Surrender and Connection to Being

We want to feel happy or in balance. We don’t want to be depressed or dissatisfied. But no matter what the content our present experience is, even if it’s depression, there’s no getting around the fact that even within that depression we are connected to the larger existence, to Being. If we are aware of this fact, well, the world is at our service.

But many of us are out of touch with this fact, so we have desires, such as the desire to be “happy” or “quiet” or “enlightened” or “balanced.” But it’s possible for human beings to get to the point where we naturally realize that these desires appear WITHIN something that is ALREADY present. The depression, the desire to be happy, etc., appears within a more fundamental context: the context is the feeling that we are already connected to Being. That connection to Being already exists before anything else. Thus in a healthy person it supersedes everything else. It’s a touchstone, a wellspring. It can be used to alleviate the desire for enlightenment or happiness. After all, those things are only ideas and desires, and they aren’t enlightenment or happiness!

But what does it mean to say these desires of wanting to be happy, etc., appear within the more fundamental context of Being? It means this: We are always immersed in the present moment. The present moment is the only thing we have control over, and no matter how things may be screwed up in our life story, no matter how bad the problems in our life, the present moment simply IS. Period. It’s not a problem, it IS. It is a solid, brute existence that we can shape in the immediate moment. We can make the right decision, NOW. The present moment is abundantly full, and we can be fully and consciously present in it.

How do we do this? We have the power in the present moment to put less emphasis on the content of our experience (e.g., our desire to be happy or enlightened). We have the power in the present moment to focus our attention and our awareness on the simple FACT THAT we experience the world–we flow–we are already connected to Being or the universe. How do we do this? One way is by letting go of the past, and not giving into worry about the future, and putting our attention in the Now only. Surrender. Let it all go. Once we truly realize this, then when depression arises, or a desire to be happy, quiet, or enlightened, it immediately falls away because through surrender we are convinced that we are “already there.” If we’re convinced that we’re “already there” then we are, in fact, “already there.”

We can become convinced that we are “already there” by realizing that our desire to be “enlightened” or “happy” itself is only an empty idea generated by those very desires. Once we realize this and surrender these desires, we ARE enlightened, or happy, or satisfied! Yes, this is question-begging and a bit like a dog chasing its own tail. If you realize this, welcome to the club.

Nevertheless, we can be awed by existence! It’s an amazing mystery that we are here and are connected to Being. What came “before” the Big Bang? It’s miraculous that we get the chance to exist, and to put less and less identity and attention on the passing forms and ideas and ego, and put more and more attention on simply letting go and surrendering in the present moment and experiencing that sheer fullness of existence, that connection with Being.

“The Good” is fundamental

PLATO SAYS THE GOOD IS FUNDAMENTAL TO THE WAY THE UNIVERSE WORKS:

“Socrates: …[do] you think that a State, or an army, or a band of robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evildoers could act at all if they injured one another?

Thrasymachus: No, indeed…they could not.

Socrates: But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act together better?

Thrasymachus: Yes.

Socrates: And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true, Thrasymachus?

Thrasymachus: I agree …because I do not wish to quarrel with you.

Socrates: How good of you…but I should like to know also whether injustice, having this tendency to arouse hatred…will not make them hate one another and set them at variance and render them incapable of common action?

Thrasymachus: Certainly.”

SO:

It seems that the Bad must be parasitic on Good. Good must be more fundamental because it has to be there, in place, in order for the Bad to even function. Someone had to work, do well, and gain valuable material in the first place before a thief can come along and steal it. Total evil and/or Disharmony is self-destruction.

The phrase “Honor among thieves” also discloses this same idea about the Good being fundamental. E.g.: Organized Crime is so powerful because it is set up against a backdrop of cooperation and trust. It’s parasitic on COOPERATION, CREATIVITY, HARMONY, EXCELLENCE. Without them, Organized Crime couldn’t exist.

Materialism, Mechanism, and Evidence

Materialism is inconsistent with the evidence, if we take “materialism” to mean a “mechanistic view of nature.”

