Man, Mind, Model

Vitruvian Man, Leonardo Da Vinci, Circa 1490 CE, Gallerie dell'Academia, Venice

Homer’s Odyssey begins with the word ‘Man’ [Andra, from the Attic-Greek Aner, as in the English Anthropo]. Let’s go see if we can find the fella.

The word ‘Man’ derives from a root [as in the Sanskrit Manush, Manas] that says: ‘That which has Mind’ or more literally, ‘That which thinks’.

How is ‘Man’ different say, from a Mattress? Man is different because Man alone has Mind. This has been the traditional answer since antiquity.

The defining attribute of Man is his Mind. And with this Mind, Man constructs his World as Model. And its central character is his model of himself as ‘Man’.

The Universe belies you‘ wrote Voltaire the passionate skeptic, ‘and your heart refutes a hundred times your mind’s conceit‘.

I don’t know what Mind is. But I do know this. Every time I say: ‘Gotcha!’, every time I use Mind to hold forth on the Nature of Mind, I am back in the whirl of the Self-Loop.

Very wise-men have been trying to get a handle on this thing called ‘Mind’ for a few millennia and have gotten nowhere. Divine origin? The center of cognition, emotion and volition? The firing of synapse on brain tissue?

But this ‘Mind’ of mine [which of course I know exists] keeps giving me the slip. And to further confuse matters, knowing folks say that Mind is also the depository of ‘Thought’, the dodgy character we just met.

I can’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, touch it. And yet, darn it all, it feels awfully real and tangible to me. This ghost behind my nose and between my ears.

And anything I pick and label as ‘Mind’ using this Mind of mine cannot be Mind, can be anything but Mind.

So. ‘What is ‘Mind’? As I said, that’s about where the wise-men left it.


The Thinker in Rodin Museum in ParisWe view the World [and ourselves] largely through the prism of ‘Model’.

The word ‘Model’ is etymologically related to the Sanskrit Maya, from the root Ma: To Build’ and Manas [an early version of the modern: ‘Mind’].

The expansions of Model are done through referential systems, mainly Language and Logic. And the foundation of a modeled understanding is the presumption of a ‘Subject-Object’ Divide.

The ‘Subject-Object’ Divide [as in ‘Self and World’] doesn’t originate in heaven but in the very terrestrial assumption of an independent, separated ‘Self’ [a dressed-up Subject].

It is the first and only progeny of the primeval cleaving. The elemental DNA, the building block, of every man-made Model, which includes the notions of ‘Man’ and ‘Model’.

A ‘Model’ is a creation, a re-construction of the original, not the real-thing but its re-presentation. A Model of Reality, not the Real McCoy.

A toy-car is a model. So is a doll’s-house. But the most important models are mental-models, the ones we build inside our heads using things that ‘double’. Sign and Symbol that refer and come alive in such building blocks as the Alphabet, the Number System and other such kits of complex referencing signs. All mediums in fact conducive to referential traffic.

The word ‘Model’ is etymologically related to the Sanskrit Maya [from the root Ma: To Build’, commonly translated as ‘Illusion’] and Manas [an early version of the modern: ‘Mind’].

There is nothing erroneous or illusory about Model. ‘Error and Illusion’ are themselves modeled-views. As is the very notion of modeled-view.

In the hands of an accomplished architect, the complex architecture of building a house made up of ‘Subjects’ and ‘Objects’ can be an intricate, layered piece of Art.

The sprawling and sophisticated intellectual frame that directs and defends our entire contemporary way of thinking and living. Our ‘Man-Made Modeled World.


Everytime I feel dispirited about the future of this creature called ‘Man’, I reach for this learned quote:

One aspect that sharply differentiates Man from Nature is his highly developed capacity for thought, feeling and deliberate action. Here and there in other animals, rudiments of this capacity may occasionally be found, but the full blown development that is called Mind is unmatched elsewhere in Nature‘.

We don’t quite know if a Giraffe has a Mind. But we are absolutely sure that we have one. Our Mind told us so.

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