Re: [xmca] Actants, Greimas, Levi-Strauss

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jul 10 2007 - 16:37:24 PDT

  I don't think you killed the conversation -- sometimes other things intervene in ones capacity to respond, sometimes the thoughts that are awoken in response to what another has written don't lend themselves to immediate expression, sometimes there is simply nothing more to say.
  Last night I watched "Capote" on the TV. It made me think about this problem of "ownership" of the body. A guard was posted on death row to make sure the condemned didn't commit suicide. The warden told Capote something to the effect that the individual didn't have the right to take his own life, this was the prerogative of the State. And even the individual dying of terminal diseases in great pain is denied the right to do away with the body. But ownership implies among other things that one has the right to dispose with it as one pleases.
  There seems to be a continuum of sensory, bodily centered experience, including emtions, that roots the relation between the experience of a trranscendental self, a self that one can somehow conceive independtly of the body; eg, cartesian ego, Kant's transcendental apperception, Heidegger's Dasein, Sartre's for-itself, etc. and the material world in which and from which the body appears. We achieve reflective consciousness of self well after our bodies have been born into the world in which that self-consciousness finds itself thrust. If that self-consciousness requires language and language is clearly not the product of anything happening in an isolated indivvidual, that abstract self which pretends to own things, wouldn't it be just as reasonable to assume that we are just glints, reflections of a larger consciousness and that the identification of tour experience consciousness with the body in which it appears is, not only an illusion, but also the basis for all
 kinds of problems ? A virus that infects the real basis of the consciousness of which it is but a particular reflection.
  You talk about gaining mastery over the body as an expression of free will. One of the lemmas of that mastery is basically: "no gain without pain". I think of the famous film of the Buddhist monk in 'Vietnam who set himself on fire - as he burned he remained upright, without moving, in a perfect lotus posture. This monk at the same time would have had to completely separated himself from the experience of pain as relating to his ego (to use one possible term for the abstract self in which free will if it exists must reside) and also to have treated his body as something he had the right to dispose of. Paradoxical no?
  Random thoughts to show that the conversation isn't dead, perhaps just coasting.
Martin Packer <> wrote:
  Well I didn't mean to kill the conversation! But perhaps I could have made
my point more clearly.

It's tempting to view the body as a possession of the person. I 'have' a
body. But occasions like the ones I described - and other more mundane ones
like falling asleep, but they're much less fun to write about - show that
the body can continue while the person disappears. The body is a condition
for the possibility of the person, not vice versa. The body 'has' a person;
or 'supports' a person, perhaps it would be more accurate to say.

Except that each of us is able to achieve some degree of control over our
body. Its determinations never completely disappear, but we gain some degree
of will-power, of voluntary mastery of its powers. I can decide how to treat
my body. So the dependency becomes more of a two-way street. But this
freedom is bounded and temporary. One comes into the world a body (a neonate
is a body not a person, although at times sparklingly sensate), and one
leaves the same way.


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Received on Tue Jul 10 16:39 PDT 2007

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