Saturday, April 28, 2007

"I've lost my my cell phone."

Theologians typically assume that the mind is located somewhere within the individual person. Discussions have revolved around whether the mind is more akin to the brain or to the spirit/soul of a person. Recent studies in the philosophy of mind are considering other, more far-reaching possibilities. Perhaps the mind is not a thing located within the skull but is extended beyond the confines of the body. Maybe our minds includes things like laptops, cell phones, and daytimers. Think about it. How many phone numbers do you know? They're all in your cell phone. What about email addresses? They're in your laptop. And blogs contain thoughts, ramblings, musings, ideas which both represent and become an extension of the mind of the writer. But if our minds are somehow in our gadgets and web pages, can they also be in our friends and beloveds? My fiance has a better memory than I do, sometimes even about my own schedule! Could my mind include her memory? Talk about the "turn to relationality!" Wouldn't that be nice. Hold on...I have to run. My mind (phone) is ringing.


Silas said...


yes, it makes sense if our (self) identity derives from how (I) as a single individual connect to external entities that surround me (community, realities, consciousness, persons), then our minds, which so often drive so much of how exactly we attend to tensions (activity) in our subjectivity as we are (esse), would be in 'things' external of our bodies, certainly external of our cranial space.

Of course, in order to truly explore this idea further, we'd have to develop new language, (this is always the problem, is it not?), and perhaps even new theological grammar to discuss the intuitional space that once occupied the concept of mind in philosophy/theology. We could no longer actually speak of mind but rather "relational extensions.'

Kyle A. Roberts said...

Silas. Indeed we would need to construct a new grammar here. But couldn't mind (including memory, self-consciousness, reflection, etc.) be simply an sub-set of the relationality that comprises our being (esse) and identity? We could still speak of mind, but we'd have to be clear what we don't mean: an individuated substance. My mind would still be distinct from your mind (hypostatically? :), even though we share similar information and ideas, and even though my mind is in some ways upheld and funded by yours.

Silas said...

Does your mind have to be distinct from my mind? If what constitutes a mind is not matter that takes up a certain measurable amount of space, but rather the complex web of relations that exist between persons, then we really could 'be of one mind'! Memories are shared, reflections are shared, consciousness is some ways is shared in the sense that we become aware of our own realities only as we are pointed to be others) In the example you gave, Sara's mind is so interconnected with yours that she remembers things about your reality that you don't. There is an intense kind of connectivity there that in some way has blurred any distinction between her mind and yours... Radical, I know, but did you expect anything less from me?

In terms of spirituality, how would one (if one so desired) interpret the biblicial Pauline notion of the 'renewal of the mind'. If the mind is a truly 'located' in the complex web of relationality to dreams, people, information, history, and ideas, what would it mean to renew ones mind?


Kyle A. Roberts said...


Yes, I have become intensely familiar with your radical brand of orthodoxy :)

I mentioned our discussion to Sara the other day. She pointed out that if there is no distinction between our minds, then why does communication seem so difficult so often? We cannot divorce mind from our linguistic selves, either. So even though there is overlap and extension into other selves, our subjective realities cannot escape linguistic mediation, which means our minds remain distinct.

Another way of thinking about it is: As fashionable as it may be, we can't quite make the analogical jump from the social Trinity to human social relationality. What you've posited about mind makes perfect sense for the hypostatic union (perichoresis), but falls apart when it reaches finitude...

what say ye?