Self-consciousness explained

 
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23 February 2008 21:07
 

This is my reply to burt from another thread (from, “First Post, Introduction, and Invitation”) where I was questioning the legitimacy of what is often referred to as ‘consciousness’ or ‘the mind’ in terms that still conjure up that Cartesian notion of “a thinking substance.”  I wanted to clarify the ambiguity of those sorts of references by indicating that conscious activity is an event that on the thesis of intentionality is the relation between a subject (living, perceiving, conceiving) and the object(s) of its attention.  That relationship, in and of itself, cannot be referenced as a substance, just like “the election” is not something one can talk about having particular phenomenal properties yet it can be referenced as an event and described in terms of the subjects and the objects involved in those relationships given certain times and spaces. 

What I find difficult to make sense of, is when someone (like John Brand in the above mentioned thread) argues with Salt Creek about his neglecting to mention ‘consciousness’ in speaking about the limbic cortex and other brain components. John wants the issue of consciousness to cloud the materialist/motivist domain.  He wants this cloudiness to enter so that he can talk about ‘the divine’ and ‘god’ in ways that will not upset the non-theist.  What I think John wants, is to be able to say, “my idea that ‘god is love’ is a natural extension of consciousness itself” - (thus meaning and purpose get worked into cosmology).  And then there’s a whole complex story about how our requirement to accept the one (consciousness) as existent will lead to us also accepting god as existent.

burt has commented on my claims that we can refer to conscious activity as an event but to refer to consciousness is to talk about an illusion (in post #152);

“” Where we differ here is that what you call “consciousness” I would call “self-consciousness,” while I would take consciousness itself in the Buddhist (and Parmedian) sense of that which has no components.”“

Of course I do agree with the Buddhist and Parmenidian(?) sense that consciousness itself is a relation with no properties, as such.  John Brand left a quote from E. R. John that fills his description of the nature of consciousness:

“”…. . .  a process in which information about multiple individual modalities or sensation and perception is combined into a unified multidimensional representation of the state of the system and its environment, and integrated with information about memories and the needs of the organism, generating emotional reactions and programs of behavior to adjust the organism to its environment. [R. W. Thacther and E. R. John, Foundations of Cognitive Processes (Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1977), 294].”“

What I find still echos of the Cartesian theatre in the mind (or a homunculus) is the phrase, “a unified multidimensional representation of the state of the system and its environment.”  This description fails on the grounds that it is a representational account of conscious activity.  It brings to mind the content on the computer screen as representing all the micro-activity that goes on in the computer system.  Yet this sort of theatrical version of cognitive processes is inherently wrong when applied to human cognitive activity!  (The only part of this process that has the aura of represenationalism is our use of internal dialogue, but that is merely a biproduct of having the sort of linguistic capacity that human beings have.)  I realize that it is convenient to think this way; to believe that we have ‘minds’ that reveal certain conscious states, but this kind of disembodied reference leads us to just make bigger and bigger mistakes in our explanitory account of how our embodied brains work.

To get to the point burt, if you can accept that consciousness is a cognitive activity that is necessarily aimed at something; that aside from the relation between the (physical/motile) subject and the object of its awareness, there are no properties or components to the conscious action . . . then if your own “consciousness” becomes the object of your conscious activity, how does that lead to transcendence?  Is the awareness of this sort of ‘nothingness’ inherently liberating from the human condition?

My point here is: Until we know what is the nature of our conscious activity, we cannot be said to be “self-conscious.”  We can have all sorts of delusional visions of what is the nature of ‘consciousness’ or ‘mind’ - but if we are mistaken in those conclusions or assumptions, then what is the “self” that we are conscious of?  Is it enough to say to myself that I know that I am a conscious being - does that make me self-conscious?  What about the chimpanzee who touches the red dot secretly painted on her head when she sees herself in the mirror - is that enough to be self-conscious?

