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Strawson on the Primacy of Panpsychism

March 1, 2015 Leave a comment

My apologies to Galen Strawson for this article, which is based on my thoughts on his 2015 essay “Mind and being: the primacy of panpsychism“. I am not so much critiquing his position as using it to launch my own variations of its principles. I am getting into conjectures that are intended to pick up where Strawson leaves off in this paper. Having the utmost respect for Strawson and his pioneering contribution to modern panpsychism, I would encourage anyone who is serious about this subject to take the time to understand his views first and not to leapfrog from physicalism to the pansensitive view that I’m proposing. It is critical to have a solid understanding of exactly why panpsychism is an improvement on physicalism before entertaining the question of how panpsychism can be improved.

In the paper, Strawson lays out some propositions in support of panpsychism:

  1. Matter is force or energy
  2. Being is becoming
  3. Being is quality
  4. Being is mind

These four points are explained in the paper in detail, and I agree with them…in a sense. I agree with them as a better alternative to the physicalist model, which might go something like this:

  1. Matter is physics
  2. Being is merely the function of physics
  3. Physics is quantity
  4. Physics is structure

If we put these two together, and then add to that total set the inversion of their difference, I think we get closer to my view (Multisense Realism or Aesthetic Foundationalism) in which matter, energy, spacetime, being, becoming, are all defined qualitatively. Being is quality, but mind and structure are also quality.

Proposition 1: Stoff ist Kraft (matter is energy)

Strawson begins by writing that ‘Leibniz, too, declared: “quod non agit, non existit”’ […] What doesn’t act doesn’t exist.” He equates force (Kraft in German) with Aristotelian energeia or energy and Matter (Stoff) with spacetime. He says “substance is that which acts: ‘activity … is of the essence of substance“, and supports it with the footnote “See also, strikingly, Faraday 1844: 140ff, Bohm 1957: §1.6; and many others. I’m inclined to include Plato, who holds that ‘being is nothing other than dunamis’, i.e. potency, power, force.” He’s making a case for action being the fabric of reality. But can action exist in the absence of some perception of action? Can there be movement without some capacity to detect spatial relations? Can movement be separated from a narrative sense of where X was and where X went, and how those positional states S and S’ are related?

The concept of energy is poorly understood, even within physics. Gravity is typically referred to as a fundamental force but not as an energy. A planet orbiting a star in circular motion doesn’t expend energy to do it, yet orbiting can be considered an action or force. Planets fall rather then force their way around the sun. If energy is the capacity to do work, then work would imply the generation of one force against another, such as the force of lifting an object up off of the ground against gravity. There’s potential energy as well as kinetic, so a boulder on top of a cliff or a drum of oil can be said to have energy of a sort without acting. The term energy could instead be used in a more informal sense which combines force and energy as a general ‘immaterial agent of material transformation’.

That which doesn’t act publicly may still feel or sense privately.

That matter is actually caused by immaterial agents makes a lot of sense and is held as undeniable by many people who have done a lot of thinking about it – and it made sense to me also – except when we factor in consciousness. Is receptivity an action? Is it a force? It would seem to make more sense that receptivity is the capacity required prior to force being presented or defined.  If we look at our most naive evidence of immaterial agents, we have to admit that all immaterial phenomena are inferred directly as sensations of our own body or indirectly as the changes we can detect in other bodies . We don’t experience energy per se, we experience feelings like warmth or motion, or we see or hear effects which are associated with excitation and change. An explosion, for example, is an event in which some object is violently dispersed across space. We see debris scattering, brightening both the surrounding objects and our own field of vision. A flash, for example is either air molecules becoming ionized, as a flame or spark, or it is an interior event which reflects a sudden change in the brain (stroke), eye (pressing on the eyeball until you see stars), or the retina (the reflection of a distant illumination source fills our field of vision, like a flash bulb). Our conscious experience does not consider these sources to make a difference in one sense, but there are aesthetic cues which can be used to gain some epistemological traction.

I have developed some tinnitus in one ear in recent years, probably from spending too much time working in large data centers where the whir of thousands of server fans and souped up air conditioning is all but deafening. The noise is white noise in that it is constant and hypnotic, but there are multiple layers in which some tones or screeches can be heard to oscillate in a wandering, unpredictable way. Well, that’s what my ringing ear sounds like now when it’s quiet and I’m trying to sleep. The thing is, I can pick out at least two distinct types of ringing going on simultaneously. The ring that I have been describing which oscillates irregularly seems to be coming from an outside source. I had to get up out of bed on several occasions to satisfy myself that it was actually in my head rather than a ventilation fan in the attic. It *really* sounds like a ‘real’ thing in the world which I’m hearing. I can contrast that with the other type of ringing which is very high pitched and ‘close’ feeling. That high whine that you may be familiar with after attending a loud concert. Even though I understand that both sounds are not coming from the outside world, the second sound feels unmistakably closer to me than the first sound.

All of that was to make the point that reality is a continuum which includes both subjective-seeming perceptions and objective-seeming perceptions, but that does not mean that any of them are perceptions of something else, such as matter in the physicalist sense; some ‘thing’ out ‘there’ which simply exists independently of all aesthetic quality. The physicalist foundation is built on trust in the stuffness of stuff, whereas I am proposing that the only true and absolute stuff is the not like the physical stuff at all, but rather is like Wheeler’s participatory stuff – a capacity to directly experience and to embody an experience (indirectly).

If the universe has an aesthetic foundation rather than a ‘stuffy’ physical one, the idea that matter is energy is not necessarily true in the most important sense. The capacity to discern an aesthetic difference between material qualities and energetic qualities would be the more fundamental pillar upon which realism is built. The unity of matter and energy is never seen by us directly as an experienced reality, it can only ever be inferred intellectually as an equation. Even as an equation, E=mc² refers to the equivalence of mass and energy, not matter, with its three dimensional lattice structures and four dimensional algebraic functions. Mass is not a material, it is a measure of resistance to change. It’s worthwhile to note also that most of the energy released by nuclear reactions is not from particles turning into energy, but rather particles being rent from their nuclear configurations. Fusion is small numbers of particles moving in together, while fission is large collectives of particles breaking into smaller groups. The change is a chain reaction of particles which is energetic because it does material work on other particles, not because protons and nucleons are being annihilated into pure workfulness.

There is something called the Law of Conservation of Nucleon Number which says that “In a nuclear reaction total number of nucleons before and after the reaction remains the same, i.e. nucleons cannot be created nor destroyed during a nuclear reacton” (Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics Mittal V. K., verma R. C., gupta S. C., 4.4.4). This means that a proton might become a neutron, but it doesn’t become energy. There may be a better case to say that energy is what matter does in space than to say that matter is energy. If we interpret matter as energy, we can better explain some of our reality, but we are doing it by invoking a model of the universe which is in a sense unreal/anti-real and inconceivable aesthetically. A bowling ball is conceivable, a balling of bowl is not. What makes the universe real is not that matter is energy are united, but that matter and energy seem aesthetically opposite. Without that asymmetry, I can only imagine a universe of hallucination or abstract magic. To take that asymmetry one final step further, I propose that we should see the foundation of realism in the way that matter and energy seem opposite and in the way that both matter and energy together seem opposite to ‘seeming’ itself – to sense.

Matter, energy, and sense.

