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“Is Consciousness a Controlled Hallucination?” part 2

August 27, 2021 1 comment

Picking up again* for the second hour of this new video from 8/25/2021, where philosophers Philip Goff and Keith Frankish discuss consciousness with neuroscientist Anil Seth, whose new book is Being You: A New Science of Consciousness 

Just after 1:00:00 Anil is talking about voluntary action as a freedom from immediacy, which I think carries a bit of misdirection or burying the lead. Freedom from immediacy, fine, there can be complicated clocks and timed systems in the brain, etc, but what is the feeling of will, how can it exist, and why? In addition, I don’t think many people question what is meant by ‘immediacy’. Isn’t that determined by some informal average of sensory sample rates? How is it not anthropocentric to project our arbitrary sense of now onto the universe as a whole? Timescale is one of the great keys to resolving the hard problem IMO.

I understand what Anil is saying about the sense of will or redness not needing to be real to be experienced, and not being part of the causal structure of the universe (I used to see it that way also for many years), but it fails to consider that by its own logic, asserting consciousness as something that isn’t completely real (a controlled or controlling hallucination) necessarily means that any idea we have about a universe or experiment that we can perform can be no more real. With physical science experiments, we can learn more about the physical-seeming end of our shared hallucination, but that is not to say its causal closure is anything more than the tautological limits of the very sense and sense making modalities we are using to locate this part of the universe in the first place. If redness can arise from a history of evolutionary utility then so can our sense of physicality. If, however, we can be right about anything, then at least some part of consciousness cannot be less real than physics.

Around 1:04:28 it starts getting a little animated, with Anil insisting that neuroscientific studies are not neutral with regard to free will. In the next minute, he steps back from that slightly to say that there’s merely no evidence of anything like free will. It’s hard to imagine how the lack of physical evidence wouldn’t be neutral, since Dualism would hold that of course there’s not going to be material evidence of non-material qualia. There no olfactory evidence for sight or colors either. I’m sure that Anil would agree that our sense of will is part of the universe that we model in our conscious experience as ‘physical’ or material, but I don’t think that he has considered that materiality itself may simply be conscious experience that has been rendered in a truncated form through our local interface/filter. The difference is that with the latter, our will can be both immaterial or transmaterial and have concrete material effects, because both subjective will and objective forms share the same common context of origin – there’s just no good reason to assume that context is more like our sense of physicality than our sense of mentality. To the contrary, with relativity and quantum mechanics, it seems clear that even the most physical of phenomena originate from a substrate that is more mind-like than it is matter-like. I see them both as categories of sensory-motive, aesthetic-participatory phenomena (universal qualia).

Around 1:12 they get into the inaccessibility of consciousness, with Anil saying that we will gradually have access to more data and Keith saying that science is irreducibly third person. My contribution to that is that if we study brain conjoined twins we can develop tech that will get us closer to sharing first person experience (or rather, those aspects of conscious experience that qualifies itself to itself as first person). There may be other ways to get around privacy also (which would unfortunately interest a lot of dangerous organizations as well). Maybe we can technologies to extend natural sensitivities and empathy to a degree that they produce rigorous science…maybe that’s a long way off but probably less invasive than brain sharing tech.

Seth goes on to say that he wants to see how far we can get pursuing the materialist project in science before considering other possibilities. I don’t think that anyone is suggesting on giving up on that, but I don’t see any advantage in presuming it is metaphysically accurate or waiting before exploring other possibilities. Around 1:18 Philip makes an excellent case for rejecting Anil’s approach of setting aside the hard problem, citing the somewhat unscientific decisions of Galileo, Descartes, and others to put non-material qualia outside of the domain of science.

At 1:22 the conversation gets slightly heated again as Anil suddenly gets personal by saying “Now you’re making a mistake you said you don’t make, and I’m a bit disappointed. You say you don’t make this mistake, but you just did!” Those of us who have debated at length about the Hard Problem recognize this pivot very well. The conversation has gone from a cordial sharing of perspectives to one of accusation and condescension. I wish that we had fMRI visualizations on everyone in the conversation and could see the frontal cortex activity getting hijacked by limbic activity. There is more going on here than just science – there is something that Anil, and most everyone that I have come across that subscribes to a physicalist view perceives as a threat, and one that demands an offensive response.

Both Anil and Philip agree here that there is something that a color blind person misses out on if they cannot see red – Philip says it is information (or knowledge from Frank Jackson’s Knowledge Argument/Mary’s Room), Anil isn’t really willing to formalize it though, saying only that the topic is a separate issue, a different thing for him and that it is irrelevant.

My Multisense Realism view defines qualia as the sole fundamental phenomenon, and one that includes a capacity to divide or limit (entropy-negentropy/insensitivity) access (sense/sense-making/empathy) to parts of itself. Qualia is what exists eternally – the Holos, insensitivity is what Graphs the Holos into local sub-holarchies of experience, and sense or consciousness is what reunites the latter with the former (making it holographic rather than hallucinatory). Sense is access to the totality. Entropy, including temporalization and spatialization, are functions of dynamically gating or limiting that access.

At 1:25 Anil and Keith affirm each other’s view that we should ignore the hard problem (the standard ‘shut up and calculate’ response, or non-response). Keith at least acknowledges this position as Illusionism, which he advocates, but Anil stops short of subscribing to it, saying at 1:26:07 “It doesn’t change what I would do very much.”

I think this attitude ironically supports Dualism. It’s a crytpo-dualism in which Res Cogitans is understood not to have an effect on Res Extensa (the doing that Anil cares about exclusively), and therefore doesn’t matter. Philip is correct when he says around 1:27 that the private/subjective phenomena are part of a totally different explanatory project from physical explanation, but I would go further and say that the project of physical explanation can be subsumed within the other project, as long as we don’t make the assumption that privacy/subjectivity is something other than (universal) qualia. With a universal qualia model like MSR, all physical forces and structures can be understood in sensory-motive terms.

