“Embodied Collective Reflexivity: Peircean Performatives” is now published

“Embodied Collective Reflexivity: Peircean Performatives” is now officially published by the Journal of Critical Realism. Taylor & Francis/Routledge allows me to offer the official version (the Version of Record) free to up to 50 people through this link.

I am also making the “accepted manuscript” version of available for downloading. This is the final version submitted to the Journal of Critical Realism, and has some minor differences from the published version. (Posting on my personal site is permitted by Taylor & Francis/Routledge.)

The basic points (again) are these:

  • Reflexivity for individuals is a recursive practice in which one’s thought reflects on one’s own thoughts and actions, assessing past ones and preparing for new ones.  But agents are not just thoughts — they are not just intentional beings, but also embodied and efficacious in the material world.  It should be possible for agents to be reflexive not just through thoughts but through their entire embodied being.
  • If so, however, the structure of the recursion underlying embodied reflexivity can’t be the spiral of thought returning to thought, but one that involves all three of aspects of agency.  However, intentionality, causal efficacy, and embodiment do not stand in a linear relation: instead, they’re related through emergence and stratification, which the recursion must account for.  Peirce’s trichotomies achieve that.  Consequently embodied reflexivity must have a Peircean structure.
  • Agents also don’t exist alone, they always have social relations with others.  One of their key everyday challenges is sussing out others’ intentions (involving Theory of Mind), which has to occur through perceptions of their speech and actions (including self presentation, e.g, clothing, as an action).  That must be a crucial part of a collective mode of reflexivity.
  • Speech and actions are ways of doing things in the social world.  The basic point is made by Austin’s concept of speech acts, which he calls performatives, but the latter should be expanded to include “acts that speak” because embodied actions are imbued with meanings.  Theory of Mind is predicated on assessing others’ and producing one’s own performatives; an embodied and collective practice of reflexivity is intrinsically one of performers and spectators.  Hence “Peircean performatives.”
  • One (and perhaps the only) collective practice that performs this activity is dramatic performance, which covers theater, film, TV, and online streaming forms. Theater, however, is paradigmatic. Applying the Peircean recursive structure of reflexivity to theater, we find that not only can we explain theater’s ontology, but also its use of fiction.

A version of this argument intended for a theater studies journal is now in its final drafts.

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