Friday, August 24, 2012

Bryant's idealistic realism and/or realistic idealism

This is an interesting blog post by Bryant, which initiated this IPS discussion.

Balder: I enjoyed this post by Bryant.  It was clarifying for me, in some ways, but I guess also a mild let-down: what he articulates as the OOO anthro-de-centrizing of Kant (and Bogost's alien phenomenology) is very close to how I've thought about postmetaphysical enaction all along (so the mild let-down has to do with a feeling of "old news").  Kantian anthropocentrism seems like a non-problem to me, or a problem already dealt with by others prior to OOO.  Not that OOO doesn't contribute anything new, of course; but one of the central problems he is addressing is not one that registers as a significant one to me (because it has already been addressed).  This isn't to say, though, that Bryant doesn't address this lucidly and usefully in his own way; I think he does.

Concerning his strict materialism: to the degree that it replicates a Newtonian view of atomistic objects floating in a void, only relating when they encounter each other by locally bumping into each other or exchanging signals, I don't think this takes the present state of physics fully enough into account.  I definitely appreciate the concerns about non-locality appearing to involve or imply the kind of 'direct' or privileged access that OOO critiques, but I don't think that necessarily has to follow.  Although this is a bit of a tangent, I mention it by way of analogy: the therapist Judith Blackstone talks about a state of consciousness which is more space- or field-like, pervasive of objects, and even claims to be able to feel other people's feelings from within their bodies (rather than just noticing countertransferential feelings in her own), but she simultaneously affirms an intersubjectivist view, arguing that her experience of these things, while non-local in a sense (in that it exceeds the boundaries of what we normally think a body should be able to feel), is nevertheless not "direct" in the sense that OOO critiques.  The others' feelings are still being 'translated' by her, co-constructed or co-enacted, and therefore she doesn't claim authoritative knowledge of others' feelings; only a subtler transcorporeal mediated contactfulness.

theurj: While each object is unique it nevertheless has immense similarity to others in its class. Human bodies, e.g., are far more alike to each other than they are unique, uniqueness accounting perhaps for less than 1% compared to the similarities. (Just my uninformed estimate.) Therefore of course we can get inside another's body and mind since we are resonating with mostly the same emotion or language-thought. Granted as individuals we're going to have slightly different 'translations' of love, e.g., given our personal and cultural histories. But we pretty much share this thing called love and know it when we feel it not just in ourselves but in another
Bryant includes this notion in 'extended mind' and also 'second-order observation.' In both one can imagine what something is like for another. And if they share the same type of body (human) that imagining is far more accurate and akin as to be virtually synonymous, while not exactly so. This still retains an individual's uniqueness, as well as a hidden reserve that is not only not available to another but to oneself. It also pertains to the 'field' kind of knowing, in that any individual suobject is always in relation with others in an extended field and hence shares the same space-time. This is so even if there is that hidden reserve that is not 'relating,' as most of the suobject is doing so most all of the time.

I can relate the above to partner dancing. Through the physical and emotional connection between partners we can feel into and through each other. We connect to the music which moves us in individual ways but we nonetheless communicate that continuously to each other and create a partnered 'field' that is our particular dance. Which of course includes the particular song, as well as the other dancers around us, those watching, etc. The degree to which this happens of course depends on the technical, connection and communication skills of the partners. But when they feel into each other the dance expresses it beautifully and the audience feels it too, feels that aesthetic and emotional matrix they are creating, and it is shared by the field. Same for good art or film, how it connects us all the almost the same feelings and thoughts when we experience it together. There is indeed something universal about it as well as particular. Qualifying, of course, what is universal here is the same type of body, not some ideal, unchanging form.

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