Good job all around. I agree most with Philip, then Keith, and least with Anil, but I respect the nuance of his positions (not functionalism, not IIT, pragmatic, etc). Still, I think that Seth’s pragmatism is more biased than the wants to believe it is. Part of that seems like an unwillingness to care about the difference between pursuing materialistic methods (I think everyone agrees that we should) and the validity of the prospect of extending reality to the non-material. Anil seems to conflate the two positions, as if the former justifies the latter.

*My comments on the first hour are here.

“Is Consciousness a Controlled Hallucination?”

August 27, 2021 7 comments

In this new video from 8/25/2021, philosophers Philip Goff and Keith Frankish discuss consciousness with neuroscientist Anil Seth, whose new book is Being You: A New Science of Consciousness (which I have not read yet). Following are my comments on the first half of the video:

Jumping right in from the first few minutes, I have some questions, criticisms and insights that are worth mentioning. My apologies for the long winded, irritatingly constructed sentences that probably detract from what I’m trying to say more than clarify, but it’s important to me that I communicate the nuances in excruciating detail. Maybe someone or some AI internet archive spider will find it interesting in fifty years.

8:45 (Anil Seth) “Everything that we perceive is an active construction. It’s generated by the brain.”

Has this been tested and found to be conclusively true, or is it an assumption + confirmation bias? How do we know that what we perceive is not an active filtration or modulation of access to other contexts of consciousness (transpersonal, subpersonal, etc)? How do we know it is active construction rather than participatory collaboration?
What is the physical mechanism by which “the brain” (the whole organ? neurons? molecular changes within neurons?) “generates” (Explanatory Gap/Hard Problem goes here) these “constructions” (sights, sounds, flavors, thoughts…call them qualia)?

Note: *Importantly, anything we refer to as a brain is also only known as qualia, by qualia, for qualia. A brain is an object rendered in our sense of touch, an image rendered in our sense of sight, an idea rendered in our sense of understanding. We have no valid reason to presume objects to be anything other than shared or universal qualia. To the contrary, even the physicalist/eliminative position demands that everything that we experience and can ever experience, including all physical phenomena, can only ever be a representation of conditions inside of a (literally meta-physical) program or biochemical virtual “function space”. If physicalism is right, we can never contact physics in any way and are forever trapped in some kind of Platonic cave of computations that only seem physical, or only seem like computations, or only seem to seem…or something.

9:28 (AS) “My perceptions have the characteristic phenomenology – they appear the way they appear because that’s useful for my overall survival as an organism.”

My argument against this is that it is clearly a “Just So story”, that is, a post-hoc justification of appearances without being based on any plausible a priori possibility of a capacity to generate appearances physically, let alone for any such thing to provide a possibility of survival advantage over the ordinary complex physical activities of other body systems that we presume do not generate appearances and would not improve as a result of them. 1

Indeed, it seems quite implausible that of all phenomena that have come to exist in the universe, only these certain groups of cells in certain organic bodies have this unexplained physical power to generate non-physical appearances…to themselves…that bear some isomorphic relation to everything else in the universe…that actually has no appearance at all.

The entire physical universe is, under the contemporary neuroscientific view that Seth advocates, without appearance – an invisible, intangible, unexperienced void that spontaneously acquires a monumentally grand variety of distinct, multisensory appearances when certain very specific kinds of biochemical events occur in certain sequences. But how? And Why?

Given the staggeringly effective abilities of a simple periodic table of atoms generated by simple stars to physically generate and maintain every organism, every immune system, every brain structure and function without any such thing as appearance, why would this virtual dashboard “appearance”, within which a hallucinated “user” of such hallucinated dashboards also virtually “appears”, offer any improved chance of survival to a reproducing body of cells? There are neurons in the gut too. What is our theory for how and why these systems of cells would not benefit by creating hallucinated ‘constructions’ for…their mission critical activities (or is it for their constructed ‘selves’)?

9:40 (AS) “Redness is not objectively out there in the world. There’s just wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation”

The problem here is that our expectation of electromagnetic radiation, and of a world, and of objectivity would also have to be constructions. Our sense of a physical reality that has no appearance and can never be contacted in any way, must also be a construction. No matter how much science we do, and how objectively we think we are being, we can only ever validate our sense constructions by more constructed appearances of relation between theories (intellectual constructions) about observations (meta-perceptual constructions derived from multiple similar perceptual constructions). You can’t have it both ways. If consciousness is constructed, then every sense of correspondence between constructions is also constructed. We can’t put ourselves in a hallucinatory box without that box also being hallucinatory.

10:19 (AS) “In some conditons, like under psychedelic drugs or in psychosis, whatever, your perceptions become less controlled by the relevant sensory data.”

Is it always less controlled, or do altered states of consciousness sometimes appear to open access to sensory data that is controlled by different, but no less controlling features of reality beyond physical appearance constructions? Some of that data may be in conflict to some extent with our default conditioning, and even physical causality, but not always. Psychedelics and psychosis are sometimes tied to genius insights and unusually high performance (Doc Ellis’s LSD No-Hitter as an example). Transpersonal/psychedelic appearances may defy ordinary personal and subpersonal control, but that does not mean that the defiance is not simply another, perhaps higher2 context of control. There may be conflict and chaos between modes and scales of awareness, and that is fairly described as ‘uncontrolled’, but it need not imply that what is bleeding through personal awareness is not also a form of highly developed awareness. By analogy, two strong, clear radio station signals may be received by one receiver as a garbled confusion of two signals and static. In addition, examples like Doc Ellis’ psychedelic no-hitter present a counterfactual data point to the hypothesis that it is always adaptive for hallucinations to tend to resemble physical conditions and causes.

