Hayles, Post-Human, and Cartesian Dualism: Reclaiming the body
Rather than go into a philosophical debate that I have no hope of arguing properly, maybe we should proceed with the following alteration to the mind/body dualism approach. The mind and body can act (act being the operative term) independently, but not exist independently. That distinction is important in proceeding with this argument. So, on to the literature. I take a quote from the Chinese classic The Romance of the Three Kingdoms from around two thousand years ago.
“Here begins our tale. The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. This it has ever been.”
Substitute mind and body for empire and there you have it. The natural state of being is to assemble and disassemble; to unify the mind and body and then rationally blow it apart. How does this constant assembling and disassembling play out online? I would argue, much as Hayles did, that this period since World War II (1945 onwards) and even with precedent before that in rationalism/evolution/communism emerging from the 19th century, is the disassembly of mind/body unification. Certainly this has played out online in terms of subjectivity and identity. What are we if not divorced from our bodies? What are we when we role play with avatars unlike our physical selves? Are our bodies merely massive feedback loops for our mind; regulating the machine to provide the foundation for the mind to act.
It also, I think, buttresses this notion that the body is merely an instrument that needs to be controlled and mastered (by the mind); this relates to Hayles mention of anorexia as evidence of this desire for mastery. Mobile and nanotechnology (even DNA mapping and bioinfomatics) does not merely attempt to master the body (some of that is there, though), but rather attempts to master what the body wants and demands to grow/augment itself. Rather than merely divorcing itself from the mind, the body provides feedback to the mind which provides feedback to the body and on and on (some simplistic reflexivity there). Overall, I suppose my point is that mobile/nano/biotechnology puts the body back in play; a factor in what it means to be.