Thursday, 10 February 2011

Paul Virilio on philosophy and literature...

In a tv interview,

Cyberwar, God And Television:

Paul Virilio asserts:
I always write with images. I cannot write a book if I don't have images.

I believe that philosophy is part of literature, and not the reverse. Writing is not possible without images. Yet, images don't have to be descriptive; they can be concepts, and Deleuze and I often discuss this point. Concepts are mental images.<<

Two interesting points for consideration here:

1]Writing isn't possible without images (and the concomitant remark about philosophy as part of literature!)

2]Images can be concepts--and concepts are mental images.

The notion that concepts are mental images seems at least open to debate to me, since concepts are usually seen as separate from images, based on cognition rather than pictorially imbued (?) One has a mental image of a cat, does this predate the concept of the cat, or is the mental image of the cat identical to the concept of it?? Or, can one grasp the concept of a cat without a corresponding mental image?



Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Human Brain Analogy

The trend, in relatively recent years has been to think of ourselves and perhaps more specifically our brains as very sophisticated computers. Prior to this, top scientific minds understood the brain as though it were some sort of very complicated clockwork mechanism. In this short article I would like to make an effort to counter this trend of anthropomorphic infatuation with our ‘highest’ technology and so posit the notion that the human brain is like a very sophisticated potato.
If you look at the facts I think you’ll agree. In terms of shape, size (admittedly that would be a large potato) and chemical composition a human brain is much more like a potato than the tiny silicon chip that can be found in any number of computational devices. I’ve had a look about online and most accounts seem to suggest that a human brain is approximately 75-80% water depending on personal circadian rhythms and that potatoes are pretty uniformly around 78%, which for me is almost close enough to cause concern. Have we all gone totally mad and fixated on this benign head tuber when it simply has nothing to do with what makes us human?
I’m bound to say it’s possible. From here it looks as though the inevitable connection between medical science and medical technology has created an overly organised view of the human body. It is quite understandable as the technology, the tools of the trade if you will, is only capable of solving a technological problem. It isn’t that they don’t work, it’s just that the problem is partly made by the solution, when the solution is to make a diagnosis in analogy.
“Yes Mr Smith, you’re a mechanic you’ll understand. You see the body’s vital organs are like a car’s engine. If they do not receive enough oxygen then the spark plugs will be unable to burn the fuel in the chamber and the engine will not run. In short Mr Smith, smoking has blocked your intake valve.”
As horribly mixed a metaphor as it is, the analogy here serves a purpose but it is technological at it’s core. Mr Smith understands the mechanical results of smoking but that is all the analogy is capable of. And the same holds true for the analogous brain-computer. There are respects when medically, the analysis of the brain as though it were a computer will be useful, however in the case of trying to comprehend human conciseness the medical analogy is simply inadequate. As is any I suppose, so I’ll have to retract my earlier statement about potatoes.