into an encompassing area of contents that are, not so much spontaneously, but quite efficiently recognized and reproduced within the sphere of attention (the superconscious or the level of superconsciousness) and into ever more difficult to recognize and to reproduce areas of consciousness (levels of the unconscious).

I believe I understand what he means. But, then, I am biased for I read Mannoury as describing phenomena I have modeled more precisely (rigorously) with the semiotic ennead. My own idea about "a continually shifting focal area," however, is not so much that "my faculty for introspective recognition is liable to gradation." As far as — the assumption of — such a faculty is concerned, I favor Brouwer's punctuation. It is through interpretative punctuation in — dynamics of — semiosis that — what is also assumed as the — gradual reality is objectified. Mannoury is still groping to connect the dynamics of mind with the dynamics of language. He doesn't seem aware that his concepts come to reflect punctuation, rather than continuity or graduality (1946, p 12):

Besides word-word-associations (W-W) and word-thought-associations (W-T) it should be permitted to speak about independent associations between wordless contents of thought (T-T).

I disagree at least enough to enter into a discussion. Let me first say that I agree with relativism. Yet, the point is that relativism must be considered … relative. Any serious conceptualization requires a foundation. Then the question becomes which factors influence the foundation to vary. Is it possible to suggest boundaries inside of which a particular foundation is not relative, i.e. where it functions absolutely? My answer is, roughly: subject and situation combined. And, yes, of course, these are also concepts, etcetera. However, I'm motivated to avoid infinite regression. Or, in Mannoury's words (1946, p 29):

At a particular stage an end should be forced to such continued search for fundamental concepts. An apparent closure results, always subsequently to be undermined when attention is broadened.

My — expression of a — theory of subjective situationism is also a sign. And often enough I only speak to myself, requesting through myself as hearer to comply with the request of going along with the assumption that subject and situation constitute a, say, metafoundation. Or does calling it a subfoundation make the unavoidable reflexivity in assumptions more evident? For my own behavior in pertinent situations

I appreciate the advantages, so indeed I comply with this view. Likewise, I aim to extend such "wireless control" to other hearers, in this case to the reader. Apparently, I feel it is in my interest to have you behave according to my theory. Why else would I bother?

So far, I don't think Mannoury would take any offence. And the next step would probably also still meet with his approval. It consists of assuming a 'foundation' for theorizing about "associations." I suppose it is helpful to imagine some sort of 'container' for associations. Now, there are various types of causes and effects (Wisse, 2002 b). A purely physical and cybernetic approach corresponds to — the idiom of — calling the container of associations or connections a brain. Another 'level' for considering causes and corresponding effects entails motives and concepts. It is about this level, commonly known as the mind, that Mannoury offers statements on structure.

Then I find it impossible to accept that the mind 'contains' both thoughts and words which are even related in all sorts of varying configurations. Although I realize that Mannoury is the first to acknowledge the relative nature of his psychologist model, I'm nevertheless confused. When I'm forced to abstract from dynamics of mind-as-process, I would like a single construct to occupy the mind: thought. And, yes, Mannoury's principle of graduality makes its unit-ness conditional etcetera. I've tried to increase the fit with requisite variety — but of course without being able to change anything about graduality underlying unit-ness —  by extending the single element of thought into a dimension in the semiotic ennead. The elements that subsequently appear on this dimension of interpretant (cf. Peirce) are: motive, focus and concept. It is essential to recognize they are relative. Mannoury already mentions "a continually shifting focal area." I've condensed punctuated shifts to occur from focus to focus. In principle, any "thought" may acquire focus (or should I say: originate from a particular focus?). Dependent on the available associations/connections, other thoughts perform as motive(s) and concept(s), respectively.

Motive and concept are dynamically 'created' from a particular focus. As associations change, so may motives and concepts change over time even when 'triggered' from a focus that itself has so far remained unchanged. What I want to say is that the mind is not a repository of stable, static thoughts. There is at most a dynamic stability, resulting from focal reinforcement. But when the suggestion that the mind's contents are static is not taken too seriously, I have no objection against Mannoury's terminology of thought.

I do object to the idea, though, that the mind contains words in any repository or inventory sense. First of all, I find it odd that Mannoury should have applied such a limited concept. When developing significs, why not make sign the key concept? In all fairness, Mannoury does so, but he calls it language act. That's precisely what I'm driving at. It is tempting to associate sign with the object containing a message, carrying meaning, etcetera. I believe it is a regretful reduction. Rather, sign exemplifies behavior.6

Peirce (1902) provides a triadic model of semiosis as the action of the sign. He might equally have called it the sign as action. Especially relevant is Peirce's model of dynamics. Semiosis, he explains, is cyclic. A particular cycle results in an interpretant. Now that very interpretant functions as the sign for the next cycle (and so on, until — and this is how I see it in terms of my extended semiotic ennead — the offset in motivational advantage falls below whatever threshold). In my terms, a particular sign is uniquely created to suit the relevant subjective-situational factors (and may in turn affect those factors, and so on). Yes, in this sense the mind produces signs for internal processes, too, but it doesn't retain them as such. If anything more or less stable is at all present, they are thoughts in the 'part' of the mind usually called memory (but I would prefer to call memory an aspect, rather than a part, of the mind).

