A Process Model
Body and environment are one, but of course only in certain respects. Let us carefully define them. The body is a non-representational concretion of (with) its environment. But body and environment also differ in some of their characteristics and doings. Let me define four kinds of environment (en).
En#1 is the spectator's environment, what spectators define in their en which may affect an organism. For example, it is en#1 when scientists or hunters define the environment of an animal. They define the en factors. They do it in their own terms. Some monkeys live in trees, others on the ground. The spectator defines these en factors as there, separately from the animal. The spectator may also note something (pollution for example) that is about to affect the animal while the animal does not yet notice. The spectator's bodies interact with "the animal's environment", their own environment attributed to another living body.
En#2 is the reflexively identical environment; it is identical with the organism's living process. Body and en are one event, one process. For example, it is air-coming-into-lungs-and-blood cells. We can view this event as air (coming in), or as (a coming into) lungs and body cells. Either way it is one event, viewed as en or as body. Here we are not calling it "environment" because it is all around, but because it participates within the life process. And, "body" is not just the lungs, but the lungs expanding. Air coming in and lungs expanding cannot be separate. The point is that we need not split between the lungs and air.
Take another example, walking. The same pressure which is the foot's on the ground, is also the ground's pressure on the foot. We can separate ground from foot, but not ground's resistance from foot's pressure. The en#2 is not the separable environment but the environment participating in a living process. The en#2 is not the ground, but the ground-participating-in-walking, its resistance. The behavior cannot be separate from this ground-participating. If the body is hanging in air and attempts to walk, its swing will be much wider and it will not move forward; it won't be walking. In deep water "walking" will immediately be thrashing; the motions will be different. The body cannot enact the same behavior without the ground. And, the ground cannot be ground-pressure (it cannot be this en#2) without the behavior. Without walking there is still a ground in the sense of en#1, but not as en#2. The en#2 is a function of ongoing living, and exists only in that living.
The familiar statement "the environment is a function of the organism" receives here a more exact understanding. We can clarify what the ethologists mean by saying that there is no single reality, only the reality of each species. It is in the sense of en#2 that each species has a different environment. Of course its species members are different but so is the rest of the en. Environment#2 and the body are functions of each other. In just this sense there is "no reality" except the various ones that are implicated in the various living processes.
Thus body is both equal and not equal en! Rather than staying with such paradoxes we are building distinctions and concepts. We have been able to specify some exact respects in which it is and is not equal.
Body and en#2 imply each other -- it is basic to this philosophy that "imply" is being defined, but we cannot yet define it from here alone. But we can notice that what are usually called "body" and "en" look different, even when we say that they are part of one event (foot and ground, air and lungs). They are not look-alikes. The mutual implying between body and environment is "non-ikonic," that is to say nonrepresentational. The muscles and bones in the foot and leg do not look like the ground, but they are very much related. One can infer hardness of the ground from the foot, the leg, and their muscles. In an as yet unclear way "one can infer" means that the foot implies the ground's hardness. Other kinds of terrain or habitat imply different body parts. Since the body and the en are one event in en#2, each implies the other. They imply each other in that they are part of one interaction process, one organization. Or, we could say, each is a part of a larger organization which includes the other. Each functions as it does only in this wider functioning organization.
This use of "imply" also says that the whole event is already there even if the body aspect or the en#2 aspect are thought of alone.
En#2 is always in some process, and identical with the body-in-some process.
En#3 is the environment that has been arranged by the body-en#2 process. The body accumulates (is) a resulting environment. The mollusk's shell, the spider's web, or the beaver's tree when it falls, these are their main environment, but they are results of the animal's body-en#2 process. En#3 is wider than en#2.
We can set up a continuum of greater and lesser seeming separability. The beaver's tree seems quite separable from the beaver, a bird's nest also; a spiderís web is separable from the spider who will live on and make another if we destroy this web. The mollusk's shell isn't as separable yet we think it separate. How about our hair -- is it not a product of the body? But our skin too. And the body too!
The body of any creature is the result of its life process. En#3 includes the beaverís felled tree, but also the beaver's body. The environment which the process produces is wider, but it includes the body.
En#3 is another, a different way in which body and environment are one (the body is environment), but since this environment is wider than the body, this equation isn't perfect. How body and en#3 imply is more complicated. (See IVAh-3)
The bloodstream is often called the environment of the cells it feeds. The many processes in the body have various parts of it for their environment. The skin-line is not the great divide. En#3 stretches from the beaver's tree into its body to the cells. En#3 is the environment that has already been regenerated by body process. It is the web and also the spider's body and its parts and subparts.
