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April 12, 2012

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Pereiving the cosmos is made more difficult since intelligence may be the root cause of all our worry.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412153018.htm

(I was going to post this on the Taoism isn't mystical thread but I suppose it makes more sense to continue here.)


George

1. Lacking objective evidence of something that is deemed undisclosed does not mean that it does not exist. I think that I have expressed a cogent argument that explains how this can be so due to cognitive limitations. I won't go over it again to spare everyone the repetition.

2. Tao has been proposed as a synonym for the momentum of Nature (in the widest possible sense) or the Cosmos etc.

It is surely acknowledged that Nature or the Cosmos is ultimately vaster, deeper, more inexplicable than that which happens to conform to the limited frequencies of human comprehension.

There is nothing mystical or religious about this.

I reckon consciousness is "complexity-density". That is, if a region in space exhibits complex behaviour (e.g. our brain) it will have consciousness proportional to that. The level of complexity (and consciousness) is given as the minimum size logic machine that would be required to emulate such behaviour.

So everything has some level of consciousness, it is a property of matter. Most things don't have much at all. Animals have some in varying degrees, humans a lot (?). And, if there were an alien lifeform with a more complex brain than ours, I bet it would feel more conscious that us.

In regards to comprehension of the universe. One may only perceive something that is as complex as their own consciousness generating complex system - "brain". You would simply not be able to hold all the logic and relationships in your head. So there would be things that are not perceivable, and remain undisclosed.

However, there is a bright side. In our society, we are all specialised and have our own little bits of understanding of the world. We communicated with each other so it is possible that society as a whole is more conscious than any single human, and as a result can conceive of these 'undisclosed' things, and act on them.

(speculation cap on)
In Australia at the moment the government is building the "national broadband network". It's fibre optic internet to the home for all, promising very fast communications. People want it for various disparate reasons, but their is a general sense that it will be good. Perhaps this is an example of a high level complex system making decisions, growing its synapses, increasing its consciousness. Once the world is fully connected, the complexity-density of the earth will lead to some remarkable things. We see it already happening with libya etc.

geo, what you said about consciousness is very similar to a theory neuroscientist Christof Koch explicates in his new book, "Consciousness."

Excerpt:
-----------------
"He [Giuilio] posits that the quantity of conscious experience generated by any physical system in a particular state is equal to the amount of integrated information generated by the system in that state above and beyond the information generated by its parts.

The system must discriminate among a large repertoire of states (idfferentiation) and it must do so as part of a unified whole, one that can't be decomposed into a collection of causally independent parts (integration).

...The more integrated and differentiated the system is, the more conscious it is."

As as particle physicists are forever finding matter in smaller and smaller units such as bosons and the like, it may be found that these particles, still largely theoretical, are indeed whatever consciousness (reality)is.

As ultimate subject (pure consciousness) I am all objects, but as relative subject I am the obsever of a named object in consciousness...me. As subject limited by concepts of space and time I become identified with said object (me) which then appears to be an independent entity.

Without the above deception of perception I am pure consciousness. There is nothing else I could be.

The universe is entirely conceptual composed of images in consciousness, seemingly real, in the same way the content of a dream seems real.

This mental imagery is like ripples on the surface of an endless ocean (consciousness) and the idea of self-existent entities is part of this conceptual process which is nothing more than a movement on the surface of an otherwise immutable consciousness that is nothing more than the nature of the space-time illusion.

As a thing in itself this conceived universe is completely unreal but still partakes of the reality in which it happens, like a ripple is composed of water (consciousness). This perceiving is itself a mode of consciousness.

Only what is real is I and subject while what is unreal is not I and object even this object I call "me". The synthesis of subject and object is I because I as object am not, but as pure consciousness I am everything.

And you? You are I. As is the moose and the snake. As entities we are nothing and as reality we are everything.

Ho hum, I know.

Hi Geo

I like this train of thought.

I've read stuff from David Chalmers and Galen Strawson and others along this line. It's basically a form of panpsychism or panexperientialism. The main objection to it as it stands is known as the combination problem.

For instance, each cell is a relatively complex network. So to some degree a cell would be conscious (indeed an atom would be conscious to some extent.) Now an organism or organ is composed of a combination of cells. Are there multiple and different levels of consciousness coexisting? Or are they subsumed into a superior system?

