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My Essential Criticism of Stapp's Approach



[Paul Zielinski, prev.]
And we can have the "grin" without the "cat".

Kant did.

Remember, for Kant, the transcendental ego was *posited* as the ultimate ground of experience; it was not an ontological element in the sense that his theory of knowledge rested upon the assertion of its ontological *reality*. It was merely "constitutive of experience".

[Peter Mutnick, prev.]
Of course, the transcendental ego is not ontological, since it is phenomenological, and the two are complementary. Nonetheless, physics is NOT just about the ontological any more than it is just about the kinematical.

[Paul]
OK...

[Peter]
I would add that Kant's transcendental ego is not exactly the same as Descartes' and Husserl's. Kant's is rather the superimposition of the phenomenological transcendental ego, which is sheer presence, upon the ontological psychical superstructure of the physical world and physical noumenon, with which Kant was dealing. This superimposition is made possible by the oroboric (or bootstrapped) character of metaphysical reality - the highest element of reality in the phenomenological system of worlds is identical to the lowest element of reality in the ontological system of worlds. I have described these structures in detail elsewhere.

[Paul, prev.]
OK, so you are saying that even a purely scientific theory *must* refer *explicitly* to a non-material ultimate ground of experience and incorporate this as an ontological element, if it is not to degrade human experience, consciousness, etc. to purely epiphenomenal status.

Is that what you are asserting here?

[Peter, prev.]
A science of consciousness must start with consciousness. Consciousness is the cosmic verity, what exists before anything else (at least of a material nature). Our own true existence is in consciousness. There is no other starting point. Henry has demolished matter as a starting point, and he is now adrift in a sea of confusion. Hopefully he will find the other shore of enlightenment, or else he will drive us all mad with confusion.

[Paul]
I suppose my point about Kant is that one can formulate a theory about experience without any ontological commitments on either end. That seems to fit your description of Henry's theory.

[Peter]
Henry is not particularly faithful to Kant. Nor is Kant in the middle, as you surmise. Kant is primarily discussing a psychical superstructure rising up from its base in the noumenon of the physical world, in the ontological system of worlds. Relativity, Sensibility, Understanding, and finally Wisdom and Knowledge are the stages of arising or emergence. Kant is indeed relevant to the epistemology of quantum theory - to our Knowledge (State Vector) and its sudden increase (State Vector Reduction) - but there is also an ontology and phenomenology to quantum mechanics, even the original Copenhagen version, that Kant does not directly discuss (although it is implicit in his discussion).

[Paul]
Of course. Kant's was a theory of knowledge, and not a "scientific" theory of nature. However, it appears to me that the distinction is starting to blur in the context of modern physics.

[Peter]
The distinction blurring between epistemology, ontology, and phenomenology is called "the great quantum muddle". It perhaps had its origin in the lack of clarity on the part of Bohr, et al. - at least Popper thought so - but *they* were much LESS confused than the pundits of today, as Bohm himself stated on several occasions.

[Peter, prev.]
The problem is that Henry and perhaps you have not experienced any kind of consciousness other than human consciousness and so you do not know that the stream of consciousness is just a very attenuated form of the cosmic consciousness. Once you understand that, then you understand the central role that consciousness itself must play in our conception of reality and in our conception of human consciousness. It is simply not possible to have a fundamental science of anything without first understanding the nature of human consciousness *in relation to cosmic consciousness*, because that is the way it functions.

[Paul]
No, I think I do understand that. I am simply questioning whether it is necessary for Henry to do what he wants to do with his theory, as he has explained that.

[Peter]
Well, I think you are right to an extent. Insofar as Henry is just trying to develop certain psychological features in his quantum mechanical treatment, perhaps he CAN do it the way he is proceeding, and perhaps it will be a major breakthrough in the sense of first data points, and so on.

But insofar as he is trying to develop a general theory of mind-body interaction or a general theory of the quantum-mind that would explain the human person and human existence or the nature of reality, I think he is making a mockery of those grand goals. Husserl called Henry's kind of approach "psychologizing". It makes the illusory ego the sole criterion of human existence and refuses to acknowledge any more profound identity or mode of functioning in the person than the processes of the illusory human ego. This is, IMHO, anti-humanistic in character, and I know that is NOT Henry's intent, but I am afraid it is and will be a deadly side-effect of his work, as it now stands.

This discussion began because, as Dan pointed out, Henry began making grandiose statements in one or more of his lectures about the human person and human values. I think if Henry is going to do that, he should be sure that he is really on the avante-garde of thinking on the subject and not the creator of a reactionary and retrograde anti-humanistic movement that will contribute to the present Orwellian direction in which society is headed.

Moreover, from a strictly analytical and scientific perspective, Henry's approach simply does not explain the essential processes to be explained by a theory of reality that includes consciousness as an integral element. Consciousness is deep - it is not a surface phenomenon - it is not just what it appears to be. Even Sartre, who starts out with some premises like that, winds up realizing the depth of consciousness. Unfortunately, in his case it is not enough depth to avoid the conclusion that the project of consciousness must fail and life is absurd. With Sartre, you see, it is a case of: garbage in - garbage out.

[Paul]
This reminds me of the alchemical relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm, as much as phenomenology.

[Peter]
Yes of course, and Henry actually realizes that there should be some role for a universal consciousness (to account for the nonlocality of the reduction process), but he does not perceive the essential connection between the cosmic consciousness and the stream of consciousness. He does not realize that the cosmic consciousness is embodied in each sentient being and that the stream of consciousness functions only by virtue of its relation to the cosmic consciousness.

Moreover, I would add that I am not one to deprive matter of the joy of giving birth to consciousness. I believe that in a sense consciousness does emerge from the matrix of the quantum brain. But what I insist is that the consciousness which emerges is not some vain and futile run-off, as Sartre concluded, but it is the Cosmic Consciousness that is capable of being quite independent of Matter (and in a paradoxical sense, always has been). It is a REAL emergence! It is a genuine antithesis! From this real and primal element of Consciousness filters into the body/brains of sentient beings the trickle known as the stream of consciousness, but even this is much grander than people like Stapp give it credit for being, precisely because it is a real mode of being - it is ontological, not just descriptive in a psychological sense or psycho-physical sense.

What is lacking in Stapp's approach, IMHO, is the eidetic element. His approach seems to me merely descriptive in an outer sense rather than in an inner quintessential sense. The goal of phenomenology is to pass from the former to the latter, and this requires vivid eidetic imagery to depict the inner reality. In this society, such mental processes are regarded as schizophrenic, and so the one-dimensional society has insulated itself from being affected in the way in which it most needs to be affected. C'est la vie. Viva la revolutione!



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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