Monday, June 18, 2007

Reasons of UnReason and why we'll always have Paris (hilton, that is)

There was a link from Alan at One Cosmos the other day (Here's the link - thanks Alan), to a 'philosopher' named Dan Dennett, who is of the stripe that asserts that 'you don't really exist, consciousness is just an illusion of thousands of cell structures humming at once'. In order to back up his assertion, he trots out numerous optical illusions, and comments to the effect of 'see, it's not really a face, just splotches of color that your brain creates the illusion of a face from, therefore consciousness is just an illusion of little sense impressions'.

Sense impressions. Lots and lots of little sense impressions. That's all that you ('and I use that term loosely', he would surely mock) are.

This is really just a variation on the notion which determinists are in-fatuos-sated with, that of a perpetual motion machine, that with complexity, a sum which is greater than its parts is created and can continue on under its own power.

This is the type of thinking that typifies leftie thought, which has evolved the tactic of seizing upon a word, gutting it of it's meaning, and stuffing it with their pet interpretation, in order to lay claim to the respect and status the word had earned prior to it's being mugged by them; which in this case it is Reason itself that has been sent to the leftist Taxidermist. I should maybe note that by leftie, I don't mean just a political leaning, there are plenty of republicans that fit the bill too, but those whose core method of 'thinking' descends from the core ideas of Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Pierce, Marx, Dewey... etc.

On one hand, I wonder at the denseness of these misophsophers, that they go through these elaborate optical illusions, why go through all that work? First off, for him to say ‘You’ and ‘Are’, is to admit the existence of consciousness, Existence and Identity all in one fell swoop, to be ignorant of that and call yourself a philosopher, is an astounding feat. Then there is the fact that you are able to discover that an optical illusion is in fact an optical illusion – that itself would seem to invalidate the 'brain mechanics is mind'. But even without that, why go through these elaborate illusory setups, and he goes through a whole slue of elaborate optical illusions, why not just point out that a standard movie is just a bunch of still images flashed rapidly in front of you, which when sped up, make you mistakenly think that the images are moving?

There you have it, Boombadabing, your consciousness is just a bunch of isolated cellular reactions, which fire on perceiving those isolated images, giving you the comforting illusion of a continuous self, but it doesn't really exist. In fact, you didn't just read this. And I didn't just say it. Hey! Stop pretending to read! You can't do it because you don't exist! Existence doesn't exist! Consciousness doesn't exist, so stop pretending it does! Argghh! I said it! Ahh! I said IT again! AAAHHHHHRRRGGGHHH!!!!!


To continue, like the perpetual motion cranks before them, these misophsophers think that complexity, by virtue of being complex, will effect some sort of magical incantation transformation which will enable it to continue its internal processes without outside motive force, becoming its own motive force through our inability to follow its workings. But that is the illusion, and for some 'reason', they are enthralled by it.

The terrifying secret, terrifying to them, is that there is a motive force, and it comes from within. By choice. By conscious choice. The truth is, and the greatest mystery of all, the point where all axioms end – is that you, You and the Consciousness you posess, Are, and are self motivating by choice. If there is anything which comes close to perpetual motion, it is life, our consciousness, our soul.

We are creatures who provide our own causation through Free Will. Through Choice. And that Choice requires that it not be infallible, otherwise there would be no purpose for choosing – it would simply be. It is only with Consciousness possessed of free will, that you can have disagreements and error. In fact, you couldn't be fooled if you couldn't make an error.

Find an explanation for error, then I might be willing to listen to such deterministic silliness that we are nothing more than massively integrated cellular computers.

Computers never make mistakes. They always produce the results dictated by the laws of physics which govern electrical discharges, electrical switching, the motive force of computers. Computers always produce the predetermined results which they have no choice but to transmit – to be sure, those results might not be what we programmers and users expected to get, but that is because of some oversight we have made in our logics attempt to foresee and control those laws of physics.

Programmers make errors. Errors can only be made by conscious beings possessing free will. And that consciousness isn't just a series of switches being flipped - its something else and something more, something that only arises through living breathing creatures.

