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Downunder: Central Clarity Consciousness (CCC)

The Series of Objections to “Object” Consciousness

Larval Subjects posted a round-up of the latest OOP (Object-Oriented Philosophy) weblog discussion, as everyone seems to be seeking the “New” metaphysics (one if reminded of Nietzsche’s clever, and unfortunately philosophical reminder that one should hate the “Good” that is in the mouth of one’s neighbor [BGE 43]). Cordiality all around, but metaphysics (the logical necessities) in the mouth of another invites objection. These were my three posted objections, in their order:

1. The “Picture” behind Intention: What Lies at the Center of Perception

2. The Bounce of the Being of Beings

3. Harman Brings Central Clarity to the Issue (wink, nod)

Larval Subjects though finds my main objection to Graham Harman’s ontology of necessarily hidden objects as they are caught in a Husserlian/Heideggerian Four Fold, not even remotely applicable, (how can hidden objects be a product of optical metaphorization?). This is surely a clue that I have done a very poor job of making the nature of my point clear for each time I see it summarized, the nature of my point seems to not be there in the mouths of my summarizers. This is my fault. The purpose of this post is to set some of the history backdrop for the nature of my critique, a backdrop which may make my critique more plain, at least in concept. Then, when plain, it can be debated whether it applies.

Part of the problem with my critique is that it cuts so broadly across the swathe of Philosophy, hitting at all the fibers of terms that have developed from Descartes on, that arguing about it within the vocabularies of those derived terms is counter-productive. It touches such elementary philosophical analytics dyads Self/World, or subject/object, and even Being/Non-Being, overturning something of the each of these terms even when separated out from their traditional dyad partner.

And part of the problem is that my point is a historical one, that is, I am tracing the genaology of a thought back to a moment in theory, and perhaps it requires that one understand this moment in theory in order to understand the subtle perniciousness of the continuity. It is for this reason that I’ll summarize something about what was going on when the exact anatomical nature of the eye meet the Cartesian idea of the ideal shape of a lens, all brought in metaphor to a concept of consciousness itself, the Cartesian concept of Will organized around the idea of a Central Clarity of Object.

The Hyperboliod Lens, Bending Rays Toward the Center of the Eye

Come out of the Perspectivist Tradition of a Theory of Vision which for centuries thought that vision consisted of a point by point correspondence of rays coming from a place in the object directly to the back of the eye, like so many uninterrupted strings, Kepler was the first to make rigorous discovery of how rays radiated out in all directions from all the points of an object, and were generally refracted and refocused on the back of the eye (to over-simplify the history). Part of this discovery was his proposal/discovery that the lens of the eye was hyperbolic in shape, a shape which focused dispersing rays from a central point toward a perpendicular which was the lens’s axis, as the illustration shows:

This meant that by the very nature of the hyperboloid lens of the eye (it turns out it is not a hyperbola), rays coming from a central point are most perfectly focused, and those coming from cones at angles which are not on the axis of the lens, are confusedly focused to the edges of vision, as he explains in his Paralipomena:

All the rays of the direct cone are gathered together at one point in the retina, which is the chief thing in the process; the lines of the oblique cones cannot quite be gathered together, because of the causes previously mentioned here, as a result, the picture is more confused. The direct cone aims the middle ray at center of the retina; the oblique cones aim the rays to the side…

…so the sides of the retina use their measure of sense not for its own sake, but whatever they can do they carry over to the perfection of the direct vision. That is we see an object perfectly when at last we perceive it with all the surroundings of the hemisphere. On this account, oblique vision is least satisfying to the soul, but only invites one to turn the eyes thither so that they may be seen directly (174).

As you can see, he goes further than simply stating this relative confusion of the border, but tells us that the sides of the border “carry over” their measure of sense to the perfection of the central vision, a central object. And this physics of sense is seen in the very satisfactions of the soul. That is, the soul and Nature are in agreement.

Descartes though was the first scientist/philosopher to actually do the mathematical work which shows the refracting powers of hyperbolic lenses (having discovered the Law of Refraction, a fact of discovery still under dispute). The precise gradation of hyperbolic lenses were impossible to make the time, and Descartes became fairly obsessed with making an automated machine which would be capable of grinding them, a doomed endeavor. Spherical lenses suffered from aberrations, which after Descartes were generally presumed to be solved with the Ideal Hyperbolic Lens. But Descartes did something more to Kepler’s notion of natural, hyperbolic center of object focus. He made the benefit of the periphery a quantitative measure (one sees more things via the periphery), but not a qualitative measure. He attaches to a concept of qualitative central clarity his most important concept of Will. The relatively confused border only serves help us direct our free Will in the right direction (oddly, this contradicts the sheerly quantitative measure of the periphery, for numericity alone is not helpful); the clarity in a way seems to speak for itself:

There is only one other condition which is desirable on the part of the exterior organs, which is that they cause us to perceive as many objects as possible at the same time. And it is to be noted that this condition is not in any way requisite for the improvement for seeing better, but only for the convenience of seeing more; and it should be noted that it is impossible to see more than one object distinctly at the same time, so that this convenience, of seeing many others confusedly, at the same time, is principally useful only in order to ascertain toward what direction we must subsequently turn our eyes in order to look at the one among them which we will wish to consider better. And for this, Nature has so provided that it is impossible for art to add anything to it. - Seventh Discourse

