A Final Project in Professor George Landow's English 112:
CYBERSPACE, VIRTUAL REALITY, AND CRITICAL THEORY
Justin Clavadetscher, Brown University
In Michael Heim's The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace, he provides a thorough presentation of the roots of cyberian culture in the early philosophical conceptions of Plato. At the core of these propositions is Eros, a primal drive to extend our finite being, which seeks to transcend the bondage of mortal life, leaving something behind (if not perpetuatuating existence itself) in an effort to prolong something of our physical selves. But Eros can be much more subtle than the exaggerated desire for physical extension. It can be as subtle as the urge to heighten the intensity of our lives in general.
Both approaches first extend and then renounce the physical embodiment of knowledge. Eros inspires humans to outrun the drag of the meat-the flesh- by attaching human attention to what formally atracts the mind. Yet by conceiving ideas and nuturing awareness in the minds of others as well as our own, the psyche is successfully immortalizing its perceptions. As Heim states, `The psyche develops consciousness by formalizing perceptions and by stabilizing experiences through clearly defined entities...` . So according to Plato, our conscious, formalized identities help us to keep perishability and impermanence at bay.
From roughly 400 B.C. to 1600A.D., Platonism championed this verbal-mental intellectuality over physical actuality. Some time later, Renaissance and modern Platonists challenged such verbal-spiritual understanding to concrete experiments set in empirical space and time, demanding the evidence of repeatable experience. By applying mathematics to empirical experiment, science evolved to analyze physical movement in space/time through calculus. Heim makes a very relevant point: `Mathematics transformed the intelligent observer from a contemplator to a calculator`. Yet while such calculator continued to depend on feeble human memory and scattered printed materials, a gap would still stretch between the longing and the satisfaction of knowledge. To close the gap, a computational enginewas needed.