• Joshs
    5.3k
    Dennett's materialism would be categorised as a form of nihilism, according to the Brahmajala Sutta, 'the Net of Views', which meticulously documents the 64 (magic number!) varieties of eternalist and nihilist views. It is the first and longest text of the Pali suttas.Wayfarer

    I recently listened to a series of youtube videos by Verveake. He references Dennett in some of them, always positively. Honestly, comparing Vervaeke’s and Dennett’s understanding of cognitive science, I can’t find a lot of daylight between them. One might wonder, if Vervaeke derives his spiritual views from his understanding of the science, and his and Dennett’s empirical perspectives overlap substantially, how did they come to such sharply different conclusions concerning religion and spirituality? My answer is that I don’t think they did. What Dennett always attacked was a traditional form of religious belief, and Vervaeke is also critical of a personified deity. If we look closely at what exactly his faith consists of, it depends heavily on what he calls relevance realization, which is his answer to what he believes is a meaning crisis in today’s culture. I happen to think the meaning crisis pertains more to his personal journey than to a culture-wide phenomenon, and that his proselytizing on this topic has certain cult-like tendencies about it, but that’s a bit off-topic.

    To back up a few steps, Vervaeke considers what is unique about humans to be our ability to determine what is relevant, what matters in an incoming flow of information relative to our situational context. What’s important to understanding the basis of his notion of meaning , and spirituality, is that meaning relevance is not determined solely on the basis of our needs and goals, but must also be grounded in the real. He is not a direct realist, but believes that reality is relational, and not disclosable in some final fashion. There will always be more layers to unearth, and yet he believes firmly in fundamental empirical truths, as inaccessible as they may be. We can see the importance for him of truth in his scientific work, which is centered around research attempting to show that we allow video games and advertisements to deceive us concerning what is real. Self-deception plays an important role in his thinking.

    His spiritual perspective relies on two aspects of his scientific work, meaning as relevant relationality and as grounded in underlying truths. He is no relativist , because he is convinced that the sense of belongingness we all need so much is worthless unless it is anchored in a firm ground which provides us with a guiding empirical and moral compass. I think Dennett believed the same thing about the dual importance of relational interdependency in cognitive processes and grounding in the real , but being the pragmatic Yankee that he was, he shied away from a language that had the taint of religion.

    If you haven’t seen Vervaeke’s interview of Evan Thompson, I recommend it. I think it shows how a difference in interpretation of enactivism and 4EA cognition leads to different approaches to the spiritual. Even though Vervaeke claimed that his own work was strongly influenced by Varela, I dont think either Varela and Thompson buy into Vervaeke’s realism, and Thompson’s subtle distancing from Vervaeke in the interview reflects this. Thompson derives from his empirical work a reverence for the mystical, a sense of wonder an awe towards the world. This wonder doesn’t require a belief in a real grounding for what exists, if the real is understood in Vervaeke’s sense of that which is beyond deception. Thompson’s focus is on what creatively emerges rather than on what is connected to a pre-existing foundation.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    That's a very interesting reply.

    If we look closely at what exactly his faith consists of, it depends heavily on what he calls relevance realization, which is his answer to what he believes is a meaning crisis in today’s culture. I happen to think the meaning crisis pertains more to his personal journey than to a culture-wide phenomenon, and that his proselytizing on this topic has certain cult-like tendencies about it, but that’s a bit off-topic.Joshs

    I wondered about that.

