In Defense of Sense

Sense (in the Absolute sense) reveals itself reflexively as the Uni-verse, aka monad of non-orientable self-juxtaposition, aka, “the Pansensitive Meta-Lectic Solitrophic-Holarchic Multiphoric-Unametry”, provider of implicit unity (likeness) across multiplicity (private sensory afference) and explicit participation (public motor efference) through intentional animism and automatic mechanism.

In more conventional terms, sense equals direct phenomenological participation or aesthetic re-acquaintance.

The use of the term ‘sense‘ Multisense Realism is arguably a weak point. I agree sense or sense-motive is hard to consider, although I’m not sure yet whether that difficulty might not be appropriate, given the all-embracing scope which the term is intended to apply. Perhaps the conceit of any single term to encompass the essence of the entire cosmos and psyche  will inevitably be a little blurry. Other terms for this ultimate principle of sense include “Qua” as the root of both qualia and quanta, and “Istence” as the suffix of both insistence and existence, but those seem even more obscure. The challenge here is to communicate the proposal that this underlying metaphysic-metapsychic is ordinary experience and not an exotic phenomenon which is imagined to be ‘out there’. What sense means is something which is both ‘in here’, ‘out there’ and above all makes connections between the two. This does not have to be a spiritual concept at all, it can be understood in terms of the capacity to feel and to do. To feel is to participate receptively in an aesthetic presentation (MR technical neologism: endophoric afference). To do is to actively project change upon an aesthetic presentation (exomorphic efference) . What word other than sense can really do justice to the whole psychic-physical enchilada? The ideal candidate would have to encompass:

1. Primordial irreducibility – Nothing can really be said to exist if it isn’t sensed by something or made sense of by something. Nonsense is a category of sense, sense isn’t a category of nonsense, or really anything else. To explain sense is to explain explanation. No further terms add any more, uh, sense to it.

2. First person subjectivity – The literal usage of sense, as in ‘sensation’ helps with this. It gives a breadth of range as well, from the clearly corporeal kinds of touch and feel to the subtle levels of feeling and intuition..I sense.

3. Semiotic coherence – Making sense is a strong synonym for what consciousness does for us. On the human level at least, the joining of semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic senses is at the heart of what we might call sanity. The idiom itself, ‘making sense’ is a metaphor which actually refers to metaphor…it’s a meta-metaphor which hints at our participatory role in extending our awareness beyond its native limits using figurative or virtual experience.

4. Qualitative charge – Other terms like ‘energy’ or ‘field’ cover the same territory, but to me they seem to mention the experience as a de-presentational fact rather than evoking it directly as it is presented to the subject. Sense includes the qualitative satisfaction of an subjective inner completion and understanding (under-standing comes from the same root as inter or entero… an inner resting or settling within). ‘Makes sense’ feels like a lock and key. That feeling I think is the orienting principle of all that is. It is nature.

5. Taxonomy – The use of sense ‘in this particular sense’ makes another good reason to consider it. The idea of selecting one channel of semantic decoding from a continuum directly reflects my model of consciousness-comsos as a graduated continuum of directly and indirectly sensed texts.

6. Syzygy – The different meanings of the word sense range from the literal to the figurative, so that the word itself is a syzygy – a unity of two opposites. The taxonomic sense adds to that the narrative, self-reflexive aspect which hints at the transparency of sense and its power to both tolerate and penetrate ambiguity. There is a meta-continuity which hints at unity as well as symmetry, sequence, and pragmatic realism, all of which are essential features of the overlap between cosmos and psyche.



Sense and motive are core concepts within MR which are the experiential correlates of matter and energy. Sense is the passive, receptive mode of experience while motive is the active, intentional, projective mode of will.  Rather than introducing a new force or field to explain consciousness, matter and energy are seen as the public representations of what is actually an underlying panpsychic quality or panprotoexperience* which prefigures space. This broad division of sense and motive can be seen to be supported by neuroscience, since all brain activity funnels down to the spinal cord through the brain stem, the function of which is divided into afferent and efferent regions. Damage to the upper brain stem correlates to a loss of all sensory experience, while damage to the lower brain stem correlates to paralysis (loss of all motor participation).

