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2010-03-08
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Hello Everyone!

I have been working on a generalised description of the algorithmic function of "consciousness" that takes logical foundation in biology and the relative ontology of Heidegger in Being and Time.  Though not finished, and lacking in lots of detail at the sharp end (where the algorithm has to be described computationally), the overall structure is present and comprehensible, I hope, and presents itself for criticism.

The site describing this is here.

In summary, I attempt to describe functional similarities between the philosophy of relative ontology and what the human brain does functionally.  Ultimately, though very simple premises are held to begin with, the model is able to describe all observable functions of "consciousness" through emergent behaviour.  Key to this description of the problem of the mind is the idea that what has been missing from traditional scientific treatments is an understanding of ontological systems, and more specifically, how a system that has no datum or "teacher" can come to assign "meaning" to the things of the World.  I would also argue that Heidegger was the first philosopher to describe such a system fully, and it is impossible to work out a scientific model of the mind without appreciating what a relative ontology is.  

The philosophical parts are not necessarily "Heidegger", and the biological parts are do not go into the nth detail - both a good thing, IMO, but perhaps not to everyone's taste.  I would be most happy to hear any and all criticism.

David

2010-03-10
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
Read Ron Sun.
Duality of Mind (book) and articles (many).
He is explicit in his integration of Heidegger into models of human intelligence and learning.

Frankly, I am unclear on a number of things.
Primarily,
WHAT IS RELATIVE ONTOLOGY?
Heidegger was concerned with fundamental ontology...

If you mean each entity populates its own world with 'things,' then I suppose I see what you mean.
But, why Heidegger?

And, Inner Voice?
Where is this Heideggerrian?

Of course, Heidegger is all about conscience.
This is my specialty.
In fact, I have a manuscript on the subject (Conscience, the mechanism of morality) in which I develop a model of (necessarily moral) cognition.
But, 'inner voice?'

BTW, the layout of your text looks more Hegel than Heidegger.
Is this intended?


2010-03-12
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Jeffrey White
To answer your questions, Jeffrey, I'll outline where I see Heidegger fitting in to science:


I think Heidegger was a "functional" philosopher, he was concerned with processes, not categorisation, and he was the first modern philosopher to embrace the shift that manifest in mathematics and physics in his time.  Just as the new concepts of relativity, the Michelson-Morley experiment interpretation and Church's treatment of mathematics as functions, stepped away from traditional "aeterna veritates" to describe each "level" of the world in terms of a relative process, be that a mathematical function representing a number, or the interactions between particles representing "solid matter", so all the key concepts of Being and Time; Being, Care, Inquiry, Thrownness, Being-in-the-World, Being-at-hand etc etc.. are all functions,  So when I say his is a "relative ontology", you're right in saying it is the relative interrelations of "things" in the world, but also it's the relative interactions of fundamental functions within Dasein itself and within the world.


But the problem Heidegger faced was that his ontology was too fundamental, too generic, there was no suitable framework, at that time, within which it could be appreciated, and he tried, IMO mistakenly, to apply it to "human behaviour".  Why mistaken?  Because there is absolutely no sense in which behaviour or concepts like "equipment" can be said to be fundamental (nor functional).  I think the fundamental ontology of Being and Time has to be untangled from the behaviourist stuff Heidegger threw in.  So when I listen to Dreyfus lectures where he talks ad infinitum about "equipment" and tool use, and all the other parts of Heidegger that belong in "social observation", I think he and others miss the point of making a fundamental ontology computational, and they make it anthropological.


In the last 60 years or so computation has become a technology, not just a theory, and together with biological knowledge of the brain in particular I believe a suitable framework for Heidegger's ontology has emerged.  Not for the social/religious commentary he adorned the ontology with, but the ontology itself.  I also believe a relative ontology will have a role to play in explaining physics at some level, again, not possible in Heidegger's time and probably not now, but sometime.


What do you think about H.'s position in science?


Read Ron Sun.
Duality of Mind (book) and articles (many).
He is explicit in his integration of Heidegger into models of human intelligence and learning.


From what I can find on the net he seems to be very practical in his research, which is good, but scanning the "Duality of the Mind" on google books, I am a little wary of his generalised use of Heidegger's terminology, and also the rather obvious contradiction in the first chapter (the book's title is "bottom up" but he starts by detailing human actions like "routineness" and "sequentiality" - really fundamental? I'm not sure).


And, Inner Voice?
Where is this Heideggerrian?




Yes, it is not Heideggerian as far as I know too - Being and Time is a foundation, but it falls far short of describing the totality of the mind (in part because the knowledge and context just wasn't there in the 1920's).  I describe the voice as an extension of the function of the motor-Action system.  All Actions must be Selected for enAction, what we identify as "free will", and the inner voice is simply a voice-Action that is not Selected for Action.  It is cognizable, but internalized.


BTW, the layout of your text looks more Hegel than Heidegger.
Is this intended?




I''ve not read Hegel, so not intended.  I hope you do not mean it is so obtuse as to be even more unreadable than Heidegger! :)

2010-03-15
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
Ok.
I suppose I see that you might find functions in Heidegger, and there is no lack of speculation on whether or not Heidegger was a 'functionalist,' but I think that all of this is misdirected.

But the problem Heidegger faced was that his ontology was too fundamental, too generic, there was no suitable framework, at that time, within which it could be appreciated, and he tried, IMO mistakenly, to apply it to "human behaviour".  Why mistaken?  Because there is absolutely no sense in which behaviour or concepts like "equipment" can be said to be fundamental (nor functional).  I think the fundamental ontology of Being and Time has to be untangled from the behaviourist stuff Heidegger threw in.

This is wrong.  No one can seriously maintain that Heidegger was a behaviorist.
And, the framework was not "generic."  It derives from Greek Philosophy, and until you understand the Greek proto-phenomenological system from which Heidegger emerges, you cannot understand Heidegger.


In the last 60 years or so computation has become a technology, not just a theory, and together with biological knowledge of the brain in particular I believe a suitable framework for Heidegger's ontology has emerged.  Not for the social/religious commentary he adorned the ontology with, but the ontology itself.

Techne is application, and computation was always the application of pure math.  I don't understand you here...  And computational intelligence is well ahead of you in already integrating Heidegger with neurology.  And, the social/religious stuff is not adornment....


I think Heidegger was a "functional" philosopher, he was concerned with processes, not categorisation, and he was the first modern philosopher to embrace the shift that manifest in mathematics and physics in his time.  Just as the ... (expand) new concepts of relativity, the Michelson-Morley experiment interpretation and Church's treatment of mathematics as functions, stepped away from traditional "aeterna veritates" to describe each "level" of the world in terms of a relative process, be that a mathematical function representing a number, or the interactions between particles representing "solid matter", so all the key concepts of Being and Time; Being, Care, Inquiry, Thrownness, Being-in-the-World, Being-at-hand etc etc.. are all functions,  So when I say his is a "relative ontology", you're right in saying it is the relative interrelations of "things" in the world, but also it's the relative interactions of fundamental functions within Dasein itself and within the world.

I will give you the process thing...  Heraclitus was Heidegger's father, too!  And, Whitehead, Dewey, James, even the dying Kant, and others, including Hegel were on that page, of course...  But, this was not a new thing, at all, and Heidegger understood that.  The stuff you are thinking of here seem like processes to you I think because you are basically an analytic working in an analytic school in a static-material West, but Heidegger was not (quite) so burdened - he had his own children of Descartes to dispute with, but at least at that time genius was respected as genius no matter, and the deeper tradition from whence his thinking emerges had not been so completely forgotten if not paved over, unlike today, where he would have been only further marginalized or worse tossed out for digging under the faculty parking lot! - and was interested instead on the emergence of 'things' as 'things', to living breathing mortal critters...  Until you understand this, then you cannot understand Heidegger.  In computational intelligence, for instance in Sun's work, mortality is integrated into the motivating mathematics.  In fact, it is angst that is foundational, for Heidegger, because - in a sense - we are primarily temporal critters, being that we are dying all the time, and things only arise as things with any significance in that light.

