Posts Tagged ‘phenomenology’

Inflection Point

July 2, 2015 Leave a comment


An illustration based on the finer points of multisense realism. The combination of monochrome, spectral color, multiple scales of halftone, and the nested lensing of scales suggest the primacy of sense. It’s about the relation between different features of consciousness and how they diverge rather than emerge from the totality. The totality is masked into personal and impersonal levels of description, instead of assembled from simple parts.


Cone Cosmogony

March 31, 2015 1 comment



The first image is from The second has been modified to include the Multisense Realism model.

Specifically, “Me” has been removed from the center of the mandala and turned into part of the z axis. The center of the wheel is now Form-Function, and Now, indicating that consciousness is at its most pointillistic and fragmented. This would be the sharpest, most systematizing-autistic quality of consciousness, quantitative and reductionistic.*

The diameter of the circles corresponds to space or distance (really wavelength ratio/scale), so that the wheel represents a flat cross section of eternity. Time is the diagonal axis which is can be thought of as the z axis ‘deferred’. If our experience (feeling, thought, etc) extends from eternity to now as a qualitative spectrum (as symbolized by the chakra graphic), then ‘time’ is the interference pattern between eternal experience and fully public, discrete events.

The top of the cone is labeled eternity, although it is eternity in the sense of the eternal moment rather than a linear history of time. Eternity can also be called the Absolute, or God, Tao, Consciousness, Aesthetic Foundation, and many other names. Identifying with the Absolute while still in our body is the opposte end of the consciousness spectrum – the most colorful, florid, artistic-empathic-psychotic range of awareness.

* See previous posts on Imprinted Brain Theory and the Autistic-Psychotic spectrum.

How to Tell if Your p-Zombie has Blindsight, Falling in a Chinese Forest

January 26, 2015 Leave a comment

In order to make the question of philosophical zombiehood more palatable, it is a good idea to first reduce the scope of the question from consciousness in general to a particular kind of awareness, such as visual awareness or sight.

consciousness (general awareness)     |    particular awareness (sight)

Building on this analogy, we can now say that an equivalent of a philosophical zombie (p-Zombie) as far as sight is concerned might be a person who is blind, but uses a seeing eye dog to ‘see’.

As with blindsight, there seeing eye dog provides a case where a person is informed about optical conditions in the world, but without the benefit of first person phenomenal experience of seeing. The blind person sees no visual qualia – no colors, no shapes, no brightness or contrast, yet from all appearances they may be indistinguishable from a sighted person who is walking their dog.

Staying with the analogy to consciousness in general:

(a p-Zombie) is to (a Blind person w/ guide dog)
as a
(Conscious subject) is to (a person walking dog)

Some might object to this analogy, saying that because a p-Zombie is defined as appearing and behaving in every way like a conscious subject, and a sighted person walking their dog might not always act the same as a blind person with a guide dog. It’s true, in the dark, the sighted person would be at a disadvantage avoiding obstacles in their path, while the blind person might not be affected.

This, however, is a red herring that arises from the hasty definition of philosophical zombie as one who appears identical in every way to a conscious subject, rather than one who can appear identical in many ways. Realistically, there may not even be a way to know whether there is any such thing as a set of ways that a conscious being behaves. A conscious being can pretend to be unconscious, so right away this is a problem that may not resolvable.

Each conscious being is different at different times, so that presuming that consciousness in general has a unique signature that can be verified is begging the question. Even if two simple things seemed to be identical for some period of time, there might be a chance that their behavior will diverge eventually, either by itself, or in response to some condition that brings out a latent difference.

So let’s forget about the strong formulation of p-Zombie and look instead at the more sensible weak formulation of w-Zombie as an unconscious object which can be reliably mistaken for a conscious subject under some set of conditions, for some audience, for some period of time.

By this w-Zombie standard, the guide dog’s owner makes a good example of how one system (blind person + sighted dog) can be functionally identical to another (sighted person + sighted dog), without any phenomenal property (blind person gaining sight) emerging. As with the Chinese Room, the resulting output of the room does not reflect an internal experience, and the separate functions which produce the output do not transfer their experience to the ‘system’ as a whole.

