COTENTION AND BODILY AWARENESS ‘FROM WITHIN’: Concepts of Embodiment of Trigant Burrow and Elizabeth Behnke, by Lloyd Gilden
Nonduality and Phenomenology
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (links)
Intimate Distances – Fragments for a Phenomenology of Organ Transplantation
III: Frame, Paradox
As I peer inside me (but which me?) at the other’s liver, the medical gesture explodes into a hall of mirrors. These are the points where the transplantation situation can be carried to the sentimental extremes of either having being touched by ‘a gift’ (from somewhere, from ‘life’ or ‘god’), or else the simplicity of the doctors who remain set at the level of their technical prowess. In between lies the lived phenomenon, that must be drawn out otherwise, in other parameters.
Transplantation creates and happens in a mixed or hybrid space. There are several subjects that are decentred by exchanging body parts; or decentred as the ‘team’ that makes the technical gesture, or even further, as the distributed network of the National Graft Centre who that fateful day decided it was my turn. At the same time this is an embodied space, where my body (and his/her now dead) are placemarkers, experiencing the bodily indicators of pain and expectation. As if the centre of gravity of the process oscillates between an intimate inside and a dispersed outside of donor, receiver and the ‘team’.
We can start with the embodied sentience of the organism, the ‘natural’ basis for the study of lived events. Sentience, in this sense, has a double value or valence: natural and phenomenal. Natural because sentience stands for the organism and its structural coupling with the environment, manifest in a detailed and empirical sense. It thus includes, without remainder, the biological details of the constitution and explanation of function, an inescapable narrative. Phenomenal, because sentience has as its flip side the immanence of the world of experience and experiencing; it has an inescapably lived dimension that the word organism connotes already. Moreover, that the organism is a sentient and cognitive agent is possible only because we are already conscious, and have an intrinsic intuition of life and its manifestations. It is in this sense that ‘life can only be known by life’ (Jonas, 1966, p. 91). This intertwining can be grounded on the very origin of life and its world of meaning by the self-producing nature of the living. Given that the scientific tradition has construed the natural as the objective, and thus has made it impossible to see the seamless unity between the natural and the phenomenal by making sure they are kept apart, no ‘bridging’ or ‘putting together’ would do the work. The only way is to mobilize here a re-examination of the very basis of modern science. But this gets, all of a sudden, too ambitious.
Exploring the phenomenal side of the organism requires a gesture, a procedure, a phenomenological method, contra the current prejudice that we are all experts on our own experience. Little can be said about this lived dimension without the work that it requires for its deployment. (In a basic sense, this is also close to the recent interest in ‘first-person’ methods in cognitive science.) And therein resides its paradoxical constitution: our nature is such that this gesture needs cultivation and is not spontaneously forthcoming. This is why it is appropriate to reserve the name of feeling of existence (sentiment d’existence, a term I borrow from Maine de Biran) as the core phenomenon here, the true flip side of sentience.
The feeling of existence, in itself, can be characterized as having a double valence too. This is expressed as a tension between two simultaneous dimensions: embodied and decentred. Embodied: on the one hand examining experience always takes us a step closer to what seems more intimate, more pertinent, or more existentially close. There is here a link between the felt quality or the possible depth of experience, and the fact that in order to manifest such depth it must be addressed with a method in a sustained exploration. It is this methodological gesture which gives the impression of turning ‘inwards’ or ‘excavating’. What it does, instead, is to bring to the fore the organism’s embodiment, the inseparable doublet quality of the body as lived and as functional (natural/phenomenal; Leib/Körper). In other words, it is this double aspect that is the source of depth (the roots of embodiment go through the entire body and extend out into the large environment), as well as its intimacy (we are situated thanks to the feeling-tone and affect that places us where we are and of which the body is the place marker). Decentred: on the other hand, experience is also and at the same time permeated with alterity, with a transcendental side, that is, always and already decentred in relation to the individuality of the organism. This defies the habitual move to see mind and consciousness as inside the head/brain, instead of inseparably enfolded with the experience of others, as if the experience of a liver transplant was a private matter. This inescapable intersubjectivity (the ‘team’) of mental life shapes us through childhood and social life, and in the transplantation experience takes a tangible form as well. But it is also true in the organism’s very embodiment, appearing as the depth of space, of the intrinsically extensible nature of its sentience, especially in exploring the lived body.
