necessary: G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, What Is Philosophy? New
Skull-House: In May 1997, I wrote a friend that I was working
on a project
titled "Dancing With the Bones: An Osteopoetics of the Ceremonial,
Ritualistic, and Practical Use of Skeletal Remains Through the Ages." By
winter, this had evolved into "Inside the Skull-House," taking
its name from
the "skull-houses" discussed by Nigel Barley in "The Dowayo
Death." (In, S.C. Humphreys and H. King, Editors, Mortality and
Anthropology and Archaeology of Death. London, 1982. pp.149-59).
journey: "One must therefore conceive of a philosophy
that would no longer be founded on the classification and ordering
of concepts and disciplines, but that would set out an epistemology
of journeys, forging new relations between man and the world: ''The
landscape contains pits, faults, folds, plains, valleys, wells,
and chimneys, solids like the earth and fluids like the sea. The
metaphor is geophysical here: it could be mathematical. In any
case, the model is complex. Here and there, locally, I identify
fractures or discontinuities, elsewhere, on the contrary, relations
and bridges.'" J.V.Harari & D.F.Bell, "Introduction Journal à plusieurs
J.V. Harari and D.F. Bell, Hermes, Literature, Science, Philosophy: Michel
Baltimore, 1982. p.xxii; M. Serres, La Naissance de le physique. Paris,
epic is understood properly, as an innovative synthesis of older and
newer genres rather than as a timeless genre, then it is easy to understand
why the greatest failures in the history of attempts to write epic
have been the poems that were the purest pastiches of past epics, with
the least admixture from other genres." M. Lind, "On Epic." In,
R. McDowell, Editor, Poetry After Modernism. Brownsville,
OR., 1988. p.324.
human brain is made up of many parts. Each has a specific function:
to turn sounds into speech; to process colour; to register
fear; to recognize a face or distinguish a fish from a fruit.
But this is no static collection of components: each brain
is unique, ever-changing and exquisitely sensitive to its environment.
Its modules are interdependent and interactive and their functions
are not rigidly fixed: sometimes one bit will take over the
job of another, or fail owing
to some genetic or
hiccup, to work at all. Brain activity is controlled by currents
and chemicals and mysterious oscillations; it may even be subject
to quantum effects that distort time. The whole is bound together
in a dynamic system that does millions of different things
in parallel. It is probably so complex that it will never succeed
in contemplating itself. Yet it never ceases to try." R.
Carter, Mapping the Mind. Berkeley, CA., 1998. p.10.
accumulating body of research suggests that differences in male and
female brains do exist. The roots of some of these differences may
go as far back as when the human brain was first developing, a time
when women and men performed tasks referenced to physical strength
and reproductive/nurturing/foraging abilities.
The brain of a modern female seems to process information more holistically
than that of a male. For example, in a test that asked subjects to read a list
of nonsense words and determine if they rhyme, men and women scored about equal;
however, brain scans showed that the women used both the right and left sides
of their brains, while the men only used their left side. But the invention
of sophisticated imaging technologies is new, and scientists are first learning
how to compare and interpret results, while interpretation itself is always
somewhat psycho-politically skewed. In contemporary societies, where many female
and male roles are changing, exchanging, or merging, will the way their respective
brains function change again?
Because it is hackneyed,
the hero/heroine approach is dangerous. Hundreds of books have
been written on the subject in just the last decade. This alone
makes the myth worth risking apart; then re-membering, even while
balancing on the edge of boredom. A long meditation, broken by
achievement: "Some observers may fear that by
pinning down its physical structure something as precious and dignified
as the human brain may be downgraded or vanish entirely. But explaining
the origins and workings of the mind in biological tissue will
not do away with the mind, and the awe we have for it can be extended
to the amazing microstructure of the organism and to the immensely
complex functions that allow such a microstructure to generate
the mind. By understanding the mind at a deeper level, we will
see it as nature's most complex set of biological phenomena rather
than as a mystery with an unknown nature. The mind will survive
explanation, just as a rose's perfume, its molecular structure
deduced, will still smell as sweet. A.R. Damasio, "How the
Creates the Mind." Scientific American. December 1999. p.117.
should be clear, then, that the secrets of the neural basis of mind
cannot be discovered by unraveling all the mysteries of one single
neuron, regardless of how typical that neuron may be; or be unraveling
all the intricate patterns of local activity in a typical neuron circuit.
