Attending TSC this year and in 2012 has played a critical role, and continues to play a role in inspiring me to develop Multisense Realism. David Chalmers work in particular, with his elucidation of the various forms of panpsychism in his recent papers Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism and The Combination Problem for Panpsychism has been invaluable.
From the former paper :
“Panpsychism is sometimes dismissed as a crazy view, but this reaction on its own is not a serious objection. While the view is counterintuitive to some, there is good reason to think that any view of consciousness must embrace some counterintuitive conclusions. Furthermore, intuitions about panpsychism seem to vary heavily with culture and with historical period. The view has a long history in both Eastern and Western philosophy, and many of the greatest philosophers have taken it seriously. It is true that we do not have much direct evidence for panpsychism, but we also do not have much direct evidence against it, given the difficulties of detecting the presence or absence of consciousness in other systems. And there are indirect reasons, of a broadly theoretical character, for taking the view seriously.”
In the latter paper, Chalmers offers a rigorous account of The Combination Problem. Multisense Realism begins as a proposed solution to the Combination Problem in which the explanatory gap between physical and phenomenal states is bridged by a continuum/spectrum of relativistic qualities of sensitivity.
From the macro to the micro, physical to phenomenal, under MSR, every perspective contributes its own frame of reference to what could be considered a totality of reference. Through this super-monad, not only are physics and phenomenology reconciled, but ontology itself. ‘Isness’ and ‘Aboutness’ are reconsidered as ‘Seems’ and ‘Seems like’.
It is the aim of MSR to begin to characterize and document this spectrum of meta-ontology, in which definition itself is created, preserved, and dissolved…even while, in another sense, not creating, preserving, or dissolving anything. Amidst all of this relativism and paraconsistent logic, it is proposed that within every frame of reference there is also the potential to access unambiguous clarity, simplicity, and wholeness. At the center of every center, there is a default (and de-fault) experience – a reflection of the totality; home, safe, within or ‘in here’. This anchoring should not be presumed to be the exclusive province of human consciousness or even zoology or biology. All of physics and mathematics contains implicit vantage points from which objects are defined. In this way at least, sense should be seen to pre-figure all figures and forms, all objects and subjects.
What PIP suggests is that even relativity is relative. There “is” an Absolute frame of reference, consisting of the capacity to orient sensibly. From that foundation, it becomes possible to ‘make sense’. Existence is suggested, not as a facile axiom, but as a concrete presentation of here and now that is a‘living’ coordination of aesthetic encounters. This view of the cosmos is one in which which divergence and disentanglement of privacies precedes an emergence of spacetime, nucleated in the now.
The work of Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose have also inspired my thinking as well. MSR introduces a kind of perceptual relativity at every level of scale (named Eigenmorphism), and a Lorentz-style complementarity to the Orchestrated Objective Reduction called Subjective Inflation (i.e. Orch OR+SI). The publicity of quantum mechanics finds a kind of twin realization in the privacy of qualitative gestalts. Wave-function collapse is reflected as a figurative bolt of lightning from the totality into locality.
Like a lightning bolt, a uniquely jagged path is traces its route from vector to vector, describing not only a generic/recombinatory state change, but a proprietary and unrepeatable address. This path can be imagined to strike through what might be described as an ‘improbability space’ – a top-down complement to the bottom-up view of quantum theory.
Through this influx of novelty, the present moment of here and now is inflated to superlative significance which recapitulates the inflation as well, so that eternity is reflected in each moment. This idea owes a lot to Eastern concepts such as the Net of Indra and Akashic Records. The idea is that each moment’s route to the present from the Absolute is preserved within it. This is quite an abstruse concept, and requires much deeper consideration than can be expressed here, but let this be at least a premonition of the potential for a productive if not testable form of ‘private physics’.
I have very much appreciated the contributions of Deepak Chopra, Giulio Tononi, and Donald Hoffman as well, each of whom present important pieces to the puzzle. Where I diverge from their views is only in particular details that arise from my premises. I do not see the world as a simulation or illusion, but rather, in any given frame of reference, the exterior world is as real as anything could possibly be…more ‘real’ in a way, than individual subjectivity. In my view, it is only from the Absolute frame of reference that matter is ‘unreal’ and subjective-like phenomena are the firmament. I see our subjective experience as both more-than-real and less-than-real, but not as the only arbiter of realism. MSR is not solipsism, but perhaps more of a holopsism.