Sense or what I call pansensitivity is not a stuff but rather the inter-stuff within which all appearances of stuff should be thought of as occlusions or bubbles. To talk about matter being bubbles is not literal here, because the medium that these bubbles exist in is not spatially extended. The medium is ordinary experience, but without the assumption of a necessary thing-which-is-experienced.  Like the Aboriginal dreamtime, perhaps, I conceive of sense like a primordial dreaming through which all dimensions and descriptions are conceived, encountered, hidden and appreciated. Beneath force, action or energy there is sensitivity to what is going on, and sensitivity need not act or react publicly as far as I know. Sensitivity defines all: What action is, what it is that acts and what action does to the actor. Please do not mistake this to refer only to human sensation, or sense organs, or even living organisms. This notion is about the ontology of sense itself as a concept, as a legitimate and final context within which all of physics and psychology (human or otherwise) exists. As Strawson points out brilliantly, panpsychism should not be considered a Neutral Monism, but a doubly committed, ‘Experiential-Hylal’ monism. Awareness does not stand aloof from material and abstract reality, it is what is reflected and embodied by material and abstract reality.

Must we say that this E-H monism is action though? If we want to say that what doesn’t act doesn’t exist, that can still be true, if we take existence literally as an external or public presence rather than the universal notion of existence as that-which-is-not-nothing. With an aesthetic foundation, it is the interior sense of excitement which would logically be the more fundamental resource of existence, the insistence which arises privately as an intention to exist publicly in spacetime. Action occurs so that its accomplishment can be admired in some sense. We write because we read, not because there is writing. Action then is always a reaction to some deeper quality of expectation – an affect that insists on an effect. Sense is not only being and becoming, subject and object, space and time, but the sensory-motive significance of participation. Sense is the aesthetic totality through which the ‘versing’ of the Universe continues.

Proposition 2: Wesen ist Werden (being is becoming)

Strawson writes “All concrete being is essentially timebeing—whatever exactly time is. Being is being.” I would counter that by saying that being is not only be-ing, but been, has been, and may be. All of the past-tense and future-tense influences on the now should not be pushed out into another category. As unreal as past and future may seem in some sense, the influence of past and future makes up a tremendous portion of the present. We are permeated by our past, we embody it, and that embodiment often seems to foreshadow possible futures. Being should be understood to extend beyond time, beyond stasis and beyond change. Stasis and change are qualities of perception, and relativistic ones at that. The faster we are, the slower our world appears. Speeding up or slowing down our rate of awareness reveals new phenomena that extend our world. Instead of saying everything is process, we might say ‘everything is project’. Not merely a doing and going but of placing and replacing.

Under this heading Strawson also writes

“To say this is not to ‘desubstantialize’ matter in any way, and it is most emphatically not to suggest that matter is really only what we can possibly observe (as per the fatal modern tendency to epistemologize metaphysics). It’s simply to express in a certain way the point that the nature of concrete being is energy”

To this I agree that matter should not be desubstantialized in any way. Rocks are as real as anything ever could be. It is only that what is a rock to our body may be more like a sponge or even a cloud to something which is faster, smaller, or less solid that we are. I would agree also that matter is not only what we can possibly observe,  however I would disagree with any implication that this means that matter can be anything other than that which can be perceived. The nature of concrete being may not be energy, but the sense which preserves unity and differences across all qualities, including suites of qualities that we call energy.

Proposition 3: Sein ist Sosein (being is quality)

Here I am in complete agreement with Strawson and Lewis, whom he quotes about concrete reality being ‘an arrangement of qualities. And that is all’. I would add that even arrangement is a quality. As he writes “In the case of any concrete entity, again, its Sosein (its being the way it is) is identical to its Sein (its being).” I am reminded of Kant’s understanding that Existence is an empty predicate. There is no quality of existing without some without some aesthetic qualities which can be appreciated through sensory-motive participation. In short, there is no input or output in the absence of some concrete experience. There is no such thing as ‘input’ in and of itself – no ‘sense data’ without sense itself.

This is of course a major complaint of mine against both eliminativism, and computational theory of mind/Strong AI – that the map is not only mistaken for the territory, but the territory…the concrete power of sensation is demoted to an emergent abstraction of epiphenomenal status. Because physics and computer science arise out of mathematical sensibilities that objectify and systemize, they are intrinsically biased against the opponent channels of awareness, namely empathy and intention. While there is great beauty in numbers in the Platonic-Pythagorean sense, the idea of a cosmos that is purely arithmetic and formal leaves us with a worldview of a computer which lacks a screen, keyboard, or user.

Proposition 4: Ansichsein ist Fürsichsein (being is mind)

In this passage, Strawson affirms the notion of Kant and William James that in order for something to exist, there must be ‘something it is like to be it, experientially’. I would challenge his assertion that ‘We can’t hope to prove that the notion of nonexperiential
(or inert) concrete being is incoherent’, by looking at the alternative. If there were a such thing as nonexperiential being, there would have to be some difference between it and nonexperiential nonbeing other than the empty predicate of being…so it’s a non sequitur. Even if it weren’t a logical impossibility, in practical terms a universe which is devoid of awareness or in which awareness is shared with non-awareness, the non-experiential has no capacity to define itself as existing. Indeed, the moment in which experience begins to exist is the only meaningful beginning of time. Whether there is timeless non-experience or not is only something which can be debated within experience.

Where I take issue is in presuming that experience is always an experience of being some thing. Just because human experience is dominated by that kind of individuality doesn’t necessarily mean that there are not more exotic kinds of mindless experience which is non-human, or even inorganic. If Strawson’s creed is an identity metaphysics, I might say that mine is a trans-identity meta-ontology. Even the most fundamental concepts of energy, process, quality, and mind are still concepts – still roots in the garden of sense. Sense should be understood to contain all of reality and sanity, but to extend far beyond both.

Moving on, I applaud his assertion against radical or brute emergence:

“it’s metaphysically far more extravagant and anti-naturalistic to reject the No Jumps thesis and postulate radical emergence of the experiential from the nonexperiential, than it is to postulate non-radical emergence of the human experiential from the non-human experiential—whatever difficulties the second idea may also seem to raise.”

My sentiments exactly. Applying emergence to consciousness is like applying the Pythagorean theorem to Pythagoras. Likewise I concur with his thoughts on naturalism and experience:

“experience is the most certainly known concretely existing general natural phenomenon, and is indeed the first thing any scientist encounters when they try to do science.”

He follows this by reclaiming, as I do, the sovereignty of materialism and naturalism from the forces of reduction to physical structure. Physics is silent on the non-structural, intrinsic nature of concrete reality, so it should not be allowed to frame the definition of nature and material in immaterial, structural terms.

After some discussion of the incoherence of Neutral Monism and the incompatibility of non-experience with experience, which I will leave to those who have not yet understood the superiority of ultra-strong panpsychism, I come to the section:

Experience entails an experiencer

He writes

“I’m aware that experience entails an experiencer so I’m going to have to allow that there are as many experiencers as there are genuinely ontologically distinct portions of experience—even though this may appear to make things more difficult for me as a fledgling panpsychist.”

That seems straightforward enough…but wait. Is being aware that experience entails an experiencer really a solid assumption. Sure, *our* experience entails an experiencer, but we are a very specific kind of thing – an evolved experience which encounters itself as a living body in a world of other bodies, living and otherwise. Our experience of being an experiencer may be local to zoology or biology – an artifact of being enveloped in skin yet able to move around using our intention. If we are serious about existence being aesthetic, then the unbounded aesthetic which transcends even ontology would dissolve even is-ness in a continuum of seems-ness. Seeming is not less than being, it is more. On the absolute level, fact is a type of fiction and fiction or pretending is the ultimate tendency.

This is a controversial concept to entertain, especially as it could be construed as an attack on theism. If we say that an experiencer is a kind of experience of experiences, and not ontologically primitive, then do we do away with God as a kind of giant experiencer in a realm where no experiencer logically needs to define itself that way.

On the other hand, tying our own subjectivity to the morphology of our body may be a Just-so story, and the dichotomy of experiencer and experience may simply be how it is. In that case, monotheism is a natural enough way to frame the totality of experiencers – as a super-experiencer.

A third option is what I call ambi-theism, or a superposition of the absolute, in which both experiencer and non-experiencer qualities are merely colors on the palette of sense. The grand movie contains dramas with characters and plots as well as austere documentaries with only the pristine admiration of nature for itself as an it.

