Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Becoming Animal by David Abram

Next meeting/dinner is July 16th and being held at John Ruskuski's home.
Arrive 5 pm or so for drinks and such, then dinner at 6.
By the way, John has dogs.

The book that we'll discuss is Becoming Animal by David Abram
We are limiting meetings to 8 people now.
Yes RSVP's for the July 16th meeting:
Susan,Earl,John Ruskuski,Joyce,Bill,Julie,Fred, and Travis

I'm accumulating my questions here on this blog.  Most of these questions are vague so that the discussion may go in all kinds of directions.  I'd still like to maintain the structure of 10 minutes (or less) per topic question if that is OK with everyone.

The first two questions are Bill's questions.  The others are mine.

1.   The number one question that this book raised for Bill was this: Let's posit that shamanism uses slight of hand and conjuring to create a false sense of some intermediary power over others through careful examination of the physical world (rather than fear of it) and uses that information to maintain a superior position over others in groups of people.  Is religion, as it is practiced in western civilization, a direct descendant of fear of the unknown, and therefore one of the all time greatest magic tricks ever?

2. Does modern philosophy suffer from detachment of the observer by virtue of their isolation and insulation from our natural sense of acuity and  awareness of the world that surrounds us?   Abram's  philosophical approach is to connect with his world through the eyes of one who works their hands and mind through their environment rather than an approach that is disconnected or cutoff from his surrounding world by technology.  [I think this question is  somewhat similar to question # 9 and # 4]

3. Does language help shape our beliefs?

4. Abram asks this question: "Do we really trust that the human mind can maintain its coherence in an exclusively man--made world?" at loc 2041

5. Did you  have a hard time discerning when Abram was talking in metaphor and when he was making claims that he believed were truly part of reality?  I heard that Plato didn't like poets.  Do you feel a benefit to poetry?  The metaphors are poetry, yes?

6. Quote from the book:   "As soon as we breathe out, letting mind flow back into the field that surrounds us, we feel a new looseness and freedom."   This is one example of what prompted my questions # 5 and #14

7.  I am interested in what you think of the 'Sleight-of-Hand' chapter especially this sentence (located around 3282 on the Kindle):  "I had learned to recognize the impressions, when they arrived, as an inward indication that I was standing close to a magician of unusual depth and strength."  [This is similar to Bill's question #1 but different.  I was hoping to head in a direction of bazarre experiences we have had in relation to reality]

8. I'd like to discuss this quote which is around loc 3721:  "Dance was the improvisational ecstasy that dissolved the crossfire of other people's emotions."

9.  I'd like to discuss these three quotes.
loc 4042:"Each thing attentively pondered, gathers our senses together in a unique way."   
loc 4192:"The nervous system that seethes within our skin still thirsts for relatively unmediated exchange with reality"
loc 4585: Leave abundant space in our days for an interchange with one another and with our surroundings that is not mediated by technology

10. Do you think this is true: "the human craving for relation with that which exceeds us is as strong as ever" loc [4402]

11. Humans have invented things. Have those inventions made the lives of humans better or worse?

12. Are humans today more or less violent than humans during the days of the Inquisition?

13. I liked his explanation of the difference between Plato's concept of "idea" and Aristotle's concept. Which way do you lean? Is there a pure reality? Or should we be content with what we can observe with our senses? Are my questions falling prey to the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy?

14. Dualism. Are there many different aspects to that concept? I believe that Spinoza didn't like Descartes' dualism (mind/body separation). But I think that Spinoza did think that there was a oneness to all of nature. If you believe in a oneness, then does that make you a dualist of sorts? In other words, could you be considered a dualist if you think there is a substance that connects us all???
from wikipedia:
Monism in philosophy can be defined according to three kinds:
A.Idealism, phenomenalism, or mentalistic monism which holds that only mind is real.
B.Neutral monism, which holds that both the mental and the physical can be reduced to some sort of third substance, or energy.
C.Physicalism or materialism, which holds that only the physical is real, and that the mental or spiritual can be reduced to the physical.
Certain other positions are hard to pigeonhole into the above categories,

15. Bill's comment:  "I found it fascinating that Abram's connected with medicine men and women through his slight of hand performances.  The fact that he actually got that connection is pretty amazing all by itself.  (Can the court jester also be the court wizard?)  But not surprising because he is so intent on being "in tune" with his surroundings, whether they be natural or man-made.  His application of utilizing the animal level of awareness in all environments reveals a lot about us.  The fact that he sensed peoples awareness about him being on par with the highest level spiritual member in a tribe, and not the entertainer takes a great mental leap forward, and is probably lost on most people."  <==I think there is a lot to discuss in this comment..so I posted it here to remind me to mention this perpective.  I think that I agree with the comment.

Here are some other quotes from the book that I'd like to discuss if  there is time.  That first quote is also one that might be covered next month in our reading of Quine.

- Highlight Loc. 192-94 As a phenomenologist, I am far too taken with lived experience—with the felt encounter between our sensate body and the animate earth—to suit his philosophical taste. As a metaphysician, Deleuze is far too given to the production of abstract concepts to suit mine.

- Highlight Loc. 507-11 The notion of “projection” fails to account for what it is about certain objects that calls forth our imagination. It implies that the objects we perceive are purely passive phenomena, utterly neutral and inert, and so enables us to overlook the way in which such objects actively affect the space around them—the manner in which material things are also bodies, influencing the other bodies within their ambit, and being influenced in turn.

Of course you certainly may bring your own topic questions related to the book to the meeting. I like organizing my questions in writing here on the blog.

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