The eeriness of the relationship between body and mind was the subject of Andy de Emmony’s 2010 BBC adaptation of M.R. James’ “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” , which was discussed in an earlier chapter. In this radically reworked version of the story, Parkin is tormented by the dementia that has reduced his wife to a catatonic shell: “a body that has outlasted the existence of the personality: more horrifying than any spook or ghoul”. “There is nothing inside us” , the Parkin in this version mordantly declares. “There are no ghosts in these machines. Man is matter, and matter rots.” Yet Parkin’s own statement establishes that there are ghosts in the machine, that a certain kind of spectrality is intrinsic to the speaking subject. After all, who is it who can talk of having no inside, of man being rotting matter? Not any substantial subject perhaps, but the subject who speaks, the subject, that is to say, composed out of the undead, discorporate stuff of language. In the very act of announcing its own nullity, the subject does not so much engage in performative contradiction, but points to an ineradicable dualism that results from subjectivity itself. The condition of materialists such as Parkin (our condition in other words) is of knowing that all subjectivity is reducible to matter, that no subjectivity can survive the death of the body, but of nevertheless being unable to experience oneself as mere matter. Once the body is recognised as the substrate-precondition of experience, then one is immediately compelled to accept this phenomenological dualism, precisely because experience and its substrate can be separated. There are ghosts in the machine, and we are they, and they are we.
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