Best Possible World: Gateway to the Millennium and Eschaton



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The cognitivist would need to open up the black box and inspect the functional and/or connectional architecture. She would find many logical subroutines and network patterns, and could trace the flow of information and activity patterns, as might some super-MRI scanner, all the way from the musical input to the verbal output. But where in that convoluted process might we locate anything even functionally resembling a recognitional episode?
A human auditor could be expected to produce a virtually unlimited variety of coherent, relevant verbal outputs for any given musical input. And, yes, we could build a randomizing associational module in our musically adept android. The point is, however, that the recognitional episode occurs quite independently of any particular output, or, indeed, of any output at all.
But, here's the rub. Recall that the conversion from a musical tune to word-like symbols or patterns was originally intended to be a part of the internal recognitional process or episode, as simply a specific instance of a mental process. Yet, the recognition cannot be captured by any sort of a pattern. A musical pattern is converted to some other sort of pattern, as in a stimulus-response experiment, but here it is an internal response. There will be a chain of these internal patterns, with each stimulating the next until some actual output pattern occurs. But to what steps in that logical or functional sequence can we assign recognition? At the least, one would have to stipulate something to the effect that recognition proper occurred mainly between steps M and M+N. But that sequence of N patterns could be taken to be a single pattern just in itself, or under some other processing regime. At best, one could say that this internal pattern somehow represents the initial musical pattern. But that does not get us one step closer to the explanation of recognition, per se. If we look inside any system, all we see are patterns, we can nowhere point to recognition. No one, yet, has attempted to postulate a self-recognizing pattern at the logical end of the sequence. It is just more patterns all the way up or down.
We were attempting to construct a hierarchy of recognition modules, with a master recognizer at the top, rather like the notorious 'grandmother-cell', which allegedly lights-up in our head when we see Granny. But what you have just seen is all that we can get out of any such construct.
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Each definable pattern is causally related to the input, and each represents that input in some fashion, but at what point in the process may it be said that I recognize Granny? It might be at the point when I am first disposed to say to myself, 'There's Granny!' But what exactly might this disposition entail? More pertinently, how would I recognize the disposition, without falling into an infinite regress? A brain surgeon wielding a 'cerebroscope' might be able to recognize my brain pattern, and say to me in my groggy state, "You are now disposed to say, 'There's Granny!'" But, normally lacking such a cerebroscope, how am I to know my own disposition, without, say, hearing myself actually utter the words? That utterance would just be another pattern in dire need of recognition.
But, yet, at the very least, there is a strong subjective illusion of actually having recognized Granny. How does one explain that illusion? Just calling it an 'illusion' does not explain it, nor make the experiential reports of it go away. How can one deconstruct an illusion? And don't we have a causal conundrum? Is it the 'illusion' causing the disposition, or the disposition causing the 'illusion'? The is an objective disposition, and there is an actual illusion. Are these entities identical? There is an objective dispositional brain state and an objective 'illusional' brain state. Are these the same state logically?
I notice someone walking in the room. I recognize that it is Granny, and this recognitional event, or illusion thereof, then causes me to be disposed to react in various ways. Would the cognitivist not have to recognize this causal sequence? Something must cause the dispositional state. The cause must precede and be able to account for the effect. The changing of dispositional states is the effect. What could cause me to make the transition to a Granny-recognitional disposition or mode other than an actual recognition of Granny? Can a neuroscientist legitimately switch from nominalism to realism in the middle of this causal sequence? Can she be a nominalist about the recognition and then be a realist about the subsequent disposition and still remain coherent? I'm thinking, 'no'. Can this alleged inconsistency be further analyzed, or be restated with greater clarity? How significant is it? [In the paragraphs below, which were actual written just prior to the last several above, I take the Complexity people to task for a similar metaphysical switch. Are we establishing a significant and endemic pattern of inconsistency? Has this pattern been duly noted previously?]
The Granny-recognitional disposition is at least as objective as any other cognitive dispositional state. There is no logical way to characterize this dispositional state other than as being Granny-recognitional (period!). What else then could possibly be said to be the cause of this particular disposition other than the recognition of Grandmother? Is there a need for any further qualifications or for the deployment of scare quotes? I think not. Is there any way to deconstruct this bit of 'folk' psychological realism without deconstructing most of cognitive science at the same time?
This seems an almost trivial exercise in semantics. It could just be another straw in the wind, or it could land on the overstressed back of some poor camel.
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But then, like the Complexity folk, we are forced to postulate self-organizing systems. So I was wrong when I stated three paragraphs earlier, that no one had postulated a self-recognizing pattern. This is, in effect, what scores of Complexity theorists do for a living. So, couldn't we say that any act of cognition is fundamentally an act of self-organization on the part of the brain? Is this coherent, however? The Complexity folk point to innumerable instances of inorganically and spontaneously generated patterns in nature and under laboratory conditions. Life and mind are natural extensions of this purely physical tendency. I wonder. Take the primordial soup, stir in some self-organizational potency, and voila!
Somehow this natural potency became exponentiated in our brains, and that is our homunculus, nay, that is us, to make a long story short. I still wonder. How does this differ from panpsychism? I see nowhere to draw that line, nor do I see any particular desire on the part of Santa Fe folk, etc. to draw any such line. Is it not in their professional self-interest to encourage themselves and the rest of us to believe that there is such a stairway to heaven and that they are already on the Nth step? Why not? But is it coherent, I wonder.
Having accomplished the Democratesian dream of atomistic deconstructionism, the Complexity people have set about the daunting task of reconstruction. They will need a great deal from that self-organizing potency. But is this potency for real, or is it just an illusion? Where are their deconstructive, nominalistic instincts now? Is not the shoe of realism now on the other foot? Are they not playing both sides of El Camino Real? And should we let them get away with this leger-de-pied? Let me think about that, hmmmmm...............No way, Santa Fe! Let us see how they like the Alameda de las Pulgas, all too familiar to many a weary idealist.