To a first approximation, the elementary secrets of mind reside with
the interaction of firing patterns generated by many neuron circuits,
locally and globally, moment by moment, within the brain of a living
organism." A.R. Damasio, Descartes'
Error. New York, 1994. p.259.
hard problem: "It
is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but
we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should
physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems
objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does. If any problem
qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one." D.J.
Chalmers, "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness." In,
Editor, Explaining Consciousness--The 'Hard Problem'. Cambridge, MA.,
both art and science now, the matter of consciousness is high on
the agenda. Science is trying hard to explain consciousness, with
distinctly limited success. It seems to pose the most intractable
of problems. For the artist, consciousness is more to be explored
than to be explained, more to be transformed than understood, more
to be re-framed than reported." R. Ascott, "The Shamantic
Web: Art and Mind in Emergence."
upon itself, brain creates mind.
Reflecting upon itself, mind creates void.
Reflecting upon itself, void creates universe.
Reflecting upon itself, universe creates consciousness.
Reflecting upon itself, consciousness creates brain.
hard problem is, "How the hell does it happen? My experience
is that this isn't the hard problem at all, it's the impossible problem,
at least within the present scientific paradigm." Peter Russell.
At the International Conference on Science and Consciousness, Albuquerque
NM., April 29, 2000.
are easily a dozen levels of organization within the neurosciences,
ranging from membrane channels up through synapses and cells to circuits
and regional specializations between the cerebral hemispheres. And
that's just the anatomy: functionally, we have reflexes, one-trial
memories, learning, and so on, all the way up to hallucinations,
obsessions, and creativity. We have time scales ranging from milliseconds
to lifetimes." W.H. Calvin, "Filling the Empty Niches:
The Popularization of Cognitive Neuroscience Has a Long Way to Go." www.williamcalvin.com
"as the genetic
gazetteer nears completion, and as the brain comes closer and
closer to accounting for the mind, it grows harder to imagine
human beings remaining at the center of the process of science.
Instead, science appears to be in charge of its own processes,
probing and changing people in order to further its own course,
independent of human agency." J. Lanier, "The Endgame
of Humanism." Civilization. October/November 1998.
my path: I
am aware of pitfalls of what literary critic Bob Perelman calls a "voice" poem.
But one must evoke an immortal self, subscribe to the kenning of
the soul, to fall into "the pathetic fallacy" of the first
person singular. If I fail to avoid this, it is an inattentive slip,
and not, I hope, a failure of vision.
other words, the science of
the path--what could be more exactly what we are involved
in--it is not the path, but it is the way the path is
Olson. From, Letters For Origin: 1950-1955.
metaphorically himself, (W.H.) Leatherdale argues that science
needs a nonliteral dimension, that a literal interpretation of
the terms and concepts of scientific theories impoverishes and
disempowers them...'Such an interpretation of theories would threaten
to make science die of clinical antisepsis. For science needs the
inoculation of ambiguity and the semantic haze that surrounds the
neutral analogy of a model or the unexplored resources of
a metaphor if it is to marshal its resources for survival and growth.
Too doctrinaire an exiomatization, or literal reconstruction, even
supposing this were possible in any neutral untheoretically-infected
way, might free science from the infection of error due to uncritical
reliance on a model or metaphor, but it would kill it stone dead
in the process. .'" -J. J. Bono, "Science, Discourse,
and Literature: The Role/Rule of Metaphor in Science." In,
S. Peterfreund, Editor, Literature and Science. Boston,
1990. pp.61-7; W.H. Leatherdale, The Role of Analogy, Model
and Metaphor in Science. Amsterdam, 1974.
start to study the brain and body scientifically, you inevitably
wind up using metaphors. Metaphors for the mind, as you say,
have evolved over time -- from machines to switchboards to computers.
