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The Point of a Pin

The Point of a Pin

In this discourse, for the sake of conceptual illustration, and metaphorically speaking, the mind is the sharp end of a pin. It is so near the point that it actually is the point, rather than being a substantial part of the pin. It needs the pin itself in order to exist, and it would not be sharp without it, but it is sharper and more essentially the point, the closer it is to vanishing without vanishing. And crucially, the pin, which is the living creature in this metaphor, would not exist without the point (the mind), because a pin without a point is not a pin.

The idea behind this metaphor is to describe in what sense our personal experience depends on what might only be described as an immaterial aspect of our existence as living beings. Something which is other than bodily - if perhaps distinguishable by terms such as 'mental' - it is qualitatively different from the body; it controls the body, and how can something control something else unless they are in some objective-subjective relation to one another? However the mind may have evolved out of the natural world, it is a phenomenon which must remain beyond the realms of scientific explanation, not least because right from the outset, in an analysis of the mind, the mind is the object as well as the subject of investigation, the tool with which the very same tool is dissected, where the dissection itself is under analysis. It leads to what philosophers term 'infinite regress'. It would be like trying to isolate the sharp point of a pin. There is no point without the pin, so once you have the point alone there is no pin any longer. On top of which you are using the point to discover the point. You might say you can include the pin in the investigation; but then, how do you know when you have found the point? When is it sharp enough to say it is purely the point? - Once the pin is out of the picture. At which point, there is no longer a vehicle for the point, and it must cease to exist.

What are the implications of this? We can't ever find the pin point? Yes we can; it is right there, on the pin; it doesn't vanish. Neither is it obscured from view, or any the less sharp. We know, understand up to a point, and use, the mind. We simply cannot 'solve' it. We can study the body and the brain and look at how they relate to the mind's workings in theory…but to formulate its operations in a set of equations would be as futile as to represent the mind literally in a picture. I can't make up my mind whether such a picture would be more appropriately placed in a totally light, or a totally dark setting…(?) What would you put in such a picture? Everything? Nothing? Everything so far, with scope for everything to come? How sharp is a point? Or, to use the philosophy rhetoric, how long is a piece of string? It is as though, analogously, the body is a bucket for the mind. The bucket can carry an infinite variety of things. Asking what the mind essentially consists in is like asking what is in the bucket when it is empty. The bucket would still have a point (the capability for future cargo). I'm stopping there, before I get lost in mixed-metaphorland.

 
 

 

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