Experience in an Ontological Framework
Discussion with Herbert Muller
From: Dr Herbert FJ Muller
To: Herbert FJ Muller
Subject: KJ FORUM TA45 C2 Mutnick and Muller : TESTING OF WORLD VIEWS
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 10:57:50 -0500
KARL JASPERS FORUM
Commentary 2 (to C1)
WANTED : PERFORMANCE TESTING OF WORLD VIEWS
(A) THE PATH TO BECOMING SANE
by Peter Mutnick
(B) YOUR WORLD IS YOUR PRODUCT
replies by Herbert FJ Müller
28 November 2001, posted 11 December 2001
[Quotations from C1 are in "quotation marks"; present discussion is marked by **]
"<7> … Müller: ... The first thing is experience, the second thing is the structures within or inside this experience.... <8> Foss: That’s an objective fact, is it ? Müller: This can become an ontological statement if you want to classify it like that."
As soon as it is an ontological statement, it is embedded in an ontological or metaphysical structure. This you inexplicably deny and so remain "nonsensical", IMHO.
I say we need working ontology, not a fictitious static (mind-independent) ontology. Making a static ontological (-belief) statement only implies that you may have such MIR-belief. In case you actually insist on believing that, it’s your problem, no matter whether you make it up yourself or accept it from others.
No, you missed the point. When you say that it is an ontological statement, you ontologize experience. That means that you *must* have a theory of how experience fits into a larger (ontological) framework. If not, then you are proposing in a non-theoretical ontology, which is what I meant by "non-sensical", or what Plato would call non-intelligible. This is just simple logic and inescapable. But if you insist on being *thoroughly* non-sensical, then it will be quite impossible to even conduct a dialogue with you. So, yes, philosophy is largely a matter of ascertaining the most reasonable MIR belief structure that can orient us and our experience in a broader (ontological) framework. This is called metaphysics and it is the real basis for genuine theories in physics, which are meant to describe the physical basis for such invariant MIR belief structures.
"Foss: It seems to me what you’re saying is, the world is this way. You can’t know the way the world is. Müller: No, I don’t say that. What I’m saying is that we make up the world. It’s not the same thing. Foss: But you just made it up that we can’t know the way it is. You just made it up. Müller: We make it up and it works, within limits."
As a creative redefinition of psychosis, this is very good. It means that the only difference between a creative person and a psychotic is cleverness in constructing reality. However, as I will explain, it is a half truth, with a sociological basis in free-market capitalism. It ultimately produces only clever psychopaths.
The decisive point is not cleverness but adequacy of function.
But what makes it adequate? In lieu of any external source of values, it is only a matter of cleverness. What else?
Psychoses and psychopathies are dysfunctional in various respects. Free-market capitalism, like various other economic-political or religious global beliefs, too works for some purposes, not for others.
"Foss: If you made up the world and you made up the fact that you made up the world. Müller: Well, then, okay, if you like. It’s up for discussion."
David Bohm insisted that there were implicate orders within implicate orders to infinity. However, we don't exactly make up the implicate order, according to Bohm. It is more like the ego has its external constraints and its internal constraints. However, we do make up the whole structure, in a sense. According to Zen, the ego is just a fiction.
One can say, as some do, that the self is a fiction, or even, as one can also read, that the whole world is a hallucination (or maya, etc). But I am not sure that it is particularly helpful to put it that way, mainly because it might lead to an opinion that it does not matter what we think or do.
What you say here is a *complete* distortion of what I said. What I said is that we objectivize ourselves by projecting ourselves into the world as an actual observer, which has been dubbed by John von Neumann, the *abstract "ego"*. This is the existential participation that Sartre and others have made so much of. Quantum theorists, like John Archibald Wheeler, have also talked about the "participatory" universe. Only once we have chosen to participate, and we might have chosen otherwise by simply committing suicide, only then does the question of our experience, which you make an *a priori* "given", even arise. I am NOT saying that once we make the choice to ex-ist we can arbitrarily make up the world, as though it were entirely *maya* - that would be your conclusion because you do not think anything but the self as the receptacle of experience really exists. If the participatory or abstract "ego" is an illusion (or more precisely a mocked-up projection), as I say, then you, but NOT me, would conclude that all the rest must be illusion. That is true only in the sense that if the "ego" is a mocked-up abstraction then all of its experience must have a similarly abstract character, which I believe that it does. The great Yoga Master, Paramahansa Yogananda, has described an experience of the cosmic motion picture mechanism that produces the apparency we see around us and take to be real. However, there are laws to that abstract "reality" (that are ontologically ordained, according to me but not you). It is precisely because it is abstract that abstract laws can describe it and apply to it. That is the source of the unreasonable success of mathematics in physics, that many have commented upon. But because it is abstract does NOT mean that it does not exist or does not have being. It participates in being and lends the abstract character to being. The human being is the abstract being, although this genuine state of affairs is contingent upon self-realization, which few humans ever achieve.
