• apokrisis
    4.2k
    'Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.' ~ Max Planck.Wayfarer

    I both agree and also again make the point that this is really saying "nature" and "mystery" themselves form a dialectical construct. They are a thought made concrete by creating a convincing opposition.

    So the "eternal dilemma" is that if there is something definite and unmysterious, like a nature that exists, then logically - by the accepted convention that is dialectical reasoning - there must be its "other" of a mystery which is "why even that existence".

    So the issue becomes whether there really is a problem, or the problem is the logic we feel so compelled to apply ... in metaphysical analysis.

    Clearly my answer is that it is analysis that is the problem. You need to have also a logic capable of synthesis.

    Hegel made the same mistake as Aristotle in how he approached a logic of synthesis. They didn't quite get it. But Peirce - through his logic of vagueness - did.

    So Peirce at least offers a metaphysical logic that can - in the mode of scientific reasoning - do the most to minimise mystery. The story of nature can never be absolutely certain. But a logic of vagueness (a triadic sign relation logic) can minimise that uncertainty the best of any logical approach.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k
    I don't see consciousness as anything fundamental in the world, just what it is like to be a really complex version of a modelling relation.apokrisis

    So what is really the story is that there is a systems perspective. Instead of life or mind being ontic simples - animating spirits - they are understood in terms of a particular species of complexity. And the job is to seek explanations in those terms. Once you get that and start looking around, you find there are a whole range of people and groups who have been feeling the same elephant. They might all use different jargon. But they are arriving at the same kind of insights.apokrisis

    The problem is that "the world", "complexities", and "systems" are all things created by the mind. Now you're trying to turn this around, and claim that the world, and complex systems create a mind. So you have now committed the error of being twice removed from reality, which Plato warned us against. The conscious mind creates "the world:, then claims that this world created the conscious mind. So the conscious mind, in this representation is twice removed from reality as the thing created by the world, instead of the thing which creates the world.

    So your perspective is no further along than Plato's people in the cave. Instead of looking directly at the mind, to know and understand the mind itself, you are looking at the world which the mind has created, and trying to understand how this world could have created a mind. Misunderstanding is therefore inevitable.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    The problem is that "the world", "complexities", and "systems" are all things created by the mind. Now you're trying to turn this around, and claim that the world, and complex systems create a mind.Metaphysician Undercover

    Yeah. But that epistemic problem is accepted as the starting point of pragmatism. That is the bleeding difference here. Pragmatism doesn't pretend to do more than organise experience in a way that minimises our uncertainty and so warrants our beliefs.

    We make ontic commitments as abductive hypothesis. And then we believe them because they work so far as we can judge.

    So your perspective is no further along than Plato's people in the cave.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well in fact it is.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k
    But that epistemic problem is accepted as the starting point of pragmatism.apokrisis

    Then pragmatism cannot provide the basis for any serious ontology because it does not give mind its proper priority with respect to reality.

    Well in fact it is.apokrisis

    I don't think so. Ontologically it is the very same position as those cave dwellers, a complete misapprehension of reality.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    he's decided on what he believes and then supports in what may well add up to pseudo-scientific terminology. (I don't know for sure, as I'm not well versed enough in maths to judge it, but that's my intuitive feel for it.)Wayfarer

    This was my first reaction. He tries to hard to be acceptable to academia. But who can blame him considering what academia (dominated by materialists) had done to everyone who has dated challenge the supremacy of materialism-determinism. They positively crucify everyone who introduces a concept that is not hard-circuited.

    As a result, the whole presentation feels almost apologetic in characteristic. I prefer the way Sheldrake treats his inquisators and taunts then for their clownish antics. But by far the most awesome dissection of the question of perception has to be Stephen Robbins's. It's dry, but extremely precise and actually provides a true model using Bergson's insights as the core. Truly way ahead of their times.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    Your talk of "mind" is just another ontic construct. We believe it to the extent it helps us make sense of "the world".

