Sunday, 29 July 2012

Beginning an investigation

It seems difficult to capture exactly what we mean by looking so I am writing this out in the hope that we can clear up the issue a little. There is a little ambiguity in the word 'look' which I would like to outline at this point.  
Obviously on first definition 'look is taken to mean direct your eyesight to focus on an item in question. 
Secondly, it is also taken to mean conduct an investigation in to a state of affairs “I'll look in to it”. 
Thirdly, we have appearances “It looks like” and finally it has many phrasal verb forms such as “It over looks the river” and “You should look it up” to name a few.

The question we can ask now is this. Does looking really entail any of these definitions?
The answer is yes it does on one count but not on another.

In what ways is it accurate then? If we take the second definition and say it is an investigation in to a state of affairs this would seem to be exactly what we are talking about. What the LOOKING process entails is that we start to scratch beneath the surface and investigate reality with great endeavour in a way that we have never envisaged before.

 However, our first definition is what we really mean, because we are talking about directing our salience (perceptual focus) rather than looking with our eyes at an object, which is actually what we are trying to convey. 
We have actually had people ask if they are supposed to look with their eyes before in the past, but this only bears testament to how confusing this matter can be.

When we say look we are talking about salience of our perceptions. Rather than limit this to our eyesight we mean simply focusing on introspection and observing anything that appears in our direct experience. We have feelings that arise, thoughts, acts of imagining, memories, emotional states, bodily sensations of hunger and pain to name a few. All of this on top of the data we perceive with our five senses

When we say LOOK what we really mean is observe introspectively anything that arises in your direct experience. Absolutely anything that can be perceived, sensed, seen, heard, felt etc.. should be investigated fully. 
So not only are we saying investigate the state of affairs which is true to our definition but we are also slightly changing the first definition to: direct your perceptual salience to focus on an item in question. By item we are talking about the aforementioned items in red.

However, what confuses this matter is that there is a massive difference between introspection itself and what we are talking about when we say LOOK. 

This I think is what causes the majority problems. 

Since we have been engaged in thinking our whole lives we cannot see the wood for the trees, we are literally BLIND to what is happening in real life. This is not to say we are blind strictly, it is rather we are missing out on an aspect of what is available for perceptual inspection because we have never bothered to focus our awareness on it before. 

Reality is delivered to us through a perceptual filter to a large degree and what we experience is governed by our salience. For instance if I tell you to look at the sky out of the window, you will focus on the sky and then after that you start to comprehend the other objects in your field of vision. 
This is how our perception works, if we had to go through a process of not grass, not houses etc before we saw the sky, then we would be of no use as an evolutionary survival machine.

Our instinct to be aware of our environment and our habit to engage in thinking causes us to analyse everything. 


With this mechanism in place, we never actually get to look at real life because we appear to be engaged in an on going analysis of everything. 
We are constantly assessing our thoughts, the environment, thoughts about those thoughts, daydreams, we never get a glimpse of the real since all we know is this seeming mental life. 

What you are being asked to do is look at real life and not your mental life. Yes, we have to investigate mental facets of our existence but we need to approach it from such an angle where we are not looking at the perceptions* themselves, as we have always done, but trying to get a glimpse of what is going on behind these perceptions, the mechanisms that allow our perceptions to manifest.

*Footnote: This may have been slightly confusing when I first wrote this and used that word, but the point really is this. In the general hurly-burly of life we perceive and see things. Sometimes, we may even focus our salience on our vision and we have the appearance of looking intently at an object in our visual field. This is by definition looking, but we are not penetrating the fog by doing this, and is a surface veneer of the kind of looking I am talking about doing - Gh0$T 2015

Just imagine you are in this situation. I am stood watching a carnival and I see the procession come around the corner. The crowd start cheering, I look intently at the float and I start looking at the spectators young and old along the street, I hear a hissing sound and I look round, there is an old woman next to me taking an asthma inhaler, she puts it in to her red bag, she has matching red glasses, grey curly hair, and a wrinkled face. I look back at the float approaching me it has a brass band on top of it I start to count them and I start to look at what instruments are being played...

Right, I could go on all day about this and I could look at every single detail in the carnival and parrot it back at you. What would I have achieved here? 
Absolutely nothing, because this is how we tend to observe a situation. I have looked at real life on one definition, I am looking at the here and now and I believe I am looking intently and I can't find out if my beliefs hold or not, they have always held and I have not seen anything to the contrary. 

This is what we think LOOKING entails initially. 

Now if I was LOOKING at what was really happening in direct experience and I scratched beneath the surface of this, I would have a different angle of what was going on. When we are talking about LOOKING we do not mean carrying on as normal we mean actually scrutinising the mechanisms upon which the former example could be based. So in re-describing the above scenario I could try and LOOK at what was happening in real life non judgementally.

Perception>     Carnival float

Perception>     Sound happens

Feeling>           Anticipation

Concept>         Source of sound = people

Perception>    Gaze wanders along the street

Concept>         Old and young people here

Perception>    Hissing sound occurs

Movement>    Head suddenly turns to right involuntarily

Perception>    Person

Perception>    Inhaler

Concept>         Sound source

and so on...

Notice here that on the right hand side we could put these concepts in to a sentence to re-describe the carnival. These are conceptual labellings of what appeared in my reality but these are merely labels of objects that I perceive and associated concepts. 

We need to scratch beneath this level, this is the whole point of the process. So, if we abandon these concepts the left hand column is all that remains. This is what I am talking about when I mean LOOK at real life. 
When I am LOOKING I am scrutinising the left hand column and LOOKING at what is happening in my experience and how it arises. Rather than engaging in the thinking process, one is observing what is happening in REAL LIFE and not engaged in thinking.