A.  What do I mean by a “mechanistic view of nature?”

1–The questionable idea that all causation between real entities (ultimate units of nature) must ONLY be efficient causation (as opposed to final);

2–The questionable idea that what are actually composite entities (humans, rocks, pencils, etc.) are taken to be real and final entities;

3–The questionable idea that there’s only one type of causal relation, and this causal relation is an external relation (as opposed to the view that there are two kinds of causal relations, external and internal);

4–Given 1-3 above, the questionable conclusion that all real entities are devoid of any kind of “experience” or “prehension” or “primitive feeling” or a “receiving data into the constitution” of another entity.  (I.e., the parts of the world are utterly separated from each other at the fundamental level.)

In other words, the entities of materialism are actual, but they’re “vacuous actualities.”  They are totally inert, inactive, dormant, idle, and lifeless.  They are exactly like a rock or a pencil–completely passive–unless they are thrown at something and move it by striking it (purely an external relation, and purely efficient causation).  (Note that the non-materialist or non-mechanistic view (the process philosophical view) DOES NOT espouse that actualities express CONSCIOUSNESS!  Self-awareness and consciousness come 15 billion years later in the form of animal nervous systems.  Self-awareness and consciousness are entirely different from prehension or primitive experience or internal relations.) The paradigm of the mechanistic view, of course, is David Hume’s is mechanistic cosmology (started by the “material” side of Descartes’ ontology).  Hume’s view spawned positivism, behaviorism, and sensate empiricism (and other related worldviews which were picked up by the scientific community starting in the 19th century).

B.  The mechanistic view of nature is inconsistent with the evidence in about a googol different ways.  I will only mention one or two.

First, the mechanistic view provides no logical basis for causation/induction.  We feel that we are causal agents and that thus we cause things.  We also feel that things in the environment cause other things.  Science (induction) is based on this assumption.  There’s a lot of evidence for induction.  But as Hume argued (in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding) on the mechanistic view, causation is impossible.  Further, no one yet has countered Hume’s argument, and in principle it CAN’T be shown to be false–simply put, Hume’s arguments (with his ontological assumptions) were 100% right.  This is why Quine, Ayer, and Putnam have all said that Hume cannot be logically countered, but we just have to “give up” and be logically inconsistent for the time being, because “science works.”  Maybe Hume will be answered some day, they say, but not now.  Also, Colin McGinn has said that the mind-body problem and the problem of causation are “cognitively closed” to humans, where this means there IS a solution, but our brains cannot comprehend the solution.  Indeed, science works, but just not in the way Hume and others think it works!

Second, there are some scientific reasons why mechanism as a worldview isn’t adequate.  The mechanistic view gives no reason why there should be anything like gravitational stresses between purely externally-related actualities (Whitehead argues this in his book “Modes of Thought”).  A corollary is that the flow of time itself makes little sense such that it’s an “accident” (a contingency) rather than being essential (necessary) in relation to actual entities (I think Whitehead argues this on p. 50 of his book “Science and the Modern World,” as well as in “Modes of Thought”); another corollary is that purpose (as well as sentience itself) has no place in the mechanistic cosmological scheme.  One of my favorite quotes from Whitehead (it’s in Function of Reason) is, “Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study.”  As David Griffin says, it is hopelessly futile to explain complexities like human experience and behavior purely in terms of a mechanistic view with the locomotions and external relations of vacuous actualities.

BTW, for those who want to dismiss this entire post because they think physics “proves” there’s no such thing as prehensive or experiential action at the most fundamental level, they should realize that physics itself takes no position about the nature of the final actualities of the world.  The current range/scope of scientific investigation cannot (yet) address this question.

Now, of course, if by “materialism” you mean something different than a purely mechanistic worldview, then that’s an entirely different story.  Some people try to argue that materialism can still mean that the ultimate actualities of the universe are internally related, prehensive etc. (especially given evidence in quantum mechanics), but this doesn’t really keep with the spirit of “materialism” does it?  (No pun intended about the “spirit of materialism.”)  Webster’s says materialism is “a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.”  Note that the word “matter” is critical in this definition.

Of course, if one is utterly wedded to the word “matter” they may redefine “matter:”  The argument can be made that matter is ultimately energy, and that energy is ultimately prehensive.  On this definition, energy/matter is not limited to external relations, and is dynamic and internally related to itself.  But nevertheless “matter” (in this sense defined) is still fundamental.  OK, I certainly buy this argument.  It’s essentially Whitehead’s argument; one thing he’s doing is redefining matter.

Aloha

Evidence: Raw sense data?