    I dont think either Varela and Thompson buy into Vervaeke’s realism, and Thompson’s subtle distancing from Vervaeke in the interview reflects this. Thompson derives from his empirical work a reverence for the mystical, a sense of wonder an awe towards the world. This wonder doesn’t require a belief in a real grounding for what exists, if the real is understood in Vervaeke’s sense of that which is beyond deception. Thompson’s focus is on what creatively emerges rather than on what is connected to a pre-existing foundation.Joshs

    Would you say Thompson's view is compatible with a post-modern understanding of 'reality'. Do you think Thompson's views are in any way limited or 'skewed' by his Lindisfarne Association upbringing?
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    I take Dennett as a textbook example of scientific materialism, which I think is impossible to reconcile with any 'sense of the sacred' (and which is perfectly consistent with his role as 'evangelical atheist'.) According to his neo-Darwinian philosophy, that sense, like anything, can only be explained in terms of its value for group or social cohesion, as there is no grounding to its existence save that provided on the molecular level. Whatever can’t be reduced to that has no real existence. Let there be no ambiguity about this:

    …through the microscope of molecular biology, we get to witness the birth of agency, in the first macromolecules that have enough complexity to ‘do things.’ … There is something alien and vaguely repellent about the quasi-agency we discover at this level — all that purposive hustle and bustle, and yet there’s nobody home.” Then, after describing a marvelous bit of highly organized and seemingly meaningful biological activity, Dennett concludes:

    Love it or hate it, phenomena like this exhibit the heart of the power of the Darwinian idea. An impersonal, unreflective, robotic, mindless little scrap of molecular machinery is the ultimate basis of all the agency, and hence meaning, and hence consciousness, in the universe.
    From Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, quoted by Steve Talbott on 'The Illusion of Randomness'

    As to the ‘meaning crisis’, I take Vervaeke at face value (even though I haven’t listened to the whole series). He locates the crisis the loss of the sense that the Cosmos is meaningful. He's not a religious polemicist but an academic scholar with a broad range of interests. He frequently refers to a kind of neo-neo-platonist cosmology, summarized here and in the associated lecture. He is critical of physicalist reductionism, and I think there's plenty of daylight between he and Dennett on that score. Everything in that lecture says that top-down is an equal and important factor, which Dennett contemptuously dismisses as 'sky-hooks'.

    I notice this talk references the theological philosopher Catherine Pickstock, who's come up on my radar:

    Catherine-Pickstock.jpg

    'The grammar of knowing and the grammar of being must be very similar (even if the content is different)' he says at around 49:22 in reference to Pickstock, who's most recent book is Aspects of Truth : A New Religious Metaphysics.

    If you haven’t seen Vervaeke’s interview of Evan Thompson, I recommend it.Joshs

    I'll watch it. I've listened to the interview between Vervaeke and Kastrup on Kurt Jaimungal's podcast a couple of times. Overall, my philosophy is much nearer Kastrup than Vervaeke, but then, I also think there's much less daylight between them, than between either of them and Dennett. I value Vervaeke even where I diverge from him, for the breadth of scope and the seriousness of his approach. (I went back to find the Kastrup-Vervaeke interview, but found there's an entire playlist. I can't recall which one I listened to but I think it was the first in the series.)
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    I will add that the entire picture of molecules which 'do things', and create the only 'sense of agency' that meaningfully exists in the Universe, is painfully and self-evidently rooted in the (false) Cartesian dichotomy of 'matter and spirit'. So 'the real Universe', in that view, comprises solely the fundamental units of the physical sciences (and to hell with 'quantum wierdness' :rage: ), which (somehow) gives rise to what appears as mind or experience, even if nobody can quite figure out how that happened (it's a hard problem!) or what purpose the nature of first-person experience might serve.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Just ordered the Pickstock book, hardcover, dammit :fear:
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    And I’ll correct something I said above - Descartes himself, of course, would never accept that ‘the real universe’ comprised only the physical. But the way he conceived the model lead to the ‘ghost in the machine‘ critique because of the inherent implausibility of a ‘spiritual substance’.
  • mcdoodle
    1.1k
    I take Dennett as a textbook example of scientific materialism, which I think is impossible to reconcile with any 'sense of the sacred'Wayfarer

