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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 13

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
"Physical truths concern only structure and dynamics and therefore cannot fully explain consciousness ...

The above premise was shown to be faulty by @marduk who pointed out that anything non-physical would by its nature be incapable of interacting with the physical. Therefore, because there is interaction between consciousness and our physical selves, consciousness must therefore be physical.

Randall, you continue to misunderstand. We know the mind and body interact. We don’t need Marduk to tell us that. It’s self evident.

Read the statement at the top again. Got it? Read it again. Do you see?

The hard problem is not explaining that the mind and the body are related, it’s explaining how.

Consciousness cannot be explained via structure and dynamics alone.

On a separate but related note, Joscha Bach has begun describing the situation in a way I will attempt to paraphrase:

We have two innate models of what-is. A physics model, res extensa; and one for everything else, res cogitans.

These models interact bc they are both implemented by the same underlying substrate.

this is the best characterization of the situation of which I am aware. I quibble with Joscha bc he refers to this underlying substrate as “physical.” I think this is problematic for a few reasons, one bc people mistake our perception of the physical (res extensa) for the ACTUAL physical. Joscha does not. Also, I’ve yet to see Joscha explain how quality/feeling could be implemented by a substrate devoid of quality/feeling. In other words, we’re back where we started.

I’m not sure we know enough about the substrate implementing res extensa and res cogitans to say whether it’s qualitative or non-qualitative. I understand that most people STRONGLY intuit that it’s non-qualitative.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
"Symmetry-Breaking Dynamics in Development"
Phenom Cogn Sci (2017) 16:585–596 DOI 10.1007/s11097-017-9521-3
Noah Moss Brender
[email protected]

ABSTRACT: Recognition of the plasticity of development — from gene expression to neuroplasticity — is increasingly undermining the traditional distinction between structure and function, or anatomy and behavior. At the same time, dynamic systems theory — a set of tools and concepts drawn from the physical sciences — has emerged as a way of describing what Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls the “dynamic anatomy” of the living organism. This article surveys and synthesizes dynamic systems models of development from biology, neuroscience, and psychology in order to propose an integrated account of growth, learning, and behavior. Key to this account is the concept of self-differentiation or symmetry-breaking. I argue that development can be understood as a cascade of symmetrybreaking events brought about by the ongoing interactions of multiple, nested, nonlinear dynamic systems whose self-organizing behaviors gradually alter their own anatomical conditions. I begin by introducing the concept of symmetry-breaking as a way of understanding anatomical development. I then extend this approach to motor development by arguing that the organism’s behavior grows along with its body, like a new organ. Finally, I argue that the organism’s behavior and its world grow together dialectically, each driving the other to become more complex and asymmetrical through its own increasing asymmetry. Thus development turns out to be a form of cognition or sense-making, and cognition a form of development.

KEYWORDS: Dynamic systems, Enactivism, Embodied cognition, Gene expression, Merleau-Ponty, Motor development

Final publication available at: Symmetry-breaking dynamics in development

ALSO HERE at philpapers.org: https://philpapers.org/archive/BRESDI-2.pdf
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
1606044467806.pngWinner of the 2020 Edward Goodwin Ballard Prize in Phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology shows how the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, from its very beginnings, seeks to find sense or meaning within nature, and how this quest calls for and develops into a radically new ontology.

David Morris first gives an illuminating analysis of sense, showing how it requires understanding nature as engendering new norms. He then presents innovative studies of Merleau-Ponty's The Structure of Behavior and Phenomenology of Perception, revealing how these early works are oriented by the problem of sense and already lead to difficulties about nature, temporality, and ontology that preoccupy Merleau-Ponty's later work. Morris shows how resolving these difficulties requires seeking sense through its appearance in nature, prior to experience—ultimately leading to radically new concepts of nature, time, and philosophy.

Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology makes key issues in Merleau-Ponty's philosophy clear and accessible to a broad audience while also advancing original philosophical conclusions.

About the Author
DAVID MORRIS is a professor of philosophy at Concordia University. He is the author of The Sense of Space.

