This body wants to go on without thought.
A striking feature of this essay is it's complexity. Jean-Francois Lyotard's “Can Thought Go On Without A Body?” is essentially art. On top of the theoretical and philosophical concepts, Lyotard's essay is very obtuse and irresolute. He dabbles in algorithms, entropy, gender, psychology, pain, suffering (there are tones of Buddhism)– all of these called upon in such a manner that seems extraneous even to themselves. Lyotard splits this essay up into two pieces; HE and SHE as if to show a dichotomy of humanity. Much like a piece of art, “Can Thought Go On Without A Body?”, is contrived in such a manner to allow for interpretative elasticity, yet, still having basic (or complex) recognizable elements.
“And here is where the issue of complexity has to be brought up again. I'm granting to physics theory that technological-scientific development is, on the surface of the earth, the present-day form of a process of negentropy or complexification that has been underway since the earth began it's existence.” (Lyotard 22) Lyotard tosses this about, towards the end of the essay, and it contrasts a great deal from the apocalyptic intro. This is where he begins on his solution to entropy – negentropy – which essentially is humanity.
“All life is suffering.” - Buddha. Life suffers because life desires. “We need machines that suffer from the burden of their memory.” (Lyotard 20) Through out the entire essay he refers to human beings as hardware to run the “thought” software on – all the while manifesting, with speculation, a futuristic cookbook to allow our thought to continue – and the machines we must build to replace ourselves must have genders, must suffer, and must desire. Lyotard mentions that humans suffer because we are incomplete, because we have a male and female of our species. Males and females complete one another and do so in order to perpetuate our species (along with our thoughts – structured through language and education).
The passage I found most difficult; “If you think you're describing thought when you describe a selecting and tabulating of data, you're silencing the truth. Because data aren't given, but givable, and selection isn't choice.” (Lyotard 18) Using all the above as a preface along with these two passages:
“Thinking like writing or painting, is almost no more than letting a givable come towards you.” (Lyotard 18)
“The body and mind have to be free of burdens for grace to touch us. That doesn't happen without suffering. An enjoyment of what we possessed is now lost.” (Lyotard 19)
“Burden free” and doesn't happen “without suffering” strikes a cord of dissonance in a reader. However, I think we (humans) suffer and will suffer eternally because we desire. We desire to understand what it is to be a whole human being, instead of living one half of the human experience. We desire, so we suffer. Being burden free is free from distractions, so we can truly see what it is we desire. “...emphasis was put on the sort of emptiness that has to be obtained from mind and body...”(Lyotard 18). From this, grace touches us and our horizons are expanded.
As to why this essay was so hard to read; It may be to provoke thought, it may be to allow for interpretation, it may be only to reach a certain audience, or it may be a piece of pretentious excrement written by some pompous celibate. I really hope for my sake, I didn't spend hours reading eight pages to stroke someones Ego. Honestly, I think this piece is tongue in cheek. I'm paraphrasing, “We have to build robots... just like us to perpetuate OUR thoughts.” Lyotard admits “...human beings are an effect and carrier of this negentropy...”(Lyotard 22) In other words: hope.