Posts Tagged ‘mind’

The Voice Of The We Of Divinity

November 18, 2009

Change of plans, instead of posting the statistical evidence (weak evidence) that I gathered in support of the existence of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, I have decided to describe the relationship that exists between the not-me-self and divinity. This relationship is complimentary and symmetrical, like the coming together of the right and left hand gloves.

Understanding the below post requires a lot of jumping back and forth from description to diagram–a difficult task–on the other hand, the few quotes from Buber’s “I And Thou” book at the bottom of this post say everything I am trying to communicate here–in the fewest possible words! FYI a click on the above diagram enlarges it; also, clicking on the before/after posts above or the related posts below expands the meaning/significance of this post.

In last week’s “end of story post” (the We Voice of Humanity) I wrote: [“Otherness”, when understood from within the context of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self’s self/other relationship, manifests multi-layers of “otherness”. “Otherness” is always embedded in a whirl of “otherness” and unravels in layers. (Footnote. The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self occasions “otherness” first in the form of the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group, that is, the products of symbolic interaction. A second layer of “otherness” is encountered when the self engages the novelty, impulsiveness and spontaneity — the creative potentials of self-determination — in the self’s option to affirm, reject, and/or qualify the common values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. A third layer of “otherness” occurs in the “thickness of description” used to validate intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. And, a forth layer of “otherness” is occasioned when the “ought,” as in non-relative ethics and morality, is applied to intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group.)]

In the “We Voice of Divinity,” I will talk about what I didn’t talk about in the last post; that is, I will describe that layer of “otherness” which is occasioned when the “ought” (as in non-relative ethics and morality) is applied to intersubjective positions concerning values, meanings, viewpoints, definitions and expectations of the group. However, in order to talk about “that,” I must first talk about a new way of understanding the observer/ observed relationship, and that discussion begins now.

“Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.”
(Einstein, Ideas And Opinions, p. 225)

For me at least, the above diagram, speaks directly to this Einstein quote, as it also speaks to the issues of why nature responds so strangely when certain questions are put to her, questions like: Wave or particle? Why is the universe comprehensible as opposed to incomprehensible? Is nature independent of the observer? Why, on the quantum level, do we find a physical reality with no uniquely determinable location, a physical reality that exists in several states at the same time, a physical reality structured by a mathematical equation? Nature’s response to these types of questions becomes less strange, I believe, if we look through the prism of this new look (understanding) of the observer/ observed relationship.

Science, doing science, is limited to the reductionist, physical/cultural, self-boundary, or the dark blue quadrant. The pink horizon of self is part of that quadrant, but I have made it pink for labeling purposes. In other words, when I look up from my computer screen, I see a physical world of cinder block walls, tile floors, furniture, colors etc. My five senses inform me of this world and science informs me that there is more to these sensations then what my five senses are telling me about the nature of the world. The unfortunate thing about science is that, in most cases, it tries to reduce all other quadrants, life and mind, to the physical/cultural platform—not possible.

The red horizon of self is a product of the overlap of the mind/life platforms—the green quadrant. This quadrant, in addition to representing life, also represents emotional life. Emotions are a defining characteristic of the plant/animal kingdom (yes, a quirky group of scientists have produced evidence that plants have feelings), but emotions are not just a product of the green quadrant. Emotions are informed by the mind and that is the difference that makes a difference. J.E. Creighton puts it like this:

“In the development of mind, feeling does not remain a static element, constant in form and content at all levels, but…is transformed and disciplined through its interplay with other aspects of experience. Indeed, the character of the feeling in any experience may be taken as an index of the mind’s grasp of its object; at the lower levels of experience, where the mind is only partially or superficially involved, feeling appears as something isolated and opaque, as the passive accompaniment of mere bodily sensation… In the higher experience, the feelings assume an entirely different character, just as do the sensations and the other contents of mind.” (Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, A Study in the Symbolism of Rite, Reason, and Art, p. 100)

The yellow self-horizon is also a product of the overlap of the mind/life/reductionist platforms, but its content—the purple quadrant, is restricted to the psychological, sociocultural, self-boundary of human discourse. This purple quadrant deviates somewhat from the standard science model, which lumps the “self “into the “physical stuff” of body/brain/mind— the blue quadrant. However, there is some disagreement here. If you were to ask a “structuralist” or a “symbolic anthropologist” if the mind can stand alone, their answers would be interesting. Here’s how the philosopher, Ernst Cassirer, addressed this question:

