5.28.2002

As I responded to your remark on colors, you were working on another reflection on grounding poetic actions in the body. There has been a series of works in philosophy and linguistics that have made similar arguments. In particular, you could look at the work of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Seventeenth century rationalism seems to have forgotten that we respond to the world as corporeal beings and that our bodies have rhythms, paces, and patterns all their own. These rhythms, paces, and patterns, in turn, shape the way we describe what we perceive (visually, aurally, sensationally).

This leads to another reflection on dualism, and one that really emerges from my own upbringing in Catholicism. As we observed earlier, all dualisms contain preference for one pole over the other. Western culture has been founded upon a dualism between body and spirit or body and mind, with the latter conceived as supreme over the former. Beginning with the neo-Platonist Plotinus and carrying through Christian thinking (despite the emphasis on the immortality of the flesh in the teachings of Christ), this dualism has resulted in a denigration of the body. This is our temporary shell that moors us to this world. In death, or in spiritual ecstasy, we break its bonds and fulfill our spiritual and intellectual promise. Think of how many expressions betray this denigration of the body. None of these expressions are as significant, however, as the body's disappearance from philosophical discourse after Descartes. Those that dared to venture a philosophy of the body -- the Marquis de Sade, James Joyce, Henry Miller, Jean Genet, as examples -- were exiled from serious consideration by philosophers as if they had defied some code of conduct.

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