One can see that Descartes rather easily transfers this notion of central object clarity to central idea clarity. The quelling of confusion comes from separating out the lone clear thing (object/idea) from the many things you might be confusedly taking in. Interestingly, he appeals to the precision vision of the craftsman whose “delicate operations” are supposed to reflect this intentionality principle of consciousness clarity. Ignored is that the craftsman is able to narrow his/her attention due to the very clarity of perceptions of the entire border of the process (the process borders are not confused, but stable); and even more so, it should be pointed out that if one really notices what a craftsman is attending to, it is not a central object, or a central idea, but rather the potentiating dissonance at the center of the project. At the center of the craftsman’s gaze is not a clarity, but an eruption:

Rule 9: We must concentrate our mind’s eye totally upon the most insignificant and easiest matters, and dwell upon them for long enough to acquire the habit of intuiting the truth distinctly and clearly.

…We can best learn how mental intuition is to be employed by comparing it with ordinary vision. If one tries to look at many objects at one glance, one sees none of them distinctly. Likewise, if one is inclined to attend to many things at the same time in a single act of thought, one does so with a confused mind. Yet craftsmen who engage in delicate operations, and are used to fixing their eyes on a single point, acquire through practice the ability to make perfect distinctions between things, however minute and delicate. The same is true of those who never let their thinking be distracted by many different objects at the same time, but always devote their whole attention to the simplest and easiest of matters: they become perspicacious.

- Descartes, The Regulae, Rule 9

Narrow or Broad?

That is the historical stage. From here I will move faster. While many did embrace both the physical theory that hyperbolic lenses would solves all the aberrations of spherical lenses, and the metaphysical theory that central clarity of an object/idea is constitutive of a directed, Willing consciousness, and key to truth pursuits, Spinoza who was a lens-grinder, and designer of optical instruments and as he will become known as, a metaphysican, did not.

In two letters Spinoza discusses the insufficiency of Descartes’ hyperbolic lenses (which again, did not exist). From his objections we get a firm clue into the nature of his metaphysical objections to Descartes, objections which cut the very nature of how consciousness, the mind, and the Will is conceived. Spinoza’s objection to the hyperbolic lenses is simple:

“Moreover, it is certain that, in order to see an entire object, we need not only rays coming from a single point but also all the other rays that come from all the other points” (Letter 40).

He draws a diagram to illustrate the problem, and its solution. A hyperbolic lens can concentrate rays only come perpendicular to its axis, a spherical lens has an infinity of axes, so despite a small amount of aberration, clarity is achieved broadly, by bringing as much relational clarity together across the full breadth of the retina. (I superimpose a red-line hyperbola to illustrate Spinoza’s point.)

Now the facts of optics are not ultimately important here. Indeed Descartes and Spinoza were both wrong for a variety of reasons. What is significant is the way that opticality and focus as they are theoretically conceived work to ground fundamental conceptions of how consciousness is. As we can see, Descartes notion of an object/idea centered free Will and consciousness was foregrounded upon first Kepler’s idea that the eye itself had a lens of the shape that Descartes had theorized would be best for the improvement of magnified vision. The question is, once this anatomical, naturalizing foundation is kicked away, and once Descartes’ theological imperative for an essentialized Freedom of the Will is let go of, what has come of the picture of consciousness itself as essentially a Central Clarity Consciousness. Spinoza, as he does away with the Freedom of the Will, does so by dismissing the notion of a pictorial Mind, in which Ideas of varying clarity play like objects of varying clarity:

E2p48 – In the mind there is no absolute, or free, will, but the Mind is determined to will this or that by a cause which is also determined by another, and this again by another, as so to infinity.

Scholium – We must investigate, I say, whether there is any other affirmation or negation in the Mind except that which the idea involves, insofar as it is an idea – on this see the following Proposition [49] and also D3 – so that our thought does not fall into pictures. For by ideas I understand, not the images that are formed at the back of the eye (and, if you like, in the middle of the brain), but concepts of Thought [NS: or the objective Being of a thing insofar as it consists only in Thought]; – trans. Curley

Ultimately for Spinoza as he minimizes the human in the universe, an idea of the mind is only an expression of Substance, and has for its object a state of its body. It is not composed of something that is Intentionality, an object of thought. But more than this, Spinoza’s panoramic understanding of clarity, that object clarity comes from the relative clarity of the entire field of vision, and not from some core surety, reveals the very comprehensiveness of his metaphysical approach. It is not that a single, central proposition “Cogito ergo sum” or any other that could provide real clarity, but rather the entire interlocking breadth of coherence (it is for this reason that some contemporary philosophers have found Spinoza to be a Coherence Theorist of Truth). The clarity comes from abroad, so to speak. It is for this reason that he calls his propositions of the Ethics “the eyes of the mind” (in a very rare metaphor). No one proposition could function as a clarity, just as no central rays from an object could. It is the width of them that brings clarity (and it is for this reason that he argues that one in reasoning must pass as fast as possible to the Idea of God, Substance, and Idea of comprehensivity of cause and explanation, a field upon which any proposition then considered may receive its own sharpness).

