Letters to Dr. Brewer:

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d63
Posts: 712
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:55 pm

Letters to Dr. Brewer:

Post by d63 »

First, given your expertise on Whitehead, I have to ask:?: did Whitehead or Russell write the quote:

“Humble yourself or the world will do it for you.”

I’ve been quoting it ever since I read it in the newspaper, but I’ve never been able to confirm who I got it from. Google won’t help me; hopefully you can.

That said:

“The argument is very deep but the first stage is to distinguish the world as represented, that is the world as re-presented through complex language, signs and symbols from the world as presented (the phenomenal or experiential world re Schopenhauer "World as Will and Re-presentation). This atomization requires an intellect capable of advanced language where things are named. We then order the names genetically and spatially and into a "conceptual field" that represents the reality of the presented world in a particular area. We check this theoretical conceptual field has the wholeness we find in the presented world using logic and further empirical tests to check for inconsistencies. If it holds together it becomes a theory with its own sign (QM, Relativity, Thermodynamics, Natural selection, Freudian psychology etc. etc). My problem is that many philosophers and scientists think that this re-presented world contains the whole of reality, even worse: it is more real than the actual world.”

Yes, there is something about reality that seems to overflow the language we use to describe it. In fact, I would argue that it is the struggle to bring the tools of language (and by language, I mean language in its many forms such as mathematics or art (more in line with reality that defines our cultural history. Even abstract and surreal approaches are part of it to the extent that they are surrenders to the impossibility of (re)presenting what you describe in your book as a barrage of external data (and what Deleuze would describe as the infinite confronting our finite capacities.

And while you make a good argument as to the catch that comes with limiting ourselves to the “conceptual field”, I would stand in defense (play apologetics for (our use of the tools language of different sorts offer us. Here I stand with Rorty’s pragmatism in recognizing language as a kind of tool we use to adapt to our given environment.
*
“The next movement in this argument is to say that because consciousness plays no part in this underlying biochemical machine, it isn’t a necessary component of the body’s function. This seems to be confirmed by experiments showing how the body makes decisions even before we are aware of them.” -Brewer, Stephen. The Origins of Self (pp. 38-39). . Kindle Edition.

I have always had issues with the Libet experiment. It just seems to me that the subjects were asked do something that most humans are incapable of: make choices in a vacuum. It just seems to me that all Libet was recording was the individual WORKING UP to a choice.

At the same time, what this also suggests is that we have to let go of pure free will and think more in terms of participation, as Ken Taylor of Stanford and Philosophy Talk fame suggests.
d63
Posts: 712
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:55 pm

Re: Letters to Dr. Brewer:

Post by d63 »

Doc:

Throughout your book, you deal extensively with the nature of consciousness as concerns simpler life forms such as gnats and ants down to single cell organisms. I’ve had a few thoughts about this myself. So please indulge me while I add my own 2 cents to the mix.

It’s a funny story. Back in the 90’s, I and my college graduate friends managed to come across some LSD. (I’m sure you can you guess who managed that negotiation.) Under that influence, we got into a conversation about whether ants could be said to have a sense of self. Their argument was pretty much the same mechanistic one as Max. I, on the other hand, argued that they did. At the time (and given my state of mind), I was mainly taking a position that suited my general disposition.

It wasn’t until hindsight kicked in that I realized two things. First, it just seemed to me that an organism would have to have some sense of self in order for there to be a survival instinct. It would have to have some sense of what it was it was trying preserve. Secondly, it seemed to me that if it were as mechanistic as my friends assumed, you have to ask how it is that such organisms can actually anticipate threats to their survival. If it were as mechanistic as my friends argued, wouldn’t it require that you literally stick a pin into the nervous system of an ant in order for it to respond?

Furthermore, I see the possibility of a self in what I refer to as a perceiving thing: that which makes nothing something through intentionality: consciousness always being consciousness of something. You are reading this. Then you say to yourself: I am thinking about myself reading what D. has written. Then you think about thinking about reading what I have written. And you could go on like that forever. But what you can never do is look back at what is looking out: the perceiving thing: a perceiving thing that is no different (structurally that is (than any less evolved perceiving thing. The only difference, as Douglass Hofstadter points out in I am a Strange Loop is the complexity of the symbolic matrix through which all perceiving things project into the world.
d63
Posts: 712
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:55 pm

Re: Letters to Dr. Brewer:

Post by d63 »

Doc:

Good news!!!!! Just finished your book today and am about to move on to a recently purchased book on Phenomenology and Marxism. And you know how we intellectual and creative scrappers are lacking the focus that formal training offers: always following the next shiny object. So I’ll likely become a little less of a pest for a while. It kind of sucks for me in that I tend judge any input I take in based on what it gives me that I can use. And by that criterion, your book was a stellar performance. There was so much more I wanted to comment on. Plus that, I had just found (after much experimentation (how to coordinate filling this space as well as the spaces I fill on social media: how I cross-pollinate. And because of that, I hope to return to your book soon. I’m starting to see a potential PN article coming out of it.

That said, I want to finish this discourse (this jam (w/ a general/wide-swipe observation. It seems to me that you (like myself (see the answer in the middle-ground. This seems especially evident in the synthesis you present between Freya (who knows perfectly well what she is experiencing when it comes to consciousness (and Max who represents what I refer to as a metaphysical atheist: to the extent that there is nothing that transcends the physical –that is as compared to the theological atheist that simply doesn’t believe in God. And I see this rooted in the conundrum you point out in the book. On one hand, we have the fanatical materialists who reduce everything to the physical which leads, as you describe, to a kind of solipsism. On the other, we have the Cartesians who treat the mind as something separate from the physical. This (this ghost in the machine argument), it seems to me now, is what leads to misguided notions of perfect free will.

And to lend a little anecdotal support to your model (at least as I interpret it), throughout my history on social media, the two most noxious trolls I have encountered have either been the hardcore materialists very much like Max or the hardcore Libertarians who argue that any failure of Capitalism can only be the result of a failure of the individual to act on their perfect free will. (Oops!!! Got political again. I’ll explain later.)

Keep up the good fight, Doc;
Look forward to jamming
w/ u again,
the scrapper.
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