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Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception or Shaking off the Dualism of Descartes.

 

 

        Writing about the cogito Merleau- Ponty says: “Insofar as, when I reflect on the essence of subjectivity, I find it bound up with that of the body and that of the world, this is because my existence as subjectivity (= consciousness) is merely one with my existence as a body and with the existence of the world, and because the subject that I am, when taken concretely, is inseparable from this body and this world.” Phenomenology, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

         It sounds so benign: “cogito ergo sum”. But it sounds benign for a reason- it actually sums up the intellectual grounds of humanity, the way humans feel the reality in its core- “this is me, my small subjective world, and that is the huge, marvelous, but separate, if not mine, then whose, objective world.” All philosophies are built with that automatic assumption at the core.

While fighting with each other, the theists and the atheists, Plato’s idealists and Stephen Hawking’s scientists, nobody messes with the subjectivity versus objectivity divide concept.

It feels beyond philosophy; it feels like linguistics.    

       I think this is the reason, from my paltry readings, both Husserl and Merleau-Ponty sound so, so… painstaking. As their new approach, their method would require this extremely honest and disciplined explanation of the philosopher’s personal experience. They had to explain the nuances in the meaning and explain the process of the concept development because the history and “the establishment” of traditional thought was so old and enormous.  They, Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, sound as if they were trying first and foremost to convince themselves of some odd truth, actually creating it as they proceeded. This truth or this method would attempt to put our intuitive feeling about reality upside down. If proven scientifically, it would be more ground-breaking than Nietzsche’ s killing of  God. These concepts combine perception, movement and intentionality in one conscious experience of a being engaged into the world.

“ How the body inhabits space ( and time, for that matter) can be seen more clearly by considering the body in motion because the movement is not content with passively undergoing space and time, it actively assumes them, it takes them up in their original signification that is effaced in the banality of established situations.” Merleau-Ponty, The spatiality of one’s own body and motricity, p.105.

     Amazingly, modern developmental neuroscience follow the steps of Merleau-Ponty, the philosopher. It was found that the motor neurons are the origins of the sensory and the thinking neural systems. Also motor activity precedes, sometimes by 0.1 second, our decision to make that move. The newborn baby’s body schema, as far as we know, is not subjective or objective, there is no duality, similar to the animals. The process of attachment, which will in the future decide whether one will hate one’s own body and be ashamed of one’s deepest emotions is a perfect example of the intentional arc. “The life of consciousness- epistemic life,  the life of desire, or perceptual life- is underpinned by an “intentional arc” that projects around us our past, our future, our human milieu, our physical situation, our ideological situation, and our moral situation, or rather, that ensures that we are situated within all of these relationships. This intentional arc creates the unity of the senses with intelligence, and the unity of sensitivity and motricity. “ ibid p. 137. Perception embodies the child and the mother, food, touch, love and the level of stress, all mixed together. It doesn’t occur in the baby’s brain, or in the mother’s brain or in between. The meaning of experience is being built and interpreted with the brain and the environment working in one spatiality and movement of feeding, sleeping, getting satisfied and happy… or not. This very real and crucial for future life event occurs in time and space that can only be called the baby’s world, not subjective, not objective, but nondual and phenomenological, baby’s world.

  Evolutionary ethology confirm similar mechanisms occurring in primitive animals. Their behavior, like seeking food or escaping a predator are directed by the “old” brain (the only brain available, in, for example, a lizard) This part of the brain, the medulla, the hindbrain nuclei, like amygdala, in the human corresponds with the “feeling” brain, with subjectivity, but for the animal these behavior occur obviously “out there”, in the animal’s non dual, only real world – out there is the food , out there is danger, out there is escape.

   Because of going beyond such a basic assumption, phenomenology has had to become first and foremost the method, the way of analyzing the conscious experience without the subjectivity versus objectivity divide, the way where embodied consciousness inhabits the world, not my world, not the nobody’s world, just the world, all the reality that any human has to play with.

    And if we accept that as humans this is the only world we have, this ceases to be only the method ( or the historical footnote), this becomes a huge responsibility and the unified force for the mankind.

 

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Is Philosophy Dead? What Would Husserl Say?

(reading Husserl for my phenomenology class)

 

                    “Dead? Yes, he is dead… But not completely dead.”-

                            The Sorcerer about Wesley from “Princess Bride”.

 

                       “The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived  world. And if we wish to think science rigorously, to appreciate precisely its sense and scope, we must first awaken that experience of the world of which science is the second-order expression.”

                             Maurice Merleau-Ponty “ Phenomenology of perception” p.9

 

     The future of philosophy is tricky. Science will continue its march into realms traditionally occupied by philosophy- the structure of the Cosmos and the nature of the Mind. But reading Husserl’s discussion on science’s shortcomings one can get a glimpse of the future philosophy as (as always) the queen of the human knowledge, with phenomenology providing absolutely necessary grounding for all human endeavors.

