Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

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Shajan624
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

Post by Shajan624 »

AshvinP wrote: Tue Aug 31, 2021 4:57 pm 1) What is the relationship of perception (sense-impression) to cognition (meaning)? Are they dependent on each other and, if so, in what specific ways? Has that relationship remained static or changed over human history?
Ashvin:

We could talk about specific relationship between two entities in a meaningful way only if these entities can be represented in terms of external behaviour. Otherwise no conclusion will be reached with each person projecting his own subjective interpretation.

I am not denying meaning in perception or its evolution in human history. But I don’t see how these can be discussed as if we are doing science. Some scientists have crossed boundaries to speculate about the ultimate nature of reality in physicalist terms. Aren’t philosophers attempting to do ‘spiritual science’ with noumenal essence committing a similar mistake?
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

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Shajan624 wrote: Thu Sep 02, 2021 11:13 am
AshvinP wrote: Tue Aug 31, 2021 4:57 pm 1) What is the relationship of perception (sense-impression) to cognition (meaning)? Are they dependent on each other and, if so, in what specific ways? Has that relationship remained static or changed over human history?
Ashvin:

We could talk about specific relationship between two entities in a meaningful way only if these entities can be represented in terms of external behaviour. Otherwise no conclusion will be reached with each person projecting his own subjective interpretation.

I am not denying meaning in perception or its evolution in human history. But I don’t see how these can be discussed as if we are doing science. Some scientists have crossed boundaries to speculate about the ultimate nature of reality in physicalist terms. Aren’t philosophers attempting to do ‘spiritual science’ with noumenal essence committing a similar mistake?

Shajan,

This question is not about "spiritual science" - in fact, I started this thread precisely to show how these are phenomenal relations we can all study from within our own experience without any prior worldview assumptions. There is no speculation involved. We just need to ask, "what is occurring when I perceive an 'object' in the world of appearances and make sense of it with cognition?". We can get a hold of that process by observing the 'pure' thought-forms themselves, like a mathematical object of "triangle". With these it is easier for us to avoid assuming anything we have already 'learned' from other sources apart from our own thinking reflection. I am going to quote something from Steiner here just because I don't want to type it out myself right now - but this illustration does not depend on his overall world-conception or anyone else's. We could just as well imagine anyone else writing the same thing. This is pure phenomenology.

But where does any real science ever have anything to do with this question? Look at mathematics! It has a figure before it arising from the intersection of three straight lines: a triangle. The three angles a, b, c remain in a fixed relationship; their sum is one straight angle or two right angles (180°). That is a mathematical judgment. The angles a, b, and c are perceived. The cognitive judgment occurs on the basis of thinking reflection. It establishes a relationship between three perceptual pictures. There is no question here of any reflecting upon some object or other standing behind the picture of the triangle. And all the sciences do it this way. They spin threads from picture to picture, create order in what, for direct perception, is a chaos; nowhere, however, does anything else come into consideration besides the given. Truth is not the coinciding of a mental picture with its object, but rather the expression of a relationship between two perceived facts.


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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

Post by AshvinP »

AshvinP wrote: Thu Sep 02, 2021 1:51 pm
Shajan624 wrote: Thu Sep 02, 2021 11:13 am
AshvinP wrote: Tue Aug 31, 2021 4:57 pm 1) What is the relationship of perception (sense-impression) to cognition (meaning)? Are they dependent on each other and, if so, in what specific ways? Has that relationship remained static or changed over human history?
Ashvin:

We could talk about specific relationship between two entities in a meaningful way only if these entities can be represented in terms of external behaviour. Otherwise no conclusion will be reached with each person projecting his own subjective interpretation.

I am not denying meaning in perception or its evolution in human history. But I don’t see how these can be discussed as if we are doing science. Some scientists have crossed boundaries to speculate about the ultimate nature of reality in physicalist terms. Aren’t philosophers attempting to do ‘spiritual science’ with noumenal essence committing a similar mistake?

