Friday, November 25, 2011

naturalized phenomenology of the developmental interest

This is section 4, the ending, of “biomindality.” It’s possibly the most portentious (pretentious?) thing I’ve ever written.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

after speaking for trillions of communicating, evolving microbes...

...Lynn Margulis dies.

“Dr. Margulis was also known, somewhat controversially, as a collaborator with and supporter of James E. Lovelock, whose Gaia theory states that Earth itself — its atmosphere, the geology and the organisms that inhabit it — is a self-regulating system, maintaining the conditions that allow its perpetuation. In other words, it is something of a living organism in and of itself.”

Genesis of self-regulativity—> quorum sensing—> symbiogenesis—> autopoiesis—> autogeny —> self formativity constitutes the intelligence of Earth.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

on the road (with unnamed partners)

Elations of solitude go where they are carried.

I thought last week that I’d quickly finish my synoptic about a biogenic mode of thinking about “mind,” but I didn’t feel like returning to the task yesterday, because I so wanted to move on (though I didn’t). After weekly shopping and other chores, I saw a good movie, hung out in Moe’s, prattled at home. (You want to know.) 

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sunday, November 06, 2011

message to the world

After I left “Sarah’s Key” early Saturday evening, I walked to Moe’s Books and spent several hours amusing myself. I left very expensively amused, but what the hell: adding to a truly great library is like adding new kinds of plants to a great garden: Gravity’s appeal leads to more gravity. It’s natural. A congregation of importances composes an appellant cohering. Valuingbooks, in my case—flows into a telic cohering of more and more mindedness (or mindality). It’s human.

Let there be as much gardening of importances as we can really afford (and blogs to that effect not left to sleep).

I’m so easily unbearable: I made a list of the books bought last evening, then a list of the titles noted for archival lists; then a list of my favorite findings from the 3 most-recent issues of The New York Review of Books late night; and listed other interesting findings. I sequenced that, and voilà: I had an unwieldy syllabus I could write a book in light of: One night in a bookstore and sundry reading.

“He wrote well about that night, but died before completion.”

Princeton philosopher/theologian Mark Johnston reads the essence of the great religions as proffering that “persons are protean” (283ff.). Lucky me.

Reporting on the carnival of human variability didn’t begin with the modern European novel; rather, the protean novel emerged from the hybridity of Mediterranean cultures and European outlands before modernity.

The essence of the novelistic motive might be enchantment by the variability of lives. Surely, that’s part of why I fall in love with women I can’t have. Next!

I surely cannot resist enchantment by creative intimacies. Imagine two painters married to each other, having their studios adjacent: the surrealists Yves Tanguy (a longstanding favorite painter) and Kay Sage (who? sorry, dear). Alas, I bought a painting by a friend years ago (stored away) that looks like a Kay Sage work, I could not have known. Philip Guston’s work looks like Son-Of-Kay (but not son-of-Yves—though Philip looks like Yves’ son).

Talk about a feeling for the thing: How about Evocative Objects: things we think with? The Table of Contents makes me giggle.

But I was really inspired by Kit White’s 101 Things to Learn in Art School. I must write about that. It’s a gem. (It has a thick rubber cover, very tactile).

I must hurry along. (The need for hurrying drives me crazy.)

Wisdom: from philosophy to neuroscience is an oddity, cribbing trends of applying evolutionary psychology to moral theory, which is deeply interesting to me, but not as a trade paperback. However, the book is emblematic of naturalism’s appeal (as well as the appeal of quick routes to wisdom); check out the Table of Contents for a taste of what draws me into evolutionary theory (though I’ll be working with others’ original research, not freelance ventures—though what am I?). Seriously, though, evolutionary theory is becoming a central tenet of philosophical ethics: The highly-esteemed philosopher Philip Kitcher has just published The Ethical Project which argues that “we should see our ethical practices as evolving over tens of thousands of years, as members of our species have worked out how to live together and prosper.” Great, as far as normative understanding goes. But what about the creativity that formulates ethical projects in the first place? Doing philosophical ethics is not about doing sociology or anthropology of normativity. I’m working toward a sense of “evolutionary” ethics in a transitive sense of ‘evolving’ (fostering progressive processes), rather than explanatory sense. But I’ll obtain Kitcher’s book soon. It’s one with which I shall have to come to terms, and I look forward to that.

Love notions of EcoMind: changing the way we think, to create the world we want, which is the name of Frances Moore Lappé’s new book (agri-political mother of Michael Pollan, one might say). She provides a good sense of progressive planetary thinking as a practical venture—a good complement to Stewart Brand’s recent Whole Earth Discipline: an ecopragmatist manifesto.

OK, I’m quitting here. The landscape of just one evening is more than I’ll take time to further render—except to say I bought a beautiful book titled The Poet’s Freedom: a notebook on making, by Susan Stewart, Professor of Humanities at Princeton (another woman to fall for).

