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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 13

Farlig Gulstein

Paranormal Maven



Paranormal Adept
I received an email notice today that @Soupie had posted on the subject of animal consciousness but I don't see the post here. Would love to read it.


Paranormal Adept
I received an email notice today that @Soupie had posted on the subject of animal consciousness but I don't see the post here. Would love to read it.
I tried to upload a video but I think the file was too big. If I come across a link to it, I’ll post the link.


Paranormal Adept
Transpersonal Psychology is a discipline with relevance and indeed significance for Consciousness Studies. Following the death of my daughter in 2007 I looked for a grief therapist to help me cope, and happened to be connected to one whose field was Transpersonal Psychology. I've just come across a notice of a recent book, linked below, which extends and re-envisions this discipline and has received a positive review from Stanislav Grof, the founder of TP. I post the link for others here who might be interested in an overview and further development of this theory and therapy in its insights into the nature of consciousness.

Amazon.com: Revisioning Transpersonal Theory : A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality (Suny Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology) eBook: Ferrer, Jorge N.: Kindle Store

Book description and extracts from reviews:

"In his striking debut, Jorge N. Ferrer deconstructs and reconstructs the entire transpersonal project, articulating a more sophisticated, pluralistic, and spiritually grounded transpersonal theory. He brings recent ideas in epistemology and the philosophy of science to bear upon core issues in the psychology and philosophy of religion. The book's first half (Deconstruction) describes the nature and origins of the prevailing vision that has guided transpersonal scholarship so far, and identifies some of its main conceptual and practical limitations: subtle Cartesianism, spiritual narcissism, intrasubjective empiricism, and reductionistic universalism. In the second half of the book (Reconstruction), Ferrer suggests a way of reconceiving transpersonal ideas without these limitations—a participatory vision of human spirituality, one which not only places transpersonal studies in greater alignment with the values of the spiritual quest, but also discloses a rich variety of spiritual liberations, spiritual worlds, and even ultimate realities."

"This is a brilliant and mature book that is bound to become a classic. Extremely well researched and documented and full of remarkable insights and ideas, it is not only an important original contribution to the theory of transpersonal psychology, but also a work that brings clarity into many problem areas that in the past were plagued by confusion and controversy. It very likely will prove influential in determining which direction the development of transpersonal psychology will take in the future." -- Stanislav Grof, author of Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research

"Ferrer's narrative opens one surprise after another until slowly the reader begins to 'wake up' and finds him or herself thinking about old problems in a new way. It is learning how to think in this fresh way, free from the grid of conventional transpersonal theory, that is the true accomplishment of this work. Revisioning Transpersonal Theory represents a significant turning point in transpersonal thought." -- Christopher M. Bache, author of Dark Night, Early Dawn: Steps to a Deep Ecology of Mind


Paranormal Adept
I meant to post this paper but can't find it here, so here it is again:

American Philosophical Quarterly
Volume 57, Number 1, January 2020
©2019 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

Anna Marmodoro
Matteo Grasso

Abstract: Are colors features of objects “out there in the world” or are they features of our inner experience and only “in our head?” Color perception has been the focus of extensive philosophical and scientific debate. In this paper we discuss the limitations of the view that Chalmers’ (2006) has characterized as Primitivism, and we develop Marmodoro’s (2006) Constitutionalism further to provide a metaphysical account of color perception in terms of causal powers. The result is Power-based Constitutionalism, the view that colors are (multi-track and multi-stage) powers of objects, whose (full) manifestations depend on the mutual manifestation of relevant powers of perceivers and the perceived objects being co-realized in mutual interaction. After a presentation of the tenets of Power-based Constitutionalism, we evaluate its strengths in contrast to two other recent power-based accounts: John Heil’s (2003,2012) powerful qualities view and Max Kistler’s (2017) multi-track view.



Paranormal Adept
Zoocentrism in the weeds? Cultivating plant models for cognitive yield
Biology & Philosophy volume 35, Article number: 49 (2020) Cite this article
"It remains at best controversial to claim, non-figuratively, that plants are cognitive agents. At the same time, it is taken as trivially true that many (if not all) animals are cognitive agents, arguably through an implicit or explicit appeal to natural science. Yet, any given definition of cognition implicates at least some further processes, such as perception, action, memory, and learning, which must be observed either behaviorally, psychologically, neuronally, or otherwise physiologically. Crucially, however, for such observations to be intelligible, they must be counted as evidence for some model. These models in turn point to homologies of physiology and behavior that facilitate the attribution of cognition to some non-human animals. But, if one is dealing with a model of animal cognition, it is tautological that only animals can provide evidence, and absurd to claim that plants can. The more substantive claim that, given a general model of cognition, only animals but not plants can provide evidence, must be evaluated on its merits. As evidence mounts that plants meet established criteria of cognition, from physiology to behavior, they continue to be denied entry into the cognitive club. We trace this exclusionary tendency back to Aristotle, and attempt to counter it by drawing on the philosophy of modelling and a range of findings from plant science. Our argument illustrates how a difference in degree between plant and animals is typically mistaken for a difference in kind."