These parallel themes serve as the hidden scaffolding for the analysis here. First, the lived body as focus: the intrusion, the alien as flesh, and the always already mobile subject of enunciation and hence the mobility of the lived body’s identity. Second, the networks of dissemination playing in unison: the social network of the gift, and the imaginary circles of the images that give this inside a metaphorical concreteness.
Ken Wilber 891, William Irwin Thompson 4
Anyways, about four years ago I was in a used bookstore in Nevada City when I picked up a copy of Thompson’s Coming Into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness and, as I was prone to do at the time, immediately went to the index and looked for “Wilber, Ken,” to see what this Other author had to say about Old Chrome Dome. Thompson mentions Wilber in his first chapter, “Our Contemporary Predicament,” contrasting him unfavorably with Jean Gebser:
[Gebser’s] high cultural European approach to the evolution of consciousness makes it difficult for Americans to appreciate his work. We have so replaced culture with psychology, psychotherapy, and simplistic workshops on how to fix the depressive flats of our lives that we prefer the compulsive mappings and textbook categorizations of Ken Wilber to the poetic insights of Jean Gebser. Wilber seeks to control the universe through mapping, and the dominant masculinist purpose of his abstract system is to shift power from the described to the describer. As an autodidact from the Midwest, Wilber wants to promote himself as “the Einstein of the consciousness movement” and so he is announcing a trilogy of thousand-page tomes that will explain everything once and for all. This form of scholarship is really a mode of psychic inflation and self-magnification; it is a grand pyramid of systems of abstract thought, piled on other systems of abstract thought, with Wilber’s kept for the top. Never does one come upon a feeling for the concrete, a new look at an individual poem, a painting, or a work of architecture. Gebser, in contrast to Wilber, is a genuine article, a grand European thinker with a grand vision, but one who comes upon his general insights through a loving attention for particulars: through an understanding of the role of adjectives in the poetry of Rilke, the resurgence of a prehistoric matriarchy in the surrealistic line drawings of Garcia Lorca, the meaning of an ancient Chinese mask that has no mouth, or the social significance of the lack of perspective in the paintings of Picasso. It was a Sisyphean labor to get my San Francisco students to read Gebser, for they all preferred the undergraduate textbook generalizations of Wilber, but characteristically the members of my New York Lindisfarne Symposium loved Gebser’s masterwork and felt that his Ever-Present Origin was the kind of book that changed one’s life. Precisely because Gebser’s rich high European culture takes for granted not just a knowledge of poetry and painting but an instant recall of famous poems and canvases, New Yorkers, who live in a museum-rich culture, can recall the pictures and understand the argument. The “New Edge” Californians think that a color-degraded image of a Monet on CD-ROM or the World Wide Web is better than the real thing.
Upon reading this I thought, MEAN GREEN MEME ALERT! What arrogance, what gall to criticize the Master–simply perposterous! Now my view had changed: while I think Thompson may be a bit too quick to write Wilber off, I think he makes a very important and cutting observation.
William Irwin Thompson on Ken Wilber and Jean Gebser
An excerpt from Twilight of the Clockwork God: Conversations on Science & Spirituality (1999) which some might find interesting:
|JE: In your book Coming Into Being you compare the work of Jean Gebser with Ken Wilber. Can you discuss the differences that you see in the approaches of both of these men to the evolution of consciousness?
