Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Ernest Becker on the interiority of things

I recently came across the passage below from Pulitzer Prize winning writer Ernest Becker (author of 'The Denial of Death"). It is from the Introductory paragraphs to chapter 4 of "The Birth and Death of Meaning".

 I quote the passage not for the strength of its argumentation (which I think is a condesation of some of the arguments of Gustav Fechner), but as an example of an innovative interdisciplinary thinker who was influenced by panexperientialism:

"We touched on the vital dualism of experience- the fact that all objects have both an inside and an outside- and we promised to talk about it at more length. It is one of the great mysteries of the universe, that has intrigued man since remotest times. It is the basis of the belief in souls and spirits. Man discovered it and elaborated it because of his own self-reflexivity, the real and apparent contradiction between the inside of his body - his thoughts and feelings, and the outside. But theoretically all objects in nature have some "interiority" even though we experience only their outside. Gustav Fechner, known as on of the fathers of psychophysics or experimental psychology, wrote a widely read book on this topic a century ago, a book that influenced a thinker of the stature of William James. Fechner, in his scientific work, wanted to prove there is an equa part of soul for every particle of matter - something today's laboratory psychologists conveniently forget about the great man. He said that all objects have interiority, even trees. Why not say that a tree leans on a fence because it feels weak, or soaks up water because it is thirsty; or that it grows crookedly because it is stretching toward the sun? If you take a slow motion film you can see this happening. We don't know what is going on inside it, but it must register some internal reaction to experience. At the bottom of the scale, the objects with least interiority would be rocks; probably they would have no more inner life than the idling of their atomic structures, but in these, as physicists have taught us, there is anything but repose.

These are hardly new or startling thoughts, but they help us to introduce the problem of man's distinctive interiority. When you get up the scale to man, the great dualism of nature, of creation as having both an inside and an outside, is carried to its furthest extreme. And it presents a poignant problem that dogs us all our life. We come into contact with people only with our exteriors- physically and externally; yet each of us walks about with a great wealth of interior life, a private secret self. We are in reality, somewhat split in two, the self and the body; the one hidden, the other open...." free web page counters


CK said...

Just want you to know that your blog is awesome. I really love your work. Congratulations on ten years of blogging! <3

coach keith said...

Perhaps the resolution lies in a clear, internal experience of the watching point, or perceptive space from which we all think and feel energies?
Uncovering this within is the ultimate scientific endeavour.......and quite blissful too :)