Feeding (5): Epistemological conclusion

Do we have to choose between contradictory analyses?

A recurring problem handicaps philosophical analysis: teleological and ontological views are contradictory. They describe competing cases. If it’s genetics, it can’t be psychology. If it’s culture, it can’t be biology. Etc. The contradiction arises from an epistemology that is too horizontal: the different views are deciphered, compared, tested as to their results. The best approach wins. You cannot keep those that have incompatible assumptions.

This logic does not work for the teleology/ontology couple. It is in their nature to be contradictory. Indeed the starting point of the analysis, the observer, is not the same. For ontology it is the intention that we lend to physical reality, to the elements that are organized under the effect of fundamental forces. For teleology it is the intention of our mental reality, fragmented between a multitude of brains.

Two ends of the complex dimension

These two observers are strangers to each other. Arranged at the ends of a complex dimension. Is it any wonder that they have an incomprehensible look at each other on what separates them? Does this mean that one of the looks is right and the other is wrong? That is what each of them says, and their point of view is correct. But does not extinguish the other. Both are accurate… at each end.

The analyst must thus straighten his thinking, make it vertical. The two approaches are no longer contradictory. They converge on a common subject, on which they must meet. This is rarely the case. Almost always because the analyst favors the look to which he is trained, accustomed. The scientist is ontological, the philosopher or psychologist teleological. The contradiction of discourses is that of schools of thought and not a real contradiction. The thing is there, before our eyes, satisfying in turn the two models, trying unique and not divided.

Let’s straighten the scale

Let us verticalize our thinking, appropriate its ontological and teleological departures, and we will understand eating disorders both in their genetic and cultural dimensions.

What makes it possible to make ontology and teleology dialogue is that they are not competing causalities. They follow one another. Ontology is the feeding instincts. Teleology back-controls them. Nature gave me a body, a gift that came before any opinion I could have formed on this subject. How can my intention transform it now?

Nature is an outstanding engineer. I am a miracle of biology. Are my profane intentions at the right level? Don’t I risk scrapping my only body vehicle by manipulating the inside without knowing it? Can I exercise any intention?

Dangers of control

If consciousness were endowed with all the powers over the body, we would probably have no chance of reaching adulthood. Infantile intentions are as innocent as they are dangerous. Instinctive autonomy, the unwavering ontology of the human body, protects us from the worst. Thus, in our teleology, we must keep the idea of protecting ontology. Foreign intentions, perhaps, but one does not exist without the other.

This is why we can doubt that the appropriation of eating behaviors is “the mark of a triumphant individualism and liberalism”. Is the individual fundamentally the body, or the image of the body that can be manipulated at will? What happens to the second by neglecting the first? Is liberalism allowing oneself lethal behaviors, likely to prematurely degrade one’s body, or conquering one’s freedom by avoiding these complications?

The desire for emancipation of “liberal” consciousnesses is all the more suspicious as their contents are strongly influenced by the physical state. Any neural dysfunction alters fragile self-awareness. Vicious circle: a consciousness believes itself to be free while what is observing in it is no longer intact. Drug addiction is the caricatured example. An atrophied consciousness seeks in consumption a freedom that no longer exists. Sugar addiction is not as severe but is part of the same mechanism.

Freely chained will

Freedom includes stability. If I want to exercise a choice, I must have consolidated it. By strengthening it I threaten to make it a habit. Is this choice still a mark of free will or have I chained myself?

But today chaining is life-saving. My consciousness is caught in a torrent of contradictory information. I have to hold on to something. Find a quieter pond, where I will put myself in a circle with others, strengthen my choice of theirs. And these other ponds, around, which say the opposite, am I freer or less free by ignoring them? Having regained a little confidence, I resign myself to going out.

Metaphor of swimmer-consciousness

My consciousness sees itself swimming in a pit into which conflicts are continually flowing. It remains on the surface inventing new ways of swimming, because the currents of conflicts do not all have the same density.

If I do not succeed, that my consciousness sinks, asphyxiates, I fear that it will be locked in a psychotropic suit. If I am too old to swim, I will be installed at the bottom in a protected bubble, an assisted living facility, from where I will contemplate the shadows of my past.

With means I can afford my personal bubble, a perfectly controlled microcosm where nothing can surprise me. But the outside world continues to change. New whirlwinds are born in the pit. My bubble sank. If it bursts, does my consciousness have a chance to get away to the surface?

When in doubt, I continue to create new swimming techniques. I surimpose them. I stay on the surface. A rather thin view of things, you say? Not at all. It is from the surface that we see all their depth…


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