Neurosupremacy

Next I find an issue where I do disagree:

“We know the experiential is real and we also know—about as well as we know anything in science—that it’s literally located in the brain: human experience is neural activity. This is by now far beyond reasonable doubt.

I’m a little surprised at this, given that Strawson is sincere about the primacy of consciousness. Maybe I’ve just been arguing with others about this issue for so long that I now assume that people who are focused on consciousness are aware that there are studies of NDE’s, embodied cognition, and many other exotic issues which do provide doubt of complete mind-brain identity. Whether that doubt is ‘reasonable’ is debatable to some, but given what we’ve already discussed about matter being energy and energy being mind, it seems regressive to me to then turn around and say that human experience *is* neural activity. No, human experience is irreducible, and neural activity is (an admittedly important and directly correlative) part of that experience.

In his point about fungibility, “all physical stuff is fungible in the sense that any form of it can in principle be transformed into any other—so that if for example one broke hydrogen down into leptons and quarks one could reassemble it as gold” I would agree, however I would not agree that all experience is physical in that sense. We cannot reassemble World War II. Not only because of thermodynamic irreversibility/entropy/the arrow of time, but because consciousness is not an isolated ‘now’ but rather the view from within a bubble of eternity. The view cannot be copied or assembled from simpler forms, it has to be a unique and in some sense unrepeatable part of the totality. In my view, the fungibility of physics, or public-spatial physics is an inversion of the deeper anti-fungibility of awareness. That which is perceived to happen over and over, or to be put together from parts is witnessed by that which has never happened and will never happen again, and which is irreducible to parts.

I agree with his points about consciousness not being a mystery at all, but would add that because consciousness is absolute, it is at once the most mysterious and least mysterious phenomenon. If you don’t think that consciousness is mysterious at all, talk to some people who have ingested Ayahuasca. There is discussion of the combination problem, which is a serious issue for panpsychism, or it would seem to until you commit to absolute panpsychism or pansensitivity as I propose. After that, mereological worries of sums and parts disappear as the multiplicity of conscious states which define reality are nested in ways that we may not even be able to imagine. States of ‘mind’ in which all of history is a single moment, spatialized perhaps from a God’s eye view. The premise of multisense realism and aesthetic foundationalism opens the door to a whole other hemisphere, at least, of the universe.

Finally Strawson ties it all up in a world knot:

“The notion of being self-sprung is metaphorical. But I think that something about it smells right—the idea that the ‘self-sprungness’ or ‘self-intimation’ of experience is the fundamental form or self-sustaining structure of the energy which is concrete reality. Self-sprungness makes—constitutes—force, and Stoff ist Kraft. Matter—more generally, the physical, all concrete being—is force or activity or power or energy. Matter-force is essentially dynamic, being is essentially becoming: Wesen ist Werden. We travel smoothly down the chain of terms which—it now appears—forms a circle: a panpsychist circle.

I think he’s on the right track, and the metaphor of the circle and Schopenhauer’s world-knot (mind-body problem) that he mentions relate to a more literal twisting of the continuum of sense, which I have named ‘Ouroboran Monism’ after Ouroboros. Even as mind and body confront itself as opposite ends of the snake in one sense, like the inflection point of head eating tail, they are also mere points in a circuit which gradually evolves through mind-like and body-like coils, spiraling around and within itself. A non-orientable surface like a Klein bottle or Mobius strip is a good metaphor of how these aesthetic extremes can be reconciled, but of course, these are only metaphors. The continuum of sense is not a structure or manifold, but the phenomenon of feeling, of drama and coherence.

Orosnake

My reworking of the paper’s propositions then are:

  1. Mind is the sensible relation of aesthetic qualities.
  2. Sense is the intervention of becoming upon what has become.
  3. Sense is a continuum of ‘minding’ and relatively mindless perspectives.
  4. Sense precedes being, existence, or matter.

Strawson on Realistic Monism

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Download Paper

In this brief essay “Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism”, Galen Strawson covers a lot of the territory that I have tried to write about here. From the fallacy of brute emergence to the necessity of sensation as a concrete physical phenomenon, he gives a great overview of how to see the problem and where to look for a solution. I would like to think that my conjectures are designed to pick up where he leaves off, in the sense that they relate to filling in the gaps between micropsychism and realism. He writes:

“The experiential/non-experiential divide, assuming that it exists at all, is the most fundamental divide in nature (the only way it can fail to exist is for there to be nothing non-experiential in nature)”

Here my response is that the fundamental divide can exist conditionally – IF – nature’s monism is the division-providing sense itself. In that case nothing in nature is non-experiential from an absolute perspective, but locally, our experience can consist of side views and rear views of other experiences which are so foreign to our own in scale and character that they seem to be inert to us and all those who inhabit a similar perceptual inertial frame as we do (other humans, animals, organisms…).

“Emergence can’t be brute”

Exactly (see The Failure of Emergence). I can follow his reasoning with perfect clarity as it is very close to my own regarding the appeal to emergence as a kind of metaphysical Santa Claus clothed in a magical wardrobe of arbitrary inevitability. He does an exemplary job of covering the core issue of why emergence makes sense to explain liquidity from non-liquidity, but not experiences from non-experiences. To paraphrase David Chalmers, since physics is consistent with the absence of consciousness, consciousness must be a further fact about the world.

Strawson gets into spatial extension and how it can or cannot emerge from non-space. MSR, PIP, and Eignemorphism work together to explain how space, time, and entropy are forms of insensitivity – gaps and range constraints within the primordial pansensitivity which privatize one perspective by mechanizing all other perspectives to different degrees. The monism can be conceived, metaphorically, as a prism in which both the white beam of extended publicity and the diffracted spectrum of intentional privacy are within the prism itself, and change places depending on how the prism is viewed.

It’s difficult because rather than comparing (private phenomenal) apples to (public structural) apples, Eigenmorphism is the proposal that the former and latter apples have absolutely opposite orientations. Public structures are identifiable as isolated obstructions in space or stepped procedures through time (forms and functions), while the proposed view is for phenomenal privacy to persist as a subtractive phenomenon – a ‘hole in wholeness’ through which particular qualities of experience are disentangled along a temporal gradient from the event horizon of eternal experience. Rather than functions or forms, private physics is appreciation and participation.

Under eigenmorphism, awareness would not be produced from the dynamics of microstructures any more than multi-level parking lots are produced by the parking behaviors of vehicles. Instead of presuming that the micro-apples of physics are producing a macro-apple of phenomenology, Eigenmorphism expects that all of the apples of phenomenology (micro, macro, and cosmo) are more like apples of the metaphorical variety; apple images, flavors, logos, memories. A Beatles album. A personal computer from the 1980s. Une pomme. Not to say that phenomenology is metaphorical from the absolute perspective, but from our local perspective, the contents of the psyche are real as qualia and metaphor while the perimeter of the local awareness is staged with seemingly non-experiential quanta (public realism). MSR imagines that these perspectives fit like lock and key – not with each other, but with the underlying unity of primordial sense.

Strawson’s Micropsychism is very similar to what I have proposed, although by MSR, every experience is to some extent micro or mega relative to some other experience, as our top-down awareness is informed from ‘above the top’ intuition as well. We’re not just built of psychic Legos, but are also a megapsychic Taj Mahal executed in micropsychic Legos.

Highly recommend.

If human beings are nothing more than matter, why are you conscious as yourself?

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

If human beings are nothing more than matter, why are you conscious as yourself?

Quora question:

Philosophy: If human beings are nothing more than matter, why are you conscious as yourself?
The implication of materialism is that we are in essence wet robots, without free will, just chemical reactions. But if this is true and we are conscious, then does it logically follow that all chemical reactions have “consciousness” to some degree? If the human mind is just an extremely advanced computer, then at what point does “consciousness” occur?

