Monday, May 9, 2011

To claim that Cygnus-X exists independently of our minds is not to claim that Cygnus-X exists beyond the reach of our minds


aTrifF

Today, I was reading Ray Brassier's essay "Concepts and Objects"* and bumped into this odd passage:
It is true that we cannot conceive of concept-independent things without conceiving them, but it by no means follow from this that we cannot conceive of things existing independently of concepts.
The second part of the sentence undoes the first. Here's why: Concepts are sort of baptismal acts. They mentally clothe the (bare) stuff -whatever that means. Although one can conceive of stuff existing without concepts, one doesn't quite get it. Try it. The second you conceive of it already clothed, you are doing exactly what Brassier says you can't do.

To make things worse, he brings the following example: "To claim that Cygnus-X exists independently of our minds is not to claim that Cygnus-X exists beyond the reach of our minds. Independence is not inaccessibility."

I don't know what Brassier means by "inaccessibility." All I know is that Cygnus-X is already conceptualized. When I imagine it, I imagine a micro-quasar in the constellation Cygnus, about 37,000 light years away. And the reason it cannot exist "beyond the reach of our minds" is that it is Cygnus-X!**

Rule for mental cocktails? Don't mix stuff with concepts.
_________
*In The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, Edited by Levi Bryant, Mick Srnicek and Graham Harman, Re.Press (Melbourne, 2011). p. 58. **If someone in a pre-scientific age pointed by chance to the quaint light coming from _______, on a starry night, which thousands of years later became Cygnus-X, s/he would not had been pointing exactly to the same thing.