Our understanding of matter and energy are as things happening to things in space. Sense and motive are, by contrast, interior events which can be characterized as stories happening through time. Under panprotoexperientialism, ‘us’ probably includes cells, stars, atoms, etc, or at least those things that we see as cells etc. are the tip of the iceberg of non-human experience on a scale of time which is likely ranged very differently from ours.

In physics, time, in relation to matter and energy is assumed to be a one-dimensional linear duration which scales according to physical properties of density, mass, and velocity. It is proposed in MR that time in relation to sense is measured qualitatively, so that it can expand and contract according to private properties such as significance, meaning, and expectation. Time flies when you are having fun. Not literally in the sense that matter or energy will change speeds when you are happy, but in the sense that your awareness literally eats up more private time when it is filled with enthusiasm. Time then, is directly experienced only through sense but indirectly inferred or represented by objects in space. For example, in drawing a comic where something is supposed to be moving, the artist can only represent that with devices like blurring, repeating, or adding pen strokes floating in the air behind the moving object.  We have no way to present time directly in space without inferring it. None of our public time keeping methods  can give us time in the way that a ruler gives us a metric of distance. All that we can do is to give ourselves a metaphor through which we supply the ‘time’.

Space, by contrast, cannot be presented directly in private experience. We can imagine spaces to a degree, but they have no spatial realism. We cannot make precise measurements that sit still. We cannot compare the scales of imagined distances except figuratively. We cannot measure the distance between one imagined object and another in inches. The inches aren’t real. There’s no way to reliably measure them. Our experience of time however, can be understood in terms of sequence. We can usually say with reasonable authority whether one experience, thought, or feeling happened before or after another. When we experience time, it is literally ours. When we experience space it is either a fantasy or it is indirectly experienced outside of our body through our sense organs.

Our notion of time, even taking into account this hypothesis of its ultimate origin in privacy, is still informed mostly by public experience. The purer example of time, before it has been qualitatively flattened and spatially extended is more in the sense of  ‘timing’. A feeling of being in synch with with our experience. Timing, as they say, is everything. The interior timescape is one of repeating experiences and themes. Music and literature reflect this aesthetic sense of time, which is multi-dimensional. It is proposed that private time may include three qualitative dimensions; oscillation, progression, and orientation.

Motive relates to time as well. The internal push to initiate a change that puts a plan into action now begins as molecular structures in cells all over the brain change immediately and in a synchronized pattern. Whether neuroscience calls this charge polarization, action potential, phosphorylation, nerve impulse, brain waves, the result is the same, we do things because of the brain and the brain does things because of us. MR proposes that this change from private motive affect to public motor effect happens directly, without a Cartesian theater or homunculus intervening to translate. It could be internal figurative movement (of changing your mind), or literal external movement (of changing your body’s position), or figurative external movement (an effort to improve your status in the world). It could also be internal literal movement (of changing the molecules and cells in the brain directly with your intention). All of that has to happen through direct voluntary intervention in changing the course of events. Causality begins in privacy and sequence. Public views are limited to views of generic consequences.

Are sense and motive like a field and a force? Not literally, no. The idea of fields and forces depend on a sense of regions of space which are somehow charged with disembodied powers. If, instead of conceiving of forces and fields that way, we flip that assumption over and consider them to be purely statistical patterns of effect, then we could say that sense and motive are field and force, since public facing senses generally have a measurable range and intensity, but in that case we could call them matter and energy.  It is proposed that energy is nothing but the potential for matter to make changes to matter, and that this capacity to change matter is actually motive intention originating within a non-human experience. The matter which humans can personally and directly influence is limited to the behavior of certain regions of the brain, although the human capacity to influence events through their actions is of course very far reaching.

It is proposed that what sense and motive actually are can only be understood through their native terms of first person experience. Sense is not a floating radiation of disembodied qualia, it is concrete feelings and experiences which multiply in significance (qualitative greatness, richness, and semantic relevance). Significance can be thought of as the figurative residue which accumulates through repeating sequences-of-sequences of meaningful experiences.

Motive is not a current of psychokinetic power – not ether, élan vital, phlogiston, soul, or chi, (although for some it may help to think of them that way) it is just the symptom of our effect on the events which we embody most directly. You can call it magic if you want to, but it seems to be quite ordinary in the countless species of living organisms we see, and possibly in the behavior of inorganic matter as well, if we allow that sufficiently simplistic motives produce deterministic-seeming patterns.

