The Concept of Mind: Structures of Experience

After many conversations with friends about experience vs. reflection, I decided I should attempt to extricate how it is I grasp consciousness and its inhabiting structures. These are simply ongoing notes and reflections written for my own personal reference. Though it may not be immediately obvious, there is a certain logic to the order in which these thoughts are introduced.

Being

A living organism is a subjective being, and a subjective being possesses a body. A subject possesses a perspective, while an object is possessed by a perspective.

Stimulation

Stimulation occurs due to a change or transference of energy, otherwise called an affect. Stimulation acting on the body produces an affect which leaves an impression on the mind. Sensory stimulation occurs due to an affect on the sensory organs located on the body.

Reflection

Memory is produced by recalling past impressions

Reflection is a synthetic process which integrates past memories with present experience; by retrieving past impressions, of varying quantity and quality, and creating new associations.

Reflection extricates concepts from their originally generated, or prior applied, context and introduces the concepts into the present consciousness.

Experience

Experience is a feature of all living beings, rendered by responding to stimulations derived from the external world.

Experience is feeling: the production of sensations on the mind.

Experience, prior to the introduction of any and all structural concepts, is a swirling chaos of pure feeling and sensation, with each sensation represented to varying magnitudes and degrees. The absence of any order is confusing, swirling, melting, blooming, variegating; a storm of senses, containing  every color, sound, smell, touch, taste; with all the accompanying pain and pleasure; boiling of shade, hue, tint, tone.

Experience can be conscious or unconscious.

Consciousness

Consciousness is produced by active reflection. Unconsciousness is produced by inactive reflection.

Consciousness is marked by reflection: it is the feature of reproducing impressions—memories— and hold them before the “mind’s eye” for consideration (for application or entertainment).

Reflective consciousness may produce the feeling of experience by reproducing memories of prior experience, otherwise known as imagining, but this experience is not actively “living”, but presently “dead”. According to the sensations produced, that which is living is fluid and changing; while that which is dead is static and persisting.

Consciousness has many levels: it is not simply being “alive”. There are many levels— or orders— of consciousness. Higher order consciousness arises in proportion to complexity: the greater the complexity, the greater consciousness.

The complexity of consciousness is proportional to the quantity and quality of reflection. By quantity I speak temporally of “how often”, specifically done. By quality I speak spatially of “how many”, specifically kinds.

The faculties of consciousness relate to both the sensory input organs and the sensory integration organs. The five senses constitute the input organs, while the integration organs relate to associative memory.

The sensory input organs are developed according to their sensitivity which arises from exposure. Each input organ develops independently from or in combination with other input organs. Independent exposure produces depth; while combinatory exposure produces breadth, with depth increasing in proportion to exposure of combinations..

The integration organs break down further into two aspects of integration, being intelligence and creativity. Intelligence relates to efficient associative memory, while creativity relates to effective associative memory.

Efficient associative memory arises from similar stimulation, repetition, or repeated exposure, or routine; which produce strengthened habits of thought.

Effective associative memory arises from dissimilar stimulation, instances, or diverse exposure, or novelty; which produce weakened habits of thought.

Conceptual Structures

How concepts structure experience into knowledge:

Concepts render conscious experience; that is, concepts render experience conscious.

Concepts are the lens, the paradigm, the filter, the mold, the scope, the structure, the order with which experience is made conscious.

Conceptual structures arise from reflection.

Concepts order experience; they serve to distinguish distinctions among the spectrum of colorful feeling so that colorful feeling can be indexed according to its kind and utilized when the appropriate context calls for it.

All knowledge resembles a polyhedron bi-pyramid. Each domain of knowledge (experience or thought) is a triangular face on the pyramid, with every domain representing a specific context, or culture or social structure.

Concepts are geometric shapes or tools; they exist as structures that organize the integration of experience.

When I imagine what a single concept is within a single domainmy thoughts produce a two dimensional geometric shape that resembles a snowflake.

If the concept is complex and developed by experimental experience, and incorporates many domains of thought, I imagine a three dimensional solid, with one face visible to the domain, and the interrelations with other conceptual blocks hidden from sight, existing internally within the pyramid.

Context

A context is the associations established among objects by circumscribing the area around the location of a given point.

A context is determined by the degrees of relation among objects proximate to the given point of a subject’s location.

A context is an ecology and system: an ecology is the entire sum of objective demands acting within the context; a system is a series of connections produced by cause and demand.

The context produced by conscious experience is a domain of thought; a perspective of mind.

Each context is a unique, temporally and spatially located, experience with specific environmental demands, being physical or social. Context is the situation of a given organism or subjective being, in present or past.

Context is defined as the problem; the environmental demands. Every organism is programmed to self-preserve: survival is an organisms priority. As such, every context poses a problem, with the ease of the problem increasing in proportion to the level of adaptation.

The greater the problem or struggle or chaos or confusion, the greater the need for reflection, and the greatest potential for generating new concepts.

Concepts are always generated within a specific context, to solve the problem of context and its individuated environmental demands; therefore concepts are anchored to the context in which they were generated. Concepts may be unanchored when they are reproduced through reflection, introduced to the consciousness, and applied to the context of present or past experience.

Division of labor diversifies contexts by delineating and indexing concepts according to the specific context in which they were generated. In this way division of labor acknowledges the utility of context and the accompanying specialization of concepts.

Each face of the geometric solid represents a the conceptual structure of a single perspective.

Environment is determined by the temporal and spatial location of a subjective being in an external world constituted by finite matter composing infinite entities.

Particulars

All particulars are ideas of consciousness:: All facts are particulars of experience.

All ideas are indexed concepts; ideas are truth, and cannot be challenged by experience.

All facts are indexed experiences; facts are probable, and can be challenged by experience.

An untested fact is only an idea.

A tested idea is a fact only in the context in which is was tested.

All premises must be grounded in experience.

All facts must be grounded in experience.

Convergence

Convergence occurs due to association.

Convergent lines  intersect at angles which represent logical connectors, or operators or associations.

Operators connect or hold the concept together and give it shape.

Dualities of Consciousness

I come to possess concepts in two ways: passively or actively.

1. Passive concepts are yielded deductively, as given ideas.

2. Active concepts are yielded inductively, as created facts. .

1. Knowledge is ideas that have been passively structured with concepts: knowledge is rote, analytic, two dimensional, logically sequential, abstract and monochromatic

2. Wisdom is experience that has been actively structured with concepts: wisdom is intuitive, synthetic, three dimensional, holistic, concrete and colorful.

1. I passively receive concepts through books or passively listening to lecture or discourse. These concepts arrive prefabricated and incomplete. In this way passive concepts exist a priori to experience until the extent of their full nature fully tested through experimentation and the geometric solid can be developed. These concepts are linked

When I receive a passive concept, each sentence or logical operation produces or adds black lines, points, or angles to the shape. The lines are the premises; and the angles are the operators. The concept itself is hollow and possesses no internal color and therefore no way of distinguishing it from other similar concepts without an external indicator. In fact, when I think about an abstract concept, it’s sometimes difficult to see where premised lines begin and where they end, which angles of logic are part of the line or part of two separate premised lines intersecting.