Shajan,

This question is not about "spiritual science" - in fact, I started this thread precisely to show how these are phenomenal relations we can all study from within our own experience without any prior worldview assumptions. There is no speculation involved. We just need to ask, "what is occurring when I perceive an 'object' in the world of appearances and make sense of it with cognition?". We can get a hold of that process by observing the 'pure' thought-forms themselves, like a mathematical object of "triangle". With these it is easier for us to avoid assuming anything we have already 'learned' from other sources apart from our own thinking reflection. I am going to quote something from Steiner here just because I don't want to type it out myself right now - but this illustration does not depend on his overall world-conception or anyone else's. We could just as well imagine anyone else writing the same thing. This is pure phenomenology.

But where does any real science ever have anything to do with this question? Look at mathematics! It has a figure before it arising from the intersection of three straight lines: a triangle. The three angles a, b, c remain in a fixed relationship; their sum is one straight angle or two right angles (180°). That is a mathematical judgment. The angles a, b, and c are perceived. The cognitive judgment occurs on the basis of thinking reflection. It establishes a relationship between three perceptual pictures. There is no question here of any reflecting upon some object or other standing behind the picture of the triangle. And all the sciences do it this way. They spin threads from picture to picture, create order in what, for direct perception, is a chaos; nowhere, however, does anything else come into consideration besides the given. Truth is not the coinciding of a mental picture with its object, but rather the expression of a relationship between two perceived facts.


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I will add, we are not presupposing we will reach the same conclusions about perception-cognition. If somehow you and I observe our own Thinking activity in relation to perceptions and arrive at completely different conclusions, then that's how it is - although, in that case, we would truly have to stop assuming any thinking, even about the 'external behaviors', can lead to objective knowledge of the world.
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

Post by Shajan624 »

Ashvin,

Mathematics is possible because thought forms associated with mathematical objects can be represented on a piece of paper without ambiguity. That is not the case with the perception of red colour. What are the thought forms associated with seeing red? I think two people, unless ‘like-minded’, can never reach agreement about such perception-cognition because what is being discussed is un-representable.

How the mind is able to generate reliable knowledge about the world is a puzzle. IMO, we should analyse ‘knowledge generation’ as an evolutionary process to solve this puzzle.

Here is a thought experiment I wrote elsewhere:

‘I am sitting comfortably in my room typing these words into the computer. There is a beautifully painted jug on the side table. I know it is shaped out of clay, painted by a skilled artisan and fired in an oven to give me the comfort of storing water. Let me do a thought experiment. I want to travel back in time, to the perplexity of my earliest human ancestor seeing the world for the first time. I forget the history of water jugs, chemical composition of clay, structure of atoms, and along with it every bit of knowledge that makes me a civilised human being. I stare at the jug through the emptiness of my mind. Isolated in pre-historic vacuum, far away from the origin of languages, my mind has lost its words. Universe is confined to this remarkably coloured object and myself. How do I describe my experience? What is this thing I am staring at? Captivated by its shape and colour, I hesitantly stretch my hand to explore. I tremble at the feeling of contact with this strange object and withdraw, only to try again and again. What are the secrets of this jug's being? I don't know. Words have flown off, leaving only a smothering vacuum. I do not know how to express my perplexity. What exactly is the thing known as a jug? What is left in a jug if I empty it of all the ideas and associations that have got into it in the past ten thousand years?

I am confronting the puzzle that haunted generations of early humans - the task of describing the ‘thing-in-itself’. Our ancestors at the dawn of awareness lived in a puzzling world of mysterious objects. Generations of early humans lived in terror of this ‘unknowability’. This puzzle slowly dissolved with the invention of language. Easiest way to deal with any mystery is to cover it up. Early man attempted to tame the unknowable ‘thing-in-itself’ by giving it a name. Act of naming is the most basic form of objective knowing. Real objects are mysterious and unknowable. Knowing is an act of de-mystification, a practical trick of concealing the strangeness of the unknowable behind a veil we call knowledge’.

The ‘knower’ grew bolder with experience accumulated over generations and 'name covers' were slowly lifted to take a fresh look at the mystery behind the veil. The substance named ‘clay’ was found to be a mixture of chemical compounds A, B, C etc, which were in turn smaller packets of mystery. Early science thrived on the identification of such constituent parts and patterns of interaction. Unknowability was pushed back by another step. Subsequent stages of de-mystification have produced fruitful branches in the tree of science - atomic physics and quantum mechanics. Amazingly, beautiful patterns emerge from such 'covered up mysteries' (that tells something about the nature of reality and its relation with the knower).

