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HTLGI2013 Architecture of Being

May 27, 2013

This session was a presentation by Rowland Smith and as the notes indicate he is interesting in dealing with questions of what we cannot know.  He admits to a work in progress and to a starting point in Freud which to be honest I think provides a lot more problems than it solves as its very dated in terms of both science and philosophy.  His basic theme is that we have to live with not knowing, and that now knowing is a defining characteristic of what we are and who we are.  The first part was interesting, framing the problem in terms of challenges to the older view that humanity has primacy.  But then it descends into what for me is one of the most distressing but all to common dichotomies between the real and the other which manifests in all too many ways; including the absurd emotional/rational dichotomy.  In this case he distinguishes between the self which is constructed over time through habit and which makes us identifiable to others as opposed to the me which is the subconscious aspect that is aware but not judgemental.  One is closed, the other is open, one is isolated the other connected and so on.  

It turns out he is not aware of the different between autonomic and novelty receptive aspects of the brain and generally makes no reference to modern philosophy of consciousness.  To my mind its the classic post-Jungian mysticism which is just sloppy thinking not to mention restricted reading.  That said its well presented and interesting so its a good start.  I enjoy getting angry and frustrated as much if not more so than if I am in agreement, you learn more that way!   Mind you the Guardian reviewing his Breakfast with Socrates is more savage:

No thought is too banal for Rowland Smith; unfortunately, his banality is perfectly compatible with error. He rarely loses an opportunity to suppress what is true and suggest what is false. But the book has one redeeming feature: it proves how right Pascal was.

Harsh but I think I agree.  He is a management consultant as well as a philosopher and the writer of popular books.  One of the problems of the festival is that it attracts a disproportionate number of popularisers who are not always deep thinkers.

 

MY NOTES

Rowland Smith  Philospher, work in progress.  Starting point is Freud,  three huge blows to status of (primacy) humanity.  first copernican revolution;, second darwin as we no longer gods special creatures; third was Freud's concept of unconscious.  Out being was predicated on our consciousness. 'We are strangers to ourselves' from Nietzsche.  From that you might infer that only despair lies ahead.

Thinks the problem can be reframed.  That account is an objective account of humans in general.  Alternative is a subjective description namely the architecture of being.  Never the less I as a subject appear important.  Everything I see, do, touch and smell sees me at the epicentre of the things that are around me.  Bad news objectively but subjectively I can carry on living my life.

There is a paradox in this, as its the case that everyone feels the same.  We live in a world of 7 billion centres of the world.  So wants to develop concept of architecture of being around the idea of subjective being.  What does it mean? What orbits around us?   Four planets that orbit around each of us as relationships: horizontal, outwards to other humans Heidegger idea of being thrown into being)  this is ungainsayable.  (ii) relationship to the non-human world and there are lots of categories within that.  Literal things and the animal and plant world (lumped together as from our preoccupation with humanity everything else is relegated to the non-human)  (iii) a vertical relationship with ideas, the immaterial world  ideals, spiritual, Devine etc. etc. (iv) one behind us, a relationship with the unknown.  All the others are knowable.  There are things we do not know and two sub-categories (a) the unknown which could be known and science maps onto this but in principle we could (b) is the unknowable, that we will ever know and he includes the existence of God and the question of the afterlife.  Belief in God is a belief not a knowledge. 

Humans have to learn to live with not knowing and God existing is one of those.  That now knowing is a defining characteristic of what we are and who we are.  We don't know about life after death, we know what happens to the body etc.

So what is the centre of this model?  At the centre of this is the self which is divided into two, the self (ordinary language use) which makes us identifiable to others.  We become more and more ourselves over time largely through habit  Self is selective and selecting as a mode of being.  The other aspect is that which has not been narrowed in, what happens to the other 80% of a lecture when you only remember the 20%   You are still experiencing it even if you don't remember it.  so we experience at the self level to make meaning and select; although self is critical its also limiting as prevents other experiences.  So the thing that the self rests on (the me) which is much more open to the world which is not doing the filtering which is registering everything.  This openness is he believes one of the key ways in which the relationship to other people and unknown can be enriched etc. etc.   The self response sees others as the enemy while the me is more open.

Access to the me is through creativity
Reference to Jung  and agrees it has an overlap
Playing with the idea that the me is connected  (OMG)

In response to question you could see Marx as another blow to concept of self as you are class marked and driven by economics.

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