Following are materials from my poster presentation at the 2012 TSC Conference:
40 The Elephant in Every Room: A Proposed Theory of Multisense Realism
Multisense realism defines a new approach to bridge the Explanatory Gap between neurological observation and first hand conscious experience. This is a hypothesis of consciousness, elementary physics, and ultimately cosmology which requires no belief in non-ordinary reality yet which honors the full spectrum of the psyche and self. It consists of new interpretations of established scientific and common sense observations rather than a contradiction of them. It is proposed that consciousness, rather than being either a metaphysical epiphenomenon of matter, or a Cartesian dualism alongside matter, is more like a frequency range within a continuous spectrum which includes both subjective and objective phenomena. Rather than a simple graduated continuum like the electromagnetic spectrum, it should be conceived of as an ‘involuted continuum’ which twists into an interior and exterior topology like a Möbius strip. The common denominator (the strip) is the sense which arises from through symmetry, similarity, circuity, and divergence between the various nested perspectives on interiority and exteriority. Sense is the underlying primitive. That is what the cosmos, and we ourselves are “made of’”. Not mind or matter, but the capacity for the two to be both separate in one sense and the same thing in another. Sense is a universal dance of presentation and representation. Without either subject or object – there cannot be a sense of ‘reality’ or realism. Realism arises from this involuted continuum between opposite ontological expressions.
If we are to take our contemporary scientific understanding seriously, Whitehead’s famous quote would have to be literally true. All meaning and qualities which we appreciate in the universe would arise completely within our own human neurology, making the world beyond our mind a web of unconscious and intangible transactions; “the hurrying of material, endless and meaningless”. It is thought that the only other alternative is to regress to a pre-scientific model based on blind faith. Herein I attempt to sketch out a third option which presents a model of consciousness and cosmos as a coherent whole arising from a fundamentally symmetric dynamism which I call ‘sense’. Sense as sensation as well as the sense of coherence of groups of sensations or percepts, and finally sense ‘in the sense of’ modulation and categorization of attention/consideration. All three senses of sense are, in my view, essential elaborations of unifying awareness.
I. ACME-OMMM: Anthropomorphism vs Mechanemorphism
ACME stands for Anything Can Mean Everything, and OMMM = Only Material Matter Matters. They mark the extremes of the philosophical bias toward anthropomorphism or mechanemorphism. Each of these diametrically opposed psychologies stereotypes the other such that they constitute a monosense extremism. In other words, it seems that the human mind tends to interpret its relation with the universe in ways which can lead to hyperpersonalization (ACME) at the cost of de-realism or hyperrealism (OMMM) at the cost of de-personalization.
It is the goal of multisense realism to supersede and replace these twin pathological projections with a continuum or spectrum which seamlessly unites subjective and objective ontologies as well as preserves their division. The continuum is conceived as an involuted monism, like a Mobius strip, which honors both the realism and unrealism of consciousness and the universe on every level.
A. Seat Belt Metaphor and the Elephant in Every Room:
The absolute ubiquity of consciousness precludes objectivity by definition. Consciousness is the elephant (or rhinoceros) in every room. “Wherever I go, there you are.” – Buckaroo Banzai
When trying to understand the relationship between car and the driver, the OMMM materialist concludes that the seat belt must be the driver since every time we get out of the car to look, we only see the seat belt where we think the driver should be. Anyone who does not accept that the driver is nothing more than a seat belt is accused of being soft minded anthropomorphism.
When trying to explain the same relationship, the ACME idealist concludes that the seat belt is a kind of umbilical cord that translates the driver’s wishes into the car’s various parts. Neither view notices considers that both the driver and car are necessary.
B. The Symmetry Solution:
Avoiding either one of these unrealistic extremes, multisense realism finds the symmetry in their mutually exclusive denial of the other to be significant. The deeper reality is not a dualism of two separate universes for the material and the ideal, but many symmetrical views of the same universe which blend material and ideal realism to different degrees. The result can be thought of as a single unified continuum (monism) which reflects itself as a dualism on the outside and has no reflection on the inside (subjectivity).
The subject object relationship is the true ‘atom’ and is preserved up and down the cosmos. Our trouble arises from assuming that the cosmos is either objects which only seem subjective or subjects which are intended to seem objective.
C. Multisense Continuum:
Spanning the spectrum between cosmological absolutes, the multisense continuum represents every shade of subjectivity and objectivity though which the self and the universe are defined.
II. Closing the Explanatory Gap and Solving the Hard Problem of Consciousness:
Instead of trying to explain away consciousness, or jump to a conclusion of fully animistic panpsychism, the explanatory gap can be understood as the problem of mismatching the interior experience of our native perceptual inertial frame with the exterior appearances of all other inertial frames. To steal from Karl Popper and George Harrison, we are trying to explain the ‘cloudy’ universe within us in terms of the clockwork universe without us.
The realization of multisense realism is that the cloud-clock symmetry constitutes realism itself. We can understand that the clock can exist without us, but it can’t exist without some kind of ‘us’ detecting the clock on some aspect of the clock on some level. A universe that is all unconscious, undetectable mechanism is not a real universe. It has no real qualities. Likewise a universe of pure ideal plasticity is imaginary. It has no recursive automatism to lend it reality through time.
