04 September 2020

Space, place, body

(Excerpt from a work in progress)

If the three-dimensional time of the psyche is pre-spatial, i.e. prior to space, then space itself must be embedded in time, i.e. space must presence, or even be somehow located, in time, if at all, and not conversely: time presence in space. Space is what concedes places to physically extended, real beings so that they can presence and absence (essence) somewhere; extended, real beings cannot be nowhere, but must have a where. These wheres are the places where extended beings are or can be placed or pass through. Their connected totality constitutes the topography of a locality with its geographical characteristics through which human beings can journey or where they can sojourn, beneath the sky in which the sun, moon and stars have their places and well-defined movements. On a smaller scale, in a domestic cosmos, each human existence is led embedded within an ordered manifold of places where real-extended things of all sorts are kept in their respective places, ready to hand for some purpose or other. This connected order of places can very well be disordered, i.e. infected by a negation. Whether it be on a large topographical scale or a smaller, local one, the surrounding space is always a manifold of places where things can occur and also belong. Such occurring somewhere is always an occurring for the psyche that is able to focus within three-dimensional time on a place and things in that place and resonate with it.
Whether it be on a large, topographical scale or the smaller, local one of a locality, the surrounding space is always a manifold of places where things can occur, either stationarily or mobilely. Empty space is an abstraction from the complexly interconnected totality of places in their unique geography that is motivated by the mind’s quest to mathematize change of place, i.e. locomotion, thus rendering it calculable and subject to mastery via equations of motion, whether they be Newtonian or quantum-mechanical. It must be underscored that the occurring somewhere of things and places is always an occurring for the psyche that is able to (δυνάμει) focus mentally on a place and things at that place within the openness of three-dimensional time.
With the consideration of extended, physical things occurring somewhere at a place in the surrounding space, the human body also comes into its own as the likewise extended, physical vehicle through which we humans, under the guidance of our understanding psyche (our mind), can ourselves move physically from place to place, whether it be domestically within the home, locally or on a journey. As extended, physical, the body can be regarded as a thing, like any other thing, but this is the body merely as soma or corpus, quasi in the third person. Medicine is the science that first and foremost studies and treats the body as a corpus, i.e. as a thing. The body in the proper sense, however, is my very own, singular body that is the organ or organism (complexly interrelated set of organs) of my psyche. The failure to distinguish ontologically between body and corpus has led fatefully to collapsing the mind and psyche into the body, even to the extent that today it is quite natural to say nonsensical statements such as, “My brain is thinking such-and-such” or “My brain wants me to do such-and-such”. This is in line with neuroscientists’ claims today that phenomena of being I myself or of free will are mere illusions sitting atop unconscious efficient-causal mechanisms centred on the brain.

The apartness (Auseinander) of extended physical things in many different places goes hand in hand with the embodiment of the universal psyche of an historical age. Each body is individual, singular, but each partakes ineluctably, both in understanding and moodedness, in the psyche of an historical time, albeit often in entirely idiosyncratic ways. In particular, each one of us partakes in the historical psyche’s map of the world in a given age, a map being a geo-graphy, i.e. a graph of the Earth, showing its places that is first of all in the mind, but which also can be made into a physically extended thing by employing cartographic skills. Each of us is able to orient him/herself within this geographical world by way of mentally focusing on a (mental or physical) map, that has an explicit or implicit reference to the four cardinal directions of east, west, north and south given by the regular movements of the sun, moon and stars across the sky. Hence the geography of the Earth is always overarched by an astrography of the sky by means of which the celestial bodies provide orientation. Such orientation allows us also to bring near (ent-fernen) what is far off at another place, first of all mentally by directing the mind in-tentionally toward that place, but then also physically by either bodily travelling to that place or by bringing something at that place physically near, changing its place by whatever means, so that ultimately, through such transportation, it can be physically manipulated by the body, i.e. put to use, almost invariably by using one’s hands, those bodily organs under ingenious control of the mind.
Bodying physically in the world is enabled first of all by the mind’s oriented understanding of the surrounding, connected totality of places constituting the world. Such surroundings must present themselves to the mind, i.e. presence for the mind, in psychic three-dimensional time in order to ‘be’ at all. A totality of places does not ‘exist’ for itself, objectively independent of the mind, but only in the two belonging together. In particular, so-called ‘outer space’ with its vast vacuous distances, too, ‘exists’ only in and for the mind; it is a thoroughly human conception. One could say that the psyche’s mind employs the physical body as the organ (tool) through which it can encounter and deal with extended physical things located somewhere in the surrounding world. The human body is organized as an intricate complex of organs, each with its particular function for coping with the physically extended world as well as its own sustenance and maintenance.
As far as I can see, human being itself, i.e. human essencing, must be conceived starting from the all-encompassing psyche that enables all else to essence within it. In particular, we humans have a mind not because we have a brain (that somehow or other ‘efficiently causes’ consciousness), but rather, we have a brain because we have a mind, and the brain can only be understood starting from the mind, not conversely (which does not amount to claiming that the mind somehow ‘efficiently causes’ the brain). Since the living, embodied psyche comprises more than the mind, intercoursing as it does 3D-temporally with both the physical world and the shared psychic world of others in various moods and attunements, the body itself resonates with the world in ways beyond mental comprehension and control. Hence it can move emotionally in ineffable ways and is attuned as a whole by the Zeit-Geist of the age.

Philorock musical companion: Space, Place, Body.