And of course we have the difficulty of defining consciousness. Some would say that consciousness is simply the brute fact of awareness. Now we don't believe that atoms or cells have this. And it's hard to imagine an exponentially dimmer version of it. It feels as if it's ON or not.

Some insist that consciousness is this self-knowing awareness that seems to be complete with sense perceptions, cognition/recognition, memory etc. But I think that we can quickly see that this version is dependent on a brain.

---

Oh and such a thing as pure consciousness can be seen to be incoherent - or at best an empty claim. This might seem a little subtle but just see what is entailed here.

To claim that everything is made of consciousness requires that we identify a class of so-called objective things and assert that they are in fact consciousness. So we are making a distinction between consciousness with its introspective, subjective 'feel', and objects with their external, objective 'feel'.

But making this claim does nothing to bridge the gap between these two types of 'feel' or qualities. Subjective and objective qualities remain intact - nothing has changed apart from the terminology. Instead of reality being called er... reality or existence, it's now called pure consciousness or ultimate subject. It's an empty claim. We might as well claim that reality is in fact pure cheese - as long as we allow that this ultimate cheese be composed of identical attributes and qualities to that which we would normally term reality.

Jon

1. Vast swathes of the universe are unknown. I'm not arguing that. I'm saying a claim without 'objective' evidence cannot be validated as being true or false. The 'subjective' aspect of our experience (your monkey frequency) is what limits and skews our Indivdual perception via both sensory limitations and physychological biases, beliefs and conditioning.

2. Momentum in a scientific sense is the mass of an object mutiplied by it's speed, but I don't know what your 'broader' definition of momentum is, I just sort of went with your iffy definition. Does your momentum mean 'change'? Are you saying that you believe the universe is constantly changing and that this is driven by some unknown force? Is there any evidence for any of these speculations or what you intuit or percieve through your own human senses?

On the broader issue of consciousness - there is no evidence for subatomic particles having consciousness so I'm not sure why hithrto undiscovered even more fundamental particles would be thought to have consciousness. If anything, evidence suggests tge opposite, which is that consciousness emerges from inert particles assembled in a particular configuration.

Jon in quotes:

"To claim that everything is made of consciousness requires that we identify a class of so-called objective things and assert that they are in fact consciousness."

--There are no objective 'things'. This I have tried to explain for years on this blog.

"So we are making a distinction between consciousness with its introspective, subjective 'feel', and objects with their external, objective 'feel'."

--That process is illusory. This I have tried to explain for years on this blog.

"But making this claim does nothing to bridge the gap between these two types of 'feel' or qualities."

--The "gap" is illusory.This I have tried to explain for years on this blog.

"Subjective and objective qualities remain intact"

--Illusorily. This I have tried to explain for years on this blog.

"- nothing has changed apart from the terminology. Instead of reality being called er... reality or existence, it's now called pure consciousness or ultimate subject."

-- To communicate here we must use words. We use the word "apple" as a symbol but it has nothing about it that is applelike in regard to the actual appearance taste and feel of an apple. But if you have ever seen and tasted an apple, then the term means a great deal. Same with 'pure consciousness', 'reality', 'awareness','ultimate subject' and so forth.

No matter how high we regard them, reason and logic have no relevance to what is being indicated. For example, Zen uses the classic koan "what is the sound of one hand clapping" to place the intellect in an unresolvable conundrum so that it seizes up like an engine with no oil in the cankcase and realization aka awakening dawns.

"It's an empty claim. We might as well claim that reality is in fact pure cheese - as long as we allow that this ultimate cheese be composed of identical attributes and qualities to that which we would normally term reality."

--Reality of which I speak has no attributes or qualities and yet it is not nil...Maybe vibrant stillness. Some have said radiant or luminous. Whatever.

At best, all I can do is provide a stepping off point. All arguments at that precipice are just arms flailing trying to keep balance before the fall. Let go of logic and reason and see if there is something to see.You may decide there isn't. Fine.

This is not the same as a guru, priest or figurehead asking you to believe in a system of beliefs, behaviors and processes, or a particular type or description of reality. Just let the mind "fast" from preconceived concepts, definitions, conditioning and mental structures and see for yourself. See if something dawns upon you.