Zoocentrism in the weeds? Cultivating plant models for cognitive yield


Paranormal Adept
Matteo Grasso,
University of Milan,
[email protected]

"Integrated information theory and the metaphysics of consciousness"

Abstract: In recent years, many philosophical and neuroscientific theories of consciousness were proposed with the aim of solving the hard problem of consciousness. Giulio Tononi's Integrated Information Theory (IIT) defines consciousness as integrated information and provides an account of its quantitative and qualitative aspects based on cognitive neuroscience research (Tononi, 2004, 2008). Even if IIT covers the phenomenal aspects of consciousness, until now this theory has not been object of a philosophical analysis. In this paper I propose a categorization of IIT within the main metaphysical positions about consciousness. To do that I model a taxonomy of positions based on Chalmers (2002) descriptions of three possible strategies to face up to the hard problem: materialism (type-A and B), dualism (type-D and E) and non-reductive monism (type-F). I show that these positions and their subtypes are distinguished by respect of four basic metaphysical assumptions, that are: naturalism, the causal closure of the physical world, the existence of an explanatory gap, and the existence of an ontological gap. I analyze which of these four assumptions IIT accepts and which denies, and finally I conclude that IIT is compatible with type-B materialism and type-F monism. Since these positions are different under many aspects, I argue that IIT's metaphysical assumptions have to be discussed further for IIT to represent an exhaustive theory of consciousness."


--> scroll down to the pdf


Paranormal Adept
Illuminating review of Christof Koch's new book, The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread but Can't Be Computed (Mit Press) Paperback – Illustrated, September 8, 2020
by Christof Koch (Author)

Steven H Propp, TOP 50 REVIEWER
Reviewed in the United States on July 14, 2020

"Christof Koch is a German-American neuroscientist who is president and chief scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and was formerly a professor at the California Institute of Technology.

He wrote in the Preface to this 2019 book, “How does the mental relate to the physical? Most assume that the mental emerged from the physical when the physical became sufficiently complex… Yet are we really to believe that until that point in time… the world ‘[was]… quite properly speaking not existing?’

Alternatively, perhaps the mental was always present, allied with the physical, but not in a form readily recognizable? Perhaps consciousness predates the arrivals of big brains? This is the less-travelled road that I will take here… Then there is the urgent question of the day---can computers experience anything?... human-level artificial intelligence may come into the world within the lifetime of many readers. Will these AIs have human-level consciousness to match their human-level intelligence? In this book, I will show how these questions… are now being addressed by scientists… the science of consciousness has seen dramatic progress over the past decade… Much cognition occurs outside the limelight of consciousness. Science is bringing light to these dark passages where strange, forgotten things live in the shadows.” (Pg. xi-xii)

He continues, ‘After considering why consciousness evolved, [this book] turns to computers. The basic tenet of today’s dominant faith … is that digital, programmable computers can, in the fulness of time, simulate anything, including human-level intelligence and consciousness… According to integrated information theory, nothing could be further from the truth. Experience does not arise out of computation… While appropriately programmed algorithms can recognize images, play Go… and drive a car, they will never be conscious… because it lacks the intrinsic causal powers of the brain… It will claim to have experiences, but that will be make-believe---fake consciousness… Consciousness belongs to the natural realm… it has causal powers… I will show that the intrinsic causal powers of contemporary computers are puny compared to those of brains.” (Pg. xiii-xiv)

He states in the first chapter, “Consciousness is experience… any experience, from the most mundane to the most exalted… I use these two words [awareness and consciousness] interchangeably. I also do not distinguish between FEELING and EXPERIENCE… As I use it, any feeling is an experience. Collectively taken, then, consciousness is lived reality. It is the feeling of life itself… Without experience, I would be a zombie, a nothing to myself.” (Pg. 1) He adds, “What would be simpler? Consciousness is the way the world appears and feels to me.” (Pg. 3)

He outlines, “every conscious experience has five distinct and undeniable properties: each one exists for itself, is structured, informative, integrated and definite. These are the five essential hallmarks of any and all conscious experiences, from the commonplace to the exalted, from the painful to the orgiastic.” (Pg. 9)
He notes, “over the past century the scientific perspective on consciousness has undergone a curious inversion: consciousness has been evicted … and has migrated downward. There is nothing refined, reflective, or abstract about … [a] vast multitude of experiences… If this is the true state of affairs, then it is overwhelmingly likely that not only humans but many and perhaps most animals, small and large, experience the world. Indeed, it turns out that our most refined cognitive abilities, such as thinking or being creative, are not even directly accessible to experience.” (Pg. 34)

He continues, “Creativity and insight are two key aspects of intelligence. If these are inaccessible to conscious introspection, then the relationship between intelligence and consciousness is not straightforward. Maybe these are really two different aspects of the mind? Isn’t intelligence ultimately about acting smart in the world and surviving, whereas experience is about feeling? Under that view, intelligence if all about doing, while experience is about being.” (Pg. 36)