Actually, I don't understand why Mannoury insists on having words take part in persistent associations of the mind. For I believe the sign as generated for communication is a concept more consistent with his overall philosophy of significs. For example, Mannoury emphasizes phenomena explaining generative flexibility. He attributes it to (1946, pp 51-2)

the potential for parceling, or dividing and joining, sound signals. […] The ability and propensity for language parceling should be considered an inborn disposition.

Do I detect a shade, or even more, of Brouwer's concept of intuition? In every practical sense, one way or another it always appears a 'mechanism' of punctuation is 'at work.' And building blocks allow for (re)combination in a variety that is inexhaustible for all practical purposes. Ultimately, these are purposes (also read: will, interests, motives) of single individuals participating in — and thereby constituting — community. Next, I've selected a passage that should make it especially clear why I classify Mannoury's significs as a philosophy of communal individualism (1946, p 70):

The main directions exhibited by the forms of thought and will of the masses are impossible to appreciate fully without recognition of the finer threads of every individual's life of emotions and thoughts; the latter express the former. […] The phenomena (or correlative structures, if you will) of group and individual life are finely tuned.

Mannoury insists on respect for individual life (1946, p 87):

The great value that should be attributed to the sense of community, as sounding the key-note for the communist program, is immutably linked to an equally great valuation of the individual's life of thoughts and emotions because the latter direct and energize the sense of community.

It nowadays seems a contradiction that Mannoury has for many years also been an active communist and prominent party member. The contradiction disappears in the light of the historical development of party communism coming up against Mannoury's position. In 1929, the communist party expels him. My interpretation is that he, despite an appeal, for example, to the efficiency of the plan economy (1946, p 84), rather identifies with a communal, or social, individualism bordering on idealistic anarchism.7 His materialism reflecting traditional communism is evident, too (1946, p 75):

A social tendency doesn't derive its fundamental significance from merely appearing attractive. The issue for or against a tendency is only decided by the viability of the interaction between man's nature and opportunities for conducting his life.

 

 

Interdisciplinary force

Mannoury is already eighty years old when the first volume (1947) is published of Handbook of Analytical Significs. The second volume (1948), out of two, appears during the following year. He distinguishes analysis from synthesis, having earlier explained the difference as follows (1946, p 31):

We call analytical a concept's description when the perspective of analytical significs is applied, i.e. from an inquiry into existing means for affiliation. A description is, however, synthetical when, as it is the goal of significs, priority is given to improving precision or extending such means. It is therefore obvious that the analytical description may widely vary from the synthetical description of the same concept.

A 'description' like this lets me raise two points. The first concerns "means for affiliation" as my translation of the Dutch term "verstandhoudingsmiddel." Unlike usage of the English language, in Dutch — and in German, for that matter — a qualifying noun is concatenated. For example, the English two-word term of  'information system' becomes the one-word term 'informatiesysteem' in Dutch. So, 'verstandhouding' should be taken to qualify 'middel.' The English translation for 'middel' is quite straightforward. I have opted for the equally general term 'means.' But what is the particular type, or kind, of means Mannoury describes? Schmitz (1990), for example, translates 'understanding' for 'verstandhouding.' I'm actually surprised by his choice for I suppose that Schmitz, who is a native speaker of German, would favor 'Verständigung' as the German term for 'verstandhouding.' Still, even that translation wouldn't satisfy me. It misses that 'verstandhouding' is grounded on community. It is essentially social. It is about social relationships where participants use their mind (verstand) for enacting an attitude (houding) toward each other. Please note that the term 'verstandhouding' itself is already the result of concatenation, that is, 'verstand' qualifies 'houding.' The term 'understanding' doesn't really cover that meaning — not anymore, anyway — as its — modern — reach is more or less individual. Extending it to 'communicative understanding' is already an improvement. I've decided here on 'affiliation' because I strongly feel that Mannoury is not after intersubjective conceptual similarity or even identity. Rather, he is theorizing on community, emphasizing how individuals influence each other as participants, and the means they apply for conducting their affiliation. Participants experience affiliation as satisfactory through mutually reinforcing behaviors. The requirement for identical motives is quite unnecessary. In fact, different behaviors when they are complementary may yield additional benefits. What is required are 'matching' motives.

With my second remark I want to criticize Mannoury's lack of rigor. He is using the term 'concept' far too loosely, too statically. See the semiotic ennead, above, for a dynamic model of semiosis and how concepts vary accordingly.

