Saturday, November 04, 2006

Upsilon Andromedae

Arendt asks "Where are we when we think?" I don't quite share her view that thinking is necessarily a withdrawal from the world. On the contrary, thinking may be in the manner of a projection into the world, or a coming to grips with the world. Nevertheless, the world is something I can't exactly put my finger on, and still I wonder where we are when we think.

Where am I when I think of the planets of Upsilon Andromedae? Or the number two? When I was a child extrasolar planets were, like black holes were, a matter of imagination, or informed speculation at best. The number two had a firmer basis in reality than any planet outside of our own solar system. It was not possible to point to Upsilon Andromedae and say with any kind of certainty that there are planets there. Nevertheless there was and still is a kind of worldliness to the heavens. Every night the little patch of Earth where I make my abode turns towards the cold, starry vastness of deep space. Interstellar space is as present to me as a morning fog, or the warmth of the sun during the day, and the stars appear to me visually much the same way objects appear to me here on Earth.

Gazing at the stars, imagining other planets, I may forget temporarily my own body. My ears are cold, but my thoughts are elsewhere, or so it would seem. But aren't my ears and my thoughts both exposed to the coldness of space? Well, I could imagine loafing on a tropical beach which really would seem to be more of a withdrawal from the here and now. And what about the beaches of Upsilon Andromedae c? What sort of distance is that? It reflects a different kind of worldliness than the simple acknowledgement that there is in fact a planet called Upsilon Andromedea c, being more of an imaginative projection. Astronomy has shown that some of our imaginative projections have not been so far-fetched. Are there not then degrees of withdrawal? And isn't the measure of withdrawal tied to a sense of presence, to what matters as being worldly?

After Mimica (Intimations of Infinity), I'm not even sure that simple twoity isn't profoundly existential. Certainly we can reason abstractly, just as we can momentarily escape the awareness of certain brute facts of bodily existence. Can escape from the worldly really be the sine qua non of thinking? Of that I am not convinced. Perhaps the possibility of escape, withdrawal or transcendence is essential, but that's covering a lot of territory. A more primary truth may be that thought itself is tied to movement.

posted by Fido the Yak at 10:18 AM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

well there is Mario Crocco's 'On Mind's Localization'. It's out there in a couple of places...
according to their view we can't localize 'persons' - on the site of their interaction...certainly worth dipping into - along with his essay 'Palindrome'.

November 05, 2006 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant to write 'only the site of..'

November 05, 2006 5:04 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

A url for Crocco's "On Mind's Localization":

Now if I say that my embodiment in this form is ineluctable, does it follow that I will experience things that way in thinking? I feel something like an initiative in allowing myself to loaf on the beaches of Upsilon Andromedae c, though the gravity of the place is rather oppressive.

November 06, 2006 4:09 PM  

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