From the guide dog analogy, we can think about bringing the functionality of the dog ‘in house’. The dog can be a robot dog, which can then be miniaturized as a brain implant. In this way a blind person could have the functionality of a guide dog’s sight without seeing anything. It would be interesting to see how the recipient of such an implant’s brain would integrate the input from it. From neuroscientific studies that have been conducted so far, which shows that in blind people’s brains, tactile stimulation such as reading Braille, shows up in the visual cortex. I would expect that the on-board seeing-eye dog would similarly show up, at least in part, in the regions of the brain normally associated with vision, so that we have a proof of concept of a w-Zombie. If we had separate digitized animals to handle each of our senses, we could theoretically create an object which behaves enough like a human subject, even within the brain, that it would qualify as a weak p-Zombie.

As a final note, we can apply this understanding to the oft misquoted philosophical saw ‘If a tree falls in a forest…’. Instead of asking whether a sound exists without anyone to hear it, we can reverse it and ask whether someone who is awakened from a dream of a tree falling in the forest which nobody else heard, was there a sound?

The answer has to be yes. The subjective experience of a sound was still experienced even though there is no other evidence of it.  In the same way, we can dream of seeing sunlight without our eyes receiving photons from the sun. We can say that seeing light or hearing sound does not require a concurrent physical stimulation but we cannot say that physics requires any such qualia as seeing light or hearing sound. To the contrary, we have shown above that there is no empirical support for the idea that physical functions could or would automatically generate qualia.Thus, the case for materialism and functionalism is proved in the negative, and the fallacy of the systems reply to Searle is revealed.

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon. – Pink Floyd

Quora on Conscious and Subconscious

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

How does the conscious and subconscious speak to you at the same time?

My hypothesis is this: The conscious, subconscious, (and super-conscious) *are* you already. Simultaneity is relative and supervenes on perception. The subconscious (I call sub-personal) generally relates to a smaller, faster inertial frame. Sub-personal impulses are experienced as urges and relate generally to the reality of the body. It is a very small “now”, in the range of microseconds to minutes.

The super-personal or transpersonal feelings are meta-phoric. The root ‘phor’ as in euphoric or ‘fer’ as in ‘confer’, ‘infer’, etc means to carry – to ferry something from one place to another. Metaphor then is to carry over, to jump from one semantic context to another. Just as a symbol or fable can work on multiple levels at once, our conscious personal experience is both rooted in larger ‘nows’ which range in days, weeks, and lifetimes and the sub-personal/microphysical instant.

As human beings, we have a tall window of awareness that extends between the now that is microscopic and the now that is eternal. Confusion sets in when we try to define one in terms of the other. Our expectation that we would not be ‘spoken to’ at the same time is itself a prejudice of the conscious range of awareness.

Public Space, Private Time, and the Aperture of Consciousness

June 9, 2013 7 comments


In the first diagram, I’m trying to show the relation between public and private physics, and how the aperture of consciousness modulates which range is emphasized. Contrary to the folk model of time that we currently use, multisense realism proposes that time is only conceivable from the perspective of a experiential narrative. Time cannot be translated literally into the public range of experience, only inferred figuratively by comparing the positions of objects.

Through general relativity, we can understand spacetime as a single entity defined by gravity and acceleration – to quote Einstein, a

“non-rigid reference-body, which might appropriately be termed a “reference-mollusk,” is in the main equivalent to a Gaussian four-dimensional co-ordinate system chosen arbitrarily”.

