KARL  JASPERS  FORUM
TAs 102-104 (Vimal)
 
Commentary 5 (to R5 by Vimal)
 
 
THE  BRAIN  IN  0-D  EPISTEMOLOGY
by Herbert FJ Müller
4 February 2008, posted 9 February 2008
 
 

In the following, I respond to some of the points of your R5. 

 

Re {0}:  I agree, an exchange is useful, and discussion is the purpose of the KJF.  I would like to know in particular how Indian theory of knowledge (epistemology) deals with the question of mind-independent reality (MIR), which poses so much difficulty for the mind-brain problem.

 

Re {1}:   The ‘context’ is important.  Materialism is a form of MIR-belief, and that is also true for the micro-materialism which you advocate.  ‘How physical processes give rise to subjective experience’ is indeed ‘a natural question’, but a traditional naïve-metaphysical-ontological question, and metaphysics is fiction.  When you postulate or imply that reality is mind-independent, you lose the mind instantly (cf. Francis Crick and his ‘astonishing hypothesis’), since the mind cannot be mind-independent.

 

Re {2}:  The encompassing SE is not structured except for the structures which we create in it, including qualia like happiness or pain, gestalten, words, numbers, etc.  SE is not an ‘a priori system’ (systems are MIRs), but the matrix in which structures arise.  SE is not reducible to or explainable by any kind of MIR because MIRs can only be created within SE (topological relation).  The ‘explanatory gaps’ presuppose MIR-belief, which is out of place for the mind-brain question.  Operational science needs no ontology (ISness; see {3} and {15}), it includes the subject, and takes place within SE.  It is impossible to ‘explain’ mind, subjectivity, consciousness, etc., via objective studies, because the objective studies take place inside the mind (despite the fact that some well known writers have announced that they have already explained it   -   while in contrast Chalmers at least recognizes that such a proposition runs into a ‘hard’ conceptual road-block).

 

Re {3}:  ‘Neural correlates’ are MIR.  They are quite valid in objective studies, but cannot explain subjectivity.  Either you do neurophysiology or you do phenomenology; physiology is objective science within SE, usually with MIR-metaphysics-ontology beliefs, but these can be converted to as-if-MIR without interfering with operational science.

 

Re {4}:  SE cannot be ‘unpacked’, it is the matrix of thinking.  Let me quote from TA1 :

[8]

TABLE 1 :

THE UNSTRUCTURED MATRIX
as the origin of mental structures (various terms)

*The APEIRON is the source and sink of all structures (Anaximander and others)

*CHAOS (originally = cleft, later = disorder) in Greek thought since at least Hesiod

*TOHU WA BOHU in the Bible

*TABULA RASA as the start of thinking (Locke and others)

*The ENCOMPASSING (das Umgreifende, Jaspers)

*FACING NOTHINGNESS (and doing something with it: Existentialists)

*CONSTRUCTION and DE-CONSTRUCTION as needed (i.e., ad-hoc; Postmoderns)

*VOID as background of thinking (Murdoch)

*BACKGOUND (Searle)

*GLOBAL WORKSPACE (Baars)

A simple neutral term might be:

ZERO-REFERENCE METHOD

The practical problem is to use such a method on an ongoing basis, and indeed the functional aspect is much more important than any static term which might be employed.

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THE UNSTRUCTURED MATRIX OF MENTAL STRUCTURES

 

Re {5}:  Concerning the role of language, I quote from my CF 3.1 paper :

“ 4 ... The conceptual mind–brain relation difficulty is related to a chain of effects of the human invention and use of language as a new instrument.