In the Handbook, of course, Mannoury also describes his concept of significs, of analytical significs in particular. It is not strictly limited to language acts and how they produce affiliation and influence (1948, pp 20-1):

[N]ot less important factors of a different nature (such as personal and social circumstances) are also kept in view. […] It is this perspective, in particular, which distinguishes [analytical significs] from on the one hand methods in the sciences of pure language (take linguistics and philology) and on the other hand the more general reasoning applied for philosophy, logic or conceptual criticism. Contrasting analytical significs to linguistics, it repeatedly avails itself of psychological arguments and especially of language psychology. Analytical significs also gratefully incorporates the results achieved by sciences which over recent decennia have more and more developed in the exact-experimental direction; in fact, such results are applied to such an extent that we believe (analytical) significs is supplying a solid bridge between language psychology and those exact-experimental sciences.

I am especially interested in what Mannoury has to say about boundaries for analysis, and for science in general, actually. As for myself, I believe both the subjective and the situational constitute analytical boundaries (or: assumptions, foundation, etc.), hence subjective situationism. How far does Mannoury already specify his assumptions? I find he is not sufficiently radical when he makes the provision that (1947, p 17),

indeed, there is often a case of applying of the instrument of language, but without any intention by the speaker to influence others whatsoever.

This begs the question why the speaker uses language. Mannoury plays with the possibility of widening the concept of influence (1948, p 18):

We might also consider evoking in the hearer certain (let's say "neutral" or "uncharged") images, even when no change in his course of behavior may be expected: a strictly psychic influence, one could therefore say.

Mannoury continues to point out the far-reaching question it leads to:

Is, strictly seen, psychic influence at all possible from one person to another? In other words, can people actually really understand each other?

The assumptions underlying subjective situationism have led me reason toward a negative answer. No, such shared meaning doesn't exist (Von Glasersfeld, 1995; Wisse, 2002 a). I'd like to think it is a conclusion that I 'share' with Mannoury but his statements are still more careful, for example (1947, p 18):

How the problem is put should not lead us to doubt that someone (that is, the "speaker") who addresses someone else can often be completely satisfied by the answers he receives or, more specifically, by the way in which the other (the "hearer") reacts to his words. It should, however, serve us to inquire whether the speaker's resulting satisfaction may count as irrefutable proof of the consummation of his mindful contact with a second living being that can observe, feel and think as he himself does.

Further on (1947, p 22), however, Mannoury continues to argue from the distinction between attempts at influencing the hearer's — external — behavior and — internal — mind. The former involves a request and the latter an announcement. Or, in terms of language functions (1947, p 25), the former is volitional and the latter indicative. And Mannoury also retains the concept of transfer. A language act transfers an intention (through a request), or a thought (through an announcement). A third function of language, the emotional, Mannoury only mentions later on (1947, p 27). What Mannoury originally distinguishes as discrete language functions (volitional, indicative and emotional) are later conceded as aspects or, in his owns words (1947, p 26), elements. Language acts exhibit all aspects, albeit in varying degrees.

My concept of 'request for compliance' seems close enough to Mannoury's concept of request, but I don't consider the speaker's intention 'transferred' to the hearer. Instead, every person always acts from his own intentions (also read: motives, etc.). A particular sign acts to recall, develop, and so on, a motive with — all 'controlled' through focus; see the dimension of interpretation in the semiotic ennead, above — a corresponding objectification present as concepts. Behavior ensues which might, or might not, comply with the speaker's motive. Paraphrasing Mannoury, I would say that compliant behavior may not be taken as proof of an intention successfully transferred. It is anyway idle to speculate on the direction Mannoury's significs could have taken from — even — more radical assumptions. At best, I should compare. Then, I interpret Mannoury's concept of announcement as — my concept of — a request for compliance, too. For I also consider a change of mind as motivated behavior. Please note that I'm not in any way relating a motive to consciousness, or to a lack of it, for that matter.

Mannoury's concept of transfer through the means of a language act reminds me of Mead's concept of communication (1934), of which I've elsewhere written a critique (Wisse, 2002 a, see chapter 11). For Mannoury writes (1947, p 23):

When we find a request addressed to us, it evokes in us the image of our own act (behavior). Subsequently, when that image is strong enough and when there are no other influences to block it, the performance of the act necessarily follows.

Again, I don't believe that's how it really works. Mannoury suggests that the image of the act is transferred. My idea is that the speaker seeks to arouse a motive in the hearer for the latter (hearer) to behave in compliance with the interests of the former (speaker). The more the speaker can take for granted what the hearer already knows about and accepts as his 'own' the why, what, how and when of the requested behavior, the less "indicative" the speaker needs to be in the language act addressed to the hearer. So, much of what goes under the name of education is actually thinly veiled preparation for complying with requests … achieved, of course, through 'educational' methods stressing compliance.