If I mistakenly conclude that I indeed do have a mind, then I can also mistakenly delude myself into thinking that I can examine the contents of that mind, but then do I necessarily have two minds or what is it that’s doing the examining?  Or does my one mind sufficiently split into two when required?  I would have to conclude that nobody is truly self-conscious, although meditation might be a path to such a cognitive utopia?  Until it is perfectly clear to me what sort of neuro-physiological action produces conscious activity, I would have to say that I am not self-conscious because I am probably confused about what consciousness really is (as I said before, I am pretty sure about what it is not).

Bob

 
 
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24 February 2008 19:17
 
CanZen - 24 February 2008 02:07 AM

burt has commented on my claims that we can refer to conscious activity as an event but to refer to consciousness is to talk about an illusion (in post #152);

“” Where we differ here is that what you call “consciousness” I would call “self-consciousness,” while I would take consciousness itself in the Buddhist (and Parmedian) sense of that which has no components.”“

Of course I do agree with the Buddhist and Parmenidian(?) sense that consciousness itself is a relation with no properties, as such.  John Brand left a quote from E. R. John that fills his description of the nature of consciousness:

“”…. . .  a process in which information about multiple individual modalities or sensation and perception is combined into a unified multidimensional representation of the state of the system and its environment, and integrated with information about memories and the needs of the organism, generating emotional reactions and programs of behavior to adjust the organism to its environment. [R. W. Thacther and E. R. John, Foundations of Cognitive Processes (Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1977), 294].”“

What I find still echos of the Cartesian theatre in the mind (or a homunculus) is the phrase, “a unified multidimensional representation of the state of the system and its environment.”  This description fails on the grounds that it is a representational account of conscious activity.  It brings to mind the content on the computer screen as representing all the micro-activity that goes on in the computer system.  Yet this sort of theatrical version of cognitive processes is inherently wrong when applied to human cognitive activity!  (The only part of this process that has the aura of represenationalism is our use of internal dialogue, but that is merely a biproduct of having the sort of linguistic capacity that human beings have.)  I realize that it is convenient to think this way; to believe that we have ‘minds’ that reveal certain conscious states, but this kind of disembodied reference leads us to just make bigger and bigger mistakes in our explanitory account of how our embodied brains work.

To get to the point burt, if you can accept that consciousness is a cognitive activity that is necessarily aimed at something; that aside from the relation between the (physical/motile) subject and the object of its awareness, there are no properties or components to the conscious action . . . then if your own “consciousness” becomes the object of your conscious activity, how does that lead to transcendence?  Is the awareness of this sort of ‘nothingness’ inherently liberating from the human condition?

My point here is: Until we know what is the nature of our conscious activity, we cannot be said to be “self-conscious.”  We can have all sorts of delusional visions of what is the nature of ‘consciousness’ or ‘mind’ - but if we are mistaken in those conclusions or assumptions, then what is the “self” that we are conscious of?  Is it enough to say to myself that I know that I am a conscious being - does that make me self-conscious?  What about the chimpanzee who touches the red dot secretly painted on her head when she sees herself in the mirror - is that enough to be self-conscious?

If I mistakenly conclude that I indeed do have a mind, then I can also mistakenly delude myself into thinking that I can examine the contents of that mind, but then do I necessarily have two minds or what is it that’s doing the examining?  Or does my one mind sufficiently split into two when required?  I would have to conclude that nobody is truly self-conscious, although meditation might be a path to such a cognitive utopia?  Until it is perfectly clear to me what sort of neuro-physiological action produces conscious activity, I would have to say that I am not self-conscious because I am probably confused about what consciousness really is (as I said before, I am pretty sure about what it is not).
Bob

We’re still not in agreement Bob, as I see it the “self” and the “mind” arise out of mental processes but do not identify this with consciousness.  In my opinion, consciousness needs to be taken as an a priori given in the same way that physicists take space and time as given.  In that sense, I think that Dennett gives a good description of how the self arises, but says little about consciousness.  Self-consciousness comes about when the self, the result of various mental processes, identifies itself with consciousness and comes to think of itself as an existing thing rather than an epiphenomenon.  I agree that this gives John an argument for the existence of God, but this certainly would not be the usual sort of God that the various religions talk about.

