Peter, I heard you once say that places don’t really exist. What did you mean by that?
Well, they do and they don’t. I mean, take Moulay Brahim. You’ll find it marked on a decent map just to the south of Marrakesh, just off the S501, and there’s no doubt that if you told a friend that that’s where it is you’d get no weird responses. Everyone would agree. It’s one of Searle’s ‘brute facts’. However, once you start to ask questions, such as “what’s it like in Moulay Brahim?”, or go there and experience it for yourself, you’ll have to agree that because of the particular things that you are bound to experience, including any preliminary information or stories or expectations that you might seek out, the Moulay Brahim that becomes represented in your mind will be unique and different from everybody elses’ representation of the place. Because the representation is not a ‘place’ is it? We can’t BE Moulay Brahim, we can only create images and feelings and memories. Where are these memories and why they are different for us all is indeed very interesting. In fact don’t you think it’s a wonderful idea that whatever you personally construct Moulay Brahim to be is a unique gift entirely and totally yours?
Yeah, I see what you’re saying but it sounds a bit scary too. If you look in a guide book you’ll see things like the shrine and it’ll probably mention places to eat and so on……..
Certainly. Searle called those kinds of facts, non-mental brute physical facts, and really guide books should be considered to be just that. Lists of brute facts. You see once you are introduced into the equation, interpretation begins and this will be unique to you. How can it be any other way? You will also experience things that will be different to the person who wrote the ‘guide’ book. Maybe you’ll meet an interesting helpful person or maybe you’ll be mugged. You might get food poisoning or you might have the most wonderful meal of your trip. The sun might be out or the weather might be uncharacterically cold for the time of year and so on. You might be feeling a bit down or not too lively etc etc. All these factors will colour the ‘representaion’ you will construct about Moulay Brahim. There are as many Moulay Brahim’s as there are people who’ve been there. There’s no escape. In fact everything is always like this. It’s great.
OK, but what was it like for you though when you actually went, if you can put it like that?
Of course you can, but the point is that you mustn’t ‘believe’ my version, go and see for your self. It was OK. My partner and I were travelling with two friends who lived in Marakesh and they knew a few tricks such as eating a ‘safe’ meal straight from a steaming hot tagine with some freshly baked bread. That was very tasty and a welcome interlude. We wandered round for a while looking at horribly nasty bits of dried creatures hanging in stalls. I mean we didn’t talk to people much as we don’t speak hardly any arabic, and I know I felt uncomfortable about taking photos of poverty stricken people, so I hardly did. Some people looked happy, some appeared to tolerate our presence, no more. I really had little idea of what was going off in their heads, what they thought of us, what they did. We were basically aliens, wandering round on an alien planet. We bought a few things, had a coffee. Whilst walking round a few back streets the girl in the picture and a few of her little friends threw stones at us and tried to hit me with a stick. It was a priveledge to be there but we were tired and in a way it was a relief to get back in the car and head off back to Marakesh. It sounds a bit pathetic really.
Well, its different..