chapter  4
Knowledge and pedagogy The role of personal embodied properties in human
Pages 9

Archer (1988) claims the human cultural system is itself full of contradictions and incompatibilities but that logical coherence determines how long they continue to be influential. While this might be true, it is a weak argument for the resilience of logical structures particularly when Archer points out that manoeuvres in the socio-cultural realm can be used to protect the interests of one group of people when necessary. An analysis of the role of the cultural system in socio-cultural interactions involves analysing how power relationships play out. It takes social and economic power to make people accept views of the world which contradict their own experiences and their own interests. Not only is knowledge crystallised in shared symbolic systems, it is embodied in people’s own physiological structuring, as they engage in agential action (Hyaden, 1969). This is in the sense of tacit abilities and skills which have developed through activities repeated time and again. Examples of this are: the ability to type, the balance to walk a tightrope, the fine motor skills of a heart surgeon, or indeed developing immunity after exposure to particular diseases. In short any ability which gets better with practice gives a person personal embodied properties (Archer, 2012), which are held at all levels within their make-up. These tacit aspects of human knowledge on both physiological and social levels are a consequence of the stratified nature of a person. The world exists independently of our knowing about it. Material, social and discursive structures within it are ontologically objective. We, including our reactions to the stimuli of the outer world, are of course also part of the world and colour, sound, smell, taste and our feelings are equally real too, but are ontologically subjective (Searle, 1995, p. 13), which means that they are only fully accessible to the person doing the sensing. These entities are emergent from the body’s physiological reactions. This is not, however, the way that most people view the issue. According to Kant, as we cannot learn directly about things in themselves existing outside ourselves, human knowledge can only be made up of the reflections of the world outside us (Kant, 1998 [1787]). In doing this Kant separated knowledge from the material world. Hence knowledge could only exist as ideas. This popular way of thinking about knowledge ignores its embodiment and opposes the world of the mind to the so called real world. By driving a gulf between the objective and the subjective, Kant sets up a form of dualism which hinders our understanding of these entities and their interaction with us (Sayers, 1985, pp. 19-31). As we are constantly interacting with the world, any study of human life is to study mutually interacting processes not just discrete objects. Sayers suggests that a dialectical approach based on Hegel’s development of the interpenetration of opposites is useful. Rather than separating the objective and subjective, the material and mental or reducing them to each other, it is possible to conceive of them as dialectically related to one another, or as Marx puts it:

thinking and being, to be sure are distinct but at the same time in unity with one another.