“Man has, as it were, discovered a new method of adapting himself to his environment. Between the receptor system and the effector system, which are to be found in all animal species, we find in man a third link which we may describe as the “symbolic system.” This new acquisition transforms the whole of human life. As compared with the other animals man lives not merely in a broader reality; he lives, so to speak, in a new dimension of reality.” (An Essay On Man, p. 25)

Cassirer, also adds:

“All knowledge of the world and all strictly spiritual action upon the world require that I thrust the world back from itself, that in contemplation as in action it gain a certain distance from it. Animals do not know this distance: the animal lives in his environment; he does not place himself over against it and so represent it. This acquisition of the world as idea is, rather, the aim and product of the symbolic forms ––the result of language, myth, religion, art, and theoretical knowledge.” (Cassirer, The Phenomenology of Knowledge, p. 276)

The reductionist/ life/mind platforms are connected and separated by bridges that hold everything together. The self, or our experience of self, starts at the horizons of the overlapping quadrants and proceeds inward via our experience of these quadrants. Concerning the bridges, just to give a little perspective here, in Chinese mythology, the jovial Chuang-tzu, when asked what supports the turtle that supports the world, (the world sits on the tortoise shell), replied, “Its turtles all the way down.” Well, in this cosmology, the world doesn’t sit on tortoise shells, instead, the universe hangs suspended, all the way up and all the way down, in logic, the Logos that structures existence.

Here are the labels (by the numbers) of the layered sequencing of platforms—reductionist, life, mind—that constitute self.

1 R—The reductionist, mass/energy, platform.

2 L—The life, biological/reproductive, platform.

3 M—The mind, symbol/meaning, platform.

4 S—Human self—is not an entity, rather, it is intersubjective boundary horizons.

5 The reductionist, physical/cultural, self-boundary.

6 The life, biological/emotional, self-boundary.

7 The mind, psychological, sociocultural, self-boundary of human discourse.

8 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the life platform to the reductionist platform.

9 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the mind platform to the life platform and to the life platform’s limiting condition—the reductionist platform.

In my concluding post next week, I will expand on what it means to have a “self,” as I continue to talk about the connecting bridges that define this “self.” I will also discuss the connecting bridge that is not in the diagram above, the bridge connecting Divinity to everything else. Stay tuned. I leave you with a few quotes from Martin Buber’s book I And Thou. Buber, based on the quotes below, was very much in tune with the implications that follow from the new look of the observer/observed relationship.

“…in every You we address the eternal You, in every sphere according to its manner. All spheres are included in it, while it is included in none.” (p. 150)

“Of course, God is ‘the wholly other’; but he is also the wholly same: the wholly present. Of course, he is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overwhelms; but he is also the mystery of the obvious that is closer to me than my own I.” (p. 127)

“…in truth, there is no God-seeking because there is nothing where one could not find him. How foolish and hopeless must one be to leave one’s way of life to seek God: even if one gained all the wisdom of solitude and all the power of concentration, one would miss him.” (p. 128)

“The word of revelation is: I am there as whoever I am there. That which reveals is that which reveals. That which has being is there, nothing more. The eternal source of strength flows, the eternal touch is waiting, the eternal voice sounds, nothing more.” (p. 160)

“The encounter with God does not come to man in order that he may henceforth attend to God, but in order that he may prove its meaning in action in the world. All revelation is a calling and a mission.” (p. 164)

“God embraces but is not the universe; just so, God embraces but is not my self. On account of this which cannot be spoken about, I can say in my language, as all can say in theirs: You. For the sake of this there are I and You, there is dialogue, there is language, and spirit whose primal deed language is, and there is, in eternity, the word.” (p. 143)


We, Unlike The Rest Of Nature, Stand As A Problem To Ourselves

October 22, 2009

Similarities, dissimilarities, categorization, and particularization emerge from logi with their negations. Embedded in the set of differences out of which a particular arises, we find negation. Billig describes this condition, in the context of the rhetoric of argumentation, when he says: “Since the loci of arguments (the claim to essential set of differences) represent basic forms of thought, negation is a basic, even essential, characteristic of the thinking.” Nowhere is this clearer than in the agency of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. If it were not for the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self we would lack the capacity to: 1) become an “object” to ourselves, 2) access reflexive thought processes and self-narratives, and 3) make manifest the reflections that are most characteristically human.