2. I actively produce concepts though the process of organizing chaotic or confusing experience. That is, a problem imposes disorder on my experience and by turning over the problem within my mind— by reflecting and describing and rotating its nature; and asking how and why and when it works and where it comes from and what it associates with— I produce an erect a structure which orders the experience. This structure is a concept.

Every actively produced concept is a result of applied pressure, applied work, constantly squeezing, testing, stretching, challenging, and undermining its ability to yield a concept that orders and explains experience.

Synthetic Unification

New concepts are constructed when the particulars of mind converge in a context, as a result of reflection.

Wisdom is synthesis of contexts, or disparate domains of knowledge, and the concepts located within.

The process of testing particulars yields experience.

The process of testing concepts within a context yields understanding.

The process of testing concepts in various contexts yields wisdom.

The bipyramid capstone is the unifying concept; the pinnacle is the all seeing eye; the concept located at the highest point is the higher order self, or a consciousness that is fully aware of its self, due to reflection.

The top of the pyramid is where synthesis occurs: all concepts exist under this synthesizing capstone.

Structuring Consciousness

No matter what the domain, there is always a single unifying concept at the top, which resembles a capstone, in which all other concepts are built upon. This concept possesses the same shape and is positioned in the same location for every domain. Reaching the very point of this  capstone requires emptying all concepts from the mind, and feeling entirely. When this occurs synthesis can occur among other domains of thought and their concepts.

The concepts extending from under this unifying concept all resemble irregular geometric shapes. The farther down, the more irregular, and the less compatible with concepts horizontal to it. Extending away from the unifying pinnacle located at the tip of the capstone, the base extends down infinitely as each additional concept justifying existing concepts indexes a new aspect of experience.

Each concept possesses very unique features that allow it to integrate seamlessly with other concepts that possess inversely congruent features, so that they rest stable on one another. In this way all compatible concepts are inversely related (dualistic), like puzzle pieces, possessing a supply or demand that links them together, a void or an instantiating, a cause or effect, a deficit or surplus. Every concept contrasts with an interlinking, compatible concept in which it is connected.

New domains of knowledge cannot be built up from passive concepts. They can only reconstruct an existing domain of knowledge. Passive concepts can build down, developing or elaborating new concepts, from existing domains of knowledge.

Only when the unifying concept located at the point of the capstone is established can active concepts build up new domains of knowledge.

Adaptation and Evolution

Adaptation is an equalizing response; adapting is a response which creates equilibrium between two objects.

Adaptation is the appropriate response to environmental demands.

Adaptation of a subjective being is the appropriate response to proximate objective demands imposed by the given context.

The necessities, struggles, and demands original to a context does not guarantee adaptation.  If the subjective being is perfectly adapted to its environment– the objective demands of its context–, appropriate responses will occur fluidly and seamlessly.

Energy must be supplied to a system to produce change.

If a subjective being  is produced by the context, it is perfectly adapted. Wherever energy is highest, adaptation is fastest. Potential energy allows for future adaptation.

Concepts allow for adaptation by producing appropriate responses to changing demands.

Access to concepts and active reflection is imperative to adaptation.

Concepts without reflection cause functional fixation because they only consider the concepts—and the context in which they were generated— presently occupying the consciousness, which is incompatible with the demands of the current context.

Some personalities possess a chronic struggle which produces creative thoughts and solutions: madness of creative genius, anxiety, bipolar, depression, and the like.

 

Socrates: Oral and Written Communication (Or why Socrates never wrote anything down)

The following dialogue (see below) is an except from Plato’s Phaedrus in which Socrates discusses why writing would erode thought by permitting people to forget what they had learned because they’d be able to look things up, that “they wouldn’t feel the need to ‘remember it from the inside, completely on their own.’ ” Worse, writing wouldn’t “allow ideas to flow freely and change in real time, the way they do in the mind during oral exchange.”

(I’d suggest taking time to read the dialog before moving on)

Socrates’ sentiments relate to my thoughts on the institutionalization of texts that become “truth” in time. Likewise, I am immediately reminded of Nietzsche’s essay Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense, in which he asks, “What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are
illusions- they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.”

In sum— and I will elaborate much more in a proceeding post— I believe that emphasizing the dead written word rather than the living spoken work is the source of all man’s ills. By placing faith in the value of written word, man effectively subjugates the value of his own personal, individuated experience— that is, his individual intuitions, opinions, and feelings; or more precisely, his subjective reflective consciousness. The spoken word is intimately connected to your feelings and experience: 97% of communication is nonverbal. It is impossible to capture the meaning, the affect, the intention, the feeling, of the author’s written words. In spoken word, there is genuine communication, a mutual exchange of feelings and ideas.  The dichotomy between written and spoken word can be loosely represented as the difference between deductive and inductive thought, or rationalism and empiricism, respectively.

Why this is important relates to the creation and preservation of institutions. All institutions have a text or creed or principles that govern the behaviors and dictate the conventions of its constituent agents, whether the text is a religious book, or an academic text, or a constitution, or a charter is all the same. What is important is that the words are blindly given ultimately authority as the subjective perspective, wrought from an individual’s unique experience, is overlooked and pushed aside completely. The result is that people become a means rather than an end, and human activity manifests as instrumentalism: an extension of someone else’s morality, another person’s valuation of the world, a reflection of their will to power. All of these examples reflect an external set of apriori assumptions imposed into a subject’s psyche by another person— and therefore motivate extrinsically. We call these a priori assumptions “culture” or “truth”, as well as other names like: norms, conventions, commonsense, mainstream, popular, customary and the like.

I think about Jesus, who I believe advocated the same message of Socrates, namely that people are blind to themselves. Jesus said he came to abolish the old law, the old traditions, the rituals and customs that blinded people to themselves, that caused people to get caught up in appearances and words rather than understanding their meaning. He said that god was the living word (Hebrews 4:12), and emphasized that the “spirit” or “god” was within the body, rather than the physical “temple”.  Socrates similarly stresses the priority of the “spirit” or the “reflective consciousness” or “reason” as being paramount to the purification of man.

Suspend your biased judgments about the nature of “god” or “spirit for a moment reinterpret “god” in favor of man’s “mind” or the “subjective reflective consciousness” and consider the following verse: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Replacing it with our conception of god as man’s “mind” we get: “So the reflective mind created man in his own image, in the image of the reflective mind he created him; male and female he created them.”

The idea that “god” is actually referencing man’s “mind” or “reflective consciousness”—  that distinguishing feature that demarcates men from lower animals to the degree of its development— mirrors many truisms, aphorisms, and words of wisdom throughout time such as: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” (Nin) or “You give birth to that on which you fix your mind.” (de Saint-Exupéry)  or “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” (Bergson) or “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” (Epictetus) or “Let the mind be enlarged…to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind.” (Bacon) or “Things which we see are not by themselves what we see … It remains completely unknown to us what the objects may be by themselves and apart from the receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner of perceiving them.” (Kant) or “Perception is a prediction, not a truth.” (Mooney) and the list goes on.