I repeat to find it a source of confusion that Mannoury often retracts distinctions, but without revising them fundamentally. Why does he continue to insist on language functions? I only recognize a single function: request for compliance. Of course, the interests of the subjects concerned need to be recognized (volitional), as does the — rest of the — situation for the subjects involved (indicative). I'd rather call them aspects. They appear — somewhat — differently in the sign structure for the speaker and the hearer, respectively (Wisse, 2002 a, see especially chapters 7 and 8). And Peirce already makes it clear that dynamics of semiosis causes the interpretant of one cycle to 'function' as the sign for the next. It therefore seems that Mannoury only follows suit when he refers to "self-influencing" and mitigates another one of his earlier distinctions (1947, p 30):

What proceeds in the "thinker" shows such correspondence with the "speaker-or-hearer" that we find no objection classifying those psychic phenomena under "language acts," too.

Combined with other remarks, Mannoury's subjectivism as constituting community is inescapable (1947, pp 32-3):

How word images and (other) interpretations guide each other occurs for speaker and hearer in characteristic ways. […] Especially which mediating memories (or possibly experiences or expectations) have contributed to a particular language act and especially which elements were intrinsic to the function it performed can never be discriminated with certainty. However, we did already remark that large differences are possible in this respect. In fact, for one and the same person one particular word cannot be bound to the same "thought-content" in all circumstances, even if only because every experience of a language act enriches the person with new images for memory.

The focus on variety and dynamics is definitely postmodern, even when Mannoury doesn't have such terminology available. I'd like to add that Welby already holds a similar view (Wisse, 2003). So, Mannoury's and Welby's significs, respectively, have more in common than Mannoury leads us to believe (see above). Mannoury's contribution is to supply such relativism with an explicit psychologistic model. His work shows a strong influence from psychoanalytic theory. Again and again, Mannoury 'constructs' community from individualism. For example (1947, p 48),

the form of thinking exhibited by the masses is essentially what results from individual forms of thinking through mutual leveling and interaction.

Every now and then Mannoury seems to suggest an independent existence for communal phenomena. Upon closer inspection, though, he consistently argues from a foundation of — as I have independently developed it later under the name of — subjective situationism. He is certainly a practitioner of methodological individualism. In his treatment of community, Mannoury also predates for example the neomarxist theory of cultural materialism (Harris, 1979). Actually, in the Handbook he draws on a host of academic disciplines with significs as his integrating force. The variety he encompasses makes it impossible to provide a useful excerpt, so I don't even attempt it here. However, I do find it fitting to come up with the hypothesis I announced in the introduction. Why are second-hand books often intellectually stimulating? Anyway, why do I believe they are? The answer is that formal academic advancement almost invariably proceeds along a monodisciplinary — career — path. Now, an academically interested person may be attracted by a book's scientifically sounding title and by how the abstract further promotes its content. Suppose he buys the book and even starts to study it. Then he soon makes the discovery that the book is too interdisciplinary for his monodisciplinary purpose, after all. So, almost immediately he stops looking at it.8 Does he keep it for reference? No, it is utterly useless. He can give it as a present, but to whom? He doesn't want to antagonize like-minded persons, or run the risk of stigmatization. And whom else does he know? Does he throw it away? No, that would be a complete waste. After his disappointment, the few cents the second-hand book dealer is willing to pay might even feel like a profit.

Do all second-hand books have this interdisciplinary quality? No, far from it. But when you know where academics discard what they find no use for, a surprising concentration of interdisciplinary books can result. Sure enough, after discovering Mannoury's Handbook I could buy his other books only second-hand, too.9

 

 

A program for conceptual critique

What I especially appreciate in Mannoury is his relentless effort at conceptual unification. I discovered it earlier in Schopenhauer. Take Schopenhauer, it is easy to focus on his wide-ranging — or interdisciplinary — explanations. He actually puts his own credibility at risk. For as he is often off the mark with his challenges (on social issues, for example), overtly contradicts his assumptions (on overcoming the will), and sometimes plainly writes nonsense, it is tempting to blame Schopenhauer's foundation. However, that would be missing the unifying force he introduces with his concept of the will for the foundation. Schopenhauer, too, is indeed not above contradicting his own assumption and that's obviously where he is impossible to follow.

In a similar manner, Mannoury's work offers a mixture of both explicating his foundation, or assumptions, and subsequently explaining phenomena from those fundamental concepts. The utility of the explanations is of course, in a pragmatic sense, the test for the value of the conceptual foundation. As with Schopenhauer, I certainly don't agree with all explanations Mannoury provides. Does this mean I don't agree with his design for a conceptual foundation? No, not necessarily. It could also mean that I find his logic, i.e. the application of his foundation, lacking in rigor. My overall evaluation of Mannoury's work is that his conceptual foundation remains valuable. Of course, a climate of tolerance for, if not appreciation of, interdisciplinary explanation is required for recognition. And Mannoury himself would certainly agree his explanations should be revalued regularly to reflect — as already quoted, above — "the results achieved by sciences which over recent decennia have more and more developed in the exact-experimental direction."

