25 January 2017

Sich aufrichten

"sic igitur inflatus et tumens animus in vitio est." (Cicero Tusculanae Disputationes III 19)
"So ist also eine aufgeblasene und geschwollene Seele verdorben."

Jeder richtet seinen eigenen Phallus auf
und sichert seinen Stand,
so gut er es kann.

Weitere Lektüre: Phänomenologie der Männlichkeit und 'Was heißt Männlichkeit?'.

Briten, Deutsche & Franzosen

Die Briten können ihren Newton nicht verwinden.
Die Deutschen können ihren Kant nicht verwinden.
Die Franzosen können ihren Descartes nicht verwinden.
Jedes Volk richtet sich so bequem wie möglich
In seine jeweilige hermeneutische Zwangsjacke ein,
Und zwar so sehr,
Daß es die geschichtlichen Fesseln um seinen Geist
Nicht einmal merkt.

Alternative hermeneutische Entwürfe des Geistes
Für ein anderes Zeitalter
Fallen nicht vom Himmel.

Brits, Germans & French

The Brits can't get over their Newton,
The Germans can't get over their Kant,
The French can't get over their Descartes,
Each people makes itself as comfy as possible
In its respective hermeneutic straight-jacket,
So much so,
That it is completely oblivious
To the historical fetters on its mind.

Alternative hermeneutic casts of mind
For another age
Do not grow on trees.

17 January 2017

Whereless mind & soul?

'Awareness' can be regarded as a general title covering what the philosophical tradition names as 'consciousness' or 'soul, Seele, animus, yuxh/, mind, Geist, mens, nou=j'. All these terms stand for the openness of living beings, and human beings in particular, to the world, their receptiveness for the world in how it presents itself to them.

Greek philosophers were the first to grapple with the question concerning awareness which, for them was part of the larger question of how the mode of being called 'life' could be answered. For the Greeks, the yuxh/ is the name for the principle of life; a living being, whether it be plant, animal or human being, bears within itself the beginning governing its own self-movement, instead of being only moved externally by other movers, other motors. This power of self-movement, which is a  mode of being called the yuxh/, is coupled with an openness for the world called ai)/sqhsij, sense perception. Sense perception can take in what the senses sense in the present. This restriction to the present turns out to be fateful for Western thinking -- and for us today.

At the latest since Descartes, modern thinking has replaced all talk of the yuxh/ by that of 'consciousness', which remains the great perplexing enigma for modern philosophy in its slavishness to modern science. The latter's program is to reduce all phenomena to physical theoretical explanation, thus giving science a grip on them -- preferably through calculable equations. Consciousness is a phenomenon that both modern philosophy and modern science seek to locate somehow or other in the physical brain (Descartes proposes the pituitary gland). Analytic philosophy talks of the 'hard problem of consciousness' and eschews any talk of the 'soul', which it regards as a metaphysical residue it has long since superseded..

The Greek word yuxh/, however, means not only 'psyche, soul, anima, spirit', but derives from the verb yu/xein,  'to breathe, blow', hence 'breath, wind', like Greek a)/nemoj (Latin: anima). This indicates that already the Greeks, but then also Latin philosophers, were intent on comprehending the yuxh/ as something quasi-physical like wind, air, breath, to facilitate understanding of what  life is. They chose the lightest of basic elements to match the 'insubstantial' nature of the soul

With such ontological proximity to the physical, the question naturally arose as to where the yuxh/, animus, soul is to be located. It was self-evident that it must be located somewhere or other. As far as the human soul is concerned, the centuries-long philosophical discussion settled on two favourite places for the soul: either within the human body or way up at the highest reaches of the heavens, both ideas being readily assimilable to Christianity, especially since already the pagans thought of the soul, and in particular the mind, as divine. At death the soul leaves the body and flies quickly up to heaven.

Hence we read in Cicero's Tusculanae Disputationes I 70, for instance:
"sic mentem hominis, quamvis eam non videas, ut deum non vides, tamen, ut deum adgnoscis ex operibus eius, sic ex memoria rerum et inventione et celeritate motus omnique pulchritudine virtutis vim divinam mentis adgnoscito. In quo igitur loco est? credo equidem in capite, et cur credam adferre possum.

"Thus with the human mind, although you cannot see it -- just as you cannot see god, but you recognize god from his works -- from memory and inventions and the speed of its movement and all the beauty of its virtues you recognize a divine power. And in what is it located? I believe in the head, and I believe I can provide reasons why..."

It is the mind as the part of the soul distinguishing humankind from beasts that is considered to partake in immortality:

"cum de aeternitate animorum dicatur, de mente dici,("...in speaking of the eternity of souls. one is speaking of the mind." Cic, Tus, Dis. I 80)

For the thinking of antiquity, therefore, the mind has a location, either in the head. as long as the human is alive, or at the highest strata of the heavens, when the human dies, that is, if it doesn't end up in Hades.

If the soul and mind, however, are not physical beings, but rather modes of being signifying both self-movement and open awareness for the world, then it makes no sense to puzzle over where they are located or their movement in the sense of change of place, i.e. loco-motion. Rather, the "celeritate motus" to which Cicero refers above is a a quickness of the mind itself, say, in recalling from "memoria". Thus he also writes, "...nihil est animo velocius, nulla est celeritas quae possit cum animi celeritate contendere." ("...nothing is faster than the soul/mind; there is no speed that could contend with the speed of the soul/mind" Tus, Dis. I 43 -- 'animus' has multiple significations and can mean both 'soul' and 'mind'). This statement could be re-interpreted as referring to how quickly movement within the soul/mind happens. For, if the mind/soul is thought as the openness for the world, it is pre-physical in the sense that it gives all that is physical its possibility of presencing for mind and soul, for instance, when something is recalled from memory, which could, of course, also be forgotten just as quickly, thus absencing from the mind. Such presencing and absencing are not subject to the absolute physical speed limit of c, the speed of light.

As the openness for the presencing for all that is physical, the mind/soul is the pre-physical enabler of all movement/change in the sense of enabling its presencing, and hence also its disclosure to and/or hiding from the human being itself. Although themselves physically whereless, mind and soul provide the 'whereness' for all possible human awareness of the world. Beyond such openness we know nothing and can know nothing at all, and should simply shut up about it

As long as you are physically able, through your very own body, of partaking in this openness, you are alive. When you die, it is your body that recedes from this openness. This is the opposite of traditional interpretations of either the soul or of consciousness as located physically in the body.

Whereas thoughts can be recalled to mind, or simply come to mind, it would be more appropriate to speak of moods as resonating in the soul. In this way, mind and soul could encapsulate the dual openness of human being for the world through understanding and attunedness (the latter especially through music). As this openness, mind and soul offer a venue for the presencing and absencing of all sorts of occurrences that could possibly occur to human world-openness. Physical presencing through the senses is only one option among several.

The scope for the mind's imagination is not restricted to calling physical beings to mind since, for instance, both geometrical figures and arithmetic entities such as number can also be called to mind. According to Aristotle, geometrical figure has no place, but only position, and numbers have neither place nor position, thus enabling pure calculation. Both result from abstractions from physical beings. Imagination remains forever beyond the reach of modern science, even though it likes to appeal to the creativeness of the scientific mind. As such, modern science cannot be the final word for our access to the world.

Further reading: The Digital Cast of Being and A Question of Time.