    You don't seem to realise how anything you might say here is already trapped inside a language game.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k

    Quite true, if you believe in the idea of language games. But it's quite obvious that we can think and act without using any language. So the mind is not trapped by these language games, as many believe it is.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    You say it is obvious but then psychology shows that isn't true. You can only think and act like an animal if you don't have language to structure thought and action like a human.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Rational animal, thank you. It's a qualifier that makes a fundamental diifference.
  • Janus
    5.7k


    You're misunderstanding: I'm not arguing that we know, or are conscious of, what gives rise to experience; I'm arguing against the idea that we have any way of knowing, and certainly against the idea that it is simply self-evident, that consciousness does this, or even that it unifies experience.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    This was my first reaction. [Hoffman] tries to hard to be acceptable to academia. But who can blame him considering what academia (dominated by materialists) had done to everyone who has dated challenge the supremacy of materialism-determinism. They positively crucify everyone who introduces a concept that is not hard-circuited.Rich

    I'm sure he's a top guy, but the issue I have is that I think there are more simple and direct ways of making his basic argument. When he tries to argue for it on the grounds of evolutionary biology, I am dubious about that, but I will take that up another time.


    You're misunderstanding....Janus

    I was responding to your question:

    if it is unconscious, then how could you know that it is consciousness doing the integrating?Janus

    I'm not saying that actually understanding all of these processes is common knowledge, but I think the 'existence of the unconscious' and the idea of the role it plays is common enough knowledge. But, maybe it's not. I was trying to explain the sense in which I think it is meaningful to say 'consciousness creates the world', and I think I succeeded in doing that. That aspect of Hoffman's philosophy is what I'm inclined to agree with.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    In terms of philosophy, I prefer succinctness and clarity. If someone had something interesting and new to say, then say it so that everyone can understand it. On the other hand, I take this type verbosity and obfuscation as well as obvious internal contradictions as a sign of weakness. Once in a while I am blown away with a simple new thought that may take one sentence to state. In this case, I understand the gimmick but nothing new.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    OK, I will try and spell out what I see as a basic problem with Hoffman's evolutionary argument. He says that we are cognitively adapted to the needs of survival, and that this produces our consciousness of the world. He says:

    Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be.

    He also says:

    According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness.

    The question I would have is that, if the correlation between evolution and cognition it is so watertight, then how does he propose to see through it? How does science see through it? And the related question is: what of mathematics and logical inference? Are these also the products of natural selection, such that their aim is always tacitly to ensure the survival of the species? And if so, why are we to believe what they tell us?

    That strongly resembles an argument which is used against evolutionary reductionism, namely 'the argument from reason'. If our knowledge of the world is simply the product of adaptive necessity, then is reason itself always in the service of survival? And if it is, how can we trust it?

    I don't believe it is. I fully accept the facts of evolution, but I believe that once h. sapiens crosses a certain threshold, she is able to see things in a way that are not simply 'biologically determined'. Such, indeed, is the meaning of the 'sapience' after which our kind is named.

    As I mentioned earlier in this thread, I think that Hoffman's basic argument can be said to be a version of the ancient philosophical thread 'appearance vs reality'. He is saying, that what we take to be real objects, are really just what he calls 'icons' which the organism that we are use to negotiate the environment. He says he doesn't doubt that there is a real, objective, and mind-independent world, but that we don't see that world. The world we do see, comprises the evolutionarily-conditioned experience of that world, which is shaped first and foremost by the requirements of survival.

    So even though he appears to be arguing for a kind of idealism or pan-psychism, he's actually using a purely Darwinian type of logic - that everything about the human organism can be understood in purely evolutionary terms.

    And that is the part of the argument that I really doubt. I don't think that Darwinian biology or evolutionary theory does have that kind of reach. Of course nowadays you are practically obliged to agree that everything about h. sapiens can be understood through the perspective of evolutionary biology, but I'm not sure I do. As I said above, h. sapiens, by virtue of being a language-using, story-telling, and rational being, is able to understand in modes that are not strictly determined by biology. That is why, for one, the distinction between 'appearance and reality' has such a long provenance in philosophy. Indeed I could argue that part of the intuition of philosophy itself, is to transcend the purely biological, the instinctive side of the organism that is purely concerned with survival and propagation. After all, it was ancient philosophy, first and foremost, which first preached renunciation and celibacy, and that certainly flies in the face of the presumed supremacy of the 'selfish gene'.