    Stephen Hawking, arguably the smartest scientist on the planet, in his book The Grand Design, declares that philosophy is dead. Obviously, the killer is supposed to be triumphant science. But if one reads this book further, very soon one realizes that the very same author washes his hands like Pontius Pilate and abandons the murderous plot. Hawking is interested exclusively in the building the model of the universe which agrees  with the maximal spectrum of the empirical data in the broadest possible spectrum of domains. He excludes from “his science” the big questions: what is, why, and what is the human place in this model.

   So I am not worried about Stephen, smart people are not a threat for philosophy. I am worried about the Trumps of the world, the stupid, scared and insecure people are the threat. They create and thrive in a shallow, greedy consumer culture fed by countless forms of fear and violence.  People do not read books, they don’t have the  skills and habits of conversation and dispute. The critical thinking and self-inquiry are rare.

One would say then , that Husserl, in his writings about the live world and the pre-given world of science is barking at the wrong tree. Well, maybe he is not so useless…

  Kant and after him, Husserl, both made a distinction between the noumenal world- that what really is, and the phenomenal world – that what we experience. But for millions of years animals and later humans used neither. They used a system of behaviors which helped them survive, i.e. the pragmatic “what works” world. By and by, they developed the senses,  perceptions, instincts, memory, and the motivation mechanisms of pain/fear vs pleasure. The behaviors became rules, laws, and commandments, the system became the science, and humble in-between noumenal and phenomenal space mushroomed enormously and became, well, the Universe.

Husserl, himself a mathematician and treating himself as a scientist, points out that in this magnificent world of science, the human experience comes first.  He writes:” In this world, we are objects among objects in the sense of the life-world, namely, as being here and there, in the plain certainty of experience, before anything that is established scientifically, whether in physiology, psychology, or sociology. On the  other hand, we are subject for this world, namely, as the ego-subject experiencing it, contemplating it, valuing it, related to it purposefully.” E. Husserl, The way into phenomenological transcendental philosophy. P.152. He investigates the world which can be experienced and can be shared through intersubjectivity: “ Thus in whatever way we may be conscious of the world as universal horizon, as coherent universe of existing objects, we, each “I-the-man” and all of us together, belong to the world as living with one another in the world; and the world is our world, valid for our consciousness as existing precisely through “living together”.  Ibid , p154. This world existed always, way before the era of science and should the basis for our thinking and especially feeling.

   So, science operates in the pre-given world, disregarding that its nature and origins might be not so obvious. It presumes its ultimate reality and bulldozes forward leaving humans with their unique conscious, transcendental experiences, behind. In Husserl’s words: “ Science is a human spiritual accomplishment which presupposes as its point of departure, both historically and for each new student, the intuitive surrounding world of life, pre-given as existing for all in common.” ibid, p. 163. And: “ If we made it clear for ourselves, the obviously an explicit elucidation of the objective validity and of the whole task of science requires that we first inquire back into the pre-given world.” ibid p. 163.

   Husserl proposed his new type of philosophy as the solution. Fantastic, phenomenal! (pardon the pun). “ There has never been a scientific inquiry into the way in which life-world constantly functions as subsoil, into how its manifold pre-logical validities act as a ground for the logical ones, for theoretical truths. And perhaps the scientific discipline which this life-world as such, in its universality, requires is a peculiar one, one which is precisely not objective and logical but which, as the ultimately grounding one, is not inferior, but superior in value.” ibid p.165. He argues that the study of the intuitive, pre-given world of our experiences can ground  science. And without it, without philosophy (in the Husserl’s case, without the transcendental phenomenology) scientific results will lack the experiential connection with human existence.

   In general, I agree, but I see two problems with his solution.  First, scientists don’t seem to worry about their science lacking life-world, intuitive, experienceable grounding. They actually abhor subjectivity and  are trying to be as “dry” as possible. Neither does general public: “If planes fly and the ATM pays cash, everything is fine.” Secondly, speaking from personal experience, phenomenology has little chance to become a worldwide popular movement or a Facebook’s darling. It carries all the foes that philosophers have grappled with for millennia- nobody listens to them, nobody cares about them, they are lonely and mostly forgotten. It is because phenomenology is intricate, difficult and without everyday applications.

 And here is the trick, I was talking about at the beginning – Houdini escape from the cold academic halls and dusty libraries straight to the 21st-century mass media.

There is a small chance that there is a trend in the evolution, which together with the complexity and explicitness of communication also increases the  organism’s individuality. This trend might be augmented in humans by mirror neurons, by culture, by democracy, education, and by the internet. So far it has shown up in the individualized shopping, weird hairdos, and tattoos. But maybe, just maybe, as the world population grows older, more lonely and more confused, more people will ask big philosophical questions. The personal worldview is something that everybody has, in his guts, in his heart, and in his dreams. This is the implicit worldview.