 

In comparison with non-verbal animals, language use

1. enables a great increase of possibilities for individual and collective thought and action, but this is accompanied by

2. uncertainty of what to think and do, and thus

3. a need for certainty-mechanisms. That is answered by

4. assumptions of mind-external certainties (reality, MIR, onta), which have long been used in the form of a word-image-conceptual scaffolding to stabilize subject-inclusive operational structures, which were felt to be unreliable, vague, or arbitrary. But this procedure leads to a belief in a primary or ontic subject–object split, and causes an inversion of thinking, where mental tools are assigned a role of external, sometimes absolute, authority over thinking. Then the word-image certainties can also become barriers that 

5. restrict freedom of exploration, including in particular a

6. disappearance of subjectivity, which in turn

7. prevents the study of the mind–brain relation. ... ” 


Language use enforces tendencies present at a pre-verbal level; if the language area is destroyed these features, which have been built with the help of language, are not necessarily abolished but they are impaired.  ‘Car in parking lot’ :  you defend the objective thinking method, which is fine as a method; except it has nothing to do with the priority of SE, where subject and object ‘are unified’, before the pragmatic subject-object split.

 

Re {6}:  SE of objects is structure of objects within SE.  Theistic religions tend to attempt to structure the non-structured SE completely, including its center which cannot be structured because it is the active center of structuring.  That leads to paradoxes and therefore requires the religious ‘ontological leap of faith’ with its ‘absurdities’ (Tertullian).

 

Re {7}:  Redness is a quale, wavelengths are objects.  The relation of wavelength to redness is the one of physiological basis of experience to experience, which poses no problems.  Physiology explains what is needed for the experience to occur, but not the experience itself.  A conceptual difficulty here is that experience is at the same time our only possible start point, including for science such as physiology.

 

Re {9}:  ‘Dualism’ :  Mind and matter cannot ‘be on equal footing’, for the reasons discussed in {2} and {3}, etc., above.  Matter cannot ‘carry SEs/PEs’, because ‘the existence of matter’ is within SE, according to 0-D structuring.

 

Re {10}:  origin of metaphysics and the explanatory gap, etc :  this does not work in terms of primary objectivity (Levine; cortical physiology; Edelman; etc.).  There is nothing wrong with the physiology, but one can start working with its methods only from within SE; see also {7} above. 

 

Re {11}, {12}, {13}:  concerning dualism, see {9} and other discussion above.

 

Re {15}:  Science usually implies MIR-belief, but this can be replaced by as-if- (working, operational, subject-inclusive) MIR, see {3} above.  Practical scientific work is not affected by this change, because science does not need metaphysics, only working-hypotheses.  Concepts are tools, like words, or numbers, they are not, nor do they refer to, MIR onta.  This converts metaphysical-ontological ISness fictions into (strategic, heuristic) working instruments.  The main difference for science without MIR-belief (i.e., with as-if- or working-MIR) would be the avoidance of erroneous questions, such as attempts to explain the mind objectively (which has been a prominent feature in much of the work of the Tucson conferences, and has resulted also in a large number of other conferences, papers, and books, for instance).

 

Re {17}:  I have no writings of Jaspers in electronic form.  You might be able to find some on the internet, or with the help of the KJ Society of North America, or the Austrian KJ society.  An important book for our discussion is ‘Von der Wahrheit’, 1947, which you should be able to borrow in Boston, but it may not have been translated to English.

 

Re {18}:  Matter is a structure that is created within mind; working objective knowledge is created more or less as needed within SE; this happens already to some extent (without language) in animals.

 

Re {19}:  Your term ‘unpacking’ apparently means ‘analysis’; and this points to a particular problem :  the structures are implied to be pre-structured (otherwise they could not be analyzed), which prevents their recognition as human (and animal) creations.  This difficulty has prevented progress in epistemology, for instance for the ‘analytical’ philosophers, but also classical Greek philosophers and even phenomenological ones, who tried to uncover pre-structured and pre-existing subjective structures instead of concentrating on the structuring aspect; only in epistemological constructivism this is (by and large) recognized. 

 

Re {20}:  Mind and Matter :  see above.

 

Re {21}:  The difference in views goes beyond terminology, I would say, it is a difference in epistemology.  The primacy of SE and subject-inclusion are crucial for 0-D; they seem to be blurred or obliterated in dualism.

 

Re {23}:  ‘Where does the mind arise ?’  can be asked in an objective way, for instance in the physiological or evolutionary context.  But this does not address questions like ‘what is the mind ?’, nor ‘how do we know ?’, ‘how does the mind relate to matter ?’, etc.

 

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Herbert FJ Müller
     e-mail <herbert.muller (at) mcgill.ca>