The US secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in describing how his government would pursue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, infamously described his problems as: Known knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns.

What do we know, what gaps in our knowledge are we aware, and what gaps are we not aware of. At the time, this idea was greeted with much laughter. I felt that, on the other hand, this was probably the brightest thought I’d heard him express.

When I think of research, in the academic sense, we move between the known unknowns(questions left unanswered by the existing literature), and the unknown unknowns. Knowledge gaps that we had not yet theorized.

We could present this situation graphically, like this:

The problem is that, as phenomenologists have long observed and argued, much of what we know, that we ascribe meaning to, becomes invisible to us. We act without questioning as we walk across a floor, for example. We are not actively aware of our ‘unknown knowns’. If, as Hubert Dreyfus observes, we are cast ‘ always already’ into meaning, then we can consider the origins of meaning as ‘unknown knowns’. Max van Manen discusses ‘unknown Knowns’ extensively in Phenomenology of Practice.

To be sure, accounting for the borders between these categories isn’t simple. Epistemologies provide conflicting arguments as to what it means to be known, and hence, what is unknown.

This is where philosophy and anthropology function most significantly. As disciplines focussed on uncovering meaning, they deal with unknown knowns. Perhaps if more consideration were given to the unknown knowns, we would better address the other three categories.

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Interaction is a noun. Vaguely, it can be used to mean some force affecting another. The cue striking the eightball would be an example. But this could also be described as a reaction. in that sense, we could consider one use of ‘reaction’, as in a chemical reaction. There, chemicals react predictably. To act is to perform some action, but also initiate some action. Thus,  intentionality seems to be implied in the word ‘interaction’.

“Inter” means between. While this could be the action of one body towards another, it is better captured by the sense of two or more bodies acting upon one another. Thus while one pool ball may be deformed when it impacts another, this is not the same category as when a person gestures at another. The struck pool ball has no intentionality towards the first. The change in the first pool ball is due to its motion and conveys no intentionality. In the second case, the act of waving (a gesture) may change the person waving. They may anticipate a smile or a wave back.

So, my brief account here defines interaction and its various conjugations as describing a change in the initiator of the interaction as much as the object. Indeed, it would be a mistake not to consider both (or more) parties as subjects.

A colleague of mine suggests this might require thinking dialectically about interaction, rather than causally. Causality may be to limited a concept to properly address interaction, as I’m starting to think about it.

But I’m early in my thoughts…

Demonstrating how to do research by answering a research question

A doctoral degree represents both a program of research and a demonstration of knowing how to do research. In a dissertation, there is extensive discussion as to the process of how each section was addressed, in order to demonstrate a strategic or philosophical grasp of the alternatives to each decision. Thus the dissertation demonstrates the student’s broader grasp of disciplinary concerns, techniques and history. A dissertation deeply explores its justifications for methods, structure, theoretical frameworks, choice of topic, and so on. In a typical research paper or an academic monograph, these categories are more baldly stated. Generally, the authors of a paper leave unspoken as to alternative approaches rejected for the research documented in the given paper. Like a academic journal article, or academic monograph, a dissertation functions primarily as a platform for writing extensively and critically about an original thought in relation to existing research literature.

A Craft of writing critically about a discipline’s literature

It cannot be over-emphasized .

Doctoral research is primarily about reading a vast amount of relevant literature, then writing critically about that body of works.

As an activity, doctoral research is primarily developing a craft of writing critically about the existing literature in a given field of research. The idea of craft speaks to clarity, elegance, and coherency in the argument conveyed by the student’s writing. The candidate’s own research is a pivot or fulcrum upon which to critically address the broader field. As such it attempts to reveal previously undiscussed connections between existing nodes of knowledge. These nodes can be considered as books, and academic papers, but also researchers and their careers, institutional structures such as universities and their departments and research clusters, conferences, and topics actively debated. There are two considerations that further complexify this research. These address intra-disciplinary conventions of how research and criticality are conducted, and address extra-disciplinary bodies of knowledge that have bearing on the question at hand.

The craft must address and respect existing disciplinary doctrine for criticality, even as it may critique those doctrines. This is challenging as the relatively subordinate position of the doctoral student renders them subject to normative standards that may reflect institutional bias or personal ego as much as disciplinary standards for rigour. Thus the question asked, and answered by a dissertation and its author must be imbued with a certain modesty, but also persistence and resolve. This aids in strengthening the works central argument while achieving a completed project, and also resolves the practical concern of the dissertation over-expanding into a decades long inconclusive project.