There's no avoiding metaphor in science. In our lab, we use the
Neural Circuitry metaphor ubiquitous throughout neuroscience.
If you're studying neural computation, that metaphor is necessary.
In the day to day research on the details of neural computation,
the biological brain moves into the background while the Neural
Circuitry introduced by the metaphor is what one works with.
But no matter how ubiquitous a metaphor may be, it is important
to keep track of what it hides and what it introduces. If you
don't, the body does disappear. We're careful about our metaphors,
as most scientists should be." G. Lakeoff, "Philosophy
in the Flesh: A Talk with George Lakoff." http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/lakoff/lakoff_p1.html
modern science a 'fact' is perceivable because of a background
of myth. Each phase of the moon would have a name and a story associated
with it, as would each animal. Through myth a cumulative body of
knowledge would be passed on, and the means for passing it on would
be a story, an engraving on a bone, or a painting on the wall of
a cave. The story or the painting would serve to connect the part
with the whole, the event with the myth, the quotidian with the
sacred." W.I. Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take To
Light. New York, 1981. pp.101-2.
in the original sense of the word, is language--the Greek word mythos means
to talk, to speak words, to tell something. And yet, mythos is
also related etymologically to mute, dumb, and mum, as if the word
were telling us that what is not being said is equally as important
as what is. This relationship between what is said and what is
not is the key to our understanding why language is perhaps our
most fundamental form of mythology." J. Anderson, "Unknown
Gods: The Mythology of Language." Mythosphere. Vol.
2. No. 1.
is not primarily an intellectual occupation or pastime. (Jean)
Piaget refers to an 'etymological instinct' in children. Max Müller,
the nineteenth-century philologist, once remarked that 'there is
in the human mind a craving after etymology, a wish to find out,
by fair means or foul, why such a thing should be called by such
a name.'" R. Kugelmann, "Etymology as a Psychological
Operation." Dragonflies. Fall 1978. p.45; M. Müller, Lectures
on the Science of Language, 2nd Series. New York, 1867. p.548.
sacred is not a stage in the history of consciousness, it is a
structural element of that consciousness. In the most
archaic phases of culture, to live as a human being was
in itself a religious act, since eating, sexual activity,
and labor all had a sacramental value. Experience of the sacred
is inherent in (the human) mode of being in the world." M.
Eliade, Ordeal By Labyrinth. Chicago., IL.,1982. pp153-4.
is a name for the digital apparatus that is emerging within/out
of literacy, as literacy emerged out of orality. An apparatus is
a matrix of interdependent forces/entities/conditions: technology,
institutional formations, individual identity formations. The process
of passing from one apparatus to another is historical, particular,
specific to the conditions of a given period and place. So the
sheer introduction of a technology by itself does not determine
any particular outcome (viz. the different histories of writing
in the Greco-Roman vs. the Arab-Muslim worlds). Also there is a
long period of transition, of adaptation and accommodation, in
the paradigm shift, with many hybrids intermediate embodiments.
Tragedy, for example, is still partly oral (manifesting features
of ritual), but with literate additions--the parts are scripted;
one actor at first, then more, is/are separated out from the ritual
chorus and giving scripted parts to speak. To get to the
web, then, it is easy in the above context to see that it is transitional,
manifesting some literate features (the home PAGE, the table and
list as tags for controlling layout--both being fundamentally literate
devices), and some electrate features (nonlinear = digital linking),
picture and other graphic features, moving towards new media, streaming
video, and the like. The web is in flux and is clearly a transitional
medium with no established form." Gregory Ulmer, Invent-L@lists.UFL.edu.
