“Man In Equipoise” Commentary part III

Giedion then discusses the latest developments in physiology in some detail.  His basic thesis, that the whole is other than the sum of its parts, is continued in logically consistent fashion into this area of knowledge.  “The discovery of the means by which a poised equilibrium is established between the different functions of these nervous systems may help us to discern the direction in which man himself is moving…[j]ust as steel bridges are built springing from the ground and with one end freely poised in mid-air, renewed intellectual conceptions will arise piece by piece without the scaffolding of philosophical systems.” And then the prescriptions, based on his analysis of these tendencies:  We must establish a new balance between the individual and collective spheres.  We must establish a new balance between the psychic spheres within the individual.  We must establish a new balance between the spheres of knowledge.  We must establish a new balance between the human body and cosmic forces.

The rest of the essay is devoted to this notion of equipoise as it plays out in the human individual and social bodies.  “Neither are there fixed rules for the dominance of rational or irrational, individual or collective, specialistic or universal conceptions.  Manifold and often inexplicable reasons are responsible for the dominance of the one or the other of these tendencies in a given period….[e]very generation has to find a different solution to the same problem:  to bridge the abyss between inner and outer reality by reestablishing the dynamic equilibrium that governs their relationships.”  True equipoise is necessary, and possible, according to Giedion.  But at this juncture, one hearkens back to a paragraph found earlier in his discussion of balance:  “These are only a few of the prerequisites of the new man.  Some may regard them as futile and no more certain than sky writing.  But we should not have dared to suggest the type of man our period calls for if physiology had not discovered astonishingly parallel trends.” One might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Giedion is reading too much into these physiologic discoveries.  One must not confuse what one wants to be true with what is arguably demonstrated to be true.

 

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