Sunday, January 15, 2012


Of course, our comparison of the relatively rich conscious life of the human and that of the cat may at times appear misleading.   In a way, the richness of the "and" and the "or" pervades human consciousness.   My room is inundated with the "and" and the "or".  It is filled with objects, a queen sized bed, sheets and comforter, a desk, a TV, computers, recording equipment, loose papers, barbels, dressers, a chair, clothes including pants, socks etc.   While this may appear almost unbearably rich, in truth, human consciousness, like that of a cat, is largely intentional.  I'm drawn to my bed and plop down, exhausted, only semiconsciously aware of the other objects therein.
Perhaps, though, this semiconsciousness is a resource our fellow beasts lack.  When it is time to turn my attention from resting to another activity, I may scan the rich array of objects and directing my attention to those that suit my purpose.  Perhaps I have already established a set of goals or tasks yesterday, or at the beginning of the week, and relatively little scanning is required.   The activity of scanning through possible tasks and choosing those that are important to you, was done in the past.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The categories/creativity

It is in the nature of the human mind to categorize things.  Unlike a cat, we will categorize what is a book, what is a chair, what is a magazine, what is a pencil.   We are always at work categorizing.  And by categorizing, we are both setting things apart from each other and grouping things together with each other.  The "and" and the "or", it would seem, is more deeply entrenched in the human mind than in the brain of our fellow beasts.  And through this ability to categorize, we are able to create new forms, new tools, new songs, new paintings, new novels.   We combine bits of old forms in new ways, discarding that which does not meet our purpose.  And when a new form acquires a certain degree of recognition from society, that form will acquire more form as you will, more definition.  Take the personal computer.  It may have begun as a construct in the basements of some men we now call geniuses.   But the idea of a personal computer certainly had no being 75 or 100 years ago.  It was only after it was invented, used and adopted by millions that this form, this invention, this category, truly came into being.
We can now level some criticism at some ancient Platonists, who believed forms were eternal.  Certainly the form form for a computer was not eternal.  It was born, it came into being and will likely one day become obsolete.
It may be worthwhile in future posts to categorize what, if anything, is eternal.  Is something that is eternal somehow divine?   An electron may come close to being eternal (though electrons may not have existed before the big bang.).  Is an electron divine?  It seems absurd.

The primacy of mind

This last question gives rise to the conclusion that language gives rise to form.  As long as there is language, there will be some form.  For what could seem to be as form free as formlessness?  But as soon as we call it something, we have defined it.  We have labeled it, and it is something that is different from other things.  Formlessness is different from form.
Thus we can say that this differentiation, the "or", at least in part, has its birth in language.  Which is not to say that the "or" is an artificial construct.  We have seen how the "or" is present, in very real form, in nature, epistemology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, society, history, economics et al.
However, to an extent that may never be completely clear, the "or" emanates from the human mind.  In the same way that an electron does not occupy a certain position until the observer observes it, and the observer determines that position, form does not exist until the speaker defines it.  Does this mean that reality does not exist until it is observed, as some philosophers have argued?  Of course not.  Electrons exist, regardless of whether they are observed.  But the observer plays some role in defining them.  Just as an observer plays a role in defining various types of form.
Take a chair.  Does my cat understand what a chair is?  Does she really see it as anything different from a tree stump or a bed.  Does she know it generally has legs, a backrest (in contrast to a stool), and sometimes armrests?  I don't think so.   The concept of chair has much more meaning to a human than to a cat. To a cat, beds, tree stumps and chairs may all occupy some vague position in the world of potential resting places or potential observation points.  But they aren't something a cat will think about or categorize to the point that a human will.