March 07, 2000
experiences: "The further one goes, the more private,
the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing one is
making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible , and nearly
as possible, definitive utterance of this singularity...Therein
lies the enormous aid the work of art brings to the life of the
one who must make it..." This, from R.M. Rilke, I read as
opposed to Franz Kafka's apparent feeling that "the procedure
is to absorb the artistic content only to the extent it can expunge
the personal from its form of expression; the more impersonal
it can become, the more artistic it can be." R.M.Rilke, Letters
on Cézanne. New York, 1985. p.4; I. Buchanan, Deleuzism.
Durham, NC., 2000. p.102. With both these viewpoints in mind,
it seems to me that art incites a dialogue between the personal
and impersonal, between the unique and archetypal, between all
that I am and who I am not. And that this conversation, this
conversion, serves to balance, and to throw into disarray, every
work that aspires to be art.
topography: "Although there is one single unique physical
reality to the geographical organization of the earth, neuroanatomy
must represent a variable physical reality that differs from individual
to individual. Thus, human brain map atlases of structure and function
require a representation that accounts for variance among individuals.
Further, neuroscientists have yet to agree on a standard reference
system and nomenclature to define brain location. This again differs
from geographical maps, where the conventions of longitude, latitude,
and altitude represent a universal standard." J.C. Mazziotta,
et al. "Atlases of the Human Brain." In, S.H. Koslow
and M.F. Huerta, Editors, Neuroinfomatics. Mahwah, NJ.,
person: Throughout this project, the interjection of an "I" will
haunt me. The alternative would be a brain, a hero, that lives
under glass, detached from a body, empty of personality, a vacuous
mind that can only process facts, the experiment of a "mad
scientist." While this hero assumes an ego, one responsible
for its actions, reactions, interactions. To my mind, responsibility
is the main point of the journey: it marks the person and tattoos
segment: "I imagine that you have a whole series of
nested possibilities, with one fractionating out of another.
Ultimately, the kinds of choices one makes reveal something about
the nature of one's self, because choices all flow ultimately
out of subsurface constructs. The alternative to my model would
be one in which well-demarcated, isolated modular units of representation
are scanned, searched, and selected among by a conscious self.
This model confronts you with the different problem of trying
to unify across different contents, and explaining how a conscious
self motivates choice among competing outcomes. Actually, I think
a good deal of current work argues for decisions being made prior
to conscious awareness." J. Brown, "At The Intersection
of Knowledge and Values: Fragments of a Dialogue in Woods Hole,
Massachusetts, August 1990. In, A. Harrington, Editor, So
Human a Brain: Knowledge and Values in the Neurosciences.
Boston, MA., 1992. p.261.
is not a substantial view, an immortal substance separate from
a mortal substance, but a functional one. Soul refers
to an interpreting, integrating, adapting activity necessary for
meaning within each individual and for the species as a whole." J.B.
Ashbrook, "Making Sense of Soul and Sabbath." Zygon 27
(1) March 1992. pp.45-6.
log was originally a speed-measuring device for ship at sea (with
a a thin quadrant of wood connected to a line that was reeled out).
Whenever the vessel's speed was measured, each log of the watch
was recorded in a journal kept for that purpose. Gradually, this
journal became known as the 'log book,' and was also used to record
the general proceedings of shipboard life and navigational matters....
"Users of computer networks must usually 'log themselves in' before they
can operate the system." J.D. Jeans, Ship to Shore. Santa Barbara,
CA., 1993. p.194.
Kamuf explored the etymology of the word 'book', making reference
to the "beech" tree (boc), to demonstrate that the
idea of the book is rooted in its constructionin the makings
of its material support. (Jacques) Derrida seconded this by referring
to the fact that this occurs in the Latin liber and the Greek
byblosall making reference to paper, the bark, or the tree.