WIT: Oh, it’s almost classic cultured European versus Midwestern American hick. You know, I think people like Terence McKenna and Ken just grew up in Eastern Colorado and Nebraska in such culturally deprived areas that they get captured by a kind of abstract construction of what they imagine the big European thinker is, or the psychedelic hero in the case of McKenna. And Wilber, as I say in Coming Into Being, is just very abstract but Gebser is an artist. He has an incredible insight, for example, into the role of adjectives in Rilke, and what it means when you use language in a particular way to create an imaginative landscape that’s more processive and less prospective of composed object nailed down into perspectival space. So there’s an amazing senstivity to art and poetry and painting and the richness of European culture. But when I was teaching temporarily at the California Institute of Integral Studies, all the students didn’t like Gebser because they can’t remember a painting of Cezanne; they don’t read Rilke. They’re just into drugs and taking Extasy and going to Raves, and looking for some kind of psychotherapy technique. And so Wilber is their hero because he just gives them all these maps and charts, this Michelin guide. He’s a control freak. There’s no sense of humor, there’s no sense of art, it’s all just sterile and masculine in a very dry and abstract way.
I didn’t want to be an egomaniac and say, well, my culture history is better than Wilber’s. I didn’t want to go into that. So I went out of my way to use Ken Wilber’s Up From Eden as a textsbook, and had everybody read it in my Lindisfarne symposium at the cathedral. But when I did that, and went out of my way to give equal time and to really be open to Wilber, and read the book, and underlined it, I just thought, God, the difference between this and The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light–they cover exactly the same turf–is the difference between a textbook and a work of art!
And then I went back because I wanted to be fair, because I knew Treya Wilber and was corresponding with her when she was going through her crisis. She was also a friend of my wife’s, and I had cancer, and so Treya and I were talking a lot about cancer. I’ve never met Ken face to face, but I knew Treya before she married Ken, and I wanted to go out of my way to be fair to Ken. So I got the new book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, and I thought, God, this is ridiculous! Three-thousand pages that are going to explain everything. You know, this kind of German nineteenth century scholarship, that’s over. I don’t have the time to read 3000 pages! Then when he kept using this little slogan that his literary agent, John White, put on all his books: “the Einstein of the consciousness movement,” I was revolted by the vulgarity of it. And then when he went beyond that to go and put his picture on the front of the book and say, “A Brief History of Everything!” Ken Wilber explains the entire universe to you, everything you wanted to know about everything. And I thought, this is just inflation; this is an ego that’s just suffering from a hernia.
The interviewer, John David Ebert, comments in the end-notes:
|It occurs to me that Ken Wilber and William Irwin Thompson are modern incarnations of an archetypal dichotomy of intellectual temperament. Aristotle and Plato are perhaps the earliest manifestation in Western culture, but it has continued right down the line in such pairs as Newton and Leibniz, Kant and Goethe, Hegel and Schopenhauer. The Wilber type is the Systematist for whom the world is capable of reduction to a single clear architecture. There is one set of truths, eternal and unchanging, which the Systematist, whether he is Kant or Hegel, Newton or Aristotle, believes he has been uniquely privileged to discover. Everything is assigned to its niche, like the saints and apostles in a Gothic cathedral, and one system contains all the necessary answers for any question that should arise.
For Wilber, consequently, there is only one theory that is articulated over and over again in each of his books, all of which repeat the same schemas and diagrams endlessly. His work can be neatly divided in two halves, for Sex, Ecology, Spirituality marks the birth of his new Final Theory, in the light of which his earlier works are to be taken as precursors. Everything since that book contains a carbon copy of the same four-fold diagram of quadrants, as though consciousness can be mapped as neatly as the trajectory of a parabola on a Cartesian grid.
For the Thompson-Schopenhauer-Goethe-Leibniz-Plato type, the world is in flux and its truths are changing along with it. The ideas of these thinkers are never finished, always subject to revision, and constantly undergoing transformation as new truths are tested, or new theories acquired. The world is a state of perpetual Becoming and no system or body of knowledge can ever hope to be complete, capturing all that there is to know at last. No scholar has ever succeeded, for example, in capturing the fine nuances of Plato’s ideas as they evolve through the course of his dialogues. Nothing but actually reading them through chronologically can replicate the experience of watching his thought ripen to its full maturity. Plato, like Nietzsche, was not afraid of contradicting himself, for the two were alike in their manner of constantly trying out new ideas on themselves to see what the resulting points of view would look like.
