Space, Speed, and Thought

Is there a relation between space and speed, on the one hand, and thought, on the other? I think we have to posit such a relation if we want to take seriously the notion that  consciousness and intentional thought are “embodied.” It might matter then, the type of spaces in which we think and the speeds at which we do so.

I think a lot about the type of spaces in which we think and the speeds at which we do so. What happens to the brain and to the mind when it moves? And what does it matter when it does so at faster or slower speeds? Do these factors contribute to the types of thought and thinking we think?

Aristotle’s thought was said to have been “peripatetic.” Kant walked around Konigsberg. Moses Mendelssohn wrote about habit in terms of speed and its impact on reason. Merleau-Ponty wrote about the body schema and the way one walks around one’s apartment at night. Deleuzian thought moves all over the place, and it does so at great velocity.

We think at our desks as we write. Our thoughts shift as we move from inside to outside. They meander as we walk and they accelerate in the car. Literally and figuratively, we move back and forth between closed-in spaces to wide open spaces. On Shabbat, everything is supposed to stop or at least slow down, which they do if you make this your practice.

One of the worst things about academia and religion is dullness.

A quick peek today in Ammiel Alcalay’s After Jews and Arabs and I found this:

“But the ‘furrow,’ the ‘fold’ that might be ‘history’ and the ‘Jew,’ runs the risk of diffusion, dispersion, and, finally, inertia…and these furrow turn into drainage ditches that empty out into a stillborn swamp, final resting place for what is allowed to unquestioned, uninterrupted, and unrelated to social fact or present circumstance.”

In this passage, “the Jew” stands in for any figure

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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3 Responses to Space, Speed, and Thought

  1. Gail says:

    I wish you’d say something about that photo. And I wish you’d say more about that quotation. Is it supposed to be “…allowed to BE unquestioned, uninterrupted, and unrelated to social fact…”? If so, this evokes a rather undeleuzian dispersion to me, a dispersion into guilt and law (as per the Kafka book), as opposed to a dispersion that deterritorializes according to desire (the articulations of the real, as per Bergsonism). You cite this as an example of the dullness we academics need to avoid?
    I often feel like the thoughts that are thought at my desk are like the “superficial movements of guilt, law, and interiority” that, for D/G, channel the points of undoing and experimentation for Kafka (p. 45). My real thinking happens as I’m walking upstairs, or folding laundry, or cooking, or in the dreams that I don’t recall until somebody says something that brings it all back in a fleeting but full instant.

    • zbraiter says:

      The photograph I took on rt. 80 on the way home from Syracuse. I always like looking at the lights of the evening traffic leaving the city. Because the shutter is slow, you get the blur, which I like. The Alacalay quote I must have messed up. The problem he identifies are unquestioned images and memories that clog up in dead zones. I really liked your comments about the way back and forth from the laundry. For me, it’s an elevator ride to the basement. Did Bachelard every do the wash?

      • Gail says:

        I have a hard time envisioning these big, male philosophers ever doing the wash. Though I’m sure they did, at some point. Right? This imaginative difficulty stems less from a knee-jerk stereotyping of a masculine relationship to domesticity (though I heartily admit to falling into that trap, too), than from not sensing in their writing the material tactility of home, dust, soapsuds, Tonka trucks, etc.
        But I like what you write here about unquestioned images that clog up in dead zones: it reminds me of Azoulay’s opening to her Civil Contract of Photography, where she talks about “planted” memories of the dangers of alleyways and doorways–the mental map of her Israeli childhood is crisscrossed with what Deleuze might call fraught “mots d’ordre”. See you soon…

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