[11/22]


An example often cited in the literature as counting against mental (or historical) realism is that of 'England declaring war on France'. Which argument I am unable to locate presently. It presumably raises the issue of reductionism and of upward vs. downward causation. To what extent are particular events just paradigmatic (nominal) or actually causal (real). A state of war is largely dispositional. What causes that state?
The event of recognizing something cannot logically be reduced to a physical state, or can it? When a smoke detector detects smoke it is disposed to buzz. Does that make me just a Granny detector? And how might this relate to the 'declaration of war' example? One difference might be the formality of it: putting on fancy clothes and signing a piece of parchment. No smoke detector can do that! But that's not quite the point. Recognition is a formal or abstract concept that is used to describe events in which it may or may not be instantiated or play a causal role. There is nothing significantly abstractable about a Granny detector, beyond the abstract physics, but there is presumably about a Granny recognizer.
But wait. Now we are back to the issue of whether a machine is mechanical. The proper functioning of the detector is just as formal (Platonic) as that of the recognizer. Without that normativity the concepts are incoherent. In a word, there cannot be real detectors (material) without real detection (formal). Otherwise, science, engineering,..., human activity lose all coherence. But this is just what the skeptics and cynics have been saying all along. So what else is new? Without the concept of detection we cannot design or become detectors? But lions became effective zebra detectors, presumably without benefit of the concept. Now we are getting down to the nitty-gritty. We either have to bite the skeptical bullet, or promote our mere concepts to Plato's Formal (Granny, Carburetor, Smoke Detector?) Heaven. We can perform the latter promotion coherently only in an immaterialist world: Plato's Heaven may be an illusion, but then so if everything else, my friends.
It is a exquisite fact of life that humans are most reluctant to bite either of these bullets! Fence sitting is the best defense up to a point. Until what point? Until we are willing to consider the price of incoherence.
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But speaking of 'mental realism' consider:
The Mind Paradigm - a Unified Model of Mental and Physical Reality (Introduction by Eric Carlson, Foreword by Huston Smith) -- KEITH CHANDLER (2001)
The Mind Paradigm dispels with finality the specter of the Cartesian Dualism. Descartes, along with Newton and others, bequeathed his successors an irreconcilable dualism between mind and "matter" which saw the universe and everything in it, including life, as soulless, mindless machinery completely incapable of affecting or being affected by everything most important to the human heart and soul: consciousness, ideas, beauty, purpose, values, spirit, love. The Mind Paradigm argues that the Cartesian dualism was a fraud from the beginning and puts in its place Mental Realism, a worldview in which the universe is a thought process of a Cosmic Mind and the world of conscious experience a diffraction of the pure, infinite consciousness of the same Mind through models it creates in the brain. The book describes the new paradigm that is emerging in every area of science from cosmology to cognitive science and is restoring purpose and value to our models of the universe. Finally, it shows why science and mysticism share such a deep complementarity and why each has a place in the single world view of Mental Realism.
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All I can say is wow! Your book looks very impressive and well researched and cuts to the quick in dealing with the materialist-dominated view of consciousness by thoughtfully showing the fallacy of such a viewpoint. I would say this is necessary reading for anyone interested in a complete overview of the relationships of science, consciousness and spirituality.
Fred Alan Wolf, author of The Dreaming Universe (1995) and The Spiritual Universe (1998)
And I have been a fan of Fred's from the time of The Dreaming Universe. You see what mental realism can get you into.
And while we're still onto mental realism:
The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness: A Physical Basis for Immaterialism -- Samuel Avery (1995):
The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness is a radical interpretation of modern physics. Rather than consciousness existing in space and time, it is suggested that the strange phenomena associated with quantum and relativity physics are better understood if space and time are structures within consciousness. Light is vision itself. Matter does not exist outside of consciousness. Mass is a second time dimension.
Here is a useful review of semiotics from a metaphysical point of view: 'Semiotics and Cognitive Science: The Morphological Turn' -- by Jean Petitot.


<-- Prev Next -->
El Camino Real
Stairway to Heaven?

(I know my Spanish is from the Alameda de las Pulgas, or was it Eastwood(?), but grant me this indulgence. Besides, I was running out of parchment for that last page and had to come up with something.)


Let's see how reality is faring these days: Mental realism (122 hits), mental causation (2,600 hits), downward causation (1,200). No too bad. Now, on with the mental realism list:
'CONSCIOUSNESS AS EXISTENCE' -- Ted Honderich (from a book in progress, post 9/11):

This paper is owed to a common conviction among philosophers, that the Philosophy of Mind, as distinct from the science of the mind, is on the rocks and going nowhere, and that something different is needed. It is certainly different.


A little honesty and innovation might get us off to a good start on the royal road.
'CONSCIOUSNESS AS EXISTENCE AGAIN' -- by Ted Honderich:
The account is in part similar to direct realism -- in the account, perceptual consciousness is intrinsically made a matter of something not in the head. It will thus be apparent that it is open to something very like the long-running objection to direct realism, this objection also being an argument for a representative theory of perception. The long-running objection and argument is essentially that in perception we cannot be aware of physical objects, since hallucination, where there are no such objects, is indistinguishable from perception. What we must therefore be aware of in both cases is objects internal to ourselves.
These direct realists are quite convinced they are not on Plato's royal stairway. We'll have to see how they come to this conclusion.
In my opinion, the best defence against all such objections, which certainly are troublesome, is an attack on the views being argued for, representative theories of perception.
Well, it looks like Ted is not quite up to the task of illumination. He is clutching desperately to the solid(?) rock of an external space-time container. He would much rather be lost in space than lost in the mind of God. Who will volunteer to break the bad news to him? This is rock-solid Existentialism: majorly Agnostic: the naturalist version of direct realism.
Then check this out:
International Conference:

“FOUNDATIONS AND THE ONTOLOGICAL QUEST. PROSPECTS FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM” JANUARY 7-10, 2002, Rome, Pontifical Lateran University, Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, 4. 00120 Vatican City.