    I may have mentioned to you before that I am personally taken with Jane Bennett's notion of 'vibrant matter'. This doesn't contradict scientific materialism, exactly, but it claims a vitality in all things, a 'thing power', which we generally overlook as it requires us to be highly attentive to the ecology of any situation. (I think the idea descends from Latour) Her view decenters us from the human, but also from the merely atomic, as she explores the issues for instance of 'mood' and 'atmosphere'. According to her John Hopkins website 'She is currently working on notions of a creative cosmos, in ancient Greek thought and in classical Daoist philosophies'.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    She sounds interesting. Seems a flavor of panpsychism. One of the emerging alternatives. We live in interesting times!
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    I will add, ‘cosmos’ means ‘ordered whole’. According to Alexander Koyré, philosopher of science, the advent of modern science put an end to that sense of cosmos. The cosmos is no longer seen as an ordered whole but rather as an infinite, homogenous space characterised by mathematical laws and devoid of inherent meaning. So we still talk of a ‘scientific cosmology’ but in some ways it is an oxymoron.
  • Apustimelogist
    395

    I like reading about these ideas, something both very poetic and powerful about them.

    What is the Buddhist view about creating life? If they see life as just suffering and the ultimate goal is ending the cycle of suffering, death, birth - "extinction" - (as far as I understand), then wouldn't they be anti-natalist?
  • Joshs
    5.3k


    I take Dennett as a textbook example of scientific materialism, which I think is impossible to reconcile with any 'sense of the sacred' (and which is perfectly consistent with his role as 'evangelical atheist'.)
    …through the microscope of molecular biology, we get to witness the birth of agency, in the first macromolecules that have enough complexity to ‘do things.’ … There is something alien and vaguely repellent about the quasi-agency we discover at this level — all that purposive hustle and bustle, and yet there’s nobody home.” Then, after describing a marvelous bit of highly organized and seemingly meaningful biological activity, Dennett concludes:

    Love it or hate it, phenomena like this exhibit the heart of the power of the Darwinian idea. An impersonal, unreflective, robotic, mindless little scrap of molecular machinery is the ultimate basis of all the agency, and hence meaning, and hence consciousness, in the universe.
    — From Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, quoted by Steve Talbott on 'The Illusion of Randomness'
    Wayfarer

    How does the above quote differ from this by Varela?

    "...lots of simple agents having simple properties may be brought together, even in a haphazard way, to give rise to what appears to an observer as a purposeful and integrated whole"

    And how does Varela goal of naturalizing Husserlian phenomenology differ from a materialism?

    It is our general contention indeed... that phenomenological descriptions of any kind can only be naturalized, in the sense of being integrated into the general framework of natural sciences, if they can be mathematized.”

    Let me share how I think it differs from Dennett. Varela and Thompson have no interest in abandoning naturalism and the Darwinian framework that explains the genesis of organisms and human cognition. But they realized that the implications of insights coming from Eastern meditative traditions, phenomenology and cognitive science required a re-definition of the meaning of the natural, the material and even the dynamics of evolution. This is not such a radical move, given that the concept of materialism has undergone many transformations over the centuries. The crucial way in which Varela and other enactivists have rethought materialism is by making the relations between elements more reflexive and reciprocal. Rather than thinking materiality in terms of the relations among pre-assigned causal properties of elements of a system, the properties of the elements depend on the dynamics of the system as a whole as they feed back to affect and change the nature of the elements. The irreducible unit of a dynamical system is the assembly as an agential , ‘subjective’ whole. This makes possible the understanding of the organization of living systems and consciousness as more functionally integral and normatively motivated, and integrates organism and environment more fully, than via the reductive, atomized materialism of Dennett.

    This new materialism, as it has been called in some quarters, doesn’t restrict its notion of agency and subjectivity to living things with cognitive systems , but applies equally to the physical world independent of any interaction with sentient creatures. Materiality is fundamentally agential in that it produces elements from within assemblages that are inherently perpsectival , from within which matter ‘matters’ in a particular way.

    The kind of spirituality that Varela and Thompson derive from this model rests on what is immanent to dependent co-arising. Is this so terribly far removed from Dennett’s delighting in our developing ability to care about a world whose meaning is produced by, as Varela put it,

    “..lots of simple agents having simple properties that are brought together, even in a haphazard way, to give rise to what appears to an observer as a purposeful and integrated whole"?