There is a world of appearances that we are nonchalantly engaged in and this is where our attention has been all of our lives, in fact, it seems absurd to actually break out of this for a minute and actually scrutinise what is happening. 

This is why it seems so counter intuitive to LOOK and why so much confusion arises. 

Our analysis of our thinking actually causes us to miss out on a part of a reality that is actually available for our inspection, it is just that we have never done it before that we have real trouble comprehending what this means. There are cognitive processes that underlie this world of appearances and this is the substance we are looking for when we talk about LOOKING.  

We want the substance, the objective facts about the mechanisms that underlie our perceptions themselves, not an analysis of our thinking.

We want to scrutinise the processes that underlie our perceptions and not engage in thinking about them as we have always done. This looking stops us from colouring our perception with our thoughts after some practice and this is all it takes to see no self. 
Just five seconds of honesty is all it takes, it is not complicated or mysterious it is something that is just obvious if you look honestly. It takes a little time to clear the fog for the most part and it is not easy to turn your attention to this looking initially, depending on how wrapped up you are in that analysis process I mentioned. 

Perhaps I will elaborate on that a bit more soon but for now we can say that once we have an idea of what is actually happening in real life, then we can start to investigate how these things interact with each other and how they relate to our notion of what the self is.

It just takes a bit of courage to see that your assumptions were simply groundless assumptions that do not stand up to any kind of scrutiny when we use real life as an arbiter of truth instead of the mind. This. This is the key to opening the gate.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Self requisite for consciousness?

How do you define/differentiate "you" with "a conscious human being with a discreet consciousness"?

This question cropped up the other day and was related to a different discussion, however, it seems appropriate to answering a fundamental question that gets posed time and time again. 
It seems a common sticking point is that people cannot conceive of how humans can have a discrete consciousness, yet have no personal identity. 

This seems like a paradox at first but really it is not so complicated after all, if we take a brief look at some recent findings. This was actually arguing for other minds by a weak inference, however, it does outline the point I have just raised here.

It appears that consciousness is a precondition of experience for any cognising organisms and I certainly would not be willing to suggest there is a discrete self in any of them. I would willingly agree that we have a self model as Metzinger suggested, but this still does not imply a bona fide 'self' requisite for personal identity, since it is simply an illusion. We both know full well there is no master controller, no thinker pulling the strings and deciding to take action we have both seen it, right?

"You" is the product of this self model but because it is only a thought, it is a fantasy projection born from the ability to abstractly think and represent the world. The main problem is this. If the brain represents the world, then how would it know that it is representing the world? 

Answer, it has to form these representations from a multitude of sensory impressions, reproduce them to think with, and also have a faculty to understand them, hence the need for a conscious unity of apperception, which is a mediating centre for all this information. 

It is not "you" that is aware or controls this though, it is the brain - life lives itself, there is no you.

Chimpanzees show abilities that are cogent with this model. I would also wager that they had a self model as such but again not an actual self. This seems to be a precondition of the ability to think abstractly and when we see chimps making spears and gorillas using sticks to measure the depth of water, it is not absurd to say the brain has to process data in relation to itself, notice we have not invoked a self yet or we would be committing a category mistake. 

We are seeing level 2 sequencing of intuitions and this would indicate a faculty of sensibility (ability to receive sensory impressions in the brain) and understanding (ability to think using representations). 
What we are also seeing is spatial-temporal thinking, where ideas are reproduced in a limited form of imagination that involves a limited degree of mental sequencing. This allows the chimp to understand the concepts (non verbally of course) of sharp stick and then easier killing of its prey, in order to produce another "nyeep" that drives its actions. 

This suggests that even our primate cousins have a need for an arrangement of consciousness like ours, although I cannot know the experience of a chimp (See Nagel (1979) 'What is it Like to be a Bat').

Now, since this consciousness is rather a mysterious business, and this human being cannot know the contents of thoughts of another being, this garners this idea of separation from each other and it is of no surprise that we actually ended up believing in this divide collectively. 

However, this is actually happening in real life but if there is no master controller then how can there be a self? 

Quite simply this is a mechanism of evolution that has been crafted over millions of years and is still being crafted, its all a product of mother nature, god, universal consciousness, whatever the fuck you want to call it, but there is no room for a separate "you" in the equation. Period.

If we were to hold to your scheme here, which suggests that because conscious creatures have a discrete consciousness, they also have a self we run in to clear absurdities. First of all we would be able to demonstrate control over its actions from this self, which we already know registers as a negative through empirical testing. 

Secondly, if there was no division between each organism there would be no conscious experience at all or consciousness would be privvy to the entirety of consciousness. This allows for a collective consciousness and it may be suggested that this division is not absolute but then we would be getting in to metaphysics, which is where we will have to stop this tangent because then we are making idle speculations. 

Also your conjecture would suggest every living thing would have to have a self which is clearly false because we run in to all kinds of problems such as evolving a self that did not think and then illustrating a clear line where things stop "having" discrete selves.

Because the consciousness unity of apperception in this human being cannot know the representations that arise in another humans conscious unity of apperception, then this is where the idea of separation comes from. 

Hence no self, but discrete conscious experience for each human being. If I call it "you", it only invokes a self if you believe the word "you" means there is a self there, however, I use it as a pronoun and dropped the semantic meaning it has related to a discrete self that has its own identity. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Self model

Why there is no self  but we have the illusion of it. Check this out it is fascinating stuff, kudos to Stepvhen for finding this one!

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