Something of this dichotomy is embodied, also, by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. For the former, working in the medium of stone meant the production of complete masterpieces. Michelangelo almost always finished what he started–until later years, that is–and consequently we possess only a handful of unfinished works. The Sistine Chapel constitutes a veritable System of the Christian cosmos, complete in every respect from Genesis to Apocalypse. For Leonardo, on the other hand, the world was ever changing and so were his views. Rarely did he finish what he began. Each painting is a sort of test of an entirely provisional theory. His notebooks are unsystematic and no one has ever really managed to capture their full complexity in a synopsis.
Thompson, likewise, must be read in his entirety, every book, in order to grasp the substance of his vision, which is always changing. He is unsystematic, but always innovative, incorporating fresh insights with each new volume. Every book is a unique experience. For him, consequently, Wilber personifies that which Thompson most dreads: the Final Theory Engraved in Stone.
Some brief comments of my own to follow. First, those who know me probably can see why I’ve been more drawn to Thompson of late–especially from how Ebert characterizes it in the last sentence, for I too have a “dread” Of the Final Theory Engraved in Stone
But it should be mentioned that while I generally agree with Thompson and Ebert, I think Wilber does at least give lip-service to the kind of dynamic approach that Thompson advocates and embodies. Wilber says that his theories are changing and open to revision, although what he actually does is a bit different. He seems to be the classic example of giving lip-service, but then not (totally) following through.
It is interesting to note how with his more recent “post-metaphysical approach,” Wilber is moving towards a more dynamic-processual approach, yet still through systematizing. There is a sense that he believes that he is discovering something new, when it may be that he is merely coming around to where people like Thompson have been for some time, yet through his own systematic approach. Actually, it isn’t unlike how the new physicists “re-discovered” spirituality, yet only really begin to approach what mystics have been exploring for millenia. The problem being, as Wilber himself says, that they approach the mystical through a materialistic lens, and in so doing “materialize” (reduce/flatland) it, ego-ize it, co-opting it into their own language.
Christian de Quincey, Radical Nature
Excerpt C: Intersubjectivity and Interovjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos
or without highlighting
Quadrants as categories of identify and relationship: http://www.integralworld.net/edwards23.html
Integralism and Intersubjectivity
embodied perception, consensual reality, interbeing, intersubjectivity, Sheldrake’s morphic fields, Kosmos, mazeway, holons,
post-/structuralism, postmodernism, ethnomethodology, sociology of knowledge cartesian anxiety, reduction, emergence, language, movement, interaction, meaning vs information, closure
Weber’s Rationalization and Disenchantment of the World
“morphic field” group: Ilya Prigogine, David Bohm, Rupert Sheldrake, Erich Jantsch
Willian Irwin Thompson, narrative imagination, marginality, innovation, paradigm shifts, Thomas Kuhn
Lakoff & Johnson
Levi-Strauss, Animism, Totemism, Folk Taxonomies
Boundary types are related to many other categories (maybe including ascender/descender types, transcendence/immanence, abstract/concrete) Dreaming, nightmares, anxiety
Ernest Hartmann’s Boundaries in the Mind (online book) http://www.questia.com/library/book/boundaries-in-the-mind-a-new-psychology-of-personality-by-ernest-hartmann.jsp?CRID=boundaries-in-the-mind-a-new-psychology-of-personality-by-ernest-hartmann&OFFID=se2qbp&KEY=%22Ernest%20Hartmann%22%20%22Boundaries%20in%20the%20MInd”
Ernest Hartmann’s Dreams and Nightmares (online book)
“Although having thin or thick boundaries appears in most ways to be a personality “trait” — a long-term characteristic — it is worth noting that we are not stuck in the same boundary state all the time. We all have dreams, though some of us have more than others, and we function in a “thinner boundary” way at that time. Similarly, daydreaming and the other states to the right in our coninuum can be considered to be somewhat thinner boundary states than ordinary waking. Biological and chemical factors can play a role in shifting our boundaries as well. Some people find that their boundaries are quite thin when they are tired, and then they find that their boundaries have thickened again the next morning after a good night’s sleep. Those who have taken psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, report that under the drug’s influence they have thinner boudnaries in a number of senses. On the other hand, taking stimulants such as amphetamines, or for some people, antidepressants, definitely produces a thickening of boundaries. In the most extreme case, people given large doses of amphetamines first become intensely focused; they are the opposite of distractable, keeping their thoughts entire on one line of thought. Eventually, with more amphetamine, they insist on imposing their one line of thought even in a situation where others cannot see it. They become suspicious and eventually frankly paranoid, insisting against all evidence that a certain pattern of thought or a certain idea is absolutely true. They are stuck in a rigid one-dimensional line of thinking, which is characteristic of extremely thick boundaries.”
