Tag Archives: existence

Existentialism’s limit: relationality

One of existentialism’s givens is isolation (or alienation). Another is death; we are mortal beings who inevitably perish.

In a relational universe, how can it be that we are inherently alone? This fact would imply that we each die alone, also.

Yet we come into being–are thrown into the world–birthed through the love shared by two individuals. We ultimately die, following a path shared by every living being whose lives already ceased.

We are never truly alone, contra-modern existentialism.

Is your mind physical?

That it is is a necessary assumption for those who accept that minds exist, but equate it with either the central nervous system or its encapsulating body.

Much of the issue around physicalism vs. the question of minds’ existences may have less to do with the nature of reality than with what we mean by certain words. If anything and everything is physical, then “physical” is a unifying rather than polarizing or distinguishing concept; there is no contrast class to it (that is: nothing non-physical exists). 

The project for physicalist cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind–those who, in short, believe that everything (including the mind) is physical–is, perhaps, simply to extend the language of physics to also accommodate “mind”. (And physicalism could well have to change, itself, in order to be able to do so!)

It may be convenient for a field like cognitive neuroscience especially to have a common framework for its studies of neural and cognitive (mental) systems, which have traditionally–a la Descartes and his successors–been regarded as more ontologically separate than they are, these days. Still, people’s mileages vary with respect to whether physicalism is the right unifying ideology for reality even aside from this possibility.

[The discussion from which this post arose took place on INTJforum, at: https://intjforum.com/topic/175287-if-physicalism-how-is-it-that-we-can-trust-our-cognitive-abilities/ ]

Textual analysis (or hermeneutic work) as “all subjective”

This belief is rather easily explained away (though, sadly: not so easily disposed of, for the complacent offenders and “their” n=30 “subjects”!). It stems merely from a lack of correct understanding of differing methodologies, and their correspondences with prima facie differing practices.

Take my words, here. You are reading them. But are you reading me–my intent, my desires; and so on? If not, you are committing what I take to be the essential fallacy of the most literalizing scientists and analytic philosophers, who all fail to appreciate the proper way to arrive at another person’s meaning. For, if one does not understand what something means to the speaker–or, indeed, to any of their possibly-billions of listeners–one will forever be trapped and mired in his, her, or hir own “subjective” (in this case, impoverished as-such) meaning, distinct from and un-legitimized by one’s fellow beings in the world. Indeed: what a “meaning”!

For such a person, inter-subjectivity forever remains a mystery; coherent sociality at all willfully mystifies them, and what is left to mystify one will ultimately block one from becoming the best they can possibly be–whether “for themselves, or others”. (These quotes are necessary: for they hint at the absolute absurdity of the classical I-,-rather-than-thou formulation!)

In short, the one who instinctively dismisses hermeneutic work as “all subjective–and therefore useless” operates with a distinct lack of empathy: of caring for the immeasurable relativity of meaning among their “fellow” beings; of enriching subjectivity, generally; of truly understanding and connecting–and, henceforth, of caring for “him-, “her-, or “hir-self”.

Cling not to the dreaded “to the man!” “fallacy” quite so dearly, my friend–dialogical achievement is necessarily both art and science! Admit to a broader set of fallacies than have been so thoughtlessly inculcated: and tuck away that dirtied monologizing monocle, if only for the mere moment, good madams and sirs–