Archive for the 'Self' Category
I look at the relations among the current mainstream disciplines, and their mutual relations and differences, and I then project slightly forward into the future, say 50 years or so, and imagine how they might look then.
On many views, physics holds the foundation place in the structure of knowledge. It is closely related to the absolutism and rationality of mathematics, and it also grounds our consensus view of reality. Chemistry is mostly applied physics, with a few structural constraints thrown in, that are visible in the periodic table. But organic chemistry is different, by virtue of two things: on the one hand, the chemicals play a role in the alchemy of life – a process for which we have no fundamental understanding. Life arises, but that is a novelty of an unparalleled sort. Identity irrespective of materiality. Exchange all the atoms, but keep the processes, and you retain identity. On the other hand, the exchanges and processes in which the molecules partake are geometrically extended in three dimensions. The 3-D shape of the molecule determines its fit to another element, say as neurotransmitter to receptor, or body to antibody. Full Story »
We fret about first and third person perspectives. Some work on second person perspectives. Let’s stop this constricting tyranny of linguistic number and allow the perspectives to multiply freely. Let us encourage multiplicity of perspectives.
I prick my finger. The pain is tiny and intense and brief. It is small and focussed. It is all that is there, for just an instant. Then it abates, and the finger itself comes into focus. Tiny, trivial, and briefly, all that exists.
Billions of years from now, the Earth is a dead ball, to be consumed by a solar cataclysm. Nobody cares, because somewhere along the line, everyone died and nobody replaced them.
Between these two, there exists an infinity of perspectives, each with its own causal structure, its own rationality, its own story.
We wrestle, and fail to topple, hard questions of the other and the view of the other. We fight military battles, insurgent battles, domestic battles, political battles, all with right on our side, and not on the side of the other. The other does the same. Right, it seems, is everywhere.
Me against my brother. Me and my brother against my cousin. My cousins and brothers against our neighbours. Our family and neighbours against those from the next town. All the local townspeople against our more distant countryfolk. All the people of the country against the foreigners (near). Us and near foreigners against the distant foreigner. Where do we stop? Do we wait until the alien attack to talk some sense? Or do we recognize that this was ever so, and that the gradient goes further, beyond the species boundary. Limited human rights for Apes. Primates over mammals. Mammals over reptiles. Vertebrates over invertebrates. Animals over fungi and plants. Life over . . .
And there it ends.
For whatever life is, we are.
There is a clash at the moment: two ways of knowing about ourselves are on offer, and they are very incompatible. From where I’m standing, it looks as if both grew out of psychology, but in fact one *is* latter day cognitive psychology and much attendant baggage, while the other looks Eastern, almost Taoist at times. The latter emerges from a consideration of the combined insights of the enactive tradition (both Noë and Varela), Harry Heft’s synthesis of Gibsonian Ecological Psychology and Barker’s Ecobehavioral Psychology, Coordination Dynamics and similar Dynamical approaches, Radical Constructivism, and more besides, I’m sure. Full Story »
Conventional psychology condems its believers to solipsism. P-world theory may look similar at first blush, but it is important not to identify with the P-world. The P-world is all that is first-person: born of the lawful relation between sensory flux and attendant movement that arises in an animate being. It brings forth the raw material for a world, but that, alone, could never account for the world we encounter. Our world, in turn, arises from our collective constitution. Collective constitution is the means by which we escape the prison of solispsim built by psychology. Full Story »
Current film editing techniques are more than likely partly responsible for the silly naive realism that seems to underpin so much of our thinking about ourselves. It used be, in early film, and hence also in experimental film, that the camera represented a single point of view, and that was important. But with modern editing, view changes. The distributed logic of film editing does violence to the notion of a single point of view. I bet that’s a modern change brought about by film. Perhaps changing again right now though, with the proliferation of cameras that do stand in rough correspondence to single points of view. The Tsunami, for example.
We need not belabour the apparent similarity between us and bonobos. Increasingly, we find evidence of similarity between us and some surprising counterparts, like cuttlefish, or dogs. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. To look at the ape connection is to believe that “we are the product of our genes”. But you can look at forms of coupling, at lots and lots of different kinds of things, and see “us” just as surely. Because we are not merely the product of our genes. That is not what it is to be “us”, even though we increasingly see what “that” is. “We”, the word, increasingly refers to media, coupling media. We need to learn to read the surfaces around us, with due accord paid to our differences as well as our commonalities.
Crick’s amazing hypothesis states:
“You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons.