From what I can find on the net he seems to be very practical in his research, which is good, but scanning the "Duality of the Mind" on google books, I am a little wary of his generalised use of Heidegger's terminology, and also the rather obvious contradiction in the first chapter (the book's title is "bottom up" but he starts by detailing human actions like "routineness" and "sequentiality" - really fundamental? I'm not sure).

I am afraid that you clearly do not know what you are talking about here.  I am sorry.  You must pay due attention.  Until and unless you understand the history of ideas as did Martin Heidegger did, and as Ron Sun has worked to do as well, you have no business 'scanning on google books' an obvious forerunner to your efforts.  You are not going to remake the wheel, here.  But, you might make the old one a bit rounder.  Be careful what you dismiss, young jedi, else you toss the key.



Yes, it is not Heideggerian as far as I know too - Being and Time is a foundation, but it falls far short of describing the totality of the mind (in part because the knowledge and context just wasn't there in the 1920's).  I describe the voice as an extension of the function of the motor-Action system.  All Actions must be Selected for enAction, what we identify as "free will", and the inner voice is simply a voice-Action that is not Selected for Action.  It is cognizable, but internalized.

Ok, now, I will (to a degree) follow you on this at least.  Inner voice is an extension of motor-action, in a way.  But, you must articulate in what way the inner voice arises, why, and what it means for/in terms of action.  Heidegger does this, very explicitly.  But, you, in your description here, do not.  In fact, your discussion doesn't look much like Heidegger at all.  I guess you can carve him up, and sew together your own sort of Frankenstein, and call it an advance, and this will certainly suit the Anal-Anglo-philosophiles to whom you may be trying to appeal, but it is not Philosophy, not in any responsible way.


I've not read Hegel, so not intended.  I hope you do not mean it is so obtuse as to be even more unreadable than Heidegger! :)

Hegel's contribution to contemporary cognitive science (and Heidegger, and James, and ...) cannot be underestimated.  You must understand at least Phenom of Spirit/Mind...  imho...


Look, don't confuse Dreyfus with Heidegger.  There is no substitute.  Find a good professor in Heidegger, and like any good professor, you will come to terms with the thinker, not with his or her commentators and interpreters... Sadly, as most people don't have the conceptual wherewithal to grapple with the likes of a Heidegger (it is not a requirement anymore, to be brilliant, only to write 40,000 words on your adviser's fetish in order to be called a "philosopher" these days, and reigning faculty is testimony to that) the student is left to jump low-hurdles until he or she is left with an ahistorical, inauthentic gloss on the deepest moments in human evolution.


Not that Dreyfus doesn't have something (useful) to say, but that, when he writes about Heidegger, he is really writing about Dreyfus-on-Heidegger.
And, the focus on equipment is the return to original techne, which for Socrates was Daedalus, whom he claimed as his forebear in constructing self-animated statues, which is what you are trying to do...  My advice is that you go back to the beginning.  Start over.  A great old friend, Pullitzer prize nominated a half-dozen times, told me as a youth that the work is not in the writing, it is in the rewriting.  I hope that you can accept this advice with the good intentions it is meant to carry.  If you want some more help, if you can call it that, then I am willing to work with you in so far as I have the time.

Jeff








2010-03-16
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Jeffrey White
Please allow me to jump in here quickly for a question.
Jeff,
A proper integration of Heidegger and neurology in the field of computational intelligence? This is news to me and would certainly make for interesting reading.  Can you give me a reference for this literature?  Do you have Ron Sun in mind or others?

Thanks.

2010-03-16
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Jeffrey White
Thanks for your insight on this Jeffrey.  I accept almost all your criticisms, and I'll try to work on them myself.


As a general defence though, I would say that I am aware of some of the philosophical considerations you raise, eg. the greek or historical perspective, but I am approaching this from a practical/scientific (an extreme reductionist) POV.  If one were to try to translate any philosophical system faithfully to a computational/biological one it would be an exercise in futility.  I may be trying to... "carve him up, and sew together your own sort of Frankenstein, and call it an advance"... but I don't see anything wrong with this.  The bottom line, though not "responsible" philosophy, is logical and technological applicability, from which, I hope, an underlying philosophy (in the ancient sense) can be intuited.


I will give you the process thing...  Heraclitus was Heidegger's father, too!  And, Whitehead, Dewey, James, even the dying Kant, and others, including Hegel were on that page, of course...  But, this was not a new thing, at all, and Heidegger understood that.  The stuff you are thinking of here seem like processes to you I think because you are basically an analytic working in an analytic school in a static-material West, but Heidegger was not (quite) so burdened - he had his own children of Descartes to dispute with, but at least at that time genius was respected as genius no matter, and the deeper tradition from whence his thinking emerges had not been so completely forgotten if not paved over, unlike today, where he would have been only further marginalized or worse tossed out for digging under the faculty parking lot! - and was interested instead on the emergence of 'things' as 'things', to living breathing mortal critters...  Until you understand this, then you cannot understand Heidegger.  In computational intelligence, for instance in Sun's work, mortality is integrated into the motivating mathematics.  In fact, it is angst that is foundational, for Heidegger, because - in a sense - we are primarily temporal critters, being that we are dying all the time, and things only arise as things with any significance in that light.


Yes, I understand and agree with this mostly, my first "level" of understanding of Heidegger came from an understanding of angst/mortality/time as H. describes it.  And I do integrate this into the system... but where in human life does an awareness of mortality emerge?  Not for several years.  There are large amounts of logic that have to be worked out before it even makes an appearance in the system.  Starting with this as a foundation (I don't know whether Sun does this or not) is a mistake because, just like H. himself writes, there is a massive foundation of logic that comes before Angst emerges in Dasein.  Almost everything I describe is a computational foundation for Angst.  Does Sun take Angst as a premise, a given quality of the mind, or does he explain where it comes from?


This is wrong.  No one can seriously maintain that Heidegger was a behaviorist.


Apologies, I didn't mean to say he was a "behaviourist" in the sense of describing the human condition in terms of the psychological mind only, but that when he used behavioural examples he makes huge leaps from the microscopic to the macroscopic with no explanation.  There are whole passages of B&T where H. talks about nothing more than how his philosophy applies to people in everyday life... granted they tend to be examples of a point, but the force of these arguments is entirely divorced from the strength of his purely fundamental considerations.  Thus, the required "untangling" of the computational from the non-computational (or the "logical" from the "speculative")


And, the framework was not "generic."  It derives from Greek Philosophy, and until you understand the Greek proto-phenomenological system from which Heidegger emerges, you cannot understand Heidegger.



Yes, I am roughly familiar with this.  I mean generic in that... what use is his philosophy?  Is it moral?  Metaphysical?  Mental?  Hermeneutic?  Phenomenological?  One might, I think, claim all, and more.
But moreover, I mean "generic" in its scientific and technological application.  Most post-ancient(/Christian) philosophy is so abstract as to have very little scientific use, but I believe that H.'s philosophy can have a computational (and metaphysical) use but that he was not aware of this when he wrote it.  Thus, though he certainly meant for it to address the ancient's question of Being, and the ancients themselves had no concept of modern biology or computation, the philosophy can be apprehended for this purpose if read the right way.  So, it is generic in its applicability, even if not intended as such.


I am afraid that you clearly do not know what you are talking about here.  I am sorry.  You must pay due attention.  Until and unless you understand the history of ideas as did Martin Heidegger did, and as Ron Sun has worked to do as well, you have no business 'scanning on google books' an obvious forerunner to your efforts.  You are not going to remake the wheel, here.  But, you might make the old one a bit rounder.  Be careful what you dismiss, young jedi, else you toss the key.



Agreed, I don't know at all here!  Sorry, I'm just, as I said, wary.  I have read lots of interpretations of Heidegger that I find to be insubstantial.... actually, reading more of Sun's book, the part where he talks about CLARION is quite in tune with what I write, though I think he skips over some mechanisms in some parts.  I'll order the book.


Not that Dreyfus doesn't have something (useful) to say, but that, when he writes about Heidegger, he is really writing about Dreyfus-on-Heidegger.
And, the focus on equipment is the return to original techne, which for Socrates was Daedalus, whom he claimed as his forebear in constructing self-animated statues, which is what you are trying to do...  My advice is that you go back to the beginning.  Start over.  A great old friend, Pullitzer prize nominated a half-dozen times, told me as a youth that the work is not in the writing, it is in the rewriting.  I hope that you can accept this advice with the good intentions it is meant to carry.  If you want some more help, if you can call it that, then I am willing to work with you in so far as I have the time.