Multisense Realism can be understood even without the specialized definitions of sense and motive above. It’s ok to think of sense in the colloquial everyday sense of that word. Sense as in feeling and sensation, as logical coherence as in making sense. Sense meaning consciousness, as in ‘come to your senses’. Sense as in an intuitive guidance.  Sense as category or order; ‘in any or all of those senses’. Motive can also be understood in plain English. The intention to move or change with activity. To want to do something.

The question of whether sense or motive came first can be understood as a non-sequitur when we realize that time and therefore causality itself supervenes, or depends completely on the interplay of sense and motive.  Sense can be thought of quantiatively as ∞/0 but it can only sense itself (2) though motive self-diffraction (1).

1. Motive creates the arrow of time by dividing and multiplying a given sensory condition. With the expression of will or kinetic energy, thermodynamic irreversibility is introduced and that which has occurred publicly is partitioned from that which has remained as a private potential. The interpretation of this collapse of entropy as time is at the root of the metaphysical possibility of space. As sense is increasingly subdivided into before and after, the appearance of the afters has become tokenized as positioned shapes and bodies (public matter, private feeling), while the before-motive seem increasingly unlike matter (public energy, private doing). From the outside, the interaction of sense-motive looks like a pantomime between objective bodies. As the public world of matter-like experiences accumulates, living organisms engage private sense to re-internalize the object-bodies as props within subjective narrative stories. Biology itself recapitulates this recapitulation of sense-motive-space into matter-energy-time with more enriched experiences of time. Each layer of evolution of public bodies corresponds to an evolution of inertial frames within private experience. Human inertial frames includes the individual-psychological, social, anthropological, mammalian, zoological, biological, chemical, physical levels, as well as semiotic and super-signifying.

∞/0.  Sense is not the first thing, it precedes both firstness and thingness. It is everythingness and the absence of itself (the unsensed = nothingness). In a way, sense cannot said to ex-ist until it had been divided and self-discovered through that division.  It is said that we are always living in the past as it takes a certain amount of neurological time for our sensations to be received and interpreted.  By that time, some features of the world which seem present no longer exist.  This is true as far as it goes, but we can’t necessarily judge personal experience by sub-personal scales of time. This is an important distinction for Multisense Realism, that reality itself has no absolute frame other than the frame of the Absolute – which is sense, not structure. Structure is an post-mortem on sense. Analysis is anatomical, not physiological – it requires that the subject be dead before the autopsy can be performed. Consciousness itself is literally the antithesis of that which can be analyzed, since as soon as you kill it or stop it, it is no longer conscious.

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

– first words of the Tao Te Ching

The eternal dance then, is of an eternal dance between dancers and stages made from the panoramic view above the bodies of previous dancers.

The failure of modern approaches to consciousness has been to presume a universe built up from nothingness rather than stepped down from everythingness. The idea has been (and it is a natural enough idea given our status as prisoners of the particular human stage we are dancing on) that objects, laws, forces, and information simply exists independently of experience of that existence. It is the gross oversimplification of human consciousness and anthropomorphism (again, completely understandable given that we are ‘supposed to’ live in a human world as human beings) which has led us to rule out panpsychism or panexperientialism. Even though the modern mind eagerly laps up explanations rooted in the metaphysics of mathematics, even to the grandly esoteric unrealisms of MWI, String Theory, memes, quantum teleportation, etc, any whiff of the possibility of awareness beyond Homo sapien awareness is greeted with loathing and skeptical intolerance. From this ‘View from Nowhere‘, nothing, it seems can be like us in this one sense, but everything must be exactly like us in every other sense.

