Home > cosmopsychism, metaphysics, philosophy, qualia > Response to Pawel Pachniewski’s hard problem of metaphysics, part one

Response to Pawel Pachniewski’s hard problem of metaphysics, part one

November 18, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is part one of my response to just the very beginning of Pawel’s essay (or post or whatever we are calling what we’re doing here). It was getting too long and melting my brain so I decided to just get it out in parts as I can find more time and energy to absorb and respond. It may not even be necessary to go further since my response is really directed only at the problems I see with the unacknowledged premises prior to the beginning of the argument. I may not take issue with the argument itself, if we lived in a universe where those premises were true.

I apologize also for proceeding in this insufferable manner of dissecting Pawel’s excellent writing sentence by sentence. Obviously that is not optimal, it’s just too much for my mind to hold on to at one time any other way.

Without further ado then…

>“then what else could there be out there that could be hidden in plain sight like consciousness hides in plain sight for the non-conscious?”


As far as I can tell, there is no non-conscious. I propose that what we imagine or assume is non-conscious, like a rock, is actually part of a conscious experience on a much different timescale. In our brief lifetime, and even briefer capacity of perceptual attention, the Earth and its minerals appear as concrete objects, or more precisely tangible presentations… in the tactile sense modality… of a personal conscious experience. 

While we are having a human life experience, we cannot experience geological timescales directly, but experience only parts of them as aesthetically frozen snapshots within an anthropological > zoological perceptual time window. We experience a rock because we cannot experience the spectacular history of this planet and solar system in its native geological timescale. that timescale of eons is much too slow relative to our direct perceptual window. For the same reason, we can’t experience the minerals that the rock is composed of in their native chemical timescale: it’s too fast for our perceptual window.

The scale of size is a hint also, with geological timescales corresponding to phenomena that we see as physically larger than we can experience directly. Changes to entire planets and changes to single molecules correspond to phenomena that we experience as being physically larger and smaller than we can perceive directly.

I call this relativistic lensing Eigenmorphism and have tried to clarify what I think it should mean.

So no, the rock we see and touch is not conscious, but it isn’t a thing-that-is-non-conscious in an absolute sense. We experience a rock as an appearance (a tangible appearance in the tactile sense, and also as a three-dimensional-seeming image with clear boundaries and surfaces in our stereoscopic visual sense) but there is nothing that the universe is like for that appearance we see.

Likewise there is nothing that the universe is like for any of the objects we can touch or images we can see – not planets, not bodies, not brains, not cells, not vast arrays of transistors, not emojis or stuffed animals, or numbers. In my understanding, there are no ‘things-that-are-conscious’ in an absolute sense, there are only conscious experiences that ‘thingify’ each other.

All of the appearances we perceive to be tangible objects or intangible concepts (like numbers) are, I propose, eigenmorphic snapshots of conscious experiences on timescales that are extremely disparate from our own. The degree of eigenmorphism accounts for the difference between objects that we see as alive versus inanimate. Inanimate is an illusion in an absolute sense, but real in practice locally. As long as the conscious experience we are using is a human experience, the inanimate appearances we encounter are for all practical purposes, faithful and real. We can’t walk through a wall just because its solidity isn’t presented in all timescales and modes of perception. In the timescales of perception that our body exists (zoological > biological > chemical > physical), that wall (chemical > physical) has no choice but to resist merging with our body. The resistance is happening at the level of chemical timescale awareness…too fast for us to experience directly just as the screen image of an old TV or CRT appears stable rather than as a single illuminated pixel tracking horizontally across each vertical line of the screen mask.

> “From a complete description of the universe we seem to be able to exhaustively derive a totality of all facts about the universe, save for one key phenomenon: consciousness.”

Again, this presumes that there is any other phenomenon besides consciousness – which is an assumption that seems very natural, almost undeniable, from our perspective. The question though is whether that undeniable seeming assumption is due to the nature of reality, or of the nature of consciousness in general, or to the nature of OUR limited scope of perception within consciousness. I’m arguing for the latter. If it is true that appearances of non-consciousness are a lensing artifact of the *limits* of our sense (insensitivity) and not of sense in general, then it would stand to reason that we would fail to assume consciousness outside of that scope. In my view, the whole point of having a mortal, limited, zoological experience of having an animal body is to escape the fact of the eternal totality of consciousness. We’re here on a sort of anti-vacation-vacation to taste some of the aesthetic treasures of concentrated deprivation and reunification.

>“Scientifically and philosophically, it is broadly accepted that humans are conscious in the sense that we have inner phenomenal lives – a what-its-likeness to our existence or at the very least, according to some, an illusion thereof.”

Here, I reject both the validity of concepts just because they happen to seem broadly accepted at some given moment and culture and the concept of qualia as ‘what-its-likeness’. The idiom ‘what it’s like‘ doesn’t mean anything that we can work with intellectually. It’s a folk expression that doesn’t define or describe qualia but only creates an empty placeholder of what ‘it‘ does. In my Multisense Realism philosophizing, I give the ‘it’ and the ‘like’ rigiorous clarity and context. It is aesthetic-participatory phenomena, and it is diffracted from the eternal, ongoing totality of the same phenomena through a process that creates and preserves such phenomena, both from the ‘top down’ rather than being assembled by microphenomenal, microphysical, or computational units from the ‘bottom up’.