A. The Universe Makes Sense
The revolutionary conclusion of this line of thinking must be (or might be, depending on how cloudy or clock-like one’s perspective is) that sense itself is the universal primitive of reality and transcends causality itself. Cause and effect are a particular kind of sense making, a phenomenal experience rooted in objective reasoning and sequential perception. Without these sensorimotive underpinnings, causality literally makes no sense. The word cosmos means order, but order is only possible in a cosmos where pattern recognition is an inherent possibility. It has to be possible for the universe to make sense before we can make sense of it.
B. The Stack: Perceptual Relativistic Inertial Frames
Distant frames are perceived as discrete parts of a universe that ‘simply is’, while proximal frames are perceived increasingly as continuous participatory phenomena that ‘seems like’ subjective interpretation.
C. Sense conditioning
1. Specular Reflection: Perception integrates indirect perception into direct perception.
Implications for Artificial Intelligence, zombies, simulations or other unpersons: Subjectivity cannot be simulated, it can only be imitated. The uncanny valley phenomenon hints at this, as does blindsight and synesthesia hind at a lack of support for functionalism as an explanation for qualia.
2. Subtractive Coherence: Perception elides gaps to present coherence.
“ScienceDaily (Nov. 22, 2011) — Conventional wisdom would say that blocking a hole would prevent light from going through it, but Princeton University engineers have discovered the opposite to be true. A research team has found that placing a metal cap over a small hole in a metal film does not stop the light at all, but rather enhances its transmission.”
“Psilocybin caused a significant decrease in the positive coupling between the mPFC and PCC. These results strongly imply that the subjective effects of psychedelic drugs are caused by decreased activity and connectivity in the brain’s key connector hubs, enabling a state of unconstrained cognition.”
Less information going through the key areas of the brain = richer qualia. This doesn’t prove that qualia is possible in the absence of all brain activity, but it supports the counter-intuitive theme that sense a function not of the presence of stimulation but of the gaps between them, e.g. “dark current“:
“The subsequent cascade of events leads to a decrease of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) which closes the ionic channels on the plasma membrane of the rod outer segment. This channel normally is open, which allows entry of sodium into the rod outer segment in the dark, with a compensatory extrusion of potassium from the rod inner segment to balance the net charge within the cell. This circulating “dark current” between the inner and outer segments maintains the rod in a relatively depolarized state. Closure of the cGMP-sensitive channel by light interrupts the dark current. Interrupting the influx of sodium, which carries positive charge into the cell, causes the photoreceptor to hyperpolarize. This intracellular voltage change is conveyed to the synaptic terminal, where the visual signal is transmitted to the bipolar and horizontal cells.
To a first-time student of retinal neurophysiology, these events initiated by light may appear the reverse of what would be expected. Rather than initiating a positive response in the rod, light actually suppresses a current that exists in the dark.”
3. Wholes through holes
O.E. understandan “comprehend, grasp the idea of,” probably lit. “stand in the midst of,” from under + standan “to stand” (see stand). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning “beneath,” but from O.E. under, from PIE *nter- “between, among” (cf. Skt. antar “among, between,” L. inter “between, among,” Gk. entera “intestines;” see inter-).
- Connecting the dots.
- Solving a problem.
- Finishing a puzzle.
- Filling in the blanks.
- Answering a question.
- Figuring it out.
- Putting it together.
- Getting from A to B.
4. Ambiguous Images: ‘Seems like’ emphasizes ‘either/or’ interpretations which can be changed through time.
External objects emphasize unambiguous ‘and’ relations across topological space – they are literal and seem non-figurative.
figure (v) late 14c., “to represent” (in a picture); see figure (n.). Meaning “to shape into” is early 15c.; “to picture in the mind” is from c.1600; “to make an appearance” is c.1600. Meaning “work out a sum” is from 1833, Amer.Eng. Related: Figured; figuring.
figure (n) early 13c., “visible form or appearance of a person,” from O.Fr. figure (10c.) “shape, body, form, figure; symbol, allegory,” from L. figura “a shape, form, figure,” from PIE *dheigh- “to form, build” (see dough); originally in English with meaning “numeral,” but sense of “form, likeness” is almost as old.
Example features of human interior sense frames.
III. Sensorimotive Electromagnetism, c = absolute velocity and the end of the Standard Model
A. Quorum Sensing
B. Telesemantics: This hypothesis questions the existence of subatomic particles as concrete objects. Let’s say there is no particle, there is inter-molecular sensitivity instead. Contagious charge characteristics which are experienced directly by matter. This would constitute a sensorimotive aspect of electromagnetism which is private and shared between materials, but not publicly in space. This would coincide with our naive perception of energy as experiences in time rather than substances. Light, heat, sound, scale up as events of increasing magnitude and significance, not as physical residues. Contagious node to node subjective states, not independent energy projectiles through space. Vacuum = absolute void.