11:51 AS makes an important point about prediction not always being about predicting the future, but rather we might also refer to perceptual fill-in of missing data ‘prediction’. What needs more attention, IMO is the wholeness or gestalt of the appearance. A simulacra such as a face appearing in a cloud does not appear to be filling in something as a computer would try many different possible solutions, rather one solution or another appears in its entirety at any given moment. While the neuroscientific view focuses on the information processing function of suppressing ambiguity, the more interesting issue to me to focus on is what that ambiguity is replaced with – seemingly complete and aesthetically rich presentations that are revealed in a finished form rather than constructed over time, as if being pulled from some eternal Akashic gallery of archetypes. It seems to make no difference whether the gestalt is from memory or novel as far as the level of detail of its completeness or the speed in which it is accessed. When I see the Mona Lisa in the image below, it is ephemeral yet persistent, and neither fuzzy nor focused.

uncredited image from the internet

In the case of novel gestalts (such as a weird, non-famous face in slice of toast), the fill-in would appear to have no value or a negative value to abductive reasoning (~13:12). The simulacra toast face does not lead us to an explanation of a physical cause of that sensation. Note that our early advances in artificial image recognition do not produce these kinds of prefabricated gestalts, but rather just the opposite.

See my writings here for more information.

In fact, without the side by side comparison, the digitized output of Bayesian-like backpropagation does not really resemble an image. It is an anti-simulacra…a source of potential recognition strategies, but what is being recognized is not a visible image, but invisible statistics. Why, if Anil Seth’s view is on the right track, do our guesses and predictions look like they are coming from ‘somewhere’, rather than from nowhere?

The conversation continues into describing the role of prediction for both biology and consciousness. There is no question that human personal consciousness uses Bayesian-like probabilistic methods of accessing what I would call subpersonal data, but whether that data is simply another layer of conscious experience or an unexperienced biochemical process remains untouched by neuroscientific inquiry. Yes, our perception certainly can model to predict something evolutionarily functional (red octagon = Stop sign) but that does not explain what the appearance of color or shape actually is, how it appears, or why. Retrospectively, once we have qualia/appearances, then sure, we have every reason to benefit against natural selection pressures by using them, but we would have the same reason to benefit from any power that transcends ordinary physics. Omniscience would come in handy, and it’s just as likely to emerge spontaneously from physics as any sort of qualia.

The retrospective benefit of prediction does not in any way prospectively justify the existence of qualia or its value for prediction over and above biochemistry. Everything that Anil is saying is important to the easy problem of consciousness, and it gives us a plausible connection between evolved Bayesian prediction mechanisms and evolutionary biology, but it doesn’t give us any insight into how either of those mechanical-anesthetic functions could relate to phenomenological (aesthetic-participatory) presentations, or the possibility of their being generated physically or mathematically. Philip makes this point later on, around ~21:00, that the predictive features of consciousness are neutral as far as dualism v materialism is concerned.

Although Anil goes on to say that his materialism is pragmatic rather than an absolute philosophical conviction, he does not really seem to support that. Instead his defense of pragmatic materialism seems more tied to a preference for working with brain function rather than metaphysical speculation. I don’t disagree, but it’s not an argument that defends materialism objectively. It is of course more pragmatic professionally to know about the brain than it is to know about the big picture of life, the universe, and everything, but that doesn’t make it more true. As he continues around ~28:00, it seems clear to me that his rejection of Dualism (which I reject as well, but for the opposite reason3) is itself a kind of naive rejection of a straw man of Dualism, it’s history and popular association with the harmful behaviors of religious groups, etc. It’s a pedantic, and overused disqualification of all things non-material on general grounds of being ‘unhelpful’ and silly seeming. I think that there are good evolutionary reasons for that bias toward matter and by extension survival of the material body, but it is an unscientific bias nonetheless.

Around 33:45, Keith asks Anil about realism and privacy. His response includes “Buses have qualities, properties such as solidity and velocity that do not rely on a mind to exist.”

Here I would say that we only know that those physical properties do not require our mind to exist, but we do not know that such properties are anything other than other properties of consciousness. Perhaps there are impersonal qualities of conscious experience that are common to certain contexts and modalities of sense that have become nearly universal. If our sense of physicality is derived from our haptic-tactile sensitivity and perceptual processing, then it makes sense evolutionarily that the appearance of our body and it’s existence in a world of bodies/objects/matter is rendered with robust realism. That physical universe that our bodies exist within may be the sole common context that binds all experiences together, however that universe may in turn be dependent on a larger context of a universal haptic-tactile sense capacity that prefigures biology, and which may be dependent on a still larger context of an irreducibly aesthetic Totality or Holos.

The discussion goes on to mention Donald Hoffman’s Interface theory, where Anil comments that he parts ways at the point where Hoffman’s view suggests conscious agents everywhere. I call this ‘promiscuous panpsychism’ and agree that it seems unparsimonious – however – I see agency itself as irreducibly qualitative, so that it need not be a prerequisite for qualia. I propose that the universe may exist as an experiential phenomenon prior to a robust sense of agency, and that qualities like redness, or visibility itself may exist as modes of awareness independent of any container of multiple other types of awareness. Something like subjectivity may develop from more primitive sensory-motive qualities, which we may have mistakenly conceived of in non-participatory terms such as electromagnetism. In other words, the sense of being a participant may evolve from pre-agent experiential-aesthetic phenomena of “motive” or “participation”. It may be that agency is nothing more than a sense experience of persistent separation from of multiple other sense experiences.