The life process goes on in en#3; it goes on in the spider's web as well as in its body.
The body is an environment in which body-process goes on further.
The body was made from an embryo engaged in process. The body structure is not only made but also maintained by ongoing processes -- if they stop, the body disintegrates.
See the lines on a sea shell, a small first part is already a sea shell, and was the smaller animal's shell; rings and rings more are added on by growth. The shell has the nature of an action track, it is process concretized. The body is also like that, a record, an action track.
When aspects of en#3 get reinvolved in life process, they are thereby also en#2 (both within and outside the skin-envelope body).
The process is body-en#2 and goes on in body-en#3. But only some results of life become en#3, only those in which it goes on. En#1 is what the spectator observes all around the body, but the body also has its own environment which it has made.
But if en#3 affects the body only if it is again en#2, is the distinction only for a spectator? Of course it is one body, not two. En#3 can affect the body only insofar as it re-enters en#2. But then it matters very much that this en#2 is not all new; it is also already a product of this life process. The process goes on in its own products. Say a different tree is about to crash and hit the beaver -- the observer may see that it is about to happen. But en#3 does not re-enter the process in that arbitrary way. The very tree the beaver gnaws will not hit it. It will affect the beaver in many ways once it is on the ground, but these will be importantly different from the intrusion of a tree that was not already en#3. The body implies the environment that the body already "is." Life happens largely with environments that life has produced or modified. The process goes on largely in its own products.
The main "environment" of any animal is its species members, other animals like it. These are products of the en#2 process of the specie. In that sense they are quite obviously en#3 (and, when something is ongoing, en#2). By far the greater proportion of animal activity is with and towards them. The mother for the infant, female and male for each other, the group for the individual, these are crucial environments. We must not take the physical environment as our basic model of environment, although that too will often already be en#3 -- already organized by the life process when the current life process draws it in as en#2.
En#3 is the cement you walk on, the mole's hole, the bee hive, the ant hill, and our bodies and theirs. The life process (en#2) makes itself an environment in which it then goes on further. We can call it the "home-made" environment, or the "domesticated environment,"-- en#3.
The use of the word "in" is as yet unclear (when I say that the process goes on "in" en#3) because we do not wish to begin with any clear notion of space. We have and use our space, of course, but let us permit new concepts of space to arise from our interactional concepts. (We will "derive" the distinction between "external" and "internal" in VIIB. Many quite different kinds of space can be generated from the process (both conceptually and experientially) as we will see. So let us allow this two-directional "in" to stand.
What "inside" and "in" means is no simple question. The simple "in" of a skin envelope assumes a merely positional space in which a line or plane divides into an "outside" and an "in." But the ground pressure is exerted not just on the sole of the foot but all the way up into the leg and the body. From most any single bone of some animal paleontologists can derive not just the rest of the body but also the kind of environment and terrain in which the animal lived. In breathing, oxygen enters the bloodstream-environment and goes all the way into the cells. The body is in the environment but the environment is also in the body, and is the body. We can say that en#3 participates in en#2, or we can say that the body-en#2 process goes on in the en#3.
En#0 is a fourth type. Something may some day affect the life process and be en#2, but is not now. This has never happened, and is not now any creature's en, not even the spectator's. In the seemingly infinite richness of the unborn something may happen which has not yet, and will then be definable in terms of the process in which it participates. Let us allow ourselves to talk of this now. We don't want to say it plain isn't. Since this has no reality as en#2, and since en#3 is the result of en#2, we need a term for "environment" that has never been functioning in a life process.
En#0 is not what does function but has not been recognized. Vast reaches of the universe are involved in our process; those are all already part of en#2. En#0 is that with which some en#2 might come to be, but has not.. (We need not assume that what is must become en.) If something new enters en#2, it is determined as much by life process as by en#0.
But is en#0 spatially distinct from what is already en? Or may it be right here in what is participating? Obviously we must choose the second, if we choose at all, because the space relation is as yet undefined.
In these definitions process is first. We donít assume the "body" and the "environment" and then put them together. Later we will develop terms to speak of "the body." Right now it is b-en#2.
With later terms we will be able to say what part of en#3 is the body.
Body structure is always involved in some processes, else it disintegrates. It is a structure from process, for further process, and only so.
Body and en#2 and #3 imply each other because each is part of one organization that includes the other. Each functions as it does only in this wider functioning organization. This use of "imply" stems from the fact that the whole event is already referred to, when we think only of the body, or only of the en.
Modified 10/2001 (c) 1998 by Eugene T. Gendlin. All Rights Reserved. webmaster