|Psyche, in psearch of you|
For those coming late to the party, or for whom the New Year's revelry and/or Groundhog's Day has blotted out the previous chapters, a brief recap is in order:
- "To Deepen into Art..."
The series began with a brief reflection on a comment made by Thomas Disch shortly before his tragic suicide that to "deepen his fiction into art," he would have to return to Catholicism, which he was unwilling to do.
- In Psearch of Psyche: Some Groundwork
We discussed the notion of potency and act, and their respective principles of matter and form. Psyche, or "soul" is a form, and we began with the simplest case: that of the form of inanimate beings, like sodium atoms. While souls are much more complex than these inanimate forms, some groundwork can be laid by considering the latter as ur-souls. We saw that inertia, understood as a tendency to preserve a body's current state, could be viewed as something analogous to life.
- In Psearch of Psyche: Man the Vegetable.
The simplest psyche is the nutritive soul, whose cognition is purely digestive: it knows by consuming. (Or by reproduction: that's why Adam "knew" Eve.) This kind of psyche is the seat of the most primitive aspects of life: eating and reproducing, and it is likely no coincidence that we are afflicted with an "epidemic of obesity" at the same time we are afflicted with pelvic fixations. Although for some reason, no one talks of an "epidemic of loose sex" or gets the CDC involved in stemming its spread.
- In Psearch of Psyche: Day of the Triffids!
This was a short diversion to consider the borderland between the nutritive ("vegetable") soul and the sensitive ("animal") soul. The categories do not break clean, and it is possible for some "higher plants" to exhibit some of the properties of "lower animals."
- In Psearch of Psyche: Man the Animal
The sensitive soul adds to the cognition of digestion the cognition of sensation. An animal knows not only by eating (and sexing) but also by perceiving. In this episode we explored the sensational aspects of stimulus-response -- the outer senses and the inner senses -- and we saw how the inner senses of perception, memory, and imagination endow animals with skills that at the higher end can mimic those of humans. Now it is time for the response part of the loop.
A key reminder: The soul is not some sort of free-floating substance that somehow occupies the same space as a body and somehow interacts with it. The "mind-body problem" is no more a problem than the "sphere-basketball problem." Because it is the substantial form of a potentially living body, the soul is the principle (starting point) of all the acts of the complete substance (the "synolon"). A suitable analogy can be seen in the inanimate form of an atom. What makes the element what-it-is and gives it its powers is the number and arrangement of its material parts. Sodium and chlorine differ in the number of their protons, electron, and neutrons, and it is this arrangement rather than the protons, electrons, and neutrons in themselves that make one a metal and the other a gas. IOW, reductionism is a mug's game. How the parts act as an ensemble is very different from how they act solo.