I think that Anil is wise in stating at ~43:22 that his view does not insist that qualia must be reduced exclusively to behaviors, dispositions, and functions. He goes on to say that he thinks that the self is not a separate entity as in Dualism, but is just another controlled hallucination. I agree with that, however, if we follow the reasoning to its logical conclusion, Seth is saying that it is the brain that is hallucinating itself as a self, rather than as a brain appearance. This to me is arbitrary and inconsistent. If the self is a phenomenological model of something, then so must the brain be also – and physics. Whatever it is that hallucinates both physics, brains, and selves cannot be meaningfully described as physical, and the whole notion of hallucination begins to unravel itself. Neither self nor brain has any reason to hallucinate, and if hallucination is more primitive than either of those, there is no reason to diminish it in hallucinatory terms. If my suggestion of universal qualia is on the right track, that would be the more fundamental reality, or even more fundamental than reality as it encompasses fact, fiction, nonsense and qualia in which all three can comingle as well as transcended.

More that I agree with after the 50:00 mark, Anil talks about the brain being fundamentally an organ concerned with keeping the body alive. The problem is that view doesn’t offer any explanation of how that function would be so different from that of any other body organ or system that it would allow its predictive, homeostatic strategies to be anything other than the biochemical gears and timers that we observe them to physically be. What makes the homeostasis of a body any more worthy of non-physical aesthetic seemings and hallucinations than any other system within a body? The immune system has to record and strategize against pathogens, shouldn’t it also have evolved feelings, thoughts, sounds, etc to model its games and meta-games?

After the 57:00, Philip brings up Free Will and the extreme positions of Determinism vs Libertarian Free Will. Here again, Anil’s response is a fall back to cliched arguments from incredulity; “Not even wrong”, “Not the kind of argument that warrants…” These aren’t valid objections. They might be true, but you have to provide a reason why. How you feel about it isn’t relevant. “What could that possibly mean?” he asks at 58:39…”Without invoking some sort of thing that has causal agency…” “I have no need for that hypothesis”.

Except that you do need some kind of hypothesis for how you can purport to have authority to decide what hypotheses you need in the first place. What is this “you” that the brain puppet on the screen speaks of? How can it have opinions or change them?

I understand Anil’s line of objection as I used to think of free will in the same way for many years. I reasoned that we have no choice but to make the ‘best’ choice we are aware is possible. After flipping my physicalist worldview many years ago however, I see the limitations of that assumption. While I completely agree with determinists and neuroscientists who point to our shockingly bad estimation of the independence of our will from subconscious influences, I no longer see that as a valid reason to eliminate some measure of direct personal agency as a legitimate influence on its own.

For example, sure, I can connect up a device to someone’s brain and zap them into making their arm move. If I zap it just right, they will think that they have made it move, but if we follow the causal chain back from the zap, it is my personal agency that is clicking the button to override their personal agency. In addition to chronically overestimating our own sense of free will, I see that we also chronically underestimate it, and that human beings routinely demonstrate remarkably unprecendented acts of creativity – inventing their own new choices rather than simply following the nudgings of their default brain states.

This gets into a much deeper discussion into the fabric of causality, which in my view can be understood in a radically new way. To use a metaphor of a traffic light, where Anil Seth’s view might reduce a Yellow (“Caution”) traffic signal to a slightly more complicated flow chart of Red and Green deterministic calculations (How fast am I going? How long has the light been Yellow? etc) and other more subtle calculations (“That car on the right looks like it’s going too fast to clear the intersection”, “I can’t be late for this appointment”, etc), we have to ask why those computations would require some sort of experience of seeming to wield authority over the final edit of decision and the rather Promethean-seeming power of motor execution. Why wouldn’t the choice just happen without an “us”? Why would it be a choice rather than simply an arbitrarily next step in a series of generic computations? What feels proprietary about the final execution choice, and why? What feels responsible and endeavors to make others act responsibly?

I propose a different view of causality as a spectrum of overlapping interdependencies of influence. In the absolute sense, it is not will that is the illusion, but determinism and randomness. Will may be the authentic primordial phenomenon while mechanism and chaos are artifacts of interface entropy/insensitivity. What we see in the behavior of quantum phenomena for example may not be anything other than deeply microphenomenal will, or the distant ancestor of will. Not random, and not the Green Light / Red Light of determinism. Instead of reducing the Yellow Light to a flow chart of Green and Red dichotomies, I flip the assumption and see Green and Red dichotomies as the approximated appearances – collapsed states of Yellow light experiences of will that are not directly accessible to our interface. I’m not suggesting a kind of panpsychism where every electron is agonizing over their destiny like Hamlet, but rather that what we see as an electron is itself only a reflection of many contexts of experience that are ultimately united in superposition of both ‘to be’ and ‘not to be’…the eternal and the eternally ephemeral.

I observe that the strong nature of the objections to taking personal will as ontologically distinct from other influences as, ironically, a reflection of the particular modes of sense and sense-making that we have learned to use and cherish from legacy of scientific Enlightenment thinking. Ironic because we are using our free will to choose to deny free will. Could anything else even have the power to deny itself sincerely? Once we drop the anthropocentric and biocentric bias from our understanding of sense, we no longer have a reason to assume that the haptic-tactile sense of a physical world is the sole authoritative context within which reality is defined. That sense, as well as visibility, may only be specialized modalities of objectifying and separating, so that it would be a category error to look to them to find evidence of will. Will is at the opposite end of the continuum of sense – the most intimate and least objectified influence on reality. You won’t find it in a microscope or photomultiplier. What we do find in our experiments with photomultipliers, however, defy any reasonable expectation of randomness or determinism, proving again and again to be more than either…more like the Yellow Light than either the Red/Green of determinism or the arbitrary blinking of both. It appears to be “uncertainty” all the way down, so how is that not will? If it is will or proto-will, why should we be the sole phenomenon in the universe who posses only an illusion of it?