Reviews

"Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology is simply a great book. Morris's accounts of life and nature are creative and deeply philosophical. I might be exaggerating a little when I say this, but I think this is the best Merleau-Ponty book I have ever read." —Leonard Lawlor, author of Early Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy

“This book is unique as a contribution both to Merleau-Ponty scholarship and to a renewed phenomenological ontology. Drawing on contemporary life sciences and cosmology, it presents an organic and dynamic view of how meaning and a factual order arise and appear in being, space, and time. Hardly ever has the plea for a radical transcendental empiricism, instead of traditional forms of subjectivism, been made so concretely and convincingly.” —Rudolf Bernet, author of Force, Drive, Desire: A Philosophy of Psychoanalysis

"This scintillating text offers two books for the price of one: not only does it offer an insightful and innovative reading of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, early and late, but it also establishes David Morris as an original voice to be heard in its own right. The reader is provided with a rich panoply of new ways of finding sense embedded in experience and in being, and all this in the context of a phenomenology of nature, a new model of 'development' of life and the cosmos, and an inaugural notion of “templacement” that surpasses earlier discussions of space and time and is shown to be the foundation of a radically new ontology. The result is a tour de force in which contemporary immunology and biology and cosmic theory join forces with Merleau-Ponty’s final search for 'wild being.' This is one of the most exciting, intellectually engaging, and profound books of our time." —Edward S. Casey, author of The World on Edge

"
Morris’s thorough work represents some of the very best in contemporary scholarship in Merleau-Ponty. His lucid and pedagogical style is at once light and humorful with personal asides, while also being philosophically rich, rigorous, and engaging. Not only will any reader—from the newcomer to the well-seasoned scholar—gain fresh insight into Merleau-Ponty, but they will also witness the unfolding of a new ontology from a boldly original, well-spoken thinker." Journal of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition

"The overall argument amounts to a transcendental elucidation of the underlying ontological conditions that make sense possible . . . Morris's book is an outstanding contribution that raises the bar of Merleau-Ponty scholarship in a way that will undoubtedly inspire and enable much further excellent work." —Bryan Smyth, The Review of Metaphysics

"Morris’s book is original and imaginative, and it does not assume familiarity with scholarly debates. It bears on discussions in object-oriented ontology, recent Continental philosophy of time, nature, and biology, and embodied/enactive approaches to cognitive science. Required reading for specialists but also an excellent guide for the relatively uninitiated. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice

Merleau-Ponty’s Developmental Ontology | Northwestern University Press
 
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Soupie

Paranormal Adept
@Randall perhaps we can agree with the following as it seems to capture, roughly, both our approaches.


Hence, Chomsky continues:

There is no longer any definite conception of body. Rather, the material world is whatever we discover it to be, with whatever properties it must be assumed to have for the purposes of explanatory theory. Any intelligible theory that offers genuine explanations and that can be assimilated to the core notions of physics becomes part of the theory of the material world, part of our account of body. If we have such a theory in some domain, we seek to assimilate it to the core notions of physics, perhaps modifying these notions as we carry out this enterprise. (p. 144)

That is to say, we have in Chomsky’s view various worked-out, successful theories of different parts of the natural world, and we try to integrate these by assimilating them to “the core notions of physics,” but may end up altering those core notions if we need to in order to make the assimilation work. As a result, as Chomsky once put it to John Searle, “as soon as we come to understand anything, we call it ‘physical’” (quoted by Searle in The Rediscovery of the Mind, p. 25). But we have no conception of what is “physical” or “material” prior to and independently of this enterprise. And since the enterprise is not complete, “physical” and “material” have no fixed and determinate content; we simply apply them to whatever it is we happen at the moment to think we know how assimilate into the body of existing scientific theory. As a consequence:

The mind-body problem can therefore not even be formulated. The problem cannot be solved, because there is no clear way to state it. Unless someone proposes a definite concept of body, we cannot ask whether some phenomena exceed its bounds. (Language and Problems of Knowledge, p. 145)
You’ve been arguing that the mbp/hp can’t be solved. And that our conceptions of what’s physical are constantly evolving.

Chomsky argues that the mbp can’t be formulated/solved until we have a complete understanding of physical (ie base) reality.

There’s some new mysterianism here too as we may never achieve a complete understand of the physical ie base reality. And therefore can never strongly say the mind can’t be explained via the body.

My argument has been along these same lines a la Strawson and here Chomsky that we don’t know enough about the physical (ie base reality) to say how it’s related to phenomenal consciousness.
 
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Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
@Randall perhaps we can agree with the following as it seems to capture, roughly, both our approaches.



You’ve been arguing that the mbp/hp can’t be solved. And that our conceptions of what’s physical are constantly evolving.

Chomsky argues that the mbp can’t be formulated/solved until we have a complete understanding of physical (ie base) reality.

There’s some new mysterianism here too as we may never achieve a complete understand of the physical ie base reality. And therefore can never strongly say the mind can’t be explained via the body.