 
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25 February 2008 20:06
 

Oddly enough burt, I do agree with much of what you are saying, but I am unclear on the a priori status of ‘consciousness’.  You said,

““In my opinion, consciousness needs to be taken as an a priori given in the same way that physicists take space and time as given.”“

My first comment on that sort of ‘given’ would be concerned about the - “how did this ‘consciousness’ exist before the appearance of conscious beings?”  If I accept your thesis, it would appear that indeed the very purpose of human beings and the purpose of the whole evolutionary process, points directly to the “manufacture” of humanlike beings in order that they might evenutally merge with the cosmic consciousness that was always (and purposely) pulling them (or life itself?) to that final act of consummation. But this scenario is just a demythologized version of theism ... there will still be a “rapture” of sorts when the ‘god’ and the human souls merge.

Well perhaps I’m getting you all wrong, but that seems to me to be the sort of cosmic divinity that John Brand is attempting to maintain.

My second comment is that, since Einstein and the further elaboration of Minkowsky, physicists no longer take space and time as given.  Space and time are the two aspects of reality that we ourselves formulate from the relations between objects both static and moving.  Certainly spacetime is real, but space and time are two relative aspects of that all-encompassing continuum. 

Isaac Newton (1660) took space and time to be the two distinctive matrices of reality (but he also maintained the existence of a convenient ether).  Immanuel Kant (1770) claimed that space and time do not exist, as such, in the world, but that we cognitively intuit these two ‘qualities’ into our minds so for him space and time become a priori intuitions upon which we can then grasp (make sense of) worldly perceptions.  For Kant, the human mind makes use of its intuitions of space and time in order to make sense of the perceptible world, but that in the phenomenal realm these two metaphysical concepts do not really exist.

Ultimately burt, I may be persuaded to agree with you.  I tend to accept spacetime as the only metaphysical reality and in keeping with that perspective the combination of space and time or what is otherwise phenomenally graspable as motion becomes our only way of perceiving the all-encompassing continuum.  I am certain that both space and time are the two primary and relative aspects of the that greater oneness.  And in this sense I think Kant was indeed correct, although he relegated ‘motion’ to a posteriori status (we depend on our perceptions of objects in order to forumulate the quality of motion - therefore, while motion is indeed the merging of space and time, it only manifests after the perception of objects).

You also write the following, burt;

“” Self-consciousness comes about when the self, the result of various mental processes, identifies itself with consciousness and comes to think of itself as an existing thing rather than an epiphenomenon.”“

Here’s where, in some sense, your ideas and mine are beginning to merge.  On my map it is spacetime (or cosmic motion?) that is the a priori given.  Now, as phenomenal beings, we are participating in all sorts of motilities, most of the motions we perceive are of the mundane variety from moving our arms/legs to the life-sustaining motions that keep us alive (heart-beat, breathing, etc.), yet at the neurological level motions that we hardly think about (except in pain, hunger, fear, etc.) are directing our embodied lives.  And then in our cranium the most complex, mostly at the speed of light, motions are informing our being.  What I am getting at here, is that it might be in the domain of our conscious activity, where we are entering the sheer exhilaration of spacetime itself (cosmic motion?).

Obviously I do not understand the implication of the real experience of spacetime.  I can, however experience pure motion and the resulting emotion that it produces in me.  So I am not saying that conscious activity is merely epiphenomenal (although that is indeed what my previous post appeared to imply).  If spacetime is real (something I have no valid reason to doubt), then certain cognitive activities ( the result of various mental processes ) might indeed be entering that primordial metaphysical category of existence?

If this is the ‘god’ that John Brand is identifying as ‘love’ - then his words in this direction are just different ways of saying the same thing that a non-theist might be saying.