I have already remarked on Mannoury's contribution at the level of foundation. He extends the boundaries for analytical inquiry. It sounds paradoxical from an objectivist perspective, but his unification rests on recognition of uniqueness, or particularity. His relativist psychologism is only relative with respect to objectivist realism. It stops to be relative as a subjective situationism. The recognition of subject and situation as 'positive' concepts implies yet another metamorphosis from one postmodernism into the next modernism. Indeed, phenomena change, and so should what are called scientific explanations of those phenomena. This includes the phenomenon of science. For example, subjective situationism denies replication. Mannoury indicates that — also quoted already; see above — "every experience of a language act enriches the person with new images for memory." This doesn't only hold for language acts. Experience in general, irreversibly 'changes the subject.'

Different concepts may therefore also require different procedures. Underlying Mannoury's principle of graduality is a monistic worldview. With a special reference to Kant, he points out that the concept of concept becomes problematic. For it rests on a division which right away infringes upon monism; naturally, every division, difference, etcetera does. It follows that the most fundamental problem of philosophy concerns its ground, or own foundation. Mannoury proposes significs as the philosophical program for conceptual critique. In one direction he acknowledges its limits, or analytical boundaries (1947, p 105):

The "Ding-an-sich" is wholly incompatible with the general, critical purport of Kant's philosophy.

The same point reappears in his popular summary of significs (1949, p 33):

We should call all of the "science of significs" a utopia. However, we may still try to approach what we can never reach.

In another direction for significs, Mannoury joins Welby's emphasis on the hygiene of language use. For this purpose he designs a subdivision of concepts (1947, pp 112-3):

The conceptual dualism presents itself to us as a sometimes sharper, sometimes vaguer opposition between two psychic domains. We might call these domains our world of interpretation and our world of affect, respectively. Or, using a terminology that is more commonly used, our "outer" and "inner" world.

To the conceptual dualism corresponds a dualism of language. So, there are (1947, p 113)

two modes of expression that we apply when referring to the outer or inner world. […] In one word: we are "alive" and the things are "not alive."

Mannoury argues that the speaker uses "it-language" when referring to his outer world. In "I-language" he refers to his inner world. Mannoury then appears right on the track of so-called analytical philosophy (1947, p 113):

These modes of expression, generally labeled "it-" and "I-language" while neglecting many transitional and mixed forms […], are tightly interwoven in actual speech. As a consequence, the very contradiction implied by such modes often goes unnoticed. And even when the contradiction alarms us, innumerous difficulties and conceptual confusion result as they manifest themselves in the guise of a multitude of seemingly profound philosophical problems.

This foundation allows Mannoury to continue by classifying problems of language use. "Actual pseudo-problems" are those that can be resolved easily enough through transformations between it- and I-language. They (1947, p 113)

should be distinguished from problems that are more deeply rooted, that is, from the problems originating from the conceptual duality itself and from the closely related "pulse" of our sphere of attention and interests that we have called the phenomenon of (psychic) polarity.

A large part of volume 1 (1947) of the Handbook is taken up by Mannoury's historical overview of conceptual critique. He ends describing the relativist- psychologistic movement with Einstein, Brouwer and Freud as its main proponents. Of course, the most prominent proponent is Mannoury himself. His 'method' is universally to accept the unavoidable by developing separate concepts and subsequently counteracting one-sidedness through reflexive relationship. So, he never drops his dialectics. In general (1947, p 121),

every design for conceptual foundation moves across boundaries in the transitional domain between word and thought. As such, the foundation entails signific critique of concepts.

Especially referring to Brouwer, giving him his due as a philosopher, Mannoury marks a powerful unification at work (1947, p 131):

In our opinion, the primary significance of the spread of the intuitionistic-relativistic development for the foundation of mathematics involves a convergence and a transition between the most apodictic and seemingly objective of all sciences on the one hand and on the other hand the inquiry into human behavior and motive, in other words, between mathematical and psychological thinking.

 

 

Focus on punctuation

As its subtitle indicates, the second volume (1948) of the Handbook contains Mannoury's proposal for the "main concepts and methods of significs." Actually, he reorders his materials already presented elsewhere. For the purpose of my admittedly biased introduction to Mannoury's work, I've limited my selections to what additional emphasis I would like to draw on his foundation. For example, Mannoury adds a distinction to modes of expression (1948, p 17):

Certain "things" belong to our outer world — our fellow human beings, to be exact — whose type of predictability approaches that of our own behaviors to such an extent that we continually hesitate whether we should argue about them in terms of "they must" or "they want," i.e. in terms of physical or psychical phenomena.
It is precisely our hesitation that leads us to a particular compromise, in that we describe the behavior of our fellow men without mentioning their possible psyche, or mind. This "he-language" is virtually neutral. It already has become more or less adopted for current psychology in the form of the so-called behavioristic mode of expression.

Further on, I'm confused where Mannoury states that (1958, p 19)

we propose to emphasize the perspective of causality for our treatment of the phenomena of affiliation, rather then applying the habitual perspective of individual interpretation.

