A Vida do Espírito
Arendt (VE:60-61) – imaginação
9. Invisibilidade e retirada do mundo
quinta-feira 14 de outubro de 2021, por
The life of the mind in which I keep myself company may be soundless; it is never silent and it can never be altogether oblivious of itself, because of the reflexive nature of all its activities. Every cogitate, no matter what its object, is also a cogito me cogitare, every volition a volo me velle, and even judgment is possible, as Montesquieu once remarked, only through a “retour secret sur moi-même.” This reflexivity seems to point to a place of inwardness for mental acts, construed on the principle of the outward space in which my non-mental acts take place . But that this inwardness, unlike the passive inwardness of the soul , could only be understood as a site of activities is a fallacy, whose historical orgin is the discovery, in the early centuries of the Christian era, of the Will and of the experiences of the willing ego. For I am aware of the faculties of the mind and their reflexivity only as long as the activity lasts. It is as though the very organs of thought or will or judgment came into being only when I think, or will, or judge; in their latent state, assuming that such latency exists prior to actualization, they are not open to introspection. The thinking ego, of which I am perfectly conscious so long as the thinking activity lasts, will disappear as though it were a mere mirage when the real world asserts itself again.
Since mental activities, non-appearing by definition, occur in a world of appearances and in a being that partakes of these appearances through its receptive sense organs as well as through its own ability and urge to appear to others, they cannot come into being except through a deliberate withdrawal from appearances. It is withdrawal not so much from the world—only thought, because of its tendency to generalize, i.e., its special concern for the general as opposed to the particular, tends to withdraw from the world altogether—as from the world’s being present to the senses. Every mental act rests on the minds faculty of having present to itself what is absent from the senses. Re-presentation, making present what is actually absent, is the mind’s unique gift, and since our whole mental terminology is based on metaphors drawn from vision’s experience, this gift is called imagination, defined by Kant as “the faculty of intuition even without the presence of the object.” The mind’s faculty of making present what is absent is of course by no means restricted to mental images of absent objects; memory quite generally stores, and holds at the disposition of recollection, whatever is no more, and the will anticipates what the future may bring but is not yet. Only because of the mind’s capacity for making present what is absent can we say “no more” and constitute a past for ourselves, or say “not yet” and get ready for a future. But this is possible for the mind only after it has withdrawn from the present and the urgencies of everyday life. Thus, in order to will, the mind must withdraw from the immediacy of desire, which, without reflecting and without reflexivity, stretches out its hand to get hold of the desired object; for the will is not concerned with objects but with projects, for instance, with the future availability of an object that it may or may not desire in the present. The will transforms the desire into an intention. And judgment, finally, be it aesthetic or legal or moral, presupposes a definitely “unnatural” and deliberate withdrawal from involvement and the partiality of immediate interests as they are given by my position in the world and the part I play in it.
It would be wrong, I believe, to try to establish a hierarchical order among the mind’s activities, but I also believe that it is hardly deniable that an order of priorities exists. It is inconceivable how we would ever be able to will or to judge, that is, to handle things which are not yet and things which are no more, if the power of representation and the effort necessary to direct mental attention to what in every way escapes the attention of sense perception had not gone ahead and prepared the mind for further reflection as well as for willing and judging. In other words, what we generally call “thinking,” though unable to move the will or provide judgment with general rules, must prepare the particulars given to the senses in such a way that the mind is able to handle them in their absence; it must, in brief, de-sense them.
The best description of this process of preparation I know of is given by Augustine . Sense perception, he says, “the vision, which was without when the sense was formed by a sensible body, is succeeded by a similar vision within,” the image that re-presents it. This image is then stored in memory, ready to become a “vision in thought” the moment the mind gets hold of it; it is decisive that “what remains in the memory”—the mere image of what once was real—is different from the “vision in thought”—the deliberately remembered object. “What remains in the memory...is one thing, and...something else arises when we remember,” for “what is hidden and retained in the memory is one thing, and what is impressed by it in the thought of the one remembering is another thing.” Hence, the thought-object is different from the image, as the image is different from the visible sense-object whose mere representation it is. It is because of this twofold transformation that thinking “in fact goes even further,” beyond the realm of all possible imagination, “when our reason proclaims the infinity of number which no vision in the thought of corporeal things has yet grasped” or “teaches us that even the tiniest bodies can be divided infinitely.” Imagination, therefore, which transforms a visible object into an invisible image, fit to be stored in the mind, is the condition sine qua non for providing the mind with suitable thought-objects; but these thought-objects come into being only when the mind actively and deliberately remembers, recollects and selects from the storehouse of memory whatever arouses its interest sufficiently to induce concentration; in these operations the mind learns how to deal with things that are absent and prepares itself to “go further,” toward the understanding of things that are always absent, that cannot be remembered because they were never present to sense experience.
Although this last class of thought-objects—concepts, ideas, categories, and the like—became the special subject matter of “professional” philosophy, there is nothing in the ordinary life of man that cannot become food for thought, that is, be subjected to the twofold transformation that readies a sense-object to become a suitable thought-object. All the metaphysical questions that philosophy took as its special topics arise out of ordinary common-sense experiences; “reason’s need”—the quest for meaning that prompts men to ask them—is in no way different from men’s need to tell the story of some happening they witnessed, or to write poems about it. In all such reflecting activities men move outside the world of appearances and use a language filled with abstract words which, of course, had long been part and parcel of everyday speech before they became the special currency of philosophy. For thinking, then, though not for philosophy, technically speaking, withdrawal from the world of appearances is the only essential precondition. In order for us to think about somebody, he must be removed from our presence; so long as we are with him we do not think either of him or about him; thinking always implies remembrance; every thought is strictly speaking an after-thought. It may, of course, happen that we start thinking about a still-present somebody or something, in which case we have removed ourselves surreptitiously from our surroundings and are conducting ourselves as though we were already absent.