We don’t know that chemical reactions are unconscious, but if they were, then it makes sense that the entire universe would also be unconscious. It is very tricky to examine the issue of consciousness and to draw parallels within common experience without unintentionally smuggling in our own expectations from consciousness itself. This is the Petito principii or circular reasoning which derails most fair considerations of consciousness before they even begin in earnest.

Unlike a clock which is made up of gears, or a particular sized pile of hay, the addition of consciousness has no conceivable consequence to the physical function of a body. While we can observe a haystack burst into flames because it has grown too hot, we cannot look at the behavior of a human body see any special difference from the behavior of any other physical body. There is complexity, but complexity alone need not point to anything beyond an adjacency of simple parts and isolated chains of effects.

Just as no degree of complication within a clock’s mechanism would suddenly turn into a Shakespearean sonnet, the assumption of universal substitution is not necessarily appropriate for all phenomena, and for consciousness in particular. To get a color image, for instance, we need to print in colored dots, not black and white. Color TV programs cannot be broadcast over a monochrome display without losing their color.

Unlike chemical or mechanical transformation, the nature of awareness is not implicated in the shuffling of material particles from one place or another. Any natural force can be used to do that. We have no scientific reason to insist that conscious participation and aesthetic appreciation is derived from some simpler functioning of complex systems. To the contrary, ‘complexity’, and ‘system’ can only make sense in the context of a window of perception and attention. Without some teleological intent to see one part as part of a whole, and to compare remembered events with current perceptions, there is no such thing as ‘function’ at all.

There are several important points wrapped up in this question, which I will try to sum up.

1. The failure to consider consciousness metaphysically.

This is the most important and most intractable issue, for three reasons:

  • because it is difficult for anyone to try to put their mind outside of mind. It’s annoying, and winds up feeling foolish and disoriented.
  • because it is difficult in particular for the very people who need most to get past the difficulty. I have found that most people who are good with logic and scientific reasoning are not necessarily capable of doing what others can. The skillset appears to be neurological, like handedness or gender orientation.
  • because those who do have difficulty with thinking this way are often not used to intellectual challenges that escape their grasp, their reaction is so defensive that they react with intolerance. It’s not their fault, but it cannot be cured it seems. Some people cannot see 3-D Magic Eye art. Some cannot program their way out of a paper bag. In this case it is the ability to consider consciousness from a prospective rather than a retrospective view which can prove so inaccessible to so many people, that frothing at the mouth and babbling about unicorns, magic, and the supernatural is considered a reasonable and scientific, skeptical response. Of course, it is none of those things, but it takes a lot of patience and courage to be able to recognize one’s own prejudices, especially when we are used to being the ones telling others about their biases.

2. The taboo against metaphysics, panpsychism, and transrationality

Long after Einstein, Gödel, and Heisenberg shattered the Humpty Dumpty certainties of classical math and physics, we are still trying to piece him back together. Regardless of how much we learn about the strange properties of matter, time, energy, biology, and neurology, there are a huge number of very intelligent people who are convinced that we will only know the truth about the universe when it all looks like a vast deterministic mechanism.

The compulsion to reduce awareness to passive mathematical or physical states is ironic, given that the defense of automaticity is often accompanied by very hands on personal intention. Even when it is pointed out that arguing against free will is futile (since someone without free will could not change their own opinion about it even if they wanted to, let alone someone else’s opinion), the mind of the determined determinist will always find a way of insist upon being in the right, even when they are ultimately sawing of the limb that they are sitting on.

When it comes to anything that suggests the possibility of non-human awareness, many people not only become personally uncomfortable, but they become socially uncomfortable as well. The taboo against unconventional views on science (even when backed by anthropological universality) is so pervasive and xenophobic that it is career suicide for a working scientist to publicly acknowledge them in any but the most condescending tones.

3. The pathetic fallacy

The pathetic fallacy is to take a metaphor in which some inanimate object is given a human quality (“The camera loves you”), and take it literally. While I count myself among those who once saw computation and pattern as being the only ingredient necessary for awareness or life, my understanding now is that no pattern can exist without a capacity for pattern recognition. The ability to receive and make sense of the real world is not a matter of generic relations of disembodied bits of “information”, but is in fact the concrete reality of the cosmos. The universe does not exist for us humans, but it cannot exist as silent, unconscious, intangible physics for billions of years and then suddenly invent the whole of sensation, emotion, intuition, cognition, etc, just for some hominids on this backwater planet. It now strikes me as profoundly anthropocentric to imagine that the entire universe could be devoid of perceptual content until life evolved.

In my view, the universe itself is nothing but a continuum of qualities of consciousness. These qualities, however, relate to experienced contexts. We cannot take the human-ness out of a human and put it into a machine. Biology has mechanisms and performs computation, but if that’s all it was doing then the inside of the brain would look like logic, not like sex and violence and musical theater.

Why PIP (and MSR) Solves the Hard Problem of Consciousness

September 16, 2013 7 comments

The Hard Problem of consciousness asks why there is a gap between our explanation of matter, or biology, or neurology, and our experience in the first place. What is it there which even suggests to us that there should be a gap, and why should there be a such thing as experience to stand apart from the functions of that which we can explain.

Materialism only miniaturizes the gap and relies on a machina ex deus (intentionally reversed deus ex machina) of ‘complexity’ to save the day. An interesting question would be, why does dualism seem to be easier to overlook when we are imagining the body of a neuron, or a collection of molecules? I submit that it is because miniaturization and complexity challenge the limitations of our cognitive ability, we find it easy to conflate that sort of quantitative incomprehensibility with the other incomprehensibility being considered, namely aesthetic* awareness. What consciousness does with phenomena which pertain to a distantly scaled perceptual frame is to under-signify it. It becomes less important, less real, less worthy of attention.

Idealism only fictionalizes the gap. I argue that idealism makes more sense on its face than materialism for addressing the Hard Problem, since material would have no plausible excuse for becoming aware or being entitled to access an unacknowledged a priori possibility of awareness. Idealism however, fails at commanding the respect of a sophisticated perspective since it relies on naive denial of objectivity. Why so many molecules? Why so many terrible and tragic experiences? Why so much enduring of suffering and injustice? The thought of an afterlife is too seductive of a way to wish this all away. The concept of maya, that the world is a veil of illusion is too facile to satisfy our scientific curiosity.

Dualism multiplies the gap. Acknowledging the gap is a good first step, but without a bridge, the gap is diagonalized and stuck in infinite regress. In order for experience to connect in some way with physics, some kind of homunculus is invoked, some third force or function interceding on behalf of the two incommensurable substances. The third force requires a fourth and fifth force on either side, and so forth, as in a Zeno paradox. Each homunculus has its own Explanatory Gap.

Dual Aspect Monism retreats from the gap. The concept of material and experience being two aspects of a continuous whole is the best one so far – getting very close. The only problem is that it does not explain what this monism is, or where the aspects come from. It rightfully honors the importance of opposites and duality, but it does not question what they actually are. Laws? Information?

Panpsychism toys with the gap.Depending on what kind of panpsychism is employed, it can miniaturize, multiply, or retreat from the gap. At least it is committing to closing the gap in a way which does not take human exceptionalism for granted, but it still does not attempt to integrate qualia itself with quanta in a detailed way. Tononi’s IIT might be an exception in that it is detailed, but only from the quantitative end. The hard problem, which involves justifying the reason for integrated information being associated with a private ‘experience’ is still only picked at from a distance.