The craft may also address research and literature from outside a given discipline. For example, the depth and breadth of the relationship of literary novels to English-as-an-academic-discipline is obvious. Novels also draw the attention of philosophers, historians, anthropologists, and other researchers. Thus a philosopher may find themselves reading literary analysis, historical accounts, or ethnographic research in order to refine their philosophical understanding of themes taken from a given novel, poem, or other fictional narrative. However the value of a broader and holistic understanding of themes poses a challenge to the sharp focus required of a doctoral project. It also involves introducing, clarifying, and defending the relevance and stakes of extra-disciplinary research methods and concerns. It may require study outside the received disciplinary boundaries.

Colleagues, Courses, and Comprehensive Exams

The coursework component serves several purposes. It aids the student by deepening their knowledge of given nodes of knowledge. It also allows them to develop collegial relationships with faculty and other students. This societal element is critical as it underlies the research writing/process, as Wendy Belcher notes in her book on academic writing. It cannot be overstated how discussions, collaborations, mentoring and supporting ones colleagues is vital to long term success and nourishment in the academic milieu. The regular rhythm of coursework helps to provide structure that will develop and sustain these collegial relationships in the student’s career.

The comprehensive exam is often considered the least pleasant element of doctoral studies. These are seen to serve two purposes. The first is to demonstrate a breadth of disciplinary knowledge that would permit a student to teach a first year undergraduate course. The second purpose of a comprehensive exam is to demonstrate a student’s grasp of a core body of literature relevant to their research question. There is a sweeping breadth as to how these exams are structured. They range from 3 hour examinations to months-long writing projects, and from institutionally mandated reading lists to a body of work negotiated between the student and their doctoral committee. That this raises question of the pedagogical value of comps. Are they simply a hazing process that has no bearing on actual academic practices, such as writing a journal article in three hours? Or do they reflect a reading history that arguably should have been obtained during an undergraduate degree, then refined through the more disciplined writing craft developed during a masters degree? It is perhaps unseemly for a prospective student to critique this element of doctoral studies. Yet given that these are a specific cultural phenomenon found in anglo-North American universities, it raises the legitimate question of the purpose and value of these exams. At the very least, it should be considered carefully by the student in discussion with their supervisor.

Supervisors and Students

The relationship between supervisor and doctoral student tends to be fraught. On a certain level, there is an intrinsic selfishness involved in academic research. At its core, academic research reflects the specific question that arises out of a researcher’s passion to answer that question. The parameters of the question reflect the focus of the researcher’s thought. So both the student and the supervisor have questions they passionately seek to answer, but these questions may be only be peripherally relevant to each other’s work. At its best I see the student’s research complementing and expanding on the supervisor’s work. The student provides an answer to a question that is either in an array of the faculty member’s project, or addresses a related question that is just outside the scope of a given faculty researcher’s current project. In some rare cases, this collegiality extends to favouring a candidate because their work is interesting, though not directly relevant to the researcher’s own work.

Writing this characterization of doctoral work brought forth thoughts about how each element reflected my particular concerns, enthusiasms, and experience in my own doctoral studies. In a sense, each idea could be a subheading for an element of a proposal, or a section of a dissertation. At the very least, a student would discuss, and where necessary, negotiate with their supervisor, committee, and institution to structure their doctoral work so that it addresses both their research interests, and the institutional and collegial goals and norms under which they are studying. It is to aiding that end that I wrote this short essay.

It is also to aid me in reflecting why I might want to continue my research in the context of a doctoral program, and why pursuing this work as an independent scholar might be more appropriate.

U/Me (Adam van Sertima; electro-acoustic interactive sculpture, Plywood, Steel spring, electromagnets & Arduino mini-computers.) exhibited in the Milieux Institute during the Society for Visual Culture March 2018. photo by Artist

In trying to write clearly about my research/creation, I often return to very basic questions, and starting points. This often makes me feel as if I have gone only a little distance. But perhaps that is my perception. So please bear with me as i again return to the well of what I’m thinking about.

In no particular order, and sometimes tenuously linked in logic or object:

Cultural play is an expression of play as a metaphysical category.

