Immediation Riff

One of the trickiest hurdles to get around in considering consciousness is the assumption of qualia as a medium for communication. It is a natural mistake, particularly in the contemporary media-saturated culture which we inhabit, to see our visual experience as a kind of neurologically generated video screen, and our feelings and thoughts as the user level output of the brain’s biochemical computations.

There are two problems with this – one is that it cannot be true, and the second is that it may not be possible for everyone to understand why it cannot be true. The second problem is perhaps the most debilitating, as any argument I can give will be preaching to the choir for those who understand and will not make much sense to those who don’t (or can’t). After so many long debates with people who do not understand why it is impossible to have representation without presentation, or why it makes no sense to put a beautiful dashboard inside a computer driven car, I can say that I have still never seen it happen that someone is able to suddenly or even gradually ‘see the light’. Like gender preference, handedness or the ability to see Magic Eye 3D images, the trait of being able to conceptualize the irreducibility of qualia appears to be innate rather than learnable. There may be exceptions, but for the most part, people who are very interested in scientific approaches to consciousness are fixated on consciousness as a medium through which zoologically relevant facts are communicated, rather than the pervasively immediating pansensitivity that we call reality.

To be clear, human consciousness is not immediate relative to all other scales and layers of consciousness. Our personal awareness is mediated by countless other sub-personal micro sensitivities and super-personal meta-sensitvities, but every sense context is also irreducible on its own level. Every sensation is a direct participation with all that is. While it is true that our personal experience acts to mediate these other levels of experience, the last mile can only be immediate. If that were not the case, then there would have to be an infinite regress of translators and sub-translators, Cartesian theaters and their homuncular audiences, etc. It some point something has to feel something directly.

Related to this immediation is the idea of the Absolute. The Western view does not grasp the idea of unbound unity. The notion of a singularity is astrophysics in astrophysics and in futurism, but the connotation is mathematical rather than absolute. To understand sense as the Absolute, it must be conceived of as not merely the ‘one’ thing, but ‘the only thing’. Not isolated, but whole. The monad has no windows, not because it is alone but because eternal totality is already within ‘it’. It the same time, the Absolute is ‘solitrophic’ – it builds on its sensitivity to achieve saturation: significance. How can a complete whole build on itself? By restraining itself with its own pantomimed absence. This is spacetime, entropy, attenuation of sense. The catabolic reflection of significance. What feels is juxtaposed against presentations of unfeeling. It is through this alienation or diffraction that we get the appearance of matter and mechanism, as the immediacy of pansensitivity is mediated through metric relativity. Private unity is reflected as public multiplicity, and quality is re-presented through the reductive filter of quantity.

  1. July 17, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    How do you feel about all this talk of “multiple universes?” I always think that a great deal of conceptual (not to mention empirical) slight-of-hand is going here. On deeper analysis I’m all-but convinced the concept is, if not incoherent, not as important as theoretical physicists make it out be. So enchanted are we by an image of the universe as a spatiotemporal arena that we exist “within” – like fish in an aquarium tank – that we fail to recognize that this arena model is itself but a metaphor. With sense as our metaphysic, all universes reduce to one, for all phenomena are now located on one continuum of aesthetic understanding. Can the multiverse be salvaged when mind is the root of ontology? I doubt it.

    Our universe is less of an objective THING and more like a necessary CONCEPT, and the more we make sense of it, so I claim, the more its necessary singularity will be transparent to those “within” it. It’s not that there could have been multiple universes but aren’t, it’s that the idea is misguided from the start. Where we see contingency in the physical constants now, greater unifying explanations await. Where we sense infinite physical possibility, we shall come to find infinite conceptual necessity instead.

    • July 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      “So enchanted are we by an image of the universe as a spatiotemporal arena that we exist “within” – like fish in an aquarium tank – that we fail to recognize that this arena model is itself but a metaphor.”

      That’s great. Yes, exactly. Being able to understand that is like the entrance exam for MSR.

      Multiverse is the way that mechanistic theories have to plug the hole where sense should be. Sense is why there is a Uni-verse. Sense created, chooses and cheats in order to make itself ‘seem’ coherent or incoherent. It isn’t a machine. It’s us.

      “Our universe is less of an objective THING and more like a necessary CONCEPT”

      Right, well, it’s a PERCEPT. Concepts have more of the connotation aloof observables. Concepts are abstractions. Sense is participatory and direct. It is more concrete than things and more abstract than ideas. It is the Absolute.

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