Primordial Identity Pansensitivity, my candidate for nomination, uses a different approach than the above. PIP solves the hard problem by putting the entire universe inside the gap. Consciousness is the Explanatory Gap. Naturally, it follows serendipitously that consciousness is also itself explanatory. The role of consciousness is to make plain – to bring into aesthetic evidence that which can be made evident. How is that different from what physics does? What does the universe do other than generate aesthetic textures and narrative fragments? It is not awareness which must fit into our physics or our science, our religion or philosophy, it is the totality of eternity which must gain meaning and evidence through sensory presentation.

 

*Is awareness ‘aesthetic’? That we call a substance which causes the loss of consciousness a general anesthetic might be a serendipitous clue. If so, the term local anesthetic as an agent which deadens sensation is another hint about our intuitive correlation between discrete sensations and overall capacity to be ‘awake’. Between sensations (I would call sub-private) and personal awareness (privacy) would be a spectrum of nested channels of awareness.

 

Eigenmorphism: The Politics of Pansensitive Entanglement

September 7, 2013 6 comments

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Eigenmorphism is a neologism which refers to a hypothesis about fundamental laws of how natural phenomena persist in relation to each other. The thesis draws on some principles of General and Special Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and semiotics, to integrate phenomenal awareness and physics at a fundamental and ontological level. In philosophy of mind, the idea that awareness is something like a fundamental force coexisting with other forces of physics in some way is known as panpsychism, however, within Multisense Realism, the conjecture that is used is an even more radical one. For reasons explained later, MSR uses the term pansensitivity rather than panpsychism, and it conceives of forces of physics to be second order divergences from the fundamental and irreducible capacity which is assumed to act as the common parent of all action and all being, all feeling and all knowing. This is not to be confused with a creationist account or theism, as it does not assume a single being who is human like and feels all and does all, rather primordial identity pansensitivity (PIP) is a weaker assertion that claims only that it makes more sense to view the cosmos, or at least the sense that the cosmos makes to itself, as originating from an agenda which is aesthetic and participatory rather than one which is automatic and functionalist.

Eigenmorphism is used here to explain how phenomena in general are presented and translated and to each other at an ontological level, thus the “identity” of primordial identity pansensitivity is that the realism of nested sensory presentation is identical to existence. Eigenmorphism attempts to point out a single pattern of diffraction and calibration through which presentations and representations are privatized and generalized, both locally and universally. I have used David Chalmers paper, The Combination Problem of Panpsychism as a jumping off point for applying PIP to the problems of binding and combining of subjective experience. The linked article provides an excellent discussion of the issues surrounding panpsychism, and how it is that physical and phenomenal states might coexist at a fundamental level. The central focus of his paper is to clarify the various schools of thought on how microphysical and or microphenomenal states might combine and relate to so called macrophysical and macrophenomenal states. He writes:

“The combination problem for panpsychism is: how can microphenomenal properties combine to yield macrophenomenal properties? […] The combination problem can be broken down into at least three subproblems, […] These three aspects yield what we might call the subject combination problem , the quality combination problem, and the structure combination problem.

[…]The subject combination problem is roughly: how do microsubjects combine to yield macro-subjects? Here microsubjects are microphysical subjects of experience, and macrosubjects are macroscopic subjects of experience such as ourselves.  […] An especially pressing aspect of the subject combination problem is the subject-summing problem [in principle it seems that a macrosubject would not necessarily emerge from microsubjects].

[…]The quality combination problem is roughly: how do microqualities combine to yield macroqualities? Here macroqualities are specific phenomenal qualities such as phenomenal redness (what it is like to see red), phenomenal greenness, and so on. It is natural to suppose that microexperience involves microqualities, which might be primitive analogs of macroqualities. How do these combine? An especially pressing aspect of the quality combination problem is what we might call the palette problem [..] How can this limited palette of microqualities combine to yield the vast array of macroqualities?

[…]The structure combination problem is roughly: how does microexperiential structure (and microphysical structure) combine to yield macroexperiential structure? Our macroexperience has a rich structure, involving the complex spatial structure of visual and auditory fields, a division into many different modalities, and so on. How can the structure in microexperience and microstructure yield this rich structure? An especially pressing aspect of the structure combination problem is the structural mismatch problem. Microphysical structure (in the brain, say) seems entirely different from the macrophenomenal structure we experience. “

Panpsychism has already suffered from a somewhat dubious reputation in the past, perhaps because it is often conceived of in simplistic terms by those unfamiliar with it. In many minds, panpsychism is presumed to imply a cartoonish idea of nature which imbues every speck of dust or atom with a human-like mind. While there may be no philosophical justification to rule out such a view, I think that all of the common forms of panpsychism offer far more sophisticated ideas. I would consider any view which disregards the primitive nature of microphysical systems relative to macrophenomenal states to be more of an anthropomorphic panpsychism; what I call pananthropism,  There are weaker forms of panpsychism, such as panexperientialism or panprotoexperientialism which do honor the difference in complexity between micro and macro scale phenomena, but these forms also dilute the effectiveness in resolving the Hard Problem of Consciousness. If we say that microphenomenal states aren’t really phenomenal or subjective, then we still are faced with having to explain why and how they become that way on the macro, human scale.

In between the two extremes, I introduce the word ‘pansensitivity‘, which posits a universal minimal capacity for sense in naturally presented phenomena (not phenomenal representations). This sensitivity operates within its own scale and inertial frame of reference, and need not be very similar to human consciousness. Inertial frame is intended literally as well, as part of the hypothesis includes the idea that experiences themselves accumulate and take on a kind of gravitation-like tropism, similar to Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphic Resonance and David Bohm’s Implicate Order, which I refer to within MSR as Solitrophy, If solitrophy is the world builder, then significance (the nesting of representation within sensed presence) is its bricks and mortar.

Pansensitivity need not have a subjective or self-like quality, only a univeral commonality of being and doing which is rooted in sensory-motor participation.  By emphasizing the primacy of perception and participation as the heart of all possible experience, pansensitivity lays the foundation for a full scale integration with physical conjugates such as mass-energy, space-time, electro-magnetism. Additional conjugates from information science and mathematics integrate smoothly as well, such as form-function, signal-noise, geometry-algebra, and ordinality-cardinality. The consequence of moving ‘down’ from panpsychism to pansensitivity would be the loss of the anthropomorphic baggage imposed on primitive phenomena, and the consequence of moving ‘up’ from panprotoexperientialism would be to un-ask the Hard Problem on the micro-level.

Primordial Pansensitivity

Starting from the hypothesis that all phenomena are sensed or sensing phenomena*, and that nothing can said to be exist beyond the scope of sense, the entire Combination Problem is turned on its head to become one of breaking apart rather than merging together. Because all distinctions of micro and macro, phenomenal and physical are subsumed within the absolute primordialism of pansensitivity, we must employ a different way of thinking about the Combination Problem entirely. This revision of thought extends to a re-imagining of some of the underpinnings of mathematics and cosmology. In all respects, where recent Western views assumes a universe from nothing, or an arithmetic beginning with zero, primordial pansensitivity supposes the opposite perspective; a multiplicity carved out of unity, a near infinity of quantities diffracted as ratios within the number one. Separation becomes the derived local condition, while singularity is the absolute fundamental condition. It is not ‘a singularity’, or ‘a universe’, it is The singularity, and The universe.

Because the orientation of this model flips the traditional ranking of physics and phenomenology, and awareness is the sole defining principle, Professor Chalmers three subproblems would have to be restated to assume divergence rather than emergence. Emergence would be the local appearance of diffraction of the single whole rather than combination of isolated parts. At this level, PIP can be considered a form of idealism, in that the head end of the Ouroboros is phenomenal presence and the tail end is diffracted by time (subjective self), space (objective matter), and sense itself (represented information), however the very categorization of sense as ‘ideal’ is a materialistic bias which draws on Platonic notions of information supremacy rather than the sensory supremacy envisioned by PIP/MSR. Sense is not an ideal, it is concrete. It moves bodies and births galaxies. The sense of the human intellect is idealizing. Our mental life is a special case as far as we know. The rest of the universe does not seem to strive for perfection, it simply presents itself as perfect or imperfect by default. The human mindscape, by contrast, is often fixated on perfecting forms and functions, removing entropy from signal.

