Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spirit or spirits

I have come to some tentative conclusions concerning Spirit and an alternative concept of spirits:

1) There is no such thing as the one and only Spirit.
2) Thus, spirits prevail in nature but not a monolithic Spirit.
3) Nature 'contains' all spirits and cannot be contained by them, or by anything else.
4) These quixotic spirits are not conscious beings.
5)  The 'sum' of spirits does not have a single goal or purpose-in-view.
6) It is possible for spirits to collide, calling-forth creative human responses for resolving conflict.
7) The spirits that interact with human communities are spirit interpreters.
8) Spirits, while finite, work in our lives as if they were infinite, and that is appropriate.
9) Spirits are not bodies of signs to be decoded any more than they are blueprints for my or any other human life.
10)  Spirits make ethical life possible by opening us up to the precarious and needful nature of other lives, giving us a kind of New Being of compassion.

9 comments:

  1. In perusing this list, my mind conjures up imagery of the spirits in the anime epic, Princess Mononoke. The various Yokai in the film function in a variety of profound ways. I find it an interesting thought exercise to apply each of these ten assertions in the context of the film and the notions of nature and spirit presented in the story. Some seem more fruitful than others. #10 for instance captures how I read the Daidarabotchi (Night-Walker) spirit's role in the film. Daidarabotchi (loosely a Japanese Paul Bunyan/Babe analog) leaves a spurt of new flora and fauna with every step through the forest. The tree spirits in LOTR may also function analogously in this fashion. These spirits in films are used to show forms of 'nature spirits' reminding us of an ethical responsibility (Aldo Leopold's?) we often shirk in favor of short sighted concerns. In the usage of these spirits are we inclined to read the spirit as outside of ourselves, 'nature' speaking to 'us?' Or are these 'nature spirits' intended to suggest a conflation, a unity?

    My angle into 'spirit discourse' would be to explore the role spirits play in people's (Americans) lives today. How do we find evidence of their beliefs motivating decisions and actions? How do popular culture representations of spirits affect or reflect popularly held notions of spirits/spirit?

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  2. This is a fascinating use of popular culture to show the varieties taken by spirit when it becomes pluralized as spirits, each with different roles to play. Something like Princess Mononoke can bring spirits to life through dramatic tension and action. Art can bring us to places where our public theological views fear to tread. In anime we are shown just how rich and multi-facited the realms of the spirits are. Art exhibits this fecundity. Philosophy should learn to celebrate it.

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  3. You say that spirits are not "bodies of signs to be decoded," so I am wondering in which way do you consider spirits to be semiotic? Are spirits signs themselves are do they operate more in the facilitation of the interpretation of signs by human communities?

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  4. You say that spirits are not "bodies of signs to be decoded," so I am wondering in which way do you consider spirits to be semiotic? Are spirits signs themselves or do they operate more in the facilitation of the interpretation of signs by human communities?

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  5. Todd,

    I think that your second option is the better formulation. So, a spirit, acting as as aid to interpretation, removes the debris surrounding the object of interpretation. This is a little like Peirce's concept of the "ground" in semiotics. Or, put differently, a given spirit helps us to see the semiotic prospects within a specific sign series--hence, a spirit is an enabling condition for interpretive lucidity. One of my concerns is to avoid the idea that the spirit can be used to create some kind of self-validating hermeneutic empire--if that idea makes sense.

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  6. That makes a lot of sense and its a helpful clarification. Thanks.

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  7. Thanks for the thanks! These are difficult ideas for me to fully fathom as well. We all want so much from 'the'
    Spirit that we ignore the humbler works of the spirits.

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  8. I'm thinking the distinction between Spirit and spirits here is like the distinction between Energy and energies. There is no one and only energy but we may sometimes address it as such.

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  9. Yes, there may not be the One overarching energy but quite distinct modes of spirit that have no ultimate unity. Of course, the unity may be there beyond our comprehension hidden deeply within the churning potencies of nature naturing.

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