Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hypnagogia and Existence

I was able to revisit Binswanger's "Dream and Existence" (in Being-in-the-world: Selected Papers of Ludwig Binswanger, trans. Jacob Needleman) and also the original (in Ausgewählte Vorträge und Aufsätze von Ludwig Binswanger, Vol 1.). Here's Binswanger's essential argument (the translation is mine, but leans on Needleman):

When, e.g., we speak similarily of a high and a low tower, a high and deep tone, high and low morals, high and downfallen spirits, what's involved here is in no way a linguistic translation from one of these essential spheres to another, but rather a general orientation of meaning which is "distributed" equally among the particular regional spheres, i.e., that contains within it the same particular meanings (spatial, acoustic, intellectual, psychic etc.). Sinking or falling thus represent a general orientation of meaning from over to under which contains a special existential meaning "for" our existence, according to the "ontological existential" of, say, the extending-outward of spatiality, the thrownness of mood, or the explication of understanding. In sudden disappointment we fall from the skies or from the clouds not, as Wundt says, because disappointment or terror represent an "asthenic affect" that manifests itself as a threat to the upright posture as a bodily staggering, stumbling or falling, and thus serves for its part as a real bodily model for a poetic image; rather, language independently grasps in this alleged simile one of the deepest special elements lying within the ontological structure of humankind, the ability to be oriented from above to below, and designates this element as falling.

(pp. 75-76).

So now I know what Binswanger would make of the hypnic jerk. Can't say I find it very satisfying. But it's good to question causal explations of such phenomena. In the case of the hypnic jerk it seems to make sense that the relaxation of the body causes the dream experience of falling. In the case of depression, however, causality seems to work the other way. The emotional state of being down causes the body to be weakened. What then does causilty explain? That it is possible to transfer meaning from one sphere to another? Essentially I feel that the body and mind are one and the same, and in that respect I can take Binswanger's point. But I wonder about this ontological structure of human existence. How could it not be an artefact of human embodiment?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:38 PM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question, indeed !

The character Monsieur Teste at one point ruminated on the meaning behind the spatial postural meaning of the word 'support' as it applied to didactic arguments to what sort of ontological morphology , if any was tacit in thought to people coming up with that term ---in a figurative sense .?

May 29, 2011 9:06 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Wow. I'm just now reading about *Monsieur Teste*. I didn't know Valéry had so much to say about causality. I definitely need to read that book, and find that passage. Thanks.

May 30, 2011 2:03 AM  

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