TrueScotsman

Consciousness, Reality, and Mysticism | Continuation from Lion's Den

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TrueScotsman    249

This thread is a continuation of a discussion in the Lion's Den, but am moving the discussion here for a more a more focused topic that is open to all to read and participate.  This thread is somewhat open ended, the remarks I make below are aimed at what I understand of Pansychism and Peter Russell's teachings on the topic, and how this relates to the nature of reality.  But I think there is another element of mysticism that I think should be discussed in this thread, what it's nature is, and how human beings experience it in reality.  

 

Reason #1 | Emergence and Consciousness

 

I don't accept the hard problem of consciousness as handed down by modern philosophy by Descartes in the Enlightenment, western society has inherited a dualistic conception of the mind from its Hellenistic-Judeo-Christian background wherein a union of Plantonic Idealism and Pauline Dualism became an inherent part of our tradition.  We think of ourselves as a "self," and the modern enlightenment began with the works of Descartes, Hegel and Kant who conceived of a modern interpretation of this view of mankind being something that is unified in nature to the transcendent.  The work of Chalmers and Russell update these arguments in modern philosophy by making the issue about consciousness, which is an old concept with updated meaning reflecting what we know from science as well.  Their work is ultimately about trying to figure out what the nature of reality by solving the problem of the mind, and they end up doing this by expanding consciousness to a near limitless scale, where consciousness underlies everything to some degree.  This I believe is a backwards approach, the universe exists as it does today without any interaction from agents apart from ourselves on this planet.  Life seems to be a novel thing in the universe, as in it had an origin in time and that before this there was simply the particles of physical structures.  The stars which became the material factories for the planetary structures which later came.  Regarding simply inorganic molecules, is that when you give them enough time and density within whatever substance they reside, you don't even need a catalyst for you to start seeing all kinds of complex amino acids forming as NASA recently demonstrated in the past several years with the building blocks of life being able to come together even within a space-like condition, an expansion on Miller-Urey's origin of life experiment with the primordial soup and lightening.  How this happens is actually due to simple repulsion and attraction rules which molecules obey, due to their electrical charges that allow them to combine to make organic compounds.  This is very much so likely how life arose, perhaps in a hydrothermal vent at the sea floor, with the synthesis of heat and chemicals producing the first proto-RNA self-replication molecules and eventually metabolism.  Biology even though it is reliant on the physical atoms which populate the molecules, is ultimately an emergent feature of the material world in that unique structures of matter are now organized a higher levels which produce by that complexity, new and novel properties.  

 

So how does emergence solve the hard problem of consciousness?  Well, it doesn't solve all the answers just yet, as this explanation does point to the source of this answer within the Central Nervous System, but it provides what I think is the best framework for understanding how the brain works generally, and how this points to a solution for consciousness.  Let's examine the case of the Chimpanzee, whose genome we have matched and compared to that of a human being to 98% accuracy, and when examined with particular interest to comparing our brains something startling is revealed.  There is very little difference genetically from a human brain and a Chimp brain, even more startling is that the neurons of an insect are no less remarkable than our own relatively speaking.  However, where we do have some significant genetic differences from Chimps is that we deviate on the matter of cellular division, as in human beings go through additional divisions and thus produce more neurons.  Which we have over hominid evolution developed into a more structured neocortex, particularly with concern to the prefrontal cortex.  These highly connected regions are unique in the universe in that they represent the most complexly organized structure in the known universe.  We also find in other emergent systems that when you have simple general components for organization, across a system you can create new functions and properties by increasing the quantity of connections.  This means that we have to take a systems approach to the brain, and understand our internal experience of consciousness as evolutionarily shaped to be representative of the world we live in, but in a fragmented and imperfect way.  Such as our sensory inputs are shaped by our evolutionary heritage, such as 1,000 less olfactory genes than that of a Chimp, and therefore our conscious experience of the world is shaped in part by genetic parameters which shape our sensory inputs, but they don't determine the final shape and structure of our adult brains.

 

This brings me to my second point.

