Nature, Science, & Mathematics: February 2009 Archives

But the real point is . . . Whitman


from Proust Was a Neuroscientist
Jonah Lehrer

But Whitman also knew that his poems were not simply odes to the material body. This was the mistake that his Victorian critics made; by taking his references to orgasms and organs literally, they missed his true poetic epiphany. The moral of Whitman's verse was that the body wasn't merely a body. Just as leaves of grass grow out of the dirt, feelings grow out of the flesh. What Whitman wanted to show was how these two different substances--the grass and the dirt, the body and the mind--were actually inseparable. You couldn't write poems about one without acknowledging the presence of the other. As Whitman declared, "I will make the poems of materials, for I think they are to be the most spiritual poems."

Sometime back on the Disputations blog, there was a lengthy interchange about the resurrection of the body, in which Tom repeatedly stated (and, I've come to acknowledge, correctly) that the resurrection of the body dealt with the real body that we experience and in some mysterious way ARE right now. That is to say that what we have now will be the real body we have at the resurrection. And this makes perfect sense if the body is more than a container, but is in some way the vehicle and the reality of much of what we are.

I know, that doesn't make any real sense, and I'll have to think it through further to say something more like what I mean. The bottom line is that the body helps to define the mind and the mind the body and moving our present intellect, and perhaps even spirit to some new conveyance would in a very deep way violate who we are. God would not do that because He loves us as we are and loves who we are--without our bodies we are not that same person.

Or so it would seem that Whitman says--and there is much to agree with in the hypothesis.

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For the Hyperrationalists


One of the things that most disturbs me about some of the arguments and statements I have read regarding reason and the Church is that were one to take them at face value, they would seem to imply no place whatsoever for the emotional life. As a result, I found the following interesting:

from Proust Was a Neuroscientists
Jonah Lehrer

One of Damasio's most surprising discoveries is that the feeling generated by the body are an essential element of rational thought. Although we typically assume that our emotions interfere with reason, Damasio's emotionless patients proved incapable of making reasonable decisions. After suffering their brain injuries, all began displaying disturbing changes in behavior. Some made terrible investments and ended up bankrupt; others became dishonest and antisocial; most just spent hours deliberating over irrelevant details. According to Damasio, their frustrating lives are vivid proof that rationality requires feeling, and feeling requires the body. (As Nietzshce put it, "There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom.)

Now, pro forma for me, I must go and look up this Damasio and see on what evidence he bases these conclusions. They are interesting and make a certain sort of intuitive sense--but that is insufficient when making these arguments a matter of the scientific record. So, if I find anything of interest, I'll try to post.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Nature, Science, & Mathematics category from February 2009.

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