There is a you inside your body, and it isn't explainable by its physical parts, anymore than Vision is explainable by the physical components of the Eye. We can see how it operates, all the cells which are involved in firing & transmitting the data of sight for us to see, but the vision which is served up by the processes of eyesight, is something outside of and above it, a conduit of You.

Programmers make mistakes, because we become focused upon the logic of our code, we fail to take into account the wider world of the User’s concerns and intentions, we become so focused upon the switches and loops in our codified logic, that we forget to take a step back and take in the wider perspective of the application and the world in which the User will use it.

And that is just what our misophsopher does as well. He becomes so focused in on the perceived mechanics of brain operation, that he mistakes the mechanics for the Conscious mind being served by it. He falls into the trap of logic chopping, of thinking that because his logic is seemingly internally consistent, that he forgets to check whether or not it just might be in conflict with the wider context of the world and life, within which it operates.

Forgetting to take in the wider perspective of life within the world (inner and outer), is precisely the mistake which our misophsopher makes, it is also one of the mistakes that a criminal makes when he decides that taking something which doesn’t belong to him will be a benefit – and it may be - for a moment perhaps, but for a lifetime – not so much. It is the mistake that a Paris Hilton makes, thinking that looking good is more important than being good – and for the picture-byte, it may be - perhaps, but for a life worth living? – not so much.

These two are the inevitable consequences of Free Will exercised (particularly under the influence of Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, etc.) without willfully taking into account the wider perspectives of the whole of life, the depths of the whole of life – that which can only be grasped at through consideration of The Good, The Beautiful and The True.

While The Good, The Beautiful and The True are denigrated or dismissed by our logic chopping intellectual e-lite’s, we are guaranteed to be plagued with a steady and continuous flow of these walking embodiments of metaphysical mistakes.

More in the next post...


walt said...

Hey Van,
What seems realistic to me is that we humans are cases of "both/and" i.e. auto-mechano-organisms with the capacity for choosing - which does not contradict what you say. For example, Tibetans say, "Oh you exist all right - just not in the way that you think!" I'm not sure how Christians would address the idea, but some esoteric Christians claim we are born incomplete, and have to "learn" to be fully human.

I know that I am far more capable of intentional choice now than when I was younger (did I learn?) but I also still see the reactionary quality of most of my awareness, as well. Argghhh, indeed.

As to why Lefties, so-called, abscond with key words and concepts - they know that language ----> reality, and it's today's form of conquering territory. I don't know why they fight Christians, when their tactic with politics, social issues, academia, all other religions, etc., is to just invade, and re-interpret the meaning of everything. But they REALLY can't stand Christians, and want to eliminate them.

Poor Paris! Now she's but a joke! That girl has got some heavy karma...(can we forget about her now?)

Van Harvey said...

I think it depends upon what you mean by 'capacity'. We certainly have auto-mechano-organisms as bodies, and the brain certainly operates is a cellular machine, but... that physical machine lacks a user, as surely as this PC is but a lump of silicon wafers, without us to use it.

To continue with that, I think we are born 'incomplete', and do need to learn to be fully human. We have to manually upgrade our software, with which we interact with the computer and other's computers; and we have to do our best to avoid virus's & mind parasites causing it to crash.

But again, that is just so much stuff dependent on electrical pulses & switches being flipped by a user.

I think I finally stepped out of the AI trap, by insisting that I look at machines and computers outside the electrical view. Just as adding machines used to be hand cranked machines, there is nothing which a computer can do, or ever will be able to do, which isn't at root what a hand cranked adding machine does - it can just takes less space within which to do it.

Can you imagine ever thinking that by stringing together a gazillion hand cranked adding machines together, maybe with some self stacking domino's to be tripped & reset to trip again - as a living thinking being? The computer can and will never be anything more than this.

Neither will our auto-mechano-organisms, without that key ingredient - us.

Whether the magical ingredient us, is a soul which arises with, and dies with the organism (as Objectivists believe), or is something arising from the God level, and continues - in either case, it isn't explainable or determinable by the stuff it inhabits.

