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Episode · 1 year ago

Lecture 30 ULTIMATE FOUNDATIONS

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This lecture briefly explores pantheism and panpsychism as theoretical options for understanding the ultimate foundations of reality,

Meditation, Time, lecture, thirtyultimate foundations. We humans have an inveterate disposition to ask bigger questions than weare fit to answer. Our excuse is simple. We are curious animals bynature. In the world is an infinitely puzzling tangle of occurrences, both withinand without. In the face of any such occurrences, we feel compelled toraise the question why, and that already at a tender age, when ourexperience, together with the difficulty of understanding its causes and implications, is mediatedby language. The archetypal question that exceeds our ability to answer it comprehensively andconclusively is also primary. Why does the universe exist the way it does insteadof differently or not at all? We...

May, however, reduce this questionby resorting to a tautological shortcut that avoids infinite regress with as simple because itdoes. This means that the fact of being is self evident and leaves noopen and challenging question other than its mode of being, observable and describable byway of experimentation and theorization, albeit imperfectly. This short cut has considerable merit,because the fact of being logically implies the eternity of being in one formor another, manifest or latent. Conversely, you cannot derive the fact of beingat some degree zero of existence from absolute nothingness. The modifier absolute marksa clear and critical distinction between the type of nothingness just mentioned, in relativenothingness containing the potentiality of being, which...

...precedes and explains the actuality of being. This relative nothingness is therefore a latent form of being that constitutes the GenerativeFoundation of being in its manifest form. It is logically inferred from this manifestform of being, which excludes the possibility of absolute nothingness. In other words, the fact of being admits of neither beginning nor end. Though it canalternate between potentiality and actuality, it is not only self evident but also selfsufficient. As such, it can perfectly fulfill the role normally assigned to Godin great religions, the latter being relegated from this pantheistic perspective to the statusof superfluous or expendable mental construct. So the only reasonable question that remains appearsto read as follows. How does the universe exist, given the eternal necessityof its existence? Science, which is...

...predicated on the study of the objectiveexteriority of things dubbed physical, as opposed to the subjective interiority of the scientists, namely their consciousness, that is, the non physical bedrock of their observationsand conceptualizations, has much to say about that. And yet it must bestressed that, by reason of its outward focus, science is mute on thesubject of consciousness proper, distinct from brain states evidenced by such neuroscientific techniques asfunctional MRIs. Of course, consciousness can be dismissed as an illusion, leavingonly its physical substratum as a substantial object of study. But then we setourselves up for a confounding rebuttal one cannot entertain an illusion without being conscious inthe first place, in terms of mental...

...events versus brain scans, that is, we cannot safely assume the reality of what we strive to deny. Allthis suggests that a dualist view of the world, at least as regards humans, is the most defensible, not only against materialistic reductionism but also against idealisticreductionism, according to which matter is an illusion. Our human nature is patentlytwofold, mind and body, like it or not. Even so, thetwo do not necessarily conform to the split view of Renee des Cartes. Themonism of Burug Spinoza is arguably more organic and intuitively satisfying, as it portraysmind and body is the complementary aspects of a single thing, like the complementarysides of a single coin. Recently, the philosopher David Chalmers has used informationas an intermediary concept to characterize the thing...

...in question. Neither mind nor bodyseparately, but both interdependently. This concept follows the linguistic theory of Ferdinand toSosur, establishing a parallel between the existential mind body complex and its linguistic signifiedsignifier, homolog can this philosophical insight be extended beyond the scope of our humannature? Truth is more than ever, we are ill equipped to answer thisquestion with Empirical Authority. While the physical or objective exteriority of things provides ampleand public evidence that it is a fundamental feature of the universe, irrespective ofthe relative of simplicity or complexity of things, our mind, as a highly evolvedform of subjective interiority capable of retention, cogitation and imagination, is a privatematter solely observable introspectively and sharable verbally,...

...to the extent that others can identifywith us. In other words, we are congenitally blind to any subjectiveinteriority but our own, notwithstanding the communicative virtues of language that hinge on people'sself awareness, inner personal honesty and the relatability of their human experience. Now, is there a way to circumvent the limitations of our consciousness, held ina manner of solipsistic lock up, with no direct and intimate access to theconsciousness of our fellow humans, let alone that of animals or any other entity? The answer is an equivocal yes and no, with yes being loosely speakingand no being strictly speaking. More precisely, we cannot have a first person experienceof what others may be feeling or thinking, but on the basis ofa logical and analogical rationale, we are...