I completely agree that a sign is a cause, too. It 'works' at the motivational plane. And I find my concept of subjective situationism in many ways an extension of Mannoury's foundation, precisely because he widens boundaries for analysis to include "individual interpretation." I'm therefore baffled by the second half of his sentence. I find it inconsistent with statements he makes elsewhere to read here a denial of the individual as constituting community. I simply don't know.

One of my assumptions is that situations contribute to variety. The 'existence' of situations, including the possibility of distinguishing between them, is therefore part of my — design for a — conceptual foundation. Though stated in different terms, the same idea is already clearly developed by Mannoury (1948, pp 29-30):

For example, don't we often conclude at large differences in "behavior," we could almost say in "character," that our friends and acquaintances exhibit as we meet them at home or for a business transaction? In those and in similar cases what is relevant is not so much a particular interpretation or even nucleus of emotion that has returned to somebody's memory. Rather, it seems that different thought worlds alternately occupy consciousness completely. We might sketch this phenomenon through metaphors such as "network of associations" or "layer of consciousness." However, a provision is in order. We should not imagine such a structural composition of layers as invariant, or perhaps even as chronologically ordered. We should consider a psychic gradation which sometimes changes, but could also remain quite stable over a period of time.

Indeed, it is the issue of "gradation" as supposedly opposed to punctuation, all over again. I favor abstracting from consciousness. And the metaphor of layers, I believe, fails to do full justice to the intricacies of the intellect, or mind. My model for order in interpretation, including its dynamics, is the semiotic ennead. A particular focus 'controls' behavior. However, despite our different models Mannoury appreciates similar variables as fundamental concepts. In his terms, mistaking different terminology for a conceptual difference would make me guilty of creating an actual pseudo-problem.

A genuine difference with Mannoury concerns his repeated attempts at this stage to reason from community as a fundamental concept for significs. My view is radical in the sense that the dialectic process essentially occurs along phases of the individual, rather than between individual on the one hand and community on the other. Community is always constituted by individual behavior. Community, too, is the individual's experience of a possible situation. One such internal experience may lead to his subsequent external behavior, etcetera. This approach avoids the "pseudo-problem" of demarcating significs from traditional linguistics. Mannoury gets entangled as his division begs new questions (1948, p 44):

We prefer to concentrate first on sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, but nonetheless always present differences existing between the actual speech and the idiom of individual persons and groups: the phenomena of interindividual distribution. From this, an inquiry naturally follows into the sometimes momentous changes in the actual speech (or, if you like, the form of thought) as practiced by a particular individual person under the influence of varying "circumstances" (the phenomena of intraindividual distribution).

I would put it differently. Significs is about "intraindividual distribution." Next, and involving the explicit abstraction of individual differences into the homogenized concept of group or community, patterns may be identified. Linguistics is about "interindividual distribution" as it deals with such patterns. It must always be recognized, though, that communal patterns of language use rest on a reductionist foundation, i.e. those patterns abstract from individualism. At least, such recognition is a requisite from subjective situationism. Would Mannoury have endorsed it? Is his philosophy really a communal individualism? I find he is now not totally consistent in his application of the main terms for his dialectics. However, he does mention (1949, p 95) "inescapable subjectivity." I'd therefore like to believe his ultimate preference is for a dialectics between situated individuals (1948, p 49):

A penetrating insight into the phenomenon of affiliation requires special attention to become focused on the structure of the unconscious and on how it interacts with the overlaying processes.

Again, I don't feel significs requires a distinction between consciousness and the unconscious. Here, I merely want to emphasize where Mannoury fundamentally orientates himself at the individual person. The need for stretching analytical boundaries is evident. The concept of word meaning (1948, p 55)

appears subject to such numerous and subtle changes and shades, that the function of a particular word, or even of a particular expression, is impossible to determine. A further inquiry into the functional elements can only orient itself at a particular language act, with the analysis conducted separately for the speaker and the hearer ("speaker's meaning" and "hearer's meaning").

An obvious question is: How does language support the relativist-psychologistic variety that seems infinite for all practical (also read: individual) purposes? In the spirit of a mathematician the answer comes easy to Mannoury. The use of language implies parceling (1948, p 93):

An element is not designed for transfer of a separate intention to influence. Such influence rather requires several elements to be configured in a particular way.

Parceling in language use is 'only' an application of modularity. Relative to purposes, a certain degree of modularization is optimal, efficient, etcetera. The tautological concept of evolution cannot explain it, of course, but may be conveniently called upon as a metaphor.

Throughout, also volume 2 of the Handbook is full of such insightful elaborations into aspects of affiliation. They are variations on a theme that Mannoury actually establishes with his foundation for mathematics. He now puts it as follows (1948, p 113):

Especially the relationship an individual person entertains with other individuals is largely controlled by his capacity for pulsing.

My semiotic ennead models this assumption more directly. It explicitly shows focus as the mechanism for punctuation. The ennead also implies the purpose of semiosis, i.e. the conduct of the individual's situated behavior. I suppose that is similar to the conclusion Mannoury arrives at for his significs (1948, p 143):

Our inquiry forces us to adopt a wider concept for significs. It extends beyond the means for affiliation as it involves affiliation itself, considered as life phenomenon.

