28/12/2022 0 Comments
On the location of thoughts
It is strange to think that there was a time, or there were cultures, perhaps are still?, in which thoughts were believed to originate in other parts of the body than the brain, in the guts for instance or in the heart. What would it feel like to imagine you were thinking from the heart, would it feel any different, would the thoughts feel less located in the head, behind the eyes? There may be some scientific truth to the idea that thoughts originate in the brain, to the extent that the mind is a construction of activity of the brain ("Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that when a subject believed a statement—whether it was religious or not—activity appeared in an area called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex" https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/belief-in-the-brain/), but it makes no more real sense to think of thoughts as being located in the head than it does to think of them as located in the heart. They aren't material things that can be there behind the eyes, and why behind the eyes except that I, my self. looks at the world through the eyes and so I am locating myself there? And if sometimes I think of thoughts as being behind the eyes, sometimes I think of them more as floating, floating in a kind of cloud around the outside of my head, and when I think of them as floating, I think of the word floating too, so the idea of where my thoughts are becomes an idea that involves the sound of an o, the sound of the f and the l, the whole two syllables of the word floating, its balanced up and down rhythm, but most of all, its soft extended o sound. Thoughts float and then they float in language. And since we wouldn't have thoughts without language - memories, anticipation, feelings, most of what gives rise to a sense of self, but not thoughts as such? - then it makes more sense to think of thoughts as residing in language than in the head. So where is the thinking self located, in the body or in language, is language the extension of self? This takes me back to the idea of the self as residing in the things of the world, in what we experience, consciousness not as an experience of the apple but located in the apple itself, and the "self" of a hen, for instance, being not only the body of the hen or its movements through space but the worm it eats, the light on a leaf it sees, the dust between its feathers, its companions on the roost at night (http://www.annajackson.nz/on/on-consciousness-and-the-world). This is my understanding of Manzotti's theory of consciousness but I can't remember how language figures in it - perhaps it doesn't, perhaps language is regarded as a second order event, a descriptive tool for discussing consciousness (and consciousness theory), nothing to do with consciousness itself. Yet for all the ways the self, through consciousness and through language, extends beyond the body, I still want to hold on to an idea of the self, a self doing the thinking even if, unlike the body which is so precisely located within the world, I can't say where my thoughts exist, except for this one, which now exists on this screen, and perhaps will exist in the mind - in the head? in the heart? - of someone reading it one day.
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These are paragraphs without essays or books to go in.