What we call ‘objective knowledge’ is built on a fundamental unknowability which cannot be translated into knowledge by any amount of grasping. I think this will be the inevitable conclusion starting from the basic facts of Consciousness, Comprehensibility of the universe to human mind, and Evolution.
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

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Shajan624 wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 10:18 am Ashvin,

Mathematics is possible because thought forms associated with mathematical objects can be represented on a piece of paper without ambiguity. That is not the case with the perception of red colour. What are the thought forms associated with seeing red? I think two people, unless ‘like-minded’, can never reach agreement about such perception-cognition because what is being discussed is un-representable.

How the mind is able to generate reliable knowledge about the world is a puzzle. IMO, we should analyse ‘knowledge generation’ as an evolutionary process to solve this puzzle.

Here is a thought experiment I wrote elsewhere:

‘I am sitting comfortably in my room typing these words into the computer. There is a beautifully painted jug on the side table. I know it is shaped out of clay, painted by a skilled artisan and fired in an oven to give me the comfort of storing water. Let me do a thought experiment. I want to travel back in time, to the perplexity of my earliest human ancestor seeing the world for the first time. I forget the history of water jugs, chemical composition of clay, structure of atoms, and along with it every bit of knowledge that makes me a civilised human being. I stare at the jug through the emptiness of my mind. Isolated in pre-historic vacuum, far away from the origin of languages, my mind has lost its words. Universe is confined to this remarkably coloured object and myself. How do I describe my experience? What is this thing I am staring at? Captivated by its shape and colour, I hesitantly stretch my hand to explore. I tremble at the feeling of contact with this strange object and withdraw, only to try again and again. What are the secrets of this jug's being? I don't know. Words have flown off, leaving only a smothering vacuum. I do not know how to express my perplexity. What exactly is the thing known as a jug? What is left in a jug if I empty it of all the ideas and associations that have got into it in the past ten thousand years?

I am confronting the puzzle that haunted generations of early humans - the task of describing the ‘thing-in-itself’. Our ancestors at the dawn of awareness lived in a puzzling world of mysterious objects. Generations of early humans lived in terror of this ‘unknowability’. This puzzle slowly dissolved with the invention of language. Easiest way to deal with any mystery is to cover it up. Early man attempted to tame the unknowable ‘thing-in-itself’ by giving it a name. Act of naming is the most basic form of objective knowing. Real objects are mysterious and unknowable. Knowing is an act of de-mystification, a practical trick of concealing the strangeness of the unknowable behind a veil we call knowledge’.

The ‘knower’ grew bolder with experience accumulated over generations and 'name covers' were slowly lifted to take a fresh look at the mystery behind the veil. The substance named ‘clay’ was found to be a mixture of chemical compounds A, B, C etc, which were in turn smaller packets of mystery. Early science thrived on the identification of such constituent parts and patterns of interaction. Unknowability was pushed back by another step. Subsequent stages of de-mystification have produced fruitful branches in the tree of science - atomic physics and quantum mechanics. Amazingly, beautiful patterns emerge from such 'covered up mysteries' (that tells something about the nature of reality and its relation with the knower).

What we call ‘objective knowledge’ is built on a fundamental unknowability which cannot be translated into knowledge by any amount of grasping. I think this will be the inevitable conclusion starting from the basic facts of Consciousness, Comprehensibility of the universe to human mind, and Evolution.

Shajan,

The bolded assertion is not true. If you reformulated to say "it was made possible to systematically represent and communicate mathematical ideas interpersonally", then that would be more accurate in my view. This is exactly why it is so important to start with phenomenology of direct experience, rather than bringing various presupposed assumptions to the table. The more assumptions that are stacked on, the more likely it is we will end up talking about two completely different things and never trace back to any sort of consensus.

Here are two simple questions - when you form the picture of triangle by way of thinking, what is the meaning you perceive in the triangle-form? Do you suppose the meaning you perceive is essentially different than what I perceive? Let's say, for purposes of this example, the meaning I perceive is something along the lines of, "intersection of three straight lines, at three angles a, b, c, which remain in a fixed relationship and their sum is one straight angle or two right angles (180°)".