My argument has been along these same lines a la Strawson and here Chomsky that we don’t know enough about the physical (ie base reality) to say how it’s related to phenomenal consciousness.
A really good article, and we seem to have some common ground here. Thanks for posting this :cool:
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Randall, you continue to misunderstand. We know the mind and body interact. We don’t need Marduk to tell us that.
I would disagree to the extent that while interaction between minds and bodies is self evident, it took @marduk to point out ( to me at least ) that the consequence of this situation logically necessitates that the mind must be physical. I don't know whether or not marduk deduced this on his own, or acquired it from another source. Either way, it was through his post on it that this particular piece of the puzzle was illuminated ( for me ).

If you already had this figured out for yourself, or had come across it someplace else, it would be nice to have a reference for it. Personally I haven't seen it anyplace else. I've only seen the explanations for the "interaction problem". Marduk's deduction is essentially the solution to the interaction problem. In my experience here on this thread, the five most significant advancements on my outlook have been:

In order of occurrence:

  1. The realization that computational capacity may never yield consciousness no matter how powerful it is ( my own realization )
  2. That Chalmers' Hard Problem of Consciousness can be likened to a koan ( coutesy of @smcder )
  3. That by logical necessity, consciousness must be physical in nature ( courtesy of @marduk )
  4. That important philosophies, especially Merleau Ponty's aren't restricted to any prior paradigm ( courtesy of @Constance )
  5. That causality can be non-linear and in doing so may provide a bridge between reductionism and holism.
The others here ( yourself included ), have been essential in moving the thread forward, something that due to its glacial weight and speed deserves to be acknowledged. Despite the sometimes frustrating experiences we've all experienced here, I am immensely grateful to you and everyone else for your participation.

It’s self evident. Read the statement at the top again. Got it? Read it again. Do you see? The hard problem is not explaining that the mind and the body are related, it’s explaining how.
The issue here isn't the HPC. It's whether or not mind is something physical. Yes the concepts are related, but they're not the same problem.

Consciousness cannot be explained via structure and dynamics alone.
I guess that depends on how we define "explained" and "structure" and "dynamics"
On a separate but related note, Joscha Bach has begun describing the situation in a way I will attempt to paraphrase:

We have two innate models of what-is. A physics model, res extensa; and one for everything else, res cogitans.

These models interact bc they are both implemented by the same underlying substrate.

this is the best characterization of the situation of which I am aware. I quibble with Joscha bc he refers to this underlying substrate as “physical.” I think this is problematic for a few reasons, one bc people mistake our perception of the physical (res extensa) for the ACTUAL physical. Joscha does not. Also, I’ve yet to see Joscha explain how quality/feeling could be implemented by a substrate devoid of quality/feeling. In other words, we’re back where we started.

I’m not sure we know enough about the substrate implementing res extensa and res cogitans to say whether it’s qualitative or non-qualitative. I understand that most people STRONGLY intuit that it’s non-qualitative.
I would tend to agree with that last statement, but perhaps we might advance this some small degree by considering the issues that @Pharoah's paper raised ( for me ) when it came to the issue of causality. The implication of a substrate is one of linear causation or what Pharoah referred to as "upward causality". Prior to @Constance questioning my assumptions about causation, this sort of causation was the only model that came to mind.

It's not that I hadn't understood that there were dynamic systems prior to that, but I had never put those situations into the context of causation and linked them to a holistic model. I'm still contemplating this view, and I'm not sure it will hold-up, but I feel very confident about it on an intuitional level. The problem is in reconciling the circumstance that both situations are true at the same time. Video included again below for convenience:

( See section of video below - set to start at appropriate time )

 
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Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I am interested in the notion of what constitutes the physical and how the notion of 'physical' might change. So... consider the idea of 'the physical' as being everything contained within a glass jar; everything that is physical must fit in it to qualify as 'physical'. From this, the idea is that consciousness must either fit in it or be outside the jar (depending on one's stance). However, I like the alternative notion that the jar is something of an illusion, or presumption, and that, ultimately, the shape and nature of the jar will alter.
I think you're onto something interesting there. I first ran across the idea that a less rigid view of what constitutes the physical is required thanks to @Constance who introduced Merleau Ponty into this thread. In looking at his history to attempt to pin down whether he considered himself to be a materialist or something else, he made it clear that he was not satisfied with the view of materialism during his time, but that there were also aspects of it that couldn't be reasonably denied, and therefore our notions of materialism at the time were inadequate.