On Dreyfus, yes I know he has his own view on Heidegger which he likes to expound, as does everyone else, like me.  And I take the criticisms and advice gladly, thank you!


2010-03-16
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to G. N. Byrom
What I said was that there are perople well ahead of this boy in the process...
I mentioned Sun because he advised my own PhD, and I know him.
Sun begins with Heidegger, and works from the grounds of a responsible (if not complete) reading of Heidegger, as his work is not primarily (as this boy's work is explicitly given to be) an integration oof Being and Time with biology.
His focus is building an increasingly realistic model of human learning, and from that models of social/cooperative systems...
He is a computational cognitive scientist.

Of course, any project in the proper integration of the two is (largely to be found in the literature as) confirmation, and there is plenty of that...
One need only consider the central and yet neglected role of Mitda-sein in Heidegger's system to see where I might begin pointing here.
And, there is the role of Heidegger in directing neurological research, an influence that never shows up explicitly, for direct analysis, but that it takes only a few years of immersion in the literature to recgonize...

2010-03-16
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
an underlying philosophy (in the ancient sense) can be intuited

Intuited?  Why?  I thought that you were using Heidegger?  What is left to intuit?
Intuition is a bullshit word.
A magic word.
And magic doesn't work, here.


Yes, I understand and agree with this mostly, my first "level" of understanding of Heidegger came from an understanding of angst/mortality/time as H. describes it.  And I do integrate this into the system... but where in human life does an awareness of mortality emerge?  Not for several years. 

This is wrong.  Mortality has nothing to do with "awareness" as you (likely) employ the term, as a "concept."  Not properly understood.  Look, you are confused.  There is a difference between Angst and fear of death.  I think that you cannot understand Heidegger because you do not have an experiential basis to understand the distinction.  And you likely will not, if ever, "for several years."  You need to live more, study more, and understand better.  Ears open.  Mouth shut.  There is a reason that Plato suggested that Philosophers must wait until 35 to begin the practice...  If you have forgotten this reason, then you might wish to review the pertinent passages in the Republic. 

There are large amounts of logic that have to be worked out before it even makes an appearance in the system.  

You are confusing the form of B&T with the Substance of B&T.

Starting with this as a foundation (I don't know whether Sun does this or not) is a mistake because, just like H. himself writes, there is a massive foundation of logic that comes before Angst emerges in Dasein.  Almost everything I describe is a computational foundation for Angst.  Does Sun take Angst as a premise, a given quality of the mind, or does he explain where it comes from?

"A given quality of the mind"????  David, you are really missing the boat here.  See Phenom of Perception...
It is an aspect of body, as is your (Cartesian/Analytic/mistaken) concept of "mind."

Sun writes it into his models as (basically) an energy requirement, much like a metabolic requirement, and much as Heidegger may have intended...
These people are/were not ignorant of physiology.
And, believe it or not, not much has really changed in our understanding of physiology except that views that were available but that were unconfirmed are now confirmed.
Perception/action, of which Heidegger was most certainly aware, is one example here.
As are mirror neurons.
As is the mediating role of stress in the physiology of enlightenment...
As is the lack of conscience in a bully, and a bad leader...
Lest we forget Heidegger's falling out with National Socialism.

There are whole passages of B&T where H. talks about nothing more than how his philosophy applies to people in everyday life... granted they tend to be examples of a point, but the force of these arguments is entirely divorced from the strength of his purely fundamental considerations.  Thus, the required "untangling" of the computational from the non-computational (or the "logical" from the "speculative")


Heidegger is not making an "argument."  He doesn't need to nor is he trying to convince anyone of anything.  He is elucidating everyday life, not applying a system of philosophy to life ad hoc.
And, he doesn't need any "untangling."
You simply do not understand, again, because you haven't the experiential basis, and, if you continue on as you are, you will not do what is necessary to gain this base.
Anal-philosophiles are writing lately on the subject of experience as knowledge and evidence as knowledge.
Though I have only read the blurbs, and can't stomach either the authors or the form of exposition (except perhaps in one case...), you may have a go at it and see if there isn't something in these expositions that doesn't confirm my commentary in a form and within a forum that seems to better suit your temperament.
Phil and Phenom Research, the latest issue, has a couple of these in it if I remember correctly...
Though, where the "Philosophy" and the "Phenomenology" has gone, I am at a loss to say...


Agreed, I don't know at all here!  Sorry, I'm just, as I said, wary.  I have read lots of interpretations of Heidegger that I find to be insubstantial.... actually, reading more of Sun's book, the part where he talks about CLARION is quite in tune with what I write, though I think he skips over some mechanisms in some parts.  I'll order the book.

Your university library should have the book.  If it doesn't, then it should order it for you.  The book is too expensive for you to order, yourself, if I remember correctly it was maybe 100usd.  And, Ron has a lot of papers (on CLARION) as well as the software online.  Check his homepage at Renselaer.

2010-03-17
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
Not sure I have much to add here . . . seems this is more a discussion about whether on understands Heidegger or not.
I too have looked at computational views, and would be happy to discuss "that point" if it comes round again to that.
I have some material posted at: http://vimeo.com/evolv

2010-03-17
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Jeffrey White
Jeffrey,

I'm afraid I find what you describe to be far from how I interpret Heidegger, and I know how you will take this, but I shall stress nonetheless that this is founded purely on logic.  That Angst is different from (prior to) an awareness/fear of mortality, I know.  That "intuit" is a bullshit word, or that Heidegger was not making an argument nor needs any untangling I neither know nor believe.

Since this discussion is about how Heidegger is perceived, and we already disagree, I see no problem in being more "youthfully" arrogant  ;) .  Heidegger was basically wrong - he neither attempted to rigorously describe the whole of the mind nor completely did so on any level; psychologically, phenomenologically or ontologically.  I value what he did intuit immensely, but have no issue in tearing apart an incomplete, technologically-outdated philosophy for scientific purposes.  That his work should be so old, pre-dating all the major scientific fields that are now part of cognitive science, and have any relevance and value at all is a testament, but does not make it sacrosanct.  I merely use his writing as a basis and that my interpretation should differ from Heidegger or what others think Heidegger meant is most certainly a good thing IMO.  If there are successful implementations of Heidegger's philosophy I shall reiterate the call to have them cited, and would gladly read them if they're under $50.

And, I shall be stronger; I charge anyone who uses Heidegger's terminology (or any other philosophical system) without computational description and/or real world correlation, of sophistic posturing.  What use is one's understanding of His or any other's philosophy unless it has practical use?  (Aside from philosophy for the soul, but that is personally practical, not necessarily scientifically applicable and thus not universally "true").  I note that you have a book, "Conscience: the mechanism of morality", so are in print practising a practical application of moral philosophy (though I wonder if this prescribes the berating of new forum members with ad hominem attacks?).  If Heidegger's philosophy may be appropriated for scientific/biological use, as your mentor has, and that philosophy is most certainly not written for computational implementation, then am I or others not justified in recasting that work?  If one wished to use, say, Stoic philosophy in modern science, would you critique their failure to follow Zeno to the letter?  Or going through the looking glass another way; what merit does your interpretation of H. have for this issue (cognitive science)?

I also have increasing doubts about Sun's use of Heidegger since, though I base this in part on what you said, to interpret Angst as "(basically) an energy requirement, much like a metabolic requirement" seems like a gross oversimplification of a function of Dasein that I think is a very high level emergent feature.  Is there any consensus amongst academics that Sun's view is justified?

And I'm sorry I have no idea what an "anal-philosophile" is.

David

2010-03-18
Biology + Heidegger = ?
I will review your materials, and would be happy to contribute what I can (what I know) to another forum.
 Best bet would be to start a new thread.
I will do so when I have a moment...
Please, look for that.

2010-03-22
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
David - for my part I am wondering if you have a concise statement somewhere (abstract).  I started to look through the material you point us to . . . and (for me) it started to read a bit like a primer on autopoiesis/ autogenesis (throat clearing?).  But I then felt myself a bit reluctant to sift through the rest of the material to locate the desired "gem(s)."  If I may -  what do you believe you are bringing to the table here that is new?  I will prefer an answer in your own words, and not as a reference to Heidegger . . . as we already see where that leads.