    And don’t Vervaeke’s machinic technologies of relevance realization inhabit an intermediary position between Varela and Dennett?

    “…manipulating Relevance Realization affords self-transcendence and wisdom and insight precisely because
    Relevance Realization is the ability to make the connections that are at the core of meaning, those connections that are quintessentially being threatened by the Meaning crisis. That would mean if we get an understanding of the machinery of this (Synoptic Integration Construct of RR), we would have a way of generating new psycho-technologies, re-designing, reappropriating older psycho-technologies and coordinating them systematically in order to regenerate, [be] regenerative of these fraying connections. Relegitimate and afford the cultivation of wisdom, self-transcendence, connectedness to ourselves and to each other and to the world.
  • Joshs
    5.3k
    Would you say Thompson's view is compatible with a post-modern understanding of 'reality'. Do you think Thompson's views are in any way limited or 'skewed' by his Lindisfarne Association upbringingTom Storm

    Thompson has worked closely with another enactivist, Shaun Gallagher, who has published pieces such as Conversations in Postmodern Hermeneutics, so I think he would be comfortable with the label. When Thompson discusses his childhood, he has as many critical as positive things to say about the varieties of spirituality he was exposed to. I think he came away with the idea that there was something of value which was worth pursing further , but he did so with a healthy dose of caution and skepticism. I think even to this day he doesn’t have anything like a fully thought-out stance on spirituality.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Thanks, well said. I will consider that in my ongoing readings. But I still see Dennett and Dawkins as representing the cause of the meaning crisis, not the solution to it. There's nothing like the blatant hostility towards every and anything deemed 'religious' in those other writers, that is evident throughout their polemics.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    What is the Buddhist view about creating life? If they see life as just suffering and the ultimate goal is ending the cycle of suffering, death, birth - "extinction" - (as far as I understand), then wouldn't they be anti-natalist?Apustimelogist

    'Early' Buddhism certainly saw existence as a malaise, a woeful condition to be escaped by the renunciation of the world. However the 'new' Buddhism - not that it's new today, as it developed around the first century CE - introduced a different perspective, that of the Mahāyāna, or 'Greater Vehicle', which recognised that Bodhisattvas (wisdom-beings) might be born voluntarily for the benefit of sentient beings:

    How rebirth takes place

    There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarise themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence. On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.
    HH The Dalai Lama, 'Reincarnation'
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    There's a deep conversation here between Vervaeke and an Elizabeth Oldfield about Vervaeke's thoughts on God, religion and everything.

    https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2023/11/08/john-vervaeke-on-fundamentalism-trauma-and-embodying-wisdom

    He was brought up in a fundamentalist family, but later in life discovered he was actually the progeny of an illegitimate relationship, which was highly traumatic. He then turned 'east' but also deeply into science.

    Some snippets:

    God is where we find a relationship between sacredness and ultimacy. And like you said, I think that’s inherently relational. But I’m using that as a stand–in for whatever. My partner is sacred to me, because I have that connection. But I do not think – although there’s mysterious depths to her that I can never fully grasp – I do not think of her as Ultimate Reality. And so, I think we have notions, and they could be Tao, or Brahman, or Śūnyatā (vacuity), of ultimacy. And then, if we have sacred experiences of the ultimacy, that’s sort of the epitome of what I think you’re putting your finger on.

    The cognitive revolution was based on the idea that humans are not stimulus–response machines, they’re meaning–making entities.

    I cultivated a professional persona that compensates for that [shyness]. And I’m in this persona right now. So, as long as I’m in this persona, I’m well, but if you put me in a context where that persona is not appropriate, like a traditional party at somebody’s house, I become sort of indistinguishable from a potted plant.

    If people come to my work and find a way to “rehome” – and I’m going to use that as a strong verb, rehome – in one of the legacy religions, great! I am not anti–religious.