How Can Not-Seeing the “object” Come from CCC?

Now briefly Larval Subjects (and probably Graham Harman and many others) does not see how Cartesian Central Clarity Consciousness pervades Graham’s hidden object ontology. As a brief answer, one must not just look at Graham’s conclusions, but also the constituent parts of his conclusion. As Graham himself put forth, he relies upon Husserl’s Cartesian “intentional object” to make up his Four Fold, from which his “hidden objects” are derived:

My own concept of objects is of a fourfold tension that erupts into view most clearly when you look at the two domains of intentional objects (Husserl) and real objects (Heidegger, in my reading at least).

Perhaps this is a misreading on my part, but I do not consider Husserl’s split of the object within consciousness to have removed him from the Intentionality of Consciousness composed of a Central Clarity picture which Descartes put forth. By my accounting, to rely upon this conceptual designation, even in part, is to partake in a mistaken and oversimplified view of the nature of Mind. (And to no small point, in partaking of it, one brings the human-centricist aspects which brought it into view in the first place.) So, for those confused as to why I could claim that Graham is offering up a wrongful optical metaphor when he is asserting objects which cannot be seen at all, one has to keep track of the foundations of the “hidden object” (its place in the Intentionality reduction of Consciousness). It is not just that Graham’s ontology is caught up in an opticality (a general metaphorization of mental clarity with optical clarity), but rather is caught up in a specific model of opticality and consciousness, that clarity is CENTRALIZED (sorry for the caps, but his point seems to be slipping out summaries). This problematic central object of consciousness be it a phenomenological object, or an idea, composes several again essentialized dyads. Upon it is grafted a primary (clear) figure/(confused) ground distinction, a Being/Non-Being binary, and ultimately even a Self/World problematic (to name a few). Once Consciousness is assumed to be CCC, much binary machination can be performed. By simply crossing out the object, through the reflections of Non-Being, pointing to its insufficiency, saying that the object is forever in retreat from this constitutive relations (and thus “hidden”) becomes simply a product of the this mistaken object-centered characterization of consciousness itself.

It is to the periphery that philosophy must look, I suggest, to the connectives. Much as in Spinoza’s diagram of the optics of the human eye, it is the field of (mental) vision which provides any such clarity experienced to be towards the center. And beyond this, if one is to embrace a post-human, or pre-post-Kantian philosophy of mind and object, one really should look right towards the center of vision, where a functioning dissonance, a living eruptive line forces itself up, in the midst of the object and between them. Attentiveness to the phenomenology of consciousness, the nature of the center, is what displaces the very essentialized notion of object (as privileged ontological unit), and as Spinoza would tell us, this living line is constituted by the very thought to thought affirmations of our Body under fluctuating degree of Being and Power…In a sense, Graham retreats from the human, but stops at the object because of a mistaken (and historically human-centricist) conception of consciousness. He simply does not go far enough. There is no reason to stop at the object as the final ontological stop. The fullness, the breadth of what we can do under that trajectory toward the ultimately unknown X, is not the hidden object, but Spinoza’s Substance.

Graham though now suggests that he is coming closer to embracing panpsychism (I believe he restricts his position to an essential dyad endo-panpsychism), so it may be that we will eventually come to find ourselves in agreement, perhaps as I come to better understand him.

[Addendum: Graham responds:

"Kevin thinks the periphery is where the action is. But I'm not sure what to say in response to this aside from what has already been written... Within the intentional sphere, it is simply the case that we do perceive objects and not fuzzy horizons. And within the real sphere, it can be logically deduced that the world is object-oriented, since the alternative is a slippery slope through fields of pre-individual intensities all the way to outright monism."

My thoughts: The problem is not whether we do perceive objects, of course we do. The question is what is the means by which we do so, and what is their metaphysical grounding. That is, not only do we perceive objects, but our cognition is composed of many other aspects, and reliant upon a wide coherence of beliefs (and ideas are not clear in the same way that objects are clear).  And as I point out, unless you want to pre-posit the "intentional sphere" as defined by its object, a category of reduction that I challenge, a close attention to the phenomenology of what we are aware of is not SIMPLY an object, but a dissonance within and across objects, not to mention aspects of the entire field. My entire point that the concept of the "intentional spheres"  is miscontructed, both in terms of concept and in terms of phenomenal observation. By invoking the "intensional sphere" as a self-evident, and self-defined essentialization of consciousness, Graham simply performs the point I am making, that is, his "hidden objects" ontology is based upon the CCC conception, inherited from Descartes, and cannot operate without it.

As to the other horn of the dilemma that Graham proposes, "Either accept my hidden objects or slide into lump intensities (or monism)" the general conflation of lump intensities, what he elsewhere calls a "molten slag", and monism is unwarrented, for Spinoza's monism is not molten and not much of a slag. In fact it contains a vertical dimension carefully constructed along a degree of Being analysis along a vector of power. I don't know if "Outright monism" is supposed to carry the rhetorical weight of something like "Outright Anarchy" or worse "Outright Balderdash," but I would think that outright monism is preferable to implicit or only evocative monism. I have yet to read his objection to Spinoza's notion to Substance, so I cannot really respond to this deadend. There are objects in Spinoza, and they even have essences. It is just that they have no ontological priority, as objects, over the expression of Substance, which they are.]