Troy, nice job on THIS BLOG ENTRY about whether or not to dismiss or evaluate a claim, and if evaluation is merited, then how many resources should be used and to what extent it should be investigated (if at all). You lay out a good approach. Rejecting out of hand illogical claims and non-verifiable anecdotal claims makes good sense. To go into a little more detail: You perspicuously point out, regarding your approach to dismissing or evaluating claims, that there must be “…some sort of evidence obtainable that will meaningfully demonstrate the truth or falsity of the claim.”

First, I submit we take another step back—the interest level of a claim is more important than its truth or falsity. Logicians tend to think that truth/falsity of a claim is paramount, but our experience in the world says otherwise.

Second, exactly what kind of evidence is required? In sensation-based empiricism (Hume’s work is the quintessential example), the only elements admissible as evidence are sense data. However, the sensationist theory of perception and its accompanying epistemology don’t permit causality or induction. Hume’s arguments are clear, cogent, and forceful on this score. However, we have to know that the same process happens today as happened a billion years ago when two hydrogen atoms combine with one oxygen atom (production of water), and on the sensationist epistemology, we can’t know that. Further, it’s more than just causality and induction which are in question. The status of the continuity of time, the status of mathematical objects, and the status of truth itself are also in question on the sensationist ontology (but never mind as there’s plenty of grist for the mill to simply focus on induction and causality!).

A.J. Ayer and others have simply thrown up their hands and say we just have to assume it’s rationally possible to conduct science in the way we’re doing it now, and can’t sit around and wait for the logical problems to be solved! The irrationality coming from such an otherwise amazing mind is—well—mind-blowing. Isn’t there a good REASON that logic dictates major problems on this score?!?!

Anyway, one answer is Whitehead’s theory of perception, which combines Hume’s sensationism with modern science’s view of the human nervous system and its visceral/kinesthetic modes of operation. Thus Whitehead’s theory of perception is holistic and doesn’t succumb to the logical problems of a purely sensationist/empirical theory of perception. Rather than the constituents of reality being hard material stuff which hits our sense organs and activates them in an externally-based sense, reality is actually internally related to itself and data is passed directly through it from moment to moment. As our brains and nervous systems interact with reality there’s a lot more going on than just photons hitting the body and causing (woops—there’s that logical snafu again) reactions on the skin, eardrum, etc.

But therein is the problem for the materialistic, atheistic, reductionistic, sensationistic ontology and accompanying epistemology: The Process ontology explains how real causality and real induction are possible and the exact same set of arguments also show how time, mathematical objects, and universals are real, and how the correspondence theory of truth makes complete sense. And they don’t want to hear about realism.

Talk about Bass-Ackwardness! The process philosophy and theology requires realism, while so-called objective, scientific empiricism has to deal in coherence and pragmatic theories of truth, and has to argue for ultimate relativism and anti-realism! Post-modern science has really gotten itself into a terrible snafu.

However, my guess is as science, especially neuroscience, gets deeper and deeper into the details of the operations of the brain, that the neuroscientists will be among the first to admit that spatiotemporal events which are actually internally related to each other are at the base of reality rather than material stuff. Once there’s scientific energy put in this direction, Whitehead and others will be re-discovered and their work hailed as visionary. (This is for another post, but this is the reason Heidegger, the phenomenologists, and the Existentialists probably won’t experience the same kind of re-discovery, because they didn’t take on science and accept science qua science like Whitehead did.) Aloha

Which has priority to you, objectivity or subjectivity?

Troy, you ask the most fabulous questions!  HERE You asked:

“Which has priority to you, objectivity or subjectivity?”

I know your question is asking about Objectivity considered as impartial or detached fact, considered apart from Subjectivity as a kind of wishful thinking or bias or partiality.  It’s about clear thinking based on objective evidence as opposed to believing something because, well, you darn well WANT to.  But I can’t resist going a bit deeper and talking about the philosophical basis of Subjectivity vs. Objectivity.  The reason is because, on a deeper level, there is less difference between them than it seems.

Consider a different ontology where subject and object aren’t so distinct (process ontology and its accompanying epistemology).  Some of this is paraphrased from A.N. Whitehead’s “Adventures of Ideas” and “Process and Reality.”