 

Reason #2 | Neuroplasticity and Evolutionary Epistemology

 

The brain as a system of structures, such as neurons which communications in a decentralized fashion nonetheless produces an experience of a being existing in time, as Sam Harris said, "it is always now when it comes to the matter of neuroscience."  To me this isn't to demonstrate that human beings shape time with their thinking, as it has been shown that only velocity and gravity can warp this spacetime which we inhabit, but rather this perception is based upon neuro-chemical interactions which are meant to be reflective of the universe in which we live.  For instance, let's rewind back to our time on the Savannah, would it be beneficial to our survival to produce sensory inputs which would be wholly inaccurate of the world?  No in fact, our consciousness erred on the side of scaring us shitless, by having an overactive amygdala which assumed the presence of an agent in the bush that just moved near by, and to use our innate reptilian attention to be activated by such mammalian structures.  We likewise are more prone to see angry faces in a crowd, our perceptions are created in our minds much like Kant stated, but his problem was then to assert a consciousness-centric-idealism rather than to understand how evolution shaped our sensory capacities, which is a view now called Evolutionary Epistemology.  

 

Neuroplasticity is the other element to this which is that changes to the structure of the brain seem to produce functional differences in human beings.  To recall an example, there was a 40 year old school teacher who had no history of aberrant behavior to speak of.  However, he became increasingly unable to control many of his conscious urges and desires, getting deeply invested in child pornography, and even to the point where he couldn't help but ask every woman who passed him to sleep with him.  After being convicted on charges related to prostitution and child pornography, this teacher found himself having a head ache as he awaited to be sent off to prison.  Once he collapsed, he was finally then taken to a hospital where a giant tumor had been growing where his orbito prefrontal cortex resides, a region obviously responsible for regulating the behavior he clearly demonstrated.  This was removed and his behavior returned to normal, and this would happen two more times where the tumor had to be removed and the behavior returned with each occurrence.  This to me doesn't point to a consciousness which is ultimately at one with the universe, but one that is distinct to your body and reliant on the structure of your brain to produce the cognitions, emotions and behavior which make up our human experience.  These pathways can be damaged, or they can be shaped in ways which can be harmful for future behavior, such as the development of a disorder of some sort.  These can also be improved as contemplative practices and even religious practices have demonstrated to do, which explains some of the more esoteric experiences human beings attain after repeated practice of contemplation.  Which is to say that the truly remarkable thing about human beings isn't this awe inspiring esoteric experience we can attain in our own heads, but that through deliberate practice human beings can attain experiences like that and MORE, because of the reality of neuroplasticity.  Which explains why human beings changed so greatly with the cognitive revolution, as the invention of cultural cognitive artifacts necessitated changes in neural structures and patterns.  

 

This is a non-reductive approach to Naturalism which does employ both some reductive explanations but also utilizes chaos theory, emergence and complexity sciences to demonstrate these interactions across various scales of reality, without asserting the supremacy of one, be it the physical or mental.  An ontologically pluralistic universe which doesn't need unification, nor can it, as explanations of local ontology versus global ontology seem to be the only ones we are truly able to answer at this stage of philosophy, where realism has been reformed down to the pragmatic after the fall of dualism and positivism.  This could be compatible perhaps with a Panentheism, but a Pantheism or one that over plays its hand with the quantum realm is one that again falls into that same problem which we spoke about with Descartes, in that it gives ontological supremacy to consciousness when I don't think the evidence is quite warranted for that.

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Joshpantera    514

Now I'll post Peter Russell's video lecture on the Primacy of Consciousness argument that he's set forward, so that we can examine just what his argument does entail: 

 

 

 

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TrueScotsman    249
 

Now I'll post Peter Russell's video lecture on the Primacy of Consciousness argument that he's set forward, so that we can examine just what his argument does entail: 

 

 

 

Will listen to the whole thing now.. be back in a bit!

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Joshpantera    514
 

 


Reason #1 | Emergence and Consciousness

 

