- Nov 2021
Plessner included fundaments about biological structure, organization, physiology, ecology, and ethology in his attempt at elaborating a non-dualist, and systematically coherent framework for all forms of life (Plessner 2019).Using positionalilty as a point of departure for elaborating a logic of life, including human life, is in fact tantamount to simultaneously treating the question of integration, or unification, as a point of departure. As Plessner makes clear, it is only with the living state that boundaries become something other than arbitrary and contingent. To the extent that life is defined by anything, it is defined by the dynamic enactment of a distinction between inner and outer, Plessner’s so-called “double aspectivity.” “Positionality” then is the categorical universal and sine qua non of the living state and conceptually defines the boundary between physical phenomena that, for all intents and purposes, are partes extra partes, from those for which some non-trivial level of system unity and integrity has been achieved. Plessner does not specifically take up the language of normativity and yet one can find it to be implicit in his account. The realization of a life, even at the most rudimentary, let’s say the simple, single-celled level, already entails a form of active mediation between reaching outward and enforcing a boundary, that suggests the regulatory enactment of an implicit norm. For Plessner, there is a logic of dialectical building of positional levels upon levels of reflection that culminate in the human level of “excentric positionality” whereby the “shared” (and invariably normative) perspective of the universal Other is always reflexively embodied and reflectively available. Which is to say that Plessner has long since offered a body-mind neutral account in which human-level normativity is located on a natural continuum in which questions of dynamic system integration are at least implicitly fundamental. Where Plessner fell short, I suggest, is in (only) deriving a largely monological account of the emergence of human-level normativity.Footnote 6 The following may be viewed as in part an attempt to offer the complementary perspective, albeit with the full reconciliatory and synthetic engagement to appear in subsequent work.
Plessner's key insight of double aspectivity is the result of the boundary that creates the separation of the inner from the outer. The active mediation between reaching outward and maintaining a boundary suggests the regulatory enactment of an implicit norm.
- Oct 2021
Even at the level of a simple organism, the dialectics of double aspectivity suggests the emergence of a non-empirical, enactively posited center or core, the predecessor, for Plessner of the possibility of consciousness.
This is the key statement - that this center or core is the predecessor of consciousness.
Plessner finds in the dynamics of double aspectivity the constitution of a kind of self. Living entities develop which means they both lead away into something new and yet persist as what they are. It is in their constant becoming Other that they become themselves and constitute and sustain a "form-idea." Plessner's early concept of development, is capacious enough (unlike some more recent formulations that presume multi-cellularity) to characterize even single celled life-forms.
From Plessner's perspective, even a cell has a constitution of a self.
For Plessner, the living boundary is both a liminal zone that mediates between organism and the outer medium, itself being neither, and yet also an enactively self-defining and enforcing circumference and outer-limit. The organism moves outward in the expansion and assimilation of its liminal zone and moves inward, taking the outer within, re-establishing itself and reasserting its perimeter. The living boundary already introduces a subject-object status that prefigures for Plessner the overcoming of dualisms between inner and outer, interiority and exteriority. The living boundary is an on-going enactment of an exteriority that it defines and yet also reaches into and assimilates and of an interiority that is both sustained and transformed. The motive force of the dynamic living state is this double aspectivity of its existence and the dialectical tension which drives it forward.
Plessner defines the interiority and exteriority condition of a living organism, giving a biological context for the hard problem of consciousness.
- precursor of consciousness
- living boundary
- hard problem of consciousness
- double aspectivity
- self evolution