I’ll stop here at the 1:00:00 mark for now. Will continue watching the second half and post my comments soon. Or I won’t! Depends on what I decide, and what reasons I choose, of the many that influence me from the subpersonal, personal, and transpersonal levels of my awareness to place above other influences. No matter how few degrees of freedom I really have, just the sense that I exist at all, and that will is even conceivable objectively contain more degrees of freedom than a universe in which those experiences/phenomena do not exist.

Part 2 of this is here.

1 See Raymond Tallis excellent book “Aping Mankind“, chapter “The Disappearance of Appearance”. I have also lifted the terms prospective and retrospective from his writing on this topic.

2 More aesthetically rich, seemingly more meaningful, multivalent, synchronistic, and often seemingly more teleologically driven.

3 In my understanding, Dualism is insufficient not because of any ties to superstition or fantasy, but because it doesn’t go far enough, and because I think that Locke and Galileo made a mistake in giving objectified qualia Primary status, relegating trans-tangible and intangible qualia Secondary status for centuries to come. Unlike physical or mathematical law, aesthetic qualia are conserved across all context of realism and surrealism. Even under synesthesia, a word or number may have a color, but the color and the word are merely bound together, not indistinguishable. Red is red whether we are dreaming, hallucinating, or wide awake. Whether visible wavelength photons are present or not. Most qualia is conserved across states of consciousness but many physical laws are not. I may dream of a physical world where gravitational laws are unstable or anti-realistic, but I cannot dream of a world where the color red has no visible appearance.

Wai H. Tsang: Science and Technology. It’s origin & convergence back to Renaissance Religion – Zoom talk 31/03/21

April 2, 2021 Leave a comment

Great stuff from Wai H. Tsang. I’m about halfway through listening to this talk. Here are my comments:

I propose an additional clarification that the fractal, cyclical, and mathematical properties of the Totality are aspects of the Diffraction process or Diversification of the Unity into Universe.

My point in the comparison image is that I think that purpose – the participatory aspect of the Totality in general is not part of mathematics, fractals, etc. To the contrary, counting, and by extension math, computation, geometry, physics are passive instruments of purpose.

Specific purposes are clothed in algorithmic-geometric form, however only as a vehicle for expression of the true Unity of the Totality, which is more like the inversion of mathematics.

I was also inspired by Wai’s discussion and inclusion of this image. Talking about a teleological universe in which a retrocausal attractor is pulling us toward the originating singularity. I agree but to clarify, only in the Uni/Holos sense and not in the Verse/Graphos sense.

It’s complicated but…mortality is like a bubble of conscious perception within the Totality of conscious perception. The perception of the Totality from within that bubble varies from states of transparency, translucence, reflection, refraction, diffraction, and opacity to the Totality.

It’s a focus thing. As we change our focus (or our focus is changed for us), sensitivity to the Totality can be increased so that the self identifies with the Totality and sees no separation. This is profound and true, however, while consciousness is conditioned with mortality, the loss of separation is akin to mania/psychosis. The idealist is correct in the ultimate sense, but impractical and deluded from the mortality-dominated perspective.

As awareness contracts, focus shifts from the Totality to the Locality, and then to the bubble itself – the separation. It’s complicated because I think that what Wai and others are on to is a Unity of Graphos rather than Holos. All separations use similar schemas, but that similarity itself is maximally dissimilar to the true Holos/Absolute/Totality, which we experience mentally as imagination, perceptually as qualia, emotionally as love, somatically as pleasure, egotistically as success, etc. Physicality and mathematics are inversions of sensitivity…they are the concrete and abstract qualia of quanta.

Grelling–Nelson paradox

December 29, 2020 1 comment

This is to record a train of thought that began with my posting: “The Map is Not the Territory” is, by its own logic, only a map that may be more or less true than the statement. There may be no maps at all, only different sense phenomena accessing each other in different ways.”

A comment:

And my repsonse…

Thanks, I hadn’t heard of that before. It fits in with a line of thinking that I woke up with. Thinking about mirrors. Do mirrors exist or are there only objects like silvered glass that can be used to reflect something else? Do reflections exist or are they just separate instances of physical light? This leads to a sidebar about the difference between tactile sense and visible sense, and how images transcend the classical limitations of tangibility and can be in more than one place at the same time, weightlessly.

Thinking about looking at the Sun in a mirror and how it is still potentially blinding, and how that illustrates that physical reflection has a tangible component as well as a visible one. A flashlight uses a reflective/mirrored dome to deflect the radiation of the electrified bulb toward the center of the ‘beam’. Mainly though, I’m interested in pointing out how our current/legacy scientific worldview overlooks and disqualifies sense modality.

Physicalism compulsively seeks to reduce the intangible to equations describing the tangible in intangible terms that are in some sense isomorphic or autological to them but in another sense perfectly anti-morphic or heterological to them. If there is one thing that all abstract formula have in common it is that they are the antithesis of all of the concrete substances that can be touched and held. Yet despite the purity of that opposition, some essential unity can be translated intellectually between one and the other

Part of what I try to do with Multisense Realism is to break free of the mania for reduction to maximum tangibility (by means of maximally intangible language) and look instead at the more obvious co-existence of a wide spectrum of multiple aesthetic modalities of sense and sensemaking that seamlessly *and* ‘seamfully’ unite tangible concrete physical objects and intangible abstract ideal concepts under a larger umbrella of trans-tangible aesthetic-participatory sensory-motive percepts*.

