Consciousness

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OK, here’s the ultimate reference and review of this whole mind-body thing, or rather consciousness, from a Quantum mechanical point of view. It includes within it Henry Stapp’s theory just as one approach out of many. I’m really going to try to read the whole thing, I think. Just want an overview. It was written by Dr. Harald Atmanspacher.

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Sam Harris is a well known atheist, a hater of religion along with the other “horsemen”, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Dan Dennett, but he has this mystical side. That word, mystical, must be defined very carefully, however, or the wrath of Sam will be upon you.

Here is a good tract by Sam Harris in which he goes into this. He argues that secularism has no content other than its negativity:

To be secular, one need do nothing more than live in perpetual opposition to the unsubstantiated claims of religious dogmatists.

The “mysticism” he espouses has to do with meditation and the mystery of consciousness. Here is the last sentence of his third note in his article:

Still, consciousness remains a genuine mystery, and anyone who attempts to study it is confronted by serious conceptual and empirical problems

Antonio Damasio, a well known neuroscientist, has a new book out in which he attempts to explain consciousness scientifically. However, John Searle, a well known American philosopher takes issue with Damasio’s claim in his New York Review of Books article, The Mystery of Consciousness Continues.

All very interesting.

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Consciousness

Let us begin at the beginning. Not at the creation of the universe, though, but with a study written in 1925 by C. D. Broad entitled The Mind and its Place in Nature. I’m following here a paper by David J. Chalmers entitled Consciousness and its Place in Nature which explains the former study.

What is the problem? The problem is that it’s not easy to see how consciousness is part of the physical world, like a chair, say, or even a brain. After all the latter is a squishy substance about three pounds in weight which, we think, makes us conscious, but how? Even though we may feel that our consciousness is associated with or probably caused by our brain, it’s not at all clear where in the brain it is, or even if it is there at all!

to be continued …

9/18/07: So, the problem to be solved according to both Broad and Chalmers is to locate the mind with respect to the physical world. Broad came up with seventeen different ways of handling the mental-physical relation. This certainly seems weird at first glance. Why seventeen?

OK, he breaks the mental and the physical down into four attributes each with an extra one thrown in at the end! This would give sixteen if we consider that each mental attribute could have one of four physical attributes and there are four mental attributes. Throwing the extra one in gives the total of seventeen. But what are these attributes, and what is the one thrown in at the end?

to be continued …

9/20/07: The C. D. Broad study is nothing if not wordy. I’ve been reading and re-reading certain paragraphs and am still confused about what he means. But here’s the best I could come up with for definitions of the four attributes of both the Mental and the Material:

Differentiating Attribute: There is something specific that defines this substance. [BTW: A substance he defines as any thing from a slight itch to a bolt of lightning to a chair, in other words, a substance can be anything. :]

Emergent Attribute: An attribute which has emerged out of the complexity of a substance and not predictable.

Reductive Attribute: An attribute that falls naturally or logically in place as a consequence of something reasonable.

Delusive Attribute: An attribute that really doesn’t exist.

I’m sure if old Broad [sorry…] were alive today he would scream if he saw what I’ve done above with his definitions, but as I say, it’s the best I can do without re-reading his stuff even more.

OK, how about an example of a “matrix element”? Let’s take (4,1). That would be a Delusive Mental Attribute combined with a Differentiating Material Attribute, in other words, pure materialism. OTOH, (1,4) would be a Delusive Material Attribute combined with a Differentiating Mental Attribute, in other words, pure mentalism, i.e., everything is mental.

Wild, huh?

to be continued …

How about a Beam of Light That Flips a Switch That Turns on the Brain? How’s that for a new way to get turned on? But what’s it like? Take a look?

See the neuron synapses in red? See the photosensitive protein on the cell membrane in green? For a layman’s discussion of the physics and chemistry and experiments with light check the link above.

But what’s it like? you ask. You mean you want to know what it feels like? Ha Ha Who knows? Ask a zebrafish? Or why not read Thomas Nagel’s article, What Is It Like To Be A Bat?
😆

Ahh, a new word. Yes, it baffled me when I first saw it yesterday when googling for reviews of Samuel Avery’s The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness, recommended by Scott Roberts in Comments on Elizaphanian, using in Google “Dimensional Structure of Consciousness” without the quotes. Yes, the link to the Amazon review of Avery’s book turned up, but what also caught my eye was this link which had the strange word Liminocentricity in the title. Why didn’t I just put quotes around The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness in Google and let it go at that? Well, I wouldn’t have learned something new.

It turns out that Liminocentricity is quite an interesting word. The link is to a paper entitled, The Structure of Consciousness – Liminocentricity, Enantiodromia, and Personality by John Fudjack, in itself an interesting name. This is a fairly long paper which provides a visual metaphor for ‘liminocentric’ organization, applies it to human consciousness, and goes on to explain why this is appropriate and why it has a baring on Jung’s theory of psychological types. So, what is ‘liminocentric’ organization, and why should we care?

Fudjack starts by providing three diagrams, the third of which is liminocentric. For his first diagram, he shows the letter T, where the letter consists of Xs (second level) in a T-formation, with each X itself made up of a series of Os (third level). This arrangement is not fractal, has only three levels, and is not liminocentric. Then the second diagram shows little Ts making up the big T. Each little T itself is made up of littler Ts in the same fashion although these aren’t shown on the diagram because this is too impractical. This is a fractal arrangement because the Ts can in principle go on forever. Finally, the third diagram shows Xs which are made up of small Ts with the Xs making up the big T. This is not ‘fully’ fractal because the large T is made up not of smaller Ts, but of Xs, and these Xs are not made up of smaller Xs, but of Ts. Confusing? Better look at the diagrams. In any case, the larger T is actually ULTIMATELY made up of small Ts. There could be any number of stages, for example, the Xs could be made up of Os and the Os made up of something else, and so on, between large T and the small Ts. This is what’s known as liminocentricity.

A ‘liminocentric’ structure, then, has the property of being ‘indistinguishable’ at its highest and lowest levels of organization. Fudjack claims, after conversations with the physicist Brian Greene, that the ‘string theory’ in physics says that “extremely large distances in the physical world may be LITERALLY identical to (i.e. indistinguishable from) extremely small distances”, and thus that physical reality may be liminocentrically ordered.

The paper goes on to give several other examples of liminocentricity:

In earlier articles we have also shown how liminocentricity is [1] utilized as an explanatory device in music theory; [2] used in Indian myth to help us ‘pull ourselves up by our bootstraps’, according to Mary Doniger O’Flaherty; [3] appears as a metaphor for ‘God’ in the work of Plotinus; and [4] operates as a principle of organization in the mandala in general, and in the figures of the Enneagram and Dzogchen mandalas in particular.

In Part 2 of the paper Fudjack describes the structure of human consciousness and shows how it is liminocentrically ordered. But this is too much to go into here. This post is long enough!

Perhaps the beginning lines of the last paragraph of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets sum it up:


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Oh yes, I read the reviews of Avery’s book and they’re all quite glowing except for one which calls it incoherent.