Oct 11, 2010

PhD induction week

Last week I started my MPHIL/PhD in Art Practice at Goldsmiths College, University of London. I had my first meeting with my supervisor at Goldsmiths, professor Suhail Malik. I also recently met with Joseph Tanke, a philosophy professor at CCA who is co-advising me in San Francisco.

The working title of my thesis is "The fate of the hand." This is a section heading of the book Gesture and Speech by paleontologist André Leroi-Gourhan. In the book, Leroi-Gourhan argues that in the future the hand may regress to simply an index finger to push buttons. Machines will take care of the rest. Against this prediction, in my thesis I plan to examine many possible scenarios for the future hand.

So what am I reading? In art theory, I'm starting with Heidegger, and the 2002 book Tool-Being by Graham Harman, who aims to rethink Heidegger's analysis of the tool. Harman is one of a group of philosophers arguing for "speculative realism" - the first time since Kant that there has been a concerted push to advance a realist position, rather than the myriad relational positions found in philosophy from Kant to Deleuze.

I've also begun reading neuroscience papers. Cognitive scientists, like speculative realist philosophers, have shown a renewed interest in the relationship between mind and reality, and there are now entire conferences dedicated to "embodied cognition," which aims to study thought without isolating it from body states. It can be no accident that these two groups, with very different historical trajectories, have both zeroed in on the mind-body problem. The connection, I am certain, will be found in Flying Spagetti Monsterism.

1 comment:

Mark G. Taber said...

Have you read "Action in Perception" by Alva Noë? I love this book. He argues that consciousness arises out of close interaction with the environment and he draws on neuroscience to make some interesting points, especially about vision. Vision is a form of touch according to Noë, a point I've taken to heart. He argues that colors are real things in the world regardless of the presence of a human being to see them, which I think would put him in the realist camp. He also argues that the world outside the body is where memory really is. His following book "Out of our Heads" is a popular version of AIP and doesn't develop new lines of inquiry.