The Structure Of Thinking-Inner Deliberations Or Silent Arguments Conducted Within A Single Self

The Interdependent Nature Of Logoi And Negation-The Paradox Is That These Two Processes Seem To Pull In Opposite Cognitive Directions: The One Pulls Towards The Aggregation Of Things And The Other Towards The Uniqueness Of Things

Billig argues that people in the real world are confronted by infinitely different stimuli and in order to keep from being overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of stimuli we mentally categorize these stimuli. In the management of our everyday affairs we apply these categories to our common sense knowledge of the world so that we can reasonably proceed with our daily affairs.

In Billig’s critique, he takes exception to the cognitive social psychological focus on categorical and inflexible aspects of thought processes. These one-sided theories see human thought “as aspiring to little more than the utility of an efficient computer” (Billig, 1987: 118). Concentrating on the categorical aspect of thinking ignores, according to Billig, the “inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self” (Billig. 1987: 5). Cognitive psychologists emphasize the inflexible aspects of thought processes because they practice what Billig calls the psychology of logos as they ignore the psychology of anti-logos. In order to avoid this failing, psychologists should see the basic psychological units of thoughts as pairs of conflicting processes. “If thinking is seen to be built upon conflicting tendencies,” according to Billig, “then there will be less danger of pushing the conflict between logos and anti-logos to a neglected siding. Instead, this conflict will be rooted in the psychological structure of thinking itself” (Billig, 1987: 119).

Billig argues that the structure of thinking is centered on categorization and particularization interdependence. It is just as important to see the specialness or uniqueness of a stimulus, as it is to see similarities among stimuli. In so far as one can identify an infinite amount of similarities among objects, one can also identify an infinite amount of dissimilarities among objects. For every good argument for the role played by categorization in cognition, there is an equally good argument for the role played by particularization in cognition. But, and this is Billig’s point, if we look too long or too hard at the details we risk wasting our energy and time, therefore, an examination of cognition must neither concentrate on the particularization component of cognition nor on the categorization component of cognition. According to Billig, what we end up with is the interdependent nature of two opposing processes: categorization and particularization. Billig states (1987: 134):

“Categorization and particularization, inasmuch as they refer to human thought processes, are not to be considered as two distinct capabilities, as separate, for example, as the olfactory and visual senses. The two processes are interrelated, at least as far as linguistic categories and particularities are concerned. In order to use categories, we must be able to particularize and vice versa. The paradox is that these two processes seem to pull in opposite cognitive directions: the one pulls towards the aggregation of things and the other towards the uniqueness of things. The result is that the human mind is equipped with the two contrary skills of being able to put things into categories and to treat them as special. Thus, our thought processes are not held in the thrall of a single process, which inevitably leads to a distorting narrow-mindedness. Nor do our basic cognitive processes merely function to provide psychological stability and order. They also provide the seeds of argumentation and deliberation, as our logoi of categorization are always liable to be opposed by our anti-logoi of particularization. However, in order to see how this might operate, we need to move from the perceptual metaphor, used in much cognitive psychology, to consider directly logoi and their negations.”

The Cognitive Dimension Of Ambivalence From Which Psyche And Self Follow

Embedded In The Set Of Differences Out Of Which A Particular Arises We Find Negation-It Is An Essential Characteristic Of Thinking

Billig’s critique of the interdependent nature of cognition may be unusual but it is not totally unfamiliar. Simmel’s identification of a person as a sociological category and as a stranger, and, Thom’s identification of ambivalence as the ground for human nature (the opposition between the modes of difference and no difference) are not all that different from Billig’s categorization/particularization interdependence that simultaneously pulls toward the aggregation of things, and, towards the uniqueness of things. It appears that Billig, with his concept of categorization/particularization interdependence, has, so to speak, put his finger on the cognitive dimension of ambivalence that, as Thom points out, “reproduce(s) its basic structure in every form it creates or observes”…and from which ”psyche and self follow” (Thom, 1984: xi).

But Billig’s description of thinking as that which takes place in terms of conflicting yet interdependent processes does more than just resonate similarities with Simmel’s and Thom’s views concerning a person, it also brings into focus the necessary role negation plays in the processing of thoughts.