        But, what if a personal, experience-based philosophy can help a person with work on what until now has been a subconscious set of opinions and worries? Then these opinions and worries, as old and primordial as the humanity, and as important as birth and death, can be transformed. This personal worldview can be made into the explicit form, into the language, conversation, and written form. This can help a lot of people and save philosophy.

 

 

Big Question #10: What is the role of evolution?

Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another. Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own intelligence! This is, therefore, the motto of the enlightenment…

 Immanuel KantAn Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?

“We are what we are, we see what we see, and we know what we know, because of the evolution and according to the evolution.  Any scientific or philosophical discussion ignoring evolution is naive and lame. ” -Me

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • Why things change?
  • Is there a trend?
  • Is there a purpose?
  • Can human mind evolve?
  • Is the history, the civilization, the Universe in its nature linear or circular?
  • How is this question relevant to our everyday life?

(It is not, you can live happily without being bothered by the idea of the evolution.)

How to work on the answer to Question #10

That is the only Big Question, which is not the part of the classical, unanswerable, basic questions of the mankind.  Adding this question to our list was partly personal, as I have studied evolution for the last 30 years, but beyond the personal, I think, the evolutionary look at the world is the part of any rational worldview.

 Examples of answers:

Ann Marshall: “To keep things interesting for God”

Linda Gambill: “To nudge us to look at the little sticker on the windshield that reminds us to change the oil.”

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

Many our problems stem from the fact that we are so dreadfully close to them. They just sit in front of our fat noses and we can not see anything beyond them. Evolutionary thinking gives you a broader perspective. Modern human is also called homo historicus, as the species which has the history. But we can now look deeper and broader than history, we can look into the history of life on Earth, into cosmic space, into subatomic world, into time itself. Won’t it feel good?

 

An Interview

Well, the planned interview is not coming. I wanted to talk to Clement Vidal, a Belgian philosopher who wrote about the future worlds, evolution, worldview, and complexity. Here is my letter:

“Dear Clement, I read with the great interest your article about the worldview. I think you created the monster! You single handed created a new branch of philosophy; the philosophy of the worldview, with its own methodology, history and a purpose. this is great, this is needed. The people have a lot of difficulties when it comes  to creating the personal explicit worldview. But, I think, this work is rewarding, and the world would be a better place if more people work on it. It is why I and my daughter Sophia created Philozophy.com. Now I am writing a companion paper called “Worldview Owner’s Manual”. I am trying to shift from the attempts to improve on Aristotle, do unanswerable answers, towards something like savoir vivre  in the broad and literary sense ( I mean after one figured out how to hold the fork), something useful and beneficial for the participant. In the first part,  I am discussing the general issues, like what is the worldview and why one should write it down, etc. In the second part, there are 13 short chapters each for one of our Big Questions. At the end of each chapter, there is a “guest’s interview, an essay or a worldview story”. Again, rather than pure philosophy, I prefer personal insight or story.  The length varies- 1 to even 5 or more pages.

Some of the chapters are finished (need editing badly), some need badly to be written.
All this you can find on my blog evolutionandmeandyou.com under Worldview Owner’s Manual and in posts. Big Question # 10 is “What is the role of evolution?” I would be honored if you’d write something to finish that chapter because you are the best. But you are probably too busy to do it. So maybe I could call you and interview you on this subject (15-20 min), transcribe it the best I can and with your permission and approval, stick it there? Tom”.
He did not answer, so to avoid an empty page in this book I had to write something.
One of the best books I read about evolution is Adam Frank’s “About time”. It shows how human culture and the way of life parallel scientific discoveries. It is 158 years since Darwin’s famous book was published. Since then the view of the world slowly transforming, life forms disappearing, new ones appearing creating the magnificent tree of life connected and explained like never before is seeping into our brains, our culture and our language. It is not that it is difficult to understand what Darwin was saying. It is that every generation in our global culture slowly sinks deeper and deeper in the evolutionary understanding of the world. Scientific discoveries like the fireworks lit the road of the slow process of changing peoples minds, every generation a little bit further.
The genetics is now household concept, the dating of fossils, the background radiation, nuclear energy, and weapons- all these have no sense whatsoever without evolution. And yet more than 50% of Americans do not accept evolution. So fundamental is the role of evolution, it requires, often subconsciously, to rebuilt your vision of the universe and of ourselves from the ground up. The similar process occurred in our implicit sense of cosmos. The Earth was always stable, solid and unchangeable( even if balancing on the Great Turtle) with the Sun and Heavens looking benevolently from above. Then, slowly, over the last five centuries, the Earth moved, then the Planets, then the Suns and Galaxies and Universes swirling around us madly with deeper and deeper disregard for little bi-pedals. Similarly, we saw ourselves as unchangeable, as part of the family, we wanted our children to live better, but we saw our lives tougher than good old days of our parents and ancestors. With the invention of the history, we, for the first time, saw that the old times could have been quite different, maybe not so good. But surely the people were the same! Then, we, slowly again, started to worry about the other cultures about the “primitives” and “aborigines” and then Darwin shocked us with his crazy theory. Now we have to digest that our intelligence changed, from cave man to present, so will it change again in the future. We have to digest that our sensory mechanism changed, we see different things than the animals. According to neuroscience, our emotional and social brain changed.  And now how about a spiritual brain, how about the sense of reality,  the sense of freedom and individuality, All because of these prefrontals and reflective thinking and this obnoxious and annoying SELF…. After a century and a half, we just started to seriously grapple with this evolutionary worldview transformation, I guess we need to ask Millenials?

