Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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AshvinP
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

Post by AshvinP »

Richard Cox wrote: Wed Oct 06, 2021 11:47 am Hello AshvinP,

I must apologise, that was a terrible response and I’m now having to extract myself from the mess I’ve made. I’m specifically referring to having said:

‘From an idealist perspective we may say that consciousness is, but no more than that. If it’s the foundational thing we can’t get underneath it to say any more. So I suppose my answer is that we can’t understand consciousness.’

I think what I was trying to get at here is the sense that arriving at ‘consciousness is’ feels like arriving at a foundational statement. Something that is—from a perspective at least—necessarily true. We can of course then pose the question, ‘what is consciousness?’ The question is being asked in a different way from the materialist sense of looking for correlates of consciousness, rather it is asking, can we experience consciousness directly? This opens up a certain paradox, akin to a camera not being able to take a picture of itself—unless it’s pointing at a mirror (I have a poem about this I’ll put in at the bottom). Are there mirrors we can use to investigate consciousness?

What I was going for in the latter and more speculative part of the essay was to see if I could develop a rational explanation for the mystical experience—where consciousness contemplating itself leads to an experience of an infinite ocean of love.

Is this in any way akin to what you mean by ‘ Mind cognizing its own meaning’?


A Cinematic Puzzle

What’s present
In every scene
Of every film you’ve ever seen
Yet remains unseen?


Except maybe in reflections…

Richard,

When we say "we can't understand consciousness", we are speaking from a specific perspective - rational intellect. From that perspective, it is true that we cannot get 'under' the essence of consciousness and come to know its essence with high resolution. The most we can do is dissolve via mystical experience into the infinite ocean of love, where we no longer identify our own spiritual activity. But there is no reason to assume that we are limited only to our current perspective, and actually every reason, philosophical and scientific, to conclude that we are not. Representational (mirroring) perspective is not the max capacity of human knowing. I just wrote a couple essays about this called "What Do 'I' Know?", available at general discussion section. Cleric has also written many posts about how Imaginative thinking transcends representational intellect in its experience of the World Content (and how we can come to know that). Here is a quote from one:

Cleric wrote:So thinking is the real point of departure for any endeavor to know. It is also the only place where we find true unity of phenomena and noumena. The perceptions of thoughts are the only perceptions that don't require explanation. For everything else we can ask "What's the meaning of this? Why I perceive this? What stands behind this?" But for our thoughts these questions are irrelevant - they are answered through the very nature of thinking. I know what they mean because it's my idea that is projected into thought perception. I know why I perceive them because I will the thoughts. I know what stands behind the thoughts - it's my own ideating activity! In this way we have found within the World content a point of contact between the phenomenon and noumenon. The former is the thought-perception, the latter is the idea that I will into the thought-form. To this may be habitually objected that it could be possible to explain thinking in other ways - neurons, energies, vibrations, etc. In other words it's suggested that the noumenon is still inaccessible and ideas are only representational phenomena, having nothing to do with the 'thing-in-itself'. Yet this is exactly how the blind-spot plays out. All of these models are still the product of our real thinking. They're like hair and nails growing and separating from my living spiritual activity and now I try to combine this dead material in the most ingenious ways and produce the living activity from them. This I can never do. And if scientists and philosophers still insist to explain thinking in such ways it's only because their true spiritual activity, which produces the dead theory, is entirely in their blind-spot of consciousness. The key is to realize that there's nothing in the given which says that the reality of thinking and ideas is only representation of a thing-in-itself. This very idea is already a product of thinking. In other words, thinking postulates its own reality to lie somewhere where by definition it can't reach. We can picture this as climbing on a tree, cutting the branch on which we sit and declaring that this branch can never know the reality of the tree (that is, the tree becomes the thing-in-itself).
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

Post by Richard Cox »

Thank you AshvinP, that's exactly what I was trying to say
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Eugene I
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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Richard, good essay and good discussion, thank you.