The Church is sure to keep an iron in this fire. I just hope it doesn't get too hot in the Pontifical kitchen.
IV SECTION: "ONTOLOGICAL CONNECTIONS"
* BERNARD D'ESPAGNAT -- Quantum physics and the ontological problem

* JOHN POLKINGHORNE -- The new physics and opportunities for ontological initiatives

* BASARAB NICOLESCU -- Levels of reality and the sacred

* HORST SEIDL -- About the ontological foundations of natural sciences


My, my! Will it be a hot time in the Ol' City tonight? Better check those 'connections'. Is it who you know, or what you know? Now, if this were a Mormon Church there would be a concealed trapdoor in the ceiling to facilitate the Second Coming. Just a thought.

[11/23]


Well, they say you should not look a gift horse in the mouth. But coming as this is from the horse's mouth, itself, I could hardly resist. You'll be my witnesses that if there are teeth to find, I will, but, so far, I've found nary a one. Are we surprised?
The poor Vatican is stuck between a rock and a hard place with ontology. They know they must rein in the postmodern nihilists, but without providing ammunition for us ontology freaks in the hinterland. Let us be content with the gesture. I'm beginning to wonder if the Protestants even know what ontology means. It is not a word that springs to the lips of any fundamentalists.
With respect to ontology we have had the extravagant Platonic thesis, and then the exceedingly Spartan, Steven Weinberg, antithesis. What is going to be the synthesis, if not actually Hegelian? That is the question which the Vatican is naturally hesitant to address. When that trapdoor finally opens, the Keeper of the Faith knows that he will have to take his iron out of the fire and pack his bags. Will there even be a golden parachute?
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I was about to quote from BERNARD D'ESPAGNAT -- Quantum physics and the ontological problem, on the question of 'radical idealism' which begins on page eight, but the Keeper of the Faith has other ideas. You'll just have to suffer my paraphrasis. Suffice it that Bernie's not big on idealism. He recommends an 'open realism', which reminds me of a baseball story: the count stands at 1-1 as a fastball sizzles across the corner of the plate. 'TWO!' screams the ump. 'Two what?' enquires the batter, 'yeah, two what?' growls the equally intimidating catcher. 'Too close to call,' mumbles the umpire.
Yes, it's tough being in the ontological trenches. Bernie begs for an MIR, 'Man-Independent-Reality'. [N.B. Bernie is not saying it's Mind independent!] If this is not meant as a pleonasm, then we are falling back on dualism, because surely there is also a dependent reality, i.e. 'Existence'.
But wait, here is from another, auto-translated source: Abbaye Saint Paul de Wisques:
Bernard of ESPAGNAT defends, as for him, the idea of the existence of another level of reality beyond space and of time. He decides for a kind of Platonism where the prevalence of the ideas would not make pour the thought in the idealism, but would lead to the design of a veiled Reality, "a reality independent, remote, probably not located in the space time" (B of Espagnat, an atom of wisdom, 1982). This reality, we perceive a kind of projection in fact imperceptible. It is this buckled Reality which gives its direction to our level of reality. The vision of Bernard d' Espagnat is very a indeterminist, it leaves a broad place to the mystery of the world that certain theologists, impressed by science materialist, had wanted to evacuate.
