Posts Tagged ‘questions’

Meditation For The 21st Century

December 12, 2009

While I was deciding where I wanted to go with my Footprint story I stumbled across this meditation and decided very quickly that it was a good summary of my Footprint story. Except for posting on the web, this meditation represents the only other time I attempted to “tell my story” to others. I presented this meditation to the philosophy club at the university where I work. The student President of the club felt I should be compensated, so he passed me off as a visiting lecturer and I walked away with $100. I guess that makes me (or made me) a one time professional!God’s Civilizing Attribute

I have found that many of the paradoxes associated with thoughtdissolve when I consider the point of view that existence, in general, and identity, in particular, ensues from the expressive aspects of God not being God’s own non-being. The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some commentary to this idea:

“The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition, the otherness of God has remained unthought and conceptually forgotten in exactly the same manner as has the question of the meaning of being. …What cannot be thought, in the tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.”

I realize that many people find elitist the notion of a privileged-human-nature, but I disagree. When considered from the point of view of this meditation it is not that human beings are superior, rather, it is that human beings are born into a much larger and richer reservoir of potential freedom, and, I might add, that in this privileged space (if indeed privilege is the right word) advantage and responsibility are joined. Ian Barbour, in his book, Issues in Science and Religion (1966, p.29.) puts it this way:

“In the capacity for abstract thought and symbolic languagethere is a radical distinction between man and animal. Self-conscious awareness, critical self-reflection, and creative imagination are found nowhere else in nature. In memory of the past, anticipation of the future, and envisagement of ideal potentialities, he transcends his immediate environment. He is unique in his search for truth, concern for moral values, and acknowledgement of universal obligation –and above all, in his relationship to God.”

In a supportive environment, life propagates and grows more complex. The same holds true in a knowledge environment –the self-conscious environment of the human being.

When non-being occurs in being (~bb), the self-consciousness of being becomes, by implication, conscious of itself. When the negative condition of continuity gets experienced in the higher dimension of a factual event (b~b~bb), knowledge, in its propositional and signifier sense, gets liberated. Analytically speaking, this condition identifies the source of the principle of logical contradiction and thus denotes the original precondition for the evolutionary development of language and mathematics. Rene Descartes, was, as far as I can tell, the first person to isolate and consciously describe the experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity (~bb). Descartes’ methodological doubting brought him to recognize, in his “Cogito ergo sum”, the fundamental bottom line of human experience: I experience non-being therefore I am. But, Descartes’ cogito occurs in its own physical event environment (b~b), and here we discover the less than articulate evolutionary development of this cogito.

With every new dimension of non-being (~~b, ~bb, b~b~bb) comes a new beginning for the resurgence of complexity. In the human dimension (b~b~bb), this movement from simple to complex continues to take place, only now history and civilization evolve right along side biology and adaptation. In the initial stages of human history, Descartes’ cogito was hidden behind the participatory moments of human consciousness. Here the thread of human history–cultural evolution (to paraphrase Cassirer) — may be traced back to that point in time where man/woman ceased to passively accept their negative condition (physical environment), and, in setting themselves in opposition to it, began to create and form it. This act, the transformation of mere impressions into pure expression, began the human psyche’s progress, via the development of myth, ritual, art, language, music and science, toward the liberation of its own non-being.

At this point in the meditation, I would like to point out that there are many comprehensive philosophies that directly illuminate the human spirit’s capacity for liberation. Spinoza, Heidegger, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are just a few names that spring to mind, but the person who I feel best represents my own position is Ernst Cassirer. In his three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, (1957), Cassirer’s thesis suggests that as man interacts with his environment through his desires, emotions and work he acquires the capacity, via symbolic representation, to objectify nature – the nature of his inner and outer reality. Objectification here is not meant as a thing to be apprehended but rather as a movement toward constancy, endurance and certainty. Accordingly, the self that we take to the library, the store, a music recital, or sometimes to the bar, must be understood as the ongoing product of human history, which, in turn, must be further understood, according to this meditation, as the being-of-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is in its pursuit to free itself from its own limiting conditions.

Our immediate experience of this process is temporality. In addition to establishing our “I”, — the awareness of being aware of our own non-being (implicative affirmative of the not-me-self), this liberation process also implies (as a consequence of the physical event b~b~bb) an environment of factual events. Here we not only experience ourselves as a degree of permanence in the midst of constant flux, we also experience the forward movement of an implied knowledge of our environment.