So, the Grelling-Nelson paradox is to me another angle on this…another reflection on how our legacy of rigid logical labeling takes language too literally (that is, too concretely) and mistakes words for meanings and meanings for words. When we find these Easter Eggs of contradiction or paradox we are almost surprised that language doesn’t behave like other things in the world. We are offended that language seems to break its own seeming promise to faithfully reflect anything that we aim it at. Of course, this is a mistaken assumption. Language makes no such promise. Semantic paradoxes expose the fact that language itself is syntactic, not semantic, and that at some level we are the conscious agents who are using our power to symbolize and associate metaphorically words into meanings and meanings into words. The words themselves aren’t doing it. The map is its own territory, both faithfully and unfaithfully translating sense and sense making modalities through another sense making modality which is especially designed or conditioned to send and receive but to remain relatively unsent and unreceived themselves.

*seemingly



Sam Harris Interview of Donald Hoffman

January 6, 2020 Leave a comment

Listening to this podcast:

podcast

https://samharris.org/podcasts/178-reality-illusion

My view has developed along similar lines as Donald Hoffman’s. One important difference is that I take his observation about the world we perceive being a sensory desktop or data structure contrived from fitness payoffs a step further. I plug that observation back in to itself, so that the expectation of data structures and fitness payoffs are also part of how we are using a sensory desktop.

In other words, after we understand how survival of a tangible, mortal body shapes our entire perception, we can see that this understanding is also biased and contrived by the particular modes of sense and sense making that have evolved since the Early Modern Period.

This means that the desktop we experience is different from the unimaginable ‘real world’ not because it is fabricated but because tangibility is only one aspect of ‘world realization’, and even the unimaginable ‘real world’ is actually only another level and scale of the same sense desktop. Yes, human perception has been shaped by fitness payoffs from animal mortality, and that has been supercharged in the centuries since Galileo and Descartes, but that doesn’t mean that perception in general is shaped ONLY by those anthropological>zoological>biological fitness payoffs, and that does not mean that sense experience itself (sensation>feeling>perception>awareness>personal consciousness) arises FROM fitness payoffs.

If my view is on the right track, it’s *all* a desktop, and there is nothing that can ever exist which is not a ‘user interface’, even if the ‘user’ is a sub-personal or impersonal frame of perception, i.e. a pre-physical sensory-motive event. So yes, I think that our movie is directed by evolution (as presented in our desktop of tangibility/causality/realism/mortality), however even the director’s world that our movie fictionalizes is itself nothing but the larger, older movies that we currently use as a movie *theater* (physics, information).

 

Notes on “Looking at Kastrup”

November 15, 2018 1 comment

I have been following the debate/feud between scientists Bernardo Kastrup, Robin Carhart-Harris, and Enzo Tagliazucchi that centers around the interpretation of brain research in psychedelics. At issue is the fine distinction between whether psychedelic states have been seen to be correlated with increased or decreased ‘brain activity’.  A decrease in brain activity would seem to support an Idealist view of consciousness while an increase in activity could give support for the materialist consensus.

In this great article, Playing with Razors… Looking at Kastrup , Q4LT gets into the details. While everyone involved is well aware that ‘increased brain activity’ is too broad of a term for deep understanding, I support Kastrup’s effort to clarify that the kind of activity that has been observed to increase is not consistent with the materialist assumption of conscious experience that is confabulated by an electrochemical phenomenon that is local to the tissue of the brain. Here are my thoughts. (Read the article and watch the videos!).

“The big conundrum at hand is as follows… gamma waves have been observed to coincide with enhanced problem solving and neuronal binding. This would seem to be an important correlation in terms of interpreting brain wave data generated by EEG. Faster oscillatory activity appears to coincide with increased processing potential.”

I can think of a reason why the “Higher pitched” gamma brain activity waves could be correlated with psychedelic/mystical experience without directly accounting for them. My conjecture is that these gamma frequency EM signatures correlate not to the florid aesthetic-semantic content of the experience, but to the intensity of them as they are localized into the personal scope of awareness. In other words, I think the gamma may not be the water coming out of the firehose of the psychedelic experience, but the buffering and caching of the experience of trying to drink from that firehose.

Just as a high pitched sound is heard as highly localized within the ear itself, high pitched brain waves might be localized to the aspects of conscious experience which are most public facing. The gamma buffering/caching might be more of a symptom of rapid and thrilling integration and organization of insights into the existing intellectual-ego framework than the expanded content of personal awareness into transpersonal states. These symptoms would be the inflection point where insights which are potentially useful to the life of the embodied personality, as opposed to the full manifestation of the experience.

“Q4LT’s perspective is that everything that is currently measurable is material.”
This seems like a very loaded proposition. Certainly science is almost synonymous with measurement in one sense, however, given that the nature of psychedelic and dream states often present aesthetic content without the tractable, waking sense of countability/measurement, we should consider the possibility that if we focus only on what can be measured with tangible instruments (extending the body into physical contact with other tangible structures), we may be looking in the wrong direction. We may be ‘drinking our own bathwater’ and begging the question of physicalism by elevating the status of physicality-tangibility from the outset.
“However, we don’t particularly enjoy taking the stance that “consciousness is everything so the details of physicality are all secondary noises that aren’t all that interesting or important”.
I completely agree, which is why I’m a Multisense Realist rather than an Idealist.
““Consciousness” is a tricky topic but our perception of it is that the closest physically measurable layer to better understand the complexity of consciousness has to do with electricity and magnetism. This is why we weren’t completely in agreement with the Kastrup/Kelly stance that blood flow changes via fMRI provided definitive proof of a counter argument against materialism.”

