Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Distributed Mind

Levi Bryant begins to craft an OOO theory of mind. Brilliant. Uncannily we seem to have been inching toward the same position. Try this:

"on this view, mind is not to be found “in” neurons, but in sensual interactions between neurons and other objects."

Sure maybe a brain in a bucket could manifest mind. But it would be a catatonic mind compared with an ant trying not to stumble over some sand grains.

Another implication is that enaction (Varela's term for this kind of mind) is a sensual object in OOO-ese.

Forestmongrel, are you there? This should be up your alley...


Bill Benzon said...

Tim -- The single smartest thing I've read about the mind in the last decade and a half is a remark by Eleanor Rosch in "Transformation of the Wolf Man," which was published in a volume on Buddhism and psychology back in 1997. Toward the end she observes:

What is even more remarkable than that the contents of mind are continually shifting is how little interest researchers in attention have shown in this phenomenon. William James speculated about the stream of consciousness at the turn of the century, and the portrayal of stream of consciousness has had various literary vogues, but experimental psychology has remained mute on this point, the very building block of phenomenological awareness.

I think she's right. Stream of consciousness IS critical. Do a little introspection and notice how far and wide your mind flits about, even when you may be overall concentrated on, say, writing about Wordsworth. We haven't a clue about what's going on and how, despite this flitting about, the mind manages to accomplish anything.

On that score it's not clear to me that either of the views in play in your post -- mind in neurons vs. mind in interaction with other objects -- has much to offer.

Note: Since then Rosch has written quite a bit about Buddhist psychology. I've not read any of it, but she's got a first rate minid.

ulrich said...


The ‘speculative realist movement’ exists only in the imaginations of a group of bloggers promoting an agenda for which I have no sympathy whatsoever: actor-network theory spiced with pan-psychist metaphysics and morsels of process philosophy. I don’t believe the internet is an appropriate medium for serious philosophical debate; nor do I believe it is acceptable to try to concoct a philosophical movement online by using blogs to exploit the misguided enthusiasm of impressionable graduate students. I agree with Deleuze’s remark that ultimately the most basic task of philosophy is to impede stupidity, so I see little philosophical merit in a ‘movement’ whose most signal achievement thus far is to have generated an online orgy of stupidity.

Timothy Morton said...

A little odd, Ulrich, because Ray invented the term speculative realism himself.

Karl said...

wheres the proper medium for philosophical debate anyhow? some over yonder away from the "stupid" or tucked into journals no is allowed to read? elitism/hubris to vanguard the "stupid" is really encouraging.

ulrich said...

odd indeed but his own words,896

Timothy Morton said...

Ulrich, have you seen this?

ulrich said...

no I didn´t. thank you for the link.

Timothy Morton said...

Okay, Ulrich. Now try this one.