Knowledge expands as a consequence of time. We are born into a world of knowledge and knowing, but the throttle of this knowing process–the actualization of what is unique in human freedom, lies in our capacity to actualize our own non-being. Simply put, every time we ask a question we actualize in the question our own non-being. Whether we like it or not our knowledge expands, but when we ask questions we accelerate that expansion by detaching ourselves from being in our capacity as non-being in order to more fully appropriate the world around us. Our passive experience of time does not produce a great deal of knowledge, but because we bring the logical relationships implicit in God’s freedom to bear on an event, we are free to create judgments (and the values which arise from those judgments) concerning the significance and probable cause of an event. These judgments, concerning the nature of an event, are determined valid across a continuum that ranges from sensation divorced from theory, at one end, to sensation reinforced by the most advanced and respected scientific theory available.

There are no guarantees that the answers we propose in response to our questions will match up with corresponding events, yet scientists have a pretty good track record when it comes to the discovery and confirmation of these answers. In experience that is not accountable to scientific confirmation, however, we determine, via our judgments and emotions, appropriate behavior. It is at this level of preferred behavior, this level of “willed consciousness participation” (as it is called by Owen Barfield), that we encounter our potential for the highest order of expressed freedom.

When God’s freedom becomes aware of itself, something very remarkable happens. From our point of view, we see our past, present, and future possibilities, thus, we become free to actualize those possibilities. But, from the divine point of view, it’s simply an “awareness of presence.” For me, this is an emotionally charged consequence since it brings home the notion that God is, in a very real sense, all-knowing and all-present. But even more astonishing is that, via our intentions and concerns, we are responsible for the content of God’s “presence.” Here I am reminded of the words of Walt Whitman, where in his poem “Song To Myself,” he wrote: “Whoever degrades another degrades me. And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.” It follows that if just one person recognizes an act of injustice and becomes outraged, God becomes outraged. Suffice it to say, that if humanity would recognize its own conscience, then perhaps conditions would arise where a sensitive human being might be able to look out upon the social milieu without a shudder.

We begin our conduct with the recognition of desirable behavior, but putting this awareness into action takes on special significance. Just as the validity of a scientific hypothesis is authenticated when it is confirmed against experimental results, so, too, is behavior authenticated when it is made to conform to behavior that has previously been judged appropriate by the individual. In Goethe’s play “Faust,” which records Goethe’s own life-long spiritual development, Faust rebuffs Mephistopheles temptations with the words: “So realm and rule to me will fall—The glory’s naught, the deed is all.” Faust is acting on his supreme vision of a free land and a free people, and, in so doing, his authenticity—better know as character, honor and integrity—arises.

The question that needs to be answered here is, “How is the appropriateness of behavior determined?” Almost always, answers to this question suggest contrary examples, but in this case there is only one answer—that the behavior, which is determined appropriate, is the behavior that is judged appropriate by the individual. Simply put, behavior is a measure and a product of freedom. Herein we may appreciate the significance of those teachers and teachings that encourage students to think for themselves while stressing heightened awareness and social responsibility; and, since freedom is actualized at different levels by different people, it follows that, whenever possible, a responsible person will posture herself or himself as a student or a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Recognizing the appropriate occasion to accommodate these postures comes with experience.

In the world of experience our thoughts and feelings are experienced as separate from the universe as a whole. That is as it should be for it follows from the nature of God’s freedom. It is precisely because of this limitation that we are able to seek and hopefully satisfy our needs and desires. In the world of non-being, where suffering, injustice, and cruelty occur, we sometimes feel compelled to look upon satisfaction and fulfillment as somebody’s idea of a joke, like some carrot, always out of reach, dangling in front of our noses; and further, we find ourselves, in one stage or another, of the ultimate indignity -our mortality. Without question, the price of freedom is high, but it follows from the nature of God’s freedom that in our suffering, God suffers. We share the price of freedom with God, but more importantly, in our rejoicing, God rejoices, and it is in this light that we, as active agents of transformation, may come to understand our responsibility to work toward a happier, healthier humanity. Ultimately, religion, science, law, art …all of civilization, must be understood as the expression of the freedom of God that works toward this transformation.

