Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You Have to be Nobody Before You Can be Somebody

About those useless grace notes in the human sonata we were about to discuss yesterday. Purcell counts seven principal ones, beginning with "our culture-oriented body plan" and "our meaning-oriented brain and vocal tract."

Now, "orientation" has to do with that part of the firmament where the sun rises, the sun being the visible symbol of centrality and radiation.

To be oriented to culture is to be oriented to meaning, so these two are actually one. Human beings are oriented to meaning, period, and are epistemophilic to the core. Which is why deep down we are depthless.

And this orientation is indeed incarnated in our "body plan," as explained in book three of the encirclopedia.

That is to say, culture and meaning would be impossible -- literally inthunkable -- in the absence of a biological mainframe that is both malleable and intersubjective. Hence our neurological incompleteness at birth and our permanent neoteny thereafter.

No other organism remains "incomplete" for life. Rather, all other organisms are "completed" by the actualization of their genetic program. But a merely genetic human being wouldn't be one.

Purcell is clearly oriented to the same attractor and occupying the same phase space I am. I wonder if he also wants to be a cage fighter?

As he writes, "Unlike animals who are fairly well provided by instinct..., the most important things we need for existing as humans take a long time to learn. So we have both a long childhood and a long period of post-reproductive survival..."

Purcell cites similar evidence to mine (see p. 127), noting that "Neanderthal children grew up at a faster rate than those of modern human beings," which meant that they had a shorter amount of time to imprint culture before the neurodevelopmental window slammed shut. Which is why the evolutionary door also closed on them.

Yes, definitely the same phase space: "the extremely unspecialized human infant body" allows it "unlimited adaptability in relation to... the 'social womb' of its human environment..."

Purcell's next two grace notes are language and symbolization, but here again, it seems to me that these too fall under the rubric of "meaning."

Meaning per se is the whole dimension of post-genetic and post-biological truth and subjectivity:

"Homo sapiens represents the last known stage of hominid evolution, and also the first in which the constraints of zoological evolution had been overcome and left immeasurably far behind" (Leroi-Gourhan, in Purcell).

Indeed, one might say infinitely behind, because there is an infinite and unbridgeable abyss between absolute and relative from the latter up, so to speak.

In other words, the Absolute not only implies, but necessitates, the relative.

But the relative could never become absolute of its own powers, any more than darkness could become light or Obama could get into Harvard.

The deeper principle here seems to be the "separation of form from matter," both individually and as a species. In other words, for the individual, to "think" means to distinguish appearance from reality, or principle from manifestation.

Likewise, post-biological human evolution involves the potentiation of what is only implicit in the DNA. DNA is necessary but insufficient for humanness to emerge and develop. That requires other humans, or let us say exemplars and models of humanness.

This is why most human artifacts have no connection to genetic interests, or again, why so much of what we do is so wonderfully useless.

Now, in order to discover "reality," man must obviously be liberated from Darwinism, otherwise what he imagines he is discovering is just a predictable consequence of his genetic programming.

Again, in order for this to happen, man must be ordered to the infinite, not just bound to the finite.

How to create such a species? Noam Chomsky, of all nim chimpskys, once mused that "if a divine architect were faced with the problem of designing something to satisfy these conditions, would actual human language be one of the candidates, or close to it?"

In a word, yes. For in the beginning -- and end -- is the Word.


Magister said...

How to create such a species?

First, tell them to go outside.

River Cocytus said...

For those moored inside, there's always the inward journeying...

mushroom said...

Likewise, post-biological human evolution involves the potentiation of what is only implicit in the DNA.

This was what DNA was trying to get to all along.

This is reflected in the progressive revelation of Scripture — God carefully and in different ways revealing Himself in and to His creation. It can also be seen in what theologians call "redemptive history".

The world had to evolve to be a fit for us.

Van Harvey said...

" But a merely genetic human being wouldn't be one."

I hear Dawkins & Dennett howling their 'Nooooo!!!'s. It burns.

EbonyRaptor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EbonyRaptor said...

"Which is why deep down we are depthless"

I've had the same dream, maybe a dozen times in my life. It's a good dream, one which I try to drift back into upon waking, but never can.

In the dream I have a house. It's a nice but modest house. I walk in and walk up the stairs to the second floor, sometimes I'm alone, other times there is someone with me. I turn to the right at the top of the stairs and there's a door. I know what's behind the door and yet it's not always exactly the same. I open the door and there is huge room. The room is always exponentially larger than what could concievably be inside my nice little modest house. It's literally cavernous and other times like the grandest of Grand Ballrooms. There is a long stairway going down deep into the room. When I step through the doorway, there's a feeling of awe and wonder and yet a feeling of familiarity and belonging.

Now, a dream interpretation would probably reveal some profound abnormality in my psyche. But I know what it means for me. It is the mansion my Lord has prepared for me. It is a place big enough for Him to live inside me.

mushroom said...

I ain't exactly Joseph, but I think your interpretation is right on the mark.

ge said...

Have to be Nobody Before You Can be Somebody...

a high school joke:
two old black southern men were overheard chatting during lunch break:
"Wat it mean when you imPOtent?"

"It mean you SOMEbody!"