Here is Spinoza’s much neglected optical letters with commentary, if interested:

Deciphering Spinoza’s Optical Letters

And a Word.doc version: Spinoza’s Optical Letters: Redux

The Difference Without a Difference…What?

Spinoza to the Rescue

Reid over at Planomenology made a very interesting series of points on Larval Subject’s “difference that makes a difference” take on Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Philosophy, points which read in a direction that at first blush seems to come from a different tack than the one that I employ. Reid finds as key to finding an ontology of things which may not make a difference is looking for the non-difference that does not make a difference. A creative approach.

Yet there is a third reading of the ontic principle that could undermine the apparent consistency of the Deleuzian approach, and I believe it is a reading that would fit Harman’s own variant of object-orientation. If there does not exist a difference that does not make a difference, that nonetheless means that there could exist a non-difference that does not make a difference. Levi’s ontic principle says nothing about the non-existence of non-differences.

It was only a passing thought at the time, but Reid’s non-difference making non-difference richly struck me as exemplifed in the formal relationship between Attributes in Spinoza. That is, there is a fundamental non-difference between them that allows them to reveal differences, and make the mind work. Reid gave a positive reaction to this line of thinking, so I thought that I should post the comment here as well.

As it turns out,  I had to appeal to Spinozist distinctions in my last response to Graham Harman so as to get a positive notion of the my lay of the ontological land, and perhaps by providence it seems that my associative thoughts on Reid’s thinking about difference may have more legs than first imagined. For in the end, what I argue to Graham, is that the depth of his Heideggerian objects is better served as the depth of Spinoza’s Substance, which is all the deper (and a degree of Being conception of Being). This may very well have grounds in the non-differential point that Reid was making. What is interesting is that Reid uses this distinction to undermine Deleuze who is in some sense operating under Spinozist influence.

My comment on non-difference:

The non-difference which makes no difference would be the order and connection of things and ideas as they are expressed in parallel Attributes (actually an infinity of Attributes)as found at the Ethics 2p7. The differences between Attributes are the same in terms of order and connection (thus a non-difference which makes no transitive transitive). Across Attributes non-difference pertains.

The difference that makes a difference is simply the horizontal modal and transitive causation, wherein differences between modes cause the differences between other modes. Each modal difference is “seen” by other modes (Berkely’s esse est percepi).

But, the non-difference which makes no difference, actually does make a difference (but not in the transitive sense of modal expression), but in terms of suturing the very immanence of the Mind’s ability to read the essence of Substance. That is, because the order and connection between things and ideas is the same (undifferentiated unto each other), the mind through the expression of the Attribute of Thought can establish the relative differences between modes. It can read along a vector of same and change. Relational defitions of objects are given a kind of depth. This does not mean that the objects themselves, (merely the expression of Substance in the Attribute of Extension), harbor or hide some “in-itself” (internalized relation) buried in its heart, but only that the immanent-same (non-difference)across Attributes makes possible the grasp of objecthood.

One might be tempted to say that the “order and connection” itself is already a differentiation, from one thing to another, one thought to another, but sub specie aeternitas, it can just be considered one great fixed articulation.

As mentioned in my last comments to Graham, it may be this depth that saves one from the undifferentiated slag of a DeLandian universe, a depth leveraged upon a non-difference which makes no (transitive) difference, the force of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), and Being as the capacity to act.

Perhaps of interest is a brief discussion I had with David Chalmers in which I attempted to introduce him to the notion that Spinoza presented a “zombie world” as our world (and not just a the logical possibility of it), and that Spinoza held a position that had great affinity to Chalmer’s idea of a protopanpsychism. Because Chalmers did not come from a typical philosophical pedagogy he was admittedly less than familiar with Spinoza, but considered the issue.

Loosely related to this: The Reality of the Affects: Spinoza’s Plotinian Real and Some Experiments in Re-translation, “idea” as “information”

Tommaso Campanella et Benedict Spinoza

…this unity [of knower and known] is only possible if the subject and object, the knower and the known, are of the same nature; they must be members and parts of one and the same vital complex. Every sensory perception is an act of fusion and reunification. We perceive the object, we grasp it in its proper, genuine being only when we feel in it the same life, the same kind of movement and animation that is immediately given and present to us in the experience of our same Ego. From this, Panpsychism emerges as a simple corollary to [Campanella's] theory of knowledge.

Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy

When a number of bodies of the same or different magnitude form close contact with one another through the pressure of other bodies upon them, or if they are moving at the same or different rates of speed so as to preserve an unvarying relation of movement among themselves, these bodies are said to be united with one another and all together to form one body or individual thing, which is distinguished from other things through this union of bodies

Spinoza, Ethics 2 p13 a2 d)

 A Comparison of Seldolm Considered Affinities

Spinoza

 

Campanella

Panpsychism

Panpsychism
Two Attributes of Extension and Thought which are expressed modally, the essence each is a conatus

Three Primalities of Potentia, Sapientia, Amor
All determination is negation: (letter 50)

All limitation is non-being
Ideas participate in otherness; the affective imagination

To know is to be: cognoscere est esse
Universals are confused knowledge

Universals are confused knowledge
The power to act is a degree of Being (the General Definition of the Affects)

A Plotinian Aristotelianism, degree of Being
Passions involve a confused idea of external cause Illate knowledge (of other things) confuses the soul’s innate knowledge

Falsity as privation; Theory of Affects; affectuum imitatio

Cognoscere est esse; Amor est esse; Operari est esse
Perception is belief; Intellect and Will are one action

Sensation is both a perception and a judgment of a passion
Aristotle’s potency and act collapsed into vector of Being

The principle of Being and the principle of operation collapsed
Use of Scotus’s formal distinction to delineate the Attributes

 

Use of Scotus’s formal distinction to delineate the Primalities
Potientia means power, not just capacity

Potentia means power, not just capacity
Substance’s essence includes existence, modal essences do not

God’s essence includes existence, modal essences exist ab extrinseco
The immanent/transitive causal distinction: God and the modes

Immanent/transitive causal distinction; self vs. other
Power understood as both the capacity to affect and be affected

Potentia activa, potentia passiva/receptiva
The perfection/imperfect distinction essendi

Potentia essendi
All things expressed in Thought and Extension The difference of sensation is not one of essence, but by mode

To love is the increase in perfection accompanied by the idea of an external cause

To love is to be: amor est esse
Object of the mind vs. external determination

   

The mind does not measure but is measured
Self-knowledge is expressive in ideas of varying adequacy, all which have the body as their object

Self-knowledge is the nature of Being and Truth (Augustine)
The object of the mind is the body; a body is a communication ratio of parts; self and the other (must) form a ratio, and thus share an essence/conatus

In knowing, the knower becomes the known through the sharing of an essence
The world is determined

No contingency of accidents to substance
The false is privation

Evil is privation (Augustine)
All ideas true in the mind of God All ideas true in the mind of God
   
   
   

The above is a brief conceptual juxtaposition of some of the features of the thought of Campanella and Spinoza, meant as points of departure for an eventual theorization (some preliminary thoughts toward which put forward here and here). I do not find all of these points of convergence equally fruitful. Some of them reach back into a shared reference to Scholasticism (the divisins in which both thinkers attempted to synthesize), and some extend into the roots of a Augustinian/Plotinian Neoplatonism of Being. The crossbeams of the crux of Campanella’s potential contribution to the analysis of Spinoza’s thought are, a.) A comparison of Campanella’s Three Primalities and Spinoza Two Attributes and conatus, and b.) the application of Campanella’s assimulative cognoscere est esse  to Spinoza’s affectuum imitatio and his communitarian, bodily assemblage concept of knowledge. If to know something is to become that something, and sociability is grounded in the experiential, shared affectio  of “a thing like us” and the forming of composite, affective bodies, Campanella’s sapientia transformations are Spinoza’s epistemic increases in power.

Campanella and Vico, very briefly

Two very important (and under considered) epistemolary dicti written on truth and knowing:

Campanella: To know is to be, cognoscere est esse  (1638).

Vico: The true and the made are transposable (Or…The true is the made), verum et factum convertuntur.  (1710).

The first of these communicates the objective transmutation and assimulation that occurs through coming to know something, the second circumscribes truth within the horizon of made criteria. The first expresses an affective immanence under a panpsychic view of assimilation, the second, historical contingency within a human truth. I believe only an embrace of both these views respectably fulfills the scope of both knowing and truth, as we have come to read them. We are transmuted into the very thing we come to know, founding a cybernetic exercise of power; we know something to be objectively true through reference to criteria we as human beings have created.

Other thoughts  on Vico

Many on Panpsychism: The Mind that Abides

 

Professor Skrbina, in response to my thoughts on his book below, writes telling that a new book is due out from Benjamins Publishing in late 2008 or 2009. It has 17 contributors, including Galen Strawson and David Skrbina, who is editing as well. Here is found a synopsis of its proposed collection of essays, and likely contributors:

Mind That Abides: Panpsychism in the New Millennium

Here is a selection from the proposal:

The book then follows with 15 dedicated chapters written by leading-edge thinkers of mind and consciousness. In each case the writer moves beyond a basic defense of panpsychism, and toward new positive theories as they relate to mind, consciousness, and reality. Writings are targeted at a broad audience, with minimal use of jargon, and yet penetrate deeply into the subject matter. Topics covered include mind-body interaction, the physical basis for consciousness, the ‘combination problem’ (on how lower-order minds can combine or merge into higher-order ones), the psychology and phenomenology of panpsychism, and process philosophy perspectives (as per Whitehead and Russell).

 

Panpsychism in the West: From There to Here

Panpsychism: The position that all things, to some degree, think, or cogitate, or experience, or feel

I neglected to note the spur of my interest for the post Spinoza’s Degrees of Being: A History. For some time I had been tracking the sources of Spinoz’a conception of degreess of privation and power, and when I came to read David Skrbina’s Panpsychism in the West I was pleasantly surprised to find such an informing history. In it professor Skrbina attempts to locate all historical Western Panpsychic positions, and to show their relation to each other, up to contemporary times.