Prof. Bart Simon, in a 2010 presentation, once attempted to define play (a fraught concept) as “doing something differently”. Often play is denigrated as the proper activity of children, to be abandoned once they are sufficiently developed. Play is more positively framed as relief or escape from the demands of society. This was Johann Huizinga’s position. These are examples of considering play as primarily a cultural phenomena. An example of shared meaning around given activities. But if we consider how play can arise in a deterministic universe, we can consider examples of cultural play as instantiations of play as a metaphysical category. The german philosopher Eugen Fink examines this in his Spiel as Weltsymbol(1959). The possibility of “doing something different” in a deterministic universe.

Making expressive objects is a means of knowing the world.

By making things, especially expressive objects, we not only illustrate meanings, but discover questions regarding the material world that we live in, and suggest philosophical directions that illuminate our relationships to the world around us. I have taken to using the term expressive objects to refer generally to paintings, interactive sculpture, poems and so on so as to de-center concepts that western thinkers have in the last 300 years refer to as ‘Art’. Our contemporary definitions of art often lead to misinterpreting the meanings of expressive objects from other times and cultures. These definitions also can delimit our concepts of our relationship to the expressive objects of our own time and culture. For example, the physical sciences probably consider expressive objects as illustrative of knowledge, not a specific, specialized source of knowledge. These do not acknowledge, not can they, that expressive objects engage with metaphysics, and so happen before the powerful, but limited, explanations offered by the physical sciences. Explaining how expressive practices give us knowledge of the world is a large part of my research interests. Making expressive objects that demonstrate this is a large part of my artistic practice.

Philosophy is the synthetic search for coherent meaning

Philosophy, in the western tradition, has dealt with the conceptual analysis of propositional claims. Attempts to describe the elements of our world, both physical and cultural were critiqued as to how they contradicted themselves. Platonic dialogues illustrate this. in them, Plato’s teacher, Socrates, critiques the notions of others regarding the nature of justice, love, the natural world and so on. However, two important things strike me about Plato’s writings. They emphasize how our conceptual models are often contradictory, but none-the-less use language to self-critique…language. Secondly, the dialogues are essentially very wordy plays. They could be performed on stage, or over the radio.(platonic podcast?) So as philosophy they are expressive objects, and do not attempt the apparent objectivity of prose.(This suggests that I should stop writing in prose lol)

The synthesis, the possibility of new questions, is somewhat denied by Plato, who argues that all knowledge is simply memory. This is a particular notion of memory, and suggests that Plato thought that, as we are reasonably successful in living in this world, that we have become oblivious to its ‘truths’. Hubert Dreyfus, in his Skilful Coping (2014), makes a somewhat parallel argument.

While I fully support the continued use of language, both written and spoken, I am arguing that making, be it paintings, performance art or prose, give us insight and knowledge that language cannot do. So to do philosophy we require synthesis that can be both physical and linguistic. Moreover, making material things can drive new conceptual models.

Compatiblism is useful notion of how our minds are structured in our world.

Contemporary science characterizes the world as determined, or at least subject to a stochastic (limited chance) limit as to how things happen. A causes B causes C. Things don’t just happen, they are a result. This apparently renders human choice as an illusion. Compatibilism is the school of thought that says humans have choice and intention within a determined universe. This is a fundamental starting point for my thinking, even though I have not developed or closely examined arguments beyond ‘any other theory of meaning would contradict my lived experience, and the demonstrable explanatory power of contemporary science’.

Play as a metaphysical category underlies expressive media

That we can ask new questions, make new objects, embrace new meanings suggests that our thought is not so determined. Moreover, opportunities to ‘do things differently’ seem to arise despite the apparent determinism of our world. I think that part of the challenge is dealing with the language we use when discussing a universe that seems to harbour a deterministic physics and intentional minds. It is here where expressive practices come into play. They give physical expression to phenomena that may be obscured by the language and theory that we use. They let us, sometimes, reappraise our conceptual models, and lead to a deeper understanding. They help us to synthesize answers to our formerly intractable answers.

-AvS

Escaping utility in favour of understanding.

Write hard & clear about what hurts

Touch something. Reach.

Grasp. Grope.

Use the quality of your hand to surround something.

Possess it.

Touch is always with you.

Ready.