If we can reach consensus on these simple questions, then maybe we can build off of that to an even broader consensus. But there is no point starting with "travel back in time, to the perplexity of my earliest human ancestor seeing the world for the first time", because we are already lost in a mess of implicit abstract assumptions which are very remote from our current day experience. I hope you see what I mean here - the approach I am advocating is the essence of phenomenology.
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

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AshvinP wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:04 pm
Shajan624 wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 10:18 am
Here are two simple questions - when you form the picture of triangle by way of thinking, what is the meaning you perceive in the triangle-form? Do you suppose the meaning you perceive is essentially different than what I perceive? Let's say, for purposes of this example, the meaning I perceive is something along the lines of, "intersection of three straight lines, at three angles a, b, c, which remain in a fixed relationship and their sum is one straight angle or two right angles (180°)".
Ashvin:

The meaning I perceive in the triangle form would be same as anyone else’s because it is derived from a set of shared assumptions - definition of a straight line, line angle as 180 degrees etc.
AshvinP wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:04 pm .. we are already lost in a mess of implicit abstract assumptions which are very remote from our current day experience. I hope you see what I mean here - the approach I am advocating is the essence of phenomenology.
Agree we are lost in a mess but I doubt phenomenology can be a cure for physicalistic fallacies. I think of phenomenology as an instinctive response to the failure of natural sciences to address the question of consciousness in a meaningful way. ‘Structures of experience’ appears too vague for systematic analysis and to challenge physicalism.

We are lost and an effective first step to get out of this mess might be to trace back how we ended up here.
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

Post by AshvinP »

Shajan624 wrote: Sat Sep 04, 2021 5:41 am
AshvinP wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:04 pm
Shajan624 wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 10:18 am
Here are two simple questions - when you form the picture of triangle by way of thinking, what is the meaning you perceive in the triangle-form? Do you suppose the meaning you perceive is essentially different than what I perceive? Let's say, for purposes of this example, the meaning I perceive is something along the lines of, "intersection of three straight lines, at three angles a, b, c, which remain in a fixed relationship and their sum is one straight angle or two right angles (180°)".
Ashvin:

The meaning I perceive in the triangle form would be same as anyone else’s because it is derived from a set of shared assumptions - definition of a straight line, line angle as 180 degrees etc.
AshvinP wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:04 pm .. we are already lost in a mess of implicit abstract assumptions which are very remote from our current day experience. I hope you see what I mean here - the approach I am advocating is the essence of phenomenology.
Agree we are lost in a mess but I doubt phenomenology can be a cure for physicalistic fallacies. I think of phenomenology as an instinctive response to the failure of natural sciences to address the question of consciousness in a meaningful way. ‘Structures of experience’ appears too vague for systematic analysis and to challenge physicalism.

We are lost and an effective first step to get out of this mess might be to trace back how we ended up here.

Where did the "shared assumptions" about the triangle come from?

"Tracing back" means to start from where we are and retrace the steps taken, so we can't jump back into the ancient past and make assumptions to do that. We start with our experience as it manifests now in our concrete experience of the world. Physicalism is a problem precisely because it ignores that immanent experience and settles for pure abstraction instead. What do we gain from replacing physicalism with another worldview which does the exact same thing?
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

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AshvinP wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:04 pm Where did the "shared assumptions" about the triangle come from?
We don’t know enough about ‘minds’ to answer this question. But the assumptions can be clearly stated and agreed upon and that is good enough to use geometry effectively.
AshvinP wrote: Sat Sep 04, 2021 12:04 pm "Tracing back" means to start from where we are and retrace the steps taken, so we can't jump back into the ancient past and make assumptions to do that. We start with our experience as it manifests now in our concrete experience of the world. Physicalism is a problem precisely because it ignores that immanent experience and settles for pure abstraction instead. What do we gain from replacing physicalism with another worldview which does the exact same thing?
I am not suggesting to ignore immanent experience. That wouldn’t make any sense at all! I am saying experience has a component that cannot be translated into ’representations’ for systematic analysis. Physicalism would say 'unrepresentable' is an illusion. I am saying it is as much real as the representable and we should look into the evolutionary history of 'representations' to understand the reasons for this split.
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

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Shajan624 wrote: Sat Sep 04, 2021 1:38 pm
AshvinP wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:04 pm Where did the "shared assumptions" about the triangle come from?
We don’t know enough about ‘minds’ to answer this question. But the assumptions can be clearly stated and agreed upon and that is good enough to use geometry effectively.

