Following in the well worn footsteps of the great Desecrates, the Seventeenth century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza leads us down an unintuitive but convincing path, which arrives at a picture of reality that has some strange implications for the nature of matter, mind and the universe itself. In this essay I aim use Spinoza’s theory of Panpsychism and Parallelism along with Freud's theory of Trauma and the unconscious to sketch out a new theory both of geology and the life which aims to explain human suffering through the lense of various modalities of back pain as a representation of negentropy.
A simple explanation of Spinoza’s parallelism and metaphysics will be necessary before we can proceed. Spinoza, like Descerates, views the mind as irreducible to matter alone. He imagines instead that thoughts are made of “unextended substance” compared to the “extended substance” of matter. But this understanding of mind and matter as two substances that cannot interact leads Spinoza back to the mind-body problem which forced Desecrates into a corner where he conjured up his famous explanation of God. Spinoza rejects this, but also smuggles God into the equation, although in a very atheist way. What Spinoza essentially says is that mind and matter are not different substances after all. Rather thought and matter are really just two ways of expressing a single substance, an eternal single substance with infinite expressions that Spinoza names “God, or Nature”. In essence, mind and matter are merely two ways of looking at the same thing. With this he can explain the relationship between the mind and the body. The mind is merely the body sketched in thought. The interaction between the two has no cause and effect whatsoever. Rather, the feeling of pain one might feel and the physical wound in the body are actually the same thing expressed in two different attributes. The wound does not trigger pain, rather the wound is the physical expression of the pain in the extended attribute. Both are caused by entirely separate chains of cause and effect within the two attributes that run parallel. But this opens the door for an even wider theory of mind and body that extended beyond the Cartesian anthropocentric view.
Spinoza essentially claims that all matter has a parallel in the attribute of thought. Everything, in a very real way, has a mind. Even supposedly inanimate objects. To differentiate a mind from thought and an object from the universe, Spinoza uses a simple classification of motion and coherency. In a very simplified sense, an object is an individual when it can move as one. In this understanding, a person in a wheelchair is literally a single object, as they are capable of moving together as a single object in space. A ball is the same way. If you were to cut it in half, it is now two objects only insofar as it cannot move as a single object through space. Spinoza assumes, with some pseudo-geometric proof, that the coherence of an object in motion must also correspond in the attribute of thought, to a coherent mind that in some way ‘thinks’ together just as an object that is an assemblage of parts ‘moves’ together. Spinoza allows a very interesting nesting of objects and minds in this way. For instance, the cells within the body move as objects, but the body itself also does so. Both, in their own way, are individual objects and have a mind. The fish is a coherent object with a mind and so is the river it swims in, and so is the earth the river flows on, and so is the Earth and beyond this, so is the Universe itself a contiguous object with a mind.
Here we have arrived at a very interesting point. We can conceive of the “mind” of the Earth and within this theory, it is essentially visible in the complexity of the Earth itself in the expression of the physical attribute just as the human mind is expressed in physical attribute as the complexity of the human body. What can we make of the mind of the Earth then? To find out what the state of the Earth’s mind is, we need to delve into the physical form of the Earth as well as the study of minds in general in the form of an anti-anthropocentric general psychology.
We should begin with Freud, who, aside from his habit of Oedipal reductionism, offers an extremely compelling model for application to panpsychic minds, specifically in his theory of trauma and the unconscious. Firstly, Trauma. Trauma is exceptional in that it can be seen, as modeled by Frued, both in all animals but also in supposedly dead physical matter. Frued models desire itself as a struggle, an endless fight for satisfaction always based on the Lack of something. The human mind strives back towards an unexcited equilibrium state, and it desires what can bring it back to that state. The interesting part is that we can see this same tendency towards equilibrium state not only in the mind but in matter itself in the form of entropy. A system that is excited by energy will return back to equilibrium by naturally trending back towards entropic equality. The mind, as Spinoza thought, seems to reflect the patterns of matter in its internal dynamics. Matter has a tendency towards equilibrium unless distributed by an outside force.
We can understand Trauma in this way. It is a disruption of the system tendency that the system must heal around and navigate, always leaving a change to the system. For instance, the interruption of the flow of a river which forces the river to divert its flow could be called trauma in a certain sense. The cutting off of the tree limb forces the tree to regrow and grow in new ways around the wound, always keeping the scars that impact its growth from then on. In a way, we could say that all movement is traumatic for the “body” of matter as it exists as a disruption in the process of entropy. Trauma can thus be measured in heat, or movement, essentially in simple Jules or degrees, or pounds of force.
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