Where Tononi’s IIT models a topological qualia space, I imagine a stratified but contiguous medium of sedimented experience from which qualia is carved out subtractively. There is simply no space in the universe that is not qualia already, nowhere to build it up from scratch. Instead, qualia is etched out of the local surface to the depths toward the source in the Absolute frame (beneath and beneath and beyond).
The flavor of strawberries for example, under MSR, is a kind of gestalt which traces a likeness of all the experience of all animals eating fruit, of all fruit bearing plants, etc going back to indefinitely. Qualia is *not* a simple translation from molecular code to phenomenal effect. As humans, we are highly elaborated, so our divided senses can conflict, but this does not mean, in my view, that it is evidence of a faulty and solipsistic simulation. Illusions and misperceptions reveal more, not less, about the full reality of objective and subjective relation, even if the content is incompatible with the local frame of reference. The flavor of strawberries really is the flavor of the actual fruit, not simply a computation of indirectly generated data. One does not cause the other, they reflect different perceptual frame of reference. For this reason I reject all contemporary Strong AI approaches as implausible, since producing a mechanism capable of simulating expected outputs from a given input would be doing so based on mathematical contingencies rather than the kind of hyper-physics of sedimented experience that I suggest.
Donald Hoffman’s Conscious Realism seems to overlap with mine very closely however here too I would add a propose that even the idea of conscious agents are figments of the interface. If we drop the requirement of ‘agents’ to consciousness, the notion of panpsychism becomes more palatable, and the Combination Problem is eased if not completely transcended. If we see self-ness as the ‘king of qualia’ rather than the price of entry to consciousness, then we open the door to a profoundly interesting universe of ‘dark qualia’ which would, (as it contains the content of both past and future relative to any nested frame) dwarf the scale of dark energy. It seems possible that dark energy is the local footprint of this eternal continuity of experience.
Thanks also to my ideological adversaries in this as well. Susan Blackmore’s no-nonsense approach and commitment to empirical evidence is a welcome influence, as well as Daniel Dennett’s humor and uncompromising cynicism. In many ways, my own view is informed by turning the tables on doubt so that in addition to being skeptical of our interior experience, in favor of exterior scientific evidence, I would add that we must introduce a new skepticism of the presumption of the universality and completeness of even those scientific descriptions. What is true on one level may not be true on another, and each level has its own fundamental truth independent of every other.
Thanks to Jody Weiss and everyone else that I have met here at the conference too, who have also contributed to this ongoing development, both directly and indirectly.
Yours in Consciousness,
Craig Weinberg, @s33light
The reducibility of our body to elementary functions and forms does not necessarily have to reduce us to forgeries. There is another possibility, which is that there is something to be forged that is precisely the opposite of a copy. As hinted at in the video, each experienced moment is a kind of unrepeatable performance. Instead of focusing on the absence of a concrete physical object, we can look at the aesthetic content of the experience itself as the concrete phenomenon – not a simulacrum (pronounced sim-you-lah-crum) but a localized fragment of authenticity itself. Is color basically a bad copy of white light? Is the universe basically a bad copy of nothingness?
Humans are not bad copies of anything, but the degree to which we are unique snowflakes is relative to the proximity of our scope of consideration. Within our own frame of reference, we are absolutely unique. Within a social frame of reference, we are stereotyped culturally. Moving out from the human context, an individual human becomes more and more generic – a mammal, an animal, a biological organism, a chemical reaction, etc. This variance is, in my view, what the universe is ‘made of’, so that no one context of description is the final ‘real’ description.
In other words, this commentary is literally “here”, and that video is actually “there”, and that is what relativity ultimately means…perception itself – awareness, is the ultimate frame of reference, and without perception, there is nothing to frame.
There is something about the narrowness of consciousness that makes the relativity of all experience necessary. In some way, the universe can only experience all of itself if each episode of awareness has its own kind of zero-gravity bubble of perceptual bias. Every frame of reference is screening out shades of so many others, but fills in the gaps with its own connectivity to events and phenomena which are local. We are walking around in a predominantly human life in a human context, only barely noticing the other 99.999..% of the universe as a cartoonish/mechanical caricature.