    --

    Varela and Thompson have no interest in abandoning naturalism and the Darwinian framework that explains the genesis of organisms and human cognition.Joshs

    I don't challenge naturalism on empirical grounds, but a distinction can be made between biology and biological reductionism. The empirical facts of evolution and the development of species are a field of study, but a lot is read into it, and inferred from it, due to the overvaluing of science, the kind of 'evolution as a religion' attitude that Mary Midgely and others have criticized. Again, Dennett is a poster-boy for that kind of scientism, Varela and Thompson have a different attitude altogether. (You know that Varela collaborated with the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist scholars and practitioners to explore the intersections between cognitive science and Buddhist philosophy. This collaboration was part of the Mind and Life Institute, which he co-founded in 1987 to foster dialogue between science and Buddhism. In the later years of his life, Varela took formal Buddhist vows.)

    The irreducible unit of a dynamical system is the assembly as an agential , ‘subjective’ whole.Joshs

    Why the scare quotes around subjective? It is either subjective or it's not. That attempt to generalise or fudge subjectivity into, well, everything, seems another version of pan-psychism to me.

    Here's another thing Vervaeke says in that interview:

    I do a lot of work on kinds of knowing other than propositional knowing. And maybe at some point we can talk about that procedural, perspectival, participatory, and that cognition is embodied, embedded, enacted, extended. So the theory is actually pointing away from an over–intellectualised, over–individualised understanding of meaning, cognition, intelligence, rationale. The evidence is growing, the theoretical argument, the evidence is growing.

    I think that the kind of cosmic consciousness that I'm drawn to - the unitive vision, the mystical experience - is something in this register. It's not propositional knowledge, and if it's put into bald propositional form, it comes across as nonsense. It's a re-orientation, a different way of being and seeing. Isn't Heidegger also about that? The video posted above, The Philosophical Silk Road, is also replete with references to it.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    If you haven’t seen Vervaeke’s interview of Evan Thompson, I recommend itJoshs

    I’ve found one, at least, which starts with a discussion of Thompson’s latest book, The Blind Spot. I started a thread on the precursor article to the book five years ago and it was thoroughly bollocked at the time for being ‘click bait’ and a sad error of judgement by an otherwise profound philosopher (although I think that reaction was primarily because it was me who posted it. I’ll have to listen later, I’ve already had enough Vervaeke for one day.)
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    How does the above quote differ from this by Varela?Joshs

    Because Dennett’s quote references organic molecules, and Varela’s references ‘simple agents’. If ‘simple agents’ are e.g. cellular, then they’re already at a different ontological level to organic molecules. Dennett’s model is strictly reductionist with solely bottom-up causality. As soon as you take emergence into account, and the top-down causality associated with strong emergence (in Vervaeke’s terms), then it’s already radically different to the ‘flat ontology’ of reductionism (the thrust of the first 20 minutes of the Vervaeke keynote I listed to today.) I’m starting to get Vervaeke’s idea of ‘levelling up’ in which each level, such as the sub-atomic, molecular, and organic, reveals different facts or truths about reality. These levels are not isolated but mutually influence each other, forming an interconnected web of existence. And they’re emphatically not reducible to lower levels, such as the atomic or molecular. This perspective helps in understanding the complex, multi-layered nature of reality and how various levels of being are interdependent, shaping and being shaped by one another. This perspective mirrors Plotinus’ view that all levels of reality are part of a continuous, dynamic process of emanation and return to the One, emphasizing the unity and interrelation of all aspects of existence. There’s nothing like that in Dennett’s model. In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Dennett argues that the complexity of biological and cognitive phenomena can be explained solely through natural, evolutionary processes that build up from simple to complex structures (“cranes”) without invoking any mysterious, top-down causation (“skyhooks”).