...justified in assuming that they are indeedfeeling or thinking something and that, whatever this something happens to be, itshares with our own feelings and thoughts some common human attributes, in short,to the extent that they are roughly like us physiologically, against a similar environmentaland cultural background, they are likely to be roughly like a psychologically as well. The problem arises when we venture to extend the notion of subjective interiority interms of mindless presence, to the here and now, of being, ata minimum, to other species or entities whose physical characteristics differ from ours,possibly in some critical respects, like their mode of organization or their level ofcomplexity. The greater this difference where, the more tenuous the outward points ofcomparison between us, humans, and these other species or entities, the moreour assumptions are bound to be questionable as...

...to whether they also possess an inwarddimension of subjectivity, or as to what this inward dimension may exactly consist of, if they have one. What about the sub atomic world of elementary particles, which is far remote from that of humans, the most evolved form ofmulticellular organisms? Is it in fact so alien from us that there is virtuallyno analogical ground for extending the notion of subjective interiority to them? Perhaps,perhaps not. After all, elementary particles are, at the most fundamental level, the inorganic building blocks of all multicellular organisms, including us. How didthey converge evolutionarily to make up such organisms, and particularly humans, who have arich in or life that complements are rich outer life, if they didnot, in some elementary way, feature both an objective physical facet common toall things and a subjective, non physical...

...facet, which would provide the ontologicalbasis for the evolution of subjectivity from a mindless presence to the here and nowof being, to one that is layered with memory, intelligence and imagination.This is what David chalmers refers to as the hard problem of consciousness. Shouldwe consider PAN PSYCHISM as a conjectural solution to this problem, we would beconfronted with another, the socalled combination problem. How does a multitude of distinct elementarypoints of experience integrate into a complex but unified consciousness? Are these pointsmore or less behaving like a source of incoherent natural light that merges into abeam of coherent laser light through optical amplification, or do they somewhat resemble separate bitsof information that collectively and interactively cohere...

...into a message within the scope ofmeaningful communication? Of course, these are only met of ws that bear littlerelevance to the actual problem and cannot be chalked up as a compelling solution,yet they obliquely afford a vague sense of possibility. On reflection, both sidesof the theoretical divide between Pan psychism and radical emergence are plagued with difficulties anduncertainty. However, I would argue that the theory of radical emergence is moreproblematic. According to this view, the universe is exclusively physical from the outset, and consciousness, as a non physical Epiphenomenon, is an emerging property thatis contingent on a high degree of organizational complexity. Translated in the language ofmathematics, this would be tantamount to claiming that zero can equal one, providedwe apply to it a sufficiently large multiplier,...

...which is asinine. This is redolentof Abrahamic religions that paint a picture of miraculous intervention, thanks to whichspirit is infused into matter. So let us explore Pan Psychism as a theoreticaloption that is doomed to remain tentative and controversial for the simple reason that itcannot be empirically tested. For starters, we should abandon materialism for the organicrealism of Alfred North Whitehead. From this perspective, everything is a process ofbecoming versus, a state of being that results dynamically from the interactions taking placebetween itself and its environment and between its parts. Its essence is elusive,like the flow of a river. It carries the promise of novelty at everyturn, emergent properties that include and exceed the fundamental reality of primary elements indirect proportion to its order of complexity and...

...level of interactions. To put itbriefly, emergence is a function of relational dynamics in a complex system. Itimplies a gradual actualization of the intrinsic creative potential of the universe in the courseof evolution, as things proceed from simple beginnings to infinitely elaborate forms of organizationalentanglements. Also within the framework of Whitehead's process philosophy, which gives an organicflavor of Pan Psychism, experience as a fundamental feature of reality that pervades inwardlythe entire cosmos, just as appearance is a fundamental feature of reality that pervadesoutwardly the entire cosmos, but is expected and quite appropriately. This philosopher definesexperience contextually by relating it to the conditions of its occurrence. Con sequently,human experience, as a subjective dimension of...

...our being, deemed non material,must perforce be considered in connection with the objective complexity of our human constitution,especially our highly evolved cerebral matter. Likewise, every other variant of experience as wedescend the ladder of evolution is inseparable from the material attributes that characterize thecontext of this variant. White head even appears to suggest that, below acertain order of complexity, experience is better described as an elemental proto experience distinctfrom experience proper, in the same way that a seed or lava is morphologicallydifferent from the plant or butterfly that it contains latently. The difficulty in thiscase lies in trying to specify this order of complexity, which is a criticalthreshold beyond which experience becomes intuitively fathomable.

Again, in the end, theabsence of empirical testability or falsifiability makes this difficulty intractable. In conclusion, Panpsychism is an ontologically coherent philosophical adventure in metaphysics that daringly purports to elicit theultimate foundations of reality. It will appeal to some and not to others.

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