Blog Archives

“I think with my feet.”

In Boston, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lacan met Roman Jakobson again and spoke before an audience of mathematicians, linguists, and philosophers, among them Willard Quine and Noam Chomsky… Lacan scandalized everyone with his answer to a question by Chomsky on thought. “We think we think with our brains; personally, I think with my feet. That’s the only way I really come into contact with anything solid. I do occasionally think with my forehead, when I bang into something. But I’ve seen enough electroencephalograms to know there’s not the slightest trace of a thought in the brain.” When he heard this, Chomsky thought the lecturer must be a madman.

~Elizabeth Roudinesco – Jacques Lacan

I’ve puzzled a fair bit over Lacan’s enigmatic response, and spent just as much time searching for a decent interpretation. The best I have found so far is the following (from here):

“In 1975, before a group of MIT philosophers, linguists and mathematicians gathered to hear him speak, Lacan responded to a question from Noam Chomsky on the subject of thought. He said simply: I think with my feet. With that single utterance a scandal erupted. Everyone assumed Lacan wanted to convert Americans to another “obscurantist plague.” For this group of intellectuals ― trained on logical positivism  it was just unthinkable that he was speaking metaphorically. And yet, Lacan was right. We do think with our feet. In phenomenological terms, our ability to distinguish figure from ground is the primordial condition through which we find ourselves in thought. Such is the spatial scheme behind Lacan’s famous Mirror Stage, that moment when a fledgling infant manages to pull its body upright, gaze into a mirror and instantaneously grasp the fact of his or her discrete physical presence among objects in the world. From there begins the subject’s initiation into language and the stage is set for cognitive thought. Should the subject subsequently lose his or her sense of figure in relation to ground, the result would be the disorienting feeling of falling outside of language. Hence the operation of thinking with one’s feet.”

Advertisements

The Enneagram, A Constellation of the Real

The Enneagram is another fascinating heuristic system of proletarian science which has unjustly not received mainstream acceptance. The Enneagram, as its name implies, states that every person fits into one of nine categories, which are simply denoted by numbers. Everyone also has a secondary type, which is the number either before or after that of one’s primary type (e.g. a 5-4, a 6-7). Of course, such a simple schema hardly does justice to the complexity of the human psyche, so there’s an extra twist. Types, when their mental health deteriorates, display the characteristics of another type: the order is 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 and 9-6-3-9, so an 8 will deteriorate to a 5, etc. Also, when each type reaches a height of mental health, they will exhibit characteristics of the other adjacent type in the aforementioned list, ascending in the reverse order, so a 5 would become an 8, etc. Don Richard Riso in his book Personality Types describes each type in terms of stages of mental health, and the results are remarkable.

Read the rest of this entry