    In short: chalk and cheese.
  • Joshs
    5.3k


    Because Dennett’s quote references organic molecules, and Varela’s references ‘simple agents’. If ‘simple agents’ are e.g. cellular, then they’re already at a different ontological level to organic molecules. Dennett’s model is strictly reductionist with solely bottom-up causality. As soon as you take emergence into account, and the top-down causality associated with strong emergence (in Vervaeke’s terms), then it’s already radically different to the ‘flat ontology’ of reductionism (the thrust of the first 20 minutes of the Vervaeke keynote I listed to today.)Wayfarer

    I think you’re on the right track in thinking Dennett’s approach too reductive. But it’s important to appreciate that his model of cognition stands as a critique of symbol-manipulating logical models of which use the serial computer as a metaphor. In its time, parallel distributed connectionism, which Dennett embraced, was considered an important step beyond Cartesian descriptions of mental processes. Connectionism doesn’t claim to reduce directly to the molecule-physical level.

    Chemistry has been shown to reduce, in some sense, to physics, and this is clearly a Good Thing, the sort of thing we should try for more of.

    Such progress invites the prospect of a parallel development in psychology. First we will answer the question "What do all believers-that-p have in common?" the first way, the "conceptual" way, and then see if we can go on to "reduce" the theory that emerges in our first answer to something else—neurophysiology most likely. Many theorists seem to take it for granted that some such reduction is both possible and desirable, and perhaps even inevitable, even while recent critics of reductionism, such as Putnam and Fodor, have warned us of the excesses of "classical" reductionist creeds. No one today hopes to conduct the psychology of the future in the vocabulary of the neurophysiologist, let alone that of the physicist, and principled ways of relaxing the classical "rules" of reduction have been pro-posed. The issue, then, is what kind of theoretical bonds can we expect—or ought we to hope—to find uniting psychological claims about beliefs, desires, and so forth with the claims of neurophysiologists, biologists, and other physical scientists?

    We are going to have to talk about the ephemeral, swift, curious, metaphorical features of consciousness.

    Many people say: "Some day, but not yet. This enterprise is all just premature." And others say: "Leave it to the philosophers (and look what a mess they make of it)." I want to suggest that it is not premature, that in fact there is no alternative but to start looking as hard as we can at consciousness first. If we don't look at consciousness and get clear about what the destination is, and instead try to work our way up by just thinking about how the brain is put together, we won't know where we are trying to get to from where we are and we will be hopelessly lost. This is commonly referred to as the defense of the top-down strategy, and in looking at Jaynes's book again this morning I find that in his introduction he has one of the clearest and most perspicuous defenses of the top-down approach that I have ever come across:

    We can only know in the nervous system what we have known in behavior first. Even if we had a complete wiring diagram of the nervous system, we still would not be able to answer our basic question. Though we knew the connections of every tickling thread of every single axon and dendrite in every species that ever existed, together with all its neurotransmitters and how they varied in its billions of synapses of every brain that ever existed, we could still never—not ever—from a knowledge of the brain alone know if that brain contained a consciousness like our own. We first have to start from the stop, from some conception of what consciousness is, from what our own introspection is. (Jaynes, 1976, p. 18)
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Thanks,pleased to have some elements of agreement. I've been reading Deacon's Incomplete Nature which I think also has relevance to this subject.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    'Early' Buddhism certainly saw existence as a malaise, a woeful condition to be escaped by the renunciation of the world. However the 'new' Buddhism -Wayfarer

    Sounds like a turn for convenience. If you can’t beat them (the masses) have them join you by justifying the status quo.

    Also the idea of karma is a convenient way to kick the responsibility down the road no? A self fulfilling prophecy. You want a family because you aren’t born enlightened enough yet. Don’t worry, in the next life you might be a celibate monk eating a handful of rice. You’ll get ‘em next time :lol:.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    I suspect Vervaeke sits with all those theorists and self-help folk who seek to offer a remedy for common anxiety.Tom Storm