    So I would say of Hoffman, overall: right idea, wrong reasons for holding them.
  • praxis
    702
    As I said above, h. sapiens, by virtue of being a language-using, story-telling, and rational being, is able to understand in modes that are not strictly determined by biology. That is why, for one, the distinction between 'appearance and reality' has such a long provenance in philosophy. Indeed I could argue that part of the intuition of philosophy itself, is to transcend the purely biological, the instinctive side of the organism that is purely concerned with survival and propagation. After all, it was ancient philosophy, first and foremost, which first preached renunciation and celibacy, and that certainly flies in the face of the presumed supremacy of the 'selfish gene'.Wayfarer

    Don't we need to understand the motivations behind renunciation before concluding that it's inconsistent with biology?
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Don't we need to understand the motivations behind renunciation before concluding that it's inconsistent with biology?praxis

    How would you go about understanding those motivations? Which discipline would that fall under?
  • Galuchat
    474
    Thanks for your careful reply.

    To start, I question the value of trying to define consciousness as that already puts it in the class of a thing rather than a process. — apokrisis

    Surely, even a process can be defined. And the value of defining consciousness lies in the fact that it is the topic of this thread (i.e., its definition facilitates discussion).

    Once you know enough about how the brain executes any function, you can see why it has the particular qualitative character that it does. — apokrisis

    What types (i.e., classes) of functions do you think brains execute?

    But the question of "why any qualitative character at all - when perhaps there might be just zombiedom?" is the kind of query which already reifies awareness in an illegitimate way...So I am starting with the belief that awareness is the outcome of a certain species of systems complexity. — apokrisis

    How is awareness related to consciousness and mind?

    To think the Hard Problem actually makes sense is to have already concluded consciousness is an ontic "simple", against all the scientific evidence that it is what you get from an unbelievably complex and integrated world modelling process. — apokrisis

    Please cite a scientific paper which concludes that consciousness emerges from "an unbelievably complex and integrated world modelling process" (or even from neurophysiological processes). I will email it to Hoffman.

    In addition to consciousness, do you think mind is an emergent property of this "world modelling process"? If so, is there any empirical evidence which can be cited in support? If not, is it an empirical or conceptual question?

    What do you think about Hoffman's mathematical derivation of quantum physics from conscious agent interaction (apparently, it's the only bit of Conscious Realism the scientific community is taking seriously)?

    Salthe coined the idea of infodynamics. Pattee really sharpened things with his epistemic cut. And then this particular group of systems biologists heard about Peircean semiotics - which had pretty much been lost until the 1990s - and realised that they were basically recapitulating what Peirce had already said. So as a group they did the honourable thing and relabelled themselves bio-semioticians. — apokrisis

    The Tartu Schools of Semiotics (Moscow) and Biosemiotics (Copenhagen) produced work from many scholars beginning in the 1960s.

    There were other allied groups around. Dozens of them. I was part of Salthe and Pattee's group - having looked around and found they were head and shoulders above the rest. — apokrisis

    In what way were you "part of Salthe and Pattee's group"? Were you enrolled in one of their courses at, or employed as a research assistant by, SUNY Binghamton?

    The proper question we ought to be asking is what kind of fundamental system or process is a brain (in a body with a mind)? That is, we know the brain with its embodied modelling relation with the world is a really complex example of living mindfulness. It meets your working definition in terms of "the set of conditions experienced, and functions exercised, by a psychophysical being which produce personal and social behaviour." — apokrisis

    Thanks for endorsing my working definition of "mind", however; it says nothing about brains or modelling relations, because I don't think brains model anything; human beings model the world, brains host neurophysiological activity. So, if you think that brain=mind, my definition of mind should be inadequate.

