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Does Neuroscience Crush Dualism?

March 11, 2016 3 comments

Is dualism no more than philosophical debris given the advances in neuroscience?

Dualism perhaps, but so too are Physicalism and Positivism obsolete philosophies given advances in neuroscience, physics, and psychology. Idealism, Panpsychism, and Non-Dualism are, in my view, still far ahead of neuroscience and cognitive science as far as being on the right track philosophically.It is very common for people who have a Physicalist view to confuse Non-Physicalist views with Dualism, Solipsism, Anthropocentrism, Theism and Naive Realism. In some cases there is cause for this confusion, but it is more common in my experience that it is a psychological projection or Straw Man argument against the view which is diametrically opposed to their own.There is a psychological dimension to this which is important. Jung’s identification of the Shadow projection, “the thing a person has no wish to be” provides a model for how hostility and prejudice can arise, even in the most scientific mind. Other very useful concepts include the Empathizing-Systemizing Continuum or Psychotic-Autistic Spectrum.

In short, the mind which is extremely Systemizing by default tends to suppress its potentials for Empathizing, resulting in a rigid, combative cynicism against anything which is perceive as anti-scientific (really Anti-Systemizing). Extremely Empathizing minds have identical response to what they perceive as Anti-Empathizing so that neither side can actually listen to the other’s perspective and both parties argue past each other. I call these reactionary and radical extremes OMMM and ACME respectively (Only Material Mechanisms Matter and Anything Can Mean Everything)  War of the Worldviews.

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Even neuroscience itself can be used to understand the limits of the current Neuroscientific approach. Brain lateralization, though held in disfavor after being overly hyped for several years, still has profound neuroscientific value (as explained in the video The divided brain). Animals with brains seem to split their consciousness between narrow, logical focus on the most immediate details of perception and broad environmental sensitivity.William James talked about ‘Tough-Minded’ vs ‘Tender-Minded’ philosophies.

[…]he interpreted the European divide between empiricists/positivists on the one hand and German idealists/rationalist on the other hand in a psychological way. He talked of the “tender-minded” and the “tough-minded.” The tender-minded are the German idealists and rationalists. Tough-Minded vs. Tender-Minded: William James’ Pragmatism and the Empiricist-Rationalist Divide

More recently Ernest Hartmann expanded it to a more general notion of ‘thin-boundares” and “thick-boundaries” in his book Boundaries: A New Way to Look at the World.

In my own understanding, I reconcile both ends of the spectrum to try to understand the underlying unity, which I identify as ordinary ‘Sense’. The qualities of thick/tough and thin/tender are seen as a consequence of direct Sensing and indirect Sense-Making modes of Sense which have evolved, and continue to evolve novelty and self-enrichment on many levels simultaneously.

This turns out to be along the lines of what many schools of Western Mysticism and Eastern Philosophy have taught, except  where they used Spiritual terms, my approach draws on semiotics and general systems theory. What many traditions identify as God or Spirit, I see as an Aesthetic Foundation or Pansensitivity which accounts for both Theistic and Atheistic appearances without collapsing into relativism. Sense is Absolute, and Relative-but-not-Absolutely Relative.For those Systemizing readers whose blood pressure is already climbing at reading this, you might want to stop while you’re ahead, before I add more fuel to the fire. Warning, silly sounding neologisms ahead…

Materialist Monism is actually Crypto-Cartesianism.

In other words, the conventional scientific worldview treats consciousness as an ’emergent property’ or ‘information processing’ without grounding those terms in physics itself. Since Physicalism and Functionalism reduce nature to unconscious, automatic interaction of forces and probabilities, all appeals to emergence or integration are really metaphysical appeals to panpsychism. The OMMM answer to Dualism, Solipsism, Anthropocentrism, Theism and Naive Realism are the diametrically pathological exaggerations: Nihilism, Nilipsism, Mechanemorphism, Anti-Theism, and Anti-Realist Sophism.

In the perpetual argument between the two extremes, the Superstitious Charlatan archetype is projected by its antagonist, the Substitutious Inquisitor. For every ACME appeal to God or Spirit, the OMMM counter-appeals to a mechanical substitute. Nothing can be considered ‘special’ except the negation of the ‘special’ through compulsive debunking. Words like ‘merely’, and ‘simply’ are thrown around liberally, as are epithets of ‘nonsense’, ‘rubbish’, ‘postmodernism’, and ‘word-salad’. Feelings and thoughts are merely electrochemical patterns in a brain. For everything imaginative or mysterious there is condescension and venomous hostility. For everything personal or subjective there is an impersonal object to substitute.

