Before the cave.

Posted in Flotsam by George Slade on December 27, 2009

Hey, Les. I’m gonna get a bit philosophical with you here, so hang on.

Just before Plato launches into his cave allegory in his Republic, he talks about divisions of the soul. Here’s a quote I found really interesting:

There are four such conditions in the soul, corresponding to the four subsections of our line: Understanding for the highest, thought for the second, belief for the third, and imaging for the last. Arrange them in a ratio, and consider that each shares in clarity to the degree that the subsection it is set over shares in truth.

Here’s how a kind person laid it out in a diagram, more tree- than line-like, with understanding=intellection, belief=trust/confidence, and imaging=imagination/conjecture:

too long in the cave

You may think I’ve been in the cave too long. Or I got some kind of fever from all the damn bugs that bit me while I was working in the south. You may be right; I’ve also got a bloody eyeball that I can’t explain. But I’m trying to break it all down and get my head in order for the new year. The direction of all these philosophical meanderings is toward the notion of “goodness” (see it, modestly lowercase, in its little box up top?) and an understanding of how images and imagination play a defining role in realizing the good. And what is a good image, really? Effective propaganda, or something eternal and true?

So sue me if I go astray.


The Plan

p.s. This book, in Alec’s list, about the hyper-collectors (momma called ’em packrats) and the people who come to bail them out? Maybe I should check in with that guy Schmelling, find out what he knows about it all…

5 Responses

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  1. osagegelder said, on December 27, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Hey, I found this link to a Wiki entry that sheds more light.

    Good new year’s reading, this.

  2. Lester said, on December 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Dear O.,

    Thanks for the provocative contribution to the Lord’s Day. I reviewed the article you mentioned and appreciate the description of John Locke’s theory that “sensations make their way from the senses to the brain where they are laid out for understanding as a ‘view’.”

    It is this ‘view’ or, as Locke called it, ‘the mind’s presence room,’ which principally concerns me. Since photography only describes the external world, how are we supposed to elucidate this ‘presence room’?

    The answer might be derived from Frank Jackson’s 1982 “knowledge argument (More info here: ):

    “Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like ‘red’, ‘blue’, and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal chords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence ‘The sky is blue’. What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not? It seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it. But then it is inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete. But she had all the physical information. Ergo there is more to have than that.”

    The photographer’s job, perhaps, isn’t so much accessing the ‘mind’s presence room’ as it is taking the mind out of the black and white room with the black and white television monitor. (I’m speaking metaphorically, not about film choice).
    But whether or not any of this leads to goodness is debatable.

    But at least LBM’s Brother Steve thinks so:

  3. LBM said, on December 27, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Perhaps Schmelling’s book has to do with emptying out the presence room?

  4. Tanjila Jesmeen said, on December 27, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    awesome ! thanks for sharing.

  5. osagegelder said, on December 30, 2009 at 8:14 am

    I think light is fearful. Light, as in illumination, as in knowledge, fleshing out the shadows on the cave or the duotone impressions on Mary’s screen. I felt for Steve, in his hole; the outside was too hot, too forbidding. How did ED (one of my favorite 19th-century LBMs) put it?

    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise

    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind —

    And, by the way, is the brain really a light table for sorting impressions in pursuit of presence? Is our gray matter “camera lucida” or “camera obscura”?

    yrs, og

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