Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Know Just What You Are Thinking...

So, Cuttlefish Pledge Week continues. All that really means is that the real world continues to pile work on top of me, so I'm here at the office while Cuttlefish University is on holiday. Maybe I'll even get caught up a bit. From way, way behind to just way behind, probably. Anyway.

Today's choice of verses comes from a discussion in class this week. No, none of my students reads this, that I am aware of. But we do sometimes get off on some fun tangents in our explorations. This week, a discussion of the limits of self-knowledge, and of the contributions science can make toward exploring a topic which some philosophers have argued is so far removed from the observable world around us that it is an entirely different reality. I could write for a solid week on this topic, but that would rather defeat the purpose of CPW, wouldn't it?

I have no eyes to look behind
And view my brain, much less my mind;
I cannot know your thoughts, and you
Are blind to what I’m thinking, too.
These are the facts; we can’t deny
We have no working “inner eye”
Nor any form of ESP;
Your thoughts cannot be seen by me.

The claim that we can "know ourselves"
Is countered by the miles of shelves
Of self-help books. Our knowledge hides
From where, in theory, it resides!
If we could simply take a look
Inside our minds, why need a book?
We’d never ask “How do I feel?
Could this be love? Could it be real?”

If God or Science offered me
Some cranial transparency
So you could see my every thought—
The change of mind; the urge I fought,
The censored comment never spoken,
Secret kept and promise broken—
What fabled treasures! Wondrous finds,
If we could read each other’s minds!

But we cannot. Make no mistake,
Our skulls and minds are both opaque
We do, instead, what we can do;
We read the things in public view
We see the song, the poem, the kiss;
Infer from these that love is this.
In turn, each element we find
We sum, and call the total “mind”.

If I could see inside my head,
(A place where angels fear to tread)
And see how thinking really works,
The jumble of selected quirks
And if (what wonders “if” can do!)
I saw inside your thinking too
I think that I should never see
What now makes up philosophy.

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