What was missing in his story I thought was the vital link between Plotinus and Augustine (he would I believe agree), which helped bridge Scholasticism to Neo-Platonism, until Plotinus was retranslated by Ficino in the early Renaissance. This period of history simply remained under-addressed. In my thinking it really is this Plotinus-Augustinian connection which puts Campanella and Spinoza into conceptual relation, and more so, it is the epistemological answer, in particular how the skeptical question is resolved in degrees of being, as degrees of power, that provides the fulcrum of most panpsychic approaches.

The book is highly recommended for those interested in the position of panpsychism, as there really is no contemporary example of such a study. Of note he characterizes the existing contemporary positions to be:

1) Process Philosophy (stemming from Bergson and Whitehead: Hartschorne, Griffin, DeQuincy and Clarke).

2) Quantum Physics approach (Bohm, Hameroff).

3) Information Theory (Bateson, Wheeler and Chalmers).

4) Part-whole hierarchy (Cardano, Koestler, Wilber).

5) Non-linear Dynamics (inspired by Peirce: Skrbina).

6) Real Physicalism (Strawson).

To these I would add a seventh:

7). Neo-Spinozist, Onto-politicism (Deleuze and Guattari, Negri, Hardt, Balibar, Montag, Gatens).

 

Chalmers’ Rough Thoughts On Spinoza and Panprotopsychism

Below is a question and answer over the idea that Spinoza may have been the first to present the idea of a Zombie World, not while considering a logical hypothetical, but in describing our own world, expressed here Does Spinoza present a Zombie World? 

David Chalmers: Interesting. I don’t think that a spiritual automaton world is a zombie world, though. Such a world has consciousness, where a zombie world has none. Perhaps the spiritual automaton world is more like a world with epiphenomenal consciousness, or perhaps it is a world in which consciousness is governed by deterministic laws. I can’t tell for sure from the passages. The link between Spinoza and panprotopsychism is certainly interesting.

Myself: It would depend what you mean by Spinoza’s spiritual automaton world having “consciousness”. Viewed from the totality, it definitely “thinks” as a whole, but it has no “affects” (that is, it would have no qualia) ideas without qualia. Would you hold that things thinking without qualia are still conscious?

David Chalmers: Well, there’s a broad sense of “qualia” in which consciousness requires qualia. But then it’s not obvious that Spinoza’s “affect” means the same as qualia, in this sense.

Myself: I am not sure how one could insist that qualia exist under Spinoza’s description. Affects are either the thoughts (inadequate ideas) we have about the body being in a certain state, or one could say, the body being affected to be in that state (affection), under an inadequate idea. Because God-Substance has no inadequate ideas, it has no affects. There is no way to squeeze qualia in, it would seem. God-Substance (of which everything is just a modal expression) is a thinking-zombie, one huge non-affective expression. That is, God-Substance acts like it thinks (extensionally) and has thoughts (ideationally), but feels nothing. That you and I “feel” things is just an illusion of our inadequate state of being. I say this only because you seemed to deny that Spinoza’s was a zombie world on the basis that there was consciousness in it; but when asked if the thinking of a non-feeling being (Substance) still qualified as consciousness, you suggested that just because Spinoza denies affects, he might not be denying qualia. This would mean that unless someone could argue that Spinoza indeed embraces the reality of qualia, indeed Spinoza’s is a zombie world, a world where Substance “thinks” but is not conscious (has no qualia).

Here is a short essay by Lilli Alanen, (considered here: The Reality of the Affects: Spinoza’s Plotinian Real ), which is a comment on Michael Della Rocca’s essay “Rationalism Run Amok: Representation and the Reality of the Emotions in Spinoza”. In his essay Della Rocca argues that affects themselves are illusions for Spinoza, and he does so in a denial of qualia. Alanen takes on Della Rocca’s position, while also denying qualia for Spinoza, attempting to embrace some reality of what is felt. I think Alanen misses some important points in regards to how Spinoza qualifies “being real”, but in either case, qualia are denied as being held by Spinoza.

This would seem to put Spinoza’s depiction of the world to be a zombie world, under your loose definition of consciousness.

David Chalmers: Thanks for the paper. On a quick look, I don’t see much direct evidence that “affect” is being used as broadly as you suggest. It seems to be used for some fairly limited aspects of consciousness, tied to emotion and to the body. Also, although the author rejects qualia, I suspect that she is using this term in a narrower sense than you, i.e. for nonrepresentational states only (whereas consciousness may well be representational). Of course i am no expert, though.

Myself: I suppose to restate my thoughts: I agree that the author is speaking of non-representational states, but the difficulty comes when assessing Spinoza’s representational states (adequate ideas), and deciding whether to call them “qualia”. If you take “qualia” to be durative in nature, that is coming to and passing away, then I don’t think that Spinoza ideas qualify for this. If you take “qualia” to merely be representations (and necessary absence of feeling or affect), then perhaps yes, there are qualia in Spinoza’s world. But this seems like a very extended use of the term “qualia” for “what it is like” simply would not appear to apply.