While space and time can indeed be modeled that way successfully, what has been overlooked is the opportunity to see another profoundly fundamental symmetry. What GR does is to spatialize time. This is a great boon to physics since physics has focused exclusively on public phenomena (for good reason, initially), GR has enabled accurate computations on astronomical scales, taught us how to make cell phone networks work on a global scale, send satellites into orbit, etc. Einstein accomplished this by collapsing the subjective experience of time passing (which can change depending on how you feel about what’s going on) into a one dimensional vector of ‘observation’. Not any special kind of observation, just a point of reference without aesthetic dimensions of feeling, hearing, tasting – only a generic sense of position and acceleration. This is the public perspective of privacy, i.e. not private at all, but a footprint which points to the privacy which has been overlooked but assumed.

This is great for modeling some aspects of public phenomena, but in reality, there is no actual public perspective that we can conceive of. There is no voyeur’s view from nowhere which defines perspectives without any mode of sensory description. That view from ‘out there’ is purely an intellectual abstraction, a hypothetical vantage point. Why is this a big deal? It’s not until you want to really understand subjectivity in its own terms – private terms. By spatializing time, GR strips out the orthogonal symmetry of space vs time which we experience and redefines it as an illusion. Our native experience of time is as much the opposite of space as it is similar. Time is autobiographical, it is memory and anticipation. We can stay in the same place while time passes. Our time also moves with us, with our thoughts and actions.

Space, by contrast, is a public field in which we are tangibly located. If we want our thoughts to stay somewhere, we must leave some material trace – write a note or make a sign. When we want to meet someone, establishing the spatial coordinate for the meeting is based on a literal location – a physical address or reference (by the palm tree in the South Square Mall). The time coordinate is more figurative. We look at clocks with made up numbers which we have intentionally synchronized, or pick an event in our shared narrative experience (after the movie is over). If our watches are wrong, it doesn’t matter as long as they are both wrong in the same way. If we actually need to be a specific palm tree, it doesn’t matter if we are both wrong in the same way, we will still be at the wrong location. Time, in this sense is a social convention, while space is an objective fact.

Looking at the diagram, I have put this sense of time as a social convention in the center right, as the clip art alarm clock. This is the familiar sense of time as personal commodity. Running out of time. The bells emphasize the intrusive nature of this face of time – our behavior is constrained by conflicting agendas between self and others, home and school or work, etc. There is a pie to be allotted and when the clock strikes X, the agenda is expected to follow the X schedule. The label just under this clock marks the point of punctuality, where the time that you care about personally no longer matters, and the public expectation of time takes over.

Above this personal, work-a-day agenda sense of time, I have included a Mayan calendar to reference a super-personal sense of time. Time which stretches from eternity to the eternal now. Time which is measured in fleeting flashes and awe-inspiring syzygies. Time as cosmological poetry, shedding light on experience through experience. This is time as a dance with wholeness.

Beneath the alarm clock I have used the guts of a digital clock to emphasize the sub-personal sense of time. The alarm clock face of time collapses the mandala-calendar’s eternal cycle into personal cycles, but the digital clock breaks down even the numbers themselves into spatial configurations. Time is no longer moving forward or even cycling, but blinking on and off instantaneously.

This all correlates to the diagram, where I tried to juxtapose the public space side of the camera with the private experience side. The subjective disposition of our awareness contracts and dilates to influence our view. At the subjective extreme, the view is near sighted publicly and far sighted privately. For the objective-minded individuals and cultures, the view outside is clear and deep, but the interior view is purely technical. The little icons have some subtle details that came out serendipitously too – with the headless guy on top vs the camera guy on the bottom, but I won’t go into that…rabbit hole alert. The last few posts on psychedelics and language relate…it’s all about how spacetime extends intentionality from private aesthetics to public realism through diffraction of experience.



Zoe Drayson: The autonomy of the mental and the personal/subpersonal distinction

September 7, 2012 105 comments

“I listen to lots of audio and try to package some of it for mass consumption on tumblr.  I heard something I thought was really interesting today, but that I thought would NOT have mass appeal (the speaker was also… er… well, she was a good academic!).  But I thought you would find it interesting.

It was about several different ways to consider “levels” (what I’ve often called “levels of complexity”).  The context: a talk from a conference on the Personal vs Subpersonal distinction made by Dennett.