Bob

 
 
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26 February 2008 09:17
 

Bob, I agree with your interpretation of what John may be attempting, but that is not necessarily how I would look at it.  Interesting that you bring up the relativistic view of spacetime, too.  There, space and time are united, and are still taken as given, but not in the Newtonian sense.  Rather, the geometry of spacetime is determined by the material/energetic content of spacetime.  I’ve often thought about pushing this over to consciousness and self-consciousness as an analogy (something along the lines of the form, whatever that might mean, of self-consciousness being determined by the content of the mind).  Never have gotten around to developing that, however.  Much of how I look at this goes back to thinking about the Parmedian “what is.”  At one point, I set this up as an equation and asked what could satisfy the conditions that Parmenides laid out.  The answers I came up with was empty space (minus specified geometries, topologies, or even dimensions, more as just a possibility for manifestations); pure energy (for the Greeks, hyle, undifferentiated matter); and finally, pure consciousness.  So my general view is of “energy” manifesting in “space” resulting in an evolutionary process that has so far resulted in the existing universe and, from our perspective more importantly, us.  I think this all has a completely natural explanation given the initial trinity. grin

 
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26 February 2008 12:27
 

Burt, you mentioned Dennett - have you read his, “Consciousness Explained”?  I’m still reading it, but I’m curious to see if your opinion formed after reading the book.

 
 
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26 February 2008 13:07
 

Hey burt, your trinity is certainly not “The father, the son, and the holy ghost” is it?  Now that I’ve thrown that proposition into the mix, if you had to make the John Brand move here, how would you specify the christian tri-angular relationship with yours?

Overall, I think your trio - infinite space, pure energy, and pure consciousness -  as they fulfill the Parmedian conditions could converge into an undifferentiated oneness, but the apparent relevance of space still taken as a given would be subject to (from the perspective of spacetime) being mind-dependent.  It is, after all, spacetime that grounds the separation of planets, stars, galaxies, and not infinite or even empty space. We, as human observers, identify it as space (the final frontier?), but that’s just a fault of our matter-centered view of reality. Anyway burt, it’s all very intriguing.

On the subject of Parmenides, I remember doing an essay exam in The Ancient Greeks philosophy intro class where we were given 5 questions and asked to write short essay responses on any 3 of them.  I chose the question that had to do with Parmenides because I felt that it would be much easier to rationalize (b.s.) an essay and to not be caught showing my misinterpretations of the original script (I also felt that my Taoist interests could be put to use in that subject).  Interestingly enough a female classmate and I got the highest marks in that exam, and when we discussed it later we discovered that both of us had tackled the Parmenides question.  This must have either intimidated the professor (an Aristotelian) or he was sufficiently impressed that we were the only ones in the class who “dared” to take that on.

Also burt, I wanted to comment on your reference (in the Buddhist thread) to downhill skiing as an example of living completely “in the moment” and the necessity of emptying the “mind” of other thoughts in order to have a successful trip.  I agree that such activity is a robust version of meditation, like when an athlete reaches that “in the zone” perfect sense of balance.  (I have experienced this “zone” while competing in karate sparring events and it’s not really a state of transcendence but more like a perfect balance between one’s physiological (body) and cognitive (minding) capacities.)