    Is there such a thing as non-living mindfulness? If so, please provide a one or two sentence definition (i.e., not an explanation of systems, complexity, information, emergence, or pansemiosis, although I would gladly accept the use of any of these words in your definition).
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Thanks for taking the time to articulate your views. It seems there are two primary threads in Hoffman's approach:

    1) Consciousness is primary, fundamental, irreducible. No way to get around this. There is no way to have consciousness to spontaneously emerge from some soup of dead chemicals and out of no where develop this extraordinary "desire to survive". Ok, this and an endless number of other objects make the scientific model pretty far fetched and it would be ceremoniously rejected as fantasy if it was not so heavily marketed by the neurological medical industry. There's a lot of money riding on this model so the science behind their model has become entirely goal seeking while building an impregnable, moat around its idea (it's very, very big and very, very, complex, and it took a very, very, long time).

    2) Then he goes on and tries to couch this simple idea with suffocating verbiage which is self-contradictory within a single paragraph concerning the precise nature of consciousness. This for me is usually a a red flag. Internal contradictions hidden with excessive verbiage and complicated mathematics is almost always a sign of obfuscation.

    I would say he probably has one or two ideas which could be presented in a single slide that are derivative of those of others. Nothing new and nothing that even approaches the precision of description of Bergson and Robbins. I would say the only real merit of his presentation is that there is another philosopher who is willing to state, though not clearly, that the neurological model rests on quicksand and there is no reason to buy into it or take it seriously. Consciousness (mind) had to be considered fundamental.
  • praxis
    702


    Referring to the selfish gene puts it squarely in a social context, so sociobiology, a field of scientific study based on the hypothesis that social behavior has resulted from evolution would seem a good choice of discipline. There's a large body of work done in the area, including 'inclusive fitness theory' and even a mathematical formula (Hamilton's rule: rB>C) for predicting whether the predisposition towards a given altruistic act is likely to evolve. However it's not clear if renunciate behavior is altruistic, cooperative, or even selfish in nature. I suppose it could be any one of the three in different individuals and circumstances.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Don't we need to understand the motivations behind renunciation before concluding that it's inconsistent with biology?
    — praxis

    How would you go about understanding those motivations? Which discipline would that fall under?
    Wayfarer

    Referring to the selfish gene puts it squarely in a social context, so sociobiology,praxis

    Right. Well, you're illustrating my point, which is the exaggerated role of biology in Western culture. I say that this approach is reductionist in that it reduces every question about human nature to a function of biology.

    I'm aware of the ingenious Hamilton mathematics, but I'm also aware that there is an acrimonious debate going on between E O Wilson and Richard Dawkins about 'kin selection' which is in part related to this topic (see here.)

    Me, I don't think sociobiology has anything in particular to do with the understanding of the spiritual, psychological or religious motivations behind renunciation. But as the kinds of people who look at such questions from the perspective of biology, are not well-schooled in other disciplines, such as comparative religion, cultural history or anthropology, then they will invariably try and understand it in those terms. 'If the only tool you have is a hammer', said Abraham Maslow, 'everything looks like a nail.'

    Then [Hoffman] goes on and tries to couch this simple idea with suffocating verbiage which is self-contradictory within a single paragraph concerning the precise nature of consciousness. This for me is usually a a red flag. Internal contradictions hidden with excessive verbiage and complicated mathematics is almost always a sign of obfuscation.Rich

    I think it's more that he wishes to present his thesis in the terms his audience will understand, and so has created a mathematical model, justified with relation to evolutionary theory, which is the only kind of model that the audience he wishes to impress will take seriously. If he instead spoke about the issue in purely philosophical terms, he would then be simply another guy in the philosophy department, with the resulting loss of prestige and social kudos. This way, he gets to wear 'the white coat of authority'.
  • praxis
    702
    I don't think sociobiology has anything in particular to do with the understanding of the spiritual, psychological or religious motivations behind renunciation.Wayfarer

    I doubt any sociobiologists have studied renunciation specifically.