The question that I pose is whether 1+1=2 because it makes sense, or whether our minds make sense because truths like 1+1=2 exist independently of all experience.
If it is the latter, then 1+1=2 stands in for a fundamental set of rules and relations for which consciousness serves to glorify, either accidentally or inevitably.
If it is the former, then that which ‘makes sense’ stands in for a perceptual acquaintance with qualities of undeniable coherence.
It is significant to notice that when we get down to elementary statements such as 1+1=2, we have slipped beneath the realm of logic and numbers without even realizing it. To say that one can be ‘added’ to one and that they are now equal to a group of two is entirely a matter of naming perceptions. There is no real arithmetic going on, we are saying only that when something is to be considered individually we call its individuality “one”, and when we want to consider the presence of one as being adjacent to one other, we call that adjacency “two”. The underlying properties which are being named are conceptually abstracted perceptions. There is no actual “information” named one or two, rather there is a language through which we generalize stereotypical features of our perception – particularly visual and tangible perception. Trying to apply mathematical models to perceptions like flavors and odors is less ‘informative’. They don’t really add up to be enumerable flavors as much as they involve us in a sensory experience in which flavors are both merged and independent.
Lemon + Lime does not necessarily equal two flavors, but can be just as easily thought of as Lemon-lime. Either lemon or lime could be broken down each into multiple flavors including sweet, sour, and citrus, but there remains an idiosyncratic note as well which identifies lemon as one flavor and lime as a different single flavor. Even if we isolate the compounds associated with these flavors, or synthesize artificial compounds with entirely different molecular profiles, there is a huge variation in our perception of any ‘one’ flavor. Lime jelly bean flavor is not the same as key lime pie flavor, yet in another sense, the similarity is self-evident, especially once we give it the name of ‘lime’. It is not a name that is arrived at through a computation or reasoning. Like ‘one’ and ‘equals’, lime is a subjective experience which we can point to but cannot define through a mathematical function.
Does it make more sense, given that the axioms of mathematics as well as physics are defined by subjective expectations (about objective conditions), that we should rule out the idea that all axioms are intrinsically perceptual? We might also ask, if mathematics and information were truly axiomatic, would it be possible to make errors? If our entire conscious experience were made of trillions of precise mathematical reflexes, why is the subject of mathematics even necessary to teach? Wouldn’t it make more sense that we would be able to perform comparatively simple algebras more easily than we can identify whether the flavor of a lime is natural or artificial?
Perhaps our “level of understanding” can only attain to certain depths (or heights, depending how we perceive it) because of limitations we have not yet learned how to effectively overcome for purposes of studying and evaluating?
Perhaps there IS a ‘spirit world’ all around is…a ‘quantum-shifted-world’ that we’re just not ‘tuned into’ because our brains cannot yet deal with such things?
What do YOU think?
Yes, I do think that consciousness can be described in terms of a fundamental spectrum from which all other physical and functional phenomena are derived. I call it the multisense continuum and unlike other phenomena with fixed relation, the continuum of sense is interactively relativistic as well as relativistically absolute. This sounds confusing, but think of it like an ambiguous image:
If we model the spectrum of consciousness, I would give this polarization of ambiguity in which either the inner or outer frame of reference is assumed to be the fundamental anchor and the opposing frame is assumed to be ‘illusory’ to some extent the role of ‘frequency’. To keep it simple, we could talk about the frequency as the X axis, so that high frequency is more ‘outer’, inclusive of more bodies in public space and the low frequency is more interior, describing amplitudes of private feeling and meaning. The high frequency range can be thought of as an Intelligence space (which I label as ‘Western’ public knowledge) and the low frequency range can be thought of as an orienting hierarchy of private wisdom (the ‘Oriental’ range).
I suggest that there is an inverse relation between the two ranges, so that the higher the frequency, the lower the amplitude. This means that the more distant two perspectives are, the more they are limited to a reduced, mechanized picture of each other. When we fly over a city, for example, we see people and cars from a more detached perspective. It seems possible to me that this relativity of perception through which personal identification is framed, is part of the deepest fabric of the universe, and is in fact responsible for the appearance of the difference between matter and ‘mind’ (subjectivity).