The ability to categorize, according to Billig, presupposes the ability to particularize. The categorization of thoughts depends upon the opposing process of particularization because information must be “selected” before it can be categorized. There is, however, a requisite condition permitting the particularization of a particular and that is the essential set of differences out of which a particular arises. Embedded in the set of differences, out of which a particular arises, we find negation. Billig describes this condition, in the context of the rhetoric of argumentation, when he says: “[S]ince the loci of arguments [the claim to essential set of differences] represent basic forms of thought, negation is a basic, even essential, characteristic of thinking (Billig, 1987 : 139). We may conclude from Billig’s analysis of categorization/particularization interdependence that negation is an essential constituent of thinking conscious thoughts.

If, in the processing of thoughts we exercise negation, then negation is a necessary constituent in the project of self as it “constitutes itself,” according to Giddens (1991: 244), “through the reflexive ordering of self-narratives.” Nowhere is this clearer than in the agency of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. Just as Billig argued when he said that people must categorize stimuli to keep from being overwhelmed by a constant bombardment of stimuli, it is argued here that the agency of self, the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, requires an affirmation of self to keep from being overwhelmed by a constant bombardment of stimuli (the not-me-self stimuli). Without this affirmation a person risks disenfranchisement, dislocation and self-image, self-esteem problems.

Beyond self-affirmation, however, there are additional efficacies in the negative facet of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. If it were not for the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self we would lack the capacity to; 1) become an “object” to ourselves, 2) access reflexive thought processes and self-narratives, and 3) make manifest the reflections that are most characteristically human. L.C. Simpson (1995: 29), in his reflections on the nature of self-understanding, states: “We, unlike the rest of nature, stand as a problem to ourselves. How are we to make sense of our lives? How are we to comport ourselves? What stories are we enacting and ought we to enact?”

The Root Basis Of Self—Negation

October 16, 2009

Descartes, in his own fashion, placed the essence of Being in thinking. He affirmed, with absolute certainty, and through a second order affirmation, his own existence. But, this certainty followed from the logic, not his physical condition. It is the “thinking of thoughts” that the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self implies, and the thought that is being thought would not be thought if it were not for the negation of the me-self, the negation of biography.

Negation Is A Second Degree Affirmation–Not-Me-Self Affirmation

In The Highest Tradition Of Rationalism, Descartes Places The Essence Of Being In Thinking

Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

It is somewhat ironic that the implicative nature of negation, in its most significant form, can be traced back to the man who is given the tribute, according to Hermans and Kempen (1993 : 2), of being “the founder of Enlightenment, an era in which questions relating to the body were increasingly answered in terms of physical, mechanical, and biochemical explanations.” Descartes (1650), the seventeenth-century French philosopher, is also recognized for giving the Western world the notorious mind–body split which not only separates mind and body, it also separates self and others. When we speak in terms of the outside world as an “objective, matter of fact reality,” we are using Cartesian terminology and, in the process, following a 17th Century line of thought, whether we want to or not.

Descartes, using his method of systematically doubting the existence of everything in the mental and physical world, concluded, with absolute certainty, that the only thing he could not doubt was that he exists. In his imaginary battle with the wicked demon who possessed mind-controlling powers, Descartes concludes in his second meditation, according to Flew (1979: 91), “I am, I exist, is necessarily, true as often as I put it forward or conceive of it in my mind.” This argument is expressed in the Discourse in the form “I think, [doubt] therefore I am.” Descartes, in his attempt to escape the powers of his imaginary controlling demon arrives at absolute certainty by shutting his eyes, stopping up his ears, and eliminating from his thoughts all images of bodily things. In this way, Descartes realized his famous Cogito, ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”). For Descartes, negation (doubt) is at the heart of a person’s I-ness.