I don’t deny bottom-up re-assembly of qualia, such as we are seeing right now on this video screen, but I see these instances of the summing of parts as possible only where there is already a sensory anticipation of a holistic/whole perception that is being diffracted top down from the totality. This has tremendous implications for anything artificial, imitated, or simulated, as I discuss in writings about AI.

>“You get kicked in the shin, it hurts.”

Indeed, it hurts even in a dream, to some extent. Also, if you’re awake, enough anesthetic can make getting kicked in the shin painless. I mention this to stave off any qualia-physics identity theory that assumes that hurting just is the neurochemical cascade resulting from getting kicked in the shin.

Of course, anesthetics work by interrupting the neurochemical cascade, but we can still clearly separate the tactile and visible qualities of those tangible appearances (molecular objects staying in the cell body rather than being released into a synapse, etc), from the painful qualities that makes us feel like we need to scream. Indeed pain is not an empty carrier of instructions to scream*, it is a vivid, visceral aesthetic reality – one that I am saying is as fundamental a part of the totality of aesthetic phenomena as galaxies and atoms.

>“it doesn’t seem like its existence can in principle be derived or known from any description of the universe”

I think that is because the totality of qualia IS the universe, and consciousness is qualia describing (qualifying and signifying) itself to itself, or to the diffracted experiences of itself.

>“To know of experience, one must undergo experience. It is only by this metaphysical relation we bear to consciousness that we know of it.”

Sure, and we should remember that knowing is also nothing but an experience itself. Unconscious processes would have no way to ‘know’ anything, or any reason to try. We can only know of the appearance of non-consciousness through undergoing experience also. We are conscious of consciousness because we are consciousness on one level experiencing the limits of its own sensitivity.

>“Stated more broadly, it cannot be easily ruled out that in fact other potentially significant phenomena are entirely obscured from us”

Certainly, however, it also cannot be ruled out that all phenomena that are obscured from us are not just more qualia beyond our local scope of sensitivity.

>“This argument rests on consciousness as a phenomenon only being knowable through being itself – that it cannot be inferred through other means.”

My response to that argument is that there may not be any other means. No phenomenon can be knowable through ‘being’ itself unless that phenomenon, including its ‘being’ is already consciousness/qualia. All ‘means’ are participatory appearances within conscious experiences. If we aren’t directly participating in our own timescale/sensitivity scope then the participatory appearance may be elided to some degree and replaced by the voyeuristic transformation/objectification as mere mechanism or function, motion, etc.

>“That when we scream in pain there are not just observable signals that travel from A to B in our body triggering behaviors”

Here too, I reject the use of the term ‘signals’ that are something that can be observed. What is actually observed is a non-narrative collection of events that seem to us to occur in a sequential chain from some scope (usually microscopic) of sense (usually sight). Molecules are released from cell A and then cell B releases molecules, not because of any signal or trigger, but just because of the consequences of what physical properties do to other physical properties. 

We don’t know why that’s happening. It could be that it simply happens, or that there is a physical but unexperienced ‘force’ like electromagnetism making it happen, or that what we see as cells, are, like rocks, are part of a vast ocean of conscious experiences on other timescales (biological, chemical rather than our native personal, anthropological timescales). If it’s happening because of an unexperienced mechanical force, then there IS NO “SIGNAL”. There is no “triggering” of behaviors. Why would there be, and how would it be generated mechanically/anesthetically? Electromagnetism, in a purely physical universe, would not need to signal itself to magnetize. It would not need to choose to move toward or away from itself, it would automatically act that way.

The idea of biological or physical signals is an anthropomorphic projection that we use to unintentionally smuggle sensitivity into phenomena that we are assuming have no sensitivity and need no sensitivity. In an unexperienced physical world (setting aside for the moment the impossibility of that, since in my understanding, there is no physical world other than the totality of conscious experience that share common sensitivity scopes), a rock rolling down a hill to collide with another rock would not ‘trigger’ the second rock to roll, as no signal would be required from the first. There would already be a-signifying (not signals), automatic properties like mass and force to explain the exchange of apparent velocities. The appearance of an additional signal or trigger would be no less of a non-sequitur than an elephant appearing whenever rocks collide.

The alternative that I propose is that ‘signals’ are always and only qualitative/aesthetic-participatory by ontological necessity, and that they are indeed the fabric of all possible real phenomena. Qualia is the ontological substrate of the ontos.

To be continued…

*Physically, screaming would just be another unexperienced chain reaction of muscle tissue contraction, expulsion of air, vibration of larynx tissues and error that has no sound unless experienced by a conscious experience using a body that includes organs that will vibrate acoustically and then a perceptual capacity to experience those tangible vibrations in the entirely different aesthetic modality of hearing/sound, and further in the zoological aesthetic modality of hearing + feeling + understanding another animal’s scream.

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