Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Realm of Thought. (Option #1)

Since the primary topic of Lyotard’s essay concerns the idea of thought going on without a body, I decided to work more directly with that in my chosen passage. It speaks thusly…

“Thought borrows a horizon and orientation, the limitless limit and the end without end it assumes, from the corporeal, sensory, emotional, and cognitive experience of a quite sophisticated but definitely earthly existence – to which it’s indebted as well.”

On the surface, this may seem to be a straightforward phrase, if a bit wordy, but it is often times in any philosophy that the simplest line may account for so much more. You can’t just say, for instance, that it is an analogy for the state of the human mind versus the world it interacts with, even if that is an acceptable statement. You’re just scratching the surface, though. Take thought itself, for example. Just on its own, what is thought? “Well, it’s the act of thinking, isn’t it?” Yes and no, actually. Thought implies thinking only because it is what precipitates from thought. Thinking is the act of reasoning and the solving of problems in a manner which can either be labeled as a form of adaptation or sign of higher evolution, depending upon who you listen to. Thought is about as different from thinking as the mind is from the brain or physical body. In this case, Lyotard would extend it as a something that exists outside of the corporeal realm, dipping its astral fingers into the world through the body to take from it what it will. We’re talking about an entity here, which in terms of Descartes would be coined as a ‘thinking thing’ that exists because it has the power to reason that its thoughts are not mere illusion.

As you can probably guess, I’ve had some philosophy background. More to the point, I’m currently taking Metaphysics, which is good because Lyotard certainly uses that way of looking into things. But returning to the point, he states that thought borrows from its corporeal surroundings – that it seems to have no real limitation in of itself – but then makes the claim that because it is connected to a body, it may perish once the body is finished. One cannot deny that thought gains from viewing the world as it is to shape itself into the thinking thing that it is. The question is whether or not it is completely subservient to that body, that load of organic mishmash which is entirely limited. We – as humans – take the world for granted, and how we perceive it. That which we see, touch, taste, hear, smell, and sense (through more subtle and instinctual ways) are interpreted by a fundamental bias. It is not enough to look at the chair you’re sitting in and say, “That’s a chair.”, because that’s not the whole truth of it, but merely the view of the facts as plain as the nose on your face. Sorry… “Nose”? “Face”? What are these things but labels made for the convenience of everyday life? This is the logic of only the corporeal world, not the extended mind. The chair you’re sitting in (if you are sitting) is a material object that we have decided to call 'chair'. Everything we perceive is defined because we humans invented words to speak those definitions, but the mind – pure contemplative thoughts – rejects this status quo because they are limited phrases, unenduring as the planet explodes and we all die.

Because thoughts – your mind – may exist beyond merely the act of labeling things according to what is perceived (having a ‘life’ of its own, you could say), it occurs to me that thought may go on without the body because the body is merely an avenue by which it travels along. It’s not to say there aren’t detours and alternate routes it can have. It’s just that the path of least resistance is always the first one taken, despite the fact that traffic and road construction may hang up the pursuit of knowledge for a while. Now, in accordance with Lyotard, I have to agree that there is a certain debt to the corporeal that the mind may owe a sum, so to speak, but it’s only to the fact that true thought and cogitation towards brilliance may be inspired by even the plainest of things. And if the concept of thought is an abstract, limitless thing, then the amount it owes to this plot of organic meat is negligible. The body and the world it interacts with is a benchmark for reasoning. It forms an opinion, gives a subject of contemplation, and it utterly capable of being balked at, should there be a failing in the logic somewhere. But the reason I believe that this is merely a convenience as opposed to a necessary thing is because thought will exist no matter how gouged or ruined the senses are. Find me a blind man who is also deaf and dumb, and he is still capable of thought. Descartes’ own contemplations on the sum of his existence are irrefutable at least in some aspects. You think, therefore you are. I am thought, therefore I have an existence which goes far beyond the limits of body. It will continue to BE thought regardless of what happens to the corporeal ‘me’. You simply won’t know because you may not be able to use those senses of yours to find my thought.


