Life and localization

Take Leibniz’s Mill as sound. Consciousness is nowhere in the cogs, wheels, or parts of your model. So where is it?

If we divide consciousness from its machinery it’s assumed it has to haunt the machinery or meet up with it at some point. The line of reasoning is probably like this:

Awareness is an activity of a living being.

All activities of a living being are localized in the being.

So awareness is localized in a living being.

But the line of reasoning is confused. The parts of a mill have a clear location, and this location can be extended by all the mechanisms that reach to the object of sense, but if consciousness is in none of these places then it is not localized. At any rate, living beings do all sorts of things that are not localized inside of them – like whatever they do with projectiles or parts that they send out from themselves.

Consciousness is the way in which life escapes the subjectivity of localized existence. It only ‘brings the world into” life in a way that makes life escape its own localization. Ruyer’s way of putting it is that consciousness does not generate its field but is the field it generates. Sentient beings are where they sense, and to object that they cannot act there is either false (since they can sense there) or commits the fallacy of the accident (since nothing acts on the exterior world qua sentitent). And so eyeballs and occipital lobes are conditions of existing as a visual field as opposed to existing in the way things do when they feed or grow.

Taken in this sense the diverse sorts of life are ways of standing to physical existence. Nutrition, growth and reproduction are all ways of standing to physical existence by being an intrinsic form; sensation is a way of existing as a visual field, but as standing to the body as something giving orientation. We see things from one angle, hear and smell them from some distance, touch them from the bottom or the top, etc. Intellection loses this perspective and orientation to some localization, though it continues to use the parts of us obedient to intellection to establish emotional shortcuts to conclusions or meditate on sense data.

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