And Bernie is sticking to his quasi-Platonic guns back here at the Vatican. So, sharpening my pencil: "But I wonder if, then, it [this conception of reality] would not be of such a nature as to give rise to a revival of interest for the deep and basic debates on the relationship of God and Mankind that, in the XVIIth [how Romantic!] century, involved Spinoza, Malebranche, Fenelon[??] and others. And it would be remarkable indeed if such a revival were inspired by contemporary physics!"
Yes, I wonder about that, too. I ain't no Spinoza, but, heck, I've got TWO masters degrees, BOTH in physics, no less! Is it OK, Bernie, if I give it the old college try? Then the only thing I'll need is someone to hack into Google, hint, hint. Better watch out, Joe! But I just had a horrible thought. Doesn't the Vatican treasury hold stock in Google? They'd better grab up a few more shares, quick. Remind me to ask Ron about them apples.
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All we have to do is synthesize pragmatism and Platonism. And functionalism points the way. We ran smack into functionalism on the last page with our Granny detector. Yes, we need a transcendental Functionalism. Creation is a Function, is it not? Along with our Functionalism, comes a divine Conceptualism, almost gratis, not too mention major Teleology, as we follow Bernie far beyond the 'sensibility' of space and time.
Doesn't that just about wrap it up? With regard to Functionalism, all we have to do is ask ourselves 'WWGD', what would God do?. The only sensible answer is the BPW, best possible world. Then, as regard to the Eschaton, it's not a matter of whether, but when. And, once again, there is a perfectly sensible answer. This is not Rocket Science, Bernie, it's not even Quantum Science! It's just what any reasonable person would come up with, when Steve and Joe are looking the other way. We're all just chips off the Ol' Block. You don't believe that? Do you believe atoms in the void? (I'm not talking to Bernie now, I'm talking to YOU!!) Well, forget it, that nonsense just isn't flying anymore, and, come to think of it, it never did fly in the first place. Atoms were ever and only a lousy excuse for us not to have to think about what makes the world go 'round. Once that excuse is ripped from our death-grip, we have to wake up and smell the ontology. QED.
I rest my case. Strike me dead, Steve & Joe!
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Speaking of Ron, I can't help but notice the breaking news this morning:
Newsweek [Isikoff] said, however, the FBI uncovered financial records showing payments to the family of al-Bayoumi from a Washington bank account held in the name of Princess Haifa Al-Faisal, wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States and daughter of the late King Faisal.
I had a series of rather interesting communications with Ron between Sept.1st and 16th of 2001, including extended meetings on each of the specified days. The general nature of these interactions led me, in accordance with my long established 'Chicken Little' protocol, to, subsequently and publicly, raise the issue of prior knowledge. No one, even including myself, took this terribly seriously.............until now???
What would be the point of such a possibility? There are larger reasons, mainly taking into account the various Eschatological logistics and scenarios, whereby it would be both necessary and mutually advantageous for there to be intercourse[!] between the Cosmic and Central intelligences. You may recall my previous apologetics in this general regard, which may now be coming home to roost. Better keep an eye on that Ron. No comma[,] and no further comment.
But why this awesomely unsubtle paper trail? A royal snafu? Just bread crumbs in the forest, my dears, on the way to Granny's house!
And what about Ron's golden parachute? I think he'd better talk to Joe about them apples.
[By Michael Isikoff And Evan Thomas