The idea is communicated succinctly by Feuerbach who said:

“Consciousness of God is self-consciousness, knowledge of God is self-knowledge, by his God thou knowest the man, and by the man his God; the two are identical. Whatever is God to a man, that is his heart and soul; and conversely, God is the manifested inward nature, the expressed self of a man– religion is the solemn unveiling of a man’s hidden treasures, the revelation of his intimate thoughts, and the open confession of his love-secrets.” [Feuerbach]

I could write for a long while on this topic, so I’ll stop now and wait to do that later. My main message is that writing is good for personal reflection and meditation and study, but it cannot serve as a replacement for experience and reflective thinking for another man. If you look to the outside world for answers, whether its in books, or things, or authority figures, you are cheating yourself of the opportunity to develop authentically. You must earnestly weigh your experience against the world, and do it with an even keel, remembering that self-deception is our natural tendency, that we want to seek confirmation in what we already believe and think to be real, rather than what is actually real. Think dialectically, think in opposites, and challenge other minds in mutual dialog with YOUR mind, with YOUR experience while exercising genuine curiosity for understanding, and with practice your mind will grow fertile, deep, open, and sharp.

I beg you: with an open mind, read on!

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Soc. At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, you can easily invent tales of Egypt, or of any other country.

Soc. There was a tradition in the temple of Dodona that oaks first gave prophetic utterances. The men of old, unlike in their simplicity to young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth even from “oak or rock,” it was enough for them; whereas you seem to consider not whether a thing is or is not true, but who the speaker is and from what country the tale comes.

Phaedr. I acknowledge the justice of your rebuke; and I think that the Theban is right in his view about letters.

Soc. He would be a very simple person, and quite a stranger to the oracles of Thamus or Ammon, who should leave in writing or receive in writing any art under the idea that the written word would be intelligible or certain; or who deemed that writing was at all better than knowledge and recollection of the same matters?

Phaedr. That is most true.

Soc. I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

Phaedr. That again is most true.

Soc. Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power-a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten?

Phaedr. Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?

Soc. I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

Phaedr. You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

Soc. Yes, of course that is what I mean. And now may I be allowed to ask you a question: Would a husbandman, who is a man of sense, take the seeds, which he values and which he wishes to bear fruit, and in sober seriousness plant them during the heat of summer, in some garden of Adonis, that he may rejoice when he sees them in eight days appearing in beauty? at least he would do so, if at all, only for the sake of amusement and pastime. But when he is in earnest he sows in fitting soil, and practises husbandry, and is satisfied if in eight months the seeds which he has sown arrive at perfection?

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, that will be his way when he is in earnest; he will do the other, as you say, only in play.

Soc. And can we suppose that he who knows the just and good and honourable has less understanding, than the husbandman, about his own seeds?

Phaedr. Certainly not.

Soc. Then he will not seriously incline to “write” his thoughts “in water” with pen and ink, sowing words which can neither speak for themselves nor teach the truth adequately to others?

Phaedr. No, that is not likely.

Soc. No, that is not likely-in the garden of letters he will sow and plant, but only for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old age, by himself, or by any other old man who is treading the same path. He will rejoice in beholding their tender growth; and while others are refreshing their souls with banqueting and the like, this will be the pastime in which his days are spent.

Phaedr. A pastime, Socrates, as noble as the other is ignoble, the pastime of a man who can be amused by serious talk, and can discourse merrily about justice and the like.

Soc. True, Phaedrus. But nobler far is the serious pursuit of the dialectician, who, finding a congenial soul, by the help of science sows and plants therein words which are able to help themselves and him who planted them, and are not unfruitful, but have in them a seed which others brought up in different soils render immortal, making the possessors of it happy to the utmost extent of human happiness.

Phaedr. Far nobler, certainly.

Soc. And now, Phaedrus, having agreed upon the premises we decide about the conclusion.

Phaedr. About what conclusion?

Soc. About Lysias, whom we censured, and his art of writing, and his discourses, and the rhetorical skill or want of skill which was shown in them-these are the questions which we sought to determine, and they brought us to this point. And I think that we are now pretty well informed about the nature of art and its opposite.

Phaedr. Yes, I think with you; but I wish that you would repeat what was said.

Soc. Until a man knows the truth of the several particulars of which he is writing or speaking, and is able to define them as they are, and having defined them again to divide them until they can be no longer divided, and until in like manner he is able to discern the nature of the soul, and discover the different modes of discourse which are adapted to different natures, and to arrange and dispose them in such a way that the simple form of speech may be addressed to the simpler nature, and the complex and composite to the more complex nature-until he has accomplished all this, he will be unable to handle arguments according to rules of art, as far as their nature allows them to be subjected to art, either for the purpose of teaching or persuading;-such is the view which is implied in the whole preceding argument.

Phaedr. Yes, that was our view, certainly.

Soc. Secondly, as to the censure which was passed on the speaking or writing of discourses, and how they might be rightly or wrongly censured-did not our previous argument show?-

Phaedr. Show what?

Soc. That whether Lysias or any other writer that ever was or will be, whether private man or statesman, proposes laws and so becomes the author of a political treatise, fancying that there is any great certainty and clearness in his performance, the fact of his so writing is only a disgrace to him, whatever men may say. For not to know the nature of justice and injustice, and good and evil, and not to be able to distinguish the dream from the reality, cannot in truth be otherwise than disgraceful to him, even though he have the applause of the whole world.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. But he who thinks that in the written word there is necessarily much which is not serious, and that neither poetry nor prose, spoken or written, is of any great value, if, like the compositions of the rhapsodes, they are only recited in order to be believed, and not with any view to criticism or instruction; and who thinks that even the best of writings are but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principles of justice and goodness and nobility taught and communicated orally for the sake of instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is there clearness and perfection and seriousness, and that such principles are a man’s own and his legitimate offspring;-being, in the first place, the word which he finds in his own bosom; secondly, the brethren and descendants and relations of his others;-and who cares for them and no others-this is the right sort of man; and you and I, Phaedrus, would pray that we may become like him.

Phaedr. That is most assuredly my desire and prayer.

Soc. And now the play is played out; and of rhetoric enough. Go and tell Lysias that to the fountain and school of the Nymphs we went down, and were bidden by them to convey a message to him and to other composers of speeches-to Homer and other writers of poems, whether set to music or not; and to Solon and others who have composed writings in the form of political discourses which they would term laws-to all of them we are to say that if their compositions are based on knowledge of the truth, and they can defend or prove them, when they are put to the test, by spoken arguments, which leave their writings poor in comparison of them, then they are to be called, not only poets, orators, legislators, but are worthy of a higher name, befitting the serious pursuit of their life.

Phaedr. What name would you assign to them?

Soc. Wise, I may not call them; for that is a great name which belongs to God alone,-lovers of wisdom or philosophers is their modest and befitting title.

Phaedr. Very suitable.

Soc. And he who cannot rise above his own compilations and compositions, which he has been long patching, and piecing, adding some and taking away some, may be justly called poet or speech-maker or law-maker.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. Now go and tell this to your companion.

Phaedr. But there is also a friend of yours who ought not to be forgotten.

Soc. Who is he?

Phaedr. Isocrates the fair:-What message will you send to him, and how shall we describe him?

Soc.Isocrates is still young, Phaedrus; but I am willing to hazard a prophecy concerning him.

Phaedr. What would you prophesy?

Soc. I think that he has a genius which soars above the orations of Lysias, and that his character is cast in a finer mould. My impression of him is that he will marvelously improve as he grows older, and that all former rhetoricians will be as children in comparison of him. And I believe that he will not be satisfied with rhetoric, but that there is in him a divine inspiration which will lead him to things higher still. For he has an element of philosophy in his nature. This is the message of the gods dwelling in this place, and which I will myself deliver to Isocrates, who is my delight; and do you give the other to Lysias, who is yours.