The final irony of course is that in seeking to nullify the personal self*, the denier of human specialness paints a mental picture of a universe of radical anthropocentrism. In this universe where all phenomena, even evanescent neutrinos and dark matter are absolutely real, there is only one phenomenon, one delusion conjured** by the brain function of Homo sapiens, which is absolutely unreal, and which contains all of the direct experience of Reality we can ever have. Instead of perception, we have deception† and instead of a phenomenal, sensible universe, we have a dualism consisting of two nihilverses – one devoid of life and consciousness, the other devoid of reality and truth.

*or Science forbid, “Soul”!

**Emergently, and Naturally of course

†with one ‘scientific’ exception

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The Holo-solo-meta-sema-graphic Principle

February 21, 2015 1 comment

holographic

Think of the multisense continuum as a clarification of the holographic principle. What people often mean by holographic when ascribing it to the universe as a whole is something like ‘The Universe is not really real, but is a Matrix-like projection in which the totality is reflected in each part.’ If we ignore that theory for a moment and examine the linguistic origins of the word holographic instead, there are some worthwhile tie-ins to Multisense Realism. MSR is a way of stretching out this concept of holography, so that the extent to which it seems holographic is part of the hologram. Realism is not a fixed, absolute foundation, but an aesthetic quality of orientation. Realism is not a neutral designation of that which is factual versus that which is not, but also has a set of qualities, almost a personality which opposes the fantastic qualities of imagination, dreams, and psychosis. Where the aesthetics of fantasy are typically saturated, vivid, or florid, realism is relatively bland or rigid. Realism supports rigorous logic and causality. A graph can be thought of as the essence of realism in a way – not reality itself, but the mapping of the mappable aspects of reality…a realistic approach to realism.

Notice that holos and graph are polarized. They aren’t simple opposites where graph = parts and holos = whole, although graphing does break wholes into regular parts, but there is also a sense of a graph is of a static mental resource; an object or so called rigid body which we use to index information. A graph is a chart.* By contrast, holos is the uncharted and boundless context which does not respect strict divisions.

Holos means whole, but if you look up the etymology of hologram there is something interesting:

hologram (n.)1949, coined by Hungarian-born British scientist Dennis Gabor (Gábor Dénes), 1971 Nobel prize winner in physics for his work in holography; from Greek holos “whole” (in sense of three-dimensional; see safe (adj.)) + -gram.”

So holos doubles as a term that has something to do with feeling ‘safe’:

safe (adj.) c.1300, “unscathed, unhurt, uninjured; free from danger or molestation, in safety, secure; saved spiritually, redeemed, not damned;” from Old French sauf “protected, watched-over; assured of salvation,” from Latin salvus “uninjured, in good health, safe,” related to salus “good health,” saluber “healthful,” all from PIE *solwos from root *sol- “whole” (cognates: Latin solidus “solid,” Sanskrit sarvah “uninjured, intact, whole,” Avestan haurva- “uninjured, intact,” Old Persian haruva-, Greek holos “whole”). “

This root sense of wholeness as safety, solidity, health, healing, etc is the natural anchor of anchors…the foundational aesthetic (of the aesthetic foundation). All experiences in all possible universes must begin from this un-locused locus. Un-locused because it precedes its own definition or observation. The baby at the boob has no frame of reference, no learning process to understand the importance of nutrition or survival – there is only to appreciate the experience of being re-connected to the womb’s holos in a new and disorienting context…What is this context?

-graph modern word-forming element meaning “instrument for recording; that which marks or describes; something written,” from Greek -graphos “-writing, -writer” (as in autographos “written with one’s own hand”), from graphe “writing, the art of writing, a writing,” from graphein “to write, express by written characters,” earlier “to draw, represent by lines drawn” (see -graphy). Adopted widely (Dutch -graaf, German -graph, French -graphe, Spanish -grafo). Related: -grapher; -graphic; -graphical.”

