Man is involved in an ongoing process of self-invention. Each of us has to invent each self further out of what we have at our disposal.
Dance is an outstanding event or series of events of variegated ordinariness. Dance cannot be studied apart from a body and its surroundings. But to what extend do surroundings and body guide its behavior?
This paper aims to consider the relation between a body and its surroundings as evolutive in the sense Charles Darwin presented on On The Origin of Species (1859) and will take two theoretical instruments: the Meme Thesis of Richard Dawkins (1976) and the Representational Thesis of Fred I. Dretske (1989). To go in this direction we have first to calibrate precisely the inflection of our thoughts. This calibration is the stepping stone to sites of reversible destiny of established truths.
In Cambridge, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT, Mriganga Sur and his researching crew rewired retinal neurons - which normally send sensory data from the eyes to the visual cortex - in 16 newborn ferrets so the data went instantly to the animal's auditory cortex. In a sense, the 16 ferrets began to hear things they would normally see. The ferrets heard visual inputs.
This means that the different outcomes depend mainly on putting different inputs in the brain. And means also that cortex does not perform basically the same operations as a programmed machine. If auditory cells transform raw data into patterned response to stimuli that has until now been clearly identified only in the visual cortex, there is nothing intrinsic about auditory cortex that makes it auditory. And if this is so, everything may depend on what kind of input we get early in life.
Brains are structured in an extremely subtle and complex way of wiring and our concepts are physically part of our brains because our conceptual systems are distributed over configurations of synaptic connections and they require a rewiring of our brains. Although massive rewiring is not really possible, much can still be done.
Biology and Physics are also largely responsible for our system of concepts, besides Culture. Culture cannot be taken apart as exclusively an action of man upon Nature because man does not stay as an observer of Nature. Man is absolutely implicated in what he observes. Ilya Prigogine, 1957 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, explained how matter behaves in Nature as a constant transit between Nature-Culture-Nature in his brilliant book La Nouvelle Alliance (1984).
Fred I. Dretske, chairman and professor in the philosophy department of Stanford University, developed a naturalistic theory of mind under the banner of Representational Thesis. It states that "all mental facts are representational facts, and all representational facts are facts about informational functions"(1989).
The proposition here is to take dance as information that comes to the brain and to the body in this sense. Introspection, self-knowledge, desire, imagination, belief, intuition, consciousness, sensing affairs in general - all these are themes for cognitive science, which means, all are themes for investigations outside the anthropocentric discussions about them that usually begin with a person pointing to his diaphragm and beginning a sentence with a "For me...".
If we can assume dance as an experience, we are configuring dance as a representational fact about an informational function. Or, for anyone who wishes, we can present dance as a conscious mental state. And conscious mental states are not states we are conscious of but conscious with (Dretske, 1995:101; Dennet, 1991). That is the meaning of consciousness that is being taken under consideration in this paper.
One gets "privileged information about the character of one's own experiences not by looking inward", by experiencing one's experience, but by simply having the experience, "usually an experience of external objects which carries all the information one needs to know the experience is like" (1995:149).
Daniel Dennett (1995) had already explained that there is not any homunculus - that little human being that may live inside our brains telling us what is going in there as an host to the experiences that happen there and also as a translator of them to us, persons that know what is happening because we have this "interior voice" that speaks silently to us.
Introspection is not a process by which one looks inwards, a voice that can be heard inside our brains (the voice of the homunculus) Introspection is an instance of displaced perception - knowledge of internal (mental) facts via an awareness of external (physical) facts. (Dretske,1995: 40-1)
The mind's awareness of internal objects or qualities is an idealistic fallacy that confuses what we experience with the experience of experiencing it (1995:149). EXPERIENCE IS SOMETHING THAT IS EXTERNALLY CONSTITUTED AND EXTERNAL INCLUDES BODILY STATES.
According to Hanna and Antonio Damasio (1994), there is a neural basis for consciousness. A real nervous system operates on many levels of significant dynamic activity from patches of active membrane to cell assemblies.
Consciousness is a muscularly active process rather than a passive one like that common sensation that consciousness is what I can feel right now about myself speaking in front of you. I know I am here doing exactly this because I can be conscious of it. Consciousness can be present also during periodes of muscular inactivity - like when we just sit and think - because it does not depend on inward lookings.
We also know that almost all experiences have a "what-is-like" quality accompanying them. A quality hard to describe that most prefers to maintain as mysterious and pervasive. Nevertheless, it can be understood, yes, and without reasons to be brought from their places like spirit or soul.
We do have a proprioceptive awareness of bodily states and processes. That is the reason why when you see, you do not just see, as Damasio explains , but you feel you are seeing something with your eyes (1994). It is not spiritual it is material; it is a bodily occurrence.
General discussions about dance try to maintain as a powerful weapon the "fact" that dance is non-reducible to what a body is producing because it is "evident" that it carries much more than this "poor material thing".
Those who agree with this type of consideration think dance as wonderful mainly because it has an evanescent flavor and produces a kind of pervasive sensation that cannot be described in its entirety through words. For them, this is "the real dance", the sum of what the body does (movements) with what this doing produces by itself (the aura) and cannot be catched by rationality. Those who follow this assumption are proud of the aura - in Walter Benjamin's sense - they put on dance.