The biggest paradox I see in idealism is epistemological problem of truthfulness. We know from our experience that we can consciously experience perceptions and willingly produce and experience thought forms. What is produced by thinking activity of consciousness (every thought, imagination, form) becomes the ideal content of consciousness. We find the ability to produce forms almost unlimited - we can willingly create almost any idea, including ideas that contradict each other. In the absence of conscious-independent reality all we can experience is consciousness experiencing an unlimited variety of thought forms produced by thinking activity. We can imagine 2x2=4 and 2x2=5, we can imagine fairies and Santas, we can imagine unlimited variety of physical models of reality (there is about 2^500 different variants of superstring theory) The question now becomes: how do we distinguish "ture" ideas from "false" ideas, and how all those ideas relate to reality, to the truth (if there is any)? Can we use logic? But logic is nothing else than a specific set of ideas produced by thinking, and modern math showed that there can be a large variety of different kinds of logics. How do we know which logic we should to use as the basis for the truthfulness criterium? Should we test the ideas against "objective reality"? But what is objective reality in the absence of conscious-independent reality? If all there is is only consciousness with its ideal content, then how can we test the ideas belonging to the ideal content against the same ideal content? We would be testing the ideal content against itself.

Note that such epistemological problem does not exist in the ontological materialism in which the "truth" is about how things actually are in the objective conscious-independent reality, and the role of consciousness is to reflect this truth using its thinking ability. The truthfulness criteria can be easily formulated based on testing of the ideas against the idea-independent objective non-conscious reality.

The bottom line is: the criteria of truthfulness of ideas can only be established with the existence of some idea-independent reality against which the ideas can be tested. If there is no idea- and consciousness-independent reality and if all there is is only consciousness with its ideal content, then there is nothing against which we can test the ideas, because we can't test the ideas against themselves as such testing would be self-referential.

Yet, there are certain ideas that can still be tested, because there is still a given reality of conscious experiencing and thinking activity, and ideas can be tested against such given realty. For example, the idea "conscious experience of each idea and perception exists" can be said to be "true" because it reflects the reality of conscious experience and thinking activity, even though this idea is produced by thinking activity itself. The very conscious experience of every idea or perception is real, it is a given fact. The act of willing-creating of every idea is also real, it is a given fact. The idea "2x2=4" is real the moment we experience it, and the idea "2x2=5" is equally real the moment we experience it. Both ideas equally exist, and so the idea that "the ideas exist as they are willed and experienced" is a "true" idea because it can be tested against the reality of willing and experiencing of those ideas. But that says nothing about the truthfulness of these ideas themselves, it can not confirm the idea "2x2=4" as "true" and reject the idea of "2x2=5" as "false".

I'm not saying that the epistemological problem of truthfulness is unsolvable within the framework of idealism. It may have a solution, and I'm constantly thinking about it. I'm only saying that it is usually not even recognized and simply ignored by most idealists. It needs to be addressed if we want idealism to be a consistent ontology.
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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To elaborate further, we should distinguish between different kinds of "truthfulness". For example, one way to formulate the "truthfulness" is to relate it to practical "usefulness". This is a possibility, but one thing to note here is that such criteria would be only valid within a specific ideal sub-content. As a simplistic example, if we formulate the chess game as a set of specific rules, then we can establish some truthfulness criteria to distinguish between the "useful" moves of figures that lead to winning against the "useless" moves that lead to losing the game. However, if the rules of the game would be formulated differently, then the "true" and "false" moves would also be different, which means that in such sense "true" and "false" are always relative to the underlying structure of the specific content. Since we can assume that the "physical reality" is representation if conscious ideation at a larger scale, and such ideation could unfold in an unlimited variety of different ways, then the "true" and "false" ideas within each version are only relevant to that specific version of the creative ideation activity of consciousness. In other words, the practical criteria of truthfulness can only produce the truths that are relative to a specific structure of the ideal content. In the presence of a variety of alternative structures, there would be no consistent set of "truths" relevant to all of them.