On the subject of being “in the moment” - it could be better described as being in the “momentum” (taking the spacetime attitude over the space and time reference).  What I find interesting is that terms like ‘moment’ - ‘momentum’ - ‘motion’ - ‘emotion’ - ‘mobile’ - ‘motive’ - etc., all refer to certain experiences that are at the deepest core of our being.  It is, after all, our experience of pure motion that gives us the most profound sort of justification of life itself (bungie jumping?).  When we say that “I was really moved” by that book (or that play), it means that reading the text brought us into the “zone” - so to speak.  I then think back to why the word ‘moment’ was chosen as having the ability to capture the feeling of a spatio-temporal now (the meeting of past and future); I think about how the word ‘motive’  was originally used to refer to the cause that moves us to certain actions; I think about why ‘emotion’ was chosen to depict the depths of our feelings.  This sort of etymological exercise opens a window into the ways that the pre-ancients (going back to the very beginnings of language itself) viewed how we “fit” into the world (I do realize that the English language is a product of several others).  These word-smiths chose motion words to express their feelings, and in going back to a prelinguistic domain (a human world still unmanipulated by linguistic conventions) we might discover the innocent and primordial wisdom that has been lost to us in the 21st Century.  Did, for instance, the prelinguistic caveman always live in the “zone” like the downhill skier does for some crucial minutes today?  Without the chatter of internal dialogue, is there a clear view of how we fit into this world?

Bob

 
 
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26 February 2008 14:31
 
CanZen - 24 February 2008 02:07 AM

. . . Until we know what is the nature of our conscious activity, we cannot be said to be “self-conscious.”  We can have all sorts of delusional visions of what is the nature of ‘consciousness’ or ‘mind’ - but if we are mistaken in those conclusions or assumptions, then what is the “self” that we are conscious of? . . .

Bob, the above qualifies as Assertion of the Month in my opinion. Human individuals, when viewed literally enough, are so astoundingly delusional that no scientifically valid consciousness or self-consciousness is available for inspection. Both mental states involve by necessity biological processing, and cannot be positioned as a priori other than in an artificial, highly disguised, perhaps poetic way.

 
 
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26 February 2008 17:03
 
Jeanie - 26 February 2008 05:27 PM

Burt, you mentioned Dennett - have you read his, “Consciousness Explained”?  I’m still reading it, but I’m curious to see if your opinion formed after reading the book.

Yes, Jeanie, read it back in about 1995 and published a critique of it in Journal of Consciousness Studies in 2001.  My opinion formed over a long period, starting in the early 70s so when I read Dennett’s book I didn’t fall for any of his rhetorical trickery.  grin

 
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26 February 2008 17:26
 
CanZen - 26 February 2008 06:07 PM

Hey burt, your trinity is certainly not “The father, the son, and the holy ghost” is it?  Now that I’ve thrown that proposition into the mix, if you had to make the John Brand move here, how would you specify the christian tri-angular relationship with yours?

Well, with apologies to John it might be consciousness as the son, the holy ghost as energy, and infinite space as father—but I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel on that.  LOL 

CanZen - 26 February 2008 06:07 PM

Overall, I think your trio - infinite space, pure energy, and pure consciousness -  as they fulfill the Parmedian conditions could converge into an undifferentiated oneness, but the apparent relevance of space still taken as a given would be subject to (from the perspective of spacetime) being mind-dependent.  It is, after all, spacetime that grounds the separation of planets, stars, galaxies, and not infinite or even empty space. We, as human observers, identify it as space (the final frontier?), but that’s just a fault of our matter-centered view of reality. Anyway burt, it’s all very intriguing.

 

The convergence would be analogous to what’s called the self-consistent field problem in relativity: that is, the Einstein equations are G(a,b) = T(a,b) which basically says that the geometry of space time, as described by the Einstein tensor G(a,b) is equal to the stress-energy content of spacetime, described by the matter-stress-energy tensor T(a,b).  The problem with this is that T(a,b) contains the spacetime metric as well, so the equations are in a sense self-referential: geometry is determined by energy distribution, but energy distribution depends in part on spacetime geometry.  But, as you point out, matter, energy, and spacetime are all together in a unity that is the perceived universe.  Teasing things apart is the hard part.