I agree here too about electricity and magnetism, and I have proposed that we should try looking at EM as primordial sensory-motive signaling schemas rather than blind force-field mechanisms. I suggest that EM wave/particles are not literally present in empty space, but rather they are a (slightly misguided or inverted) modeling of deeper perceptual-participatory phenomena. Electromagnetism may not be, in my view, non-stufflike-stuff-traveling-through-spacetime, but rather symptoms of the spatio-temporalizing of non-local experience into local scopes or framings.*

I think that Kastrup/Kelly are justified in wanting to make it clear that in layman’s terms, things that expand consciousness don’t make your brain ‘work harder’ in general. There is a pressing need to communicate this general insight to science writers and their audiences, so that psychedelic research, and consciousness research in general, can be understood as valid and important. It seems like it is now time to begin to spread the understanding that what has been observed about psychedelic states is that they do not suggest a physical organ working hard to produce physiological effects within the tissue itself, but rather a more subtle, quiet level of molecular activity against a background of decreasing overall blood flow/’brain activity’, especially in the regions most active during waking consciousness.

This would, for better or worse, open the door to a view in which the brain is grounded in a context that is larger than subjectivity, but not larger than consciousness-in-general. Psychedelics may, in fact, facilitate access to genuinely transpersonal, non-local experiences rather than mere ‘hallucinations in the head’. This could help recontextualize religious and spiritual views, psi, NDEs, etc as (flawed/folk) intimations of an eternal and pervasive source of subjective consciousness, rather than as an isolated, and all too mortal collection of ephemeral experiences.

*Plato’s ‘moving image of eternity’ might be seen in a more modern light, with electromagnetism as a language governing Lorentz-like, Holos-graphing transformations between public, frames of entanglement and private frames of contextuality. (See quantum entanglement vs quantum contextuality research). We may be looking at quantum mechanics and electromagnetism all wrong; as external phenomena in the physical universe, when they may, in fact, be the modulation of phenomenalization and physicalization from a deeper spectrum which transcends tangible and intangible appearences.

 

I sent a draft of this post to QLT4, and he had this to say:

“It’s good except this part… “we should consider the possibility that if we focus only on what can be measured with tangible instruments (extending the body into physical contact with other tangible structures), we may be looking in the wrong direction”.

I’m not looking in any direction in particular. Only wherever instruments that measure layers that correlate somehow with the conscious experience in an effort to better understand emotion and thought from a mechanistic perspective.
It’s obvious theres much more to life but if we are to discuss the results of scientific experiments we must immerse ourselves within this framework to a high degree. Scientific discussion is based on what is measurable… that is the focus of Q4LT. Philosophers are free to postulate outside of the scope of what is measurable. It is a different domain than what we are interested in.
My response:
Thanks, that makes sense. I agree that we have to immerse ourselves within the scientific framework, and to exhaustively measure all that we can, but what I was trying to get to is that there seems to be a specific property of anti-measure that correlates positively with the depth/purity of conscious experience. When I say that we may be looking in the wrong direction, I mean it more in a literal sense of say, trying to find our identity by adding more and smaller fingers to our hands. It may be that our most valuable tools will be things like etymology and transpersonal psychology (when correlated with measurements).

Physical existence is consciousness which has been cooked by the entropy of relative unconsciousness.

November 6, 2016 Leave a comment
LRM: Can you please explain?

Craig Weinberg Think of consciousness as the raw cookie dough which comprises the totality of nature. Nature as I’m using it includes thoughts, imagination, dreams, fiction, etc. It includes the experience of the thought “square circle” but it does not include the referent of that thought as that referent is purely artificial/unnatural/logically impossible.

To get from this raw set of experiences to experiences which are ‘physical’, i.e. which persist in a tangible sense (literally, we can experience a sense of touching them, or touching something that can touch/hold/collide with them), I propose that there is a hierarchy of layers of disconnection or dissociation in which direct experience becomes increasingly indirect.

The dream of the person is not composed of the function of the brain, rather the brain is the set of sub-personal dreams which have become partitioned off in the formation of personhood.

Think of how language begins…we have the personal experience of learning the alphabet and how to use letters to spell words. We become so good at reading letters that it eventually becomes second nature. The personal experience now evolves into an experience of taking in entire sentences of words, while the piecing together of letters to form phonemes in our internal dialogue is relegated to the sub-personal. There is now a layer of entropy…a leveling of insensitivity which insulates our direct attention from those less-relevant experiences which are nonetheless occurring at a lower level.

Extrapolating on that, imagine that over billions of lifetimes, and countless pre-biotic experiences before that, the sub-personal content has been subjected to this kind of objectification so many times that the sub-personal quality becomes impersonal…shared only through a geometrically summarized protocol of frozen touch…tangibility through quantification or maximally layered entropy of tactile sense. Visibility begins to recover some of that loss of sense by partially removing the tangibility restriction, such that there is an intangible medium for re-connecting with tangibly disconnected experiences. That intangible recovery of the disconnected tangible is the parent of space, time, and light. It is “c²”.

LRM: “So.. consciousness is a kind of sum of an increasingly indirect references??”