Thanks!

2010-03-24
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Yes, it is something like a description of autopoiesis, and to be honest I do not know if there is anything new.  If there is anything similar, I would be most eager to read!

I am a scientist in education and thought, and from my perspective, what has been missing in science is a generalised, fundamental description of how a system, such as the neurons within the mind, can create the main "phenomena of consciousness" (eg.  perception, awareness, attention focusing, "free will" etc etc).  It struck me when reading Heidegger that he described essentially this, the terminology was strange and there was no attempt on his part to make it computational, so I set about reinterpreting B&T in a way more agreeable to the tenets of biology and computation.  Then, it has just become a task of beating it down to fundamental computation (representing high level functions with "neuron" activation and inhibition).  I actually believe there is no one way to build a sentient system if the overall architecture is "right"... study of the human brain, neo cortical columns, temporal firing patterns and so on simply describes one particular implementation of the low level structure that evolution has landed us with.  Thus, extending this hypothesis, I set out to describe the general "autopoiesis of sentience" (and by "general" I mean that it can be used to describe both biological sentience and synthetic sentience should one wish to build it, and, ultimately, any theory would need to be tested, right?).

I looked at your presentations, Marcus, and to a point was in almost complete agreement with you.  The holistic take on consciousness was interesting and raised a couple of points that I had not considered in enough detail before.  Thank you for the links and good quality of presentation.


2010-03-26
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
David - thanks for the notes.  I like your "spirit of thought&ambition" . . . but not sure if "anything similar" exists.  Vilmos Csanyi (systems thinker) was the most recent one whose work I liked the most.  But then I did not think he went far enough (or maybe I did not go far enough in my grasp) - so I took a shot at it myself, and developed my own work/ model.  Still, Csanyi goes further "towards a science" than I believe most of the autopoiesis camp does, and I enjoyed his work for that.  Also I know Terrance Deacon(sp?) (UC Berkeley, USA) was working on something (caught a bit at a conference) but not sure anything interesting is published yet.

>I actually believe there is no one way to build a sentient system if the overall architecture is "right"<
Not sure I understand  - do you suggest there may ultimately be several ways to engineer such a system, beyond low-level systems? (if so, yeah sure . . . )  If your point is that there is "no way" to do this - I disagree, as this is my work's focus: determining an appropriate computational view.  And of course "no testing" = "no theory," only leaves on with an opinion/ notion.  But still - I am a bit unsure of just how you use "sentience" here - in a certain sense "sentience" is simply "sensory data" (low level) and says nothing about how data may be processed (higher level), no?  Any more clarity you have to share on this are appreciated.

Thanks for the kind words on my presentation material.  I work hard to make it accessible and concise . . . without too much "dumbing down."

2010-04-02
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
David,

How can you have an "algorithmic function of "consciousness" when the central problem of conscious thinking is to *concentrate* ? Maintaining anything like up to a minute's logically connected train of thought in one's head is extremely difficult. William James made a v. big point of this. Did Heidegger deal with it in any way? Computers obviously, as currently programmed and designed, have no problems of concentration whatsoever. I can loosely, philosophically conceive of how they might be programmed differently - but it wouldn't entail algorithms. I am not making a trivial or eccentric point here. The concentration problem centrally defines human conscious thought.

Note, as background, that cognitive science still refuses to study streams of consciousness, incl. deliberate conscious thought,  just as it once refused to study consciousness, period. But that will change, and when it does, I suggest, the fact that conscious thought is nothing like algorithmic will be immediately self-evident.

2010-04-03
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Mike Tintner
Mike,
I agree that "concentration" or "stream of consciousness" are important phenomena to describe, as would anyone I think, but they sit near/at the top of a pyramid of other phenomena which are equally, if not more, important because of their primacy and foundation in establishing those that you mention.  It's not that people don't study it, but that there are different ways to approach it (bottom up, top down, etc)

Stream of consciousness is, I think, the archetypical example of lax analysis in this field that perfectly demonstrates why so much (pre-computational) philosophy is largely worthless.  As a term, it was appropriated by the arts and psychoanalysis and from there has entered everyday language, denoting in a quasi-artistic-logical manner the general ability of humans to represent thought symbolically in the medium of their choice.  But when James or anyone else talks about it, what do they mean?  It is nothing more than a placeholder for a more fundamental process, like "gravity", and without elucidating what that process is, all the discussion of the word itself is just a caucus-race.  

In James' time, these terms were the tools of the trade, but now we have much better equipment with which we can be thinking about this.  Let's chuck out all the old terminology, and work from a scientific foundation.  We need to study how "concentration" and "stream of consciousness" arise, and biology makes this a computational affair.  Philosophy may act as a guide, but should not be taken as "truth" of any kind, for it is nothing but the contemplations of certain men.

You mention at the end that it shall become "self-evident" that conscious thought is not algorithmic.  Many people argue this position, notably for me Roger Penrose (though he says "non-computational"), but I think the burden of proof is on them (and Penrose didn't succeed IMO).  On what foundation do you base this?  Is there any merit in discussing these old fashioned terms?  People have been using them for ages and yet our understanding through these words is no better than when they were explored artistically, psychologically and philosophically over a century ago.

David

2010-04-09
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Mike Tintner
Mike: Computers obviously, as currently programmed and designed, have no problems of concentration whatsoever. I can loosely, philosophically conceive of how they might be programmed differently - but it wouldn't entail algorithms.
I think you're thinking of individual programs, there, not the computer as a whole, which might be running a number of different programs at the same time. In this case, the issue of how resources are allocated, or concentrated, on an individual task, is highly pertinent. In most current computers there's a system of priorities that partially determines how much of the central processor's time is devoted to each task. Another important factor is interaction: while one program is waiting for user input, it doesn't require much processor time, but as soon as that input becomes available, it needs to be dealt with. And all of this (arguably excepting the user) is entirely algorithmic.

2010-04-12
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
David, you say:
I am a scientist in education and thought, and from my perspective, what has been missing in science is a generalised, fundamental description of how a system, such as the neurons within the mind, can create the main "phenomena of consciousness" (eg.  perception, awareness, attention focusing, "free will" etc etc).
I'm trying to follow an argument through all the testosterone-injected invective coursing through this thread. Would you please explain exactly where these "neurons within the mind" are? Are you just eliding brain and mind, function and predicate, or whatever? And while you're at it, perhaps you could describe how you have come to the position that these "neurons within the mind" are a "system"?

 I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about.

2010-04-14
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon

Heidegger, Biology and ‘The Theoretical Attitude’ of the Sciences<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 

Here, drawing on Martin Heidegger’s 1918 lectures on ‘Philosophy as Primordial Science’ and on ‘Phenomenology as Primordial Pre-Theoretical Science’,  I seek to show why it is that Heideggerian thinking cannot - in principle - be fitted into the frame of scientific ‘biology’ - or indeed any form of theoretical science or scientific theorising.  According to Heidegger, science is “...to a quite unimaginable degree, through and through dogmatic; dealing with un-thought-through conceptions and preconceptions.” (Zollikon Seminars). For though science assumes itself to be neutral and free of presuppositions, this is in itself a highly questionable presupposition.

 

The term ‘pre-sup-position’ is rooted in the verb ‘to pose’ or posit’. And in reality the theoretical constructs of the ‘positive’ sciences pose or posit in advance (‘pre-sup-pose’) the nature of their own object-domains as well the significance of all possible outcomes of scientific experimentation.  The sciences and scientific thinking in general are but one example of what Heidegger called “the theoretical attitude”. This is an attitude which imposes its concepts on what is most central to phenomenology – namely the nature of pre-conceptual and pre-theoretical experiencing. An example of such im-position is the way in which it is simply taken as given – presupposed – that subjective experiencing is something based on primary ‘sense data’, for example a ‘sense datum’ such as the colour brown. In his 1918 lectures, Heidegger thoroughly deconstructs this notion. Referring to the lectern before which he is standing he asks:

 

“What do ‘I’ see? Brown surfaces, at right angles to one another? No, I see something else. A largish box with another smaller one set upon it. Not at all. I see the lectern at which I am to speak.”