It is not experienced as a temporary state of sensorimotorism.

Most consciousness studies tend towards a positivist, deterministic model for research. They infer findings from non-material neural strata which is claimed to be representative of experience. This neural ‘evidence’, however, is only ever drawn from selective material data.

It is not my task to refute the consciousness corpus. I can only gesture towards a richer alternative that is already evidenced; does not need inventing.

Experience (the core of phenomenology) tells through written description. In this we can read structures that are already present; we do not need impose, nor ‘retro-fit’, structures that justify our per-existing narratives about things. Description from first-person experience shows the ‘how it is’ of our world.

A good example of this, in action, is…

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Heidegger Being and Time

An Arduino synthesizer that uses capacitative sensors to generate tones.(Prototype).

“Da-sein, that is the being of human-being…the creature whose being is essentially determined by its ability to speak” (p.22) !!!
The characterization of Heidegger as a phenomenologist becomes clearer if we consider this qoute taken from early in Being and Time:
“Not arbitrary and accidental structures but essential ones are to be demonstrated in this everydayness…by looking at the fundamental constitution of the everydayness of Da-sein we shall bring out in a preparatory way the being of this being” (p.15)

Much of Heidegger’s discussion to that point is setting up how Being (everything that is) partakes of isn-ess. But he frames that in terms of Da-sein, the being that reflects on being. So what is it about Being that it is shared by all beings, that it is not a being like others, that it is realized in Da-sein partially as reflecting on Being?

This places Heidegger’s concerns as dealing with metaphysical problems, i.e. the nature of time, but above and beyond ontic concerns of temporality to understand how Being realizes through Da-sein”

The focus of Heidegger’s question is
“In what way—the central range of problems of all ontology is rooted in the phenomenon of time correctly viewed and correctly explained” (p.18)

This problem is shrouded by the ‘ontic’ or the specific examples of being. The ontological, that which is, seems distant and irrelevant, even though without it, there would be no ‘ontic’ beings. Heidegger notes that research itself, and any specific event within a research project is an ontic phenomena. (P.17) in other words, research never gets to stand outside the ontology that it arises from. Heidegger emphasizes the historical nature of research, as how it takes place in time, as does all being. Moreover, it is conditioned by history, and tradition, so that it fails to see the origins and effects of its history. (P.19)

I suspect that as I read on, Heidegger will argue against emminant being (beings which exist outside of time, like God, for example) and this will give force to his position of his critiques as overcoming metaphysics.

A clue to a phenomenology of making, in the sense of making as the necessary element of maker-culture, lies in Heidegger’s account of appearance (p.26). Appearance can be a superficial perception of a phenomena, when the ontological ground that a given appearance rests on is one of presupposition. This could equally apply to ship wrecks, appearing on a beach(think Merleau-Ponty, here) or FMRI accounts of mind via brain activity. Each can have a presupposed nature.  Appearing (real appearing) (ibid) is ”on the basis of self-showing of something”.(ibid) ‘Appearing’ can mean a process versus ‘appears’. And appearing is simply indicating what we see, or more broadly, perceive.Something appears to be, can in one sense, indicating it is partially concealed. The sense of the term reflects our perspective, including our presuppositions. Heidegger makes an appeal to Husserlian accounts of going “to the things themselves” and avoiding presuppositions.

It is here that Heidegger’s turn of phrase becomes telling. Something “makes itself known”(p.26) a new thing demands a new perception of its appearance. Presuppositions can be overcome because they cannot easily accommodate this new artifact. Moreover, the maker doesn’t understand the thing until the intimate process of making is done.
The materiality of a made object can overcome the propositions that describe it. And the process of making lets the maker perceive beyond the presuppositions of the object’s original design or use.

“Every questioning is a seeking. Every seeking takes its direction beforehand from what is sought”.Heidegger, Being and Time, p.3

Making a question: forming plywood with a belt sander, Winter 2018

Partially assembled interactive art installation, The Concordia Ethnolab, February, 2018

Assembled, glued and clamped control pedestals, the Milieux Institute, MakerSpace, February 2018

Cinq Cinq Cinq, interactive art installation, exhibited at the Uncommon Senses 2 conference, April, 2018

This attends to Heidegger’s phenomenology; that phenomena calls for how it is to be perceived, understood, and examined. Take three phenomena of very different sorts. How we relate to a pet dog, to sadness, and to driving through the city is substantially different. The unifying factor is that in each case it is my perception, but the experience of each is very different. Prior to this qoute, Heidegger introduces being as different from other categories or genus, as any category must partake of being. None the less, we must differentiate the expression of being in the case of a horse from that of a unicorn. One is a material creature, with a history, a physical aspect that is intertwined yet separate from our perception. The other is mythical, existing in our imagination, and intertwined with history, but which has a claim to being only through imagination. And both our imagination and our perceptions are conveyed through our being.

