Thursday, March 15, 2007

Proprioception and Consciousness

The Feb 12 New Yorker article on the Mind/Body problem quoted the Princeton philosopher Thomas Nagel, who once published an essay "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" In it he argues that though we can imagine being a bat, having fur, wings, hanging upside down, eating insects, we are limited by our human-ness. "'Insofar as I can imagine this (which is not very far),' he wrote,' it tells me only what it would be like for me to behave as a bat behaves. But that is not the question. I want to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat.'"

I wound up eating dinner by myself at Ken's tonight. And as I was sitting there alone in a booth, I looked at the diners surrounding me at for some strange reason I tried to imagine being in their bodies.

We all have a sense of proprioception, an awareness of our own body. Most of the time, we do not realize that we can sense our own body, our blood rushing through our arteries, how we breathe, where our body parts are in relation to one another. But the thought that entered my mind was what it would be like to sense the proprioception of someone else's body. Do women feel themselves differently then men, just like bats are different from humans? Like the old question about whether what I see as blue, you see as green, does each individual have a unique sense of proprioception altogether? A proprioception unique to e-kvetcher that no one else shares and hence no one truly understands?

6 Comments:

Blogger Liorah-Lleucu said...

Yes, I think everything that exists is unique in this way. If it were not so, there would be no real purpose for existence.

March 15, 2007 9:41 PM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

I have had the color argument with people several times, cuz I have a theory (though completely unsubstantiated) that color is experienced differently by everyone and what I consider "red" actually looks completely different in my brain from that of my neighbor.

I do know that I experience some things very differently from others, and often don't realize. When I drink alcohol, I get really dizzy - that's my sensation of being drunk. And for years, I didn't know that it wasn't universal, I always figured that was the basis for asking someone who had been drinking to walk a straight line. I'm sure there's tons of other similar things like that, and we often have no idea that how we experience something is completely different from the next person.

March 16, 2007 3:32 AM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

One other note, sorry, it actually makes me wonder if there is anything to the universal human experience - whether there is anything that everyone actually experiences as the same - or whether we just use common language to describe it because we are conditioned to do so.

March 16, 2007 3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just started reading the Maharal's Gevuras Hashem (on Pesach) this very morning, and his opening paragraphs to his first introduction touch on similar ideas (I luv it when it works that way).

He discusses the difference between one's ability to comprehend Yimos Hamoshiach vs. understanding Olam Habah (Gan Eden, I think).
He notes that nevuah can only take effect within one's own personal frame of reference. Such that there are no nevuas about olam habah bc we have no connection to it, however it is possible to prophecize about what this world (that we are connected to) will look like during Yimos Hamoshiach.

And the Maharal also uses this idea as a distinction between chachma and nevua.

March 16, 2007 6:58 AM  
Blogger Tobie said...

First of all, Ken's! Major nostalgia rush

Secondly, I've played the other-people's-eyes game myself, and I don't think it ever really works. Maybe that is the function of language- to try to put other people into our heads. But then again, we can't really express anything and we can't really understand anything that other people express...

March 17, 2007 11:55 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>>First of all, Ken's! Major nostalgia rush

I think the word you're thinking of is dyspepsia :)

March 17, 2007 8:10 PM  

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