The Christians see the lefties concoction of strung together adding machines as ludicrous, and their proponents as fools - and that infuriates them. I think also, insisting on there being a 'they' in there, obliterates the possibility of, and holy grail of the determinists and leftists in general, that they can just 'tweak' society, flip a particular set of switches and have utopia hum along just fine - no decisions needed, no guilt, no thought, just happy happy happy till the gears run down.

But that's lifting the next post.

BTW - with face deeply redenned, I just saw all the typo's I missed... I think I pasted the pre-spellchecked copy into the post this morning. Still needs some revising, but I don't have time right now... will update later.

Anonymous said...

Hi Van:

Here's the link..
TED Daniel Dennett Talk

walt said...

To clarify, I don't disagree with anything you've said in all this. Which is to say, I agree with you. And I should have been more specific, as "capacity' has more than one meaning.

One is, "The ability or power to do, experience, or understand something." That's close to what I meant. Perhaps 'capability' would have been a better word.

Where I usually diverge from most folks is in my strong belief that there are "degrees" of capacity/capability - and that one man's (say, someone like the B'ob) is not the same as someone else's. So in talking about such matters, I find that conversation is almost always far too general, and folks ascribe such things as "real will," "intentional doing," and "clear awareness" to themselves far beyond what actually exists most of the time. I see this first of all in myself, and also spot it in others.

Sounds like nit-picking - and isn't necessarily related to your post - but it explains somewhat how I was using the word 'capacity.' (Probably more than you needed to know.)

Re spelling errors: download the (very) old Who song, entitled "You Are Forgiven."

Van Harvey said...

Thanks Alan.

Van Harvey said...

I still don't think I'm exactly disagreeing with you either. I liked B'ob's illustration of colonizing the landscape of the mind. Some people don't travel to their interior mountains at all, some may have some sightseeing trails and maybe even build some summer resorts. Other's construct a full time residences, cultivate the lands, and more. Each person has different population densities.

And to completly mix that metaphore up with the software one, There are some software programs, like Excel that let you record macros to do routine actions over and again, like adding the contents of cell A1 to what's in A2 and put the answer in A3. For some people, they find that works for them & it's all they use from there out. Some people don't even record their own, but use Macro's recorded for them by others. Some people actively use theirs, themselves a few times and then record their actions as a macro & let the same loop over and over - hey it works.

Some aren't satisfied with the simple add this cell to that cell, they look deeper into the possibilities, and discover how to use functions, some go further, deeper, they go behind the spreadsheet completely and get their hands into writing actual code to operate their workbooks.

Some realize that they've been doing macros, and realizing it, choose to stop mindlessly doing so, and they begin to override the macro's with their own active choices - even if it is doing the same actions, they are no longer letting something else do it.

My point which I want to keep emphasizing, is that whatever usage they make of their interior mentalscapes or Workbooks, is made by them, us, because of their active choices and efforts - even if we go no further than fluffing off the choice to choose.

There is a You inside of you.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post, Van!
I like the comments you and Walt made as well.

"There is a You inside of you."

But there is no "I" in you.
Sorry. Couldn't...resist.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I think what Walt is saying (please correct me if I'm wrong, Walt), is the subconcious choices we make which is tied with our conciousness, but isn't always the same (re: concious choices).

For example, I'm ashamed to say that there are times when I say or think something I would never say or think, if I stopped to consider it beforehand, and I don't (always) mean what I might say or think in those circumstances.
Sometimes I do mean it and dislike the fact.

Some folks might also call instinct (fight/flight/hide/freeze, etc.) a subconcious or involuntary choice, but instinct can be conciously "controlled" by enough training.

This isn't related, but when I would have my seizures, when I was close to deaths door, I would black out, and I knew when it was happening, because I thought I was dying and in a sense, I was, but my wife and daughters said I didn't pass out and fall down.

Not surprisingly, I would fight it, and I was terrified. Not of death but of losing control of my mind, and the sensation of choking and not being able to breath or talk, amplified the terror.