Big Question #8 : How do you find truth?

“Have patience awhile-slanders are not long-lived. Truth is the child of time- ere long she shall appear to vindicate thee.” Immanuel Kant.

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • how to find somebody to trust?
  • how do you know to believe in that or that scripture?
  • how do you know to believe in this or that media source?
  • do you believe in the system of beliefs you have been growing up with?

How to work on your answer to Question #8

“Find somebody you trust, then ask.” This is the answer that served me well for the last 40 years. I use it myself, but more importantly, I advise the parents of my patients, scared, confused and overwhelmed by the media.

Example of an answer:

“Do lots of experiments. Make notes. Try again”.

Beth Lilly.

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

Surprisingly, I think, the people who would benefit the most from the working on that question come from the both ends of the spectrum. First, these pragmatics, these who think and act like the truth is relative, “what works” or even worse “the best deal” people. This is a misery, no happiness, no relationship, no peace of mind is possible- go and work on your answer!

Second group is happy but more dangerous. They “know the truth”, and they are willing and ready to stick it to us through our throats, all for “our good”.  It is frightening to see how nice and friendly they are. They would help to rebuild your burned house and they would burn you at the stake with the same angelic, righteous smile. Maybe even Philozophy.com can not fix them, hopefully, their children will rebel….

An Essay

Tommy is my grandson, a brilliant young man, medical student, fencier, and boxer, and Go player. He lives in Poland.

“The Complete Personality”, By  Tommy Boron

A development of a personal Mundus Operandi, from battling historical inaccuracy to choosing what the devil to do during the next hour. The Truth is the way, Jesus used to say, a golden compass that guides our actions, if we choose to develop it, patterns emerge from chaos, details become relevant, good and evil distinguishable. This question also hides the meaning of this very edifice. I’d also like to share with you my concept of a complete personality, which as you probably agree this project allows to develop. It can be broken down into these four components:

Purpose – a mean to thrive, goal, vocation, an end of the line for some. In the Matrix, Agent Smith stated that “Programs must have a purpose, otherwise they are deleted”. Maybe it’s not the best quote, but it hits the spot. Sometimes it might only refer to the task at hand, but it dictates the urgency of our actions. “The haste that urges man to march, the dignity of every act” – Dante Alighieri (Divine Comedy) That haste is, of course, to be avoided, by keeping it cool, but doing our job.
Principles – a creed, gentlemen’s code of conduct, Savoir Vivre, etc. Gotta stick to your principles, keep a given word, open doors for the ladies.
Convictions – the roots that hold us firmly in the ground, so that we don’t wobble, or flow carelessly with the stream, pretty much a worldview that Philozophy.com helps us to establish.
Void – A core of that is the child which survived, that may at any time let go of all the above and observe with pure curiosity the works of nature, a place where duality is broken, the tao flows without obstruction, dreams become a tangible reality. I’d say it is like a mental sanctuary, mind palace also grasps the essence. An oasis of peace deep within.
Lastly, the components of our life: the story, the game, and the style. Story binds our days, creates beauty, sorts out our experiences so that we may look back and proudly say it was a good day. We are, no doubt, homo Ludens, we enjoy games, sports, physical, and mental activity. The real sages know how to play with their own story, they laugh, cheer the folks around them, and tell us through metaphor that life is just a ride, so we need not worry, and frown too much. Now the style, as Charles Bukowski said: “Style is the answer to everything(…) to do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it, to do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art”. Adding the cherry on top, personal touch, a subtle stroke of the brush is what makes us truly like ancient warriors.
Image

Big Question #6: What is the nature of mind?

 

“Cogito ergo sum”  (I think, therefore I am). – René Descartes

“I participate, therefore  I am” – Jeremy Rifkin, Empathic Civilisation

“Life is making sense”  – Francisco Varela

Subquestions and everyday relevance:

  • Your mind, what is it actually?
  • Who are you?
  • Is it true, what you see?
  • Can we know reality?
  • Is it brain or heart or both or neither?
  • The mind, the self and the soul, which is which and who is in charge?
  • Can one improve?, Can one forget? What do you regret and what can be done about it?