Review of Hansen’s book
The issue of boundaries is central to understanding the trickster. Hansen targets the psychological research of Earnest Hartmann, a psychiatrist at the Tufts University School of Medicine and author of Boundaries in the Mind (1991), to illustrate the concept of boundaries as a useful framework for understanding personality and its relationship to psychic phenomena.
Throughout extensive studies with sleep disorders, Hartmann noticed that some people were more prone to freely reveal their innermost secrets and behave fluidly while others appeared more organized and revealed rigid psychological defense mechanisms. This discovery led Hartmann to create �thick� and �thin� boundary personality types. Thick-boundary people tend to fixate on definitive goals and anchor themselves to the sensory world. Conversely, thin-boundary people act with apparent detachment. Corporate managers are likely to have thick boundaries, and artists, writers and musicians tend to have thinner ones. Thin-boundary types also tested significantly higher for clairvoyance; thus supporting connections between thin boundaries and the paranormal.
Hansen finds that the thin-boundary personality types have much in common with those characteristics found in the Greek trickster, Hermes, who is also a god of boundaries. Some of these shared attributes are instability, unpredictability, rebelliousness, unreliability, and spontaneity. However, personality characteristics of individuals only partly explain trickster manifestations. The following theories from anthropology expand upon the significance of boundaries.
Due to the elusive nature of psi phenomenon, Hansen uses an abstract concept known as Reflexivity to clarify it. Reflexivity is �the turning of some function or process back upon itself, as if using awareness to learn about awareness or using logic to study logic.�
A popular example is Epimenides’ paradox: “This statement is false.” If it is true, then it’s false, and vice versa. The distinction between the subject and object is blurred just as it is in the liminal and paranormal circumstances explored earlier.
Hansen remarks that reflexivity can point to paranormal experiences practically because we have an opportunity in some cases to observe the results of its application. When reflexivity is evident, some aspect of the paranormal frequently appears in the vicinity.
Meditation, for example, often facilitates psychic experiences. It is reflexive in many cases because in its practice consciousness is used to observe consciousness.
Using science to study science is another reflexive process. In the practice of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK), sociologists become participant-observers in scientific research. SSK practitioners have demonstrated the subjective and ambiguous aspects of science, much to the chagrin of many scientists. Some of the most eminent
SSK researchers have also been involved with parapsychology.
Reflexivity courts disruption, another trickster quality. It is antithetical to order, structure, boundaries, classification, foundations and limits. It is a source of paradox and ambiguity with problems generally avoided by scholars. First, it poses problems in scientific experiments, particularly when replicating them while encountering the Rosenthal-Pygmalion Effect ~ experimenter expectancies that thwart objective outcomes.
Second, it exposes limits to logic, objectivity, knowledge, communication, representation and so on.
Third, it inverts social status of scientists who dare to chance their reputations for applying science reflexively, using science to study science. Finally, but not conclusively, it exposes foundational assumptions, particularly religious issues, which are usually veiled from conscious awareness.
The life of Martin Gardner is an instructive example of the trickster personified. Hansen spotlights his work in the fields of mathematics, magic, literary criticism, the paranormal, religion and paradox which, according to Hansen, �exemplifies the cross-pollination and hybridization that accompanies reflexivity.� Gardener often overlaps academic boundaries, freely mixing the above areas of study while simultaneously extolling the scientific method except when he attacks the merits of religion and the paranormal.