 

The question here is what, if anything can be said to be “immediately given” in lived, pre-theoretical experiencing:

 

What is immediately given! Every word here is significant. What does ‘immediate’ mean? The lectern is given to me immediately in the lived experience of it. I see it as such. I do not see sensations and sense data. I am not conscious of sensations at all.

Yet I still see brown, the brown colour. But I do not see it as a sensation of brown … What does ‘given’ mean? Do I experience this datum ‘brown’ as a moment of sensation in the same way as I do the lectern? … Evidently not … the sensation is itself there, but only in so far as I destroy what environmentally surrounds it, in so far as I remove, bracket and disregard my historical ‘I’ and simply practice theory, in so far as I remain primarily in the theoretical attitude.”

 

“It is the general prevalence of the theoretical which deforms the true problematic. It is the primacy of the theoretical. In its very approach to the problem, with the isolation of sense data … the all-determining step into the theoretical has already been taken.”

 

This is the reason why philosophy, understood as primordial science - as science that is truly presuppositionless - must be ‘phenomenological’ science. That is to say it must be grounded in pre-theoretical experiencing in a way that, unlike “the theoretical attitude”, takes nothing as simply ‘given’ in that experiencing. 

 

“… in environmental experience there is no theoretical positing at all.”

For environmental experience itself neither makes presuppositions, nor does it let itself be labelled as a presupposition.

 

This applies not only to the theoretically posited or presupposed ‘givenness’ of sense data as basic ‘elements’ of experience, but also and not least to theoretical posits such as those imposed by terms such as ‘psychical’ and ‘physical’ - and with them the entire, purely theoretical debate surrounding the nature of their relation.

 

“I experience. I experience something in a lived way. When we simply give ourselves over to this experience we know nothing of a [‘psychic’ or ‘physical’] process passing before us. Neither anything psychic nor anything physical is given.”

 

Thus “In the experience of seeing the lectern something is given to me from out of an immediate environment  [Umwelt]. This environmental milieu (lectern, book, blackboard, notebook, fountain pen, caretaker, student fraternity, tram-car, motor car etc. does not consist of things, objects, which are then conceived as meaning this and this; rather, the meaningful is primary and given to me without any mental detours across thing-oriented apprehension.” [my stress]

 

“I see something brown, but in a unified context of significance in connection with the lectern. But I can still disregard everything that belongs to the lectern. I can brush away everything until I arrive at the simple sensation of brown, and I can make this itself into an object.”

Yet “When I attempt to explain the environing world theoretically, it collapses upon itself. It does not signify an intensification of experience, or any superior knowledge of the environment, when I attempt its dissolution…” [of environing meaning]

 

This is but “Explanation through dismemberment, i.e. destruction: one wants to explain something which one no longer has as such, which one cannot and will not recognise as such in its validity.”

 

Let us again bring to mind the environmental experience: the lectern. Starting from what is here experienced I proceed to theorise: it is brown; brown is a colour; colour is a genuine sense datum; a sense datum is the result of physical or physiological processes …”

 

Heidegger describes the theoretical process (in whatever way and through how many stages or alternate sequences it is presented) as essentially a process of "de-livening"  (German Ent-leben) of experience. Like the word Ent-leben the German words for ‘an experience’ (Erlebnis) or ‘experiencing’ (erleben) both derive from the German for life (Leben) and living (leben). In this sense the term ‘lived experience’ is, in German, an oxymoron – experience being first and foremost something lived on a pre-theoretical plane and not an object of theorisation. All the more paradoxical then, that from a set of theoretically posited and separated elements such as sense data, nerve cells, wavelengths of light etc. (all of which constitute a de-struction of lived, pre-theoretical experiencing) scientific theory then attempts to re-construct the nature of lived experience - indeed to explain or define life itself - as a step-by-step construction of those artificially separated elements it has abstracted from lived experience, thereby ‘taking the life out of it’.

 

What then, from the perspective of philosophy as ‘primordial’ or ‘phenomenological’ science, i.e. from out the realm of pre-theoretical experiencing - is ‘life’? As the German language indicates, the essence of life (Leben) is experiencing as such (German Er-leben) and thus nothing (no thing and no process) that is merely experienced and nothing that can be objectified and explained through the lifeless theoretical constructs and the explanations constructed from them. That is why philosophy as Heidegger understood it can in no way be integrated into the theoretical sciences or scientific theorising. For philosophy as phenomenology is essentially a primordial, pre-theoretical science of a sort that completely undermines the basic “theoretical attitude” of the sciences. If philosophy is essentially primordial science then scientific theorising is a type of superficial philosophising - one which remains bound to the “theoretical attitude”.

 

What is decisively lacking in this attitude is any recognition of the inherent unity of the two senses belonging in the word ‘sense’, namely ‘sense’ in the sense of ‘the senses’ and ‘sense data’ on the one hand and ‘sense’ as sensually experienced meaning  (German Sinn) on the other. The environmental world of sensory experiencing in which we dwell is, first and foremost in a world of immediately apprehended and lived meaning and no mere collection of objects or assemblage of sense data - this is the message that Heidegger brings to the fore, inspired in part by the revolutionary ‘environmental biology’ of Jakob Uexküll1. And since meaning-full experiencing (Sinnvolles Er-leben) is the sensual essence of life (Leben) itself, neither ‘experiencing’ nor ‘life’ can be reduced to or ‘explained’ through the theoretical frame of ‘biology’ as a science.

 

The essence of biology, is, as Heidegger remarked, nothing ‘biological’ in the scientific sense. Instead it is quite literally the word (logos) of life (bios). ‘Life’ (bios) understood as ‘word’ or logos – is essentially a medium of expression of meaning or sense - one whose most meaningful and primordial language is the language of pre-theoretical experiencing as such. Thus to split ‘life’ or ‘experiencing’ into theoretical compartments such as ‘psychical’ and ‘physical’, ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ dimensions, is to deliven and do  violence to both. And however intellectually sophisticated and ‘scientific’ the attempts to then theoretically ‘unify’ these separated compartments and dimensions, it cannot be forgotten that the whole “theoretical attitude” is itself a lived attitude and an attitude towards life - albeit one characterised by a particularly lifeless mode of expression and one divorced from the lived experiencing (Er-leben) of the scientific theorist. Yet whereas the “theoretical attitude” of science is one which takes as given a set of already signified senses of specific words or terms (for example the terms ‘psychical’ and ‘physical’)  the attitude of phenomenology is one which starts from the immediately sensed significance of pre-theoretical experiencing in the life of human beings.  

 

Note: Heidegger and Uexküll

 

1. Heidegger’s use of the term “environmental experience” echoes the language of the revolutionary zoologist Jakob Johann von Uexküll (1864-1944). Uexküll’s use of the term ‘environment’ however, should not be understood in any conventional or contemporary sense. For Uexküll’s principle insight was that each organism inhabits its own unique sensory ‘environment’ (Geman Umwelt or ‘surrounding world’). This unique environment is not shaped by the organism’s sensory apparatus alone but by the unique meaning or significance it attaches to different sensory ‘cues’. Thus for a tick there is simply no such thing in its perceptual environment as a rabbit, rat, cow, sheep or human being. Instead there is simply the smell of mammalian sweat, and the tactile sense of mammalian hair and skin warmth.  Whereas for the human animal, ‘mammalian’ is merely a generic concept (signifying a genus of environmentally perceptible sub-species) within the unique sensory environment of the tick ‘mammalness’ is a dimension of immediately sensed significance that allows no environmental distinction of sub-species. It enacts this sensed meaning or significance through dropping from a tree onto a mammal, letting itself be guided by its hair towards its skin, and then using heat cues to begin sucking blood - which it neither sees nor tastes. For Uexküll, as for Heidegger, the ‘subjectivity’ of an organism is not that of a ‘subject’ or ‘I’ experiencing an ‘objective’ environment. Instead it is a subjectivity constituted by its manner of environmental experiencing - the environment itself being itself a subjective space or field of experiencing and not a set of objects. Uexküll  also echoes Heidegger’s views on the basic flaw of scientific ‘questioning’, ‘theory’ and ‘research’:

 

“Research cannot possibly proceed without questions that make assumptions (hypotheses) in which the answer (thesis) is already contained. The ultimate recognition of the answer and the establishment of a knowledge-claim follows as soon as the researcher has found a sufficiently persuasive number of manifestations in nature that he can interpret as positive or negative in terms of the hypothesis. The sole authority on which a knowledge-claim rests is not that of nature, but that of the researcher, who has answered his own questions himself.”