We don't need to assume anything about the nature of the mental realm right now (although if we can agree there is only mental realm and no realms of different essence, i.e. idealism, that would help). We only need to answer the question of whether the assumptions arise from people independently figuring out or being told the meaning of "triangle", and/or whether we are drawing on, for all intents and purposes, a pre-existing transpersonal meaning of "triangle". Do you think we can confidently answer that question?

Shajan wrote:
AshvinP wrote: Sat Sep 04, 2021 12:04 pm "Tracing back" means to start from where we are and retrace the steps taken, so we can't jump back into the ancient past and make assumptions to do that. We start with our experience as it manifests now in our concrete experience of the world. Physicalism is a problem precisely because it ignores that immanent experience and settles for pure abstraction instead. What do we gain from replacing physicalism with another worldview which does the exact same thing?
I am not suggesting to ignore immanent experience. That wouldn’t make any sense at all! I am saying experience has a component that cannot be translated into ’representations’ for systematic analysis. Physicalism would say 'unrepresentable' is an illusion. I am saying it is as much real as the representable and we should look into the evolutionary history of 'representations' to understand the reasons for this split.

I get that. What I am trying to do is see if we can dispel the bolded conclusion (we should remember it is a conclusion, not a given of our experience) by way of phenomenology of perception-cognition. Your conclusion appears to be that there is a subconscious realm which remains forever beyond our representational capacity, i.e. what is 'unrepresented' will always remain 'unrepresented', and the epistemic best we can do is figure out why that conclusion about the 'unrepresented' is justified by studying the evolution of human representations via language, art, myth, etc. Is that about accurate? If so, I disagree with that conclusion. Furthermore, I probably disagree with your interpretation of the evolutionary process in representations, i.e. that the "invention of language" was primarily a means to "cover up" the noumenal realm ("things-in-themselves"). There is some truth in that, according to me, but not nearly enough to capture the essence of what was occurring.

But, the overall point being, if we start with our conclusions and their disagreements, there is really nowhere left to go. Instead we should start with what can be easily agreed upon in the givens of our experience, without any added assumptions or biases from our respective presupposed conclusions, and see what conclusions naturally flow from those agreements.
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Re: Phenomenology and Praxis: Philosophical Questions Not Asked Enough

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AshvinP wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 5:04 pm We don't need to assume anything about the nature of the mental realm right now (although if we can agree there is only mental realm and no realms of different essence, i.e. idealism, that would help). We only need to answer the question of whether the assumptions arise from people independently figuring out or being told the meaning of "triangle", and/or whether we are drawing on, for all intents and purposes, a pre-existing transpersonal meaning of "triangle". Do you think we can confidently answer that question?
Mathematical forms appear to be related to the ‘grammar of thinking’. That’s all we can say to begin with if we don’t make any assumptions about the nature of the mental realm.

I am curious how this can be extended to non-mathematical forms, for example what are thought forms associated with ‘seeing colour red’ and can it be communicated to another person like we could with the triangle form?
AshvinP wrote: But, the overall point being, if we start with our conclusions and their disagreements, there is really nowhere left to go. Instead we should start with what can be easily agreed upon in the givens of our experience, without any added assumptions or biases from our respective presupposed conclusions, and see what conclusions naturally flow from those agreements.
Reality of consciousness and the inner urge to find comprehensible patterns from experience - these are my starting points and no other assumptions.

The collection of such patterns were known as ‘natural philosophy’ earlier, but now simply ‘science’. Strangely, science of life has come to view consciousness as unreal, contradicting my felt certainty of its reality. IMO, we should enquire into the roots of scientific knowledge to understand science’s problem with consciousness.

Scientific knowledge grew exponentially in the past 300 years. Practically there was no such knowledge a couple of thousand years ago. How/why did the ‘third person view’ begin and how did it reach such a dominant position in a short span of time?
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