These remarks may indicate why thinking, the quest for meaning—as opposed to the thirst for knowledge, even for knowledge for its own sake—has so often been felt to be unnatural, as though men, whenever they reflect without purpose, going beyond the natural curiosity awakened by the manifold wonders of the world’s sheer thereness and their own existence, engaged in an activity contrary to the human condition. Thinking as such, not only the raising of the unanswerable “ultimate questions,” but every reflection that does not serve knowledge and is not guided by practical needs and aims, is, as Heidegger once observed, “out of order” (italics added). It interrupts any doing, any ordinary activities, no matter what they happen to be. All thinking demands a stop-and-think. Whatever the fallacies and the absurdities of the two-world theories may have been, they arose out of these genuine experiences of the thinking ego. And since whatever prevents thinking belongs to the world of appearances and to those common-sense experiences I have in company with my fellow-men and that automatically guarantee my sense of the realness of my own being, it is indeed as though thinking paralyzed me in much the same way as an excess of consciousness may paralyze the automatism of my bodily functions, “l’accomplissement d’un acte qui doit être réflexe ou ne peut être,” as Valéry phrases it. Identifying the state of consciousness with the state of thinking, he added: “on en pourrait tirer toute une philosophie que je résumerais ainsi: Tantôt je pense et tantôt je suis” (“At times I think, and at times I am”). This striking observation, entirely based on equally striking experiences—namely, that the mere consciousness of our bodily organs is enough to prevent them from functioning properly—insists on an antagonism between being and thinking which we can trace back to Plato’s famous saying that only the philosopher’s body—that is, what makes him appear among appearances—still inhabits the city of men, as though, by thinking, men removed themselves from the world of the living.
Throughout the history of philosophy a very curious notion has persisted of an affinity between death and philosophy. Philosophy for many centuries was supposed to teach men how to die; it was in this vein that the Romans decided that the study of philosophy was a fit occupation only for the old, whereas the Greeks had held that it should be studied by the young. Still, it was Plato who first remarked that the philosopher appears to those who do not do philosophy as though he were pursuing death, and it was Zeno , the founder of Stoicism, who, still in the same century, reported that the Delphic oracle, on his asking it what he should do to attain the best life, had answered: “Take on the color of the dead.” In modern times it is not uncommon to find people holding, with Schopenhauer , that our mortality is the eternal source of philosophy, that “death actually is the inspiring genius of philosophy...[and that] without death there would scarcely be any philosophizing.” Even the younger Heidegger of Sein und Zeit still treated the anticipation of death as the decisive experience through which man can attain an authentic self and be liberated from the inauthenticity of the They, quite unaware of the extent to which this doctrine actually sprang, as Plato had pointed out, from the opinion of the many.
Parece-me errado tentar estabelecer uma ordem hierárquica entre as atividades do espírito; mas também parece-me inegável que existe uma ordem de prioridades. Se o poder da representação e o esforço para dirigir a atenção do espírito para o que escapa da atenção da percepção sensível não se antecipassem e preparassem o espírito para julgar, seria impossível pensar como exerceríamos o querer e o julgar, isto é, como poderíamos lidar com coisas que ainda não são, ou que já não são mais. Em outras palavras, aquilo que geralmente chamamos de “pensar”, embora incapaz de mover a vontade ou de prover o juízo com regras gerais, deve preparar os particulares dados aos sentidos, de tal modo que o espírito seja capaz de lidar com eles na sua ausência; em suma, ele deve de-sensorializá-los.
A melhor descrição que conheço desse processo de preparação é dada por Santo Agostinho. A percepção sensível, diz ele, “a visão, que era externa quando o sentido era formado por um corpo sensível, é seguida por uma visão similar interna”, a imagem que o representa.The Trinity, livro XI, cap. 3. Trad, ingl.: séries Fathers of the Church, Washington, D. C., 1963, vol. 45. Essa imagem é então guardada na memória, pronta para se tomar uma “visão em pensamento”, no momento em que o espírito a agarra; o decisivo é que “o que fica na memória” — a mera imagem daquilo que era real — é diferente da “visão em pensamento” — o objeto deliberadamente relembrado. “O que fica na memória ... é uma coisa e ... algo diferente surge quando lembramos”,Ibid. pois “o que é ocultado e mantido na memória é uma coisa, e o que é impresso por ela no pensamento daquele que relembra é outra.”Ibid., cap. 8. Portanto, o objeto do pensamento é diferente da imagem, assim como a imagem é diferente do objeto sensível e visível, do qual é uma simples representação. E por causa dessa dupla transformação que o pensamento “de fato vai mais longe ainda”, para além da esfera de toda imaginação possível, “onde nossa razão proclama a infinidade numérica que nenhuma visão no pensamento de coisas corpóreas jamais alcançou”, ou “nos ensina que até mesmo os corpos mais minúsculos podem ser infinitamente divididos.”Ibid., cap. 10. A imaginação, portanto, que transforma um objeto visível em uma imagem invisível, apta a ser guardada no espírito, é a condição sine qua non para fornecer ao espírito objetos-de-pensamento adequados; mas estes só passam a existir quando o espírito ativa e deliberadamente relembra, recorda e seleciona do arquivo da memória o que quer que venha a atrair o seu interesse a ponto de induzir a concentração; nessas operações, o espírito aprende a lidar com coisas ausentes e se prepara para “ir mais além”, em direção ao entendimento das coisas sempre ausentes, e que não podem ser lembradas, porque nunca estiveram presentes para a experiência sensível.
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