Phaedr. I will; and now as the heat is abated let us depart.

Soc. Should we not offer up a prayer first of all to the local deities? By all means.

Soc. Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry.-Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.

Phaedr. Ask the same for me, for friends should have all things in common.

Soc. Let us go.

The Debate Between Oral and Written Communication (Or why Socrates never wrote anything down)

The following dialogue (see below) is an except from Plato’s Phaedrus in which Socrates discusses why writing would erode thought by permitting people to forget what they had learned because they’d be able to look things up, that “they wouldn’t feel the need to ‘remember it from the inside, completely on their own.’ ” Worse, writing wouldn’t “allow ideas to flow freely and change in real time, the way they do in the mind during oral exchange.”

(I’d suggest taking time to read the dialog before moving on)

Socrates’ sentiments relate to my thoughts on the institutionalization of texts that become “truth” in time. Likewise, I am immediately reminded of Nietzsche’s essay Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense, in which he asks, “What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are
illusions- they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.”

In sum— and I will elaborate much more in a proceeding post— I believe that emphasizing the dead written word rather than the living spoken work is the source of all man’s ills. By placing faith in the value of written word, man effectively subjugates the value of his own personal, individuated experience— that is, his individual intuitions, opinions, and feelings; or more precisely, his subjective reflective consciousness. The spoken word is intimately connected to your feelings and experience: 97% of communication is nonverbal. It is impossible to capture the meaning, the affect, the intention, the feeling, of the author’s written words. In spoken word, there is genuine communication, a mutual exchange of feelings and ideas.  The dichotomy between written and spoken word can be loosely represented as the difference between deductive and inductive thought, or rationalism and empiricism, respectively.

Why this is important relates to the creation and preservation of institutions. All institutions have a text or creed or principles that govern the behaviors and dictate the conventions of its constituent agents, whether the text is a religious book, or an academic text, or a constitution, or a charter is all the same. What is important is that the words are blindly given ultimately authority as the subjective perspective, wrought from an individual’s unique experience, is overlooked and pushed aside completely. The result is that people become a means rather than an end, and human activity manifests as instrumentalism: an extension of someone else’s morality, another person’s valuation of the world, a reflection of their will to power. All of these examples reflect an external set of apriori assumptions imposed into a subject’s psyche by another person— and therefore motivate extrinsically. We call these a priori assumptions “culture” or “truth”, as well as other names like: norms, conventions, commonsense, mainstream, popular, customary and the like.

I think about Jesus, who I believe advocated the same message of Socrates, namely that people are blind to themselves. Jesus said he came to abolish the old law, the old traditions, the rituals and customs that blinded people to themselves, that caused people to get caught up in appearances and words rather than understanding their meaning. He said that god was the living word (Hebrews 4:12), and emphasized that the “spirit” or “god” was within the body, rather than the physical “temple”.  Socrates similarly stresses the priority of the “spirit” or the “reflective consciousness” or “reason” as being paramount to the purification of man.

Suspend your biased judgments about the nature of “god” or “spirit” for a moment; and reinterpret “god” in favor of man’s “mind” or the “subjective reflective consciousness” and consider the following verse: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Replacing it with our conception of god as man’s “mind” we get: “So the reflective mind created man in his own image, in the image of the reflective mind he created him; male and female he created them.”

The idea that “god” is actually referencing man’s “mind” or “reflective consciousness”—  that distinguishing feature that demarcates men from lower animals to the degree of their development— mirrors many truisms, aphorisms, and words of wisdom throughout time such as: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” (Nin) or “You give birth to that on which you fix your mind.” (de Saint-Exupéry)  or “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” (Bergson) or “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” (Epictetus) or “Let the mind be enlarged…to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind.” (Bacon) or “Things which we see are not by themselves what we see … It remains completely unknown to us what the objects may be by themselves and apart from the receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner of perceiving them.” (Kant) or “Perception is a prediction, not a truth.” (Mooney) and the list goes on.

The idea is communicated succinctly by Feuerbach who said:

“Consciousness of God is self-consciousness, knowledge of God is self-knowledge, by his God thou knowest the man, and by the man his God; the two are identical. Whatever is God to a man, that is his heart and soul; and conversely, God is the manifested inward nature, the expressed self of a man– religion is the solemn unveiling of a man’s hidden treasures, the revelation of his intimate thoughts, and the open confession of his love-secrets.” [Feuerbach]

I could write for a long while on this topic, so I’ll stop now and wait to do that later. My main message is that writing is good for personal reflection and meditation and study, but it cannot serve as a replacement for experience and reflective thinking for another man. If you look to the outside world for answers, whether its in books, or things, or authority figures, you are cheating yourself of the opportunity to develop authentically. You must earnestly weigh your experience against the world, and do it with an even keel, remembering that self-deception is our natural tendency, that we want to seek confirmation in what we already believe and think to be real, rather than what is actually real. Think dialectically, think in opposites, and challenge other minds in mutual dialog with YOUR mind, with YOUR experience while exercising genuine curiosity for understanding, and with practice your mind will grow fertile, deep, open, and sharp.

I beg you: with an open mind, read on!

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Soc. At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, you can easily invent tales of Egypt, or of any other country.

Soc. There was a tradition in the temple of Dodona that oaks first gave prophetic utterances. The men of old, unlike in their simplicity to young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth even from “oak or rock,” it was enough for them; whereas you seem to consider not whether a thing is or is not true, but who the speaker is and from what country the tale comes.

Phaedr. I acknowledge the justice of your rebuke; and I think that the Theban is right in his view about letters.

Soc. He would be a very simple person, and quite a stranger to the oracles of Thamus or Ammon, who should leave in writing or receive in writing any art under the idea that the written word would be intelligible or certain; or who deemed that writing was at all better than knowledge and recollection of the same matters?

Phaedr. That is most true.

Soc. I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

Phaedr. That again is most true.

Soc. Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power-a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten?

Phaedr. Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?

Soc. I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

Phaedr. You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

Soc. Yes, of course that is what I mean. And now may I be allowed to ask you a question: Would a husbandman, who is a man of sense, take the seeds, which he values and which he wishes to bear fruit, and in sober seriousness plant them during the heat of summer, in some garden of Adonis, that he may rejoice when he sees them in eight days appearing in beauty? at least he would do so, if at all, only for the sake of amusement and pastime. But when he is in earnest he sows in fitting soil, and practises husbandry, and is satisfied if in eight months the seeds which he has sown arrive at perfection?

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, that will be his way when he is in earnest; he will do the other, as you say, only in play.

Soc. And can we suppose that he who knows the just and good and honourable has less understanding, than the husbandman, about his own seeds?

Phaedr. Certainly not.

Soc. Then he will not seriously incline to “write” his thoughts “in water” with pen and ink, sowing words which can neither speak for themselves nor teach the truth adequately to others?

Phaedr. No, that is not likely.

Soc. No, that is not likely-in the garden of letters he will sow and plant, but only for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old age, by himself, or by any other old man who is treading the same path. He will rejoice in beholding their tender growth; and while others are refreshing their souls with banqueting and the like, this will be the pastime in which his days are spent.