NEWSWEEK Dec. 2 issue


Interestingly, Osama Basnan showed up in Houston last April when Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah came to town with a vast entourage en route to President George W. Bush’s ranch. According to informed sources, Basnan met with a high Saudi prince who has responsibilities for intelligence matters and is known to bring suitcases full of cash into the United States.....]
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Do functions exist?, we'd like to know.
E.g., does reproduction exist in any ontic or Platonic sense? Is this even a coherent question?
Reproduction, like all functions, is normative just by definition. Where are these norms? They are somehow immanent in the reproducing entities, whose existence depends upon the existence of those norms. How many such norms could there be? This may not be coherent. Normality is a quality, something not to be quantified over. There is an input and an output, and there is success or failure, with occasional ambiguity.
Consider mutation, in its most inclusive, even spiritual sense. How do we classify a mutated reproduction? To a considerable extent that will depend on the progeny. Is it a dead-end, or the cornerstone of a whole new world? As with all functions, the teleology suspends judgment until, well, Judgment Day. There can be no real functions then, or, for that matter, a real anything, without an eschaton. But we're not talking about any old eschaton. Logically there can only be one such, given history. Anything more or less would render the Telos unintelligible, taking all meaning down with it. There is just one norm, the Norm of the Telos. All else is relative. That is why it is called Judgment Day.
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