But overall, these considerations lead us to the same conclusion that you arrived at the end of the essay (with which I entirely agree): "if we seek a comprehensive understanding then I suggest pluralism is a necessity".
"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kanzas anymore" Dorothy
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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Eugene I wrote: Wed Nov 10, 2021 4:22 pm To elaborate further, we should distinguish between different kinds of "truthfulness". For example, one way to formulate the "truthfulness" is to relate it to practical "usefulness". This is a possibility, but one thing to note here is that such criteria would be only valid within a specific ideal sub-content. As a simplistic example, if we formulate the chess game as a set of specific rules, then we can establish some truthfulness criteria to distinguish between the "useful" moves of figures that lead to winning against the "useless" moves that lead to losing the game. However, if the rules of the game would be formulated differently, then the "true" and "false" moves would also be different, which means that in such sense "true" and "false" are always relative to the underlying structure of the specific content. Since we can assume that the "physical reality" is representation if conscious ideation at a larger scale, and such ideation could unfold in an unlimited variety of different ways, then the "true" and "false" ideas within each version are only relevant to that specific version of the creative ideation activity of consciousness. In other words, the practical criteria of truthfulness can only produce the truths that are relative to a specific structure of the ideal content. In the presence of a variety of alternative structures, there would be no consistent set of "truths" relevant to all of them.

But overall, these considerations lead us to the same conclusion that you arrived at the end of the essay (with which I entirely agree): "if we seek a comprehensive understanding then I suggest pluralism is a necessity".

Here's something to consider - why can't we imagine a "brand new" color we have never experienced before?

The post-modern problematic is that there are infinite variety interpretations of any given set of facts, such as words in a text or sense-data from the physical world, and this gives rise to the concept that all "metanarratives" of philosophy, religion, and science must be discarded. But that concept is nothing more than a product of dualistic and rationalistic thinking, which the post-modern thinker feels he has overcome when he actually has not. As you touch on above, we know that not all interpretations of facts will be pragmatic i.e. useful towards specified aims. All living beings are always pursuing specified aims - that is one way of defining our ever-evolving existence and experience in the first place. To exist and evolve is to pursue specified aims (consciously or subconsciously).

So instead of treating "pragmatic truth" as just one among many forms of philosophical approaches to truth, like "correspondence theory of truth", we must realize it is the only formulation of truth which makes sense in our first-person experience. It is certainly the only approach which makes sense under a consistent idealism which rules out 3rd-person perspective. We may not like this "exclusionary" outcome, but what we like is not the standard for logical consistency. The only way to get around this standard is to fully adopt materialism. You write, "Note that such epistemological problem does not exist in the ontological materialism in which the "truth" is about how things actually are in the objective conscious-independent reality, and the role of consciousness is to reflect this truth using its thinking ability. The truthfulness criteria can be easily formulated based on testing of the ideas against the idea-independent objective non-conscious reality." But we know that materialism, in addition to adopting non-existent 3rd person perspective reflected in bold, is incoherent in a million different ways, and metaphysically confronts insurmountable hard problems.

