Home > cosmopsychism, panpsychism, philosophy > Is Consciousness Primary to Reality? (2021 Documentary)

Is Consciousness Primary to Reality? (2021 Documentary)

November 23, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you haven’t seen this yet, it is well worth watching. I have notes…

3:40 “Physics tells us not what matter is but only what it does.”Here I would go further and say that physics tells us not what matter is, but only what it does to matter.

Around 24:00, the video gets in to IIT. Here too, my view is that the role of consciousness is underestimated. To say that reality has a physical and mental pole is a good start, but we should understand that these poles can only exist in the latter “mental” pole of conscious experience. It is true that “a complex mind” correlates with “a complex organization with the specific capacity of aggregating a fundamental aspect of consciousness” (23:20), however I would not say that correlation is an absolute requirement. While I agree with the earlier statement at 23:12 that no serious thinker has defended any claim for conscious minds in rocks, tables, and chairs, the reason for that in my view is not because the physical structure lacks the complexity to permit it.

My view takes in to account the significance of scales of time and size in creating parallel layers of conscious experience that make up the universe. In my view, it makes more sense to see the correlation between the increasingly complex structure of nervous systems through evolution and the richness and depth of conscious experience as being driven more by conscious experience needing to record and manipulate itself rather than anything like a mind ’emerging’ from structural complexity.

The chair is not conscious, but I think the same is true of any object. The brain is not conscious either. The brain is an organ that produces ideal chemical conditions for sophisticated conscious experiences to be expressed and realized for other sophisticated conscious experiences to interact with without merging completely with each other. The brain is part of a vertebrate body, which is part of a history of conscious experience going back more than 500 million years. A chair or a table is, in one sense, carved out of wood or some other material by a Homo sapien body’s brain and hands, but in another sense, it is one continuous history of conscious experience that is carving new experiences out of conscious experiences that are older, but still ongoing on another timescale, and using them as props to enhance experiences in the human centric umwelt.

In my Multisense Realism conjectures, I have tried to lay out a cosmogony of scales of physical spacing/timing with scales of psychological depth/richness such that our anthropological umwelt is nested within and permeated by the older onion layers of consciousness using bodies/brains on a zoological, biological, chemical, and physical scales of size and frequency of perceptual sample rate (Diagrams like these are some of the many drafts I’ve hypothesized https://multisenserealism.com/art-charts-and-diagrams/current/).

To ask whether a chair or table is conscious is to assume that what what we see as an image of furniture, and touch as an object of solid matter is all that these things are. Once we factor in the hypothesis of timescales as intentional partitions of subjective and objective seeming worlds (umwelts and welts), a spectrum of realism can be devised which reflects a universal spectrum of perceptual access. This is very much along the lines of what has been proposed in many other scientific and prescientific mappings of awareness, as Ken Wilber documented in his book Integral Sprituality, and which Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary wrote about as the Eight Circuit Model. These models draw on both Western and Eastern metaphysics including Numerology, Astrology, Tarot, I Ching, as well as psychological theories of development from Gebser, Maslow, Binet and many others.

With Multisense Realism, I have sketched out a way to integrate these essential-existential correlations with quantum mechanics, relativity, and semiotic theory to arrive at a conjecture of entropy-negentropy as symptoms of the lensing of conscious experiences, separating them in some sense while uniting them in others, and producing a dynamically growing vocabulary of aesthetic Significance.

From the perspective of consciousness on a celestial timescale, where planets spin like electrons and solar systems proliferate like cells, it would seem absurd that any such thing as human consciousness could exist. The thin biosphere and its mold-like bits of greenery would seem far too small and simple to host conscious experiences.

I don’t deny that in practice, IIT-like correlations between the symptom of integration of physical functions and the condition of someone’s personal awareness are reliable and pragmatic, but I suspect that this reliability is built into the animal scale experience rather than being a universal necessity for conscious experience to exist. In my view, it is not that things that we see and touch have consciousness in different degrees, it is that our consciousness has different degrees of overlap with a universal spectrum of perceptual access and identification.

I think that the implications from info-centric views of consciousness are misleading, and in fact, no technological artifact is any more conscious than a Teddy Bear or an emoji. This is not because of any bias for biological organizations of matter over technological organizations of inorganic matter, but rather than biological appearances are an expression of a type of experience that is of another order of magnitude of aesthetic richness (Significance) than experiences that are expressed pre-biologically in our perception. The Uncanny Valley is there for a reason – even if that sense of revulsion for imitations of life is not infallible.

In my view, any use of an object as a machine is by definition the use of a low-level aspect of a conscious experience on a distant timescale, and therefore diametrically opposite to sentience. The whole point of a machine is that it automatically serves our purposes, not that it develops its own competing agendas. A truly intelligent artifact would not be a machine, but a potential competitor to biological life itself. Its agency would be uncontrollable by definition. True intelligence necessarily includes the potential for consciousness to step out of its programming and conditioning, and to change itself directly through intrinsic degrees of freedom in its own participatory experience of ‘will’.Later on in the video, the combination problem is discussed. My solution here is to re-frame the assumption of cosmic evolution as occurring through an arrow of change from simplicity to complexity, and see it instead as equally an evolution by diffraction or division-by-self-similarity. 

Seeing how an embryo develops through the division and multiplication of a single cell, and how a faceted gem multiplies the image of the sun or other illumination source without diluting the source, we can begin to see how the half of the universe that modernity has increasingly hidden from us might work. I recommend these two classic videos about this dichotomy of diffracted holism vs emergent combination.

My stroke of insight – Jill Bolte Taylor

Iain McGilchrist – The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Another couple of classics I recommend to follow my trail of breadcrumbs to Multisense Realism are these: Cosmos – Carl Sagan – 4th Dimension (Abbott’s Flatland thought experiment)

Powers of Ten (1977)

At 32:00 the video gets in to Philip Goff’s Cosmopsychism, in which the fundamental unit of nature is the totality of nature itself. This is a logical inference from the idea of diffraction and top-down causation. Multisense Realism is a form of cosmopsychism, but with less emphasis on psyche and more on qualia: Sense and sense making experience can give rise to more complex histories of awareness that begin to have our familiar quality of personhood, but there may be many other paths down which conscious experience develops itself. My view is more of a cosmoastheticism with participatory tendencies. Understanding the bias of “smallism” is critical. The Multisense Realism view is that smallism and large-ism are both aspects of tangible-ism, but that the full picture of nature requires that tangibility always be experienced from a perspective that is trans-tangible by definition. Nothing is a tangible object in its own native timescale and frame of perception.

Another idea that I have tried to illustrate here is that the smallest and largest sheafs of tangibility have more in common with each other than they do the next largest and smallest scale-sheafs/holons. As we move into the center of the cosmic onion, the core meso-centric sheaf is the most fertile and rich context of experience, much as the clear white center of the visible spectrum is the most direct and complete access to visibility.

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