Activities of Life—Movement of Physical Objects


For the last few years, I have become increasingly aware of the fact that virtually everything we do (or perhaps absolutely everything we do) can be reduced to moving physical objects.

  1. Eating. We move physical objects to our mouth, and swallow, moving them to our stomach. Our digestive system moves them along, etc.

  2. Kissing our spouse. We move our physical lips to contact those of our spouse. This brings to mind the definition of a kiss which I once heard. “The anatomical juxtaposition of two oracular muscles in a state of contraction.”

  3. Playing a game of chess. We are basically moving chess pieces to various locations on a physical board. And we find these movements to have meaning for us.

  4. Responding to this forum. We move our fingers on a keyboard, which causes electrical impulses to flow and create images on the monitor screen. We do, in fact, indirectly manipulate those screen images.

I have been searching for something we do that does NOT involve moving physical objects. The only candidate which I have considered to be a possibility is "thinking."But I’m not certain even about that one. Perhaps that activity is the movement of electrical impulses in our brains. Of course, you may think that there is some sort of a non-material metaphysical ego which is the source of all this physical activity—and that may be so. I am inclined to believe that there is a metaphysical “self” which transcends the physical and is that self which causes all that we choose to do. If so, the connection between the metaphysical and the physical is indeed a great mystery and seems to be unfathomable. Indeed it is this “self” or “soul” or “spirit” that many Christians think survives death, even before the resurrection. I disbelieve the latter, but I do not deny the existence of this metaphysical self. How can I, when I perceive myself in this way? As Descartes put it, “Cogito ergo sum.” (I think; therefore I am). But what is this “I” that exists? That is the question! I welcome any thoughts you may have on the matter (whatever "thoughts’ are).


This is a fascinating subject Paidion and I may have a few things to add to what others will say. I hope to have some time this weekend. :smiley:


As I read this, I thought about Carlos Castaneda. He’s a well-known fiction writer, millionaire and PhD holder in anthropology. But did he obtain his PhD based upon works of fiction or were they real experiences of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan Matus? Any thoughts, anyone?


There is a good case to be made that the brain is structured by bodily movements in the young child, not vice-versa, as objects are assimilated (a very young child will suck on almost anything that gets close enough to it) and are adapted to - these terms from child development studies were first used, if I’m not mistaken, by Jean Piaget. Think of the brain as having vast potential, but with latent structures that arise to deal with movements of the body through space; in other words, adaptation. The ability to adapt is right there from the beginning, but needs stimulus, such as the necessity of seeking food or moving from pain or toward a smiling face, to ‘unfold’.

In his book “The Body in the Mind”, Mark Johnson used fairly sophisticated strategies to contend that “the repeated patterns of bodily experience shape cognition” (wiki). Read the title again :slight_smile:. He also wrote, with George Lakoff, “Philosophy in the Flesh”, which title is also telling. Those two books and their “Metaphors We Live By” are a good exercise in understanding cognitive development via physical movements that cause the brain to structure in a certain way. It’s a fascinating theory. I’ve read those book but am in no way an expert; my interest was philosophical - are we born a blank slate? - what is the Mind? Are the Mind and the Will functions of the physical brain, and is the ‘Mind’ a sort of epi-phenomena that arises from the ‘meat’ ? That sort of thing.

I think their books are important but not sufficient to understand human nature. Materialism is never sufficient, though the physical ‘stuff’ is necessary.