[Footnote.Toms (1962: 72) puts this idea in its simplest form when he states: “The paradox of non-existence is most simply stated by saying that, in so far as a negative existential proposition seems to be about the very object or objects denied existence, it presupposes their existence.” Further, Gale (1976: 43-44), in support of his own thesis in which negation is itself held to be a higher order affirmation, recounts some of the people who have argued that affirmation is in some sense “prior” to negation. He states:

“According to Sigwart (1885:119), a negative judgment is not as primitive as a positive one because it ‘presupposes the positive attribution of a predicate, and has its meaning only in contradicting or annulling such an affirmation.’ This theme is echoed, with modifications, by both Bradley and Bosanquet. For Bradley (1922: 114), a negative judgment occurs on a higher level than a positive one because in affirmation we refer an ideal content to reality while in negation we deny that some real X accepts this ideal content. “The primitive basis of affirmation is the coalescence of idea with perception. But mere non-coalescence of an idea with perception is a good deal further removed…” Bosanquet expressed a similar view in (1911: 280): ‘Negation is a degree more remote from reality than is affirmation,’ for while an affirmation can be given as a fact a negation is ‘made by setting an ideal reality over against real reality and finding them incongruous.’ Bergson, although he differed radically from the idealist logicians, nevertheless followed them on this point. He wrote (1944: 313) that ‘negation…differs from affirmation… in that it is an affirmation of the second degree: it affirms something of an affirmation which itself affirms something of an object.’”]

Of course, what Descartes actually discovered with his Cogito argument is that the existence of the thing, which cannot be doubted, is, in fact, the thought that is being thought, not the “I” that is thinking the thought. Descartes’ inference, according to Anscombe, can be described as: “The thinking that thinks this thought–that is what is guaranteed by cogito” (Cassam, 1994: 152). But, to give Descartes his do (without, of course accepting Descartes’ excess baggage, or what Hermans and Kempen (1993: 39) describe as “…the existence of a unitary, closed, highly centralized subject or self, as an entity in itself, having an existence ‘above’ or ‘outside’ the social environment,” Descartes, in the highest tradition of rationalism, placed the essence of being in thinking.

The Process Of Thinking Is Reflexively Oriented Within Biography And Its Negation

The Self Consists Of A System Of Me/Not Me Oppositions—When “I” Appears In Memory, It Has Already Become A “Me”

It is the “thinking of thoughts” that the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self implies, and the thought that is being thought would not be thought if it were not for the negation of the me-self. In other words, the give and take that goes into the process of thinking is reflexively orientated within biography, and, the negation of biography, instead of within the “me” and the “I” as Mead would have it.

[Footnote. According to Hermans and Kempen (1993 : 119), Gregg, recognizing that biography and the negation of biography are pivot points within which the “self” develops, argues:

“[T]hat the self consists, not of a collection of Me attributions, as cognitive personality theories would have it, nor of ego-syntonic identifications, as most psychoanalytic personality theories would have it, but of a system of Me/not Me oppositions. He holds that every Me attribution or identification must have at least two defining relations (implying at least two meanings); a positing, which establishes the self as the presence of something, and a negation, which establishes the self as the absence or opposite of something else. However, the ‘thing’ negated also must be, in some sense, the same sort of entity as the ‘thing’ posited.”]

If, in the following quote, you replace the words biography and negation with Mead’s “me” and “I” reference, then Mead could just as easily be talking about the not-me-self, as opposed to the I/me couplet, when he states (1934: 182):

“The ‘me’ (biography) and the ‘I’ (negation) lie in the process of thinking and they indicate the give-and-take which characterizes it. There would not be an ‘I’ (negation) in the sense in which we use that term if there were not a ‘me’ (biography); there would not be a ‘me’ (biography) without a response in the form of the ‘I’ (negation). These two, as they appear in our experience, constitute the personality.”

In a like manner, using the words negation and biography in place of the “I” and “me” allows for a more consistent reading of Mead when he says (1934:174):

“The ‘I’ (negation) of this moment is present in the ‘me’ (biography) of the next moment. There again I cannot turn around quick enough to catch myself…. If you ask, then, where directly in your own experience the ‘I’ (negation) comes in, the answer is that it comes in as a historical figure. It is what you were a second ago that is the ‘I’ (negation) of the ‘me’ (biography).”

In the reflexivity of biography and its negation, biography is in syncopation with Mead’s “me” and the implicative affirmative (of the not-me-self) is in syncopation with Mead’s “I.” In this way logical consistency reinforces Mead’s claim when he says: “…[T]he actor never catches sight of himself or herself as ‘I.’ The ‘I’ appears in memory, it has already become a ‘me’” (Mead, 1934: 171).

Although the above passages cited from Mead are consistent with how the normal give-and-take of thought processing proceeds, Billig’s (1987) critique–concerning cognitive psychology’s penchant for describing the thinking process in terms of basic units of thought, –offers a more cogent description of the thinking process.