Certain aspects of the world cannot be changed, however. Our mortality, for instance, is a condition of God’s freedom and therefore must be experienced and endured. Yet it is in our mortality that we may come to discover an incredible comfort and release. Many of our desires are automatically fulfilled in the realization that we are one with God’s presence in the here and now. With this understanding we arrive at the heart of the experience that is poetically described by mystics and other spiritually evolved individuals. In the immediately grasped indeterminate, all-embracing oneness of God’s freedom lies the source of the knower and consequently the knower’s freedom. All intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion flows from this all embracing oneness common to man’s nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and dimensions of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the human dimension as love, caring, happiness and reverence. The telling factor behind this whole process comes with the knowledge that the “I” of God and the “I” of you and me are one and the same (paraphrased from the teachings of Meister Eckhart).

For more information concerning how the above ideas were discovered see my last seven posts starting with the We Voice of Humanity post


The Observer–Gods Open Footprint Chapter 3

December 5, 2009

Determinism and “not quite determinism” describes the physical event side of God’s footprint. This footprint, however, is linked to an observer. You might say its observers all the way down, but the observer I am talking about here possesses human intelligence. A product of the aesthetic continuum and the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, intelligence can be traced back to its source in the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. Intelligence (rationality) did not pop into existence phoenix like however; rather, it evolved. One might expect then that the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self concept is related to disparate concepts spread out across unrelated disciplines. Perhaps, for instance, the concept of the implied not-me-self speaks to the issue of the derivation of a true theorem in number theory that is its own negation, a negation that, in turn, implies the existence of higher dimensional numbers (Gödel), or, perhaps the not-me-self has something to say about the origin of natural numbers, which, according to one mathematician, can be found in “the mind’s ability to image a thing in a thing” (Dedekind). From a functional perspective, these mathematical concepts have a close kinship with the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. In philosophy too, the “identity inference” implied by Descartes,’ “I think (doubt), therefore I am,” is obviously impregnated with the not-me-self concept. And further, in Sartre’s definition of consciousness: “Consciousness is a being such that in its being its being implies a being other than itself,” the not-me-self is not only revealed, it is defined. And again, in psychology, every time the subject is identified as “coming to be,” or “under construction” the not-me-self shows up. In fact, Piaget’s concept of “self” is defined as “the center of functional activity.” And, again in Sociology, where Thom focuses his studies on the “the overcoming of the primitive ambivalence or opposition between the modes of difference and no difference, and, in a like manner, where Simmel focuses his studies on “man as both the fixing of boundaries and the reaching out across these boundaries—the language of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is front and center. And lastly, in the physics of the quantum particles, where the collapse of the wave function is observer generated, here we are not only witnessing the language of the not-me-self, we are witnessing (with each collapse of the wave function), all the dots that shape God’s footprint, i.e., confirmation of the God footprint theory.

Two excellent observers peered into the abyss and saw God. Both described God differently, but, when these descriptions are passed through the prism of God’s footprint, it becomes clear that both observers were describing one and the same God.

“The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When the mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding.” Bodhidharma

“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you–in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you for that which is the meaning of your life.” Martin Buber

What We Call Self Is A Late Product In The Participatory Process

The Differentiating Aspects Of Culture Began With The Feeling Of The Sacred And The Boundaries Used To Establish The Sacred

Adding the observer to God’s footprint connects all the dots imaging God’s footprint. Here is a bit of the evolutionary process of how the modern observer came to be. I begin with an anthropological take on early humankind and then move on to a more philosophical, even structuralist perspective. All of this, however, is consistent with the observer aspect of God’s footprint. In my next post, when I talk about the relationship between necessary opposites, this will become clearer.

Self-consciousness is a late product of the participatory process, the process that occurs between consciousness and the aesthetic continuum. This process of course begins in parent/child relationships, and gradually, over time and through a reification process, externalizes (objectifies) one’s surrounding environment. Mircea Eliade says it this way:

“If we observe the general behavior of archaic man, we are struck by the following fact: neither the objects of the external world nor human acts, properly speaking, have any autonomous intrinsic value. Objects or acts acquire a value, and in so doing become real, because they participate, after one fashion or another, in a reality that transcends them.” (Myth of Eternal Return, 1974, p.3)

Perception was not something that could be bandied about and examined from the space of perspective in the early stages of consciousness; rather, perception remained fixed in the parameters of the participation moment. The qualities that we take for granted, according to anthropologist Levy-Bruhl, did not exist for Pre-moderns. Owen Barfield, agreeing with Levy-Bruhl, elaborates on the case for Pre-moderns:

“It is not a question of association. The mystic properties with which things are imbued form an integral part of the idea to the primitive who views it as a synthetic whole. It is at a later stage of social evolution that what we call a natural phenomenon tends to become the sole content of perception to the exclusion of other elements which then assume the aspect of beliefs, and finally appear superstitions. But as long as this ‘dissociation’ does not take place, perception remains an undifferentiated whole.” (Saving the Appearances, 1939, p. 30)

It seems pretty clear that early humanity did not participate in the world, which, for the most part, we all share in common today. Yet, it was in this early participatory process where our present experience of self-consciousness developed. This process continues today and nobody, I believe, is more qualified to discuss this subject than Ernst Cassirer. He tells us that Pre-moderns, as they engaged their environment through emotions, desires and work, acquired the ability, via symbolic representation, to objectify nature–the nature of both “inner and outer reality.” There was (and is) a double movement that arises from one’s interaction with his/her environment; in one direction there develops the objectification of one’s self-nature and in the other direction there arises the objectification of the social and cultural contents of society. For Cassirer, art, myth, magic and ritual are co-creative products arising from this objectifying movement, which, in turn, arises from the work that people do in society. “For the form of society,” Cassirer states:

“is not absolutely and immediately given any more than is the objective form of nature, the regularity of our own world of perception. Just as nature comes into being through a theoretical interpretation and elaboration of sensory contents, so to the structure of society is mediated and ideally conditioned reality.” (Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Smbolic Form, 3 vol., vol. 2, Mythical Thought, 1955, pl 193)

In his three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Cassirer concentrates his focus on the nature and origins of symbolic form as it first arises in language and myth and then, over time, develops into the theoretical orientations of scientific thought. The utility of symbolic forms is not just about a “thing to be apprehended”; rather, it is about movement towards constancy, endurance and certainty, — an objective that applies to both culture and mind.

Both culture and mind began with story telling, and even today the stories that pass muster in peer reviewed academic journals continue to move this objectification process forward (sometimes forward even if not peer reviewed). But still, the objectification process, then and now, can be traced back to the capacity to imagine and communicate something significant. Cassirer adds:

…”the barriers which man sets himself in his basic feeling of the sacred are the starting point from which begins his setting of boundaries in space and from which, by a progressive process of organization and articulation the process spreads over the whole of the physical cosmos.” (The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 2, 1955, p.104)

For Cassirer, interrogation and reply, in its most elemental form, moves us into the expression of myth, ritual, art, language, and the abstract logical necessities encountered in mathematics and science.

Interestingly, even though there is no evidence that Cassirer and Piaget had much direct influence on one another, their thought converges when it comes to identifying the motivation behind the evolution of symbolic meaning. Work for Cassirer and action for Piaget are the instrumental motivators for the creation of symbolic meaning. In addition to the similarity that occurs in Cassirer and Piaget’s concepts of “work” and “action” the thought of these two men converges in another respect also. Both men believed that the subject and object poles of experience were not simply given. Rather, for Cassirer and Piaget, the subject and object poles of experience are products of experience. Cassirer came to this conclusion, at least in part, based on his studies of Pre-modern man’s mythology. Piaget, on the other hand, arrived at this conclusion as a result of his investigation into the language acquisition of young children. For Piaget, the long and active process that results in what we take to be the knowledge of our objective and subjective experience begins in the recognition and coordination of sensor motor activity. By locating the source of cognitive structure in the sensor motor activity of babies, Piaget opened up the possibility that “structure” was grounded in nature and not in mind (i.e., the first glimmer of the comprehensibility of the universe based on the structure of duality). In his investigations Piaget argued that the source of intelligibility—what is common to all sturcturalist thought–is the “affirmative ideal” –the ideal of intelligibility.