I don't accept the hard problem of consciousness as handed down by modern philosophy by Descartes in the Enlightenment, western society has inherited a dualistic conception of the mind from its Hellenistic-Judeo-Christian background wherein a union of Plantonic Idealism and Pauline Dualism became an inherent part of our tradition.  We think of ourselves as a "self," and the modern enlightenment began with the works of Descartes, Hegel and Kant who conceived of a modern interpretation of this view of mankind being something that is unified in nature to the transcendent.  The work of Chalmers and Russell update these arguments in modern philosophy by making the issue about consciousness, which is an old concept with updated meaning reflecting what we know from science as well.  Their work is ultimately about trying to figure out what the nature of reality by solving the problem of the mind, and they end up doing this by expanding consciousness to a near limitless scale, where consciousness underlies everything to some degree.  This I believe is a backwards approach, the universe exists as it does today without any interaction from agents apart from ourselves on this planet.  Life seems to be a novel thing in the universe, as in it had an origin in time and that before this there was simply the particles of physical structures.  The stars which became the material factories for the planetary structures which later came.  Regarding simply inorganic molecules, is that when you give them enough time and density within whatever substance they reside, you don't even need a catalyst for you to start seeing all kinds of complex amino acids forming as NASA recently demonstrated in the past several years with the building blocks of life being able to come together even within a space-like condition, an expansion on Miller-Urey's origin of life experiment with the primordial soup and lightening.  How this happens is actually due to simple repulsion and attraction rules which molecules obey, due to their electrical charges that allow them to combine to make organic compounds.  This is very much so likely how life arose, perhaps in a hydrothermal vent at the sea floor, with the synthesis of heat and chemicals producing the first proto-RNA self-replication molecules and eventually metabolism.  Biology even though it is reliant on the physical atoms which populate the molecules, is ultimately an emergent feature of the material world in that unique structures of matter are now organized a higher levels which produce by that complexity, new and novel properties.  
 

 

 

The hard problem of consciousness is basically how something as immaterial as consciousness, can arise from something as unconscious as matter? 

 

Now you're saying here that you simply don't accept the hard problem of consciousness.

 

The claim is that physics has not explained it. And there's been a reaction by some people in the materialist community to just basically ignore it or suggest that it isn't a problem. All the while the hard problem remaining unresolved. So I take your statement that you don't accept the hard problem of consciousness to mean that you are among those who either don't acknowledge that a problem does exist, or choose to ignore it. 

 

My own position started out as dismissive to panpsychism and suggestions that "all is mind." And the New Age claims that reality is created by perception. Basically the claims that suggest that mind comes before matter. That doesn't make any sense with respect to evolution. Much in the same way you've expressed here: 

 

 

 

Their work is ultimately about trying to figure out what the nature of reality by solving the problem of the mind, and they end up doing this by expanding consciousness to a near limitless scale, where consciousness underlies everything to some degree.  This I believe is a backwards approach, the universe exists as it does today without any interaction from agents apart from ourselves on this planet.  Life seems to be a novel thing in the universe, as in it had an origin in time and that before this there was simply the particles of physical structures.  The stars which became the material factories for the planetary structures which later came.

 

 

But, that's the reason I've posted the video lecture. Both you and myself are actually swinging at a straw man with this reasoning, and I didn't know that from the outset. I was looking at it all wrong. And that's why it appears at first glance that they're using a backwards approach. I'm thinking that you may adjust your opinions too, after having looked closely at the Primacy of Consciousness argument itself and what it entails. It's not as cut and dry as you're seeing it in the quote. 

 

Where we're actually going is somewhere that I came upon independently of Peter Russell through my own contemplation. And that's the simple question of whether awareness itself, just existence of awareness itself isn't limited just to human consciousness but instead down scales all the way down the material universe to sub atomic levels. This isn't to suggest HUMAN consciousness or SUPER consciousness all the way down, it's simple to question whether awareness starts out very primitive and simple at lower levels, and becomes more complex as you begin to scale up. And finally finding the complexities that arise through the evolution of animals and finally to mankind.

 

I came into this because of an alternative physics model know as the Wave Structure of Matter (WSM), set forward by Milo Wolff and Geoff Haselhurst. It's basically a wave structured model of the electron.  

 

The Wave Structure of Matter in Space

 

 

And it was set forward as a possible explanation for the mechanism of two way communication between point particles in space, namely that point particles are the 'appearances' of spherical standing waves vibrating in the wave medium of space. It's a materialistic model, set forward by materialistic thinkers. But it creates a philosophical pantheist outlook at the same time, where one thing exists, space wave motion, and that one thing that exists gives rise to everything that exists. It's offered as the simplest explanation of reality, by explaining reality from only one thing. I found that pretty interesting. 