Phaedr. A pastime, Socrates, as noble as the other is ignoble, the pastime of a man who can be amused by serious talk, and can discourse merrily about justice and the like.

Soc. True, Phaedrus. But nobler far is the serious pursuit of the dialectician, who, finding a congenial soul, by the help of science sows and plants therein words which are able to help themselves and him who planted them, and are not unfruitful, but have in them a seed which others brought up in different soils render immortal, making the possessors of it happy to the utmost extent of human happiness.

Phaedr. Far nobler, certainly.

Soc. And now, Phaedrus, having agreed upon the premises we decide about the conclusion.

Phaedr. About what conclusion?

Soc. About Lysias, whom we censured, and his art of writing, and his discourses, and the rhetorical skill or want of skill which was shown in them-these are the questions which we sought to determine, and they brought us to this point. And I think that we are now pretty well informed about the nature of art and its opposite.

Phaedr. Yes, I think with you; but I wish that you would repeat what was said.

Soc. Until a man knows the truth of the several particulars of which he is writing or speaking, and is able to define them as they are, and having defined them again to divide them until they can be no longer divided, and until in like manner he is able to discern the nature of the soul, and discover the different modes of discourse which are adapted to different natures, and to arrange and dispose them in such a way that the simple form of speech may be addressed to the simpler nature, and the complex and composite to the more complex nature-until he has accomplished all this, he will be unable to handle arguments according to rules of art, as far as their nature allows them to be subjected to art, either for the purpose of teaching or persuading;-such is the view which is implied in the whole preceding argument.

Phaedr. Yes, that was our view, certainly.

Soc. Secondly, as to the censure which was passed on the speaking or writing of discourses, and how they might be rightly or wrongly censured-did not our previous argument show?-

Phaedr. Show what?

Soc. That whether Lysias or any other writer that ever was or will be, whether private man or statesman, proposes laws and so becomes the author of a political treatise, fancying that there is any great certainty and clearness in his performance, the fact of his so writing is only a disgrace to him, whatever men may say. For not to know the nature of justice and injustice, and good and evil, and not to be able to distinguish the dream from the reality, cannot in truth be otherwise than disgraceful to him, even though he have the applause of the whole world.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. But he who thinks that in the written word there is necessarily much which is not serious, and that neither poetry nor prose, spoken or written, is of any great value, if, like the compositions of the rhapsodes, they are only recited in order to be believed, and not with any view to criticism or instruction; and who thinks that even the best of writings are but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principles of justice and goodness and nobility taught and communicated orally for the sake of instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is there clearness and perfection and seriousness, and that such principles are a man’s own and his legitimate offspring;-being, in the first place, the word which he finds in his own bosom; secondly, the brethren and descendants and relations of his others;-and who cares for them and no others-this is the right sort of man; and you and I, Phaedrus, would pray that we may become like him.

Phaedr. That is most assuredly my desire and prayer.

Soc. And now the play is played out; and of rhetoric enough. Go and tell Lysias that to the fountain and school of the Nymphs we went down, and were bidden by them to convey a message to him and to other composers of speeches-to Homer and other writers of poems, whether set to music or not; and to Solon and others who have composed writings in the form of political discourses which they would term laws-to all of them we are to say that if their compositions are based on knowledge of the truth, and they can defend or prove them, when they are put to the test, by spoken arguments, which leave their writings poor in comparison of them, then they are to be called, not only poets, orators, legislators, but are worthy of a higher name, befitting the serious pursuit of their life.

Phaedr. What name would you assign to them?

Soc. Wise, I may not call them; for that is a great name which belongs to God alone,-lovers of wisdom or philosophers is their modest and befitting title.

Phaedr. Very suitable.

Soc. And he who cannot rise above his own compilations and compositions, which he has been long patching, and piecing, adding some and taking away some, may be justly called poet or speech-maker or law-maker.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. Now go and tell this to your companion.

Phaedr. But there is also a friend of yours who ought not to be forgotten.

Soc. Who is he?

Phaedr. Isocrates the fair:-What message will you send to him, and how shall we describe him?

Soc.Isocrates is still young, Phaedrus; but I am willing to hazard a prophecy concerning him.

Phaedr. What would you prophesy?

Soc. I think that he has a genius which soars above the orations of Lysias, and that his character is cast in a finer mould. My impression of him is that he will marvelously improve as he grows older, and that all former rhetoricians will be as children in comparison of him. And I believe that he will not be satisfied with rhetoric, but that there is in him a divine inspiration which will lead him to things higher still. For he has an element of philosophy in his nature. This is the message of the gods dwelling in this place, and which I will myself deliver to Isocrates, who is my delight; and do you give the other to Lysias, who is yours.

Phaedr. I will; and now as the heat is abated let us depart.

Soc. Should we not offer up a prayer first of all to the local deities? By all means.

Soc. Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry.-Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.

Phaedr. Ask the same for me, for friends should have all things in common.

Soc. Let us go.

Revolutionary Humanity and Progress: Atheism, Skepticism, Man, Mind

There appears to be a growing number of people converting to skepticism and atheism in recent years. My concern is that the ‘bankrupt’ values of Christianity are just supplanted with the ’empty’ values of materialism.

The atheism and skepticism being adopted mainstream, in my opinion, isn’t properly justified: it’s simply because religion is inconvenient. There are no values to bolster the atheism, no justification to support the skepticism, no emphasis on understanding, reason, learning, mind. It’s just the best way to accommodate a nihilistic relativism. And I’m referring to the mainstream movement, the cultural phenomenon of suddenly self-identifying as a skeptic or atheist after reading one Dawkins or Hitchens book because it was a NYT best seller.

But perhaps that the average atheist does everything I questioned (read, reflect etc.) Suppose they do more than the average christian does. Studies show that the more educated you are the more likely you are to be an atheist, so I must question whether this phenomenon is simply the result of peer pressure or conformity. Perhaps being an atheist for an inspiring number of people is a product of thinking critically, logically etc. It may be that these atheists can have moral codes and strong beliefs grounded in a hope for humanity (not nihilistic).

Could it be that a lot of the surge is because there is more discourse about these issues and that it’s less taboo? We also understand a lot more about natural day-to-day phenomenon that at one time seemed supernatural. It may not be the case that people are necessarily better at thinking critically overall, but they most certainly have the tools to think more critically about religion and their place in the world now more than ever before.

But why do people think atheism is preferred or justified? What does it mean to be a skeptic? Do people (new self-proclaimed atheists) understand how science works or why its methods justify its claims? Why science is ‘good’?? Or why it is better than Christianity? Does science provide any values? Explain how to live? Do these mainstream atheists know any more about justification of atheism than the justification of Christianity they gave up? Do they know anything about their history? As a country? A world? Their ancestors? Do they read any of the humanities seriously? Philosophy? English? Classics? Economic theory? Do they read at all? What are the reading? Pop or mainstream garbage that’s mass-produced, perpetuated and fed to them? Only the myopicly interesting, the narrowly fascinating, astigmatically entertaining? Do they know the arts? Know the significance of art? Historically? It’s impact on our culture?