Jean Paul Sartre, a member of the academic elite in France like Piaget, came to a similar conclusion, only he discovered the source of intelligibility in the “structure of being for-itself.” In his description of consciousness, Sartre articulates the innate structuring capacity of consciousness. Identifying Sartre’s philosophy (phenomenological ontology) as structuralism is, I am aware, pushing the envelope. However, an authority on structuralism has proposed nothing less. Benoist states: “One might go as far as to say…that structuralism is analogous to Sartre’s view of consciousness—it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” (The Structural Revolution, 1975, p.1) In Sartre’s book, Being And Nothingness, the title of chapter one is: “Immediate Structures of the For-Itself (1966, p.119). What this means is “conscious content” will form one pole of consciousness while the negation of “conscious content” will form the other pole of consciousness. Consciousness then, takes the form of being-what-is-not (the object of consciousness) –while-not-being-what-is (the negation of consciousness)—and as such, this condition preexists our awareness of objects. In other words, according to Sartre, conscious awareness turns on the pivot point of pure negation—the known exists for the knower but the knower can never be known! This result, the incompleteness of self, (i.e., the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self) brings us back to Sartre’s original definition of consciousness: “Consciousness is such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself. The genesis of what Piaget calls the “affirmative ideal” lies at the heart of what Sartre calls consciousness. When I was reading Sartre I kept a journal. What follows was written before I knew the meaning of what I was writing (the meaning of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self). This early journal writing may make Sartre’s being-for-itself easier to understand, but even if it doesn’t it still represents the kind of mental acrobatics that begs clarification, i.e., the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self:

[According to Sartre, we have consciousness of an object only through the negation of that object, which, in turn, means that being-for-itself manifests consciousness by being its own negation. That negation separates me from myself. Nothingness then, lies at the heart of consciousness. Sartre thus describes man as “the being by which nothingness comes into the world.” Being-for-itself can never, in any final sense, be conscious of itself. It carries within itself the rift of nothingness that negates that very possibility.

Knowledge is found everywhere except in for-itself. Worldliness, spatiality, quantity, temporality, instrumentality, etc. arise in consciousness as objects for for-itself, but the for-itself can never become a conscious object—just like a knife blade cannot cut itself. Were it not for the inherent nothingness of for-itself, there would not be a consciousness of knowledge. Sartre has described the for-itself as the “pure reflection of non being,” and it is this negation of being which let’s knowledge come into the world. In this respect, the knower-known dichotomy is reduced to mere fabrication, since the knower does not exist. “For- itself nothingness” permits the consciousness of reality, but it remains just outside the reach of that reality because there is no knower to know it.

Sartre also tells us that the ever-elusive present is a further consequence of this negation. Our location in time, to put it mildly, is not very precise. I am conscious of being conscious of something other than myself, and that something is my past self. What I grasp in self-consciousness is my past self—the self that has become being-in-itself. But, being-in-itself is being, so it follows that consciousness is always conscious of being. I have a body and I have a history; these are my objects of consciousness. I am never, however, conscious of for-itself’s negation– its lack, hole, nothingness, (it makes no difference how you say it, all are equivalent)—because this negativity for Sartre is the pre-condition for consciousness to be conscious. And further, it is this non-being of consciousness, which becomes the basis of my freedom.

The act by which being-for-itself separates itself from its past (the separation of being-for-itself from being-in-itself) constitutes my freedom. This separation cuts me off from my past, but it also plops me down in the center of my freedom–a freedom that demands that I either sink or swim. Sartre says, “existence precedes essence”—there is no tie-up of my present with my past. I need not be determined by my past. I am separated from it by my own nothingness. Therefore, I am free to freely choose my future until death intervenes, and then everything stops.

Under the weight of my own freedom, I am still able to maintain a sense of personal identity. Sartre denies the ego as an inhabitant of consciousness, although he grants consciousness its own personal consciousness. This ego is given to consciousness from outside of consciousness as “the reason for consciousness.” It becomes what I would be, if I could be myself. Ego is my transcendent possibility. All truths, values, psychic objects—everything that constitutes ego—are introduced to consciousness from the world outside of consciousness, as objects for consciousness. For-itself can never be conscious of itself, but it is conscious (can be conscious) of a lack of self. This inner ego of consciousness—the non transcendent ego, for Sartre, becomes the nothingness of “being-for-itself.”

To recap: Self-consciousness, or my relationship to consciousness, brings to consciousness the pure negative of my own nothingness. Self-consciousness denies itself a coincidence with itself. It denies itself a coincidence with the objects of consciousness–the consciousness-belief dyad. It is in consciousness, however, as presence-to-itself, but it denies itself the possibility of ever becoming fully aware of itself. Self-consciousness is its own negativity. Thus, I am conscious of it as not being what is, as what I lack, as a “hole” in my consciousness, as a “hole” in my very being.]