How to work on the answer to the Question #6:

Even if you are a neuroscientist or a shaman you do not know the answer. Even the question itself is new for us humans. The critical thinking and especially reflective thinking is the latest evolutionary addition to our brain’s toolbox. So, as Dr.Guo would say, don’t get too excited, any thoughts on this subject, if original and yours, would be precious and interesting. (I am, for example, always mad at myself. I am trying to change, to improve. Maybe it is all in the genes, or because of the difficult childhood. I think I need to meditate more.)

An example from philozophy.com:

From ‘Richard The Lion Heart’: “The mind is the real you. It is the ghost in the shell, the soul, the conscious thinking eternal energy that experiences and retains.”
View more answers on philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

This is a great area to work for all of us who feel like we’ve got the short of the stick. Excellent for a victim attitude, regrets, and blaming. This work will help with looking  at your problems from outside, as an observer.

An Essay

I am interested in human intelligence as it evolved from the animal intelligence. What are our abilities and our constraints? Looking into the past, into the nature of our world, who did what?  Which part is done by animals: colors, for sure?  Fear and pleasure, certainly? But reality??

It seems that the objective world is just the evolutionary construct of the subjective experiences of our ancestors. How far back this construct reaches?  It reaches further and further back, as our understanding broadens, our science reaches deeper into cosmos and time and consciousness.

This all can be interesting, but “so, what?” It seems that I have got entangled into mind/body jargon.

Let’s see what somebody else would say about the nature of mind.

I am talking to Lawrence Mathis King, author of “Opinion on first principles”, a philosopher, a painter and an architect.

Me: Lawrence, I want to start our conversation with the general lay-out of the inquiry, so to speak, what comes to mind when we question the nature of mind?

LMK: First thing that comes to me is the metaphor – the concept of the mind is like the concept of the water for the fish. The fish doesn’t see it, it’s a part of her of her medium, her nature. Unless there is a turbulence in the water, it is invisible. If you do not look into water you have the depth of vision, but if you concentrate on the water itself, you are suddenly surrounded by the opaque fluid which doesn’t allow you to see through it. The same is with the mind, if you say that it is “trillions of synaptic interactions” biochemical and electrical and leave it at that you put yourself in the corner, madly, because you leaving no room for “the water”, the blind spot.  The mind , I think is much more , beyond the matter of the brain, any substances of the body, is much more shared.

Me: Shared? with whom?

LMK: Shared with all humans, all creatures, all beings even all environment.

Me: You mean the sharing developed by the eons of the evolutionary process?

LMK: I think the evolution is very slow, it makes all the organisms related, yes.  But more importantly I am thinking about the fact that everything affects everything. the connection, the sudden leap in understanding can happen by intuition, the insight, revelation.  Also by the necessity, the danger, the survival- when you run out of food – the unthinkable become possible. When the construct become a narrative, it actually works with environment and it sculpts the story, the outcome. The things, like the jump of faith,  irrelevant yesterday become relevant, even important today.

Me: Your language, the concept of constructs, narratives and relevances, you give new meaning to these terms. I like it, you get some traction in an area that has nothing but the philosophical jargon.

LMK: The questions we ask, about mind , cognition, reality, we have to bring our own language, very private and intuitive. this is a creative process, everyday language is different, most often can not raise to the occasion. I decided to use my own formal language and my terms and defend it as best as I could, but not to yield to the urge to make it “easy”.  I thought: ” to hell with it, it is like going to the concert of classical music- one has to prepare for that way of expression, not the easy way”.  For example- the narrative is the verb for the construct-it is created by necessity and it might become relevant. As, like a little creature living happily on the lily pad, then one day it crawls to the edge and the big pond and everything is suddenly, “uh,uh,” not very lily-paddish. A new relevance, new construct is created- the old language just would not do- needs to search for the new thing.

Me: How do you understand constructs and their origins? You imply that when you try to understand the world and the nature of mind, the constructs are not only useful but crucial terms to connect these two.

LMK: I think the constructs are necessity of consciousness .

Me: Explain this please!

LMK: When you are a conscious being, what the consciousness mean that you are looking at the world through an aperture, through your senses, the sight, the sound touch, etc, through your intellectual ability, your memories. The consciousness is much more than that, but it is a starting place. You get a tiny glimpse of the great spectrum of reality. S o you go back to your lily pad where things make sense locally. You see these past experiences which are relevant and this became the structure- you create or use old- constructs. if you are blind the colors are irrelevant( until somebody invents brain waves to transmit colors to the blind). Constructs are inevitable parts or results of the situation of consciousness. they arise spontaneously, by necessity to interpret the world we see through this aperture. Then, what you do, from the present you extend these constructs through the time and space.  If you travel, the snow storm in the distant city messes your flight schedule, suddenly it become relevant to you.

