Semiotic Materialism and the Art of Urbane Verificationism: From Plato's bed to Tracey's

Peter Cudmore
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The term ‘semiotic materialism’ appears as a half-joking citation in Daniel Dennett’s _Consciousness Explained_. I argue that it usefully draws together several philosophical and cognitive issues that bear on the question of whether the ‘sophisticated’ art of modernity is an entertaining diversion of relevance to a strictly limited fraction of society in pursuit of self-definition (the sociology of taste view), or whether it might be, on the contrary, a vital and indispensable element contributing to the continuing evolution of civil organization (the sociology of knowledge view).

I (half-jokingly) claim for semiotic materialism the slogan: ‘truth is the outcome of verification’, and substantiate this (in all seriousness) using Dennett’s multiple drafts model of consciousness and the mind-tools ontology he has subsequently developed along with Andy Clark. I take the ability to formulate and act quickly and smoothly on informally-constructed working hypotheses when exposed to complicated environmental variables to be a mark of urbanity. Developed from this perspective, urbane verificationism can alternatively be regarded as skilled oral performance--a radically social practice. I propose to illustrate my argument by comparing issues raised by Plato in his exposition of the ideal bed in _Republic_ (book 10) with Tracey Emin’s famously controversial 1998 installation _My Bed_.

Keywords: Semiotics, Sociology of knowledge, Sociology of taste, Cultural anthropology, Connectionism
Stream: Constructing Art Worlds
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: The Art of Urbane Verificationism

Peter Cudmore

PhD candidate, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh

After training as a composer in the late 1970s/ early 1980s (at Goldsmiths’ College, London, supplemented by visits to Peter Maxwell Davies’ classes at the Dartington Summer School of Music, and private study with David Ward) I moved to Edinburgh in 1990, where I became closely involved in literature and cultural politics through my work with Chapman Magazine. A Masters' in Cultural Policy and Administration (1996) focused my attention on fundamental problems which are now the subject of my PhD _The Social Context of Creativity_, a multidisciplinary project based in the English Literature department of Edinburgh University, but with links to philosophy, cognitive science, sociology and anthropology. Initially supervised by Professor John Frow, I am now advised by Professors Claire Colebrook and Andy Clark.

Ref: A06P0158