Monday, June 6, 2011

Relationships and Concepts

I recently left myself a note on my ipod. I wanted to write about something. I wrote to myself:

'Customer service and conceptual interaction. Relationships fascinate me. That is what it is all about in a way for me. How we relate, how we interact, what the mediums are that we use. I resent my conceptual self. Contacts? Glasses? Aprons? Suits? So on.'

I don't know exactly what I was thinking.

I know that I had an idea. I had a way of phrasing something that I have previously put in very abstract terms. I've talked a lot about the dangers of theory-theory, about the tension between language and empathy, about the importance of simulation theory, so on. I've run around these topics in different ways.

But I think that what I'm really getting at is the issue of relationships and how they happen. What are the properties of the human mind that allow us to engage with other people? Are there tendencies of the mind that conflict with one another? What is unique about relationships in our time?

There is one thing in particular that I think I have been able to identify that is unique about relationships in our time: we live in a world that has been depersonalized. I think that there are two things that contribute to this. First, technology and the internet make it so that we interact with people in very distant ways, we see people on screens, so on. Second, I think that categorization and generalization has become a more common feature of our culture. These two things are related. Technology, science, the internet, all of that, has made it possible for people to communicate rapidly and in large amounts, and therefore for concepts and labels to become ubiquitous. We now share a common vocabulary. And unfortunately I think it traps us in certain patterns of relationships sometimes.

It reminds me of Walter Benjamin's essay on the work of art in the age of its mechanical reproduction. Frankly, I don't understand the essay very well. But he talks about how the reproducibility of art has something to do with the reproducibility of people's consciousnesses. We can produce art and culture mechanically. And somehow this also implies that we can produce people's perceptual apparatuses mechanically.

Think about it, with the way that our language and our perception our intertwined, the formalization and mechanization of language must have something to do with the mechanization of perception.

Benjamin seems to be concerned with people's cognitive and sensory apparatuses. So did Foucault. So does Collingwood.

I think that even my recent reading on the relationship between politics and culture has pushed me towards this issue of relationships and their parameters.

I don't know what to think. I don't want to continue writing.

But I will say this: I think that relationships are at the core of what I think about. And I would probably benefit from honing in on this issue of relationships.

I suspect that relationships (of all kinds) are the most important thing, and that history, philosophy, other things, are merely ways of investigating, understanding, exploring relationships.

Who knows.

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