Thursday, 2 September 2010

I read today in Alva Noë’s Action in Perception about sensory fatigue, by this he means the fact that we do not consistently notice the touch of our clothes against our skin or the weight of reading glasses on our noses etc. This seems to relate to our moment by moment lack of consciousness about breathing. As soon as I start to notice my breathing I’ve observed that it becomes stilted or overtly laboured. It is hard to maintain conscious sensory awareness without either fatigue setting in or a strangely inhibiting degree of self-consciousness. But in meditative types of breathing practice there can be moments of unfettered, undifferentiated presence that might relate to Noë's notion of knowledge as enaction that in turn relates to a non-dualist, perceptive and biological structure of being. Noë seems to emphasise movement in our ability to make meaning or generate content, this may imply something as subtle as microcsaccadic eye movements or head turning and tilting, reaching and walking. Which raises the strange question of what we would be without such actions? Noë suggests that experience is inseparable from action, he cites the enormous degree of action involved for example, in quadriplegic self-orientation, where one might wrongly assume a complete absence of movement. But what happens to us in sleep, how do we generate so much meaning in motionlessness? Does this imply dreaming is only memorised enacted content? I don’t even know where to begin answering this question, perhaps Noë adresses it later on in the book..

"In Action in Perception…Noë begins by arguing, on both phenomenological and empirical grounds, that the content of perception is not like the content of a picture; the world is not given to consciousness all at once but is gained gradually by active inquiry and exploration. Noë then argues that perceptual experience acquires content thanks to our possession and exercise of practical bodily knowledge…"

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