Compared with holos, -graph is a very different kind of term. Where holos is a rich and profound metaphor, -graph is a relatively prosaic and literal term about something in the real world…writing or recording. Holos is an appreciation of primordial safety; an orientation to a frame of reference which is absolute and beyond thought. Once someone is born into a human life or an animal’s life, this holos is buried in a cocoon of defenses which face the anti-holos of spacetime and physics and the sense that was formerly whole is averaged out as

“sole (adj.) “single, alone, having no husband or wife; one and only, singular, unique,” late 14c., from Old French soul “only, alone, just,” from Latin solus “alone, only, single, sole; forsaken; extraordinary,” of unknown origin, perhaps related to se “oneself,” from PIE reflexive root *swo- (see so).”

As a sole individual in a physical world, we have developed ways to re-connect with each other. Some of them are ways of reconnecting to our shared history as mammals and primates, and some, like writing are more recent human inventions. The idea of writing is to inscribe a thin stream of thought into physics, into spacetime so that others can recreate it in their local experience. It’s a bridge, a trans-fer or meta-phor, which means carrying over of feeling or meanings. What is the carrier?

semaphore (n.)”apparatus for signaling,” 1816, probably via French sémaphore, literally “a bearer of signals,” ultimately from Greek sema “sign, signal” (see semantic) + phoros “bearer,” from pherein “to carry” (see infer). Related: Semaphoric (1808).”

The sema- or sign is a recontextualized piece of the world. We use it to passively bear our sharing of communication, as an insulator would bear a conducting wire, or a conducting wire would bear an electromagnetic flux. There are layers of nesting which span the continuum from holos to solus to meta to sema to graph.

Wholeness to self to likeness to sign to signed. The distance between our human self and the ‘signed’ or ‘graphed’ physical world is what gives that physical world its gravitas…its grave realism. Mortality adds a layer of biological gravity…the signs which threaten the self of the experience of life. The closer that a given phenomenon is to the whole, the more it is metaphorical and self-referential.

Once we grasp this continuum, we can see how subjective and objective phenomena are an elaboration of a theme of awareness and degrees of alienation from the whole. We can go into more advanced areas of understanding the continuum and see that while the graph end of sense reflects in micro the holos itself, it is only a reflection and has no generative power of its own. Even though we locally experience a tension between the holos and graph which seem equal, or even overpowered by physics, that is only because of how deeply our human experience is nested within billions of sensations, feelings, and thoughts since the beginning of spacetime.

In the absolute frame of reference, all is consumed by, with, and for holos. The graph appearance, and even the holographic principle is the local view of the self’s experience of being alienated. It’s a compromise between Descartes’ substance dualism and Eastern/perennial philosophy’s holism, but it is still fixed in the Cartesian graph of spacetime and Newton’s mechanics of mass and energy. We imagine that each physical particle is a packet containing a ghost of the whole, but I think that it now makes more sense to say that it is the particle itself which is, in the absolute frame or reference, more like the ghost. It’s relativistic, but all relation traces back to the orientation of the absolute. There is no orientation derived purely from disorientation, which is why we cannot build a sign or a self or a holos from a machine (graph).

*Descartes, whose family name means ‘of the charts’, and also can be associated with the French word charteus, meaning pertaining to papyrus/paper has an interesting connection to the role of Rene Descartes in developing the digital view of space in terms of Cartesian coordinates. Cards, charts and papers refer to objects which carry meaning – blank vehicles to be used either as a container for metaphor, or as the medium of choice for a stream of digital semaphores. The critical place that Descartes holds in the development of the Early Modern Period, cannot be overstated. In his 1641 Meditations, Descartes divided the cosmos, for better or worse, into mind and matter (res cogitans and res extensa), paving the way for Newton, Leibniz and others to see physics as an expression of precise mathematical truths. The Enlightenment Era marks the Western world’s separation from perennial, Eastern philosophy and the discovery of a new, Cartesian world of purely mechanical objects. The card, or graph aspect of the cosmos is seen as the new orientation, a counter-aesthetic to one which assumes theistic holos. The Western counter-aesthetic of modernism questions the beliefs of the past, asserting instead that the natural world is innocent of religious enchantment until proven otherwise.

Breaking the Nth Wall

December 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Norman Rockwell

  • Eliminative Materialism: The picture is the only reality, so the artist is an illusion.
  • Idealism: The artist is real and the picture is an illusion.
  • Dual Aspect: The artist and the painting are two halves of the whole.
  • Monotheism: Norman Rockwell is omnipotent and immortal.
  • Computationalism: Norman Rockwell is an emergent property of jpeg compression. Any sufficiently complex compression becomes Norman Rockwell.
  • Multisense Realism: The picture, artist, audience, illusion, Norman Rockwell, and computation are all sensory experiences which make sense in different but sensibly related ways.