So now we are sacrificing logical consistency as we move from philosophy to science, adopting materialist-dualist assumption which demotes consciousness to secondary role in merely observing-thinking about the world content which already exists prior to it, and for what? For no other reason than we don't like the "exclusive" implications of remaining logically consistent. Everyone needs to decide for themselves whether their likes and dislikes can be the standard for truth and whether they are willing to sacrifice the logical reasoning capacity which allows us to formulate and communicate any philosophy or science in the first place. It is that same capacity which makes "objective truths" in any field of inquiry possible. We all know that cognition is highly structured to the extent that some of its dynamics, even with mere intellect, can become mathematically precise, so there is absolutely no logical reason to assert, "If there is no idea- and consciousness-independent reality and if all there is is only consciousness with its ideal content, then there is nothing against which we can test the ideas."
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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AshvinP wrote: Thu Nov 11, 2021 12:49 am
The post-modern problematic is that there are infinite variety interpretations of any given set of facts, such as words in a text or sense-data from the physical world, and this gives rise to the concept that all "metanarratives" of philosophy, religion, and science must be discarded. But that concept is nothing more than a product of dualistic and rationalistic thinking, which the post-modern thinker feels he has overcome when he actually has not. As you touch on above, we know that not all interpretations of facts will be pragmatic i.e. useful towards specified aims. All living beings are always pursuing specified aims - that is one way of defining our ever-evolving existence and experience in the first place. To exist and evolve is to pursue specified aims (consciously or subconsciously).
That is true, but there is a large variety of specified aims even within our human form, and each of those aims has its own set of pragmatic truths specific to that aim. And for non-human life forms, like dolphins or aliens, the aims can be very different from human ones, and so the pragmatic truths could be very different too. So, yes, there are pragmatic truths, but they are relative to specific aims, content and structures.
We all know that cognition is highly structured to the extent that some of its dynamics, even with mere intellect, can become mathematically precise, so there is absolutely no logical reason to assert, "If there is no idea- and consciousness-independent reality and if all there is is only consciousness with its ideal content, then there is nothing against which we can test the ideas."
Mathematicians figured long time ago that there is no absolute mathematical truth whatsoever, all mathematical statements are always precise and true only within a context of a specific axiomatic set, and the choice of the axioms in pure mathematics is arbitrary. Change axioms and the statements that are true in one axiomatic set become false in another. And that also applies to logic as well - there is a large variety of mathematical logical systems that have different sets of logical axioms, and so some statements that are logically consistent in one logical system become inconsistent in other logical systems. In other words, there are no absolute truths and no such thing as absolute logical consistency in mathematics.
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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Eugene I wrote: Thu Nov 11, 2021 1:33 pm
AshvinP wrote: Thu Nov 11, 2021 12:49 am
The post-modern problematic is that there are infinite variety interpretations of any given set of facts, such as words in a text or sense-data from the physical world, and this gives rise to the concept that all "metanarratives" of philosophy, religion, and science must be discarded. But that concept is nothing more than a product of dualistic and rationalistic thinking, which the post-modern thinker feels he has overcome when he actually has not. As you touch on above, we know that not all interpretations of facts will be pragmatic i.e. useful towards specified aims. All living beings are always pursuing specified aims - that is one way of defining our ever-evolving existence and experience in the first place. To exist and evolve is to pursue specified aims (consciously or subconsciously).
That is true, but there is a large variety of specified aims even within our human form, and each of those aims has its own set of pragmatic truths specific to that aim. And for non-human life forms, like dolphins or aliens, the aims can be very different from human ones, and so the pragmatic truths could be very different too. So, yes, there are pragmatic truths, but they are relative to specific aims, content and structures.
We all know that cognition is highly structured to the extent that some of its dynamics, even with mere intellect, can become mathematically precise, so there is absolutely no logical reason to assert, "If there is no idea- and consciousness-independent reality and if all there is is only consciousness with its ideal content, then there is nothing against which we can test the ideas."
Mathematicians figured long time ago that there is no absolute mathematical truth whatsoever, all mathematical statements are always precise and true only within a context of a specific axiomatic set, and the choice of the axioms in pure mathematics is arbitrary. Change axioms and the statements that are true in one axiomatic set become false in another. And that also applies to logic as well - there is a large variety of mathematical logical systems that have different sets of logical axioms, and so some statements that are logically consistent in one logical system become inconsistent in other logical systems. In other words, there are no absolute truths and no such thing as absolute logical consistency in mathematics.

As we grow from infancy to adolescence to adulthood, the specified aims grow fewer due to the choices we make. We intuitively recognize this when we say a child is "full of potential" but an adult not so much. I may take my money saved up over many years and put it into construction of a home, and after the home is built and I move into it, I may feel like my freedom has been "constrained" because now many of my aims and potential choices are centered around the home, and I wish that the home wasn't built and I had my money back to make other choices (or maybe I start comparing my circumstances to the "alien" and say it's not fair that he is cruising the galaxy while I am stuck in my home), but it's easy to see the flawed logic in that sentiment - it was my own decisions which channelled my aims into the home and there is absolutely no use complaining about it now. So it goes with evolution of the spirit (perception-cognition) at both the individual and collective levels. These are radically simple experiential truths which the post-modern wants to abstract away from so as to avoid all "metanarratives" because they dislike every one but their own.