 

But from this focus on point particles and how to try and best explain the mechanism for two way communication between particles in space, I began to see something emerging that no one seemed to be talking about. The communication of distance and location between two particles in space, can be explained by the angle of the wave fronts that enter into the standing wave centers of each individual particle. The arch of the in-wave fronts will be more or less curved as they approach the wave center / point particle, depending on the distance of the surrounding wave center sent the out-waves. I asked the physicists if this could be considered a very primitive type of awareness experienced by the spherical standing waves / point particles in space? An awareness of distance and location between individual particles in space, of sorts? Hesitantly the answer was yes, but they quickly qualified that it's not awareness in the sense of consciousness as we understand it. Granted, I didn't think that it was though. I only thought that I may be looking at the 'beginnings' of what can be called awareness in the universe. And it's simple and primitive, not complex. It's not super consciousness in any way described by Hinduism and eastern mysticism. It's not an all knowing god of the bible. It's not advanced or complex awareness and it's not human consciousness, obviously. 

 

So I thought I had stumbled into something unique, and worthy of deeper consideration. 

 

Fast forward to years later and I came across this lecture on the Primacy of Consciousness by Peter Russell. When he said that he feels that awareness goes all the way down in this lecture, I immediately recognized the correspondence to what I had been questioning through a different focus than that of Peter Russell. And this speaks to the Hard Problem in physics. Not by way of some fruity New Age claim based on taking ancient eastern mysticism literally, but rather from an in depth analysis of the natural universe itself and it's evolution of life over time with the addition of inherent awareness as part of the equation. 

 

It's addressing the hard problem pf consciousness by suggesting that awareness didn't magically emerge into existence at some point down the evolutionary line, which science hasn't been able to pin point, but rather that it's primary in nature itself - in material existence itself. Not by way of some supernatural god, superconsciousness, or all knowing anything, but rather nature and cosmos apparently having an inherent sense of awareness through and through, which can develop into much GREATER FOCUS with the evolution of central nervous systems.

 

And that's not to say that awareness doesn't emerge at some fixed point, because according to my consideration it does clearly emerge. 

 

Space itself shows no sign of being aware and conscious. How could it be? Awareness of anything at all only seems to emerge as of the emergence of a central point in space, which can then experience awareness on primitive levels of communication - not contemplative or all knowing levels - but primitive levels that simply have to do with energy and information exchanging between particles in space. The wave structured electron makes this obvious and gives it some depth. But I see this as still applying to standard point particle physics as well. 

 

From 'centralized points in space' can energy and information transfer from one point to another. And scaling up from the sub atomic forward, this primitive awareness inherent in the material universe itself, is an inherent awareness within nature itself all the way through. All sorts of energy and information communication taking place through out all material existence, including life forms, and including intelligent life forms. Without the existence of a centralized point, there's no real mechanism for awareness to be experienced at all. And each of us basically represent a centralized point of experience, which is usually referred to as the ego or ego consciousness. This may in fact scale all the way down in that sense - in the sense of experience and awareness always taking place in terms of a centralized perspective looking outward. Meanwhile, we're actually nothing more than the fabric and structure of existence itself having experiences of awareness from the perspective of centralized locations throughout it's natural expanse. It's not thinking this or that, aside from thinking this or that through the medium of living creatures that can think. I don't see any evidence of uniform eternal mind, just inherent awareness that may have always been taking place any where that a universe exists with material properties. In the case of eternal cosmological models, that means eternal existence of material and in like fashion awareness inherent in material. Add things like the infinite replication paradox to the table and a greatly expanded outlook on inherent material awareness can begin to take shape. All while holding to a materialistic oriented scientific outlook. 

 

There's no intelligent designer, aside from nature itself. 

 

Nature appears to be a trial and error system that produces change based often on mistakes or correcting disadvantages. And you add the inherent awareness emergent as of the smallest levels of subatomic matter, and a situation begins to take shape that may better explain evolution itself. The awareness of nature itself. Which can spill over into infinite and eternal in depth and scope, very easily. 

 

And it speaks directly to the hard problem of consciousness in physics again and again...

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TrueScotsman    249
 

 

 

 

The hard problem of consciousness is basically how something as immaterial as consciousness, can arise from something as unconscious as matter? 

 

Now you're saying here that you simply don't accept the hard problem of consciousness.

 

The claim is that physics has not explained it. And there's been a reaction by some people in the materialist community to just basically ignore it or suggest that it isn't a problem. All the while the hard problem remaining unresolved. So I take your statement that you don't accept the hard problem of consciousness to mean that you are among those who either don't acknowledge that a problem does exist, or choose to ignore it. 