Do these self-proclaimed skeptics know what logic is? What sound arguments look like? Do they know what man is? Do they know who or why they are? Do they know the relations between themselves as an individual and others in their community, state, country, culture, or in relation to other cultures? I would say, no, most generally. Or not to the satisfactory extent they should to be any more justified in believing in atheism and skepticism over religion. There seems to be an absurdity to the the mainstream trends of atheism and skepticism that are just as absurd as Christianity or any other religion they gave up. Though I would like to think so, I am not convinced that this movement is a result of a more intelligent, better read, more cultured populous. Actually, I would love to think so, but given what I observe, their habits, how they spend their free time, I can’t let myself be persuaded.

I don’t believe we have a generation culture that is anymore critically adept at thinking than the past. I believe these skeptic and atheistic trends are more of a product of our emphasis on relativity, of values or perspectives, and the respect we owe to tolerate such perspectives, than because we’re any more knowledgeable or thoughtful as a culture. I may be gravely mistaken, but most atheists I speak with can give me reasons why Christianity and religion is intolerant and oppressive and dangerous, but they can’t provide much justification for why their position is sound or correct or justified. On the contrary, they usually provide cliché responses derived from their teachers or textbooks or the history channel, much like people similarly repeat their pastors and priests or the religious texts. They don’t provide any more justification for why their reasoning trumps that of any other reasoning.

Our culture, our emphasis on tolerance and openness is great, but as a culture I don’t believe we’re taking advantage of its value. Instead it seems convenient, or allows for a nihilistic relativity, an “anything goes” mentality where all is equal and free. But I believe such values embodied in freedom and equality provide us with the vital ability to progress to a higher plane of consciousness and living than the past afforded, not simply accommodate all perspective irregardless of whether they actually contribute to this progress.

But what values are being replaced? Christianity not only offers a world view, an etiology, it provides many important values that allowed our culture to progress, puritanical values and ethical values, most of which are necessary for progress, for guiding action, although there are arguably just as many that hinder it. But in replacing Christianity, specifically its values, what will take its place? What values will allow community and a uniform drive for enlightenment or higher understanding and action?

Most, I tend to believe, would agree that the nihilistic or “anything goes” mentality is harmful and present in atheism today, and that’s something they get a lot of flack for. Many hope for a kind of humanist “faith” that has a combo Kantian-utilitarian twist. But that seems to be asking a lot. Could the “ignorant masses” handle that thinking? Can we have faith in human reason? Can we love thy neighbor without being told to do so in some superannuated religious texts? Many believe we can all be inspired by human achievement and have a faith in the utility and power in this construct of human understanding that is bigger than us, and all the extraordinary things humans can do and have discovered and all the exemplary individuals who exist and have existed to inspire. Do we need a god for this? Does intellectual refinement or a push towards “civilized” living really ground us in something other than base, brutish impulse? Perhaps scholasticism, religion or theism did not civilize anything. Perhaps it is this will-to-power and a better than thou art mentality or goal did that.

If atheism, skepticism, or whatever is supplanting religion is to be taken seriously there needs to be a more cohesive idea of what direction the human race should be going. People need to “give a shit” and self reflect, but they can’t unless they are comfortable doing so. They don’t care to care. It seems that, for the poor and down trodden, or because of them, atheism won’t work.

I suppose what I am fearful of is a cultural regress that disregards the historical tradition for understanding, for better living, for man and mind. A regress that overlooks thousands of years of study in the pursuit of understanding man, his free imagining mind of infinite possibilities, as well as his relation with the world and others. It seems our culture does not appreciate the traditions that provided us with these democratic luxuries that hold the individual mind, the self-reflective consciousness, as the highest aim for understanding and progress, luxuries such as freedom, equality, autonomy, etc. I am fearful that this regress will take us to barbarism, where sensuality, instinct, passions, and the like are the rule. I feel that I observe this manifest in our culture with our emphasis on the material, the sensual, the pleasurable; this overlooks thousands of years of intellectual refinement, of cultivating the mind, refining the passions to function through thoughtful reflection, sound reason and expression, instead of brutish impulse, emotional living.

But I feel that there is a serious responsibility that comes with freedom, equality, etc. And I believe that this responsibility is not being realized. Atheism, skepticism, and critical inquiry most generally, requires work in my opinion; it’s not a convenient label, it’s not a religion that just accepts what you’ve been handed as unquestionably true. It’s not what’s popular or accepted. It’s a serious position that, in my opinion, needs sound and thoughtful justification.

And what of this will-to-power? We all have, as did great thinkers in the past, our subjective perspectives of consciousness, of the good and understanding, but, in my provisional opinion, they were accommodating to other perspectives, they tried to synthesize other veins of thought, other historical traditions to render a higher more complete understanding. They did this through dialogue, discourse, dialectics, and careful study of their culture and history,  as well as its relation with other cultures and their histories. So long as their pursuit for understanding and refinement was selfless, as far as that’s possible, they were not megalomaniacs who wanted the world to think as they did. That, I believe they realized and appreciated, would lead to the opposite of their aim.

I suppose that’s my problem: There’s needs to be a cohesive idea of a general direction for humanity, or at least our culture, that is accommodating yet very clear in its aim. But, as I mentioned, this requires critical and thoughtful reflection and “giving a shit”.

So what of Plato’s philosopher king to guide the ignorant masses? The philosopher king idea was, in theory, pretty magnificent. Could it be that, for atheism to work, we all need to be philosopher kings? Or at least impress others so much that we function as their gods? This idea sounds cult-ish, and it sorta makes me cringe at the possible tyranny of thought that could result if improperly applied, but there is something reasonable to having great thinkers, selflessly devoted as a civil servant to asking the right questions and solving societies problems. As we observe time and time again, people are too unreliable to do so on their own. “Let someone else tell me what to think and do, etc.” Religion is easy, and since the weak are supposed to inherit the earth, everyone seems to buy into it, even the weak or poor or disadvantaged.

But more importantly, regarding our most significant societal needs, it is necessary that we possess a culture that reflects as a whole and give a shit collectively, like the Greeks embodied to some extent at one time. Leaving it up to the philosopher kings is probably no better than leaving it up to the politicians or priests. What is required is elevating the collective consciousness, the public awareness. But this lack of self-reflection, lack of critical thought, lack of culture and knowledge and self-understanding is, I believe, a result of a cultural malaise rather than a problem inherent to individuals, or the poor or disadvantaged. Our culture has misplaced values, i.e. materialism that fuels sensualism rather than mindful reflection and reason that fuels understanding. We value things more than ideas. Matter more than mind. Or so it seems

We might be closer to knowledge than in the past, but having the luxury to reflect on this stuff either requires money (you’re comfortable anyway) or being humble (you’re not pissed others are “above” you) or bona fide enlightenment. It’s inarguable that the internet is transforming things. But for all the good it does and can do, the Internet can be just as debilitating. How do the majority spend their time on it? Entertainment more than self-improvement. But I’m generalizing again. Perhaps, regardless of whether people spend more time bullshitting online, they’re spending more time doing ‘productive’ stuff, or at least being exposed to more views than their neighbors or the church Parrish hold. But that may be far to generous.