The Cartesian appeal to clarity and distinctness, and accompanying radical split between the knower (subject) and the known (object) makes an erroneous assumption that the subject-object relation is the fundamental structural pattern of experience.  This assumption is based on the idea that all perception is based entirely on bodily sense organs, and that all percepta are bare sensa given in the immediate present, and that there’s nothing “real” in the process of the actual perception.  (By “actual perception” means what’s happening at the sub quantum level.)

Whitehead points out if we define ‘perceptions’ as “…experiential functions which arise directly from stimulation of various bodily sense-organs, then the argument ceases…” (AI 178) and he’s willing to accept this definition, but says that while it’s true, it’s only superficial.  That definition of perception relies tacitly on a deeper analysis.  The deeper analysis is that human experience (and perception, and subjects and objects, and everything else) is based on real things called “actual occasions…the final real things of which the world is made up…” A chair or desk is fundamentally actual occasions “…and so is the most trivial puff of existence in far off empty space…” (PR 18).

Objects are linked to subjects and visa-versa, because the only way there can be continuity in nature (such as memory, or even the flow of time) is if at the sub quantum level the constitution of one actual occasion enters into the make-up of the next actual occasion.  Matter/energy has both external AND internal relations with itself.  I.e., because matter “is” energy at a fundamental level, reality is a process of interrelated “drops of experience” pushing their way “into each other” from past, to present, and into the future.  Data is actually passed between them.  Of course, the current ontology thinks about reality like a bunch of pool balls, with bits of matter banging into other bits of matter, primarily enjoying only external relations (and not internal).  But if this is true, there can be no continuity in nature.  (Nor can real causation exist, as Hume argued, and this discontinuity creates a host of other problems for the modern ontology.)

In both PR and AI, Whitehead brilliantly deconstructs Hume’s arguments about causation, and says with ONE TWIST, Hume’s entire argument in Part III of the ‘Treatise of Human Nature’ can be accepted as valid, and Hume’s conclusion can be changed to argue FOR (yes, “for”) causality, not against it!  Why?  Because Hume’s entire set of arguments about ‘custom’ and ‘constant conjunction’ assume that “…one occasion of experience enters into the character of succeeding occasions…” (AI 184).  That’s the one twist.  And it’s really only a variant interpretation of Hume, because Hume’s argument does logically assume it!

I think it’s worth quoting Whitehead (from AI p. 185-6) at length regarding this continuity in nature, because it’s important vis-a-vis Subject and Object.  Remember, this next quote is about occasions of experience in the human brain and nervous system, and he’s talking about memory between events, causality between events, and the flow of time between events:

“The science of physics conceives a natural occasion as a locus of energy… The words electron, proton, photon…matter, empty space, temperature…all point to the fact that physical science recognizes qualitative differences between occasions in respect to the way in which each occasion entertains its energy.  … Energy has recognizable paths through time and space. …  physical energy …must then be conceived as an abstraction from the [fundamental] energy… It is the business of rational thought to describe the more concrete [and fundamental, at the base of reality] fact from which that abstraction is derivable.”

So he’s saying energy as defined by physics is really based on a more fundamental kind of “energy” at the base of reality (yes, he’s speculating!).  Above I said the “split between the knower (subject) and the known (object) makes an erroneous assumption that the subject-object relation is the fundamental structural pattern of experience.”  So, it’s erroneous to think the person, the subject, is an entirely separate “thing” which resides “in here” and has to connect across an ontological gap somehow–has to connect with the world and with objects “out there.”

Look at neuroscience and quantum mechanics.  We’re finding out that we, as subjects, our way of knowing, actually shapes what can be known.  (This is Kant, sort of, but to comment on the accuracy of that is another story…).  As you pointed out, “perfect objectivity is not possible” and Whitehead would say it’s not possible because any ontology which separates knower and known, that makes knowledge somehow entirely objective, makes no sense.  Going back to what I said above, about “the idea that all perception is based entirely on bodily sense organs, and that all percepta are bare sensa given in the immediate present…”  Whitehead would say there’s no such thing as bare, uninterpreted, detached, objective “sense-data” which just floats in from nowhere and is completely disconnected from the knowing subject.  Sense data meet our various bodily organs, and at the sub quantum level enter into and become one with, and are  appropriated by the actual occasions of our bodies, and visa-versa.  Our bodies influence those sense data.  (Again, as we’ve spoke about before, this is why “eye-witness testimony” is the most UNTRUSTWORTHY kind of evidence in court—subject and object can’t be utterly separated.)

