Inferencing from the Impersonal Crystalline
Anthropologists have discovered that, globally, the older old religions were animistic. From Ovid’s shape-shifting metamorphosis of stones to Carl Jung’s study of the “psychification” of rocks, across world cultures “dead matter” was, and continues to be, imbued with life. Even today, we routinely say that stones stand, fall, heave, mound, rush. Lava flows, glaciers are gravelly, silt becomes crusty, clay dries into mosaic, sand compresses into boulders. The question this essay poses, then, is, do gems have agency? Do they incite the brain to infer the existence of a hidden order inside the reflective mass? Are self-generating transformations of substance possible (as Ovid believed)? That is, does their structure provoke mentalizing (Theory of Mind) and are they in some way impersonally “minded” (tending toward something}? Clearly, colored stones do not possess what cognitive scientists and neurophilosphers call “consciousness.” But another way of understanding colored stones as “agentic,” that is, as the perhaps primal, performative substance rather than just an expensive bauble or ornament, comes from physicists of light investigating their propensity to hold light and capture color.
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