    I think you summed up religion in a nutshell, sir. Hats off to you. Daoism tries to find the flow in the ordinary and Buddhism to escape the suffering of the angst..Epicureanism and Stoicism roughly the same. Some don’t need bigger meaning, they want microdose flow states from a good game of chess or zoning out to a video game. The remedy ends up being just variations of acceptance and escapism of the daily grind.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    Thank you. No doubt others will think my take is wrong headed. :wink:
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    I think it is clear that Vervaeke is a Platonist, but his relationship with naturalism seems a bit complicated. Maybe it would be better to say that he wishes to redirect naturalism away from its anti-Platonist history. It may all come down to the question of how Plato and Vervaeke understand God and transcendence. At the very least I would say that Vervaeke is opposed to the standard, reductionist tropes of naturalism, such as materialism. What do you think?Leontiskos

    Question from here.

    The key idea is his 'levelling up' - rather a peculiar turn of phrase, but what it means is that there are different levels of description, and also reality, but that these all influence each other, upwards and downwards. He says that reductionism, which produces a 'flat ontology', wishes to account for everything in terms of its atomic or sub-atomic basis. Whereas in reality, top-down constraints are equally important in the actual processes of living beings. (This is the subject of Awakening from the Meaning Crisis>Episode 6>Aristotle Kant and Evolution.) He often mentions this book, Context Changes Everything, Alice Juarrero which also got a bit of attention here on the forum in years past.

    (I also recently listened to a keynote lecture he gave on neoplatonism and levels of being. The problem with Vervaeke is there's so much of him! Awakening from the Meaning Crisis is, what, 52 hour-long lectures, and then there's numerous other interviews, guest appearances, panel discussions....life's too short....)
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    - Okay thanks, that is helpful. :up:
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    More and more, I'm understanding how the 'Western mindset' has lost a vital perspective, and that the resulting worldview is like a two-dimensional depiction of a three-dimensional reality. (It is like the scenario that McIntyre describes at the beginning of After Virtue, with scattered fragments from a library lying about, that we no longer know how to connect.) That lost perspective *is* the qualitative dimension. But that claim is nearly always challenged on the basis that qualitative judgements are personal and subjective and that there is no scientific basis to them. I think this is what Awakening from the Meaning Crisis is addressing. But Vervaeke is - I would say first and foremost - a cognitive scientist, so he doesn't endorse any kind of sentimentality or romanticism. It's a factual issue, but it's also qualitative (in one of the last talks I listened to he rejects the 'fact-value' dichotomy).

    Related to this - I have the sense that the One of Plotinus *is not* a concept. I think arriving at an understanding of it requires a kind of cognitive transformation although that too is very difficult to fathom. I recall from the IEP entry on Pierre Hadot: 'Hadot argues in Plotinus, or the Simplicity of Vision, that the famous Neoplatonic metaphysics of the One, the Ideas, and the world-psyche is not the abstract, purely theoretical, otherworldly construction it is often presented as being. Rather, Hadot claims, in Plotinus’ Enneads the language of metaphysics “is used to express an inner experience. All these levels of reality become levels of inner life, levels of the self” (PSV 27). For Hadot, Plotinus’ metaphysical discourse is animated by a “fundamental but inexpressible experience.” ' Later in the same article, Hadot distances himself from Plotinus' ascetic mysticism but nevertheless this is a recurring theme in his later studies of philosophy as a way of life. That also chimes with Vervaeke's continual stress on philosophy as a transformative understanding, albeit remaining fully conversant with and aware of natural science.
  • Paine
    2.1k
    Related to this - I have the sense that the One of Plotinus *is not* a concept. I think arriving at an understanding of it requires a kind of cognitive transformation although that too is very difficult to fathom.Wayfarer

    The inner experience is important in the thinking. What a 'concept is' is also considered. The work also makes a claim upon how the universe works just as other such claims do. Every component is located through the pattern drawn.