Here are some types of levels as I remember them:

  1. Whole and Parts… somewhat self-explanatory
  2. Functional Definition and Realization.  So a mind might be functionally defined by what it does.  And the “lower level” brain state is a Realization of that Mind.
  3. Simplification… a SubPerson (at a lower level) is similar to a Person (higher level), only with some simplification to avoid infinite regress (eventually arriving at purely mechanistic processes).
  4. Access.  The Person (higher level) only has access to a subset of what the SubPerson has access to (Thus one of my subpersons might be aware of how my visual attention is focussed, while “I” am not, etc).

That’s from memory, so I hope I did the speaker justice (her name was Zoey Dreyson I think).

None of these quite matches what I think of as levels of complexity.  I’d say my criteria for “qualifying as a new level” are higher than these.  She almost hit it at one point when she suggested Water can be liquid, while H20 cannot… this might be an archetypal level switch for me.

In case you’re interested, here’s the website and the audio.  Love to hear what you think, no rush of course.

Chris aka memeengine”

Hi Chris,

Thanks, yes interesting lecture. Here’s some notes and then I’ll throw in my comments:

  • personal: mental states as functional roles (“Roles”)
  • subpersonal: brain states that realize these roles in humans (“Realizers”)

‘autonomy of the mental’ in this philosophical context = ontological autonomy

nonreductive physicalism

cognitive science methodology: explain capacities of cog systems in terms of interacting cog subsystems (like car = sum of interacting car parts). Homuncular analysis-decomposition. Modularized cognition to sub, and sub-sub levels without regress.

in cog sci, whole person = person qua cognitive system

under the cog sci view, sub-personal levels or parts are vehicles for cognitive content, i.e. functionally individuated physical states bearing content. Therefore cognitive subsystems = sub-persons

1978 Steve Stitch labeled these instead of personal and sub-personal as

  • doxastic states
  • sub-doxastic states

[doxastic logic, like Bp & p to me seems to me an extremely narrow approach to a particular aspect of cognitive consciousness. I think that taking these kinds of programmatic structural views of belief and truth really turn the picture of consciousness upside down and assume binary systems as fundamental when there is no hint that such systems generate fluid wholes without an interpreter]

normative vs non-normative
cognitive whole vs cog parts

sub person level is further divided as being

  • accessible to persons
  • accessible to sub-persons

in role/realizer relation, higher & lower level properties related by realization relation – instantiated in same individual, share causal power

in the whole/parts relation, higher & lower level properties have different causal powers, instantiated in different individuals. Mereological. Composition. Water has liquidity and wetness that hydrogen and oxygen molecules don’t have.

  • Functionalist school in phil of mind – personal level states defined by their functional role.
  • cognitive science methodology – personal level capacities are explained by functional analysis.

functionalist metaphysics vs computationalist psychology

Lycan: homuncular functionalism – metaphysics inspired by cog sci methodology

role-realizer/part-whole conflation: who says what realization is? science or metaphysics?

some views claim realization implicit in decomposition [I would call this emergentism]

flat vs dimensioned realization. Science says realizers highly compex property. hardness of a diamond [emergent property]

levels: mereological and realization, supervenience, gnomic? ‘bridge laws’? structures all comport? not necessarily

Conclusion: What is important is to define the nature of realization relation. Who gets to do that? Seems to come down to metaphysical preferences.

Listening to this lecture really underscores for me how different the approach of multisense realism is to anything that is being discussed academically. To my mind, the role/realizer and part/whole relations are analogous to the character in a story – say Alice is trying to describe herself in terms of being composed of either the grammatical structure in the sentences of the story from which she emerges, or whether she is composed of the bleached and pressed wood pulp and ink that are considered page parts of the whole book.

