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fig.15—on being not quite at home in the (a? my? our?) world


 In his landmark Phenomenology of Perception (1945), Maurice Merleau­-Ponty observes that “Every time I experience a sensation, I feel that it concerns not my own being, the one for which I am responsible, and for which I make decisions, but another self, which has already sided with the world, which is already open to certain of its aspects, and synchronized with them.” But: does he ‘really mean it’? That is, if the dissociation he describes is not a psychopathological symptom, is it but a sophistical pretense? Representationalist arguments only reduce to sound­-bites (e.g. “the mind is what the brain does”) by confusing two dualisms. For a first ‘stupid question’, is my mind ‘in’ my (brain, thus in my) body—or vice­-versa, is my body (as I perceive it, represented to me) ‘in’ my mind? Second, is the world (my world, as I perceive it) in my mind—or vice­-versa, is my mind ‘in’ (my body, thus in) the world? Nominal entities so defined can only site my world (inside my mind, as if alienated from my body, which is) in the world—yet ‘the world’ can only be nominated by (‘my’) axiom—that is, by metaphysical fiat!

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fig.16—in search of the ghost [not] in the machine


 How do we spot the (disavowed) axiomatic fiat? Metzinger, for one, tucks it in between parentheses: “We don’t create an individual world but only a world model. Moreover, the whole idea of potentially being directly in touch with reality is a sort of romantic folklore; we know the world only by using representations, because (correctly) representing something is what knowing is.” (2008) We encounter questions of this sort in ‘the real world’ only if we stop, as philosophers are wont, to discern continuous causal co­-relations such as sensation into active and passive poles that tend to invert—e.g., just as fig.15 flips to fig.16: When you press your hand against a surface you feel resistance—but is it one experience? No and yes: we know (‘objectively’) how efferent (outward) motor actions and afferent (inward) sensory perceptions are routed through discrete yet tightly coupled neural subsystems—our switchback, however, asks how the pressing and feeling are (‘subjectively’) experienced as if they are bound into one exafferent (reciprocal) sensorimotor event—or, as Merleau­-Ponty submits, experienced as if they are not.

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