They said I would look around and appear to be analyzing stuff (much like say, a toddler that can't speak), and that I would respond to simple commands, like "no, don't touch that, Ben" or I would look if someone was talking to me.

However, I have no memory of those blackouts, which lasted anywhere from 5-10 minutes or so, and I would regain conciousness (awareness) feeling totally refreshed (mentally, and to some extent, physically).
It was a great relief, and felt like the opposite of the terror I had felt minutes before.
A peaceful feeling that truly surpassed all my understanding and was much, much more than just emotion.
Definitely Supernatural and beyond any words I could muster.

Rick said...

Great post.
I think we’re on the same wavelength lately. A lot of us. Bob mentioned maybe writing a post sometime on this ‘resonant frequency’.

This is not the first time I’ve recognized this frequency thing, plenty of other times in the OC comments. I was reminded of what you said there the other day:

“In fact one of the things I enjoy about the OC, is that it happens here all the time; the sensation of the sudden frontal lobe swirl, as you can practically feel some thought which you thought you knew, go from being a compartmentalized 'known', to its borders melting, suddenly integrating into what had seemed distant ideas just moments before.”

This happened to me a lot reading Schuon’s Divine to the Human. I’d read a little, put it down, think a little beyond it for the next day or so, and then next time I picked it up, I read almost exactly word for word these new thoughts that I’d just been thinking. One was so distinct I can actually prove it – to me anyway. One of those moments where I had to rub my eyes just to make sure. I wrote this in my last post. I can’t remember actually thinking the thought when I wrote it. It just came out:

“There are gaps between all things.

Watching the gaps they overflow with connections,
overflow with meaning.”

The next morning I read this in Schuon’s book:

“For all things are linked together: if the intelligence directly has need of rigor, it also indirectly has need of beauty."

Almost has the same beat even.

Have you read it? I’d recommend it to you in a second…especially in light of the frequency you happen to be on at the moment.

By the way, you actually sound a little different lately. I can’t describe it but I sense it. Something changed recently with you. The last few weeks or so. I can’t put my finger on it. I could be wrong…but I can’t help noticing something.

Schuon’s book is short in pages (150) but volumes in meaning, and force as Bob describes it:
I think I paid $14 dollars for this new copy including shipping.

Van Harvey said...

Ben said "...the subconcious choices we make which is tied with our conciousness, but isn't always the same (re: concious choices).

For example, I'm ashamed to say that there are times when I say or think something I would never say or think, if I stopped to consider it beforehand..."

Certainly true, but it was we that let them in there, let them become habit, deliberately or by default through copying what others do.

But as you say "... I would never say or think, if I stopped to consider it beforehand..." they are consciously controllable, if yiou focus your awareness on your thoughts and actions, we can begin to disconnect the habitual macros that autorun as we find ourselves in different scenarios.

That is the process of waking up, of become self-aware. It is tough to do, and at the same time remarkably easy (yeah, I know, mostly the former).

Van Harvey said...


Schuon is definitely on my list, but there's a few others I want to get through first. From the quotes Gagdad has selected, I think there is little that I'd dissagree with, and its those I want to tackle first, hopefully making all the more clear and depth-ranging what he has to say.

"By the way, you actually sound a little different lately."

Having a child you so recently diapered, Graduate, can do that to you!

Van Harvey said...

BTW, your mention of the seizures... I think I've mentioned before, when as a teen I used to black out now and then after jumping up from a couch or something. The strangest feeling as they came on - surely didn't take more than a second for the 'journey' of passing out and then again the return trip of coming to, but I clearly remember the sensation of the 'Van' program piece by piece going offline, being stripped away leaving something that doesn't seem quite right to call 'Me' at the core... and then the reverse sensation of it all adding back on - and even a couple steps from the end thinking 'that's it, I'm back' and then surprise as a couple more layers were added on. I even went out of my way several times trying to cause the blackouts. Very odd sensation.

There definitely is a You inside of yiou.


Anonymous said...

I swear I saw this Dan Dennett guy in front of Wal-Mart last Christmas in a red hat, ringing a little bell.