It is that, but it as also the direct ‘ference’ itself. Consciousness is the sole primordial absolute. It is the the necessary ingredient of any and all possible phenomena, including possibility itself.
SW: “It seems that consciousness is not so much layered through the body or the physical (though this may certainly be something that happens) but, rather, it is our conceptualizations that provide layer upon layer. I think these conceptualizations happen precisely because we are not embodied enough, like an existential terror that keeps us from fully feeling and we insulate ourselves from the terror of embodiment by adding layer upon layer upon layer of insulation between ourselves and how we experience our embodiment, primarily through conceptualization.
You use language as an example – language used to refer to the world in which we live – it was a direct representation of that world. Now language is seen in shapes that have no meaning in and of themselves except the way we string them together. “A” is completely meaningless until we give it meaning. Whereas a symbol like a tree has meaning without us doing anything to it.
Our efforts to not be embodied can be seen in virtually every aspect of society. And by embodied I mean to feel ourselves as our bodies and the chemical bath of emotions and the intuition and connectedness that comes from physical form and for this experience to have primacy over the conceptual layering we do that is driven by our inability to deal with our embodiment.
It seems to me that we are only really conscious when we are able to be in our bodies without adding layers to our experience.
Perhaps it is two sides of the same coin? I don’t know.”

Craig Weinberg Yes I think two sides of the same coin, or to try to be more precise:

Consciousness in general* creates the experience of bodies and physical matter in the first place through layering sensitivity gaps** but when we, as human beings, expand our consciousness we become more fully aware of our humanity, which includes the direct experience of the world through the body and of the body itself.

I agree with you on language, although I would not automatically assume that it begins as a way to talk about things in the world. I think before that it begins as a way of imitating each other’s natural gestures. It probably developed in both the inner and outer direction at the same time, allowing us to communicate our feelings and call and sing to each other as well as to call each others attention TO some event or condition in the shared world of our bodies.

“Our efforts to not be embodied can be seen in virtually every aspect of society”

Absolutely. I see this in a deep historical context…the swing from nature shamanism to poly and monotheism to dualism to deism to atheism/anti-theism. The pendulum swing in philosophy corresponds to the political and technological swing Westward. The rise of capitalism was concurrent with the rise of physicalism, not coincidentally, but necessarily. The dis-Orientation (Orient = East) toward the world of the body and Copernican anti-centricity has to do with converting the primacy of subjective kinds of feelings into secondary ‘properties’. This relates to the sense of property, as the proprietor herself becomes the ghostly ‘owner’ of a body and of material positions.

Here’s where the trouble begins…the immateriality of ownership is projected onto objects, the trading of which is facilitated by a super-object…”currency”. Money then becomes smaller and smaller, more and more abstract until it has reached the state of purely symbolic, immaterial disembodiment. All this to say that we don’t just want to be disembodied, we want to become money. Money is always welcome. Money is always loved and appreciated. It never goes out of style, it never cares what anyone thinks of it…it can do most anything and anything it can’t do it doesn’t value. Money is our human social counterfeit essence…our ultimately refined sense of insensitivity. Through this ‘love of money’ we seek immortality and an escape from both the body and the less-than-omnipotent mortality which comes with it.

*(Consciousness in general = what I call “pansensitivity”, and others call nondual fundamental awareness)

**(Sensitivity gaps = what I identify as the ultimate source of entropy)

A Couple of Scientific Conversations

April 17, 2015 2 comments
Quantum and the Bell

EM Imagine I set up Schroedinger’s cat and a machine that will open the box after 10 seconds and ring a bell if the cat is alive. I set it up, and wait 10 seconds, and don’t hear a bell. What’s happened to the wavefunction?

CM What happened is that a person, you, have made an observation based on an expectation that you have of a particular experiment.

EM But I didn’t interact with the apparatus. No signal was transferred between me and it.

CW If you didn’t interact with the apparatus then how do you know the bell didn’t ring?

EW Because I’ve noticed 10 seconds passing and not registering a bell ringing in that time?

CW Why would you expect to hear a bell ringing unless you know that you can hear that bell and that bell is part of the apparatus?

EM I wouldn’t do, but are you trying to say that being aware of that counts as interacting with the apparatus?

CW Of course. Does RAM exist if it’s just filled with 0s?

EM Sure, but the idea of RAM in my head isn’t RAM in reality.

CW Being able to hear a bell isn’t in your head either. Being able to hear a bell and infer a meaning to the apparatus from that sensory experience (or your unfulfilled expectation thereof) is what your interaction consists of.

EM Yes, and neither unfufilled expectation or potential ability to hear a bell are real interactions with the real apparatus.

CW They are if you can really hear a bell (which is part of the apparatus) and if you can really understand that hearing the bell constitutes a result of your experiment.

If a dead person doesn’t hear the bell is it still a valid observation?

EM As far as the mathematics was concerned, it was “observed” (decohered) by the time the bell rang. But “being able to hear the bell” is not an interaction. *Actually* hearing the bell is, but that doesn’t happen.

CW Your view takes sense for granted to the point that it denies a difference between a living observer and no observer.

As far as the mathematics was concerned”
Which proves my point. Mathematics truncates consciousness.

EM Your point is… what? Believing in single observers and WF collapse is more rational then just interpreting the mathematics that explains your results in the first place?

CW The mathematics don’t explain the results, they only diagram a skeleton of one measurement of the results. The actual experiment and results take place outside of mathematics.

Are molecules conscious?

Does polymerase have any sense when it transcribes DNA into RNA? Do ribosomes have any sense when they translate RNA into amino acids?

What we can say is that DNA, ribosomes, etc are all expressions of consciousness on a certain scale (microbio-chemo) as seen through another scale of consciousness (anthro),

There is a story, an experience going on that is represented to us as a ribosome, a molecule, etc, and we are seeing its body through our body. A facade that is filtered by another filtering facade. I call this Eigenmorphism. Form itself, like matter and energy, is relativistic. Whether a given phenomenon is a feeling or a structure depends on the distance across the frames of reference involved. Nothing is an object in its own frame of reference, including the universe. Our mistake since the Enlightenment is in Over-Copernicanising physics and dismissing the native frame of reference (sense) as an epiphenomenon or emergent property of the distant frame (physics)

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