The question of what being is, and how it can realize both material objects and imagined creatures is the problem Heidegger examines. Part of the problem is that the word being can refer to a general quality, and a specific object. Moreover, in Heidegger’s lexicon, Being is specifically used to describe a being which can reflect on itself, and its place in being. To illustrate, a rock can exist(a rock is a being), but a human both exists and reflects on its existence, including its ability to reflect on its reflexiveness. This is a succinct account of phenomenology, and though of a Heideggerian slant, generally applicable to phenomenology writ large.

What I would like to reflect on is the tension between how a phenomena ‘calls us’ to question it, and how we can then express that questioning. In academic writing, one approach is to prepare an experiment, then write about the hypothesis the experiment was intended to test, the methodology the experiment deployed, the results and significance of those results. Generally, the other method is to examine an existing phenomena, and then create a written description of a given phenomena, say a film, then analyze its significance in terms of the conceptual frameworks that seem most applicable.

Heidegger notes that how the being of words is different from that of materiality. This raises the question of the place of words in explaining phenomena. Notwithstanding the power of words to explain some, it may be the case that the limitations of words can be overcome by other means of expression. Even within the context of words, the prose of conventional research papers is different from the the lines of a poem, or the prose of a fictional narrative. Wittengenstein’s “of that which we cannot speak, we must therefore be silent” leaves open the possibility of addressing the most difficult questions by other means than words.

I am not proposing that we abandon academic prose. I am arguing that if we are to conceptualize certain difficult problems, we must address their materiality first, thus raising questions that address the thing itself, rather than our existing conceptions. This is epitomizes the notion of bridling or bracketing that is usually considered as vital to phenomenological approaches.

Making versus art

The maker-movement often addresses aesthetic concerns in its maker’s work. As such, while artists do make, and some makers consider themselves artists, the terms are not equivalent. As such, the social considerations of defining oneself as an artist becomes rather moot, as the aesthetic considerations of a maker need not require one to become a self-styled ‘artist’. So those who see expressive practices, such as painting, poetry and film, as relevant need to their work need not define themselves as artists. This a practical response to the common comment that ‘but I’m not a artist’.

The utility of this is that it encourages thinkers to engage personally with the materiality of things. The point is not to create an object that is lauded by the particular cultural structures of art. Rather it is to discover new questions.

“Questioning is a knowing search for beings in their whatness and thatness” ibid

To ask a question is to ask what something is. Heidegger discusses at length the strange way that ‘is’, explicitly assumes what being is, even when we ask the question, ‘what is being?’. That philosopher’s concerns focussed on ontological questions, as to the fundamental ground of being. It has been argued that answering the question as to why there is being (Why is there something, rather than nothing) is one of the three great philosophical contemporary questions, the others being why is there life, and what is mind/consciousness. Making need not address metaphysics. But in the humanities creating expressive forms lets us engage with the questions before they are over-determined by the language used in formulating the question. And this helps us not to confuse the being of a specific word, with the being of object it attaches to.

Reference

Heidegger, Martin, Being and Time, Tr.Joan Stambaugh, SUNY press, 1996

By engaging in research creation projects we can re-conceptualize certain problems by synthesizing phenomena that are not beholden to existing arguments. Moreover, we can create novel events that expand outside the internal coherence of existing argument. At the same time, we can address lived experience that is often elided by typically reductive and abstracted experiments.

I owe the stirrings of this argument with the works of several different authors. Alva Noë’s book, Strange Tools, John Kaag’s Thinking through the Imagination, serve to join Dieter Mersch’s Epistemology of Aesthetics with recent work by Rilla Khaled, Pippin Barr, and Jonathan Lessard. Khaled et al argue for recoverability rather than generalizability as a virtue of research /creation (practice-based) research. This resonates with Andrew Murphy’s discussion of cloning technics—making experiences broadly available to researchers, and encouraging a discussion of observed variation.