 

My own position started out as dismissive to panpsychism and suggestions that "all is mind." And the New Age claims that reality is created by perception. Basically the claims that suggest that mind comes before matter. That doesn't make any sense with respect to evolution. Much in the same way you've expressed here: 

 

 

 

 

But, that's the reason I've posted the video lecture. Both you and myself are actually swinging at a straw man with this reasoning, and I didn't know that from the outset. I was looking at it all wrong. And that's why it appears at first glance that they're using a backwards approach. I'm thinking that you may adjust your opinions too, after having looked closely at the Primacy of Consciousness argument itself and what it entails. It's not as cut and dry as you're seeing it in the quote. 

 

Where we're actually going is somewhere that I came upon independently of Peter Russell through my own contemplation. And that's the simple question of whether awareness itself, just existence of awareness itself isn't limited just to human consciousness but instead down scales all the way down the material universe to sub atomic levels. This isn't to suggest HUMAN consciousness or SUPER consciousness all the way down, it's simple to question whether awareness starts out very primitive and simple at lower levels, and becomes more complex as you begin to scale up. And finally finding the complexities that arise through the evolution of animals and finally to mankind.

 

I came into this because of an alternative physics model know as the Wave Structure of Matter (WSM), set forward by Milo Wolff and Geoff Haselhurst. It's basically a wave structured model of the electron. And it was set forward as a possible explanation for the mechanism of two way communication between point particles in space, namely that point particles are appearences of spherical standing waves vibrating in the wave medium of space. It's a materialistic model, more materialistic than the stand model actually. But from this I began to see something emerging. The communication of distance and location between two particles in space, can be explained by the wave fronts that enter into the standing wave centers of each individual particle. I asked the physicists if this could be considered a very primitive type of awareness? An awareness of distance and location between individual particles in space. Hesitantly the answer was yes, but they quickly qualified that it's not awareness in the sense of consciousness as we understand it. Granted, I didn't think that it was. I only thought that I may be looking at the beginnings of what can be called awareness in the universe. And it's simple and primitive, not complex. It's not superconsciousness in any way described by Hinduism and eastern mysticism. 

 

So I thought I had stumbled into something unique, and worthy of deeper consideration. 

 

Fast forward to years later and I came across this lecture on the Primacy of Consciousness by Peter Russell. When he said that he feels that awareness goes all the way down, I immediately recognized the correspondence to what I had been questioning. And this speaks to the Hard Problem in physics. Not by way of some fruity New Age claim based on taking ancient eastern mysticism literally, but rather from an in depth analysis of the natural universe itself and it's evolution of life over time. 

 

It's addressing the hard problem by suggesting that awareness didn't magically emerge into existence at some point down the evolutionary line, but rather that it's primary in nature itself, in material existence itself. Not by way of some supernatural god, superconsciousness, or all knowing anything, but rather nature and cosmos apparently having an inherent sense of awareness through and through.

 

And that's not to say it doesn't emerge, because according to my consideration it does clearly emerge. 

 

Space itself shows no sign of being aware and conscious. That only seems to emerge as of the emergence of a central point in space, which can then experience awareness on primitive levels, not contemplative or all knowing levels, but primitive levels that simply have to do with energy and information exchanging between particles in space. The wave structured electron makes this obvious and gives it some depth. But I see this as still applying to standard point particle physics as well. 

 

From centralized points in space can energy and information transfer from one point to another. And scaling up from the sub atomic forward, this primitive awareness inherent in the material universe itself, is an inherent awareness within nature itself all the way through. All sorts of energy and information communication taking place through out all material existence, including life forms, and including intelligent life forms. 

 

There's no intelligent designer, aside nature itself. 

 

Nature appears to be a trial and error system that produces change based often on mistakes or correcting disadvantages. And you add the inherent awareness emergent as of the smallest levels of subatomic matter, and a situation begins to take shape that may better explain evolution itself. The awareness of nature itself. 

 

And it speaks directly to the hard problem of consciousness in physics...

I have some friends coming over tonight, but I will address this either later in the evening or early tomorrow, as well as give my response to the video which I enjoyed watching.  Love me some good ol' philosophy of mind. :)

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Joshpantera    514

I'm thinking that you might like it. It's a little different. And we may pioneer some interesting things critiquing all of this.

 

This is an odd topic, but hopefully we can get some participation in watching and engaging this issue. Several people responded in the spirituality section. But there's usually more activity here in GT. 

 

@bornagainathiest

 

You want in on this? It does cross into physics and essentially cosmology in so doing, by way of implication. 

 

 

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