Within a short period, Mannoury publishes a series of books on significs. The Handbook is followed by a popular account (1949): Significs. In 1953, the book appears that Mannoury positions as the Handbook's pendant: Conceptual Synthesis from the Perspective of Psychological Polarity. He argues for a shift of emphasis, i.e. from analytical to synthetical significs. He seeks to develop (1953, p 15)

an assumption, in its turn based on as straightforward introspection as possible, leading to the multifaceted possibilities for using the existing instruments for affiliation.

My impression is rather that Mannoury remains largely analytical in his approach. He steps us speculation from the perspective of relativist psychologism. So, I mainly read it as ongoing theorizing and explanation. For Mannoury's analysis is always synthetical, but in the sense of conceptual integration. In this way, his last book is also exemplary of pervasive interdisciplinarity. He deepens his analysis. Of course, practical advice might be derived from analysis, but then it might from all his writings on significs. I don't believe, however, that any reader will recognize from Mannoury's dense analysis in his final book publication that now in a practical format — as already quoted, above — "priority is given to improving precision or extending such means" for affiliation. And for my introduction to Mannoury's significs it suffices to refer to it, only; there are no additional insights presented that are relevant for the conceptual foundation.

 

 

Completing an invitation

I've come to the end of an introductory paper on significs as a philosophical theory developed by Gerrit Mannoury. I found it impossible to acknowledge all relevant aspects of his work, let alone sketch even the semblance of an outline. On the one hand, Mannoury is a profound thinker; I certainly don't claim full understanding. And on the other hand I have set myself the practical limit of an article-length introduction. I therefore hope the inevitable flaws in my reconstruction and discussion may at least serve a positive purpose when, if only by default, they draw attention to Mannoury's foundational design. I find it is especially the unified foundation underlying his comprehensive treatment why Mannoury stands out. His work is quintessentially interdisciplinary. It suggests opportunities. At the minimum, the application of synthesis avoids time being wasted on pseudo-problems. These are timeless concerns, implying an urgent invitation to Mannoury's significs.

 

 

 

Notes

1. Translations into English from works by Brouwer (in Dutch) and Mannoury (in Dutch or German) are mine.
2. A comparison with general semantics is beyond the scope of this introduction to Mannoury's significs. Still, it is intriguing why Korzybski should sort out significs for emphasis in the preface of the 1948 edition of his 1933 book. There he also writes that his "work was developed entirely independently of 'semantics', 'significs', 'semiotic', 'semasiology', etc." He adds that, as he comes to know them later, he "respect[s] the works of the corresponding investigators in those fields." However, he continues, as those works "explicitly state they do not deal with a general theory of values[, they] do not touch my field." I find his claim for independent development entirely credible. So, is it non-academic (pun intended) vanity why he insists on absolute originality for his general semantics as the "first non-aristotelian system"? Anyway, doesn't it contradict one of his major assumptions? For he states (1948, p xx): "The origin of this work[, i.e. Science and Sanity] was a new functional definition of 'man', as formulated in 1921 [Korzybski is referring to his book Manhood of Humanity], based on an analysis of uniquely human potentialities; namely, that each generation may begin where the former left off. This characteristic I called the 'time-binding' capacity." In general, I don't agree such a "capacity" is "uniquely human." But wouldn't it, in particular, have perfectly fitted his concept of "time-binding" to acknowledge-and-develop rather than only-mention-and-subsequently-ignore earlier achievements of a similar nature? I would say that Korzybski is even largely repeating how Welby and especially Mannoury envision significs — and the view of no doubt many others — when he argues (1948, p xx): "General Semantics turned out to be an empirical natural science of non-elementistic evaluation, which takes into account the living individual, not divorcing him from his reactions altogether, nor from his neuro-linguistic and neuro-semantic environments, but allocating him  in a plenum of some values, no matter what." Of course, Korzybski develops it in a direction that deserves serious study. I strongly recommend it (if only because subjective situationism, upon inspection, appears closely related to general semantics, as it is to significs). And just as with Mannoury's significs, the lack of current academic recognition for Korzybski's general semantics may be due to its essentially interdisciplinary scope; it runs counter to academically established science. The dilemma is that precisely what makes their theories relevant is, under the pretense of lack of rigor, what effectively blocks diffusion as a valuable innovation. Such a dilemma by itself doesn't make an idea original, though. Someone may have tried in vain before but of course failures of diffusion are more difficult to reconstruct than successes. See also my hypothesis on interdisciplinary value of second-hand books.
3. The familiar movement of the linguistic turn thus only seems to apply to the analytical side of the more comprehensive signific turn. But then, what is analytical? Mannoury's significs, or relativist psychologism, might easily be ignored for its supposedly non-analytical character. Now that would be a bad mistake. On the contrary, Mannoury aims at designing a foundation from which to treat as unambiguously analytical, too, individual variety. Calling his philosophy relativist psychologism certainly hasn’t helped gaining the attention for serious study it deserves, and regretfully Mannoury didn't fare much better under the label of significs.
4. See also note 3, above.
5. This doesn't imply that commitment is arrived at freely. For various 'reasons,' every participant may feel compelled to agree about his particular contribution to the process of community. How an individual person "balances [his] identity" through life's variety of interactions explains L. Krappmann in his impressive Soziologische Dimensionen der Identität (1969). Such dynamics of personality is of course what Mannoury already models with his relativist psychologism. In hindsight, I've followed suit with the — formalism of the — semiotic ennead underlying subjective situationism.
6. On a similar account, I don't fathom Popper's claim of a separate "third world" (Popper, 1972).
7. An authoritative interpretation requires a comprehensive biography of Mannoury.
8. This is precisely why I refer to second-hand books, rather than used books.
9. I highly recommend www.addall.com to the impatient researcher. It is a rare second-hand book that is not offered for sale by at least one of the affiliated booksellers.

