then I am happy to be considered an absolutist. At the very least I am
clearly confused ;)
You reference Varela and the idea of the embodied mind. I would rather speak
of the expanded self or, perhaps more precisely, the distributed self.
Arguments about embodied minds, to some degree, are still weighed down with
an implicit dualism. The idea of the distributed self posits the self as a
construct or set of constructs that exist within, because of and with affect
upon, various networks (in short, relative agency). These networks are of
many kinds but the social is key to many, if not most, of them. The self
does not exist in this context as an identifiable thing but rather as an
emergent phenomena that appears to have some degree of coherence. Latour is
probably the thinker who has considered this model of self most carefully,
although Don Idhe has also written on this with a particularly interesting
Whilst I enjoy much of Varela¹s writings I find his later work pretty
difficult (his early work with Maturana is brilliant). His Buddhist faith
immediately placed him in a position where he could not employ certain
frameworks, particularly those of a phenomenological and
post-phenomenological persuasion. Buddhism might be the most attractive of
religions, but it is still a religion. It requires you have faith (at the
very least, in yourself) and that is absolutist.
I am not assuming the independent existence of things beyond our experience
(I wouldn¹t use the word conceptualisation here as that once again risks a
dualistic interpretation) but identify experience as key. This is another
way of saying that what things might be is likely to be found in their
relations and interactions rather than in themselves.
Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
CIRCLE research group
From: david mcconville <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Reply-To: YASMIN DISCUSSIONS <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2010 18:24:57 -0500
To: YASMIN DISCUSSIONS <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Simulation, remediation
You make an interesting absolute assertion here. It seems that
asserting that we cannot directly experience "things" is not the same
as saying that we cannot have direct experience. "Things" are
representational constructs that arise from our after-the-fact
analysis. Related to this, Varela et al (in The Embodied Mind)
critique phenomenologists for trying to ³recapture the richness of
experience² through a ³discourse about that experience,² (p.19) while
many others - Buddhists in particular - have cited that scientific
materialism has no framework for first-person explorations of
Sakyong Mipham echoes Whitehead's Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness
(and centuries of Buddhist teachings) by pointing out that "we're
always trying to project a concrete world onto a fluid process,
mistaking our ever-changing experience for a self." Instead of
attempting to conceptualize after-the-fact, many non-conceptual
practices are focused on direct experience - not on attempting to
impossible task of directly experiencing "things" but on letting go of
this compulsion to conceptualize. Mipham continues "Like the elements,
this kind of wisdom doesn't need to be propped up. It is a direct
experience of reality, empty and ungraspable."
Are you assuming an independent existence of "things" beyond our
conceptualization of them? Alternately, if all phenomena are converted
into sense-able processes through our embodied sense perceptions,
can't it be said that they co-arise with our perception of them?
Wouldn't this make the after-the-fact attempts to represent the
experience the true mediation process?
director, noospheric research division
Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201
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