CanZen - 26 February 2008 06:07 PM

On the subject of Parmenides, I remember doing an essay exam in The Ancient Greeks philosophy intro class where we were given 5 questions and asked to write short essay responses on any 3 of them.  I chose the question that had to do with Parmenides because I felt that it would be much easier to rationalize (b.s.) an essay and to not be caught showing my misinterpretations of the original script (I also felt that my Taoist interests could be put to use in that subject).  Interestingly enough a female classmate and I got the highest marks in that exam, and when we discussed it later we discovered that both of us had tackled the Parmenides question.  This must have either intimidated the professor (an Aristotelian) or he was sufficiently impressed that we were the only ones in the class who “dared” to take that on.

 

wink  Maybe he didn’t get it and didn’t want to admit that.

CanZen - 26 February 2008 06:07 PM

Also burt, I wanted to comment on your reference (in the Buddhist thread) to downhill skiing as an example of living completely “in the moment” and the necessity of emptying the “mind” of other thoughts in order to have a successful trip.  I agree that such activity is a robust version of meditation, like when an athlete reaches that “in the zone” perfect sense of balance.  (I have experienced this “zone” while competing in karate sparring events and it’s not really a state of transcendence but more like a perfect balance between one’s physiological (body) and cognitive (minding) capacities.)

On the subject of being “in the moment” - it could be better described as being in the “momentum” (taking the spacetime attitude over the space and time reference).  What I find interesting is that terms like ‘moment’ - ‘momentum’ - ‘motion’ - ‘emotion’ - ‘mobile’ - ‘motive’ - etc., all refer to certain experiences that are at the deepest core of our being.  It is, after all, our experience of pure motion that gives us the most profound sort of justification of life itself (bungie jumping?).  When we say that “I was really moved” by that book (or that play), it means that reading the text brought us into the “zone” - so to speak.  I then think back to why the word ‘moment’ was chosen as having the ability to capture the feeling of a spatio-temporal now (the meeting of past and future); I think about how the word ‘motive’  was originally used to refer to the cause that moves us to certain actions; I think about why ‘emotion’ was chosen to depict the depths of our feelings.  This sort of etymological exercise opens a window into the ways that the pre-ancients (going back to the very beginnings of language itself) viewed how we “fit” into the world (I do realize that the English language is a product of several others).  These word-smiths chose motion words to express their feelings, and in going back to a prelinguistic domain (a human world still unmanipulated by linguistic conventions) we might discover the innocent and primordial wisdom that has been lost to us in the 21st Century.  Did, for instance, the prelinguistic caveman always live in the “zone” like the downhill skier does for some crucial minutes today?  Without the chatter of internal dialogue, is there a clear view of how we fit into this world?
Bob

 

There is a book called The Luck Factor by a British psychologist named Richard Wiseman (reviewed a year or two ago in Skeptical Inquirer if memory serves) that makes a good argument that lots of “lucky breaks” come because a person is not so tied up in their internal chatter that they fail to recognize randomly occurring opportunities.

More generally, I think I’m starting to get what you mean about motion (if you include all change).  Do you have a dictionary with proto-Indo-European roots (e.g., American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, large version).  There are lots of connections that show up there.  One of my favorites is the root skei, for consciousness, with the meaning of “to sever, cut.” 

In a taoist chat group I tried to connect the Tao with Plato:

What is always changing
with permutations rearranging
the flow of night and day
the ocean in its play
the drops of foam and spray—
what, indeed, are they
but that which does not change?

And if this seems too strange
the only thing to say:
Take it all away.

 
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26 February 2008 21:19
 

That was indeed funny burt, at least in my understanding.  I can just see Plato covering his ears when the Taoists came to town. (I wonder what Plato really thought of Heraclitus, does he ever mention him?)

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26 February 2008 21:46
 
CanZen - 27 February 2008 02:19 AM

That was indeed funny burt, at least in my understanding.  I can just see Plato covering his ears when the Taoists came to town. (I wonder what Plato really thought of Heraclitus, does he ever mention him?)

Bob

LOL

He does have some fun with things in the Parmenides.  The Taoists might have gotten along better with the Stoics though, union with the Logos seems pretty much like being in the flow of the Tao.