To further this, Derrida went on to state that the make-up of
a book is not exclusively natural, that the book is a binding
of natural and unnatural elements, '...natural wood, the tree,
on which some unnatural, artificial, technical cultural inscriptions
are invented and put.' Continuing on the notion of the book Derrida
introduced the term 'volume' into the discussion to relate how
the book is a totality. Earlier in the conversation there had
been mention of 'The Book' as a single volume containing all
texts and a concern that the book, as a formal object, would
collapse under the sheer mass of texts that have been, are being,
and will be created. At an operational level 'The Book', its
collated strata does not require a bind between natural and unnatural
elements. The tree can be a metaphor for the raw source, the
potential for any functional supporting apparatus. The bind is
between apparatus and appliancebetween cover, binding,
pages (in a very liberal sense), and writings. In terms of the
web, as book, as the deposition and delivery machine for inscription,
this signals Derrida's view of electronic writing." T. Memmont, "CD
For Derrida: A Book/Ends Report." (From Talan Memmont's
notes on The Book/Ends Conference at SUNY at Buffalo, Y 2000.)
reign in a wide swath of science. Most scientists, like most of
the rest of us, understand concepts and structures more quickly
and thoroughly when they can be visualized; after all, the brain
evolved to deal with images rather than abstractions. Some scientific
problems cannot even be solved without images. Now digitization
and other transformations in image-making technologies are revolutionizing
certain sciences and slyly inserting the issues that dog more commonplace
photography." V. Goldberg, "Even Scientific Images Have
Trouble Telling the Truth." The New York Times (on-line
edition). 21 October 2001.
crude GIF animations, jumpy awkward motion, adding some surprise,
pointing toward a wedding of word and image, logos and eros,
processed in respective areas of the brain. To say this project
is language heavy, the images display a disprockted humor. Fumbling
creations of a new genre. The hero(ine)'s further mind.
fringe, in effect...constitutes, between the text and what lies
outside it, a zone not just of transition, but of transaction;
the privileged site of a pragmatics and a strategy, of an action
on the public in the service...of a better reception of the text
and a more pertinent reading." -G. Genette, "Introduction
to the Paratext." New Literary History No.2, Spring
its quest: Along the way, I began to suspect that behind
the biology it may be that the brain turns out to be a spiritual
machine caught in midst of its evolution. I don't mean religious.
This is not about established belief-systems, but profundities.
What makes me suspect this is that for as long as Brain has been
self-conscious, as long as we've had a mind it's been fascinated
by what's beyond its spectrum of awareness. It's as if the human
brain were designed for this, or it emerged from a necessity
that is particularly human. The abiding philosophy of this project
is: What makes us human is the unique capacity to question
what makes us human.
larger scale: "'To see on a large scale, to be in full
possession of a multiple, and sometimes connected intellection,'
means to understand that the foundation of knowledge presupposes
neither one philosophical discourse nor one scientific
discourse, but only regional epistemologies. Multiplication,
regionalization, localization--to see on a large scale this means
to attempt to travel through as much space as possible, as one
does at sea when one goes from island to island searching for "Northwest
passages' between different spaces." J.V. Harari and D.F.
Bell, "Introduction, Journal à plusieurs voies." In,
M. Serres, Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy. Baltimore,
MD., 1982. P.xiv.
acts: "Linking acts and footsteps, opening meanings
and directions, these words operate in the name of an emptying-out
and wearing-away of their primary role. They become liberated
spaces that can be occupied. A rich indetermination gives them,
by means of a semantic rarefaction, the function of articulating
a second, poetic geography on top of the geography of the literal,
forbidden or permitted meaning. They insinuate other routes into
the functionalist and historical order of movement." M.
de Certeau, "Walking in the City." In, The Practice
of Everyday Life. Berkeley, CA., 1984. p.105.
a mind: "I think we who study literature or art or philosophy
or history are no longer studying just the various texts or techniques
in our disciplines. I think we are now...studying how the human
mind works when we are doing literature or art or philosophy
or history. What is art? also asks, What is mind? When we raise
these questions, we humanists are in much the same position as
the neuroscientists. For them, too, the ultimate goal is the
discovery of mind--What is it? How does it work?" N. N.
Holland, "Neurosciences and Arts." PsyArt. http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/index.htm#contents