I suppose it’s simply because of what mainstream media and culture perpetuate, and I may be taking that as a reflection of our cultural values and priorities. Maybe it’s not and simply a reflection of capitalism, but I may be finding it difficult to make a distinction It seems right to say that this materialism and greed hinders mindful thinking. It also seems right that Capitalism is a major part of it. Though, perhaps it is “human nature” that’s to blame. What is success? Possessing and dominating? Is this biological? While this is another debate, I’d like to think, to a large extent, this is the case.

But I don’t think that the will-to-power necessarily is the primary impetus of humanity’s progress. I believe it was another, selflessly distinct  ‘drive’, or “will to understand” man and mind, as embodied by very few individuals throughout the ages. The will-to-power manifests quite naturally and beautifully in autocracies and dictatorships, but I’d argue these are hardly periods of humanity’s growth. Quite on the contrary. But I may be mistaken.

I agree that the will-to-power is most likely responsible for the capitalist’s contributions to humanity. But the corollary, in my opinion, isn’t to the benefit of humanity as a whole
Maybe short-term, maybe for few, but not long-term for everyone. I think I’m being too Pollyanna. I feel like these dilemmas are what Plato and all the other thinkers have contemplated for all time. However, with technology and semi-universal access to
so much info, I think the environment may have changed in an incomparable way to the past.

I’m just unsatisfied with how I observe people and our culture handle or deal with these values of freedom and equality. People seem to take them for granted, like they are inherent in everyone, but I don’t believe people are necessarily free and equal. I believe that this comes with work, with education and refinement and understanding. It’s not something we already possess, it’s something we must acquire, an expectation to be realized. We have a responsibility to earn freedom, earn equality. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we don’t work to realize and understand them, we’re more animals. How can someone be free if they don’t know what freedom is or looks like or behaves? What a free mind or consciousness undertakes, reasons or contemplates?  We don’t inherently possess freedom or equality, but we all agree to grant it to each other (ideally) when we form a society because the alternative is “fucked up”.

A slave is a slave because he is born a slave, believes himself to be a slave. He never challenges his condition because he doesn’t know to think differently, isn’t acquainted with any alternative. It is an impoverished state of mind, a deprived state of being. And I believe that our cultural consciousness is exactly that: impoverished and deprived.  But when it isn’t realized, when we take it for granted, at what point do we realize, or are capable of recognizing, that we’re neither free nor equal? (I may be being too harsh, too critical, too general and uncharitable, but I’m experimenting with these ideas)

Perhaps this occurs when we look at what other people have or control and are like, “fuck.”(Wall Street protests?) I think this is a growing sentiment, but even though people may be able to identify incongruities I’m not sure they know how to articulate the issue collectively. I’m not sure if they can articulate the fundamental problems without looking and pointing and grunting in vague mass protests. And I’d probably argue that those people may be part of the problem, may be creating or contributing to it. But I have to think more on this point.

Perhaps in a generation, when it gets bad enough, when people are forced to consider these ideas and understanding out of necessity, we’ll witness an awakening, a revolution of sorts.

I guess I’m not sure how you change things any other way. A lot of ignoramuses certainly join in and act all silly because they desire to be a part of something larger than themselves but don’t know what they’re doing, but I like to think the ideas behind them are solid. I would probably go so far as to say that there seems to be an intuitive injustice that even the most ‘undeveloped’ mind could pick up on by simply observing the inequality in light of our cultural democratic tradition. But I’m also fearful that this will simply lead to socialism, that the correction will be a superficial remedy that allows passive unreflecting sensual thought but saves equality. That the knowledge of a problem without the understanding of a why will cause more problems when we attempt to fix it. I’m also fearful that we’ll be high jacked by demagogues, by soothsayers, and end up even less free. Is it wrong that I think these scenarios are unavoidable? That’s not to say we can’t strive, but do I really think 300 million people can get their shit together in our lifetime?

I guess I believe in the power of influential leaders to cull the social consciousness from its stupor, to awaken it, to appeal to higher good and better living. But I may be being Pollyanna again. Think of the Gandhi’s, the MLK’s, the Socrates, etc. But this leader would have an unprecedented, monumental task like never before. It may be far too big of a task for any man, even a Jesus.  I guess similar, crazy things have happened in the past, but definitely not on this scale. As far as I can tell anyway.

Socratic Philosophy as Preparation for Death

This essay argues that Socrates provides a clear and consistent attitude towards philosophy that is justified by and grounded in religious conviction. The core of Socrates philosophical beliefs concern his convictions regarding death, with him stating that “the primary aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner is to practice for dying and death.”(64a) His philosophy provides a method for ensuring that the soul will enter Hades in its purest form and attain the highest reward by being granted access into heaven. (113;114c). Socrates’ definition of philosophy is thus inextricably bound to his religious convictions. Although philosophy’s literal translation means “lover of wisdom,” it was not just an activity that one casually partook in, but a mode of living that pervaded every aspect of life as a way of transcending the physical world and possessing near-divine wisdom.(82c) Continue reading “Socratic Philosophy as Preparation for Death”

Brief Thoughts: Happiness

To those who say, “I’m on the pursuit of happiness.” I ruefully reply, “Happiness is never found; it is created, within you.”

I don’t even think it’s found within a person. It is always there. Happiness, like any feeling, is a choice. Some choices may be alien or uncomfortable, but we always have a choice, especially with something as fundamental as our thoughts.

I like to think of our thoughts as fodder and kindling. Some thoughts add to the flame within us, causing it to grow hotter and burn brighter. Other thoughts stifle this flame, causing it to whither and grow cold. Certain thoughts warm our insides, and the longer they burn, the longer we feel their warmth. Even in the face of life’s most brutal elements, where the coldest and harshest moments of life reside, we have all the necessary kindling within us to weather the storm. As humans, we generate life, feelings, entire worlds with our minds. Looking for and pursuing such things as happiness, as if they are not already in our possession, will only leave the flame within us unattended. We can’t rely on the chance of circumstance to animate our flame.

We bring happiness to the world. It is not something to be mined from the world. The world is nothing without an eye to perceive it, just as a home is nothing without inhabitants or a gift is nothing without someone to receive it. We bring our mind to the world, our eye to nature, and give it life. We rouse and rally and wake the world with a perceiving eye as much as the world rouses and rallies and wakes the perceiving mind. Anyway.

Spatia Ante Materia

Spatia ante Materia (Spatia Rem or Spatia et Materia)

Is consciousness chosen? No. Therefore, there is no free will.

Consciousness was pulled out from within, forced into by demand.

The objective of life is to satisfy demands. All matter is a response to space. As matter, we exist to fulfill these flowing demands of space.

I want to write a magnum opus on a theory of everything which explains phenomena such as mind, knowledge, and reason. The theory will take on a form resembling mathematics, whereby balance and equilibrium serve as the natural progression for all cause and effect.

The exposition will begin by grounding three main concepts: polar pairs  (+, -), equilibrium (=), change (, ->)

What is important is not what is included, but what is excluded. Cause precedes effect, just as demand precedes supply, as space precedes matter, as form precedes substance.

Demand and Supply

Demand: (-),space, empty, negative, cause, pull, question, eternal, infinite, possibility, freedom

Supply: (+), matter, full, positive, effect, answer, temporal, finite, actuality, necessity

Equilibrium: (=), balance, harmony, synthesis, (life energy of being)

Change: (), (->), condition, (A third relation between +&-)

Why do we live in a dualistic world?