And I bought a “remaindered” book of drawings done to the artist’s favorite Emily Dickinson poems, The World in a Frame, because a lover of Emily (whom I’ve not met) would know what’s best about her, including…

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me —
The simple News that Nature told —
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see —
For love of Her— Sweet —countrymen —
Judge tenderly — of Me

Saturday, November 05, 2011

about fictionally surviving the Holocaust

The key of “Sarah’s Key” is not the closet key that Sarah holds (which betrays her), but her character driving her to survive. The story is about Sarah’s key to surviving, in two senses: Firstly, her attachment to her brother that drives her escape from the Nazi camp before she’s shipped off to where her cohorts would be killed. This is a self-determination typical of persons who survived the Nazi camps. Afterward, she lives for many years fruitfully due to her self determination. The essentially human response to bearing witness to incomprehensible horror is to exemplify life—to go on well, partly in honor of those who were denied the chance, but essentially as expression of our ownmost participation in humanity, not as point in a living mass, but exactly the opposite: as singular gift of our nature, singular example of human potential, which might be the Simple Meaning of It All for us: that we are fruitful potentials able to thrive in love with life.

I’ve mentioned the research of psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton on the thriving character of survivors of great suffering, titled The Protean Self. I feel It in irreverent Jewish humor. (A Jewish friend—a psychotherapist—includes me on a private email list fed mainly by a Jewish psychiatrist, friend of hers.)

Secondly, Sarah’s key is her drive to record her story that gives her a continuity of identity across eras of later life that sustains her long enough to leave a legacy of a child of her own in good family. Though her writing is only diaries and letters, an implicit truth is the importance of articulation for the self-begetting life. Abundant research confirms the renewing power of finding one’s ownmost words—firstly, distancing trauma onto the page (or into a scene with another, e.g., the therapeutic alliance), making the trauma an Other that, secondly, documents what one valuably remains: a survivor beyond surviving, able to thrive, even beyond thriving: making a good life and a legacy of lastingness. Writing may mirror an everlastingness of what is no longer which altogether frees in terms of the potentials of life hereon.

Lastly, Sarah’s key is for the viewer/reader: It is a key for the reader/viewer to learn about what can be overcome and to not forget what is best in our humanity instanced by our lives. Sarah’s writing gives her son a way into the truth of her gift of Innocence to him. I’ve done as much as I can to understand the Holocaust. But, at the end of 10 hours of The Shoah in 1985, I felt that the Holocaust means Nothing. To try to give meaning to the Holocaust is an obscenity against the notion of meaning. There is no meaning to the Holocaust. A child deserves to grow into a world where suffering does not exist until one’s old enough to relativize the message. Our nature is not in any way signaled in what we have suffered, rather in what we are becoming. This is why excellent parenting is a horizon of fictionality for the child who gets to be the center of the world, given chances to bruise oneself in one’s own time, heal oneself in one’s own way, and find one’s ownmost place in a world whose reality emerges through one’s ownmost time. Yes, the world includes tragedy of incomprehensible proportion. But it’s ultimately irrelevant to flourishing, no matter how realistic our flourishing must grow to be.

So, this backgrounds why I will now say that “Sarah’s Key,” as novelist’s story, is basically phony by relying on Sarah’s suicide to move the story forward to its closure. That’s the work of a fictionist who doesn’t understand what she’s writing about. Everything in Sarah’s story “argues” against choosing suicide when she has a lovely life outside New York City, a lovely-hearted husband (we learn), and a lovely-hearted son (we learn) who was so on the road to a fruitful life while Sarah was still alive to be his mom, apparently very well. She has every reason to sustain the beautiful life she has. The viewer is given no reason for her suicide. The suicide is contrary to the reality of survivors who are already making good lives. The frictional suicide (a typo I’ll retain) is contrary to the details of the novelist’s own story. The viewer is supposed to project something unendurable in Sarah’s adult life? The novelist’s story has shown the falsity of such a projection. If the novelist’s contemporary journalist-inquirer’s later having a child named Sarah can preciously redeem the death of the adult Sarah, then adult Sarah’s earlier having a son redeemed her well-intentioned, childhood act of hiding her beloved brother in the closet. Sarah’s life (as fabricated by the novelist) redeemed the girl’s horror of discovering her brother in the closet rotting. Besides, hungry, scared kids locked in closets scream and pound to get out (in a building of little apartments in a dense neighborhood). The thin wooden door of the closet had a weak little lock for that key. Little boys don’t keep sibling promises to stay quiet when they are hungry and scared. The novelist has insulted human reality to make the viewer mourn some insurmountable suffering in the adult Sarah which is psychologically naïve and implausible. While the reality of Vichy France should be appreciated (especially by the French) and prospects of overcoming great suffering in a thriving life should be taken to heart, the novelist has exploited history and fictionalized psychology for the sake of a precious ending.