 

[correspondence reproduced with professor Chalmers' permission]

Teiresias and Sophocles resolve Non-Being

 

And I find it so curious, for those that follow Heidegger (and even those of a Phenomenological bent in general, descendents of Brentano’s intentionality thesis), how fully the optical metaphor of “appearance” is embraced, as if this were the only mode of doing, thinking, acting. While it is certain that we, as a species, are a visual creature, to be so dominated by just one trope, just one mode, is striking to me.It recalls something that blind Teiresias says in the Antigone (a play often over-read in terms of presence and exclusion, following Hegel’s appropriation), something I think that en-LIGHT-ens the limits of the optical trope.

Sophocles for Teiresias wrote:

…We came by a common road,

Two-out-of-one seeing. With the blind so

It is this path, out of the fore-leader it moves.

lines 988-991
 

In this way Sophocles unlocks the binary dynamics of non-being. For going forward as a human being is much more tactile, much more omni-sensical, and affective, than any over-riding metaphor of seeing and darkness demand. In this Teiresias talks of how as a blind man he must see through the eyes of the sighted boy who leads him [two out of one seeing], in a way that is combinatory. Thus for those who cannot see [all human beings] this is the only path that there is, a path that literally moves, goes, comes-out-of the one that goes before [ek proegetou]. The “path” literally moves by those that are ahead. Our contact with them is more polyvalent than simple binary being and non-being will allow.

Plotinus, notably, offers similiar combinatory, cybernetic understanding. The notion of vision as knowing leads to a physical synthesis of eyes:

Beholding (theöria) and the beheld (to theõêma) have no boundaries (peras)…For it is not spatially limited (perigegraptai). It is, of course not present in the same way in every soul, since it is not even in a like way in every part of the soul. That is why the charitoteer gives the horses a share of what he sees (myth of ambriosia and nectar, Phaedrus: 247E5-6); and they in taking it obviously would have desired what they saw, for they did not get it at all. And if in their longing they act, they act for the sake of what they long for; and that the beheld and that beholding (Enn. 3.8.5).

If they are two, the knower will be one thing, and the known the other, and contemplation (theõria) has not yet made this pair akin to each other (õieiõsen) (Enn. 3.8.8).

The non-spatial quality of presencing, is taken up in blind man talk of the ubiquity of voice:

…just as if there was a sound filling an empty space (katechousês epêmian), or with an empty space (meta tês erêmias), with men too, and by setting yourself to listen at any point in the empty space, you will recieve the whole sound, and yet not the whole. Enn. 3.8.9)

This does not mean that Being and Non-being should not be discussed, and teased out into the thinnest of their threads. For long as one follows the dominant metaphors of Sight, Appearance, Phenomena, there must be room for Non-Being in the discussion.

 

But any philosophy of presence, appearance and negation, has to take advise from Teiresias’ immanent “by a common road”, a material enfolding of perception, the path out of which grows from its lead and combination. The two-out-of-one seeing.

 

Does Spinoza present a Zombie World?

 

Kirk, in his Stanford Encyclopedia entry on “Zombies” cites Stout (Mind and Matter) in describing the proto-conception of what a possible Zombie World would look like, if materialism were true:

it ought to be quite credible that the constitution and course of nature would be otherwise just the same as it is if there were not and never had been any experiencing individuals. Human bodies would still have gone through the motions of making and using bridges, telephones and telegraphs, of writing and reading books, of speaking in Parliament, of arguing about materialism, and so on. There can be no doubt that this is prima facie incredible to Common Sense.

As new as this idea seems to be that such a world is a logical possibility, it is strikingly similar to Spinoza’s own metaphysical description of our own world. Could it be that if Spinoza is right, we already live in a Zombie World?

In the Emendation of the Intellect Spinoza makes the claim that given the nature of True Ideas, human beings are nothing other than “spiritual automata”:

[85] (1) As regards as a true idea, we have shown that it is simple or compounded of simple ideas; that it shows how and why something is or has been made; and that its subjective effects in the soul correspond to the actual reality of its object. (2) This conclusion is identical with the saying of the ancients, that true proceeds from cause to effect; though the ancients, so far as I know, never formed the conception put forward here that the soul acts according to fixed laws, and is as it were an spiritual automaton.

(It is interesting that like the novelty which has been credited to Chalmer’s Zombie world, Spinoza himself says that no one had ever had this conception of spiritual automata before. It is of interest that the possibility of a Zombie has been drawn from Descartes, and Spinoza saw his work as a correction of Descartes. In many ways Spinoza’s approach represents the core rejection of Cartesianism at its historic conception, and his original treatment of the mind and affect may be essential for non-Cartesian solutions to the mind-body problem.)

Further in the possibility that Zombie World = Spinoza Substance, Spinoza’s definition of affects, which can be equated with “qualia”, is that of passing from one state in the world to another state in the world more or less perfect than before (“General Definition of the Affects” from Ethics, at the end of Part III). Given that God’s (The One Substance) essence and existence is perfect, Spinoza’s ultimate view of the world is that of a Zombie World, wherein each person and living thing experiences the affects of their own increasing or decreasing imperfection, yet from the point of view of God/Substance, who is expressed perfectly in these creatures and all else, there is no affection at all. Affections are illusions of perspectives of expressive creatures.