How might we demur? My suggestion is to question the simplistic use of the personal pronoun, “you”, to refer to the antics of a bag of meat. If you (jake) believe that this word (you) refers to the carry on of your body, then Crick is probably right. However, if, as seems clear to me, the use of the personal pronoun is anything but simple, and refers to stuff that is both individual and collective, then it unravels.
From The Full Story:
The cell, and the world encountered by the cell, form a unity. The encounter between them is described by the perception/action relation. In that encounter, they are not separable. They are one.
and earlier, the Koan:
The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks were arguing about the flag. One said, “The flag is moving.” The other said, “the wind is moving.” They could not agree, no matter how hard they debated. The sixth patriarch, Eno, happened to come by and said, “Not the wind, not the flag. It is the mind that is moving!” The two monks were struck with awe.
This notion of a unity, that comprises subject and object, unifies the CSP view with that of Maturana. I think.
Sometimes, we increase our understanding by introducing distinctions. If you look at a lump and can’t figure out its structure, you might make a distinction, and notice that the lump is a composite of two distinct things, and suddenly you understand its structure much better. We do this all the time, as when we identify two kinds of diabetes, with similar symptoms (the lump) but distinct etiologies (juvenile and acquired). Or when we learn the name of a new flower.
At other times, we learn by reconciling apparently distinct things. In this case, we see two entities turning out to be but different images of the same underlying structure. We do this often also, as when reading a story, the plot falls into place and you can reconcile previously incongruous sub-plots, or when we recognize the mother in the child.
Should we consider these to be distinct enterprises? Is the first Science and the second Religion? Hardly. Yet the knowledge offered by the contemplative traditions seems to be that obtained by following the second course exclusively, while the first is a caricature of purely reductionistic science.
But I think in bringing experience under the fold of collective inquiry, or in finding ways of discussing experience that, at least, do not offend scientists too much, we are making progress in the second way, and science, or our common stock of understanding, improves as a result. Here are some that merit our attention:
In talking about minds, we habitually use the terms “inner” and “outer”. This is a strange linguistic habit, and we should be taken somewhat aback if asked about the spatial referents of these terms. There are none, although convention locates the “inner” space within the head. However, if we look inside, we see only brains. Unifying these two is a huge hurdle, and possibly one of the resolutions of opposites that may be said to accompany enlightenment. The extended mind thesis testifies to the possibility of unifying the language in which we discuss these two, though it stops short of recognizing that they are not distinct realms, going for the cheap gag of making you imagine your mind somehow leaking out into the world.
Another pair that admit of unification is rather surprising: perception and action are not separate things. We have been thinking of them as input and output to something, and have identified with the middle bit, and called it mind. However, the cellular example (described elsewhere) perfectly illustrates the relation between perception and action, whereby we can see that they are co-determining, and not in a relation as cause and effect. This is true for a single cell, and it is true for humans. We can see the direct relationship only sometimes: the swaying room in which the optic flow at the retina allows the coupling of room and torso motion nicely illustrates the coupling between perception and action which is so tight that they become indistinguishable. Nervous systems mediate this relationship, making it harder for us to see, but the lawfulness of the relation still obtains. The mediation is what ultimately gives rise to phenomenal worlds. So if perception/action are unified, that places us in a bit of a bind. It presents with the puzzle of interpreting present experience, which now seems to be deterministic or at least sufficiently lawful that it will not support our notions of volition and agency. If the perception/action relation is invertible, present experience does not consist of cause and effect.
One way out of this bind is to recognize the P-world as distinct from the self. The P-world is present experience, and in recognizing it, we can learn to overcome several dualities. In present experience, the P-world, the subject/object divide is no more. There is no distinction between the perciever and the percept. Attention/Salience is another dualism that is hereby overcome. Salience is the “outer” form of attention. Attention the “inner” form of salience. Damasio does this nicely in his work when he distinguishes between emotion and feeling (if I am correct here, I need to check), one of which is the phenomenological concept, the other the observable counterpart.
I just retraced some rather faded handwriting on the white board. To do so, I had to entrain my movement (and all is movement, when we look at it), to a past series, as I thought those thoughts and wrote them on the board.
This is just like synchronous speech, where two people try to match their motor control. Remember, all we see is that brains move muscles. So when we ask about shared experience, that must mean shared movement. Is movement all muscle? Is it just shared dynamic?
Can you find a few people to do exercises in shared movement with? It’s not quite dance, but it is also. But its not about expression, but resonance. Neither alone nor together, but resonance.
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