In this way, objectivity itself becomes a relativistic parameter, something like a Lorentz transformation. Adding distance to your perspective increases the frequency and lowers the amplitude of mutual perception so that consciousness is ‘objectified’. Matter is not created, but filtered from nested layers of perception. Within any local inertial frame, there is no matter or objects. We, as human beings, are a very elaborate case, in that our selfhood is a vast window of many frequency bands, so that we have tiered sensation. Visual imagination is more object-like than verbal-cognitive thought, and thought is more object like than emotions and intuition. In the core of our subjectivity however, is that which occupies no dimension, as it observes both spaces and times from a fixed inner ‘eye’.
This eye, having the lowest local frequency can be understood to be the proxy for the absolute lowest frequency, which would I would describe somewhat mystically as one in which eternity must pass before even a single wave cycle can by completed. I suggest that this low frequency range offers the highest amplitude possibilities. Amplitude can be used to distinguish the inner from the outer frequencies as well. On the Western side, high and low amplitude are embodied literally as cosmic and microcosmic scale ranges, and as directions of spin. Amplitude in this sense is associated with magnetic permeability and gravity. On the Oriental side, amplitude is associated with hierarchies of aesthetic prestige. By that I mean the difference between a pawn and a King, and between bad and good, better and best.
The low frequency amplitudes are ‘moving’ from the inside out. The model of chakras used in yogic practice is one of many tree-of-life models of what I am calling here the amplitude of human consciousness. With consciousness, we are talking about sensory-motive capacity, so that a high amplitude consciousness implies both a high quality of sensory affect and a highly effective motivation. Higher positive amplitudes motivate from acceptance and inspiration, while high negative amplitudes motivate from urgent compulsion. There is a connection here with mortality as well, as the highly ‘negative’ states are rooted in the desires of the body and of the selfish ego. The ‘positive’ states are supposed to be motivated by gentle, patient influences which waft upward toward the eternal.
Even though the kind of Lorentz frame relation that I described earlier makes it harder to know whether a snail’s awareness just seems low compared to ours because of our ‘distance’ from them, I prefer to think that there is also an absolute dimension to consciousness in addition to the relativistic effect which makes human life more aesthetically rich and significant than that of a snail. The alternative would be more radically anthropic, in which every species enjoys a universe that features them at center stage. That view could conceivably be possible, but it has implications that seem likely to be very dangerous.
If the high/low frequency divide determines whether phenomena are encountered directly as inner sensations or sensed through the body as separate bodies, the high/low amplitude divide determines whether phenomena are valued highly or rejected. For human beings, we tend to place ourselves above other species of animals, and animals above insects and plants. High end states of being are considered ‘high class’ or ‘high and mighty’; celebrities, heroes, monarchs, spiritual entities etc. Even the self (itself) transforms along with the amplitude which it conveys, so that low amplitude version is like an animal ‘eye’, the mid-range is a human ‘I’, and the high end is third eye or ‘aye’ – a connection with transcendent or divine states of awareness and acceptance.
This layout is just a rough speculation of course. I find parallels with electromagnetism here that make me think that a more formal connection with physics could be made. In that case, I would not insist that frequency or amplitude be applied literally – they could be reversed, or even set liminocentrically so that high-low frequencies or high-low amplitudes could serve as the contrast to mid-range frequency-amplitudes instead.
//consciousness /is/ a misrepresentation of reality.//
In order for consciousness to mis-represent reality, there would have to be a possibility of a proper representation to exist /without/ consciousness. If that is true then you have unconscious representation, which means philosophical zombies eat Strong AI.
If that is not true, and reality can only be found within consciousness and never beyond it, then we must accept that reality and consciousness are either the same thing, or that reality is a subset of consciousness rather than the other way around (since we know that we can imagine immaterial alternatives to reality at will). Just from that alone I think common sense would lead us in the direction of idealism and panpsychism.
There really seems to be no good case for material realism to produce consciousness, except for the case which we build from the unshakable conviction of the objectively real appearance of the contents of a neurological simulation which is known to be defective in rendering even itself. Ironically, it is those who so mistrust direct perception who have absolute faith in indirect perception.