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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, thirty ultimate foundations. We humans have an inveterate disposition to ask bigger questions than we are fit to answer. Our excuse is simple. We are curious animals by nature. In the world is an infinitely puzzling tangle of occurrences, both within and without. In the face of any such occurrences, we feel compelled to raise the question why, and that already at a tender age, when our experience, together with the difficulty of understanding its causes and implications, is mediated by language. The archetypal question that exceeds our ability to answer it comprehensively and conclusively is also primary. Why does the universe exist the way it does instead of differently or not at all? We...

May, however, reduce this question by resorting to a tautological shortcut that avoids infinite regress with as simple because it does. This means that the fact of being is self evident and leaves no open and challenging question other than its mode of being, observable and describable by way 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 form or another, manifest or latent. Conversely, you cannot derive the fact of being at some degree zero of existence from absolute nothingness. The modifier absolute marks a clear and critical distinction between the type of nothingness just mentioned, in relative nothingness 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 Generative Foundation of being in its manifest form. It is logically inferred from this manifest form of being, which excludes the possibility of absolute nothingness. In other words, the fact of being admits of neither beginning nor end. Though it can alternate between potentiality and actuality, it is not only self evident but also self sufficient. As such, it can perfectly fulfill the role normally assigned to God in great religions, the latter being relegated from this pantheistic perspective to the status of superfluous or expendable mental construct. So the only reasonable question that remains appears to read as follows. How does the universe exist, given the eternal necessity of its existence? Science, which is...

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

...events versus brain scans, that is, we cannot safely assume the reality of what we strive to deny. All this 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 idealistic reductionism, according to which matter is an illusion. Our human nature is patently twofold, mind and body, like it or not. Even so, the two do not necessarily conform to the split view of Renee des Cartes. The monism of Burug Spinoza is arguably more organic and intuitively satisfying, as it portrays mind and body is the complementary aspects of a single thing, like the complementary sides of a single coin. Recently, the philosopher David Chalmers has used information as an intermediary concept to characterize the thing...

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

...to the extent that others can identify with us. In other words, we are congenitally blind to any subjective interiority but our own, notwithstanding the communicative virtues of language that hinge on people's self awareness, inner personal honesty and the relatability of their human experience. Now, is there a way to circumvent the limitations of our consciousness, held in a manner of solipsistic lock up, with no direct and intimate access to the consciousness 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 speaking and no being strictly speaking. More precisely, we cannot have a first person experience of what others may be feeling or thinking, but on the basis of a logical and analogical rationale, we are...

...justified in assuming that they are indeed feeling or thinking something and that, whatever this something happens to be, it shares 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 environmental and 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 in terms of mindless presence, to the here and now, of being, at a 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 of complexity. The greater this difference where, the more tenuous the outward points of comparison between us, humans, and these other species or entities, the more our assumptions are bound to be questionable as...

...to whether they also possess an inward dimension 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 of multicellular organisms? Is it in fact so alien from us that there is virtually no 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 did they converge evolutionarily to make up such organisms, and particularly humans, who have a rich in or life that complements are rich outer life, if they did not, in some elementary way, feature both an objective physical facet common to all things and a subjective, non physical...

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

...into a message within the scope of meaningful communication? Of course, these are only met of ws that bear little relevance 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 sides of the theoretical divide between Pan psychism and radical emergence are plagued with difficulties and uncertainty. However, I would argue that the theory of radical emergence is more problematic. According to this view, the universe is exclusively physical from the outset, and consciousness, as a non physical Epiphenomenon, is an emerging property that is contingent on a high degree of organizational complexity. Translated in the language of mathematics, this would be tantamount to claiming that zero can equal one, provided we apply to it a sufficiently large multiplier,...

...which is asinine. This is redolent of Abrahamic religions that paint a picture of miraculous intervention, thanks to which spirit is infused into matter. So let us explore Pan Psychism as a theoretical option that is doomed to remain tentative and controversial for the simple reason that it cannot be empirically tested. For starters, we should abandon materialism for the organic realism of Alfred North Whitehead. From this perspective, everything is a process of becoming versus, a state of being that results dynamically from the interactions taking place between 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 every turn, emergent properties that include and exceed the fundamental reality of primary elements in direct proportion to its order of complexity and...

...level of interactions. To put it briefly, emergence is a function of relational dynamics in a complex system. It implies a gradual actualization of the intrinsic creative potential of the universe in the course of evolution, as things proceed from simple beginnings to infinitely elaborate forms of organizational entanglements. Also within the framework of Whitehead's process philosophy, which gives an organic flavor of Pan Psychism, experience as a fundamental feature of reality that pervades inwardly the entire cosmos, just as appearance is a fundamental feature of reality that pervades outwardly the entire cosmos, but is expected and quite appropriately. This philosopher defines experience 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 we descend the ladder of evolution is inseparable from the material attributes that characterize the context of this variant. White head even appears to suggest that, below a certain order of complexity, experience is better described as an elemental proto experience distinct from experience proper, in the same way that a seed or lava is morphologically different from the plant or butterfly that it contains latently. The difficulty in this case lies in trying to specify this order of complexity, which is a critical threshold beyond which experience becomes intuitively fathomable.

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

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