This notion of developing an understanding, or meaning, regarding the variation of an experience is a characteristic of existential phenomenology. To define what something “is” we imagine how many elements can be varied before an phenomena becomes something else.

It seems to me that such imaginative variation has to account for linguistic effects, that is how we define phenomena through language. This includes the limitations of a lexicon, vagueness within language, up to the post-modern critiques of the limits of language and reason. Concurrently, cultural biases have to be accounted for. Our conceptions of ontological and metaphysical questions are built within cultural structures. Language, institutions, academic disciplines, received history and so on. Moreover, these elements, as we perceive them, are always conditioning our perspective. If culture has an ontological basis, then culture itself is an ontological feature, as is its self-perception through the actors that embody it.

It is this sense of bodies as conveying culture, knowledge that leads us to think about creating aesthetic objects as a route to knowledge. Moreover, it is knowledge of gaps and inadequacies. It is a knowledge of questions unasked, or even unthought of. Yet at the same time, these questions are rooted in a materiality that is difficult to ignore. Dr.Johnson’s kicking a stone was meant as repudiation of Berkeley’s idealism. In reality, it is better thought of a as flawed example of performance art. Flawed because it stemmed from a misunderstanding of Berkley’s thought(who argued for ideas requiring a mind, not for a radical immaterialism). Berkeley would have agreed that we could feel the stone. But this is almost a proto-phenomenology, and would have echoes in Merleau-Ponty’s work in the Phenomenology of Perception.

Merleau-Ponty asserts that a theory of the body is a theory of perception. This requires an account of aesthetics that I’ve not yet completed. But the intrinsic quality of meaningfulness in having a fleshy body, in phenomenological critique, and in aesthetic experience, leads me to think that at least some more profound questions and insights may be found in research-creation projects.

Tags: blog post, draft, propositional logic, ontology, phenomenology lab

A table built by graduate students, using reclaimed wood, for Concordia’s Ethno-Lab.

Listening to George Adamson, an art historian, being interviewed by his twin brother, Peter Adamson, a philospher, about material intelligence. Material intelligence is in Adamson’s view the ‘tacit knowledge’ gained by working/interacting with a given material. He points out that planing pine is different from planing walnut, for example. In addition, each piece of walnut will be slightly different requiring a certain adaptation and sensitivity to each specific object. He points out this sensitivity cannot be learned through words, or even demonstrations. It requires repeated sessions directly in contact with the wood.

He argues that we have much less ‘material intelligence’ than past generations because (modern) technology places us at a remove from materials. He asks to think of the social, ethical, political, and technical relationships that produce a chair.

It is here that I think Adamson’s arguments can be turned towards a political phenomenology.

In my case, this tacit knowledge of physical material has a parallel with the tacit knowledge that underlies empathy. How empathy arises is unclear, as is the what constitutes empathy. Yet we tacitly recognise another, and have a sense of what they are thinking and feeling.

Adamson goes onto explore Aristotlean conceptions of knowledge to consider ethics as a craft.

Craft is specific to a given example of this singularity, and that meaning has resonance with phenomenology as ‘the meaning found through the experience of perceiving something’.

Glenn Adamson on Material Intelligence | History of Philosophy without any gaps

  • G. Adamson, Thinking Through Craft (New York: 2007).

• G. Adamson, The Craft Reader (London: 2010).

• G. Adamson, The Invention of Craft (London: 2013).

• G. Adamson, Fewer, Better Things: the Hidden Wisdom of Objects (London: 2018).

How is empathy(Einfühlung) conveyed by proprioceptive senses?

Specifically, what are the proprioceptive (the sense of bodily position and movement) qualities of our experience that indicate to us that we are engaged with another person?
What-it-is-like-to-have-an-experience, and what meaning is conveyed through that experience, characterizes the variegated field of phenomenological research.
What are the reasons for looking at proprioception?
What are the reasons for looking at tug of war?
Why is it important to know the answer to this question?

 

It is very hard to let go of the background issues; what are Aesthetics of play, what is the relationship of creative practices to research, what is mind?

When I read and then talk with someone, then I seem better able to focus on my narrow question:

What is it like to experience the presence of another while engaged in a game of tug of war?