re: math - the point is that mathematical systems are highly structured. Why are they highly structured? Because they reflect our own cognitive activity. When we test any objective phenomenal relations in the world, whether they are concrete sense-impressions or pure mathematical abstractions or anything in between, we are testing them against our own highly structured cognitive reasoning activity. So there is no logical warrant for saying an ideal world with only ideal content (or "consciousness-dependent" world) cannot be the basis for objective assertions about and testing of phenomenal relations. In fact, if one is an idealist, then they are already presupposing that all philosophy and science has only dealt with an ideal world with only ideal content this entire time. Again this is a radically simple fact of our experience and only avoided through intellectual abstraction of the materialist-dualist sort.
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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AshvinP wrote: Thu Nov 11, 2021 2:35 pm In fact, if one is an idealist, then they are already presupposing that all philosophy and science has only dealt with an ideal world with only ideal content this entire time.
I agree, as I said above "Yet, there are certain ideas that can still be tested, because there is still a given reality of conscious experiencing and thinking activity, and ideas can be tested against such given realty." But that is only because the reality of consciousness (conscious experiencing and conscious/thinking activity) by itself is not an idea but that which manifests ideas, it is formlessness that manifests forms while being not separate from them. And so, certain ideas relevant to consciousness itself can be tested against the very reality of consciousness. But most other ideas are only relevant to some other ideas and so cannot be verifiably tested.

In simple words, you cannot test an idea against another idea, you can only test an idea against something real but not an idea. Yet, there are certain ideas that can still be tested, because there is still a given reality of conscious experiencing and thinking activity, and ideas that are relevant to that reality can be tested against it.

But anyway, there is often an unconscious tendency towards absolutism that is usually driven by fear of uncertainty and fear of diversity. But absolutism impedes growth and evolution because it enforces artificial constraints and rejects everything that does not comply with its rigid framework. Becoming open to the Great Mysteriousness and Divinely Integral Diversity liberates from these fears and opens new ways for further evolution not constrained by mind-created absolutist ideal structures.
"I believe that one of the greatest mistakes made by human beings is to want certainties when trying to understand something"
Carlo Rovelli
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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Eugene I wrote: Thu Nov 11, 2021 3:09 pm
AshvinP wrote: Thu Nov 11, 2021 2:35 pm In fact, if one is an idealist, then they are already presupposing that all philosophy and science has only dealt with an ideal world with only ideal content this entire time.
In simple words, you cannot test an idea against another idea, you can only test an idea against something real but not an idea. Yet, there are certain ideas that can still be tested, because there is still a given reality of conscious experiencing and thinking activity, and ideas that are relevant to that reality can be tested against it.

When you say an idea is not "real" you are denying the entire foundation of idealism. The theory of general relativity is an idea (or set of ideas) and sense-observations, which are outward manifestations of ideas (under any consistent idealism), are tested against it. So what you say above is false under any consistent idealism.

"I believe that one of the greatest mistakes made by human beings is to want certainties when trying to understand something"
Carlo Rovelli

Avoiding the peril of dogmatic certainty does not require abandoning the possibility of genuine systematic knowledge of the noumenal (spiritual) world altogether in true Kantian fashion. This excuse of dogmatic certainties is being used to avoid even beginning any objective and rigorous investigation into the spiritual. My opinion on Rovelli's philosophy is already expressed in this thread - "Is Rovelli Dragooning the Human Spirit?"
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Re: Consciousness, A Priori Reasoning and Pluralism

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AshvinP wrote: Thu Nov 11, 2021 3:58 pm When you say an idea is not "real" you are denying the entire foundation of idealism. The theory of general relativity is an idea (or set of ideas) and sense-observations, which are outward manifestations of ideas (under any consistent idealism), are tested against it. So what you say above is false under any consistent idealism.
I never said that ideas are not real. I only said that there are other aspects of reality that are not ideas.

The example you gave is a perfect example of how one type of ideas (physical models) are tested against other kinds of ideas (sense observations that are manifestations of ideas). In this case the ideas of this physical model of relativity theory are only relevant and true with respect to the ideas underlying the sense observations. So, if the ideas underlying the sense observations would be different, then the ideas of the physical model would also be different. If MAL would manifest the sensory world in a different way, there would be different observations and therefore different ideas of the physical models relevant to those observations. In other words, the ideas of the relativity theory are true, but true only relative to the ideas that underlie the sense observations, which in turn could be different. But yes, for us humans who currently live in this particular structure of sense observations, these ideas are pragmatically true. But in principle, they are all still relative. Ideas can not be tested for absolute truthfulness against other ideas, but they can certainly be tested for relative and pragmatic truthfulness against other ideas.
"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kanzas anymore" Dorothy
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