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" In each and every case that which unifies is mind." Aristotle, De Anima 430b.

In order to understand how footprints functioned for prehistoric hunters in a way similar to that in which symbols of all kinds function for us, we should recall some of the main attributes of symbols. All kinds of symbols, whether visual, verbal, formal or any other, have both special attributes, and attributes that are common to all types of symbols. The most basic attribute of every symbol and every image is a seemingly paradoxical one, namely: on the one hand every symbol connects all of the entities encompassed by it, but by this very fact the symbol also isolates and separates this class of entities from all others. That is to say, the fundamental attribute of every symbol is built on a dialectic or complementarity of connectivity–disconnectivity which I have tentatively called codis (Avital, 1997a). This double-edged property is probably one of the most basic mindprints, because in one way or another some other mindprints are derived from or depend upon it, and it is also multi-leveled. It appears on the material, the biological, and the noetic levels; it is therefore at the foundation of differentiation of any kind. From this basic mindprint, arise the most prominent attributes of our intelligence: abstraction and classification. It is true that there is connectivity on the material level, and also on the biological level, but noetic connectivity is higher than these two types, because it always generates classes of much higher levels. Since noetic connectivity exists mostly through symbols, the very symbolization generates an ascent of connectivity in relation to the level of connectivity of the things for which we create the symbols. Cultural history is therefore to a great extent the history of the connectivity generated by means of the various symbol systems. It would seem that the fundamental attribute of this evolution is the continuous rise of the level of connectivity, and more precisely of the level of codis, i.e. the simultaneous connectivity–disconnectivity that every symbol system generates. It is easy to discern this phenomenon if we observe the levels of connectivity of the following symbol systems: verbal language, totemism, mythology, philosophy and science. However, all of these symbol systems are based on an increasingly efficient recycling of conceptual connectivity to ever-higher levels. Science includes conceptual connectivity and also mathematical-logical or formal connectivity, which is the highest yet to have been generated. By contrast, the connectivity of pictorial symbols does not belong to this evolutionary continuity, but to the evolution of visual thinking. This type of thought preceded verbal thinking by hundreds of millions of years, for it has existed as long as vision, and vision is a mode of thinking. Visual connectivity exists in all kinds of visual thinking such as vision, dreams, imagining, and reaches its peak in footprints literacy, tool making and image making. Despite the fundamental difference between visual connectivity and conceptual connectivity, it is very probable that the first type served as the basis for the second, and that the second served as the basis for the next leap in the level of connectivity: formal connectivity. In order that it may be easier to see the connection between pictorial symbolization and footprints literacy, it is worthwhile noting here a number of properties of symbolization in general.

The attribute of connectivity–disconnectivity or codis is also at the base of the mechanism by means of which we create symbols of all kinds: abstraction. In every abstraction there are three components that act together simultaneously: we create a grouping of certain entities; secondly, we eliminate all of the specific attributes of each of these entities, and thirdly, we preserve only the most important of the attributes that are common to all of them. That is, we preserve under a certain class-name the common denominator which is an idealization and generalization of the attributes of these entities. The relation between the symbol and the object it denotes, is the relation between a type and a token or event, and a symbol is therefore an entity of at least one order higher than all those which it encompasses. Thus for example, the word 'dog' is a verbal symbol for all dogs that have been, are, or will be in the future. This label does not only connect all these dogs, but also distinguishes them from all other things. That is to say, symbols allow us to create differential groupings of various entities and thereby to classify, organize and order our worldview. The same principle of differential grouping holds for pictorial symbols. As in the case of verbal and formal symbols, so too are pictorial symbols constructed, by exactly the same processes of abstraction by means of which we generate the other types of symbol. So, for example, a prehistoric drawing of a horse does not describe some specific horse but is a pictorial class-name for all of the horses that have the attributes described in the drawing, and distinguishes all of these horses from all other living things. As in the creation of symbols of any type, here too we ignore very many aspects of all specific horses. But we preserve certain visual aspects that are common to most horses, such as the characteristic contour of a horse seen in profile, and this configuration becomes a pictorial label or connector for all horses of the same kind. In order to read the picture, it is essential that the reader be aware of most or all of the aspects of the horse that we have eliminated in the process of making the symbol for a horse. It will now be easier to see that the attributes of connectivity–disconnectivity, classification and abstraction that are present in every figurative picture and in all other kinds of symbol, are also present in footprints literacy.

Every hunter is a tracker, and every tracker is an expert at reading all kinds of footprints. Unlike the case of verbal or pictorial texts, footprints are not written but only read. But in exactly the way that the picture of a horse is a class-name for horses, so the type of footprint of the horse's hoof is for the hunter a visual class-name for a horse, even though the hoof of a specific horse created it. More precisely, if the footprint is that of a certain kind of horse, whose attributes such as age, sex, weight, characteristic manner of walking etc. are expressed in the type of footprint, then the footprint is a visual class-name or proto-symbol for all horses that possess these attributes. The relation between the footprint and the animal that created it is the relation between the type and its individual case. In a sense, the animal is a specific case of its footprint type, as every red apple is a specific case of a picture representing a red apple. Secondly, as in the reading of every symbol, footprints cannot be read without abstraction, since the tracker must reconstruct hypothetically the way in which the footprints were created. In this process, he knows that he must ignore most of the visual aspects associated with the animal that created the footprint, and treat the print as a formal common denominator characterizing the feet of all animals that are of the same kind, and have the attributes represented by the footprint. By generalization, the type of footprint represents for the hunter the whole animal even though in actuality it represents only a very small part of its body. The footprint is therefore a means of grouping, exactly like any verbal, formal or pictorial symbol; and every grouping requires abstraction since every grouping is made selectively and by classification, in the light of preconceived criteria of attributes. For the reading of footprints the tracker must have a kind of system of images or a 'theory', either explicit or implicit, about footprints. This visual preconception must include a general concept or image of the footprint as a sign left on the ground by a creature in certain circumstances. His visual vocabulary must include images for the footprints of different creatures, among them human beings. It is also essential that he have images of the footprints of these creatures at different ages and weights, with differing health and gait, and in different conditions of terrain and weather. That is to say, the reader of footprints must have a profound understanding of causality: between the fact of the gait of X and the formation of a footprint of the specific shape and attributes. He must also be able to estimate, according to the characteristics of the footprint, the time that has elapsed since the footprint was made, for there is no point in following stale footprints. By establishing the time, he must be able to estimate the distance between the maker of the footprints and himself. It is instructive that Kant, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, considered that the orders of space, time and causality were the most basic instruments of reason, and clearly these were the basic brain tools of the hunters of all time, even before there was verbal language. The prehistoric tracker-hunter had, then, an extremely complex visual or imaginative theory of footprints as a condition of survival. This theory included a system of images of different levels of connectivity and generalization and as in every symbol system, in footprints literacy too there is stratification of the system of images from the general to the specific. It has already been noted that every symbol is a connector - whether the symbol be a word, number, equation, law of nature, figurative picture, or footprint. Each of the different kinds of symbol and sign connects in a way special to the type. The question is in what way a footprint connects between living beings whose feet have the same pattern. The answer to this question brings us to the next set of mindprints common to figurative art and to footprints: symmetry–asymmetry.


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