Me: Your philosophy, like for Husserl was, is a mixture of the content and the method. Like him you use old words in new way, like him you are trying to figure out the relationship between self, the perception and the environment. Trying to explain this to yourself and share with us this explanation of the reality and social structures.

LMK: Social structures are shared via language.  Being “gifted with the present”  we use the language to communicate with other, very imperfectly. It is why I love to be around the animals. their language, their communication is so direct, unequivocal, not affected by time and space, so immediate.

Back to humans, our social constructs are very important, there are millions of them. For me they emphasize the unity of consciousness. through them we realize our interdependence, , co-thinking, co-creating, co-being.. On the good day it tell us  that our similarities are so much bigger than the differences.  We feel our oneness down to the atomic levels , from here to the edge of the universe, I believe that the consciousness extends to all organism and to the inanimate objects too.  On the bad day, these constructs, this interdependence can be so powerfully destructive- dangerous to our very existence, to the existence of humanity. So, this necessity of other, the social structure of our world is a double, more than double, many edges sword. It brings all goods…

Me: if we do not behave like a animals.. or worse

LMK: much worse.

Me: You wrote your book, you tackled many big questions, about our humanity, structure of mind , of reality, you did something similar to writing your worldview.  It is what this manual is about- write your thing down, show that you are not scared or embarassed, show you level of freedom. Did it work for you?

LMK: Yes, it helped a lot.  What I wrote is very satisfying, regardless what other people think about it, if they read it , etc, etc. I have more peace, I obsess less…

Me: Now, I encourage my readers to treat it as a work in progress, to come back to it, edit it, make it more “mine”.

LMK : Maybe, maybe I’d return, but now I am more free to do other things, like return to painting.

Me: Thank you Lawrence, any conclusions ?

LMK: No, thank you for doing this work, it is important and relevant.

Me: Now all we  need is to the world to catch up.

Suggested Readings:

Thomas Nagel, “What is it like to be a bat?” The Philosophical Review 1974
book 2

Big Question #2: What is the universe made of?

Plato’s Phaedo 65d: There is such a thing as absolute Form (pattern). It is the essence or real being of everything. It is apprehended by the intellect (not the senses).

Plato’s Timeaus, 37d: [the Demiurge] began to think of making a moving image of eternity: at the same time as he brought order to the universe, he would make an eternal image, moving according to number, of eternity remaining in unity. This, of course, is what we call “time.”

Subquestions and everyday applications        

  • What is? Ontology (the model of being).
  • What is Your Universe made of?
  • Where are you, really?
  • Is the matter all it is? Can science describe it fully?
  • We like stuff. We chase stuff, we want more and more. What is it actually, is it worth it?
  • Does matter matters? Are things you can grab better or different than things you can feel?
  • Are you a materialist or an idealist or neither or both?
  • In the USA, we have more and consume more than anywhere in the World. We also have the highest percentage of believers. Do gods smile on us?

The philosophers, as a part of the “what is” dilemma, argue always about dualism and nondualism.

As of 2016,  according to folk psychology,  The Universe has eight(!) distinct natures for you to pick from.

  1. There is God, he is lately rather not a bearded white man, more and idea not a guy.
  2. The World is permeated with the divine presence, it is everywhere, something more than the things. The New Age gone mainstream, Buddhism, Taoism, Gaia hypothesis, etc.
  3. There is a real world. It is solid, reliable, measurable, and scientific. What you see, it is what you get.
  4. There is also the soul, me, self,  it is more than science, it may be even immortal if we’re lucky. It may be quite separate from a religion.
  5. The Subjectivity: the opinions, aches, personal “experiences”, it is pretty scientific, but it is slightly beyond the exact description.
  6. The Sub-consciousness, the murky, dark world of psychics, dreams, psychoanalysis and hypnosis.
  7. Then, it is a loose group of beings , and it is ok to believe in them or not. There are ghosts, aliens, zombies, demons, dead people, devils, and angels.
  8. At last, there is the quantum science, pseudo -science and  just plain weird facts. The expanding Universe, uncertainty principle, anthropic principle, string theory, the multiverses, dark matter, non-linear time a’ la “Groundhog Day”, and some half-dead cats… 

How to work on the answer to Question #2

“What is” and ” what’s real” seem to me completely unanswerable or so obvious that you just open your hands with “huh?” gesture. But if you just slightly attach to them the value shade of “what’s important” they make more sense.  Your home brings values, the church brings beliefs and myths, the school and media bring ” ten thousands of things”.   How do they sit together in  you ?