The Genius of Palette

When we consider the relation of the colors of the visible spectrum to white light, we can get a sense of how singularity and multiplicity coexist qualitatively, and how that coexistence differs from quantitative-logical structures. The difference between projected light and reflected color is instructive. As we know, converging three spotlights of competing colors gets us closer to white in the overlap, while mixing three paints of different colors gets us closer to grey or black. Similar displays of order can be found in the other senses as well, with harmonic progressions and white noise within sound, and other symmetric patterns which circumscribe the palette of olfactory sense. The palette of the color wheel, however, is uniquely suited to modeling aspects of sense combination. We might as why that is. What makes vision seem more fully exposed to us than something like smell? How does the neurological emphasis on visual sensitivity translate into this ‘seeing is believing’ sense of trust?

In particular, the color wheel or visible spectrum presents two themes within palette formulation. The first I will call the prospectively sensible theme. If we had never seen color before, and were presented for the first time with green and blue paint, it seems plausible that we could imagine a color in between green and blue as being turquoise or cyan. If we were presented with red and green paint instead, it seems completely implausible that anyone could imagine the existence of the color yellow. Yellow is not ‘prospectively’ sensible. Once we see yellow however, and see the flow of the visible spectrum as it progresses smoothly from red to orange to yellow to green, the quality of yellow seems to fit in perfectly, so it is retrospectively sensible,  In this example, cyan has both prospective and retrospective sensibility, but yellow only has retrospective sensibility. This gives the origin of yellow an unprecedented quality. I call this idiopathic property, which is common to all sense palettes, the ‘genius’ of the palette. The genius provides tentpoles, primary differences in kind from which secondary and tertiary differences of kind blend seamlessly into a multiplicity of differences in degree. There is a view of the territory of the pansensitivity’s version of the Combination Problem (or primary Divergence Problem).

The problem of the origin of palette genius is still an issue, but it is an issue which is diffused somewhat by the totality and unity of primordial sense, and the inversion of our expectation of nothingness rather than primordial everythingness. These genius qualia are manifestations of sense which may be more primitive than spacetime itself, so that the ingression of spacetime leaves certain critical pieces to the puzzle missing. Simply stated, the whole idea of causality and origin depends on time and sequence, so that these primary colors and sensations are as fundamental as sequence itself, and as any question that we can ask about it. Questions themselves are presumably no more fundamental than these elemental experiences.

Combinatory Eigenmorphism

Once a palette of sense has diverged and multiplied into spacetime availibility, it is proposed that the role of subjective participants is to recover unity and simultaneity, completing a kind of sensory-semantic conservation cycle (which is also a palette of sense).  The hypothesis of combinatory eigenmorphism is that the relation between any and all phenomenal experiences, whether they are cognitive, perceptual, or physical, can be characterized by specific categorical differences which are themselves ordered in a sensible schema.

Borrowing the eigen- prefix, used in terms such as eigenstate and eigenvector, and the root ‘morph’ as it is used in isomorphism and homomorphism, eigenmorphism is intended to describe an ordered set of elementary mappings within a closed continuum of possible mappings. Comparing two compasses, for example, the closed continuum of possible mappings would be the 360 x 360 degree matrix of possible needle direction combinations. Only one type of combination (a group of 360 out of the total 129,600 combinations) would be isomorphic, with both needles facing the same direction. Another group of 360 would be anti-isomorphic (one compass needle points North and the other points South). In between these two poles would be various shades and angles of disagreement. The right angles would be in perpendicular disagreement to both the isomorphic and anti-isomorphic combinations.

eigenchart

The use of eigenmorphism here is not intended as a mathematical abstraction, however. There may be more precise terms within algebra or geometry to describe such a rotating cycle of polarization stages, but the point of using morphism here is not to limit the combinations to one dimensional differences. Unlike a geometric degree or radian, this usage of morphism must apply to every kind of difference between any phenomena, not just to differences in shapes or orientation.  This is potentially possible because of the holism of primordial pansensitivity. The divergence of every singularity into multiplicity can be described as tectonic – every diffracted palette and diffraction within a palette is like Pangea, breaking into continents which fit each other like puzzle pieces. Adages like ‘as above, so below’, and ‘opposites attract’ can be grounded in this foundational continuity.

Eigenmorphism must, therefore, apply not just to mathematical transformations, but to fully realized sense experiences, complete with personal participation and felt content. If we extend the compass metaphor and imagine that on the top of each compass is a tiny video screen which shows the other, and that the position of the needle determines the composition of that video image (not just brightness and contrast, but focus, size, realism, etc), we can begin to get a sense of what is meant by eigenmorphism. It is intended as a common schema to unite quality and quantity, or in Deleuzian-Bergsonian terms, differences in kind and differences in degree.

The full conjecture of eigenmorphism is that differences in kind are orthogonal to differences in degree, but that they are both part of the same cycle of sense which discerns all difference and through that experienced discernment, effects a reproduction of order which is expressed through all phenomena. To be clear, the scope of the juxtaposition of this schema is absolute. We are comparing poetry to baseballs, and deja vu to carbide steel. The goal is to recognize a subtle framework which weaves together all phenomena, whether physical, phenomenal, or semiotic, and on the scale of the microcosmic, macrocosmic, or cosmic. Eigenmorphism can help organize, in one conceptual framework, the relation between micro and macro scales or across physical and phenomenal lines, where similarities may be found only in the extremity of their incommensurable difference. Eigenmorphism is a response to Einstein’s famous quote “God does not play dice with the universe” in disbelief of Quantum Mechanical probability,  God plays dice, dice plays God but only sense can make a difference.

Eigenlinguistics

Language provides a good example of how physical objects and experience can coexist seamlessly within a single schema. Onomatopoetic words like bang! or pow! rely on high degree of isomorphism between 1) sounds that we hear, 2) sensible generalizations of those sounds, and 3) sounds that can be spoken. Such sound-alike words are more universal than other kinds of words, as they require no translation from language to language. People of all ages and backgrounds intuitively understand that these words refer directly to events associated with those sounds. It seems likely that language itself must have originated with this kind of imitative behavior – the recording and replaying of sounds and gestures. The combination of literal imitation (bottom-up) and figurative association (top-down) yielded more abstract metaphors with more eigenmorphic combinations. Complex communications extended the step of sensible generalization (2) and, perhaps surprisingly, made communication and representation more difficult to separate from that which is represented.

With each extension from the literal to the figurative, the poetic and the abstract, we effect certain translations, each of which stand on their own as sensible connections, and which take their own most sensible places in the universal context. Again, going back to the color wheel. Each hue and shade makes sense as its own unique individual experience, and as a mathematical vector within any number of sensible topologies (wheels, cylinders, cubes, parabolas, triangles, etc). It makes sense in many different ways, including the intuitively idiopathic sense of its palette genius.

Within language we find a vast context of meanings which have developed accidentally and intentionally, intuitively and counter-intuitively. Conventions of grammar and spelling reflect similar mixtures of logic, intuition, spontaneity, and inherited formalism. Beneath all of these is a semiotic foundation. To communicate is to represent, and to represent is to infer comparisons among subjects, objects, other subjects, and other comparisons. To discern differences between ‘things’ implies first a capacity to sense ‘things’, and to experience sensibility itself – an expectation of presence and participation.