Ironically, Sartre interpreted being-for-itself as proof of the non-existence of God. Actually, what I got out of his reasoning was that freedom (restricted by its environment) is all that we are. We are the being that is being what is not, while not being what is because we are free to be conscious of everything else. Bogged down with this baggage, though, we cannot be surprised to find the human psyche in a constant struggle with existential issues, unsatisfied desires, and questions! This burden, if indeed it is a burden, is not insignificant; without this baggage there would be no questions,—and without questions there would be no God attribute of openness/freedom; there would be no comprehensibility of the universe!

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)

Outside A Persons Protective Cocoon Self-Relevance Evaporates

November 5, 2009

I guess I forgot to post here last week so this is a two for one blog–this one and the one above.
When we come to question our own language games we are constantly thrown back upon our presuppositions, upon prior meanings, and this reflection on self-knowledge expands our self-understanding. But, before the question, before the interrogation agency of self becomes empowered with self-direction, we were/are practicing an even more vital knowledge–the knowledge of “trust” –and securing this knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.

The Perspective-Boundedness Of Acquired Meanings-The Motor That Drives Experience

We Begin To Understand How We Can Live In A World Of Shared Values, Meanings, And Expectations, While, At The Same Time, Live In A World Where Each Person Creates Her/His Own Unique Perceptions, Meanings, And Purpose, When Our Questions Are Reflexively Applied To The Collective Voices Of Generalized Others

In the application of negation it is the negative facet of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self that charges “things” with meaning and ascribes to the “self” self-meaning. L. C. Simpson (1995: 32) illustrates negation’s role in how meaning is generated out of
experience when he describes how prereflective acquired meanings are always thought to be implicitly held to be adequate to their objects when he states:

“But through them [acquired meanings] we are unavoidably tied to a perspective. Experience involves a growing awareness of the perspective-boundedness of those claims. It is the contradiction between the implicit claim to adequacy and the perspective-boundedness of these meanings that is the motor that drives the process of experience. But this means that experience is essentially negative; the meanings that situate us, that, at least in part, define us, are constantly being problematized. Our ordinary language games come to be questioned. Here, in the notion of negativity, we have the idea of freedom thematized. Instead, then, of proceeding with a complacent satisfaction, we are constantly thrown back upon ourselves, upon those prior meanings. Such a reflective return to those presuppositions is what I mean by ‘self-reflection.’ The process of experience, then, leads to self-reflection. This reflection on my own situation furthers my self-knowledge, expanding my self-understanding.”

Negation, in the language of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, takes the form of that which binds an “implicit claim to adequacy” to a “particular boundedness.” When negation is revealed (applied), an awareness of “perspective-boundedness claims to adequacy” becomes more resolute and in this resolute awareness we begin to understand how we can live in a world of shared values, meanings, and expectations, while, at the same time, live in a world where each person creates her/his own unique perceptions, meanings, and purpose. In the human world of self-determination (affirmation), with all of its unique perceptions, meanings and purpose, a person generates meaning unique to the person when the person negates socially shaped values, meanings and expectations. Thus, as an indicator of biographical relevance, negation empowers the salience of our personal experience.

It is negation that allows thinking to be reflexive. It is negation that allows a person to take herself/himself as an object, in Mead’s sense of the term, and to call out to the “self” the meaning of the other’s response. The meaning of the other’s response exists prior to experience of it, in so far as it exists, first, in language, history and culture. But, in so far as this response is affirmed as relevant to the biography of the observing person, the observing person selects for (particularizes) the relevant meaning of the other’s response. When the observing person assigns meaning to the other’s response, a relevant aspect of the observing person’s not-me-self is selected for and affirmed. With the addition of new information (the response of the other) the observer is, potentially, able to synthesize on going experience with relevant biographical information, consequently, an alteration of a person’s assumptions and beliefs may occur.

This communication process is accelerated every time we ask a question. Applied negation is expressed through interrogation. Through interrogation the agency of self becomes empowered with self-direction. When we ask questions we are, essentially, selecting (negating) the way we will relate to (particularize) a situation/object. Asking questions is our most direct route to biographical relevance. When questions are reflexively applied to the collective voices of generalized others we encounter the significance of what it means to add a dialogical perspective to Mead’s social psychology. However, before I begin this discussion I want to say a few words concerning the embodied or biological aspect of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self.