Challenging Objectivity and the Object-Concept Duality

May 11, 2013 1 comment

> “Existence and objecthood is not dependent or relative to an observer at all. Period. These concepts are OBJECTIVE (i.e. observer independent)”

We can’t know that scientifically since all we can know is through observation and inferences based on observation. Objecthood is a concept based on body relations and extensions thereof. Obviously there are phenomena which are independent of human observation, but that does not at all preclude the possibility that their objective seeming nature is not predicated on more general, non-human sense interactions.


>”Something is an object if it has SHAPE.Something exists if it has PHYSICAL PRESENCE (i.e. shape + location).”

This is not as cut and dried as it might seem also. If water evaporates, does it have a shape? If it does, we would have to say that it only does on a molecular level, which requires instruments to detect. Is an emotion any different? The shape of love could similarly be described by neurochemical molecular shapes on that microcosmic level. What then is the difference, other than the neurotranmsitters are located in the neurons and the water vapor is located in the air.

>”We don’t prove objecthood or existence. We assume it to explain a theory.”

Then the theory can only pertain to a universe in which existence is objective. We don’t know of any universe like that.


>”For instance, a shadow puppet or a flame may appear to have shape based on the illusory “boundary” we perceived formed by differences in light intensity, but a contrast in colors or in light is not an object.”


All boundaries may be objectively ‘illusory’. It all depends on what scale you are measuring whatever you think is a boundary. We infer solidity through a consensus of senses – tactile and visual mainly. Electron microscopes reveal smoothly shaped surfaces to be porous or irregular. Telescopes reveal distant smudges of light to be billions of separate stars. Shape is relative.

 

>”Shape is the only property of objects that is observer-independent. That’s why “that which has shape” is the only rational definition of the term.”

Not necessarily. Shape could just as easily be a low level perceptual consensus. The content of that perception represents ‘that which seems to be observer-dependent’.


MM >”Science is all about objects. We understand that ALL phenomena is the result of surface to surface contact between objects.”

Yes, science has been all about objects, but if we don’t progress beyond that then science will stagnate and become less relevant to our increasing understanding. Surface to surface contact is not really useful in explaining planetary orbits or something like communication. Surfaces themselves are conceptual, its just that our visual and tactile senses are inherently the most objectifying.

The weakness of the object-concept dualism is the same as any other dualism. How does one relate to the other? Take a clear concept like…Communism. If you want to explain the sudden changes in the behavior of populations in the history of Russia or China – the weapons deployed…lots of objects objectively banging around and bodies changing their shapes into mutilated cadavers – how do you do it?

I have proposed a better model. The conjugate to public objects is not concepts but private experiences. It is feeling, not ideas which allow us to take the intellectual experience of “Communism” and turn them into neurochemical signals which contract the voluntary muscle-objects of our body. Concepts don’t do anything by themselves, they are figures of our understanding.

It is sensation/feeling which sucks the ‘experiential entropy‘ out of public worlds (spatially-diffracted sense phenomena, aka quantitatively realized qualia, aka bodies) into private significance (low experiential entropy, reconstituted sensory-motive phenomena: qualia). Participation or motive (misconceived of as “energy” in non-humans and “will” in animals) does the same thing as perception in the opposite direction: it projects private experience outward, re-diffracting qualia through space public conditions.

I know how that sounds, but it actually does make sense if you care to understand it. Another problem with defining objects as phenomena with shape is that we can dream of things with shapes, but they are less like objects than shadows. Why? Because when we wake up, the dream is reconsidered from a higher experiential entropy framework – a more real realism which exposes the lower experiential entropy of the dream realism.

The dream is private experience, the shadow is a more public experience. A rainbow is a more public experience too, but it only has a shape if you look at it from the right angle. A rock is much more public. Ants interact with it as we expect we would if we were that size. It is still not an ‘object’ from an absolute perspective. At the atomic level there is no rock. There is no ‘collection’ of atoms as there is nothing to collect them in a coherent sense experience. Atoms don’t see a rock, they don’t touch a rock – the rock has no shape therefore without other rock sized objects with which to interact.

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