enkinaesthesia and metaphysics

I wrote this to some friends last week, but it’s worth publishing more broadly because it challenges some current metaphysical assumptions.

When we taxonomise and name our world we do a certain violence to it; we rip it apart, as Plato would say: carving nature at its joints (Phaedrus, 265d-266a). This became an ideal of the European Enlightenment, see particularly Carolus Linnaeus’ binomial naming and nearly all scientific endeavour. But what this does is take an artificial set of patterns – in this case language – and assume that, as we find things which fit our linguistic descriptions, we are finding things out about the real world, that is, a world that exists independently of our experience.*

Now experience isn’t innocent here because what we experience is partly shaped and structured by our somatosensory system (all the stuff I mentioned in my previous email); it is also partly shaped by our experiential history, and also by what the world presents to us. [Working out the exact proportions of each would be a fool’s errand.]  What it means is that the end product, the experience, is an artefact of who and what we are.

So, let’s say, we describe the elements of our experience as, for example, green or red, malleable or rigid, mental or physical, and then we look for things which fit our taxonomy or conception. Then we find that ‘minds’ are mental and ‘bodies’ are physical, and never the twain shall meet within that dualistic metaphysics.    But what we forget is that we’re using one set of patterns, an invented language, to frame another set of patterns, what we present to ourselves through the interplay of sensing body and world and what we claim to be sharable (Are my pains the same as your’s? Is my experience of red the same as your’s, and so on.)

But the Alexander Technique (AT) and Gene’s Focusing (F) adopt a simpler and more natural approach. They both start from a non-divisive enkinaesthetic (E) foundation in which experience is embodied involving a rich affective interplay with innumerable other organisms and objects.

In all three cases, AT, F and E, it is the affective interplay which is fundamental. We co-exist co-affectively. Our sensing bodies act, or rather they co-act, with these other things and organisms, and in this affective co-action our sensing bodies probe (interrogate) our experiential worlds. Experience feeds back to affect the organism and alter the direction of their ongoing enkinaesthetic enquiry.

Starting with enkinaesthesia, in which we affect and are affected by other organisms and objects, we are able to understand ourselves within a community and reciprocity of being, where each action engenders affect and that affect engenders action, not just within ourselves but within all life. In that active being is our becoming; they are temporally synchronous – in just the way Michal Segal (my Alexander Technique teacher in Glasgow) has of saying “one after the other and all at the same time”.

The enkinaesthetic approach has the great advantage of being non-violent metaphysically and hermeneutically.

*[Nietzsche writes very well about this in On Truth and Lie in an Extra Moral Sense (attached). So does Borges in his wonderful collection of short stories, ‘Labyrinths’.]

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4 Responses to enkinaesthesia and metaphysics

  1. Mike Beaton says:

    I always thought ‘carving nature at its joints’ was a rather violent metaphor, although no one else seems to comment on it!
    I think a more constructivist description of what are doing here works better; ‘enacting a world’, for instance (and co-enacting it with others).
    Nice post!

  2. Hi Mike!
    I have no problem with enactivism as long as it’s co-enactivism. As enactivism simpliciter, it’s too individuating.

    I’ve been reading Deleuze for a paper I’m co-authoring on enkinaesthesia and first-order languaging and I find his claims about the ‘one’ or the individual, as a “science fiction” resulting from the simulation of identity “produced as an ‘optical effect’ by the more profound game of difference and repetition” and the ‘nowhere’ which is the “displaced, modified and always recreated ‘here-and-now’” [Difference and Repetition, 1994: xix], persuasive.

    Actually I’ll post a passage I wrote about spilling-over into one another’s experience, which will show why it must be co-enaction all the way!

  3. Do you say ‘too indviduating’, meaning it’s incomplete, rather than false? I like the spilling-over idea, but am not sure where you stand on the individual. Wouldn’t co-enactivism have to presuppose individuals who co-enact? I was assuming initially you just meant that enactivism simpliciter leaves something out, but then if you’re going along with the idea that the ‘one’ is an illusion of some kind, you seem to be making a stronger claim?

    • My sense of individuation is that its fine at personal and cultural level, but that, at an agential level of lived experience, it is simply mistaken.

      Enkinaesthesia emphasizes the entwined, experientially entangled co-affective feeling of the presence of the other (agential and non-agential alike). This includes, where appropriate, the enkinaesthetically anticipated arc of the other’s action or movement, and again, where appropriate, the other’s intentionality. The ‘other’ can be sensing and experiencing agents and it is their affective intentional reciprocity, their folding, enfolding, and unfolding, which co-constitutes the conscious relation and the experientially recursive temporal dynamics [I intend to post something about this in a day or two.] that lead to the formation and maintenance of integral enkinaesthetic structures and melodies. Such deeply felt enkinaesthetic melodies emphasize the reciprocity and community of being as the feeling of being-with or being-among, and demonstrate the paucity of individuating notions that treat agents as singular.

      I also intend to post something on why enkinaesthesia is a much more radical notion of entangled embodiment than ‘radical’ enactivism, but time keeps running away with me!

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