This "real dance", absolutely auractic, takes us to an area where progress is most difficult, in Cognitive Science: the quality of perceptual experience or qualia. People who are reluctant in accepting qualia as "phenomenal properties that an object is sensuously represented by the organism's sensory system as having" (Dretske, 1995: 73) needs to maintain dance beyond any plausible explanation of its nature. When we accept Dretske's proposition we understand that the evanescent thing turns immediately to be physical also. But without being impowerished, as the aura's believers tend to accuse.
These are concepts that can guide us in an investigation of dance as a bodily experience in a naturalistic approach. And that can make clear that everytime we think on dance as an experience we are taking two senses together: Biology and Culture.
If dance is an information that can be put in a body but it is not an encoded instruction in its DNA, it is something that this body must learn. Strands of DNA encode instructions for building and maintaining living organisms. Ideas seem to undergo an analogous process. If we agree that dance happens as ideas that have been embodied, we come to a starting point where movements that a body learn how to perform can be understood as instructions (informations) that this body begins to replicate. As anything else that can be replicated this information - dance - must obey the laws that regulate replication.
Now we came to Richard Dawkins' realm, the evolutionary biologist that explained how ideas replicate. Dawkins did it by introducing the notion of a meme - a replicator of cultural information analogous to a gene (1976). "Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so do memes propagate themselves in the pool of memes by leaping from brain to brain".
In Dawkins view, Culture, as Biology, can be thought as a space where occurs exploration and transformation of information through variation, selection and replication. In other words, Culture can be thought as an evolutive environment analogous to Biology but with its private characteristics.
We will take the Meme Hypothesis to trace what can be taken as experience in a dancing body. And it will be also helpful in the understanding of how mental representations are generated, organized, stored, retrieved and expressed by an individual.
To be replicated the meme has to held a pattern. Explanations about pattern in information vary. All patterns in the information, according to Gabora (1997), can be traced to three principles: the physical constraints and self-organizing properties of matter, biological evolution and cultural evolution.
This understanding points that Culture is grounded in Biology and Biology in Physics. This biologically-inspired model of culture supports a connection to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution: memes arise through combinations and transformations of old memes. Ideas and emotions are encoded as informations in memes.
As Damasio had already demonstrated (1995), neurons process reason and emotion simultaneously. Maybe we can take this as a response to old questions as those that separate form and content or those that refuse to accept dance as a material phenomena - an experience -where emotion and thinking are melted. The body is not a physical space limited by the neck and the feet. Almost everything that occurs in the body begins in the brain.
A meme crystallizes from the world of ideas (genotype) into words or body language or objects in the physical world (phenotype). When ideas get embodiment they are genotypes that extend themselves into phenotypes.
Culture is the only system comparable to Biology because it exhibits the imperative of evolution - adaptative exploration and transformation of an information space through variation, selection and transmission.
"Since memes do not come packaged with instructions for their replication, they must rely on the pattern-evolving machinery of our brains to do it for them. This is a state of dependence that enhances their proliferative potential, because the machinery constructs and continually updates mental models of its worldview to enhance the assimilation and implementation of the memes and their offspring" (Gabora, 1997: 20).
Since concepts are physically encoded in the brain as memes and grounded in the body as its extended phenotypes, our brains and bodies can change - memes are evolutive. And dance can contribute as one possible moral force in presenting the disruption of our normal ways of functioning as being an aesthetic experience.
If our memes arise from the way our bodies interact in the world we can change them by changing how we interact. Using dance or outside dance. And this is valid also for understanding transformations inside dance.
Since bodily experience is continuously being disrupted because it happens always as part of an ongoing process that is evolutive, freshness becomes a need and also one of the most prominent characteristics of Culture. What was put in a body does not remain there.stable as a kantian noumenon
As soon as it has been brought inside, it locates itself by rearranging all the environment. So, the previous inhabitants begin immediately to respond to this need of accommodation by transforming themselves by the pressure of the new income.
As these continuous incomes are what make us living bodies, they do not silence. Their non-stop ingoing and outgoing can be understood as an evolutive process because it operates using the evolutive principles of selection, preservation and replication.
When your body learns a movement it practices a very complex task. It must be able: 1) to decode which is the pattern that there is in that movement; 2) to select other similar patterns; and 3) to aggregate it with others it may combine.
Like when a child sees for the first time his mother in a blue dress and sees her again, in the next day, in a red dress. "Mother-in-the-blue-dress" and "mother-in-the-red-dress" are decomposed to an extend where "mother" appears as a regularity.
In the sense it is being taken in this paper, "Ex-Experience" can only remain as a nostalgic semantic formulation. When we consider the Darwinian process a major law of the universe, the body does not have past experiences that can be recovered as past in its entirety. What a body can have is experience. Basically, because time is not reversible, as Prigogyne had already explained to us. Even Einstein, at the end of his life, began to reconsider the reversibility of time he had established in his Theory of Relativity.
Experience is a stream, a flux that gives form to living processes. As a living process, this is the matter dance is made of. And if this is the matter dance is made of, dance can be also considered as an evolutionary process of bodily experiences.
As life itself, dance is made of this ever surprising and non-stop combination of Biology and Culture. As a pool of dancing memes dance is a privileged place to understand evolutionary processes.and to be understood as one evolutionary process by itself.
In understanding dance experience as an ongoing present where past is continuously being re-located, we come again to Cognitive Science, the area where science explains what cognition is in a living body.
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