“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”  ~ Anais Nin

What are we that we should see such?


The pharasaic artform, the resonator, is the experiential equivalent of the Newtonian three-ball problem.  There are three media elements.  Any two together will lend itself to the creation of a simple narrative.  But three at once, with no actual connection between them, becomes entirely unpredictable.  As you try to see the whole thing, to frame it in your view finder, and exert maximal grip, it defies a predictive analysis.  Micro-fluctuations become amplified, symmetry is broken by a random event one level down.  This lightweight structure, where meaning arises without effort, this is you-here-now-awareness-attention.  It is a tool, designed like a mantra.  And it must be allowed to run for at least 30 seconds.  Otherwise, that ain’t part of the game.

The earworm phenomenon has fascinated me for years.  Why is our language of experience so impoverished that we can not even describe this thing?  To me it provides a very familiar example that highlights some conceptual distinctions not generally accepted.

One can distance one’s self from the tune in the head, by observing it, perhaps with annoyance.  Now it is a thing.  It is not hugely different from a teapot, which is out there in the world.  It can thus be apportioned to von Uexküll’s Merkwelt.

But it often is going on without being observed.  During such times, it may cause you to “spontaneously” break out into a hum or a whistle.  At such times, it is rather part of the “Wirkwelt”, and if we speak of it as a thing at all, it seems more clearly to belong to the subject.

It shares many properties in common with the kind of thought that we recognize as linguistic, or inner speech.  We describe thinking as an activity of the subject, but thoughts also come unbidden, and one can adopt a similarly dichotomous stance with respect to such thoughts. When viewing it as a thing, it is sometimes called an “occurrent thought”.  When ‘doing’ it, that seems odd.  But the difference is one of the stance we take towards it.

Merleau-Ponty, along with Wittgenstein and Sheets-Johnstone, insists that speech is not the clothes of thought, but is thought incarnate.

“The word and speech must somehow cease to be a way of designating things or thoughts, and become the presence of that thought in the phenomenal world, and, moreover, not its clothing but its token or body” (Merleau-Ponty, P of P, p. 182)

“Movement is not a medium by which thoughts emerge but rather, the thoughts themselves, significations in the flesh, so to speak” (MSJ, Thinking in Movement, p. 400)

“When I think in language, there aren’t ‘meanings’ going through my mind in addition to the verbal expression” (LW, PI, p. 107)

When we regard speech as an inner voice, we are viewing it in the Merkwelt.  When we simply think, it is all Wirkwelt.  It is to the latter that the above quotes pertain.  But I think we can learn to develop a technical language that acknowledges both facets of experience.  This is not dissimilar in spirit to William James’s notion of experience as an intersection of two lines – one the lived world of the subject, the other the conventional ontic world of teapots and tables.

One of my favourite metaphors for the individual is as a locus, through which ideas pass. This is fundamentally at odds with the received notion of the individual as a repository of memories. If the memories you have are inextricably linked to the situations, places, and scenes you find yourself in, is that not being the kind of thing that resonates in a particular way rather than being a storehouse of some set of .. well, if you believe in memories, then you believe in responses. A vast set of responses. In insisting on the autonomy of the individual, one insists that the interaction between you and a place is somehow frozen? I guess I don’t understand the idea of memory.

The set of things generally acknowledged to be real is getting bigger. That’s gotta be a plus.

I’m trying to read Fodors “The mind doesn’t work that way”. I’m failing. The main reason is that I simply don’t have any understanding any more of what the word “mind” and the corresponding adjective “mental” mean. They appear to be fictions. There is experience. No doubt about that, but experience is not the same thing as mind. It doesn’t “work” any way, for example. It also is not modular, nor does it have any architecture whatsoever. In fact, experience is our starting point in understanding what “is”. Experience is not a thing, or a stuff, of any kind at all. It is thus not some kind of spooky Cartesian alternative to “material reality”. Experience is the P-world.

P-worlds are countable, discrete. To each belongs a nervous system in a body in an environment. By associating minds with the functional domain of the nervous system, a fictitious entity is created that then can’t be found. As Clark and Chalmers point out, if you take that view, then you find bits of this mind scattered all over the place: in notebooks, artifacts, etc. It leaks out of the head. Nervous systems, considered as things, are just objects in the environment, like notebooks.

I’m confused, but so is everybody else, which is some comfort. My approach hitherto has been to junk the mentalese vocabulary. No more talk of minds and the mental. But that prevents me encroaching on a lot of our collective discourse, and ensures that P-world theory remains marginalized, and can aspire at best to account for aspects of our being that are currently without any story. Hence the focus on madness and sex. How, then, can I develop the discussion towards received areas?

We look at a simple cell and we can see both the world it is embedded in, and the much more limited set of distinctions it is capable of making.  These latter distinctions are drawn in terms of the cell’s own constitution and collectively form the world met by the cell: its phenomenal world.  Now we look at our own P-world.  We can imagine a being with greater perceptual abilities standing above and without all that we see and encounter and seing us in similar fashion.  Where then, is our equivalent to the membrane?  Answer: the limits of perception: those surfaces and sounds and sensations that make up the P-world.  Put differently, the media constitute the membrane of the P-world.  This serves to help define media too.

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