Sunday, July 12, 2009


The Oxford American College Dictionary has this to say about the word "field," in its physics usage: the region in which a certain condition prevails, esp. one in which a force or influence is effective regardless of the presence or absence of a material medium; the force exerted or potentially exerted in such a medium.

Among current philosophical theories of consciousness, an odd one has been offered. It hopes to resolve the "hard problem" (how to account for experiences of qualia, given a material brain substrate) by envisioning our sense of self as something partly external. The strong sense of an "I" is a kind of illusion. According to this line, the "I" is actually one half of a binary "self." Thus, consciousness sort of hangs out there beyond our bodies and is composed equally of the brain's emanations and the world's field. Invisible strings of diffuse meat and spatial event are woven together to construct the web of self-consciousness.

This scenario reminds me, counterintuitively, of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Of his ideas about alterity – radical Otherness. Although I think he would have agreed that the external field of experience is a strong shaping force, he would ascribe to it no actual intermeshing toward the realization of an "I." For him, I believe, the "I" is distinct. What is "out there" is something else. But it also presses on our selves with a tremendous moral weight. Otherness is infinite. Its claim on us is inexhaustible. (A simplistic extrusion on my part: selfishness is a violation of reality). Levinas thought that the truest implication of Otherness is its requirement for a God to contain and be expressive of the radical magnitude.

All of the above is prologue to my own stab at a bit of (suspect) philosophizing. That theory above about consciousness being a complex is attractive to me. Yet I also think Levinas makes some sense, with his conception of being as points of discrete obligation to what lies outside. Seems like we're in a paradox. Maybe from a higher crow's-eye view, the tension of the paradox is relaxed somewhat: perhaps there's an answer, but it's not really available on this plane of existence.

What I've in mind seems related to the idea above that selfhood inheres, ultimately, as a complex, not in some radical Cartesian I-am-ness. But instead of a strict binary "I," I'd call that complex a milieu. Then, I'd push into that word a little deeper and re-characterize it as "fields." A personal note: all my life, I've been forced to live inside alien fields, the overpowering fields of others; those force-fields make a claim on me that I wish, for the most part, I could avoid; I want others (or another) to spend some time inside my own field – the world I've built up from my idiosyncratic point of view, the frequency on which my soul buzzes.

All right. Now to gather up all the above and try to cram it into a point. This post is labeled "Eros," not philosophy, so I wish my point -- my reason for writing this thing -- to be about love relations. Fields of love.

"The region in which a certain condition prevails." Rumor has it that there are soul mates out there for us. Broadly considering that, I would say people are divided into two pools: those of action and those of introspection. Who knows what causes a person to become one or the other? Maybe the shadow of something mystical dapples this question, something from the foundations of the world.

Do opposites attract? Of course they do. But they can't be soul mates. They aren't made of the same "stuff," and they don't resonate or vibrate inside the same field. It is one of life's tragedies when a person must keep their field switched off. It is one of life's blessings when two similar fields collide, brush past or tenuously intermingle with one another, exchanging subtle particles of sensibility.

1 comment:

  1. Had to look up Levinas.

    It is as though subjective life in the form of consciousness consisted in being itself losing itself and finding itself again so as to possess itself by showing itself, proposing itself as a theme, exposing itself in truth.

    To become conscious of a being is then always for that being to be grasped across an ideality and on the basis of a said. Eyen an empirical, individual being is broached across the ideality of logos. Subjectivity qua consciousness can thus be interpreted as the articulation of an ontological event, as one of the mysterious ways in which its 'act of being' is deployed.

    It is the very transcending characteristic of this beyond that is signification. Signification is the contradictory trope of the-one-for-the-other. The-one-for-the-other is not a lack of intuition, but the surplus of responsibility. My responsibility for the other is the for of the relationship, the very signifyingness of signification, which signifies in saying before showing itself in the said.
    Levinas, Emmanuel and Alphonso Lingis (Translator). Substitution. 1968.

    Hat's off to the translator. ;-)