Oh, regarding your question, I think Objectivity has a WAY HIGHER priority than mere Subjectivity.  (:

Aloha!

Mathematical Intuition

“Despite their remoteness from sense experience, we do have something like a perception also of the objects of set theory, as is seen from the fact that the axioms force themselves upon us as being true.  I don’t see any reason why we should have less confidence in this kind of perception, i.e., mathematical intuition, than in sense perception.”  (Kurt Godel, in “What is Cantor’s Continuum Problem?”)

Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #5 (of 10)

I added in a sentence in this explanation which was missing which clarifies the idea of “analyzability:”

Core Doctrine #5: “All enduring individuals are serially ordered societies of momentary ‘occasions of experience’.”   From Griffin, “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 6)

This is how process deals with the issues of efficient and final causality, and freedom vs. determinism.  All things, such as chairs, minds, electrons, and elephants are not actually and fundamentally those things per se, rather they are firstly analyzable into atoms, subatomic particles and quarks, and secondly (actually and fundamentally) they are analyzable into momentary events (occasions of experience), on the most basic level.  Griffin says (p. 6): “…each enduring individual, such as a living cell or a human mind, oscillates between two modes of existence: the subjective mode, in which it exerts final causation or self-determination, and the objective mode, in which is exerts efficient causation upon subsequent events.”

Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #4 (of 10):

Core Doctrine #4: “Panexperientialism with organizational duality, [holds that] all true individuals –as distinct from aggregational societies–have at least some iota of experience and spontaneity (self-determination).”  From Griffin, “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 6)

Modern ontology (Cartesianism) claims there are two kinds of actual entities, purely material ones which lack any kind of primitive experience or internal relations.  These are the entities of modern and post-modern science, bits of insentient “stuff” be they matter or energy (and they really all boil down to energy).  The second kind of entities are immaterial “mind stuff” which account for mind and consciousness.  Presumably because they’re immaterial they are internally related to each other, and may even enter “into” each other.  However, this part of the ontology was never developed by anyone; Descartes tried to defend it when people brought up the “mind-body problem” of how the two kinds of actual entities could interact, but Descartes could not articulate a sufficient answer–probably because it’s not logically possible given two distinct kinds of actual entities.

On the process ontology there is only one kind of actual entity, and it has the capability to behave as “matter” as well as “mind.”  We ARE, in fact, sentient beings, so to think sentience irrationally floats in from nowhere, or manifests somehow at the animal level while it exists nowhere else in the universe, makes little sense.  Rather, actual entities are drops of primitive experience, which if enough build up, and are housed in a protective environment such as a body with some type of nervous system, the thing can have what we call sentience or experience.  Note it’s not the sheer numbers of actual entities which matter, but the complexity of their organization, so chairs and rocks and mountains can’t have self awareness, but a cell or a beetle or a person may.  The old ontology requires a miracle because animal consciosuness comes out of nowhere (somehow), but on the process view, a primitive kind of “experience” is inherent in the very nature of the most fundamental structures of the universe (actual entities).

This is NOT, and is very different, from Idealism, from Vitalism, etc.

Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #1 (of 10)

Over 10 blog entries, I will set out the 10 Core Doctrines of process philosophy (of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne), as given by the process philosopher and theologian David Griffin.

Core Doctrine #1:  Process integrates “…moral, aesthetic, and religious intuitions with the most general doctrines of the sciences into a self-consistent worldview [and considers this] as one of the central tasks of philosophy in our time.”  From: Griffin, David R.  “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 5)

Another way to say this is the integration of science and religion; to be able to put religion in a context that someone who takes science seriously may countenance, and to be able to put science in a context that someone with religious beliefs can countenance.

Review: “Out of Our Heads”

What is the nature of the human mind?  Rather than saying the mind is Simply Located in the brain and gives us access to the world via the five senses, Noe argues we are immersed in a world.  Segall says:  “Only contact with and access to an actual world is sufficient for conscious experience.  Being conscious is something we must do, something we constantly achieve together with others and the help of the world itself.”

Click below for Matt Segall’s book review of

“Out of Our Heads” by Alva Noë

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