A Debate Concerning What Sort of Thing a Mind Really Is

Fragment 1.II.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what was said between the esteemed sages Holos and Nunc-bïdi Hyûm as they conversed beneath a dead and ancient tree in the Garden of Contemlpation. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

[Nunc-bïdi Hyûm]: … Don’t you see, my long-lived friend? By now you ought to have grasped the main idea.

[Holos]: But all there is is the main idea. I grasp it, like the whippet grasps the hare. On the doorstep of eternity, I grasp it clearer and clearer.

[Hyûm]: Don’t speak in riddles! And don’t speak of eternity, either. You’re not that old, and you’re assuming a lot there. The rabbit might still slip from your jaws.

Put it this way: the dog is nothing more than an observer. Before him sunlight and shade dance across a vast meadow. The meadow, like some gay and riotous garden, blooms with many flowers of all colors and shapes. Birds and bees, butterflies and gnats fly through the blossom-scented air. The wind’s blowing creates billowing waves of grass, sends seeds sailing across the green, and rattles even the trees, which are now pushing forth new buds. Yet the dog sees only the rabbits nibbling the tender grasses. He searches for a rabbit he can catch. The meadow is nothing to him, there is only the rabbit. Now: does the dog have keen eyes or not?

[Holos]: Now who’s speaking in riddles?

[Hyûm]: Who, me? It’s a metaphor, and you put me up to it. But answer the question. Do we grasp reality through focus, or by the tug of wind on our beard, the sound of birds flirting, the smell of — what’s that?!

[Holos]: I believe I’ve stepped in some sizable beast’s fresh dung. This is exactly the sort of thing that ought not to be tolerated in the Garden. In here there’s too much dirt and not enough contemplation.

But you see this meadow you picture does not exhibit beauty per se, but a sort of lovely and attractive chaos, which ensnares our mind’s eye…

[Hyûm]: Watch your step! More droppings! There really are a lot of them.

[Holos]: The keen eyes of the coursing-hound, like the mind of a true sophotaster…

~

The sages of ToadChapel, of whom there are many, are loosely based upon figures from our own history.

Holos, the most venerated of all the sages, shares some of the views of the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Plato has exerted such a dramatic influence over the last 2,500 years of thought that one 20th Century thinker declared of the European philosophical tradition that “it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Plato advanced a view of the world in which true reality lay beyond our powers of observation, the human mind was often led into error by the demands of the body, and the objects of perception were poor copies of perfect ideals.

Nunc bïdi-Hyûm, a merry dwarf with a hearty appetite, expresses key tenets of David Hume’s philosophy. Hume was an 18th Century Scotsman who contributed a great deal to many fields of study. He reminds us that our immediate experiences cannot be reasoned out of our ideas altogether, and argues that our minds are, ultimately, nothing more than bundles of perceptions.

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