 

Uexküll, 1920

 

 

References:

 

Harrington, Anne Reenchanted Science – Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Hitler  Princeton University Press 1996

 

Heidegger, Martin  Towards the Definition of Philosophy  Continuum Books,  2000

 

 

Postscript: deconstructing the theoretics of ‘brain science’

 

 

The scientific notion that ‘consciousness’ or ‘perception’ can in any way be explained through modern brain science is riddled with basic philosophical and logical contradictions which seem to pose no question at all to scientific theoreticians. For whilst no scientist would dream of explaining dream consciousness as the product of some particular thing we happen to dream of, they are quite happy to explain consciousness as such as the product of some particular thing we are conscious of – the human brain as we perceive it in waking life. And whilst it is tacitly understood that all possible things and events that we dream of emerge from and within the overall subjective field of our dreaming consciousness, science takes the view that the phenomena we behold in waking life are physical ‘objects’ separate and independent of the psychical space or field of consciousness in which they appear. Space itself is regarded as a dimension of ‘physical’ reality, rather than as the spacious field of awareness in which alone particular things can stand out (‘ex-ist’) as distinct phenomena we are conscious of. Light too is regarded as a ‘physical’ phenomenon, despite the fact that nothing can come to light as a ‘phenomenon’ (in the Greek meaning of the word, something which shines forth or appears) except through the subjective light of awareness as such. Thus it is that scientific modes of explaining visual perception are, when examined from an elementary philosophical standpoint, entirely circular. On the one hand visual perception is explained as a product of ‘physical’ light reflected off ‘physical’ objects in ‘physical’ space in such a way as to reach and stimulate retinal nerve receptors in the eye - in a way that is then interpreted or shaped by the brain.  On the other hand, the self-same ‘physical’ objects from which this light is supposedly reflected are understood as subjective ‘psychical’ phantasms produced by the brain and projected outwards into an imaginary environmental space. Within this model lie two further logical contradictions. Firstly, how can the brain be said to create visual images ‘of’ things, if the very things ‘out there’ which are said to be represented by these images are themselves essentially nothing but images produced and projected ‘out there’ outward by the brain? (And among such images we include images of scientific instruments, scans and supposed measurements of light as mere quantitative wavelengths of something conceived of as electro-magnetic ‘energy’).   Even more fundamentally, brain science brainlessly fails to acknowledge that the eye and brain themselves are, first and foremost, objects of visual perception – whether perceived directly or through instrumental scans and images. The circularity of brain science therefore lies in seeking to explain visual perception itself and as such by particular objects of visual perception – the eye and brain. Yet just as dreaming cannot be explained by anything we dream of, nor – in principal – can conscious perception, let alone consciousness as such, be explained by some particular thing we perceive or are conscious of.

 

In contrast to the circularities, contradictions and psycho-physical dualisms and parallelisms of brain science, a phenomenological understanding of consciousness and perception can be refined from Uexküll’s essentially subjective model of environmental perception. All that is required is to add an inter-subjective dimension to this model. Then, in place of psycho-physical dualism, parallelism or ‘correlation’, all so-called 'physical' phenomena can be understood inter-subjectively – as external perceptions or 'exteroceptions' of other consciousnesses. By ‘other consciousnesses’ I mean different species-specific field-patterns of awareness, each of which shapes a different perceptual ‘environment’ or patterned field of awarenessAll exteroception therefore, occurs within a species-specific field-pattern of environmental experiencing shaped by a patterned field of awareness specific to a given species of consciousness. The term ‘species of consciousness’ is necessary to avoid confusion with so-called biological species as human beings perceive them. For what human beings perceive as ‘a shark’, ‘a sheep’, ‘a rock’ or ‘a tree’ is but the exteroception of a non-human species of consciousness – a non-human field-pattern of awareness as perceived within the ‘environment’ or patterned field of awareness constituted by our own specifically human field-pattern of awareness. In contrast, the way in which  a rock, tree, shark, jellyfish dog, cow or sheep experiences its own perceptual ‘environment’ or patterned field of awareness - together with the way it perceives other ‘species of consciousness’ or field-patterns of awareness within this field - is radically different from the way in which human beings perceive these other species of consciousness. Indeed even words such ‘rock’, ‘tree’, ‘shark’, ‘jellyfish’, ‘dog’, ‘cow’, ‘sheep’, ‘bird’, ‘spider’ and ‘tick’ etc. are names for human ‘exteroceptions’ of these other species of consciousness.

 

 Just as for the organism which we perceive as ‘a tick’ there can, as Uexküll recognised, be no differentiated perception of humanly perceived species such as rats, rabbits, sheep, cows or human beings we perceive them, so is it true that all species perceive both their own outer form and anatomy and that of different species in radically different ways. Moreover there is the paradox that our perception of brains and sense organs themselves is a species-specific mode of perception. Our perception of sense organs and of the brain itself can be nothing but an external perception or ‘exteroception’ of those field-patterns of awareness that constitute our species-specific mode of perception - one as different from that of other ‘species of consciousness’ as their ‘brains’ or ‘nervous systems’ appear to us. Even terms such as ‘brain’ name a specifically human way of perceiving our own and other species’ field-patterns of awareness from without – exteroceptively.

 

Brain science is a prime example and enactment of what Heidegger called “the theoretical attitude”, an attitude which treats consciousness or subjectivity itself as a theoretical object - and then puts itself through theoretical hoops (and lands up in circular loops) in a vain attempt to ‘explain’ consciousness or subjectivity as a product or correlate of its own perceptual objects - not least the brain itself. Such is the philosophical ‘brainlessness’ of even the most intellectually sophisticated brain ‘science’.

The result of this ‘science’ is that the phenomenological key to understanding the nature of consciousness, perception and environmental experiencing – inter-subjectivity – is itself ultimately reduced to a mere physical interaction of (exteroceptively) perceived objects in the form of anatomical sense organs, nervous systems and brains. The unacknowledged and unaware logical ‘trickery’ employed to do so was duly noted and challenged by Martin Heidegger:

 

“When it is claimed that brain research is a scientific foundation for our understanding of human beings, the claim implies that the true and real relationship of one human being to another is an interaction of brain processes, and that in brain research itself, nothing else is happening but that one brain is in some way ‘informing’ another. Then, for example, the statue of a god in the Akropolis museum, viewed during the term break, that is to say outside the research work, is in reality and truth nothing but the meeting of a brain process in the observer with the product of a brain process, the statue exhibited. Reassuring us, during the holidays, that this is not what is really implied, means living with a certain double or triple accounting that clearly doesn’t rest easily with the much faulted rigour of science.”

 

Hence Heidegger’s valid claim that:

 

Phenomenology is more of a science than natural science is.”

 

References:

 

Heidegger, Martin  The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays

Harper and Row 1977


2010-04-14
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Marcus,Thanks for the names, Terrence Deacon has some good material available on the net... his lecture on evolutionary neurology is great, though a large file :)
http://www.archive.org/details/ucb_icbs_darwin_2009_02_06c_Terrence_Deacon

David

2010-04-14
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Worrall
David,
Yes, I think "mind" and "brain" are fairly interchangeable, though perhaps it is more accurate to say the brain is the corpus and the mind the function.  "Neurons of the mind" is a pretty horrible phrase, "brain" would have been better (though as you say, I was kind of trying to imply that neither the brain nor neurons are important, they are both readily abstracted for computational use all the time eg. neural net/processing/architecture..).

