Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 34]

Cultural objects: dialectical empirical (method) and understanding (epistemological act)

The previous posts characterized briefly different kinds of objects (i.e. ideal, natural, cultural and metaphysical) to offer a basic notion of each of them.

It is important to note that the same object of study may have to do with different realms.

Clearly, “cosmopolitanism” and “sovereignty” are cultural objects. However, this does not mean that do not have to do with other realms. The following paragraphs will introduce a more detail account of cultural objects at large. Thereafter, the next posts will refer to cosmopolitanism and sovereignty using these different realms as points of reference.

Cultural objects (e.g. law) exist in the experience and are valuable axiologically speaking. Consider, for example, the Venus of Milo in the Louvre Museum. The value of these objects appears as a quality. In the case of the Venus of Milo beauty only participates as its axiological value.  We say that it is beautiful in a similar way to how we say it is white, but we only refer to its whiteness since such is the color of its marble and, therefore, we can demonstrate empirically through our senses.

It possible (and important) to distinguish between “substrate” and “sense” or “meaning” in cultural objects. Substrate is related to the material beneath or pre-existing human activity. That raw material has meaning (sense) depending on the psychological intention that the sculptor had when making the Venus of Milo.[1] The sculpture is the objectified intention in the cultural object. By its own definition, “cultural knowledge” is a knowledge about values. Every cultural object consists of a substrate and a sense (or meaning) in synergy.

The intuition of the cultural object is double: the sensitive intuition of the substrate and the emotional/rational intuition of the value. In other words, the substrate is a datum of perception external to the substrate, directly captured by, for example, our sight, our hearing or our touch, while the value is directly captured by our reason or emotions. The sense or meaning of a cultural object is the objectified valuation of the substrate. 

Beyond the substrate, cultural objects refer to the object itself as well as the behavior or human conduct applied to it. Therefore, the epistemological act in cultural objects is peculiar because it is not an act of apprehension, but an act of taking a position by the “knowing subject.” For this reason, with regard to the cultural object, it implies always “seeing” them with some position (whether we acknowledge this or not, whether we are aware, self-conscious or not). The epistemological act or act of consciousness is called understanding.  To understand is to know the meaning of something in its “being” when it is being.

Every valuation contains self-awareness, unlike what happens with intellection and explanation. That is to say, every valuation of something when it assigns some axiological quality also contains the consciousness of value with its reference to the subject by whom it is valued.  For example, when we see a landscape with our physical eyes, the consciousness of what is seen does not integrate with the consciousness of seeing. In fact, there is a field and nothing more, requiring an act of reflection to add to the seen the awareness of seeing.  On the other hand, if we value that same landscape as beautiful, we feel, contemplating it as a presence as integral spectators because its beauty verifies our spirit. 

The suitable method to know a cultural object is the dialectical empirical method, since this is what is constituted on the epistemological act of understanding. Epistemological dialectics in general is the synthesis carried out by the spirit as what spontaneous activity and characteristic of a thesis and a hetero-thesis based on a mutual totalizing implication and it does not need to be an antithesis like Hegel suggested. The antithesis is only a particular case or a peculiar modality of hetero-thesis. The dialectic in the epistemological sense that we are talking about here has nothing to do with the dialectic in the formal sense that will be discussed later, for example in the Pure Theory of Law. In this way, we have access to cultural objects since our understanding circulates from the substrate to the meaning and vice versa.

ObjectExistenceExperienceValuable (axiologically)MethodEpistemological act
IdealNoNoNeutralDeductive rational Intellectual intuition
NaturalYesYesNeutralInductive empiricalExplanation
CulturalYesYesPositive or NegativeDialectical empiricalUnderstanding
MetaphysicalYesNoPositive or Negative  

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Cultural objects (cont.)

Author of:

Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Monday 21st June 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] I refer to the author’s intention only for simplicity. There are other views such as the ones from the audience. There is a case for a variety of interpretations or “unlimited semiosis.” See Stella Bullo, Evaluation in advertising Reception: A Socio-Cognitive and Linguistic Perspective (Springer 2014).

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