    I tender Plotinus' objections to the Gnostics as evidence for this view. The conflict between views of a natural good and a flawed creation concern the expectations of the future, for all who live.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    :up:

    There's a passage from David Bentley Hart which I've quoted a number of times recently:

    In the pre-modern vision of things, the cosmos had been seen as an inherently purposive structure of diverse but integrally inseparable rational relations — for instance, the Aristotelian aitia, which are conventionally translated as “causes,” but which are nothing like the uniform material “causes” of the mechanistic philosophy. And so the natural order was seen as a reality already akin to intellect. Hence the mind, rather than an anomalous tenant of an alien universe, was instead the most concentrated and luminous expression of nature’s deepest essence. This is why it could pass with such wanton liberty through the “veil of Isis” and ever deeper into nature’s inner mysteries. — David Bentley Hart, The Illusionist

    I'm exploring the idea that the reason the natural order was seen as 'akin to the intellect', is because the ancients and pre-moderns did not have the sense of separateness or 'otherness' to the Cosmos that we ourselves do. That in turn is because of a different conception of the nature of self. It's very hard to identify or articulate, because it's a foundational or intuitive sense of the natural order, our innnate intuitive sense of 'the way things are'. (I'm not claiming their sense is superior to ours in any scientific sense, as the ancients were not scientifically informed as we are, but that it is highly significant as an existential stance or way-of-being.)

    See for example the beginning of the chapter on Plotinus in Eric Perl's 'Thinking Being':

    Plotinus follows Plato, and, indeed, Aristotle, in identifying being, τὸ ὄν, that which is, as form. As in Plato, sensible things exist just insofar as they have and display intelligible forms. The forms themselves, therefore, as that which is intelligible and in virtue of which sensible things are at all, are reality (οὐσία, ouisia). Sensible things thus are not reality itself and are not beings in the full and proper sense, but, in that they have some share of intelligibility, are images of true, intelligible reality. But Plotinus goes further than Plato and Aristotle in developing both Plato’s συνουσία, synousia, the togetherness of intellectual apprehension and intelligible reality, and Aristotle’s doctrines of pure form as one with the act of thinking and of intellect as one with the intelligible, into a far more thorough and explicit account of the coinciding, the unity-in-duality, of being-as-form and intellectual apprehension. — Eric D Perl, Thinking Being, p 119

    That sense is also preserved in Aquinas, in the 'union of the knower with the known', which characterises the apprehension of the forms of particulars:

    Knowledge presupposes some kind of union, because in order to become the thing which is known we must possess it, we must be identical with the object we know. But this possession of the object is not a physical possession of it. It is a possession of the form of the object, of that principle which makes the object to be what it is. This is what Aristotle means when he says that the soul in a way becomes all things. Entitatively the knower and object known remain what they are. But intentionally (cognitively) the knower becomes the object of his knowledge as he possesses the form of the object.Aquinas Online, Cognition in General

    This theme of 'union' in some ways echoes the idea of union in many different schools of the perennial philosophy. This is what is lost in the transition to modernity, particularly with the advent of Cartesian dualism and the separateness of mind and matter.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Updates for this thread: I've belatedly started working through the lecture series for Awakening from the Meaning Crisis which was the origin of Vervaeke's online material.

    The playlist can be found here. There's also a companion website here which contains, among other things, transcriptions of the series.

    The lectures all contain bibliographies of the books mentioned. I stress again Vervaeke is first and foremost a cognitive scientist, and many of the books he references are from cognitive science and psychology. When he discusses mysticism, which he does, he has a way of framing it so that it makes sense from a cognitive science perspective. But he's also pretty well-versed in philosophy and the history of ideas. New Age dross, it ain't.

    There's a lot of material - I've generally been listening while working out or driving, both of which I'm doing a fair amount of at the moment. But it does form a comprehensive curriculum.
  • Paine
    2.1k
    Plotinus follows Plato, and, indeed, Aristotle, in identifying being, τὸ ὄν, that which is, as form. — Eric D Perl, Thinking Being, p 119

    I am not aware of any text from those three that supports this statement.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    You can find that book online - which is just as well, as it's out of print and very expensive in hard copy. It was one of the books mentioned in the video series this thread is about, which is how I found it.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.