The other day it occurred to me that rather than referring to thoughts and mental states as something that we have or that are predicates of our mind, it would be better to think of them by analogy to metereology or weather events and patterns. If the brain is, as Metzinger elegantly argues (though I’m not sure why he believes this is contrary to the concept of substance), or units are, as Bogost argues, a set of operations, then it seems that we should think about mental states as not being properties or states, but rather as processes. The problem with saying, for example, that “I am depressed” is that it gives the impression that depression is a sort of fixed property of the brain, rather than a process or activity on the part of the brain. Just as we might say “the ball is red”, treating red as a fixed quality of the ball rather than an event that occurs to the ball, we treat depression as something that we just are. Far better, I think, to compare or analogize depression to a storm or a hurricane that takes place as an unfolding process. As the hurricane travels across the waters of the ocean it becomes more and more powerful from the heat of the water and increases in humidity, becoming an organized system that takes on a life and substantiality of its own. Likewise with depression. It begins as a tiny swirl within the brain, a mere murmur, a “tropical depression” (pardon the pun), but through a confluence of events in both life and drawing on other mental events (not unlike drawing on the heat of the water) becomes stronger and stronger, more and more pervasive, until it overshadows everything else. Were we to think of thoughts, affects, mental states, etc., as being akin to metereological events how might this change the way we pose questions about cognition, mental “disorders”, and the sort of practice we adopt in the clinic. I’m not sure.
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