Peter Kingsley’s CATAFALQUE (2): The War between Spirit and Brain

In a note (v 2, p 483) of CATAFALQUE Peter Kingsley pours scorn on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Steiner, and Aurobindo for their supposed « fantasies » and « clumsy misunderstandings » of Parmenides’ poetic language and style. He repudiates in particular Aurobindo’s talk of Heraclitus’s « logos doctrine ».

Strangely, Kingsley’s conclusion (spiritual intuition and insights however deep are not enough to uproot the « prejudices and collective misunderstandings embedded in the human brain ») rings true, but he does not see that it applies to himself as well.

On this interpretation, some of Kingsley’s own most closely held beliefs are coming from his brain. This purported war between the spirit and the brain could lead to a strange hermeneutic principle of demarcation – between spiritual insight and brain engrams.

Unlike Deleuze and Hillman, who are more Heraclitean, Peter Kingsley is Parmenidean. This need not be an absolute division. Feyerabend is very pragmatic about these things. He treats both as methodological heuristics, to be used as required.

Thus, while he himself is more Heraclitean (and, beyond that, Homeric) Feyerabend praises Einstein for using a Parmenidean hypothesis (block universe) in a fruitful way.

If we treat Kingsley’s idea of an absolute timeless Reality as a heuristic hypothesis we can examine its fruitfulness.

1) In the domain of classical scholarship it has allowed Kingsley to shed new light on the Pre-Socratics.

2) In the scientific domain it has been less fruitful. Praising Empedocles for taking seeds from the Absolute Reality, such as the doctrine of the four elements, to inaugurate our culture is to confuse potency with truth.

If Peter Kingsley had found that previously incomprehensible fragments of Empedocles actually contained a formula for uniting general relativity and quantum physics, that would be a powerful argument for his transcending his time through contact with Truth. Unfortunately, Empedocles’ four elements theory turned out to be a dead end.

3) In the domain of psychological reality, Peter Kingsley takes into account the personal equation of other interpreters. For example, he condemns the interpretations of Jung promulgated by his « narcissistic », « inflated », « extravert disciples » (646-647). He does not relativize his own views by way of his own equation.

Jung himself is both Heraclitean and Parmenidean. There is what Hillman calls his flux of « psychological creativity » and there is the fixist doctrine of archetypes.

4) In the domain of theory, Kingsley’s interpretative hypothesis does not allow him to see the works of Feyerabend, Deleuze, and Hillman as creative continuations of Jung’s work. It blinds him to some of the most vital contributions of this time.

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