Local Intension

Intension, Mind, and Location

Intension, mind (so far as we can tell) … is likely to be local!

Bateson said that mind had no location. Yes! profound! But thirty-two years after seeing him say that, it occurs to me: that “no location” is still in a sense local!

St. Peter’s Basillica is a big set of buildings: limestone, marble, masonry … Its weight can be estimated, its height, width, depth measured (after a fashion). But the thought: a big deal building in the big deal Church! has no weight, no width, no extension.

Nevertheless, this symbol, this abstraction, these words, these phonemes, however non-extensional, however non-physical, however much not a resident of Pleroma, the physical universe, is still local.

My mind isn’t in my skull any more than my mind is in my belly, or my heel … or my deposit box at the bank. But it isn’t in China either: not while I live in Florida. It isn’t on the moon, or on Betelgeuse. It isn’t in the Andromeda galaxy.

The data may be on the page, the page may be in the book, the book may be on your night stand, in your bedroom, in your house in Plainfield; but the information is (or isn’t) in your mind, and your mind has no extension, no location … Still, your mind, though it isn’t in your head, and isn’t on Betelgeuse, still isn’t on Betelgeuse, or in Vesuvius, even more than it isn’t in your head.

Mind has no location. It’s not physical. But it is an artifact in a culture. The culture also is non physical, but it is associated with certain turf. The orthodox Jews wants to be buried in Israel, or at least have a sprikling of Israeli soil in his coffin in Brooklyn Cemetery. St. Peters can’t have the same (also location-less) meaning in the mouth of someone spinning a Tibetan prayer wheel: whether the spinner is in the Vatican, or in San Francisco, or surveying the Hindu Kush.

The atheist denies God. But the God the Jewish atheist denies isn’t the same God that the Spanish kid despises. Some atheisms wear a crucifix: and speak only Latin.

And some weightless ideas gain (or lose) a lot of mass depending on where they’re thought, and who’s thinking them.


I’m sorry. Yesterday I believed I could say this simply and clearly. Now I see that I’ve failed again. Perhaps it’s possible to articulate and communicate these ideas, perhaps I’ll try again further. Maybe you get it and I don’t have to say anything: but if there’s such a reader, you’ve kept your presence hidden from me for over sixty years.
I’ll try again, if I live, but not now; I have a different impulse to try to say a different thing, thinking I can say that other thing: simply, clearly.

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in pk Teaching, semiotics, thinking tools. Bookmark the permalink.

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