Semiosis is a particular cognitive version of what I suggest is this fundamental sensibility; the capacity to mentally record and generalize or iconicize perceptions, and to record those essentialized perceptions to be abstracted further. If information is a perceived difference that makes a difference, then information itself depends on a more primitive capacity to discern difference from indifference, to care about that discernment, and the power to do something about it. The polarization of afferent sensory receptivity is the power of efferent motive projection; to participate intentionally in some way which promises to have an effect on what has been sensed. This, to me, is the ultimate firmament of all metaphysics. The universe is an eigenmorphic-relativistic singularity of all experience, and experience is a nested multiplicity of sensory-motives.

Eigenmorphism assumes this universal continuum of sense in which the degrees and kinds of nestings deform the context of perception itself. As mass deforms spacetime in General Relativity, experiential qualities warp experiential perspectives under Multisense Realism. Rather than assuming a one-to-one, isomorphic relation, in which, for instance, a particular neurotransmitter’s binding in the brain equals a particular particle of a subjective experience, there is a lattice of translation which shifts in direct proportion to the scale and nature of the pairing (micro to macro, private to public, familiar to foreign, etc). As macro scale entities, our human scope is dictated not only by size and frequency of our conscious frame-rate relative to other experiential entities, but by the character and history of our intentional participation. If we want to put a Buddhist twist on it, it could be said that karma is the gravity of consciousness, and eigenmorphism is the warping of consciousness that mirrors back its own warped condition as well as the phenomenal translation of all external conditions through that lensing.

From Relativity to Improbability

As Relativity uses the concept of inertial frames, eigenmorphism describes the holistic constitution of experience. As a prism can be seen to split a beam of white light or combine beams of colored light into one, our human experience unites the spectrum of zoological, biological, chemical, and physical experience. We can choose to see ourselves as animals, or meta-animals, or temporarily embarrassed deities.  Our personal experience is proprietary and unique not just to the fingerprint or genome, but to the irreducibly absolute. The primordial pansensitivity hypothesis predicts that every experience, while seemingly composed of reducible, recombinant elements, is actually its own solitary universe – a vector of sense which cannot be reproduced completely. It is proposed that appearances of generality and duplication are a local effect, an artifact of eigenmorphic translation from plurality to singlularity in which the discernment of differences is necessarily truncated at an appropriate level. We can see this, for example, in how we look at sand on the beach, and generalize the grains of sand in our mind. Under a microscope, we can see more of the unique character of each grain. Because we assume that sense is primordial, we can predict that the microscope too has its limit, beyond which discernment falls to zero and that which we are measuring becomes indiscernible from the instrument being used to measure.

The pansensitive conjecture equalizes unlikelihood and inevitability in the totality, since it is not within the entropic displacement of spacetime. Within spacetime, probability is a mechanistic absolute, but that conditionality is, under eigenmorphism, a local inversion of the larger conditions of non-probability. Like the yellow and the cyan, the expectation of predictable order is itself emergent from utter unpredictability. Probability is a palette genius. Because the assumption of the improbable is taken as an anthropic necessity of all possible universes, the unlikelihood of life in the universe is nullified. It is not certain physical conditions which give rise to life, it is life experience which is expressed through certain physical conditions. By analogy, Shakespeare did not arise from the combination of certain words, vast groups of words were employed by Shakespeare to express human stories.

Bodies and Experience, Scale and Frequencies

As a rule of thumb, the closer the scale of forms, the greater the range of possible eigenmorphic relations. Bodies which are of similar size and private experiences which share similar histories and qualities have more potential kinds of relations and more degrees of relation than phenomena of disparate scale or history.  From our perspective, it appears that entities which are on the extreme range of scale in the universe like subatomic particles and galactic superclusters seem equally unlikely to host any kind of awareness. It could be that this is objectively** true, even beyond the prejudiced relativity of our human scale eigenmorphism, but it is not clear that there can ever be a difference between human truth and objective truth as long as we are human. For us, even if stars are bits of the Gods as ancient astronomers imagined, their experience is on such a remote scale to ours that our phenomenal states are inaccessible to each other.

More likely it seems that the great and infinitesimal entities do have objectively limited palettes compared with our own, but that those limitations are exaggerated because the eigenmorphic range of our own extended human sensitivity projects its own envelope of significance. Try as we might, the significance of an ant’s life is not on par with a human life, and even if ants looked like human beings, their tiny size relative to our body would make it hard for us to take them seriously. This is all part of the natural intuitive ordering by scale in the universe. Eigenmorphism describes the character of that ordering.

There are many fanciful ways to imagine microphenomenal or astrophenomenal states. Maybe all such entities are one collective experience just as ours is a collective experience of neurons, maybe there is only one proton-star experience and only appears to replay within the stories of younger, more mid-sized entities. It’s just as likely that microphenomenal states are unknowable, alien, and not worth thinking about.

The Pathetic Constant and Pathetic Fallacy

The degree to which we feel that another entity is capable of feeling could be called its pathetic constant, as it remains constant according to form/scale.  The more familiar something is to us, the more we ‘like it’ and it is ‘like’ us, the higher the level of empathy we can sustain for it.  The pathetic constant which we have to ourselves, ironically may not be as high as that which we reserve for those we admire. That kind of super-significance is a whole other story, but for the purposes of this consideration, it can be said that the pathetic constant toward the idealized self would be the maximum. While bigotry may allow some humans to feel that other humans are less worthy than other members of human society, this prejudice manifests as hatred and fear rather than a low pathetic constant. A true low pathetic constant would be associated with impersonal insignificance rather than personal malice.

Human history points to instances in which certain animals or objects or bodies of dead nobility were revered with high pathetic values, but human societies in general tend to support a general pecking order of pathetic values which place humans before most animals, most animals before most insects, most insects before mold, and mold before minerals. We seem to have an idea about what is ‘like us’ which is relatively free of cultural variation, even if we choose to intentionally prefer one entity into a higher caste.

This may seem a trivial observation, or that this folk hierarchy is derived from mechanical measures of complexity and familiarity, and on one level that might be true, however it becomes necessary, when considering the sentience of technologies like artificial intelligence, to have a place to start. The pathetic fallacy is one where human experiential qualities are attributed to an inanimate object or machine, i.e. ‘the camera loves you’. Even the most ardent supporter of Strong AI must admit that at some level, say, the level of a trash can lid which flaps down to “say THANK YOU” every time a tray is removed, there is a gap between the appearance of the behavior to a human audience and the subjective intent behind that behavior. We can understand that the trash can lid is in fact motivated by tension of physical materials, not politeness. Since we assign to the trash can a pathetic constant which is absolutely minimal, we do not read into its behavior personally, and the eigenmorphic relation between any proposed internal state of the trash can and the polite behavior we might interpret is null; any attribution of meaning between what we experience and what the trash can experiences is purely one-sided and non-coincidental, or else super-signified as part of a manic or psychotic episode.

Should the polite words ‘Thank you!’ come from a human being instead, there is a much more rich field of eigenmorphic mappings to use for interpretation. The meaning of the exchange can range from the trivial and impersonal, as in the case of a consumer transaction with a public-facing employee of a corporation. or it could be heartfelt and genuine, even life changing under some circumstance. The aperture of possibilities is open where the pathetic constant is maximized, as it is those who you most resemble or would like to resemble can hurt you or heal you most.

Artificial Intelligence

In the case of the trash can lid, the intent is for the exchange not to be examined very deeply. For the operators of such restaurants,  superficial gestures of politeness support an impression of ‘good service’, particularly in a mechanized and personally impoverished environment of a fast food outlet which some might find unpleasant if the impersonality of the operation were fully disclosed. This ‘polite face’ is functionally similar to the GUI which modern computer systems employ, which dresses up a command line interface which the general public may find difficult. Of course, even the command lines are a polite face superimposed on the more mechanistic levels of hexadecimal or binary code, and finally microelectronic switch configurations. The phrase user-friendly refers to enhancements which are intended to increase the pathetic constant in public facing systems, promoting psychological ease, as well as more intuitive functionality. It’s interesting to note the role that scale and frequency plays in this.  A cell phone would not be very user-friendly if you could on use it the same distance away that your computer screen sits from your face.