 
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26 February 2008 22:29
 

I did some googling and discovered that Plato has a dialogue written specifically about the philosophy of Heraclitus called “The Cratylus” (Cratylus was a follower of Heraclitus).  Unfortunately I don’t have that text in my collection, but will look for it elsewhere.  Also interesting to me is that the term “Logos” originated from Heraclitus and it indeed does have a Taoist leaning.  As you can tell I am no expert in Greek Philosophy.

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27 February 2008 09:52
 
CanZen - 27 February 2008 03:29 AM

I did some googling and discovered that Plato has a dialogue written specifically about the philosophy of Heraclitus called “The Cratylus” (Cratylus was a follower of Heraclitus).  Unfortunately I don’t have that text in my collection, but will look for it elsewhere.  Also interesting to me is that the term “Logos” originated from Heraclitus and it indeed does have a Taoist leaning.  As you can tell I am no expert in Greek Philosophy.
Bob

In Cratylus (Plato studied with Cratylus before he started hanging out with Socrates) the main issue is the origin of words, and a theory of proper ways to name things: the name needs to provide not only a “picture” of the thing, but a “picture” that is in accord with its reality.  It is a critique of Heraclitus and ends up with Cratylus saying that he still believes that everything is in perpetual flux, to which Socrates replies “You are still young, you may come to see things differently as you age.”  grin 

What seems to be the issue to me is the question of the One and the Many, or framing that in another way, of the Absolute Mind (of non-conceptuality) and the Relative Mind (of language and concepts).  The latter is always in flux and the former is eternal, unchanging, etc.  Both are required, but people seem to get attached to one side or the other of this dichotomy when it is projected into real world cases.  Uniphiles seem to become dogmatic and totalitarian; multiphiles become sophistical anything goes types.  I think a modern take on the Cratylus would be that it goes to the issue of how to formulate language so that it matches reality, how do we develop the linguistic and conceptual possibilities of mind/minding so as to gain real knowledge.

[ Edited: 27 February 2008 09:56 by burt]
 
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27 February 2008 11:42
 
burt - 26 February 2008 10:26 PM

There is a book called The Luck Factor by a British psychologist named Richard Wiseman (reviewed a year or two ago in Skeptical Inquirer if memory serves) that makes a good argument that lots of “lucky breaks” come because a person is not so tied up in their internal chatter that they fail to recognize randomly occurring opportunities.

burt - 27 February 2008 02:38 AM

How about running two mental tracks simultaneously—one focused and concentrated on following out a stream of thoughts, line of argument, or complex calculation; the other a detached overview that that is just an alert awareness for opportunities that might pop up in the first stream: new ideas, sudden connections appearing, a cool looking babe at the next table, that sort of stuff.

Go dry a sheet. It sounds like you’ve had a wet dream.

Be careful with those randomly-occurring opportunities. They could be hallucinations brought on by having lowered your core body temperature too fast. Believe nothing, but question only that which is worth questioning. Above all, never stop suspecting that all this is just a hallucination.

burt - 27 February 2008 02:26 PM

The mathematician George Polya wrote a couple of books on plausible reasoning in mathematics and science.  In the introduction to the first he said that while there are certain things that we dare not question because doing so would prove too upsetting to our emotional balance, the general principle ought to be “believe nothing, but question only that which is worth questioning.”

If I were you, I’d stick with questioning all that stuff that isn’t worth questioning, which you have an obvious and much stronger talent for. I don’t know what’s in that bong of yours, but it appears to have made you indefatigable in the generation of intellectual imposture. The nothingness that you go on and on about is indistinguishable from the differently-labeled nothingness that the dime-a-dozen faith-heads go on and on about. One side calls it “God” and attributes all sorts of great powers to it and derives important instruction from it. The other side calls it “undivided consciousness”, and attributes all sorts of wonderful powers to it and derives important instruction from it. It’s like trying to choose between ALGOL and PL/1.

[ Edited: 27 February 2008 18:02 by Traces Elk]