I don't recall the exact article, but it included the assertion that if pressed, Merleau Ponty would probably have called himself a physicalist, but only if our notions about physicalism could be expanded enough to accommodate his views. He died in 1961, and it's a shame that our lifespans are so short. I think that if he were still alive today, half a century later, that the evolution of classical materialism to the sort of physicalism we're talking about now, would have been of keen interest to him.
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
I would disagree to the extent that while interaction between minds and bodies is self evident, it took @marduk to point out ( to me at least ) that the consequence of this situation logically necessitates that the mind must be physical.
Interaction—or more weakly, correspondence—indicates that mind and body share a nature; we can say they are both natural, or we can simply say they are both physical.

As many have noted, and you have an affinity for saying, whether we feel comfortable saying nature is physical depends on our willingness to flexible with the definition of physical.

If you already had this figured out for yourself, or had come across it someplace else, it would be nice to have a reference for it.
If one is a monist, the next step is determine how one refers to this substrate. So long as one is willing to be flexible with their definition of physical, as you seem to be, referring to this substrate as physical is fine.

Ie you and perhaps Marduk like to claim that interaction leads to physicalism, on the condition that one is willing to flex from orthodox definitions of physical (see Chomsky article above). Someone else might go the idealism route.

The issue here isn't the HPC. It's whether or not mind is something physical. Yes the concepts are related, but they're not the same problem.
The hp assumes consciousness is physical. The problem is then explaining how it could be physical.

The mbp does not assume consciousness is physical. It simply asks how they are related.

I would beg to differ, unless that is, you are positing that oranges aren't made of matter and energy.
It’s easy to show how oranges are derivative of more fundamental processes. It’s not easy to show how matter/energy derive from more fundamental processes. Thus the designation “fundamental.”
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
... The mbp does not assume consciousness is physical. It simply asks how they are related.
If I understand you correctly, the fog between our respective positions is starting to lift. In light of this, one way we might answer the question of how the mind and body related, would be to say: The mind and body are related via nonlinear causation.
If one is a monist, the next step is determine how one refers to this substrate.
Just to help me be clear here on what you mean, if one is a monist, there is no substrate. There is only "what is". This can be interpreted as a holistic approach, which in-turn implies that all objects and phenomena, including consciousness, are emergent. From that, I am assuming that whatever it is that these objects and phenomena are emerging from, is the same as what you are alluding to as the "substrate"?
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
The hp assumes consciousness is physical. The problem is then explaining how it could be physical.
Not too sure about that, @Soupie. Chalmers, in defining the hard problem, recognized that we live in and experience a physical world but that our feelings for it and our consequent ideas about it arise from our slight {or considerable, in some cases} distance from it. Heidegger made this situation, this condition, clear in Being and Time, referring to our 'thrownness' into a 'world' in many ways obscure and unknowable to us. Stevens sounded like Heidegger when he wrote "We live in a world that is not our own, / And much more not ourselves. / And hard it is in spite of blazoned days."

Stevens also wrote, near the end of a very long poem entitled "Esthetique du Mal," that

"The greatest poverty is not to live
In a physical world, to feel that one's desire
Is too difficult to tell from despair."

Here is the whole of that last section of the poem, and the link below provides access to the entire poem, for anyone interested.

"XV

The greatest poverty is not to live
In a physical world, to feel that one's desire
Is too difficult to tell from despair. Perhaps,
After death, the non-physical people, in paradise,
Itself non-physical, may, by chance, observe
The green corn gleaming and experience
The minor of what we feel. The adventurer
In humanity has not conceived of a race
Completely physical in a physical world.
The green corn gleams and the metaphysicals
Lie sprawling in majors of the August heat,
The rotund emotions, paradise unknown.

This is the thesis scrivened in delight,
The reverberating psalm, the right chorale.

One might have thought of sight, but who could think
Of what it sees, for all the ill it sees?
Speech found the ear, for all the evil sound,
But the dark italics it could not propound,
And out of what one sees and hears and out
Of what one feels, who could have thought to make
So many selves, so many sensuous worlds,
As if the air, the mid-day air, was swarming
With the metaphysical changes that occur
Merely in living as and where we live."

The whole poem: Penny's Poetry Blog
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Here is the link back to my post of last night concerning David Morris's recently published book on Merleau-Ponty's developmental ontology. If one is willing to read one book, if not more, to understand the significance of phenomenological philosophy in general and MP's phenomenology of Nature, this one would likely be the best choice.

Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 13

Failing that, the next link takes you to philpapers.org's list of papers by Morris, some of which I have linked here in the past:

philpapers,.org, David Morris - Bing
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
You might find the following attachment interesting and relevant:
I do. Reading it now. Thank you for the link.

