Friday, February 06, 2015

The Sad Divorce of Mr. Substance and Mrs. Process

The bad nose: sinus infection. The good nose: antibiotics are on the way, but not until my 2:30 appointment. Not that uncomfortable, but a little fuzzy in the head, so we'll just have to struggle through this together. I wouldn't expect much.

Until just a second ago, I had always had an issue with the idea that the self is a process, as opposed to a kind of stable entity. It seems like a sneak attack on the soul, as in the perspective of neurology, which reduces the self to a process of the brain only: in other words, the self is just an emergent phenomenon of brain activity.

It's a bit like the Buddhist view, which also regards everything as a process with no substance underneath. In fact, to see any enduring substance is to be trapped in maya-illusion. The cosmos is just a big sand painting and we have a head cold, so we're always one sneeze away from Obliteration.

However, it is not the idea of process that's wrong, only the reduction. For if man is a fractal of God, and God is a kind of interior process, then every created thing should reflect this, human beings quintessentially so.

"With the decline of Newtonian physics and the emergence of quantum theory and relativity, the physical world-picture in the West became centered around a process concept" (in Nature, Man, and Society). I would qualify this somewhat, in that, although the metaphysic has changed, the People haven't heard the news, and continue to live in the Machine Cosmos of their collective imagination.

As we've discussed a number of times, Alfred North Whitehead was the first to understand the philosophical implications of the new physics, and yet, it is not as if everyone suddenly became a Whiteheadian.

Far from it. I don't even want to know who the fashionable philosophers are today among the tenured, but these academic blackhats owe nothing Whitehead. Rather, for the most part, they have utterly rejected even the possibility of a Grand Metaphysical Narrative, and instead fallen -- or enthusiastically leapt -- into the tyranny of relativism.

I suppose the orthoparadox at the heart of this is that the Absolute is a process. Intuitively we think of the Absolute as static and unchanging. But if I understand God rightly, he wants us to know that this is not the case, and that he is indeed a process. Being that he went to some lengths to press the point home to earthlings, I think we ought to listen.

So, the emergence of quantum physics should have alerted all and sundry to "the end of the stiff mechanistic absolutism based on the substance view" (ibid.). However, I would again modify this, and say that substance and process are complementary, not opposite. Therefore, "to be," -- in the formulation of Norris Clarke -- "is to be substance-in-relation" (note that that is OneWord in three).

As it applies to man, I would say that we continue to have a center, but that this center is more analogous to the central point of the worldpool or the I of the cosmic hurricane. Or better, a strange attractor in the complex phase space of our interiority. Looked at this way, it is impossible to say whether the process is "obeying" the attractor, or whether the attractor emerges from the process.

Again, complementarity: substance and relation "belong together in any adequate metaphysics," writes Clarke "as intrinsically complementary aspects, distinct but inseparable..." This complementarity conveys "what it means to be, to be a real being in the full and proper sense of the term" (ibid.).

So, we are human beings, not human islings or itlings. Who knew?

When you think about it -- think about it in the Raccoon way, I mean -- we're really talking about that sameold primordial marriage of He & She, Adam & Eve, Absolute & Infinite, Earth & Sky, Math & Music, etc. But "Unfortunately the two notions, originally joined together, have become sundered and more opposed to each other as modern philosophy has unfolded since Descartes..." (ibid.).

In fact, Clarke suggests that we could call this metaphysical divorce "The Sad Adventure of Substance in Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Whitehead."

Another key idea that emerges from this view is that reality is intrinsically communicative. How's that? Well, let's start at the top (or bottom, if you like), with the Trinity. Obviously the Trinity is "communicative" within itselves, Father-to-Son, Son-to-Father, Holy Ghost to everyone, etc. There is nothing beneath, before, or above this eternal comm-union of love-in-relation. Or, just say Love, which is unthinkable in the absence of relation.

By the way, why can't it be Hate, as implied by Islamist theology or leftist vilification?

Because primordial hatred is always a severing, a rupture, a rejection, a failure of communion and integration. We will return to this idea shortly, as it is a central principle of Interpersonal Neurobiology. In fact, this entire coonversation will eventually lead back to and extend the ideas put forth in that book, i.e., to an interpersonal theoneurobiology.

As Clarke describes it, substance-in-relation "has an intrinsic dynamic orientation towards self-expressive action, toward self-communication with others, as the crown of its perfection, as its very raison d'tre, literally..." After all, if it's good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for the likes & loves of us, right?