Phenomenon: L.L. phænomenon, from Gk. phainomenon “that which appears or is seen,” noun use of neut. prp. of phainesthai “to appear,” passive of phainein (see phantasm). Meaning “extraordinary occurrence” first recorded 1771. Plural is phenomena.

What is the origin of phenomena? Occurrence? Change?

Equilibrium, a balance of tensions, results from change.

Why is there space at all?

Life is a progression of changes toward equilibrium.

Entropy is a progression toward an equilibrium state.

Is life the most efficient form of entropy?

Reality is a question; not an answer.

Time a measure describing a rate of change, . Time is not constant but relative to rates.

Knowledge is never so pure than in its moment of conception.

Change must not be rigid, otherwise is will not adapt. Knowledge is inherently rigid: determinate; composed and formed. Understanding is fluid: indeterminate; flexible and open. Knowledge sufficiently supplies for necessary demands.

Where S & + are matter and D & are space:
MP: S->D/ S// D
MT: S->D/ ~D// ~S

Demand is a necessary condition for all supply: without demand, there is no supply; without space, there is no matter; without problems, there is no knowledge. Supply is a sufficient condition for demand; knowledge is a sufficient condition for problem. As a sufficient condition, demand may be satisfied by any posited supply; problems may be satisfied by any posited knowledge. Equilibrium is reached by a supply that accounts for and satisfies maximum proximate demands.

LEM: (+ v ~+), that is (+ v -)
LNC: ~(+ ∧ ~+), that is ~(+ ∧ -)
LI: (+=+), that is (+<=>+), reflexive relation/ tautology

Mind

Intentionalism:

“In an intentional state, something is presented to the mind. So any intentional state is a presentation. What is presented is called an intentional object; for a state of mind to have an intentional object is for it to be directed on that object, So, insofar as a state of mind is directed, it has an intentional object. The intentional object of a thought is given in the answer to the question ‘what is your thought about?/what is your thought directed on?’ For a state of mind to have aspectual shape is for it to present its object in a certain way. And so, insofar as the state of mind has aspectual shape, then it has intentional content. The intentional content of a thought is given in an answer to the questions ‘what are you thinking?/what is in your mind?’ Since, according to intentionalism, all mental states have directedness and aspectual shape, then all mental states have an intentional object and intentional content.”

-Crane, Stephen: Elements of Mind (2001)

I would like to explore the origin of presentation. The presentations that give rise to mind result from causal demands. All matter maintains a spatial relation between other matter. Equilibrium progress manifests relations as tension from unresolved demands. Bodies present themselves in relation to other bodies; everything else. Matter is not inclusive, but exclusive. This relational tension manifests a pull, a demanding force, a gravitation. All bodies, exclusive and distinct, are in misrelation until an equilibrium reaches universal homogeneity.

Consciousness

Consciousness was pulled out from within, forced into existence- into a condition, a being, a change, a continuous enactment- by demand.

Expunging thoughts

I studied philosophy of language all day.  Prior to today I had only a vague understanding of the material. It seemed too abstract and intuitive to take seriously. I’m looking forward to learning about the significant consequences that the philosophy of language has on the subjects of metaphysics, hermeneutics, phenomenology, and logic made by the contributions of these philosophers.

I’m pretty fried at the moment. While I went out briefly last night, I didn’t drink. I also stayed in all day today and missed out on tailgating and partying with all the families that came to visit for parents weekend.

My mind is hypersensitive. Whatever stimulation I throw at it inevitably consumes me; I get lost in preoccupation and lose sight of anything that isn’t immediate. Juggling too many tasks and responsibilities causes me to lose focus of the significance of each priority.  I have a problem saying no to commitments, be it people or other perceived or real responsibilities. As a result, I have to limit my exposure to  multifarious demands. That typically means locking myself away for awhile to attend to only the most pressing obligations so the demands and stimulation are concentrated and consistent.

If I stimulate myself with enough specific information, I become consumed in its depth. I hyperfocus. Pulling me out of that state is almost impossible. It becomes my all engrossing world. It could be lifting, or a specific discipline or even a person. I spend my attention and energy exploring the limits of the object or subject until it is exhausted, or I am exhausted. I have to remind myself that college was a choice to focus my attention on cultivating my knowledge and skills in specific areas that would leave me more valuable than before. If I fail to give it my all I would be no better than when I started.

Economy of Thought

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As reflection occurs, there is an invitation for expansion of the mind. As noted elsewhere, consciousness arises from the syntheses of our response to environmental demands. The better we become at responding, or satisfying, these environmental demands, the more ‘material’ or ‘programs’ are available to synthesize for the creation of new thought. In the sense that there is a conditioned path in which a demand was satisfied and remembered, these responses are simply programs. Concerning this synthesis of creating, the more programs, or responses, that occur, the more possibilities exist. Just as the more land there is, the more crops can be grown and the more goods can be cooked or baked, leading to endless combinations. It is simply a matter of what seed is planted, much in the way that demands plant responses. For now on, the word thought will be used to describe the conditioned response programs.

Continue reading “Economy of Thought”

Freedom and choice.

What is Freedom?

The question of freedom poses itself when explaining why people convert to god. If a conversion towards god is a result of a lack of responsibility for accepting and exercising our freedom, we must define and determine the nature of freedom as it relates to sentient volition- or free will

The notion of free will supposes an inherent ability to choose. The choice lies in the decision to act or not to act, as well as to choose among alternative actions. Ideally, this choice is autonomously made. However, to what extent are we autonomous? Is there such a thing as freedom of choice? Or, are actions mere precipitations of mechanical chain reactions?

Answering these questions requires the exploration of the science or philosophy of mind.

 

Continue reading “Freedom and choice.”

Self-law.

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What is autonomy? (Auto-: Self; Nomos:-Law/Regulation/Custom)

Does free will exist, or are we governed by deterministic mechanical processes?
If free will exists, it must be reconciled with determinism. There is a need for the clarifying the limitations of autonomy.

Determinism would have us believe that choice is limited. I posit: choice is limited to combinations of environmental exposure and perceived experience, something that cannot be adequately described as limited. Determinism would blind us to our ability to recall and create.

 

Continue reading “Self-law.”

Thinketh

You become what you think about.

If you can fathom the power of that concept, all that is left for you to do is decide who you want to become: Then the world is yours.

Read the book: “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen. I am not speaking lightly when I say that we think our life into being. If you control what you put into your head, and decide what you put out, you will be the master of your destiny, the captain of your fate. You are the sum of all your thoughts- all the influences you acknowledge, knowingly or unknowingly. We are creatures of habit, in thought and action. Take control of your thoughts and you will control your life. Weed out the bad habits, the negative thoughts that strangle the good you seek to do. Plant thoughts that will lead you to your ideal life. Use discipline dwell on your thoughts and goals and plans as often as possible. Soon your thoughts and actions will become habit, and habit will in turn lead to a renewed character and a new life with new ease. We are what we think about all day long.

Where do these thoughts come from? Read the books written by the most successful of people and glean the thoughts that they held captive in their minds. They write books and are always eager to share their secrets, and yet there are so few that listen.

I have so much to say on this topic because it changed my life. thoughts are so powerful. So quiet and fleeting, yet they hold the key to this world man has constructed. it all began with thoughts.