Both approaches are wrong in exactly the opposite way. It is the same with idealism and materialism in general. Nothing means anything without perception and participation to begin with. There is, to my way of thinking, zero possibility of perception or participation experiences emerging from either

  • Inked pages in a book (physical parts in a mereological relation realizing the emergent property of the whole)
  • Words from the English language in a specific sequence (roles functioning at the personal level being realized by optical character forms configured at the sub-personal level)

The approach that is not even considered is that both the physically privileged page-book mereology and the logically privileged typesetting-linguistic mereology are related to each other only through an agent of perception-participation. This is the multisense realism view. Neither the philosophical functionalist nor the cognitive science computationalist sense of the personal and sub-personal relation can justify the existence of the relation itself. That’s because they leave out perception and participation entirely. It objectifies personal subjects and then pseudo-subjectifies objects as sub-persons without ever anchoring any of it in any kind of experiential realism. The thing that we care about is ignored completely. The hard problem is painted over with a choice of two flavors of the easy problem.

The only way around this, I’m afraid, is through it. Begin with the reality of Alice as the given. We don’t have to believe that she is anything more than a character or that her life is anything other than a story, but if the character and story were really the ground of being for Alice, then the book of pages (brain hardware) and the language typed through those pages (cognitive software) both make sense as ways of stabilizing, controlling, and reproducing aspects of the story. The book is what makes Alice in Wonderland a publicly accessible artifact and the words are what mediate from the public spatial sense to the private temporal sense. The private motive, in turn, to open the book, read the words, and imagine the characters and scenes in the story are what bind the symbols to the private sense experience. Body needs the book, mind needs the words, but story needs the willing self.

What this means is that all of the levels discussed in the lecture are not personal or sub-personal at all, but rather impersonal (surface-topological) and impersonal (syntactic-depth). I propose a whole other half of this picture of consciousness of which, to paraphrase Wittgenstein, we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent. We can however, listen.

We cannot speak about the personal, but we can know what it is to be a person. We can realize ourselves directly, as an autonomous presence without converting ourselves into an external appearance or function. We can let human experience be human experience, and nothing less. The psyche, to continue with the Alice in Wonderland metaphor, has a protagonist – an Alice. It has other characters too, and themes, and a plot, etc…or does it? Does it literally ‘have a plot’, or are stories more of an experience with multiple frequency layers of events, memories, and expectations?

The story is nothing like either the words that relate them or the book that is the vehicle for the words. I can say ‘do you know Alice in Wonderland?’ and you can say yes, and describe some of the memorable scenes or quote lines or whatever – maybe you haven’t even read the book. The many forms that the story has been enacted, plays, cartoons, satire, songs, etc are all neither a part of the story or not a part of the story. The experience, the consciousness is orthogonal to both the physical formations and logical information associated with them. Of course, I am being absolutely literal here. Multisense realism is the idea that realism arises entirely from the orthogonality or perpendicular juxtaposition of private facing perception and public facing participation.

Once we can fully appreciate the magnitude of the shift that this model presents, going all the way up and down the microcosm-macrocosm, physics and phenomenology, we can perhaps expect to apply the orthogonality completely with confidence. Every atom is a page. Every molecule is a book. Every molecule and atom are publications of quantum-electromagnetic literature. Not only is there also a story which is told through that literature filled book, but there is also an omnipotent protagonist-author trying to awaken.This is an entirely different kind of sub-personal level. In the case of human consciousness, these micro-monads are sub-selves. Not things or ideas but influences, feelings, drives and complex dialectical drive-negation-drives, meta-feelings, histories of thought, interminable arguments…psychology, sociology.

This is what can’t be located by a functionalist or computationalist approach because they try to build a self from a bottom-up nothingness rather than a top-down everythingness. It’s not a new idea, but the application of the Absolute (Totality, Singularity, Supreme Monad, Ein Sof, Tao, Om, etc..) to physics in a literal way I think is actually necessary and feasible. From information science we can approach it as the essence of non-repeatability, or what I call solitropy. Start from there. From physics we can approach the cosmology as a Big Diffraction rather than a Big Bang. Recognize that spacetime makes more sense as a virtual incursion into a singularity of mass-energy than an as an explosion of mass-energy into a spacetime plenum which doesn’t exist yet.

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