15. Language and the signifying object: From convention to imagination

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In this chapter we argue that intersubjectivity cannot be grounded in individual mental or representational content. Intersubjectivity, therefore, is not equivalent to “common knowledge”, rather common knowledge (indeed individual knowledge in the true representational sense) depends upon intersubjectivity. Intersubjectivity is the fundamental basis of what Durkheim (and Searle following him) have called “social facts”, which are irreducible to (though they depend upon) biological and individual psychological facts. Intersubjectivity is based upon participation in joint action, and such participation also implicates the shared material, interobjective world. Participatory engagement with signifying objects accompanies and underpins the child’s entry into the symbolic realm of language, and makes possible the development of subjectivity and cultural identity through participation in narrative practices.[It] is always difficult for the psychologist to think of anything ‘existing’ in a culture … We are, alas, wedded to the idea that human reality exists within the limiting boundary of the human skin! (Bruner 1966: 321) <br />The body is our general medium for having a world … Sometimes the meaning aimed at cannot be achieved by the body’s natural means; it must then build itself an instrument, and it projects thereby around itself a cultural world. (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 146) <br />Observation of O. at 2:4;5. Father goes to get him from the car seat. O. keeps his eyes closed, eyelids quivering slightly, with a slight smile. Then he opens his eyes and says “I’m sleeping”, laughing.


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