But since Santa doesn't exist, it couldn't have been him. And since I have no real consciousness with which to perceive him, what's with all the presents under the tree? And the hugs and music and great feasts?

Imaginary? So what? Give me more!

How many classes and seminars have I sat in listening to Great Philosophers just like Dr. Dan? They are all so monolithic and each one thinks he is so unique.

They even all dress and groom the same. there a lot of that history among the raccoon population? I also had many episodes until my early 30's. Would scare family and friends, and later my wife, to death - but was like punching a hole in the shell of the universe to me. Incredible. As terrifying as they were, sometimes I wonder why they stopped.

Probably because they did a permanent job. ;-)

Rick said...

“Having a child you so recently diapered, Graduate, can do that to you!”

Ahhh. Know that feeling, Van …although my boy is not as far along – only off to high school next year. But it’s moving a little fast for us. He just started “growing like a weed” as his Grandfather tells him, and just passed me in height a couple of months ago. Shoes 2 sizes bigger than mine already. I tell him “someone has big plans for you”.
It’s nice to see and remember when I could sleep half the summer and still have a body like David. I wish I’d have kept that going :-) but it’s nice to see it happening again this time to my boy.

The 3 of us here, my wife, me and my son, are at a stage now where we are all adapting to him experiencing his first real freedoms, liberties and responsibilities. It’s hard to let go and none of us has done this before. But then again, that’s the way it’s been the past 13 years so why should it stop now?

Diapers. Makes me smile when I meet expecting fathers and they ask questions quiet-like about how bad it is. People tend to forget the expecting dads-to-be - which comes with being a Dad – so I try to ask them how they are doing too. I always say that I could change a diaper in about 10 secs. Any kind of diaper product :-) It’s all in the set up. Get everything planned out and all the materials around the platform before you put the rocket on the pad.

Unknown said...

Let me start by saying I agree with you on all essentials. Now comes the "but". I am intrigued by your argument that error (and the ability to recognize it as such) distinguishes us from any merely mechanical, insentient system. I think you may well be onto something. But please spell out for me, if you can, how something like the proofreading machinery which apparently is built into our gene duplication systems does not qualify as an error detection and correction system, or, at another level, how our immune systems, which recognize "non-self" intrusions into our bodies and treat them as like errors, to be weeded out. Now, that latter system itself sometimes makes errors (as in autoimmune diseases wher the body attacks self tissue as if it were non-self, or fails to attack what it should), but so do we sentient humans. Maybe the difference is that we humans detect and correct our own errors, and these other systems only detect exogenous errors.

Van Harvey said...

Bgalbreath said... "correct our own errors, and these other systems only detect exogenous errors."

I think your letting an equivocation slip in on 'error' in human errors of judgement, and 'error' as an unexpected (for us) result of physical operations, whether it comes from outside or inside the system. The former is a mistake as I mentioned, the later is a mechanical mishap.

Although the DNA is itself in some sense alive, it is closer to the mechanical than the conscious model I had in mind. Still though, it is also true that merely assembling chemical materials, will not suddenly trigger them to begin the 'mechanical' processes which they do in a living being. Even there, there is something there which we can't reduce to flipping switches.

More to the point though, I'd say that there is a major difference from a mechanical mishap, and a mistake. Items on an assembly line can be joggled and not line up correctly, an atm card can become corrupted and not work, a bar code can become damaged and either not be read, or read in the wrong code - but these are mechanical mishaps, not errors.

An error is a mistake in judgement - a decision consciously chosen, a judgment made based on available information - that is wrong. A mechanical contraption can't do that. A computer can't do that. A machine can only respond exactly as dictated by the laws of physics - even when that is not what we may have expected to occur do to poor planning or unforseen results - that result had no choice (sorry, couldn't resist) but to occur.

People make mistakes in judgement, and even do so when they have all the available facts before them - and there is certainly plenty evidence of that to be found in Washington D.C. alone.

That conscious awareness which makes the mistake, is a something in and of itself - it is the motive substance within the physical grey matter computer of our brains, that motivate it.