Although this view of the universe from the perspective of a hypothetical omniscient-yet-otherwise-humanlike voyeur has been immensely productive for physics and science in general, it’s pseudo-objectivity comes at a price. What we gain in knowledge about public conditions is purchased with a loss of relevance of our private experience. This is a loss which is welcomed by the scientist, however, it becomes an insurmountable obstacle when approaching the science of consciousness itself. This cannot be overstated – there is no science of consciousness without the conscious subject themselves. We can study neuroscience, physics, biology, and evolution, but we can only find consciousness if we include the actual experience of it. Unfortunately the ease with which we have shifted into the outside-in perspective has made us complacent and arrogant with our worldview, to an extent that I would not hesitate to call it a kind of fundamentalism. MR is not anti-science, but scientific interpretations have in some instances, become a tautology of confirmation bias, particularly where consciousness and metaphysics is concerned. While all things are reduced to particles, force and information, the definitions of those terms are left unexamined – a mechanistic trinity of evacuated realism…doing without being, knowing without feeling.

What we are left with with the Western system, if we deny panpsychism, is some schedule of emergence. We reason retrospectively that the complexity of human experience emerges from the complexity of the activities of the human brain, therefore it is simply a matter of reverse engineering that complexity until we resolve some stage or program which models itself in this peculiar way involving data compression which seems qualitative rather than quantitative. Unfortunately, this approach is not likely to meet with any more success than the alchemical pursuits of gold from lead. Not because scientists are fools or unworthy of sacred knowledge, but because we have not sufficiently examined what awareness actually consists of and what it means to be without it.  When we do examine these issues more closely, we should discover that the omniscient voyeur is a hypocrite, and that his gaze (and it is a relatively masculine gaze) pretends to empirical transparency, to a universe beginning from zero, but denies this view is contingent upon awareness itself. The hypocrisy is that what is intended to be taken for impartiality becomes, when exported to the study of consciousness, a blindly anthropic ideology in which the entire universe is devoid of all sensory presence until human senses emerged to see it. I find this view of the universe to be amusing.

Andromeda Galaxy: “Hey Horsehead Nebula, how goes the eons?”

Horsehead Nebula: “Why I have no idea, I’m waiting for the Homo sapiens on that infinitesimal bit of wet iron wayyy over there to invent the telescope and tell me that I exist.”

Consider that any concept of sameness and difference can only be pattern recognition which can only be some kind of detection (sense). Motive, even though it comes ‘first’ by fertilizing the seemingly inert egg of sense, is actually a tendril of the egg itself – turned inside out. Motive is like ‘doing something important’ and it makes gives sense a head which turns every other sense into tails.

2. Dualism arises through the sense of discernment, a posteriori to the interaction of sense and motive. The multiplicity of perspectives which explode outward as body-spaces and implode within as experience-times are variations on the theme of duality. This Big Diffraction of unity into duality can be understood as the inner correlate to the Big Bang.

More on the Big Diffraction here.

3. The trinity of senseessence (significance of private experience), and existence (insignificance of public bodies) are what Multisense Realism is all about. This fundamental trichotomy, like a transistor with base, emitter, and collector, seems to be the minimum possible reduction of the cosmos. It can be found in many religions and philosophies;

  • The Trimurti – Brahma (creator – sattva), Vishnu (preserver – rajas), Shiva (destroyer – tamas)
  • The Holy Trinity – The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit
  • El Shaddai ש- God (יַהְוֶה) as Sustainer, Creator, Destroyer
  • Triad – Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis
  • Trichotomy – monadic (quality), dyadic (relation of reaction or resistance), or triadic (representational relation
  • Ante rem (Idea in God’s mind). In re (potential or actual in things). Post rem (mentally abstracted)
  • Presence, Absence, Degree
  • Unity, Plurality, Totality
  • Life as machine (Western). Life as organism (Chinese). Life as drama (Indian)
  • Body, soul, and spirit
  • Real, Symbolic, and Imaginary
  • Eternal, External, Eternal

The sense of how it all works together can be nominally mapped out as a syzygy. A syzygy is a fusion of opposites or a synchronized alignment of separate bodies:


In this image, the white center ‘syzygy’ would also represent ‘significance; and the question marks represent entropy and the unsensed. Will is synonymous with motive, and Body with matter.

*Panpsychism is the view that all matter has a mental aspect, or, alternatively, all objects have a unified center of experience or point of view. Gustav Theodor Fechner, Friedrich Paulsen,Ernst Heckel, Charles Strong, and partially William James are considered panpsychists.

Panexperientialism, as espoused by Alfred North Whitehead, is a less bold variation, which credits all entities with phenomenal consciousness but not with cognition, and therefore not necessarily with fully-fledged minds.