We build our world and our selves too, and it is a good idea to do that in a way which works, for us and for everybody else as well, and in as many circumstances as possible. In Bohm’s and Einstein’s beliefs, like in others, the “is-ness” seems to be the problem, not the various uses of conceptual devices.
Prior to self-realization, human creation is always in ignorance and inevitably produces negative and unforeseen consequences, precisely because there are objective ontological laws governing all "building of worlds". That is why mankind is on the verge of permanently destroying its environment and hence itself.
"Foss: In which case I could make up a different world. Müller: Yes, you can. Sure. It doesn't’t necessarily mean that it works."
This is the crucial question: "WHY does one construction work and another not work?" It is as we probe this question that we become truly human and more than Pavlovian stimulus-response mechanisms. As we probe deeper, we come to develop an affinity and a contact with the underlying reality, which some have called God. As we come into attunement with this true reality, we become truly sane and shed our last vestiges of unrealistic psychosis. According to Muller, we can never take this last quintessential step on the path to becoming sane.
That last step to true reality involves unloading responsibility for structuring and acting onto an ad-hoc mind-external agency. An implicit or explicit chief aim here has traditionally been to borrow structure and stability from such a fictional omnipotent source, in a quest for help with the uncertainties and weaknesses of daily life; a striking recent example is the motivation and comfort this procedure gives to suicide bombers.
You are speaking contrarily. First you are talking about assistance in creative activity, being co-creators with God, which is indeed a spiritual aim in many traditions, and then you talk about assistance in destruction. Destruction is much easier than genuine creative activity, and unfortunately we don't have many humans capable of invoking God's assistance in their creative activities.
There is no good reason to suppose that we are now on average stronger than people were in the Middle Ages. But in contrast to them we can no longer afford to be naïve about such beliefs (because it would mean to remain fixed in - or to relapse into - an atavism which has ceased to be compatible with the rest of what we think and do). Thus instead of using such a shortcut we must face this clash between need for support and limitation of acceptable means more deliberately (a post-postmodern dilemma, if you like trendy terms).
The world unfolds in spirals, which was said (by F. David Peat) to be the character of the thought processes of David Bohm. Although Galileo and Newton seemed to reject the ancient philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Heisenberg, et al., returned to it as providing the only adequate explanation of the newly discovered quantum theory. It is the sheer arrogance of "modern" "man" that he thinks he understands Plato and Aristotle. In fact, in almost all cases, he does not even begin to understand their deep and profound view of the world. As the great modern genius, Alfred North Whitehead, said: "All of modern philosophy is a footnote to Plato."
On sanity : in case you can formulate a suitable operational definition of ‘sane’, you might be able to persuade a statistically minded sociologist to design a method for determining a sanity quotient of various world-views. But a method for an assessment of their general functional properties would probably be more helpful.
Sanity can only be a measure of resolution of the human dilemma. Why are we in a body? What is the character of the reality in which we find ourselves? What can we do about our predicament? How can we extricate ourselves from it?
(From TA45[8a]:) Belief is not enough. The structures need continuous testing by persistent doubt (skepticism) and feedback. Criteria for validity are their performance in ongoing and past experience, and expectations for the future (in science and in all other fields including religion). This validation process is the foundation of an as-if-MIR quality of quality- and structure-aspects of experience (of self-and-world), which then replaces naïve MIR-belief (“ontology“). Validation had also been the functional basis of the naïve MIR-belief, but usually without being recognized as such because an absolute mind-external source was erroneously assumed.
Your error is your arrogance in characterizing and really caricaturizing "ontology" as "naive MIR-belief". Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is just the opposite of what you say. As-if MIR-belief, gleaned only from one's own solipsistic experience, is naive in comparison to revelation from a genuinely transcendental source of what the structure of our existence really is. If you don't believe that such a transcendental source exists, who really knows who and what we are, then I feel sorry for you, but I will not share in your self-destructive skepticism and really cynicism in the ultimate sense.
This viability (as von Glasersfeld calls it) becomes the de-facto definition of both naïve and as-if MIR : it is identical with reality and truth. It may allow us to stop giving lip-service to the notion of an external reality and truth, of which we have to say in the same breath that it is unknowable. The effect is therefore not one of resignation (to being unable to know an existing MI-reality), but rather of being able to do without the static-outside-MIR-fiction. Despite its self-contradictory nature, naïve MIR has had a fairly long life (of about 2500 years), but we are now more than before faced with the realization that, at least in some areas of inquiry, it is non-functional - and in principle in all of them.
Yours is complete self-congratulatory self-delusion. However, there is indeed a similar move afoot within the physics community. H. Dieter Zeh expresses very similar views to yours in his vigorous attempts to overthrow the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. Even if such a temporary coup-de-tat were to be accomplished, which so far it has most definitely NOT been, I have every confidence that future generations will return to the genuine sanity that you have forsaken. The recent work of Henry Stapp has claimed to decisively undermine the whole program of Zeh and the other anti-Copenhagenists.
Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000