Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Body as Analogon for Thought

In "Can Thought Go On Without a Body?" (The Inhuman, pp. 8-23) Lyotard explores the analogy of thinking with the perceptual field. He writes:

A direct, focused vision is always surrounded by a curved area where visibility is held in reserve yet isn't absent. This disjunction is inclusive....Continuing vision preserves along with it what was seen an instant before from another angle. It anticipates what will be seen shortly. These syntheses result in identifications of objects, identifications that never are completed, syntheses that a subsequent sighting can always unsettle or undo....

In any serious discussion of analogy it's this experience that is meant, this blur, this uncertainty, this faith in the inexhaustibility of the perceivable, and not just a mode of transfer of the data onto an inscription-surface not originally its own....Real 'analogy' requires a thinking or representing machine to be in its data just as the eye is in the visual field or writing is in language (in the broad sense).

(p. 17)

Lyotard's concern is with the possibility of artificial intelligence, which is the only sort of solution he sees to the problem of impending solar death. The argument doesn't quite work for me because I don't believe the future of humanity will necessarily remain earthbound. Interstellar travel is far more likely to be realized than thinking without a body, for the very reasons Lyotard lays out.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:52 PM.


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