    But as the kinds of people who look at such questions from the perspective of biology, are not well-schooled in other disciplines, such as comparative religion, cultural history or anthropology, then they will invariably try and understand it in those terms. 'If the only tool you have is a hammer', said Abraham Maslow, 'everything looks like a nail.'Wayfarer

    Your point challenged the sociobiological interpretation so naturally it should be taken into account. By excluding it aren't you lightening your toolbox... Anyway, I was just curious if you had investigated the motivation behind renunciation using any tool.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I think it's more that he wishes to present his thesis in the terms his audience will understand, and so has created a mathematical model, justified with relation to evolutionary theory, which is the only kind of model that the audience he wishes to impress will take seriously. If he instead spoke about the issue in purely philosophical terms, he would then be simply another guy in the philosophy department, with the resulting loss of prestige and social kudos. This way, he gets to wear 'the white coat of authority'.Wayfarer

    I guess in this case we are talking less about the selfish gene and more the urge to impress gene, both of which evolved naturally through selective evolution.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    I was just curious if you had investigated the motivation behind renunciation using any tool.praxis

    I majored in comparative religion, and also studied anthropology, in which I covered a range of theories of religion and religious psychology.

    The point I was making was comparing Hoffman's analysis with traditional metaphysical accounts of 'appearance and reality'. From the standpoint of evolutionary theory, metaphysics doesn't really make any sense, as it really can't be said to provide any kind of survival advantage. I threw in the 'selfish gene' as I regard Richard Dawkins as epitomising biological reductionism. For him, whatever exists only does so because it represents a survival advantage. Even reason and language are depicted in evolutionary terms, as 'adaptions'. But, asking the question, adapted for what, the answer can only be the propagation of the genes - that is the only rationale possible for evolutionary biology. So renunciation is completely off the radar for that kind of attitude, it makes no sense whatever in biological terms. To try and rationalise it in those terms would be to misunderstand its purpose.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    Bear in mind that you are taking a very partial view of current evolutionary arguments. So the idea that life has the global purpose of surviving is being replaced by the idea it serves the greater purpose of entropification or dissipation.

    Then also, cooperativity is a necessary part of any level of systematic organisation. So renunciation or altrusistic behaviours can be explained naturally that way.

    Finally to the degree that renunciation is not a fit behaviour given the global goals of life, naturalism predicts it will be minimised. And look around. Do you see much renunciation going on in the modern consumer society?

    So naturalism makes predictions. And those predictions look confirmed.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k
    Rational animal, thank you. It's a qualifier that makes a fundamental diifference.Wayfarer

    I don't think I would call that difference "fundamental". What is fundamental, is that we and other animals are all animals. So when I said to apokrisis, that minds are not trapped by language games, this is because other animals which do not necessarily play language games still have minds. The point being that language is not a necessary feature of a mind, but a mind is necessary for language. Apokrisis, with a reverse, or inverted, ontology, assuming semiotics as fundamental, wants to claim that language brings mind into existence. Since the reverse is really the case, minds bring language into existence, this is just a further indication that apokrisis promotes a backward ontology.

    I fully accept the facts of evolution, but I believe that once h. sapiens crosses a certain threshold, she is able to see things in a way that are not simply 'biologically determined'. Such, indeed, is the meaning of the 'sapience' after which our kind is named.Wayfarer

    What is the point to assuming such a "threshold"? Each particular animal is different from every other, I am different from you. One species is different from another. Why consider that there is a special difference between humans and other species? That doesn't make sense to me. All species are different from each other. But human beings are different in a special way? Consider if we carried that principle to individuals. You'd be saying "all human beings are different but I am different in a special way". Sure, we have that special talent of being rational, but other animals have there own special talents as well. What makes one special talent more special than another special talent? I think we could only justify this by relating this special talent to something further, like God, and saying that this talent brings us closer to God therefore it really is special.