When I speak this way certain folks get irritated with my seeming pomposity by writing this way which would seem to indicate that I think I know what reality is or whatever is there beyond the barrier of step by step logical thinking.

Maybe I don't. So what? Getting back to reason and logic..it seems to me that the solution that this blog seeks via discussion is beyond the limitations of the only tool it has...language. Maybe we humans have no capacity to have even an inkling of what reality is, or maybe we do.

Maybe a perception, a quick as a flash, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deep wordless understanding that awakens one to the truth.

tucson, it seems to me that you and Jon (maybe me, also) are on pretty much the same cosmic wavelength.

Only problem is, that wavelength isn't objective, can't be described, and is unobservable.

So my first sentence in this comment is either (1) incredibly stupid and indefensible, or (2) a reflection of my/our marvelous intuitive understanding.

Why, I think I'll choose (2)! No big surprise...

George, in the most recent issue of New Scientist neuroscientist Christof Koch lays out a reasonable outline of a theory about how integrated information results in what we call consciousness.

In his book, which I've been reading, Koch says that all systems, living or not, with at least a rudimentary form of information processing can be considered "conscious." Even computers, thermostats, etc.

They differ, though, in the degree of consciousness. This supposedly can be mathematically determined. Theoretically, at least. In practice, figuring out the number of interconnections between neurons in the human brain is impossible, at least for now.

So you're correct in saying that "inert particles" configured in a certain way result in consciousness. But that is just what we are: inert particles with consciousness. And Hock notes that quarks, which comprise protons and neutrons, have a triparite configuration. So they could be considered very minimally conscious.

Jon, in either my more lucid or less lucid moments (not always sure which is which), it seems to me that the whole notion of "consciousness" is missing the mark.

Yes, I like the notion of Pure Consciousness, consciousness without any percept(ion) in it. But how would we know this exists? Wouldn't we have to have an experience of "I'm having an experience of pure consciousness"?

Then it wouldn't be "pure," because there would be a self-reflective side to it. Me knowing that I have experienced pure consciousness. Otherwise it would be like getting an anesthetic that generates amnesia. I could be conscious, but wouldn't know it, so how do I know I was?

Anyway, in those seemingly lucid moments (could be wrong about that) I see perceptions/experiences in the brain that we call "conscious" as just being what they are: perceptions/experiences in the brain.

Where is the need to divide experience into conscious and unconscious? This is where I tend to become "Tucsonian" (another frequent commenter on this blog). Where is objectivity and subjectivity? What exists outside of human awareness of existence? How would we know pure consciousness exists without being conscious of something or other?

Hi George. I think that we are going round in circles now. But here goes again - I've tried to make this as clear as possible:

Reality is ultimately an inexplicable happening. Our conception of this happening is limited by our cognitive capabilities. Therefore an inability to formulate the nature of this happening is precisely the point - everything is comprehended through limited biology.

We know that there is something rather than nothing. We observe this something and tease out graspable patterns and laws. We name and formulate the structure and behavior of what we find. We build up a body of testable knowledge.

But do we really know the 'something as opposed to nothing' or is our knowledge based on what is AVAILABLE to our narrow bands of comprehension?

And here's the thing: our bands of comprehension are themselves a slither of biological phenomena arising from this 'something as opposed to nothing'.

Do they really grasp the ultimate nature of that which gives rise to them?

---

(It's difficult to express this sort of stuff. Phrases like 'inexplicable happening' and 'something rather than nothing' are not perfect. Try to relax with the broad sweep of what's being said.)

Hi Tucson

This is quite funny really. I'm saying the same thing about the limits of language to George in my other discussion.

I can see that in some senses we are saying quite similar things.

The difference is that I'm saying that ultimately WE DON'T KNOW - we can't know.

You seem to be saying that you DO know.

Hey Tucson, if you really have solved the mind-body problem you need to alert those Nobel Prize dudes. There's money in this - you might get to sort out your tax problems. :-)

lol @ Brian, i think u are all on the same wavelenth, so i cant see why you have such a bugbear with the mystical. This is surely the very definition of subjective experience. Perhaps its back to RS and the 7 planes of existence one day?