ETA, I'm about midpoint in the thesis and want to comment on this paragraph:

"Satiric playfulness and surprise are evident everywhere in the poem in the outrageous juxtaposition of ideas and startling combinations of everyday and
esoteric words, just as they are in all of Stevens’ poetry. The sudden shifts in diction and tone specifically ward off the possibility of pomposity or excessive seriousness, in my view, and set up a protective shield of objectivity about both poet and poem. Yet this playfulness never becomes facetiousness. As R. P. Blackmur says of Stevens’ poetry in general, "the light tone increases the gravity of substance, and an atmosphere of wit and elegance assures poignancy of meaning."^ The full effect of these shifts is difficult to extract from the context, but I shall try to give a few examples of them."

The author was likely young when she wrote this MA thesis and had not yet read the enormous canon of Stevens's poetry. Her sentence copied in green is thus off the mark in her reading of this poem. Stevens could not be more serious here, or less afraid of being serious. Some early literary critics of his poetry accused him of 'pomposity' as a result of the philosophical weight (and challenges) of much of his poetry. But in his poems concerning the atrocities of world war, his responses are whole, integral, and unmistakable. His mind was scandalized and scalded by this barbarism. Blackmur, in his evaluation in blue above, says it all, and I wonder why the thesis author could not recognize how his mature understanding of Stevens's feeling, thought, and poetic expression makes her own particular concerns and developing thesis seem almost irrelevant. I also wonder if her thesis committee did not challenge her on the discrepancy during the defense.
 
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Soupie

Paranormal Adept
Not too sure about that, @Soupie. Chalmers, in defining the hard problem, recognized that we live in and experience a physical world but that our feelings for it and our consequent ideas about it arise from our slight {or considerable, in some cases} distance from it. Heidegger made this situation, this condition, clear in Being and Time, referring to our 'thrownness' into a 'world' in many ways obscure and unknowable to us. Stevens sounded like Heidegger when he wrote "We live in a world that is not our own, / And much more not ourselves. / And hard it is in spite of blazoned days."

Stevens also wrote, near the end of a very long poem entitled "Esthetique du Mal," that

"The greatest poverty is not to live
In a physical world, to feel that one's desire
Is too difficult to tell from despair."

Here is the whole of that last section of the poem, and the link below provides access to the entire poem, for anyone interested.

"XV

The greatest poverty is not to live
In a physical world, to feel that one's desire
Is too difficult to tell from despair. Perhaps,
After death, the non-physical people, in paradise,
Itself non-physical, may, by chance, observe
The green corn gleaming and experience
The minor of what we feel. The adventurer
In humanity has not conceived of a race
Completely physical in a physical world.
The green corn gleams and the metaphysicals
Lie sprawling in majors of the August heat,
The rotund emotions, paradise unknown.

This is the thesis scrivened in delight,
The reverberating psalm, the right chorale.

One might have thought of sight, but who could think
Of what it sees, for all the ill it sees?
Speech found the ear, for all the evil sound,
But the dark italics it could not propound,
And out of what one sees and hears and out
Of what one feels, who could have thought to make
So many selves, so many sensuous worlds,
As if the air, the mid-day air, was swarming
With the metaphysical changes that occur
Merely in living as and where we live."

The whole poem: Penny's Poetry Blog
"How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises."

- David Chalmers

Chalmers himself is open to traditionally “non-physical” albeit natural explanations of the mbp, but the hp does assume consciousness arises from physical processes.

The hp is just a question chalmers is posing. It doesn’t mean he believes it’s premise.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
"How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion?
Either that's the wrong type of question, or the question isn't formulated to elicit the desired response. For example, assuming an explanation were possible, how we would explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image or to experience an emotion is by communication. This may seem trivial or trite, but if we want an answer that speaks directly to the type of question being asked, without having to run some kind of filter that translates it into another question altogether, it is perfectly reasonable.

Probably a better type of question is a "What" type question, e.g. What explanation reveals the means by which mental imagery or emotions come to be? The problem is that if this is the real question, then it is ontological, and until we can explain existence itself, we cannot explain in any non-trivial manner the presence of anything, including consciousness, or perhaps I should say that I can't. Maybe someone else out there someplace can. If so, I wish they'd enlighten the rest of us.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
An extremely lucid interview with Chalmers from 2004, pointing to his project of exploring the character of consciousness:


ps, I needed to slow down the playback speed to 75 percent and click on the subtitles in English in order to follow all that DC says here. He does speak very rapidly, the more challenging given the complexities of the issues in Consciousness Studies that he articulates.
 
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