I originally posted this on the Big Stories thread, but I have decided to start an independent thread for it.  It's a  new book by David Abram on "cosmology," this one an earthly and fleshy cosmology:

 

Becoming Animal by David Abram

 

 

Excerpt:

 

"Between the Body and the Breathing Earth

Owning up to being an animal, a creature of earth.  Tuning our animal senses to the sensible terrain: blending our skin with the rain-rippled surface of rivers, mingling our ears with the thunder and the thrumming of frogs, and our eyes with the molten gray sky.  Feeling the polyrhythmic pulse of this place -- this huge windswept body of water and stone.  This vexed being in whose flesh we're entangled.

Becoming earth.  Becoming animal.  Becoming, in this manner, fully human.

*

This is a book about becoming a two-legged animal, entirely a part of the animate world whose life swells within and unfolds all around us.  It seeks a new way of speaking, one that enacts our interbeing with the earth rather than blinding us to it.  A language that stirs a new humility in relation to other earthborn beings, whether spiders or obsidian outcrops or spruce limbs bend low by the clumped snow.  A style of speech that opens our senses to the sensuous in all its multiform strangeness.

The chapters that follow strive to discern and perhaps to practice a curious kind of thought, a way of careful reflection that no longer tears us out of the world of direct experience in order to represent it, but that binds us ever more deeply into the thick of that world.  A way of thinking enacted as much by the body as by the mind, iformed by the humid air and the soil and the quality of our breathing, by the intensity of our contact with the other bodies that surround.

Yet words are human artifacts, are they not?  Surely to speak, or to think in words, is necessarily to step back from the world's presence into a purely human sphere of reflection?  Such, precisely, has been our civilized assumption.  But what if meaningful speech is not an exclusively human possession?  What if the very language we now speak arose first in response to an animate, expressive world -- as a stuttering reply not just to others of our species but to an enigmatic cosmos that already spoke to us in a myriad of tongues?

What if thought is not born within the human skull, but is a creativity proper to the body as a whole, arising spontaneously from the slippage between an organism and the folding terrain that it wanders?  What if the curious curve of thought is engendered by the difficult eros and tension between our flesh and the flesh of the earth?"

 

Becoming Animal from David Abram on Vimeo.

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Well, a few more pages in to the chapter, and he has switched voices and now is making more of a philosophical case for a particular conception of mind:  arguing, essentially, that 'mind' not be viewed as a special substance or property contained within isolated objects, but as something which is metaphorically more like air and sunlight: a vibrant medium into which we are all born, and in which we are participant.  However, he doesn't appear to be positing 'mind' as some sort of 'extra' special substance, like an ether or disembodied spirit; rather, he seems to be making something more like a panpsychic claim: that physical world and mind are different perspectives on, different modes of 'access' available 'within' (to different degrees and in different ways) this creative thickness in which we "live and move and have our being."  His main argument for regarding awareness as a 'medium' appears to be largely metaphoric: he doesn't appear to be directly saying that rocks are aware (at the level of rocks), but rather suggests that awareness is medium-like because it is something 'in' which we form (as social subjects) and from which we can never extricate ourselves or stand aloof.  But he does appear to want to transgress the traditional boundaries which make awareness strictly internal to bodies.  He says that awareness has an 'internal' quality, but this internality does not mean 'inside the skin': rather, it is internal because it is phenomenologically or qualitatively an 'immersive field' for the individual subject and because it involves or 'is' a 1p mode of access.

 

Edward - It's one thing to say "mind" is an interrelationship between an organic lifeform with its inorganic environment, but another to say that the inorganic environment has a mind of its own. Not sure he's saying the latter, just a vague sense from the limited info above. What do you think?

Balder - In a sense, Abram's writings strike me as perfectly useless and impractical, but delightful nonetheless (and perhaps the better for being useless).  In another mood, I might be prepared to defend a "use" for them, but this feels right to me now.

Well, I wont defend what Iam going to say :) I think phenomena/environment is the expression of the mind . I was suggesting there isn’t a qualitative difference between I, we and it. What’s interesting (beside the exterior) is this quantitative difference in the quantum of qualitative stuff. Which is to say there is more mind in a jumpy organism than in a rock. The quality of all interiors in itself isn’t isolated

I think that mind is that zone between consciousness and creativity or rather dual directional between them. The performative mind is consciousness and the creative mind, is that instantaneous mind that does not act or needs to. The expression of this mind is phenomena. Like if your hanging out with someone in a strange place and a pink and blue cloud appears, it could be your or say an intersubject/objective aesthetic that is its origin, beside the odd possibility that, that cloud loves your sense of how a cloud should be  .  the Navajo way  rings a bell – coextensive with the surrounding environment

An interesting neuroscientific statement on the presence of consciousness in animals:

 

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

The following article centers on Deleuze and Guattari's conception of animality, but opens with a useful description of their more basic notions of 'becoming' and 'assemblages':

The Status of Animality in Deleuze's Thought.

Happy Earth Day!  To honor it here on IPS, I am sharing this paean to the fleshy, sensuous world by David Abram:

Earth in Eclipse

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