In Doing Everyday Life All Human Beings Answer The Question Of Self

During Bouts With Intense Emotional Insecurity, The Split Between Biography And Not-Me-Self (now perceptible) Avails Itself To A Person’s Ruminations Of Mixed Feelings And Self-Doubts

The Embodied Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

In the earliest stages of development, according to Piaget (1980), the infant encounters a resistant environment, and, it is through an action-generated vocabulary that the infant is made aware of objects, space, time, and causality.

[Footnote. According to Piaget (1970: 704), “From the most elementary sensorimotor actions (such as pulling and pushing) to the most sophisticated intellectual operations, which are interiorized actions, carried out mentally…knowledge is constantly linked with actions or operations.”]

It is at this stage, the sensorimotor stage, where the infant develops what Piaget calls a “practical intelligence.” Giddens, following Piaget’s lead, states: “A child does not learn that it ‘has’ a body, because self-consciousness emerges through bodily differentiation rather than the other way around” (Giddens, 1991: 56). The discovery of bodily properties, for example, fingers, toes, lips, hunger, thirst, irritation, etc., precedes the infant’s discoveries of objects, others, and self-consciousness. At this stage in the developmental process, according to Giddens, the infant develops a sense of “trust.”

During this crucial period, trust emerges from the relationship of caregiver (the mother) to infant. Trust gives the infant a sense of security during periods when the mother is absent. It is also this trust that allows the infant (and the adult) to orient herself/himself to others and to objects in the world. According to Giddens (1991: 40):

“The trust which the child, in normal circumstances, vests in its caretakers, I want to argue, can be seen as a sort of emotional inoculation against existential anxieties – a protection against future threats and dangers which allows the individual to sustain hope and courage in the face of whatever debilitating circumstances she or he might later confront… It is the main emotional support of a defensive carapace or protective cocoon which all normal individuals carry around with them as the means whereby they are able to get on with the affairs of day-to-day life.”

Acknowledging trust as the starting point and drawing from the perspective of existential phenomenology and Wittgensteinian philosophy, Giddens’ concept of self-identity (reflexive ordering of self-narratives) is premised on the belief that a person knows, virtually all of the time, what she/he is doing and why she/he is doing it. Reflexive awareness, on a day-to-day basis, is oriented around doing what it takes to secure this knowledge. Consequently, reflexive awareness, for the most part, is restricted to guaranteeing that day-to-day routines remain routine.

Out of what Giddens’ calls a “practical consciousness” arises the cognitive and emotive anchor that sustains feelings of ontological security. By remaining focused on the daily routines that keep us “going on,” we secure ourselves from the chaos and anxiety that exists just outside of our acquired routines. In ‘doing’ everyday life, all human beings ‘answer’ the question of self in the behavior that gets carried out. Giddens’ “practical consciousness” focuses on the day-to-dayness of what “needs to be done” and “on what’s going on.” In this way, the individual remains insulated from internal and external anxieties that could threaten ontological security.

During periods of emotional insecurity and crisis a person’s protective cocoon becomes vulnerable.

[Footnote. This cocoon also becomes vulnerable from an analytical point of view, as is testified to by an abundance of existentialist literature. For instance, the problem of self (the absence of I-ness), and its relation to existence, has been scrutinized by Kierkegaard (1855) and found to be synonymous with “the struggle of being against non-being” (Giddens, 1991: 48). Heidegger (1976/1962), in what he refers to as the person’s state of Dasein, describes the self in terms of falling (verfallen) or the deterioration of one’s self as it falls through common everydayness. Sartre (1980/1966) penetrates to the core of the matter by identifying being (self-conscious being) with the nothingness of the for-itself as it strives to complete itself, but, given the nature of its being, must fail. In a more positive light, however, the self, in Jasper’s (1969) description of the Encompassing and Existenz, gets connected with reason. “Existenz only becomes clear through reason; reason only has content through Existenz” (Jaspers, l955: 67)]

Feelings of inadequacy, the sudden loss of a loved one, a close encounter with death, all of these infrequent, but very real events, rattle our sense of ontological security and, at times, call into question our sense of purpose, meaning, and self. During bouts with intense emotional insecurity it is not unusual for a person to turn self-narrative back upon itself and inquire: “Who is the narrator?” It is at this time when the split between biography and not-me-self (now perceptible) avails itself to a person’s ruminations of mixed feelings and self-doubts.