27 Mar 2015

2. The metaphor of the heart

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Both the musicologist David Burrows and the philosopher María Zambrano call attention to the fact that most common epistemological metaphors are visual. Visual experience is fundamentally unambiguous. It is clear, orderly and predictable whereas the experience of sound is fundamentally equivocal, polyvalent and uncertain: "If 'seeing is believing', then hearing is in fact often a matter of guessing and hoping. People speak of the light ― but not of the sound ― of reason," says Burrows. Zambrano tells us, rather, about the metaphor of the heart: something resists the light of thought.

Following the semantic logos, thought may be inspired by the ideal of permanence and fixity, of the control, clarity and stability characteristics of visual experience. But thinking is fundamentally a kind of movement, therefor closer to the musical logos. Sound's capacity to detach itself from the world of stationary objects and things its fundamentally dynamic. Its processual character is what enabled human entry into the distinctively human field of mental life. Creative thinking and hearing are far more alike than thinking and seeing, sharing an invisible fluidity that cares little for fixed spatial coordinates and freely enters into novel combinations with itself. Ambiguity or vagueness is due at least in part to sound's profoundly processual nature. Sonorous objects only exist by a process of continuous moment-by-moment renewal. While sight gives us physical entities, the heard world is phenomenally evanescent, relentlessly moving, ever changing.

From a phenomenological point of view, there is quite a contrast between visual and aural encounters with the world. Visual experience has a sense of solidity, distinctness, and objectivity, characteristics conspicuously absent in aural experience. Vision is an experience of separateness and duality; hearing of connection and unity.

For Zambrano, the heart is the only organ capable of capturing the rhythm of phenomena and "rhythm is one of the most profound, decisive phenomena of life, and especially of human creation". No need to fear that all philosophy has won so far in terms of objectivity and so forth is going to fail. In my view, the opposite is true: Any philosophizing, especially philosophical practice, that does not open to the understanding of the heart, runs the risk of becoming stagnant. For the river of philosophical life, it is necessary to re-establish a bed where it can flow again, the bed that opens truth to life, the passage of the rhythmical poetic reason in which life and thought finally meet.




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Maria Joao Neves

I am a portuguese philosophical practitioner having established my practice in Tavira (Algarve, Portugal) in 2006 and published a book on my methodology, Método RVP© - Prática Filosófica no Quotidiano (The RVP Method - Poetical Ratiovitalism: Philosophical Practice in Ordinary Life), in 2009. Phenomenology of dreams is a particularly important part of the RVP Method.

I currently work as a post-doctoral scholar at Universidade Nova de Lisboa (UNL), where under a grant from the Foundation for Science and Technology of Portugal I do research on musical aesthetics. I received my Ph.D. in Contemporary Philosophy from UNL in 2002 with a dissertation on María Zambrano. As a professor, I lecture mainly on Ethics and Aesthetics.

I began piano studies at the age of four, singing and dancing instruction following slightly later. I completed my training as a vinyasa flow yoga instructor in 2011. While not pursued professionally, these activities were never abandoned because it is impossible to leave what nourishes the soul.

I contribute regularly to indexed scientific journals, please see my page at:


Philosophical Practice blog at: http://cfilosofico.blogspot.pt

Contact: filosofiamjn@gmail.com