On the Koch stuff, what is very interesting for me is if one considers the possibility that the fundamental nature of reality, if there is such a thing, is indeed information. There are glimpses of this with the incredible ability of mathematics to seemingly codify reality in the way it does, but also when one considers issues like DNA and particles spin, etc or even the quantum computer theory. The connection between information is a short step from processing and intelligence and consiousness - tho these are all speculative concepts. But yeah u are right there is some very wierd shit going down...

Hi Brian

I completely agree that the notion of pure consciousness is incoherent.

This is similar in some ways to your thread about being dead. We never experience not being conscious (like we never experience being dead.) But we do experience others being unconscious and therefore infer that we 'inhabit' both states. Of course we could doubt that others have consciousness... or indeed that they exist....

(....suddenly the whole blog implodes under the weight of insufficient objective evidence into a solipsistic black hole!!!)

Hi Jon,

Yip i think we are going around in circles a bit, which is probably to do with a fundamentally different viewpoint.

I'm not sure I agree with many of your premises at all. I dont believe that reality is necessarily unexplicable. I believe there are many aspects of reality that have been explained incredibly well. In fact, what i find thoroughly bizarre is that not only is there a reality but that it can be explained at all.

In other words, not only is there something rather than nothing, but that something appears to have a degree of order which CAN be explained.

While I have agreed there are limits, I'm not sure they are necessarily limited to our biology, since so much of science is concerned with technology and objective evidence which surpasses our subjective sensory and mind limitatiions. But there are two potential limits, i) our imaginations and ii) the objective evidence that has been gained to support or overturn the theories proposed by i). Even having said all that, both i) and ii) are constantly evolving and building on one another. We have paradigm shift in understanding and thinking about this world and this continues to happen with time, so who knows what limits we actually do have, be it our species or any other. Who says one day the universe cannot evolve to know itself?

But your theory of our limitations is quite likely and was expressed by haldane a while back, who speculated that nature is not only stanger than we suppose, it is stranger than we CAN suppose.

Jon wrote to me:

"You seem to be saying that you DO know.

Hey Tucson, if you really have solved the mind-body problem you need to alert those Nobel Prize dudes. There's money in this - you might get to sort out your tax problems. :-)"

-- I may sound like I'm saying I DO know, but that doesn't mean that I know anything. Direct perception in whole mind via intuition is not a "knowing" like I know how to change a tire. So, if I have perceived anything it certainly isn't anything I can wrap up in a package and deliver to the Nobel committee and make money off of.

Thanks Brian, I will have to read the Christian Koch book, and Jon for the other people to follow up on. Some interesting points regarding the combination problem and simply renaming reality to 'consciousness'. We can share the nobel prize.

With the combination problem, I don't have a satisfying idea yet. One line of thinking is a scale-space of consciousness. This would be where the boundary of the conscious entity is determined by the scale of interaction. I'm probably thinking this way because of a lot of maths reading lately.

For on / off consciousness I have thought of the mental experiment as follows - imaging killing off one brain cell at a time. At some point you will be no longer conscious because there is no brain cells left. If consciousness is on / off, then at some point removing a brain cell would switch you from on to off. This sounds unlikely so I'm more of a fan of a gradual consciousness.

Now the mystic hat is on. Not sure if I wrote about this before but here goes:

It seems that the two most likely states for a universe would be pure order or pure chaos. But instead we have this kind of knife edge balance between them. A universe of pure order or pure chaos would have no meaning (no information?). Consciousness is the 'force' that performs the balance, building complexity out of chaos and order. :P

P.S. Tuscon, trust me when you say - "Maybe a perception, a quick as a flash, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deep wordless understanding that awakens one to the truth." that I understand. What a glorious realisation that was! And how futile trying to explain it in words grrr.

Still I like logic and reason. Reality seems constructed with the stuff.

George,

Jon and Tuscon are referencing an Absolute reality, beyond time and space. You are referencing a relative (dualistic) reality, or scientific objective reality. This could be the mix up in communication.

This conversation reminds me of the scene in What the Bleep when Dr. Quantum visits two-dimensional beings. As three-dimensional beings, we are mystified when we come in contact with higher-dimensions of reality. I agree that life is super and natural. There's more that exceeds the senses than what meets the senses out there. Spiritually experiences are exceptionally significant to otherwise rational and sensible people while these are subjective and unverifiable or cannot be replicated and collected as data that amounts to anything more than testimony. Can it be trusted? I think it sometimes can and neither never nor always can.

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