KaraG said...

First off, I felt like some of the stuff in your paper was going on a tangent or needed to be dropped. For example, the first paragraph kind of talked to long about how you were confused about the statement. You only have a certain amount of pages to say everything you want to say and I felt like it was unnecessary to go off on tangents. For example, “As you can probably guess, I’ve had some philosophy background. More to the point, I’m currently taking Metaphysics, which is good because Lyotard certainly uses that way of looking into thing,” -- this is really random to me and I don’t really understand what this has to do with your quote.
Another thing, for me at least, I need some examples from real life. Lyotard is hard enough, and I thought that maybe if you could connect your thoughts on the quote you selected then maybe I could understand it better as the reader of your paper. Maybe you could come up with a good example to add to your paper.
I felt as though I should ask why I should care about this quote. I really didn’t connect with why I need to care about it. It seems more to me that it is written for somebody that is taking metaphysics class, and not for me who hates philosophy. It’s a little too flashy for me. I need something that I can connect with and make me more interested in what I am reading.
I also felt that the thesis is not very strong in this paper. I was not sure exactly what you were trying to argue.
Also, a side note…should you cite Descartes when you mention him in your paper?

Jake The Snake said...

Hmmm. Well, some of these I find to be fair comments. Maybe some it could indeed be written off as tangent. I'm not sure I fully agree, though. You admit to hating philosophy, which puts you in sort of a bad spot here. Lyotard is being exceptionally philosophical. I don't think he has an 'off' switch for that. But anyway, the problem I see with your statement is that sort of generalizes what you believe is wrong, which doesn't help me much. The point of mentioning philosophy and metaphysics was because it runs very parallel with Lyotard in my opinion. The argument of thought being independent from the body is being addressed in my other class as is, and therefore makes relevance as I use my personal background to delve into this work. Calling it flashy is going a bit far, I'm afraid, on the matter that I don't just throw around words to sound good. Of course, there is probably a failing on my part BECAUSE you didn't get it, but I don't understand some of what you're asking me to do yourself. Some of the specific notions, like the citing, I should probably employ in the future.

But one thing I find distasteful is that you ask the evil question of "So what?". Well SO...the argument I made only addresses the main subject of the entire Lyotard essay, that's all. The point was to take a straightforward-looking line and explain how exactly not straightforward it actually is and why, and I certainly did that.

Now ummm...did you have something more specific in mind aside from what you've said so far? Rather, would you expand into more detail?

Adam Johns said...

Jake - if you disagree with the feedback you receive, that's fine. Being argumentative about it escapes the point of the exercise, though.

Let me pick up one of Kara's comments. She notes that you don't have a particularly strong thesis, at least one that she can detect. I concur completely - and the reason for the nonbeing of the thesis again touches on Kara's points - you ramble here.

Not all rambling is ineffective. For that matter, what seems like rambling to Kara here isn't all going in ineffectual directions. You might easily, for instance, have turned this into an essay about Descartes and Lyotard - but because you don't have a clear thesis, the material about Descartes seems tangential.

To my mind, your problems start out with the prompts, which asks you to pick a stunningly difficult passage, then explain it. You, on the other hand, begin by claiming that your passage *seems* simple, then riff of it instead of explaining it.

When you riff, you go in some interesting directions, but you don't defend your views the way you should. For instance - you end up basically claiming that Lyotard is talking about the Cartesian ego when - to raise only one point - he claims that the ego, thinking, "I am" begins with *gender*, with difference rather than with unity. You might say in response that what he has to say about gender doesn't emerge in this passage - but you were asked to explain the passage both in itself and in context.

You ramble your way into seemingly claiming Lyotard as a cartesian, because you dodge the prompt and don't have a strong thesis - concerns which Kara accurately raised.