He states, “I see no need to invoke exotic physics to understand consciousness. It is likely that a knowledge of biochemistry and classical electrodynamics is sufficient to understand how electrical activity across vast coalitions of neocortical neurons constitute any one experience. As a scientist, I keep an open mind. Any mechanism not violating physics might be exploited by natural selection.” (Pg. 69)

He considers the philosopher David Chalmers: “Chalmers asks whether the existence of zombies is at odds with any natural law… Chalmers concludes that no natural law precludes the existence of such zombies… conscious experience is an additional fact above and beyond contemporary science. Something else is needed to explain experience. He acknowledges the existence of … empirical observations that link the material world to the phenomenal one… But WHY certain bits and pieces of matter should have this close relationship to experience is a mystery that is hard, and perhaps even impossibly hard, to solve. Integrated information theory (ITT) … doesn’t try to squeeze the juice of consciousness out of the brain. Rather, it starts with experience and asks how matter must be organized to support the mental.” (Pg. 73-74)

He explains, “You have arrived at the heart of the book… According to integrated information theory (ITT), consciousness is determined by the causal properties of any physical system acting upon itself. That is, consciousness is a fundamental property of any mechanism that has cause-effect power upon itself… The theory takes the five phenomenological axioms of experience that I introduced in the first chapter … and formulates for each one and associated causal postulate, a requirement that any conscious system has to obey… these causal powers are identic to conscious experience, with every aspect of any possible conscious experience mapping one-to-one onto aspects of this causal structure.” (Pg. 79)

He acknowledges, “we still do not know what survival value is attached to experience. Why are we not zombies, doing everything we do but without any inner life? On the face of it, nothing in the laws of physics would be violated if we didn’t see, hear, love or hate but still acted as we did. But here we are, experiencing the pains and pleasures of life.” (Pg. 119-120)

He observes, “Some … argue that consciousness has no causal role at all. They … argue that feelings have no function… I find this line of argument implausible. Just because consciousness isn’t needed to accomplish a well-rehearsed and simplistic laboratory task in no way implies that consciousness has no function in real life… Consciousness is filled with highly structured percepts and memories of sometimes unbearable intensity. How could evolution have favored such a tight and consistent link between neural activity and consciousness if the feeling part of this partnership had no consequences for the survival of the organism?... If experience had no function, it would not have survived this ruthless vetting process.” (Pg. 120-121)

Returning to the issue of computers, he says, “Fast forward a few decades into the future when … anatomically accurate whole-human-brain emulation technology … can run in real time on computers. Such a simulation will mimic the synaptic and neuronal events that occur when somebody sees a face or hears a voice. Its simulated behavior … will be indistinguishable from those of a human. But as long as the computer… resembles in its architecture the von Neumann machine … it won’t see an image… it won’t experience anything. It is nothing but clever programming. Fake consciousness---pretending by imitating people at the biophysical level.” (Pg. 150)

He admits, “To the extent that I’m discussing the mental with respect to single-cell organisms let alone atoms, I have entered the realm of pure speculation, something I have been trained all my life as a scientist to avoid. Yet three considerations prompt me to cast caution to the wind. First, these ideas are straightforward extensions of ITT… to vastly different aspects of physical reality… Second, I admire the elegance and beauty of this prediction. The mental does not appear abruptly out of the physical… Third, ITT’s prediction that the mental is much more widespread than traditionally assumed resonates with an ancient school of thought: PANPSYCHISM.” (Pg. 160)

But then he adds, “But panpsychism’s beauty is barren. Besides claiming that everything has both intrinsic and extrinsic aspects, it has nothing constructive to say about the relationship between the two. Where is the experiential difference between one lone atom zipping around in interstellar space, the hundred trillion trillion making up a human brain, and the uncountable atoms making up a sandy beach? Panpsychism is silent on such questions… Most importantly, though, ITT is a scientific theory, unlike panpsychism.” (Pg. 162)

He continues “Finally, panpsychism has nothing intelligible to say about consciousness in machines… [Whereas] ITT offers a principles, coherent, testable and elegant account of the relationship between these two seemingly disparate domains of existence… grounded in extrinsic and intrinsic causal powers.” (Pg. 166)

He concludes, “ITT can rank species according to the quantity of their consciousness, a modern version of the ‘Great Chain of Being.’ … I understand the squeamishness that such a ranking provides. However, we must take the graded nature of the capacity to experience into account if we are to balance the interests of all creatures against each other… We should treat all animals as being conscious, as feeling what-it-is-like-to-be… One day, humanity may well be judged for how we treated out relatives on the tree of life.” (Pg. 172-173)

This book will be of keen interest to those studying consciousness, and neuroscience."
The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread but Can't Be Computed (Mit Press)

The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread but Can't Be Computed (Mit Press)
The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread but Can't Be Computed (Mit Press)