Anametric Image Writing Isn't About Petroglyphs
In the course of a broader discussion concerning the relationships that hold between linguistic patterns of use and habitual patterns of thought, it is interesting to consider the degree to which those who use phonetic forms of writing are able (or unable) to initially grasp the ways in which anametric image writing functions.
With phonetic writing, written marks correspond to sounds of vocalization. These marks are combined to represent sound sequences for spoken words, which refer to distinct things. This process is called “signification,” whereby a “sign” (a “word” — the "signifier") stands for (“signifies”) something being referred to (a “signified”). The relationship between signifiers and signifieds is one of representation; and phonetic writing works through the correspondence between each sign’s word and its correlate object.
Anametric image writing does not work in this way. As a form of image writing, it functions through visual parameters, rather than through those that characterize the use of sound patterns in speech. It is all too easy for those who use phonetic forms of writing to imagine that a true image writing might use “pictograms” to represent words; but, that isn’t what happens here at all.
Anametric image writing is essentially generative in its basic functionality, rather than being representational.
Instead of single images (such as petroglyphs) standing for single words, composites of image elements generate concepts directly. This is where the field of philosophy — most properly, the study of how concepts are created — comes to the forefront in understanding how anametric image writing functions as a form of communication.
In point of fact, images do not function in the same way that signification — signs, such as words — does. Image writing unfolds through dynamics which are quite different than those which govern phonetic forms of speech. In seeking to understand how anametric image writing functions, we shall have to start from the ground up and be particularly mindful of the need to develop an understanding based within the materials we are working from, rather than through a preconception of what this form of writing might be — were it instead based within phonetic forms of writing. To this end, we would be well advised to start by drawing upon ideas which specifically pertain to the conceptual nature of images; such as, Jean-Paul Sartre's masterly analysis of "imaging consciousness" (released in 1940, and re-issued in 2004): The Imaginary: A phenomenological psychology of the imagination.
"These reflections bring us to pose the question of the relation of the image and the sign to their objects. For the sign, the object is clear: the sign consciousness as such is not positional… In every image, even in the one that does not posit its object as existent, there is a positional determination. In the sign as such this determination is lacking. From an object which functions as sign, a certain something is aimed at; but, of that something, one affirms nothing, one limits oneself to aiming at it. Naturally, this something is not manifest through the signifying matter: it is wholly beyond it."
Jean-Paul Sartre, "The Imaginary," page 23.
If we were dealing with a phonetic form of writing, we would be forced here to throw up our hands in despair; for, in the absence of the spoken language it conveys (or a translational equivalent), no phonetic form of writing can be deciphered — its signs are empty in and of themselves. But this is not the case with images — or with the simplified visual schema that constitute anametric image writing — which posit the matter of their content directly. Anametric image writing necessarily retains textures of experiential reference even in the absence of its associated spoken language(s):
"It is characteristic of the schema that it is intermediate between the image and the sign. Its matter demands to be deciphered. It aims only to present relations. By itself it is nothing."
"Through these black lines we aim not just at a silhouette, we aim at a complete man, we concentrate in them all his qualities without differentiation: the schema is full to bursting. To tell the truth, these qualities are not represented; in the proper sense, the black features do not represent anything but some relations of structure and attitude. But it is enough of a rudiment of representation for all the knowledge to be weighted down there, thus giving a kind of depth to this flat figure."
"The majority of schematic drawings are read in a definite sense. Eye movements organize the perception, carve out the spatial environment, determine the fields of force, transform the lines into vectors."
Jean-Paul Sartre, "The Imaginary," pages 29–30.
Schema — simple linear outlines presented as images of things — hold a very special place in consciousness. They are formed as if occupying a transitional middle ground between image and sign: they in effect trace the contours of a productive leap, from perception into thought. It is of their nature that schema compel this leap be taken: formed of eye movement tracing, schema are immediately filled with the lifetime of experience that has been neurally coded into memory through the dynamics of each person's eye movements. Even in sleep, our eyes trace the outlines of that which we are dreaming. And schema, "full to bursting" from perceptual experience, can compositionally extend the dynamic relationships they circumscribe: schema cause thought itself to form — as new thoughts not previously existing of the thinker's direct perception.
"The purely psychic ‘content’ of the mental image cannot escape this law: a consciousness that faces the thing that it aims at is a perceptual consciousness; a consciousness that aims emptily at the thing is a pure sign consciousness."
Jean-Paul Sartre, "The Imaginary," page 53.
"I could not accept a conception according to which the symbolic function would be added to the image from outside. It appears to me, and I hope to have made it somewhat obvious, that the image is symbolic in essence and in its very structure, that one cannot remove the symbolic function of an image without making the image itself vanish."
Jean-Paul Sartre, "The Imaginary," page 98.
As we begin to examine anametric image writing more closely, we shall find that very often the relational dynamics of an image's schematic composition will "aim emptily" at one of that image's key component elements, which is replaced by the schematic outline of something very different. In a face, for instance, the position of one eye might be taken by the image outline of an animal. Now, we all know that at no point in time has there ever been a person who actually had a mammoth where an eye should be; so, this would be an image which is not pointing to any actual thing: such a composite has transitioned away from being a simple image and into functioning as a sign. This is very basic type of visual modification immediately establishes the conditions necessary for us to demonstrate that we are not simply dealing with images here: in fact, we are looking at writing.
There is much of use and value in Sartre's writings for us to draw upon; but if we take nothing else away, one major point here must be remembered: images are positional, they posit things that exist and point to a fuller experience than they themselves capture and convey. Signs, such as words in phonetic forms of writing, are empty in this respect and do not carry such information with them: this must be learned, as systems of representational signification, with each sound sequence linked through learned experience with every word's usage patterns. If we do not know a spoken language, we can not decipher the meanings once conveyed through in its phonetic form of writing; but, this is not true of anametric image writing. Here, we can resolve image dynamics into compositional textures which directly teach us about existential relationships encountered long ago. There is much we can learn from such an image writing system, once we open ourselves to the realization that it functions in a way that is completely different from how phonetic forms of writing work.
Sartre's observation that "schema" — stylized outlines of images — are transitional between images proper and signs per say is crucial to us here. The distinction Sartre is making also proved crucial for philosophy, as a fundamental critique directed toward an unexamined assumption at the core of phenomenology: that the certainty which attends direct perception also holds true for mental images — which it does not (as Sartre demonstrated in his seminal work, "The Imaginary"). For our intentions, however, the fact that images do indeed point toward actually existing things — or imaginary things, such as imaging consciousness composes of elements drawn from images of existing things — is keynote for our understanding of how examples of anametric image writing can still convey information to us, even thousands and thousands of years after having been composed.
Because the image schema which compose this form of writing necessarily posit or point toward actual things of the world in which they were composed, we can immediately begin to determine the external consistencies for the concepts these image composites resolve. From the beginning, we are already halfway toward gaining an understanding of what this form of image writing conveys.
Because this form of image writing compositionally brings together elements from different images in assembling unique visual grouping patterns, we also have immediate access to the second half of what we need in order to understand how this form of image writing produces concepts directly: we can at once begin to trace the intentional differentials that distinguish each concept as being uniquely created.