Further, and seemingly synonymous with Chalmer’s Zombie definition, God itself is a “thinking thing”, “Thought is an attribute of God, or God is a thinking thing” (EIIP1). God thinks, but in zombie fashion has no affects).

And what of consciousness in Spinoza. Indeed humans have ideas about the bodily states they are in, and even ideas about ideas, but there is a fundamental illusion (not unlike a zombie illusion), which results from their ignorances of the causes of their thoughts. Famously for instance in his discussion of free will he spoke of the hypothetical consciousness of a stone that might imagine that it is it freely flying through the air because it failure to understand the causes which lead to that action:

Further conceive, I beg, that a stone, while continuing in motion, should be capable of thinking and knowing, that it is endeavouring, as far as it can, to continue to move. Such a stone, being conscious merely of its own endeavour and not at all indifferent, would believe itself to be completely free, and would think that it continued in motion solely because of its own wish. This is that human freedom, which all boast that they possess, and which consists solely in the fact, that men are conscious of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes whereby that desire has been determined. Thus an infant believes that it desires milk freely; an angry child thinks he wishes freely for vengeance, a timid child thinks he wishes freely to run away. Again, a drunken man thinks, that from the free decision of his mind he speaks words, which afterwards, when sober, he would like to have left unsaid.

Letter to Tschirnhausen, Oct. 1674

In a certain sense Spinoza is arguing that we are really like such stones flying through the air. Like these stones our consciousness has a kind of hypothetical nature, born of our ignorance of causes. We operate not only under the illusion of free will, but also in certain respects with the illusion of consciousness (though the ideas that form our minds are real).

It seems that as these two versions of reality seem to homologically collide, a hotly debated hypothetical of the logical conceivability of a possible world, and Spinoza own logical assertion of how the world really is, we are left with a strange sort of conclusion. Either Spinoza presents a view which has no explanatory value to the nature of human consciousness itself (for instance it disengages the highly prized first person authority of experience, in favor of an ontological/metaphysical understanding of affect), or Chalmers has accidentally stumbled on the nature of the world (under the guise of mere logical possibility) as suggested by consciousness itself.

It is interesting that one of Chalmer’s solutions to the mind/body problem, F-type monism, or what he calls panprotopsychism, is not too far from Spinoza’s own panpsychism.
Perhaps the intrinsic properties of the physical world are themselves phenomenal properties. Or perhaps the intrinsic properties of the physical world are not phenomenal properties, but nevertheless constitute phenomenal properties: that is, perhaps they are protophenomenal properties. If so, then consciousness and physical reality are deeply intertwined.

Chalmers writes:

This view holds the promise of integrating phenomenal and physical properties very tightly in the natural world. Here, nature consists of entities with intrinsic (proto)phenomenal qualities standing in causal relations within a spacetime manifold. Physics as we know it emerges from the relations between these entities, whereas consciousness as we know it emerges from their intrinsic nature. As a bonus, this view is perfectly compatible with the causal closure of the microphysical, and indeed with existing physical laws. The view can retain the structure of physical theory as it already exists; it simply supplements this structure with an intrinsic nature. And the view acknowledges a clear causal role for consciousness in the physical world: (proto)phenomenal properties serve as the ultimate categorical basis of all physical causation.

In its protophenomenal form, the view can be seen as a sort of neutral monism: there are underlying neutral properties X (the protophenomenal properties), such that the X properties are simultaneously responsible for constituting the physical domain (by their relations) and the phenomenal domain (by their collective intrinsic nature). In its phenomenal form, can be seen as a sort of idealism, such that mental properties constitute physical properties, although these need not be mental properties in the mind of an observer, and they may need to be supplemented by causal and spatiotemporal properties in addition. One could also characterize this form of the view as a sort of panpsychism, with phenomenal properties ubiquitous at the fundamental level. One could give the view in its most general form the name panprotopsychism, with either protophenomenal or phenomenal properties underlying all of physical reality.

“Consciousness and its Place in Nature”

The ubiquity of “phenomenological properties” and the possible intrinsic relationship of those properties to physical properties, could be seen to fall close to Spinoza’s monistic conception of Immanentism, whereby the two are simply the expression of a Single Substance. But not where one causes, is responsible for, or interacts with the other. The connection between the two would not be “bridge laws” but the causal parallel between the two, for as Spinoza asserts rather tantalizingly, but opaquely: “The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.(EIIP7)”

As for affects themselves, the reality of which suffers most deeply in either the Zombie World, or in Spinoza’s ultimate view of Substance, these would have to be characterized as intensive parts which work to express and bind bodies together, parts which also interact extensively under a physicalist description of relations. The consciousness of these intensive parts is a necessary perspective on being, but only a seeming of that perspective. Like zombies, our experiences only seem to be “like” something. It is a seeming that has very real effects, but a seeming all the same.

[written January 16th, 2008]

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