With regard to "system" I meant something along the lines of:  the function of the "mind" is a general principle and the human brain is just one example of the enaction of this principle.  The neurons of the brain, and other cells, act in a computational way to produce this function.  Science has been very successful finding how the mechanics of these cells work, but has not been able to find out how they work as a collective to produce said phenomena.  This is the "system" I refer to; just like any other biological system, this is a generalized model of how this particular region of an organism works (akin to eg. the hepatobiliary system or the respiratory system)... only, in light of the wall encountered by scientific observation alone, I think it is beneficial to study an abstracted (philosophically and evolutionarily grounded) model rather than the in vivo one directly, and then work out the parallels.


Do you think the brain/mind is a system/can be modelled as a system?  If so, what model best describes it so far?

David

2010-04-14
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
An altogether different question for you knowledgeable Heideggerians here.  Why does a modern scientifically committed thinker need to bother with Heidegger? Why think at all about the massively reified abstraction that is "Being", when one can (should?) be thinking instead about the questions raised by modern *embodied cognitive science* - i.e how cognition is embodied ? Embodied cog. sci. is still a stumbling enterprise in its infancy - and maybe needs a much better name - but it's at least trying to establish an embodied paradigm of cognition that can be built on and up scientifically. And even Heidegger himself couldn't build further on Being and Time, no?

2010-04-14
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
Mike: Computers obviously, as currently programmed and designed, have no problems of concentration whatsoever. I can loosely, philosophically conceive of how they might be programmed differently - but it wouldn't entail algorithms.
I think you're thinking of individual programs, there, not the computer as a whole, which might be running a number of different programs at the same time. In this case, the issue of how resources are allocated, or concentrated, on an individual task, is highly pertinent. In most current computers there's a system of priorities that partially determines how much of the central processor's time is devoted to each task. Another important factor is interaction: while one program is waiting for user input, it doesn't require much processor time, but as soon as that input becomes available, it needs to be dealt with. And all of this (arguably excepting the user) is entirely algorithmic.

Comment:  No. A multitasking program or set of programs is still basically one program - and has no problems concentrating. It's a quite different phenomenon. We too can set ourself a series of different mental tasks - and will have difficulties concentrating on that series.  You really can't compare the often wild jumps of the human mind and also its remarkable dithering at times with anything currently computational.

The flip side BTW of the human mind's "crazy" streams of thought  - its continually going off at tangents - (as distinct from computers' rational trains of thought) - is the mind's *creativity*  - its ability to connect anything to anything productively/connectedly as well as "destructively"/disconnectedly.

No algorithmic program ever has been or ever will be creative/ "lateral". AI has been stuck for 50 years trying to make programs do the impossible - be creative. It and we need a new paradigm.


2010-04-14
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Mike Tintner
Well, first of all, I take it that you have already decided not to bother with Heidegger.
And, with everything after and before.
Look, Mike:
Every committed thinker is scientific.
Either that, or you are painting the respondent to your question into a corner from which he cannot be extricated...
As if those who study Heidegger are not scientific.
"Massively reified abstraction" is another way to say "your life," Mike.
Now, I understand that persons of the ilk to self-describe as "scientifically committed" find comfort in a sterile distance from any living/breathing/feeling subject, and so the subject of "life," espcially their own, is reduced to "embodiment."
Now there is nothing at all wrong with coming to grips with embodiment,
any more than there is in understanding the extended mind.
However, when this move insulates a person from the mortal urgency inherent in his condition,
 especially considering the state of affairs in which we all are increasingly embroiled,
this step into embodiment is a step away from the blood and guts of the political animal's highest potential,
and is already one step too far, from a Heideggerrian (deeply Aristotelian) perspective.

See, I study Heidegger not to learn
so much as to remember...
Remember the insights that flash and pass in the noise of the day to day, insights that are root Philosophy.
Now, I am a Socratic, and
Socrates was famous for holding that the unexamined life is not worth living.
How do you feel about your own?
I figure you feel it better spent than those committedly unscientific Phenomenologists who spend all their time thinking about Being (alive).
But, what is it that you are really examining?
Something else, altogether...

If not, then, reading Heidgger would be like remembering.
Not so difficult, only insight in need of a nudge...
Not a "massively reified abstraction" at all, but the space between your eyes and ears, birth and death.
And, the chisel with which the future is carved.
No "body" is going to do that for us...

Heidegger was (not so famous) for holding that 'only he who understands is able to listen.'
Point being that, if you can't hear what he is saying then you do not understand,
and you do not understand because you do not examine your own life.
Which, in my book, means you haven't done your homework.
And, you aren't doing Philosophy.

Which isn't to say that the only way to do Philosophy, or live Philosophically, is to study Heidegger.
But, that, if and when you do, then Heidegger is not or will not be so difficult to study.
Instead, you will like it,
it will feel like a converasation with family,
and you might find the utility in a clear exposition of life's most important things so easily hidden under so much modern quibble.

2010-04-25
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to Peter Wilberg
Peter,

Thanks, and wow, for the well written and referenced post.  

Regarding such questions of “logical plausability” of “scientific knowledge” in general or as it relates to consciousness and Heidegger, this is a topic all unto itself, and TBH off the topic of this thread.  But, it is, perhaps, a common objection, so here would be the summary of my counterpoints...

a)  Practicality.  

As I posted before, whatever your argument and however articulate, the human ability to successfully reason about science is manifest all around us in its practical application; technology.  

Even more fundamentally, brain science brainlessly fails to acknowledge that the eye and brain themselves are, first and foremost, objects of visual perception – whether perceived directly or through instrumental scans and images. The circularity of brain science therefore lies in seeking to explain visual perception itself and as such by particular objects of visual perception – the eye and brain.

Yet scientists have studied eyes and the visual cortices, have built camera systems that use the same techniques, can read images from monkey brains, and build cybernetic eyes that connect directly to our nervous systems to improve the sight of those (partially) blinded.

Most scientists are fully aware that there is a “black hole” where the foundation of science is concerned; both in scientific and philosophical knowledge.  However, since Kepler/Bacon, science has been able to basically ignore this by sticking to the twin pillars of theory and experimentation.  Practical applicability allows us to override and put off the need for a meta-physical foundation for all knowledge.  Since we cannot deny technological progress, nor presently tackle the most fundamental metaphysical questions, if you criticise the scientific method what would you have people do in its place?

Now, many argue that, somehow, the brain/mind is a “special case”, and one cannot know the system by which one’s own thoughts work....

b)  Heidegger’s denial of circular reasoning.

Is there not, however, a manifest circularity in such an undertaking? If we must first define an entity in its Being, and if we want to formulate the question of Being only on this basis, what is this but going in a circle? In working out our question have we not 'presupposed' something which only the answer can bring? Formal objections such as the argument about 'circular reasoning', which can easily be cited at any time in the study of first principles, are always sterile when one is considering concrete ways of investigating. When it comes to understanding the matter at hand, they carry no weight and keep us from penetrating the field of study.

But factically there is no circle at all in formulating our question as we have described. One can determine the nature of entities in their Being without necessarily having the explicit concept of the meaning of Being at one's disposal. Otherwise there could have been no ontological knowledge heretofore. One would hardly deny factically there has been such knowledge. Of course 'Being' has been presupposed in all ontology up till now, but not as a concept at one's disposal - not as the sort of thing we are seeking. This 'presupposing' of Being has rather the character of taking a look at it beforehand, so that in the light of it the entities presented to us get provisionally Articulated in their Being. This guiding activity of taking a look at Being arises from the average understanding of Being in which we always operate and which in the end belongs to the essential constitution of Dasein itself. Such 'presupposing' has nothing to do with laying down an axiom from which a series of propositions is deductively derived. It is quite impossible for there to be any 'circular argument' in formulating the question about the meaning of Being; for in answering this question, the issue is not one of grounding something by such a derivation; it is rather one of laying bare the grounds for it and exhibiting them.

In the question of the meaning of Being there is no 'circular reasoning' but rather a remarkable 'relatedness backward or forward' which what we are asking about (Being) bears to the inquiry itself as a mode of Being of an entity.

(Being and Time, H.7,8)

I would pose then that if one accepts this, and if Heidegger can apply this logic to his phenomenology, and if someone uses that phenomenology as a theory for experimentation, would you be satisfied with the philosophical grounding of that scientific knowledge?

Or, more generally, could one not say that in fact all knowledge - not just phenomenological but philosophical and scientific - fall under the above H. argument since, as he is concerned with a phenomenological approach it is applicable to all aspects of human inquiry?

c)  Such argument is non-productive and critical of principle, not execution.