Panprotoexperientialism is a more cautious variation still, which credits all entities with non-physical properties that are precursors to phenomenal consciousness (or phenomenal consciousness in a latent, undeveloped form) but not with cognition itself, or with conscious awareness. – thoughtfulcynic

On the transcendence of subjectivity through pansensitivity:

As human beings, we enjoy an elaborate nesting of sense modalities, including a sense of that elaboration which we know as subjectivity. Our consciousness may be a special kind of consciousness which we may share with other animals, but perhaps not with anything else. Because of this, when we talk about consciousness we think of the state of being conscious of some phenomenal object. Bill Cummings has suggested that we might think of phrasing it differently, using ‘conscious as‘ instead of ‘conscious of’.

Applying this idea, our use of ‘conscious OF’ would be derived from “Consciousness AS a separate conscious agent relating to consciousness AS another separate appearance.”

Let ॐ = consciousness in general (pansensitivity, Absolute, etc)

Let X = consciousness AS a specific experience X = ॐ -¬X.

X could be any kind of conscious experience which is capable of isolation. A dog for example would be consciousness AS a dog, which would be a particular kind of X (Lets say X+Y) that can itself have worldly experiences OF all that is not herself.

The dog’s world, ¬X , is consciousness AS all that isn’t dog. When the dog uses the power of attention ( Y ), then the possibility of ‘conscious OF’ becomes realized. The ‘of’ quality is a feature of the particular X+Y kind of nested consciousness found in animals. Something like a plant may just be consciousness AS a plant, so that the plant need not be conscious OF anything, but rather is already a felt experience – consciousness as a plant, or as plants in general, or as botany, or whatever. The plant = X = ॐ -¬X but not X+Y.

In this way, we need not tie pansensitivity to the sense of subjective volition that we experience as conscious agents.


More on sense and nesting

Here is another crazy looking attempt at organizing the multisense model of perception. The top diagram emphasizes how the contemporary model assumes that all phenomenal interaction is at the particle level, effected via tangible collisions of microcosmic bodies in spacetime. Higher level experiences are imagined to be epiphenomenal abstractions tied to each other through exclusively bottom up logical mechanical functions. In this model, it must be admitted that consciousness can only be a metaphysical layer of unexplained illusion.


In the bottom diagram, the dualism of private experience in white on black, and public spacetime realism in black on white gives an idea of the involuted or ‘Ouroboran’ relation between the two aesthetics. The center region depicts the public stack of spatiotemporal scale relations from microcosm to macrocosm (particles<>cells<>tissues<>sense organs/organisms). The Caduceus like split helix implies a loose hierarchical, bidirectional overlap of interlocking forms and functions on different scales and their implicit interaction with the corresponding private experiences on corresponding levels (personal, sub-personal interiorities corresponds to macrocosmic, microcosmic exteriors).

The label ‘Sensory-Motor Experiences’ at the base designates that the totality can be understood literally as sensory motor phenomena but the label and dashed halo at the top refers to the figurative capacities for empathy, semiosis, social quorum and teleology.

In this model, all layers are phenomenal and physical and consciousness or sense is a fully enfranchised, participant in physics on every level. Interaction is multivalent and multi-directional, bottom up, top down, inside out, outside in, past forward, future back.

I appropriated this chart above, from the Wiki on umwelt, which is similar to my perceptual inertial frame, and adapted it for MR, adding the micro↑↓meso↑↓macro ↵ nesting on the objective cosmic side, and the {⇓ literal ⇔ figurative ⇑} anomalous symmetry on the subjective psyche side.

  1. September 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm


    In De Anima, Aristotle asked whether the awareness of seeing is given us by sight “or some sense other than sight”, and, if the latter, whether, “we must fall into an infinite regress, or we must somewhere assume a sense which is aware of itself.’

    : )

    • September 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Nice. I like to say “Sooner or later, something on some level has to sense something else”. As long at that’s true, I think that whatever level that occurs on is as good as any other, since all other forms of experience would necessarily trace back to that level. The only way out is to accept that sense is the absolute top and bottom of all possibilities, and it is that absoluteness which makes multiple universes redundant. One sense is all that is needed to make possibility and I think that no possibility can exist without sense as the sole synthetic a priori.

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