    The world we do see, comprises the evolutionarily-conditioned experience of that world, which is shaped first and foremost by the requirements of survival.Wayfarer

    Where evolutionary theory misleads us is with the idea that the special traits of the different species are created by the survival process. It is a fact, that the special traits which we can observe today, are the ones which have survived, but this does not lead to the conclusion that these traits were caused by survival. The traits must have been produced by the creativity of the living creatures in the first place. This creativity, which is the actual cause of variations and species is completely neglected by evolutionary theory, which dismisses it as randomness. Imagine if we looked at human acts this way. To conform in your activities is to be normal, but to be creative is to produce something out of line with the norm, something which considered in relation to the norm could only be apprehended as random. All creativity in human acts could be considered as nothing other than randomness.

    Indeed I could argue that part of the intuition of philosophy itself, is to transcend the purely biological, the instinctive side of the organism that is purely concerned with survival and propagation.Wayfarer

    This is where I think perhaps you misunderstand the purely biological, instinctive side of the organism. To be creative is just as much of an instinct as is survival and propagation. Each individual has one's own instincts, and of these three, some will emphasize one more than the other, we are all different. Just because the field of biology has focused on instincts like survival and propagation because they do not have the tools to understand creativity as it falls outside the limits of inductive reason, this does not mean that creativity is not biological. It just means biologists will see creativity as random acts.

    The point I was making was comparing Hoffman's analysis with traditional metaphysical accounts of 'appearance and reality'. From the standpoint of evolutionary theory, metaphysics doesn't really make any sense, as it really can't be said to provide any kind of survival advantage. I threw in the 'selfish gene' as I regard Richard Dawkins as epitomising biological reductionism. For him, whatever exists only does so because it represents a survival advantage. Even reason and language are depicted in evolutionary terms, as 'adaptions'. But, asking the question, adapted for what, the answer can only be the propagation of the genes - that is the only rationale possible for evolutionary biology. So metaphysics is completely off the radar for that kind of attitude, it makes no sense whatever.Wayfarer

    So in response to this paragraph, I think we need to respect that there is a whole category of things which living creatures do, which are not done for the purpose of survival, nor propagation. This category can be loosely described as creativity, and metaphysics is within this. But just like other traits we have, which are also created by us, we can only observe those which survive. So survival is more of a conditioning agent, and survival needs to be distinguished from the creativity of the living being, which is the true cause here. Creativity, just like metaphysics, cannot be made sense off from an evolutionary perspective because it does not necessarily increase one's chance of survival, nor does it necessarily increase propagation. However, it is an essential part of life which cannot be overlooked.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    Surely, even a process can be defined.Galuchat

    I defined the core process. Semiosis or the modelling relation.

    What types (i.e., classes) of functions do you think brains execute?Galuchat

    I just gave an example. Object boundary detection. Mach bands.

    The Tartu Schools of Semiotics (Moscow) and Biosemiotics (Copenhagen) produced work from many scholars beginning in the 1960s.Galuchat

    Yep. It was happening in Europe too.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    this is just a further indication that apokrisis promotes a backward ontology.Metaphysician Undercover

    No. It just illustrates your special gift of understanding everything backwards.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I agree with your analysis and anyone who spends just a minimum amount of time analyzing selective evolution will quickly realized how preposterous it is. Even evolutionary biologists are running away from this theory even though it is still bring taught in schools as facts, simply because it is a nice simple story that can be taught to children in opposition to the equally fascinating story of biblical Genesis. Both religions are c competing for young minds.

    With that said, it is clear thanks in every day we are constantly using our creative minds to figure out how to adapt to different conditions of all types, some relating to economic conditions and others that are totally parenthetical. Today I tried to figure out how to adapt to a new table tennis table. It's really remarkable how successfully science had peddled this natural selection nonsense.

    As for all the self-love that humans have for its own species, I would say from where I stand it is a giant embarrassment to be associated with it.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k

    Thanks, any time I'm told that I have a special gift (which is exceedingly rare), I will not hesitate to take that as a compliment.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Thanks, any time I'm told that I have a special gift (which is exceedingly rare), I will not hesitate to take that as a compliment.Metaphysician Undercover

    I'm just thrilled that we have a significant thread that treats minds and humans as real and not just robotic computers that are emeshed in some sort of universal illusion created by .... robotic computers??
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