Though I mention and use Heidegger, what he personally believed or argued is really not relevant to this thread’s discussion.  What is in question is whether a modification of his philosophy has any merit in a description of biological/general sentience.  No amount of extra orbits within orbits solved the problems of geocentrics, and objection to heliocentrism never made it false.  In the end, science and observation explained and showed what the reality of the situation is and as Heidegger said (Being and Time H.205,206), we have no need to prove that reality at all.  Until more fundamental knowledge comes our way, it just is.

If Heidegger’s/your arguments were correct, would there not be an inherent problem with any model of the mind itself?  Could you point out these problems, say, in the model I linked to?  

But!  
Despite this, I do agree with some key points of your argument, Peter, and at the least would like to find the middle ground.  Your introduction of Uexkull was most interesting and I think there are many similarities between my own opinions and his.  I cannot agree with Heidegger’s personal opinions on this matter, and I find his logic on this to be pedantic and narrow (and basically incorrect and trumped by 500 years of scientific-method progress).  There is no “logical trickery” to brain science - it’s just as mindless and cold as all the other biological sciences I am familiar with - but that doesn’t make it somehow all wrong.  Could one not take the more positive aspects of H. with Uexkull and integrate them with a technological perspective?  I don’t think they are mutually exclusive and I think they would prove a more robust world-view today.

David

2010-05-24
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
Hey David - thanks much for pointing me back to Terry Deacon . . . I had not checked recently to see what he is up to, and the video you note was a great presentation.  It took a while for me to find a large enough data pipe that I could download the file (hence my late comment).

In general I am a big fan of Terry's - I first met him in 2005.  His work has advanced nicely since then, and he is the only other person I know of (beside myself) who is essentially chases this big question of "human consciousness" in what hopes to be a scientific context.  When I first saw his work, I thought it mostly reflected what I already saw in Vilmos Csanyi's work (already mentioned to you), which I then later mentioned to him (not sure he "enjoyed" this comparison).

A couple of things about his presentation:
- early in his presentation, he implies a "psychological and biological" solution to this matter
    • he never fully develops this . . . but that is exactly what I do in my work.
- he glosses over Fibonacci series as a path to understanding the relationships he talks about
    • again a point he does not develop, but which my work uses and develops (but as fractal geometry - another face of the same thing).
- at the end he is asked about the likely role of sleep and dreams for spontaneous reconnection within the  psyche (ideation)
    • again, not developed - but which clearly points to Jungian psychology . . . which I use rather extensively in my work.

Okay - I know "So What!?"  I bring this up, as you mentioned in your viewing on my presentation you noted that you followed/ agreed with it "up to a point" . . . and this "point" got me wondering, just where does it fall apart for you.
I know you may not recall looking at my presentation (http://vimeo.com/evolv) . . . but I couldn't help wondering.

Regards

Marcus

2010-05-24
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
David - I actually found a later, more complete version of Terry Deacon's presentation, given Nov. 2009, New York Academy of Science (http://watch.thirteen.org/video/1377614041/).

I haven't found a way to download this presentation, so you have to watch it over the web . . . but you also get Gerald Edelman (Neuronal Darwinism), and Paul Ekman (psychology/emotional awareness) in the bargain.  I am a fan of all three of their works.

In this presentation Terry focuses more clearly on a concept of "theme and variation" in nature&evolution - which again parallels fractal geometry (self-similarity - my approach), also mentioned is his work on an upcoming book (fall 2010?) "How Matter Became Conscious" . . . which again, in my mind links rather directly (re-invents?) Vilmos Csanyi's auto genesis - although Terry seems headed toward offering much more detail (I hope).

Regardless, you may find this interesting . . . and I am curious if you find any links here with Heidegger (in any of the 3's works).  And again - thanks for pointing my back to Terry's work!

Regards,

Marcus A.

2010-06-19
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Marcus,
Two and a half hour video!  I'll try to watch that and re-watch your presentations and let you know.  Think I'll need a pencil and paper...
Thanks for the links,

David

2010-06-23
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
In Heidegger's view, this project would be interesting as a precise illustration of the object of the philosopher's fear: technology making distress forgotten. Isn't it as if one asked : how could I manage to bite into this forbidden fruit? Distress is already forgotten for instance in announcing psychosis as an "emergent function". Indeed there seems to be no need to read Heidegger with such a tight interface for thought.

P.S. Note due to delays in moderation: post made by a non-pro status owner, 2010-6-22.

2010-06-29
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon
Dear David

Maybe R. Llinas could be useful for your model. see http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/the-science-studio/enter-the-i-of-the-vortex

Eliana

2010-06-29
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Reply to David Hagon

This is the link of his book I of the Vortex
From Neurons to Self
Rodolfo R. Llinás http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=8829


2010-06-30
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Took the time to watch all 74 minutes of the video you reference - and spent most of it waiting for him to say something new or thought provoking . . . didn't inspire me to look further at the book.  While he is a charming speaker, in his own way, I can't recommend the experience.  Help me if I am missing something, please.

Thanks - Marcus A.

2010-07-01
Biology + Heidegger = ?

The interest is that mental life and cognition surge as a mechanism to resolve the world's complexity. His view fits well with some of the premises that Heidegger postulated. Being (the strong ontological Being) manifests in a variety of historical modalities in Dasein, which are in Heidegger anthropocentric and human. Those varieties are historically determined in the conditions of fallenness. The strong ontological Being of Heidegger would correspond with the biological conditions of the human mind and its mechanism of representing itself and reality. If one wants to consider historical dasein, then some other elements should enter into consideration


2010-07-03
Biology + Heidegger = ?
Eliana,

Thanks for the link, Llinas is quite a character, if a little unfocused in his descriptions, and what he talks about is almost identical to the macroscopic descriptions in my own work.  I've heard Jeff Hawkins say pretty much the same thing too, so I think this view of the mind where Anticipation / Potentiality-for-Being (or "desire" as Llinas calls it) is central is getting mainstream traction.

That said, whilst Llinas, Hawkins and others talk with amazing confidence on this they never seem to be particularly troubled that there isn't a model for the foundation of anticipatory systems.  In fact, Llinas is pretty lax and casually states,

So mind-ness is related to something, well this is going to be a little shock and say if you ask me, why not, what is all of this come from? These feelings and desires and so on? Well, my feeling is that irritability is actually cellular. That is, that among the reasons why it took so long to make cells is that the cells are far deeper than we ever believed they were. Putting it very quickly to the point and then coming back up in steps- if our cells don't feel, we won't. In the same way that if our cells are incapable of contracting, we won't be able to move. Computation can't do it. You need effectors- effectors for motility and effectors for sensation or feelings. Hypothesis: that desire in fact has cellular elements.

So once you have the ability to move, the ability to predict, and intentionality which comes from the fact that the cells are irritable, they have sensing abilities that modify the internal environment, to the point that the sensation, whatever that may be, is an intrinsic property of the cells, then you have a complete system that can of course think, that can fear, that can do all of the things that we characterize as the mind or as thinking or as hoping or whatever.

(from the transcript)

Which I take to mean that somehow the internal state of cells in the body generates the mental property of "desire".  Which is either patently obvious (because cells, neurons, provide the framework for the brain/mind) or quasi-scientific-mysticism akin to Penrose's micro-tubules (the old consciousness trick; when you don't have an answer say it's hiding in the cells).

What I'm getting at is there doesn't seem to be any concerted effort to address the grounding problem, which is what I tried with Heidegger, and the sloppy argument Llinas made above (a kind of weak fallacy of composition) doesn't help or inspire confidence.


Llinas seems to have taken a good neuroscientific stab at the problem, and from what I can gather of the book you linked his description of neuronal oscillation seems like good mechanism for functional units of information, but this is not a new idea and I suspect that the book is mostly just a scientific description of what the brain does and he doesn't offer an explanation for the grounding problem (this has been my experience many, many times with "consciousness" books, which is quite surprising really!)... don't know because google books stops a third of the way through (the contents says he invokes qualia, anything good there?)... does he give any explanation?  What has been Llinas's most important idea in this field, in your opinion?

David