 View  answers on Philozophy.com

An example, by Ricky Newins: “Pragmatically speaking that which we come to know via science. Is there more to it outside of science that we will perhaps never know? Quite possibly.

 Psychotherapy

Clarifying these issues  is very important for the people who worry about the money, which is about everybody. Some worry more than others, some realize it more than others… How to know if I need to go to school some more, invest, retire?  This question helps also people  with the anxiety of their importance… or lack of importance- these often go together.

 We are in the Center of the Universe.

I think we, humans and other beings on Earth, are in the center of the Universe. We are in the center of our Universe and this is the only Universe that exists. It is important to ponder this as if it is really so, it brings a lot of the responsibility to us, humans, as the squirrels and dolphins , as pretty and smart they are, they won’t help much.

As a philosopher, I think that the solution for the present pickle will come from the maturing of the human mind rather than from more successes in the technology.

An idea that we are in the center of the Universe seems like the fine place to start from!

I have been studying the mechanisms of the evolution for the last 35 years and the idea of the personal Universes comes straight from the evolutionary neuroscience. Every animal’s brain evolved to fine tune animal’s behavior in given environment. Perceive, see, understand, adapt, this for the animal is the same thing. It is what an animal does, without splitting it into categories. The animal’s world  (Nagel’s “What it is like to be a bat” will not tell you much…) is very different that mine and yours. It is not subjective and it is not objective- there is no self to make this distinction. It is obviously dependent on the observer, made by the animal’s peculiar, primitive perception and memory, but it is out there. Birds’ migration shows that they can coordinate complex actions, but the sharing is automatic, not via intentional communications. So, the animal’s world is outside, around the each animal, built mostly over the eons of the evolutionary time, with just a little of it built during the life of the animal- to allow for diversity beneficial for the species survival.

Even if the evolution created homo sapiens with the vastly improved brain, the communications ability, and thinking skills, each of us still builds his or hers personal world, with the Universe getting bigger and bigger around us.

The mess is here, on Earth, we are in the center and the safe heaven moved somewhere to the galaxy next door.

I have my life, my world which is interconnected with 7 billions of “you’s”.

You are in the exactly same situation, these are all assets we have, and if we are not extremely careful, we are going to blow them out in the nuclear holocaust. Or starve slowly, take your pick.

After the last human dies, a computer in some deep bunker will still continue to churn out data revealing new “discovery” based on Cosmic Microwave Background measurements.

  But it will be no CMB, this term will become completely meaningless. And it will not matter whether the report is in English, Arabic or Chinese. If there is nobody to read it, there is no CMB, period.

Really, see- “micro” means nothing, “wave” means nothing, “back” means nothing – there is no front so can not be back, there is no “ground” and no “cosmic”.

 OK, you say “ let’s continue this story, and in a million years, the aliens discover this planet and this computer printout”… Not so fast: you can not discover anything is there is no concept of “discovery”. There are no years if there is no spring and winter, and if nobody is born and dies , the time is meaningless and useless. Without the human, there is even no story.

Yes. We are the center of the Universe.

To reflect exactly my opinion, this answer should be followed by several caveats.

But if you are asking this question in the sense “isn’t it true, what science tells us, that we live as a tiny, insignificant specs , on the small planet, on the periphery of the remote galaxy, with the huge , cold, unknown cosmos around us?” , then the answer is resounding – NO.

Some scientists are trying to cheers us up, like Primack and Abrams in “The view from the center of the Universe” and Tom Yulsman in “Origins”. They made it worse, their wishy -washy argument and wishful thinking goes from reassurance that our size is just right (sic!) to the hope that future science will alleviate our wretchedness to stating that the Universe does not have the center, therefore we can not be off it.

  My caveats which include the glossary and concepts pertaining to my philosophy may seem in the beginning slightly controversial, but if I worry too much about it, I wouldn’t even start.

First, talk about “the center”.

We automatically think about “the center’ like a cartographer, or as a boy scout- “we need a flag in the center of the camp”. The Universe is “everything” and has many, many dimensions.

On the top of the obvious ones, like space, mass, magnetism, time, think  of “the center of ethical and emotional concern”, “center of complexity “, “center of the information density’ and “ center of consciousness”.

We could now get bog down in the nightmare of definitions controversies.

But this we will not do, it will not be necessary.

Hold this thought and let’s go to “the Universe”.

The only Universe I have is my Universe, and the same is true for you, and for you.

The “we” means 7 billions of us , right?

Again it looks that I am trying to trick you and left you with the play on words. Not in the least.

If we find out that the center is more or less similar for everybody, then we will not need to argue about “my Universe” vs “our Universe”. Like you and me, who have been building mine and your Universes since mine and your conception.
Now imagine 7 billion personal worlds all mingled, shared, interconnected. Then add 14 billions of the mom’s and dad’s worlds which were the base of the each of our personal worlds, add all the ancestors’ worlds, further and further back in time.  All sentient beings contributed to the process of building subsequent generations of personal worlds.

