The interiority of nature and mind

The Cartesian division of nature and mind makes mind entirely interior and nature entirely exterior. All there is to nature is extension, understood as the possibility of indefinite divisions which, conveniently, allows nature to always correspond to uniform units of our own devising. Given this perfect correspondence, we can in fact replace nature with the algebraic relationships among our units. Voilà, nature is replaced by a much cleaner and more intelligible algebra, and we speak of nature as “governed by laws” when in fact we’ve just substituted it with abstractions.

Substitution is an idealization or useful fiction of treating nature as identical to art, but an essential difference remains. Art exists in an artist who moves things outside himself while nature is an inherent source of motion. You need someone other than the bricks to make a wall, but you don’t need anything other than bricks for them to press on each other or fall. Nature is an interiority as much as mind is, and at the borderline of consciousness it is clear that mind arises from nature, shades into it, and is interpenetrated by it.

Nature’s interiority is unconscious, but its unconscious character is the whole psychoanalytic cosmos subtending conscious life. Our conscious life is now fed from domains outside consciousness: the speed of IQ, the sources of big-5 traits, the functioning of the nervous system, etc all work as unconsciously as hair growth or blood circulation. Calling these interior sources of action brutish or simple is a fantastically stupid aesthetic: artists are clever, but none of them has ever been able to make consciously what embryos or even bacteria can make unconsciously; human systems are reliable and precise, but none are as reliable as electron orbitals or a millionth-part as precise. Nature can pull off greater feats of organization than the German postal system in the leg of a mosquito, or one cell in that leg, or one part of that cell, ad infinitum. 

The interiority of mind is not opposed to the exteriority of natures but is the culmination of their interiority. Mind marks the moment where nature becomes aware of what it is and becomes to some extent capable of setting its own goals.

 

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: