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Patocka: soma - corpo

quinta-feira 24 de março de 2022


Excertos de PATOCKA  , Jan. Body, Community, Language, World. Chicago: Open Court, 1998, p. 4-8

Husserl   was not the first to discover the subjective body. Something of the history of the problem before Husserl: We encounter remarkable speculations about the body in the [5] preclassical phase of Greek philosophy. Thus Parmenides  : what kinds of thoughts we have depends on the interaction of our members. Empedocles  : like perceives like (both the world and our body are mixtures of elements — protolives, protoelements, protoroots). Democritus  : the human body is a mosaic made up of mental   and physical atoms, the soul  -psyche is a part of the body-soma [1]. All of that presents a definite conception: perception is a natural process made possible by the unity of the body and the world. What body is that? The body we experience through the senses, which is distinct from us, not the body which differs from all others in my lived experience by being mine, by being the null point of my orientation, by my being able to draw away from (and approach again) all bodies-in-space except my own body. In Greek thought we encounter only such an external perspective of the human-body. How far can such a philosophy go, and how far did it go? Up to anatomy, to physiology, to general biology, etc. The problems that arise on such a basis are those of the whole and the part, of composition, etc. Among the atomists we encounter the problem of that which appears and grows as an ephemeral structure founded on the elements, merely appearing, and yet at the same time continuous with the foundation that underlies it — doxis epirysmie. [2] (So-called emergent qualities; a higher quality cannot [6] be red need without remnant: to a lower foundation from which it grows.) Dictionary meaning of doxis is appearance, though it is no mere appearance but: rather something objective — that which appears (manifests itself) on the foundation of this mosaic of elements, that which emerged as that doxis.

It is the same in the second Greek tradition  , stemming from Plato   (since Socrates   is intangible). As against Aristotle  , who looks at things physically — from the viewpoint of physis   — Plato looks at things from the viewpoint of logos   — meaningful discourse, language. Only on the basis of discourse can I communicate with others and with myself, that is, return to my starting point as to the same. The need to understand myself and others, to communicate about “what there is,” what words mean — that is the inspiration of Platonic philosophy. The meaningful word belongs to a meaningful world — to a world which can be read and spoken. (That is something different from the mechanical world of Democritus’s atomism, a world composed of atoms, of elements, as literature is composed on the letters of the alphabet. Out of letters, we can make up all words, those differ from each other in terms of letters and of their ordering. However, it is not a matter of a reductionism as in modern mechanism; we have said that doxis is an objective appearance, based on shape, not reducible to the level of the elements.) Therefore the world is understood as an organic being, as a living organism, or at least as governed by living beings (sun, moon  , stars — their movement is a sign of intelligence), a world that has a rational order, that is, a comprehensible, intelligible one (“if we open our eyes, we see gods”). [3]

This tradition, too, pondered the phenomenon of the body — Aristotle and Theophrastus in particular. [4] It gave rise to anatomy, zoology, botany — all of natural science, in the form of a descriptive science which lasted down to the eighteenth century. What I see in the light of the meaningful word, discourse, is idea  -eidos (as with the Pythagorean theorem — if I grasp the proof it offers, then I see, I behold the meaning of the theorem). Logos — the word infused with meaning, always has its eidos in which it finds its fulfillment  . Aristotle’s eidos, however, is not only something I say but also something that lives in nature, we need to understand eidos as a vital function. The living body, the organism, is a system of vital functions — eidos at work, en ergo. Reality is energeia  , idea at work. Aristotle analyzes the human body from this viewpoint, that of vital functions. That can become the basis for a physiology. Peri psyches: psyche is a sum total of vital functions, not a new thing in our body but body itself, that which is at work in it, the logos that can be taken out and spoken, defined. Logos is an order which, of itself, is not fulfilled. We cannot ask whether body and psyche, life and its form, are the same (just as we cannot ask whether wax and its shape are the same) [5]. If logos is at work, it is at work with a material — hyle  . Body and soul thus stand in the relation of material, and shape, dynamically understood. The three levels of life: vegetation — whose vital function is trophe  , growth, multiplying. The vital form of the animate being includes in addition kinesis  , movement. That in turn depends on orientation based on aisthesis  , perception. Aisthesis and kinesis belong together as inseparably as a hill and a valley (though the characteristics above-below, fore-aft, . . . are taken for objective traits of space, not as junctions of our orientation). Aisthesis is the ability to grasp shapes independently of material, though only singly. Humans in «adition have logos, the ability to grasp an order, not only individual shapes but shape as a manifestation of the eternal logos, eternal and universal   shapes. Therefore humans are beings who have speech. [6] Thus Aristotle, representing the objectively idealistic [8] tradition in Greek philosophy, also sees the body as a thing available to perception, at a distance, not as my body. In ancient philosophy, psyche is never understood as a subject (in our sense   of the words “soul” or “mind”), but always in the third person, impersonally, as a vital function.

By contrast, modern philosophy begins with the words, Cogito ergo sum. It is the thought that certifies itself. That cannot be articulated except in the first person. Otherwise — in the third person — it becomes an ordinary syllogism or a part thereof, presenting no evident truth   about reality. There are certain propositions even in ancient philosophy: “Know thyself!” (though that is an imperative). “I have examined myself.” “Thou wilt not find the bottom of the psyche though thou travel all the paths, so deep is its logos.” (Heraclitus   — the way from humans to gods). [7] Their content, though, is different; Learn thy place in the cosmos, learn that thou art a worm, that thou signifiest nothing to the gods, etc. In ancient philosophy there is no subjectivity, all this philosophy is in the third person. It does not know self-reflection, it does not know the “I” (“I” is contained nowhere in a philosophical thesis  ). Being is always that.

[1(a) Parmenides. Patocka is referring to a highly confusing (and controversial) fragment from Theophrastus (DK 28 A46), where the doctrine is ascribed to Parmenides that “As is at any moment the mixture of the wandering limbs, so mind is present, to men; for that which thinks is the same thing, namely the substance of their limbs, in each and all men; for what preponderates is thought.” The overriding gist of the Theophrastian commentary accompanying this “quotation” is that the perceiving, sensing (even “mixing”) body is what underlies “thinking.” See Kirk, Raven, and Schofield (hereafter “KRS”), The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 201. (b) Empedocles. In the fragment: of Theophrastus just quoted, Empedocles is said to explain sensation as the adjoinment: of “like by like” (sec KRS, p. 261). For the doctrine of the “four roots” as elements that are in a continual cycle of coming together (love) and being pulled apart (in strife), see Simplicius in Phys. 158, ? (KRS, p. 287). Also, see KRS, pp. 302-5, which reconstructs the broad outlines of a zoogony from fragments culled out of Simplicius, Aristotle, and other sources. For Empedocles, the “roots” combine to produce bones, blood, and “the various forms of flesh,” which, in a second stage, “harmonize” into parts of bodies. These pieces, before they unite into whole organisms, exist as disconnected parts: “Here sprang up many faces without necks, arms wandered without shoulders, unattached, and eyes strayed alone, in need of foreheads.” (Prom Aristotle, De Cncla, 300b30; translation KRS, p. 303). (c) Democritus. See Aristotle, De Anima 404a1-16, where the “mental” atoms that Democritus identifies with the soul are described as spherical; they are also “light” and thus, in some sense, akin to fire. Ed.

[2The reference here is to DK B7 (see KRS, p. 410): “ete ouden ismen peri oudenos, all epirysmic ekastoisin he doxis,” which Baily translates as: “We know’ nothing truly about anything, but for each of us his opinion is an influx.” Thus “doxis epitysmie” could be translated as “the flux of opinion,” where, in Democritus, this “flux” is caused by atoms entering the body from the outside, disturbing the soul, thus giving rise to sensations. For a discussion of the Democritean theory of perception and knowledge, sec Cyril Baily, The Greek Atomists and Epicurus (New York: Russell and Russell, 1964), pp. 156-74. Ed.

[3As illustrative, see book 10 of Plato’s Laws, 895a6-899a2, where the Athenian Stranger develops the argument that the rational order of the phenomenal world — including both the movements of the heavens and the intricacies of human affairs — is explained with reference to the infusion of the world with “souls,” or principles of self-motion. This passage ends with one of the earliest references to Thales’ gnome, “all things are full of gods.” Ed.

[4See D. W. Hamlyn, Aristotle’s De Anima, books 2 and 3 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), for an interesting translation of the sections of De Anima pertinent to Patocka’s discussion; for a translation of the Theophrasti Fragmentum de Sensibus, see George Malcolm Stratton, Theophrastus and the Greek Physiological Psychology before Aristotle (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917), which includes both the Greek text and commentary of the Theophrastus fragment, Ed.

[5See Aristotle, De Anima 412b6-9. The whole of book 2 is pertinent to Patocka’s cliscussion here. Ed.

[6It is perhaps more accurate to say that, for Aristotle, what underlies “speech” (i.e., not only as sounds used for communication or other intentional behavior, broadly defined, but as a set of meaning-laden and meaning-referring sounds) is not only “logos” but “nous.” Any sensing is a logos, or is the grasping of a logos — see De Anima 424a26-32, where Aristotle explains that “excess in the objects of perception destroys the sense-organs (for if the movement is too violent for the sense-organ its principle [logos] is destroyed — and this we saw the sense to be — just as the consonance and pitch of the strings are destroyed when they arc struck too violently).” (Hamlyn’s translation.) The use of meaningful speech is the domain not only of creatures who “sense,” thus “see” the world via logos, but of those who “deliberate” or “calculate” on the ground of sense experience. See De Anima 434 a5-10: “imagination concerned with perception [aisthetike phantasia], as we have said, is found in the other animals also, but that concerned with deliberation in those which are capable of reasoning [bouleutike hen tois logistikois] (for the decision whether to do this or that is already a task for reasoning [Iogismou] and one must measure by a single standard; for one pursues what is superior; hence one has the ability to make one image out of many [hoste dunatai hen ek pleionon phantasmaton poiein]” (Hamlyn’s translation.) Ed.

[7“Know thyself!” (gnothi sauton) is the inscriprion at the oracle of Delphi; “I examined myself’ probably refers to Heraclitus fr. 101, from Plutarch, which can also be translated as “I searched out myself’ (cf. ICRS, pp. 210-11); and the last: is also a gnome attributed to Heraclitus (fr. 45; see KllS, p. 203). Ed.