All the dimensions we mentioned and many which we did not count were the product of this incredible complexity masterpiece, including  space, the time and others. The main function of the evolving animal’s nervous system is to create understanding, in other words -the cognition. And this works through categorizing, naming, creating semantic shortcuts, the metaphors.

According to the Gaia hypothesis , kind of similar to my philosophy, the interconnected sentient beings create super intelligence, like interconnected neurons and dendrites, create the conscious brain. To me, these connections  between humans are mostly related to ancestors via genes and culture via instincts and the core of human nature. These connections make possible for each of us to become conscious and create a meaningful world.

During the last 80 years, science and philosophy are grappling with the explanation of the observed vs observer dilemma. From Bohr and Einstein to Maturana and Varela and Thompson , the concept of observer-built reality is gaining ground.

And, of course, about 50 000 years ago, the culture and the technology for the engineering reasons developed “the agreement universe” so we could hunt the mastodon or build the bridge or a spaceship. The other names for this are “nobody’s universe” or “reality”.

But while the scientists still ( and will forever ) argue, this should not make us feel like the insignificant specs, excused to be helpless and small, waiting for the creator to help us, please!

We are at the center of human experience, as we are building personal worlds, the Universe consists of. We are responsible for it and every of us 7 billion, matters.

Humanists and Extrahumanists

 

         Let’s stop dividing people into theists and atheists. By referencing something, we automatically validate it, it is why the term “atheism” is self-destructing, as one describes oneself by the term denoting the absence of god while one does not believe god exists! For me the term “atheist” is meaningless.

        The term humanist is the best- better than naturalist, atheist, freethinker, etc.- it is species-specific, solid and logical. It should be an “umbrella” term, similarly like theists (or extrahumanists)  have their religions, cults, and sects.  Let’s talk about  humanists and extrahumanists.

          Humanists are the people who see the source of the goodness and morality inside the nature of human being. This nature was build for eons by evolution, later modified by culture and endless tapestry of the earth’s civilizations. It includes all the instincts and wisdom of our ancestors, the heroes, the kings and the prophets, down to everybody’s  dad and mom. Everybody contributed and now it is our time to carry on.

 

           Extrahumanists are the people who see the source of the morality and ethics in a message from an intelligence higher than humans, actually infinitely higher.  This source, they believe,  is beyond evolution created human mind, it is all powerful God or gods, or aliens, or Heavens, or just unknown Order or Force permeating all the Universe. By definition and by design, this intelligence, which is the source of scriptures and their moral messages, is beyond the capacity of the human brain to comprehend, so its nature and its reasoning are unknown; they are the subject of faith and speculations. Scriptures tell the faithful what to do, but they give very few details about the origins of the message, say why we should not work on Sunday, or Friday or Saturday (depending on the God). And, again according to the extrahumanists, humans should not even attempt to completely figure all this out, they would not be able to understand it. So the extrahumanists are assured (or assure themselves) that that higher intelligence will take care of them, and maybe even of us poor humanists. They will listen to the message of the Lord, act accordingly, and go to heaven. Naturally, historically and ethnically, different sources or deities suggest different things to do. No surprise. On the mythical and ethnic level, these suggestions may be locally and temporally quite beneficial for the faithful, but may be very unpopular for the rest of humanity. These mythologies and rituals, while often beautiful and sentimental, also tend to become, by and by, pretty ridiculous and embarrassing as the times change.

         It might appear that there is the attitude which do not fit either of the two groups. Some scientists and other materialists just refuse to engage into philosophy. They are out to discover the laws or the things in the world leaving the philosophical quibble to the lowly humanities. If pressed, they usually agree that they assume some order in nature. Obviously, we do not know, will never know everything, but what we know is built by the animal, and then human intelligence, therefore they are humanists by default.

 

          Defining somebody’s worldview by pointing to what he or she does not believe, does not make any sense.  As a humanist, I have plenty of ideas to explore, beliefs and doubts, but it is useless to discuss things which do not exist. So do not call me a-theist, as I am not calling you a-humanist. Like in the restaurant, it would be odd to concentrate discussion on the dishes we will not order, or are not even on the menu. Anyway, the content of the message is the most important, the ethics and the values, while the quibble about the source may be irrelevant. It seems that across all religions and spiritual systems, the more contemplative the training, the deeper the level, the more barriers fall away and all the messages become the same. Perhaps it is  because their origin is the core of the human nature.

           Exploring these messages, including mythology and wisdom of all religions and philosophies, examining the human nature with the human mind not only discovers the unifying goodness and beauty but creates it (ie, goodness & beauty) in the process. Like, searching for the meaning of life makes it meaningful, or, according to modern phenomenologists – “living is making sense”.