To reiterate, a certain kind of self-expression is the "crown of perfection" and our reason for being. I hope it doesn't sound like Brian Willams-level pomposity to say that this is indeed my reason for being. Not the only reason, but certainly the highest, as there is nothing I desire more than the knowledge of truth AND the ability to share and communicate it. The former would be a little anemic -- not to mention narcissistic or even Ønanistic -- in the absence of the positive joy of the latter (and this is naturally to be distinguished from the perverse joy of communicating lies, as in the case of an Obama or Williams).

Why should the communication of truth be such a joy? Again, if it's good enough for God...

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Recreating a Realistic Lifestage

The book we are discussing -- the Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology -- although suitable for lay readers, is not plagued by the usual agenda-driven PC activism masquerading as psychology. I would dock the author a few points for excessive use of liberal dog whistles such as empowerment, honor, impactful, and healing the planet, but overall it's an excellent summary of what I would consider to be the state of the art of what science can say about the art of human development.

In other words, back off man, he's a psychiatrist.

The book is interdisciplinary, but only up to a point. For example, these ideas are metapsychological but not metaphysical, so no consideration is given to the wider context in which the mind is situated.

Rather, the cosmos is assumed, as if just any cosmic conditions could give rise to something as strange as persons. I would say that Siegel stays within the boundaries of science, but that in so doing, greatly expands those boundaries by including the subject in an irreducible way. I mean, we've been doing the same thing for years, but we are obviously not sanctioned by the Conspiracy.

As alluded to a few days ago, while I have some issues with the field of IPNB, these are going to inevitable, if only because of the limitations of the scientific perspective. While Siegel does actually venture into quasi-religious territory, as a scientist he can only do so in a generic manner that is compatible with such mindfulness practices as Buddhism, yoga, centering prayer, etc., each of which has a real and measurable effect on the brain. He can't deal with such realities as grace, prayer, sin, rebirth, etc.

Which is fine. IPNB is about as interdisciplinary as one can get and still dwell among the tenured. A Raccoon is not dragged down by such terrestrial considerations, by virtue of his multi-undisciplinary orthoparadoxy.

For example, read the following, and I'll bet you're thinking what I'm thinking. The triad of mind, brain, and relationships composes "one reality with three independent facets."

As the council of Nicea Siegel describes it, "This is not splitting the three aspects." Rather, they "are three aspects of one reality.... With this view, we have one reality with three facets -- not three distinct domains of separate realities."

Siegel is speaking of science, not theology. However, the Raccoon would like to know what kind of cosmos this must be in order for such an irreducibly trinitarian science to exist.

In any event, within this interpersonal trinity it is as if there are arrows of influence in all directions, such that "the mind is influenced by both relationships and the brain; relationships are influenced by both the mind and brain; the brain is influenced by both mind and relationships." From the IPNB point of view, "this triangle embraces our ground of being."

To which we naturally want to ask, "what came before that?," or "What is beneath that ground?" Which is like asking a physicist, "What came before the big bang?" The physicist cannot answer the question, not because there is no answer, but because his model cannot venture beyond its own horizon. Which is entirely appropriate. We are not the village atheist. We do not demand that science be religion, or that stones turn to bread.

Now, if man is an image of the ultimate reality, and vice versa, we would have to conclude that the Absolute is similarly a kind of dynamic process of one-in-threeness. Or, it is oneness with interior relations.

Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about music. If we were playing the Glass Bead Game, we might ask the question: what does all of this say about music? Or, how does the reality of music relate to interpersonal triobiology?

Zuckerkandl provides a clue in the form of another question: "If music does not belong in the external world, which physics investigates, nor yet in the inner world, which is the subject matter of psychology, where does it belong?"

Referring back to our interpersonal neurobiological trinity, I would say that it must belong to the same space in which relationship occurs, or between world and neurology.

"Whereas musical tone is always localized in outer space, the localization of sensations of vibration takes place in our own body" (ibid.).

In other words, there are the exterior vibrations that resonate with our own body, which are then seemingly re-projected into the space from which they originated, in a kind of circular movement. The same is true of vision, or of any sense, really.

Even with headphones one does not experience music as something coming from a localized source, nor from in between the ears. Rather, a field is perceived beyond the boundaries of the head.

In audiophile terms, this is referred to as the "soundstage." A good stereo set-up will recreate a wide and deep soundstage, whereas a mediocre one will sound more like it is merely coming from speakers. Or in other words, with a good system the speakers "disappear" into the image they reproduce.

Now, I wonder if life is the same way? Some people have a wide and deep lifestage, whereas others live in a cramped space whose ideological source can be easily identified. Looked at in this way, the purpose of a liberal university education, for example, would be to sell you a cheap stereo in which the higher dimensional image of the world collapses into a two-dimensional facsimile.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Open Thread

Because if the Conspiracy didn't occasionally get the upper hand, it wouldn't be much of a game.