 

 

 

References

Austin, J.L., 1962, How to Do Things with Words, second edition 1975, Harvard University Press (USA), 1999.
Brouwer, L.E.J., 1907, Over de grondslagen der wiskunde, Mathematisch Centrum (Netherlands), 1981.
Buchler, J., editor, 1955, Philosophical writings of Peirce, Dover (USA).
Harris, M., 1979, Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture, Random House (USA).
Korzybski, A. 1948, Preface to the Third Edition, in: Science and Sanity: an Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, first edition 1933, International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company (USA), fourth edition 1958, pp xix-xxiii.
Krappmann, L., 1969, Soziologische Dimensionen der Identität: Strukturelle Bedingungen für die Teilnahme an Interaktionsprozessen, Klett-Cotta (Germany), 2000.
Mannoury, G., 1907, Boekbespreking van L.E.J. Brouwers 'Over de grondslagen der wiskunde', a review included in 1981-reissue of: Over de grondslagen der wiskunde, see Brouwer (1907).
————, 1909, Methodologisches und Philosphisches zur Elementar-Mathematik, Van Gorcum (Netherlands).
————, 1925, Mathesis en Mystiek: een signifiese studie van kommunisties standpunt, Wereldbibliotheek (Netherlands).
————, 1946, Relativisme en Dialektiek: Schema ener filosofisch-sociologische grondslagenleer, Kroonder (Netherlands).
————, 1947-8, Handboek der Analytische Signifika, Kroonder (Netherlands), two volumes (vol. 1, 1947; vol.2, 1948).
————, 1949, Signifika, een inleiding, Servire (Netherlands).
————, 1953, Polairpsychologische Begripssynthese, Kroonder (Netherlands).
Mead, G.H., 1934, Self, Mind, & Society, University of Chicago Press (USA), 1974.
Peirce C.S., 1902, Logic as semiotic: the theory of signs, in: Philosophical writings of Peirce, Buchler (editor), Dover (USA), 1955, pp. 98-119.
Popper, K.R., 1972, Objective Knowledge, Oxford University Press (UK).
Schmitz, H.W., 1984, Searle ist in Mode, Mannoury nicht: Sprech- und Hörakt im niederländischen Signifik-Kreis, in: Zeitschrift für Semiotik (Germany), Band 6, Heft 4, pp 445-63.
————, 1985, De Hollandse Signifika: Een reconstructie van de geschiedenis van 1892 tot 1926, originally published in German (Habilitationsschrift), Van Gorcum (Netherlands), 1990.
————, 1990, Frederik van Eeden and the Introduction of Significs into the Netherlands: From Lady Welby to Mannoury, in: Essays on Significs, Schmitz (editor), pp 219-46.
————, editor, 1990, Essays on Significs: Papers Presented on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Victoria Lady Welby, John Benjamins (Netherlands).
Searle, J.R., 1969, Speech Acts, an essay in the philosophy of language, Cambridge University Press (USA).
Stegeman, J.H., 1992, Gerrit Mannoury, A Bibliography, Tilburg University Press (Netherlands).
Van Dalen, D., 2001, L.E.J. Brouwer, een biografie, Bert Bakker (Netherlands).
Von Glasersfeld, E., 1995, Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and Learning, Falmer Press (USA).
Wisse, P.E., 2001, Metapattern: context and time in information models, Addison-Wesley (USA).
————, 2002 a, Symbiosis & Sign Exchange: design for a subjective situationism, including conceptual grounds for business information modeling, Information Dynamics (Netherlands).
————, 2002 b, Multiple axiomatization in information management, in: PrimaVera, working paper nr 2002-06, Amsterdam University (Netherlands).
————, 2003, Victoria Welby's significs meets the semiotic ennead, www.wisse.cc, see publications/articles & papers.

 

 

 

July, 2003 © Pieter Wisse.