Response to Sarah’s 1.6 and thinking with Whitehead (Jon Sakata)

Whitehead’s view elsewhere that the universe is “a field of force—or, in other words, a field of incessant activity” not only undergirds Sarah’s  crucial vectorization “Form is a verb” but that, I would expand, everything is verb. Life is verb. [To tie with other conversations in Session 1 concerning ‘meaning’ and ‘sense-making’, just would add here sens in French also includes additionally ‘directionality’, this dimension of vectoring form-ing, living, creating.]

I sing Whitehead’s song concerning an undivided Nature-[Hu]Man and there is indeed so much to marvel and affirm in, as Sarah says: “...that what distinguishes humans is the way that we have used culture to radically extend and amplify our capacities.” And yet, I pause how human plasticity and our incomparable capacities have brought us — humans and non-humans — to the brink of planetary ecocide. I don’t know if Whitehead contemplated such a horizon; but (re-)affirming and (re-)activating an incessant culture of care—or even more, to incessantly create embodied (micro-)cultures of caring—feels crucial in confronting and embracing what lies Be-For(e) and With-In.


To keep from humanism-past:

- While there was the French Enlightenment; there was also the daring inflammatory counter-Enlightenment of Johann Georg Hamman (as much I feel little resonance with his polemics).

- Within the French Enlightenment, that Diderot could pen such a flight of delirium as Rameau’s Nephew.

- Who was it that posited that the opposition between reason and feeling is illusory? Rather, that reason is a special form of feeling. In other words, feeling is a continuum inclusive of reason.

Meditating on just these three—the way they each circuit a critical contingency to push back or vector ways of thinking and living otherwise while entangled in far more formidable, prevailing, dominant conditionalities—could it be that I harbor a desire to keep all of humanism-past?

What might enacting erasure of parts of humanism-past portend for an ethical posthumanism-future?


Deborah Barlow said...

"Who was it that posited that the opposition between reason and feeling is illusory? Rather, that reason is a special form of feeling. In other words, feeling is a continuum inclusive of reason."

More on this please, from anyone.

Taney Roniger said...

Jon and Deborah, Do you mean that someone from the past -- one of the Enlightenment figures, perhaps -- posited that the reason/feeling opposition is illusory? If so, I'd love to hear more on this. Of course, if you're referring to a contemporary figure that's another story altogether -- and one on which I'd have much to say!

Jon Sakata said...


Taney Roniger said...

It could well be that Hume and Deleuze made this claim - very interesting. What I had in mind were people like Antonio Damasio, George Lakoff, and Mark Johnson, all of whom have written extensively on this in recent times. What was revelatory for me when I first read Lakoff was the idea that (and he has studied this empirically -- it's not just conjecture) the entire human conceptual apparatus arises from our embodied, sensual contact with the world, and as such consists mostly, if not entirely, of metaphors involving bodily actions. (Jon is of course talking about *feeling,* or emotion, but we seem to have no problem allowing that emotions arise from our embodied being in the world. And if reason is a function of emotion, and emotion is a function of our embodiment, then what I'm saying is similar.) But then when you think about it, how could it be otherwise? Old claims to the contrary notwithstanding, it's not like reason just descended on us from some mysterious celestial source; it had to have been born of the earth, just like everything else about us. And on emotion specifically, Antonio Damasio's claim (again, proven empirically) is that not only are reason and emotion fundamentally connected, but reason is entirely *dependent* upon emotion. To think that all this time we've gotten this so wrong. Another facet of human hubris, I suppose: to assume that things we *wish* were the case are in fact the case. I love what was said earlier about affect being so much more difficult than reason -- so much more difficult to inhabit -- and that rather than owning this difficulty, we ("we") divorced ourselves from it and cast it on to women!

Deborah Barlow said...

Taney, this is compelling and full of rich veins to explore. Thank you for taking this on.

I am also hoping Sarah Robinson will weigh as well. (She did a symposium and subsequent publication on Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment, and the Future of Design.)

Taney Roniger said...

Rich indeed! I can make this a separate thread so others will be sure to see it. I do think it calls for some in-depth attention.

Jon Sakata said...

That sounds like great idea, Taney!

Great to finally meet you and really enjoyed today's talk with Christine!