The binary code is roughly isomorphic to microelectronic switch configurations, or any Turing machine’s configurations. So much so, that there is a branch of computing devoted to developing programs from languages based on bit geometry rather than conventional number representations. The future of nanocomputing or quantum computing may use code that looks very much like what it is and what it does. For now though, the relation between digital bits, and between binary 1’s and 0’s remains slightly more abstracted than the nearly absolute isomorphism of embodied computation. It is important to realize that on the microelectronic level, where the pathetic constant approaches zero for most of us, our commands and programs are not understood by the electronics (or gears or punch cards). Like vast collections of trash can lids, the physical components of any machine are involuntarily moved and changed intentionally, by us, from the outside. The hammer hits the bell, the bell jiggles the float, and so on in Rube Goldberg  fashions of mechanical interaction among objects in space.

What is the difference between outside-in  and inside-out interaction? Some have argued nothing. Philosophical arguments from Leibniz to Searle notwithstanding, the appearance of the brain as a physical machine is so persuasive and complete that for many, the prospect of empathy emerging from mechanical complexity alone seems to be the only possibility, and a possibility which, from their perspective, is undeniable. We see neurons firing, and it reminds us of a computer. We see software running and it reminds us of our mental experience. Case closed. The pathetic constant is pushed to the maximum, organic and inorganic process become identical, and all eigenmorphism is collapsed to isomorphism…the trash can lid becomes, at least to some small degree, polite. This is the kind of panpsychism that we should avoid. Not only for the sake of poor computer scientists who would automatically become guilty of  atrocities in developing experimental beings, and not for the sake of human supremacy, but for the sake of understanding the whole truth about presentation and representation.

Conclusion

Eigenmorphism is a difficult to conceive of properly without fully comprehending the implications of panpsychism, pansensitivity, primordial identity, and perceptual relativity. The idea that both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics both expose opposite poles of what is ultimately identical with ordinary perception can be used as a basis for modeling a translation lattice. This envelope or matrix of perception which unites the microcosmic and the astrophysical, acts as a lens through which all subjective and objective appearances are presented. Like the eigenstates of QM, the relation of experience to itself has selective positions, settled inertial frames which evolve and recapitulate their own evolution. Participatory sense provides a richer context than mathematical spaces, so that forms and functions are only the publicly measurable tip of an immeasurable iceberg of private appreciation and participation which is unbounded by spacetime.

*that there are no proto-phenomenal or non-experienced properties possible, since ontology itself is treated as supervening on sense.

**true objectivity would require that we discard eigenmorphism, as only the absolute frame of reference would be without relativistic distortion, but objectivity requires that some sensory translation is objectifying another sense experience. Having no other sense experience to translate, the absolute frame can only diagonalize its own diffraction within itself.

Panpsychism Refutation Refuted

May 20, 2012 2 comments

From Panpsychism thread on Quora

All arguments in favour of panpsychism emanate from the “comprehending mind”. They are the equivalent of a corrupt programme analysing itself for corruption. The corruption resides in the analytic tools so all results are suspect. There are many arguments in favour of panpsychism, as Paul King and Craig Weinberg have noted, but these arguments absolutely depend on a comprehending mind comprehending itself and becoming entangled with not-self. No external arguments support panpsychism. We can see that complexity throws up unexpected results. Consciousness is an unexpected and counterintuitive result of complexity. We simply don’t understand its genesis. But. The alternative is to suppose that nothing exists until you discover it (there was no gravity until Newton was hit by an apple). That is an absurd position. Panpsychism is a semantic byproduct of thought.

The fantastic thing about sense is that everything in the universe, including the universe itself, makes sense in more than one way. Your argument is completely sensible, and I know first hand because I made sense of things that way for most of my life. At some point, however, I discovered that there was a different way to look at it that makes more sense. Consider the following:

If arguments for panpsychism depend on a comprehending mind comprehending itself like a corrupt program analyzing itself, then arguments against panpsychism depend on the same thing: A bug-ridden debugger debugging itself.

“No external arguments support panpsychism. We can see that complexity throws up unexpected results.”

First of all, I’m not sure what an external argument is. All human arguments begin and end in the ‘comprehending mind’ of the human having them. Evidence from outside of our bodies for things that relate to objects outside of our minds, sure, absolutely. But there is no external evidence of consciousness to begin with. You can’t prove to me that you exist and feel like a person.

Panpsychism (or panprotopsychism) explains this surprisingly well. It’s because evidence is an experience within consciousness and not the other way around (please see my ‘pencil-in-water’ rebuttal: http://www.quora.com/Craig-Weinberg/Consciousness-Insights/160835). You can generate complexity given awareness, but without awareness as an a priori possibility, complexity cannot even generate complexity. Something needs to feel or experience something in order for there to be a difference between simple and complex in the first place. Complexity may throw up results that defy our expectations, but they don’t defy the universe’s expectations if you deny awareness as a primordial ground of being to have expectations within.

“Consciousness is an unexpected and counterintuitive result of complexity.”

Complexity itself is utterly sterile. Without awareness, no amount of stacking of uniform bricks will result in anything other than bricks. Without some form of pattern recognition, we cannot say even how many bricks there might be, what size they are, how long they have been sitting there, etc. There is really no difference between anything and nothing without pattern and experience.

“We simply don’t understand its genesis”

For the same reason that we don’t understand a square circle. Consciousness has no cause, causality is dependent upon experience, memory, and analytical associations among remembered experiences. Without any of those, the universe could only be a single instant of inchoate fragments. To say that we haven’t figured out its genesis yet is to my mind now, a naive assertion of religious faith – wishful thinking in the supremacy of Enlightenment Era approaches to science.

“The alternative is to suppose that nothing exists until you discover it (there was no gravity until Newton was hit by an apple). That is an absurd position.”

No, that is not the only alternative, and yes that position is absurd. It makes the hasty supposition of conflating human consciousness with awareness in general. When applied to criticism of panpsychism, this is a fallacy of begging the question since the panpsychic proposition is itself that awareness is a property that is irreducibly present in the universe, and for me, more importantly *as* the universe. You have to take the next step and realize that even though it wasn’t Newton, there was some first something (an atom? star? spacetime? the singularity?) that experienced gravity, and yes before that experience, gravity as we know it did not exist.

“Panpsychism is a semantic byproduct of thought.”

So are functionalism and materialism. Panpsychism addresses the universe directly, from the inside out. It begins with the Cartesian certainty, that if anything exists for sure around here, it is me. We cannot question that because it will only be ourselves doing the doubting. Only after having faith in our own sense, can we trust ourselves to make sense of empirical evidence from the world of our body. We see people get shot in the head and die. This gives us good reason to believe that a human mind supervenes on a human brain. In the last 500 years we have taken that kind of faith in matter to the extreme. It definitely works on a gross material level…at least until you start choking on the industrial and social backlash.

Now we stand poised on the edge of a next age of Enlightenment. This time the transition may be much more precarious than the last, as unlike in the 17th century, the discoveries are not in-your-face experimental demonstrations of principles that have a chance at shaking bright people out of their religious ignorance. This time, the 21st century discoveries may have to be reinterpretations of what we already thought we understood. We have to face the reality of a world, not that we bring into existence, but which has been brought into existence through billions of years of sense experience on different scales, and which anticipates a temporal unity in which all of those years and all that are to come are but a single moment of totality. This tension, between the retrocausality of the eternal now and the feed forward sense of linear causality, are, I think, where consciousness ‘comes from’. It is not panpsychism that is semantic, it is the entire universe. A sense of significance which divides itself into insignificant fragments which return back to their source on their own. A respiration meta-cycle of meaning and entropy oscillation. Thought is the product of panpsychism. Sense does not emerge from nonsense.

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