Sunday, September 13, 2009

Topology of Up and Down

Morris conceptually demarcates two classes of movement: grasping, whose topology is based in habitual activity, and residing, a movement by posturing and seeing. "Up," he says, "is specified by postures of residing that point back to an underlying topology of residing, and to an emotional register of our postural relation to earth" (Sense, p. 150). Presumably both kinds of movements are chiasmic. "The referent of 'up' is neither in the world nor in the body, but in movement that crosses the two" (p. 139), and, further, he says the referent of up is "postures of residing, postural movements" (p. 140).

Additionally Morris relates "up" to "open," inviting us to explore an ambivalence in the chiasm between movement from the body out into the world and movement from the world into the body. "[T]he closed posture is like the open posture in implying a relation to earth. But the open posture expresses unconcern for the earth, implies earth as a power at one with the body's power of residing. In contrast, the closed posture implies earth as a region of concern, antagonistic to the body's power of residing" (p. 146). Morris takes walking with the head hanging down as an example of the closed posture and associates this posture with shame.

Tilting one's head toward one's body closes one's body in on itself. This closed posture is protective and concernful, it turns one away from moving involvement with the surrounding world, and brings one into a moving relation with one's body and roots in the world/ One looks down at one's feet and there one notices what Neruda calls "the isolated and solitary part of [one's] being." Just as the unconcern of the open posture hides one's concerned relation to the world, the self-involvement of the closed posture hides the fact that one is concerned not just with oneself, but with one's residence on earth. The closed posture, like fainting in Sartre's analysis, is a postural, emotional attitude that affirms contact with the world precisely in turning away from it.

(p. 145)

Having broached the topic of the world of others, Morris then leads the discussion into the phenomenology of the face, using again the example of shame. He says:

[I]n shame, something curious happens. One turns one's face to oneself. But in doing so, one is facing others in face of whom one is ashamed. How? By taking on their point of view in turning in shame toward oneself, as if one were taking on the face of the other and looking at oneself with another's face (the face of genuine contrition, of shame, and so on); but in the very same moment one is facing away from the others, not looking them in the face, and showing that one cannot face oneself as others do (perhaps the face of contrition is a mask). In the hang-dog gesture of shame, one acknowledges the other's position only by showing that one cannot coincide with it, that one faces shame only by not facing it. There is something tremendously complex going on here, and I suspect it indicates something deep about the phenomenology of facing: that facing can never entirely encompass what it faces, that we can never take on the face of the others we face. Facing is thus an index of responsibility and care in the deep grammar of our facing bodies.

(p. 154)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:35 PM.


Blogger pensum said...

Greetings Fido. just wanted to let you know that, as always, i've been enjoying your posts, but as i personally found Morris's book quite stimulating i've been happy to see you making a close reading of it. i should also mention that you are perhaps the most eloquent writer on these topics (even if you often leave me with little more than a "?" in the balloon above my head).

September 13, 2009 5:02 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Thanks, Michael. You know, I picked up Morris's book because I saw that you had recommended it to Dylan. It's one of the better books I've read in quite some time. It's really kind of delightful.

September 13, 2009 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Dylan said...

I would second what Michael says - Morris is a great thinker. He was just at the Merleau-Ponty Circle, although I didn't have a chance to hear his paper. And, yes: - Fido is certainly the most eloquent (and understated) writer on these topics. Thanks, Dylan

September 14, 2009 8:41 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Dylan, knowing the value you place on understatement that's some praise. It feels real good to be appreciated like this.

September 14, 2009 6:55 PM  
Blogger Dylan Trigg said...

Well, I value understatement because it's difficult to achieve! And the appreciation is probably overdue, especially given that philosophy blogs tend to swarm to the latest trends, while yours always remains independent and committed.

September 15, 2009 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here, here.
Btw, Feldenkrais likes the term 'acture' rather than posture - to denote a more dynamic state.
He also has this thing about 'reversibility'- being able to easily stop a movement. I think he had the first judo black belt in Europe. Some of his bks have some interesting reflections and exercises. "The Master Moves", "The Elusive Obvious", "Potent Self". I guess his work didn't have enough momentum to survive him - altho there are some good teachers out there (Ruthy Alon).
'Everyday I walk the line, your days are numbered and so are mine.'

September 15, 2009 1:23 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Thanks, you guys.

For some reason the idea of reversibility [of action?] makes me think of ergative languages: languages which inflect the direct object of a transitive verb in the same way as the subject of an intransitive verb. Ergativity treats the subject's involvement in a state of affairs as equivalent to their being acted upon. I'm making a note to expand on this before too long.

September 16, 2009 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, of action.
'There is no other way to correct faulty acture in general than by weeding out compulsiveness thru learning reversibility...Reversibility is obtained when the reciprocal functions of excitation and inhibition are in a state of unstable equilibrium, from which volitional control is easy. Near the state of equilibrium, little effort is necessary to shift the balance in any direction...(Feldenkrais, The Potent Self).
'The taut abdomen school refers to the flat abdomen of ancient Greek sculpture as a prototype of perfection. Most Greek sculptures do in fact show v. good acture (in the case of statues, posture would probably be more correct), but you will notice by careful examination that their abdomens are held free from voluntary tightening. The lower abdomen is full: that is, one can sense the viscera resting against the abdomen and weighing on the abdominal wall. The muscles are drawn up by this weight tonically. To produce the same degree of abdominal flatness by voluntary contraction (by pulling the abdomen up or in) either the pelvis is tilted with its top too far back, or the chest is made rigid and the lower ribs protude too far forward....

September 16, 2009 12:20 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Read this morning: "Coporeity corresponds to the moment of difference; consciousness corresponds to the moment of reversibility, which is only the other side of the preceding moment" (Barbaras, The Being of the Phenomenon, p. 245).

September 16, 2009 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And it did occur to me that Palindrome is a reversible relation

Mindful Living Creatures as Instruments of Nature;
Nature as an Instrument of Mindful Living Creatures

September 17, 2009 2:19 PM  

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