Though an aggressive debunker of psi, he writes lucidly of its significance. Through Gardener, Hansen shows how individuals can be interstitial or anti-structural in character and living marginally on the fringe of conventional civilization.
In effect, Hansen writes, �Manifestations of reflexivity generate ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty; they provoke feelings of unease, worry, and even paranoia. The trickster does to. The issue of limits is fundamental to the trickster, and reflexivity reveals limits.�
Since the trickster lies at the heart of meaning, it even touches the soul of literary criticism. Hansen points out that the term hermeneutics (the study of interpretation) is derived from the name Hermes, the trickster of the Greeks: �Meaning is the explicit concern of literary criticism, an innately reflexive discipline � it uses language to study language.� Since literary critics have long pondered the limitations of language, they have found critical insights about the trickster.
Trickster manifestations are more commonly evident in the smaller part of literary criticism involving structuralism and its intellectual descendants � deconstructionism and post-structuralism.
Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist and forebear in the structuralism camp showed language to have a betwixt and between quality where thought and sound were separated by a nether region and linguistics works �where the elements of sound and thought combine.� Likewise, semiotics is the study of signs and symbols � where binary opposites, the signifier and the signified, produce meaning. Both structuralism and semiotics show the relationships between literary ideas and social structure. It is a system of communication used to study patterns in order to clarify and organize.
In psi experiments, meaning is ascribed to a relationship between a random process in the outer world and a mental image, impression, or intent inside a person. The person perceives a relationship, but there is no physical cause for it. Psi is inferred when meaning is found.
The successor of structuralism, namely deconstructionism, attests that the relationships between objects and the perception of them are ambiguous and, consequently, the observer often implies meaning inconsistent with that of other observers.
Deconstructionism, founded by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, attempts to confront the issue of representation. But it is also reflexive and leads to paradox. For if it is supposed that no objective meaning can be found in any text, then that applies to deconstructionism as well.
Hansen laments that the subtle detachment by deconstructionism not only confuses the meaning of language, it further deludes our awareness regarding the trickster�s
Hansen often refers to the �betwixt and between� as the realm of the trickster.
Accordingly, the imagination is an integral part of the trickster�s modus operandi.
Whereas, psi interacts with the mind and the objective world with binary oppositions such as internal-external, subjective-objective, and fantasy-reality, Hansen maintains that its existence blends fact and fiction through imagination.
From primate behavior to religion to fiction, Hansen observes that the imagination is often associated with paranormal experiences in these areas. Remarkably, the imagination is more developed in anti-structural conditions and persons. Sociologist John Macionis (1989) attests that �persons in socially marginal positions have an above average ability to take a sociological perspective and understand patterns that are not immediately observable� particularly when the established patterns of society begin to shake and crumble.� Both marginality and periods of transition are hallmarks of the paranormal, which in this case, underscore anti-structural and liminal aspects of the imagination.
Additionally, Hansen cites psychologist James Hillman that primitive imagery-based perception thrives today in such areas as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Rosicrucianism, and Alchemy. This points to significant commonalities that tie imagination to tricksterism: lowered social status, pervasiveness of fantasy in marginal groups, low imagery ability among the professional elite, and the prevalence of sociological imagination during societal transitions.
Hansen claims that a comparative observation of the nuances of the imagination helps to understand psychic phenomenon. �There are deep evolutionary connections among mental representation, imagination, awareness, simulation, pretending, and deceit� Thus the imagined realm is a liminal area, and it is governed by the Trickster.�
A lesser-known link to paranormal phenomena is paranoia. Examples include fear of being watched by ESP, witchcraft accusations, ideas that occult societies rule the world, and conspiracy theories of government cover-ups of UFOs. Hansen advocates that the study of paranoia helps to explain fear of the paranormal and opposition to psychic research.
Paranoia, Hansen explains, is not necessarily, or even primarily pathological. It occurs in intermittent growth stages of self-awareness � a period of confusion between self and other, between dream and reality, and between internal and external. The separation of the binary opposites — of distinguishing ourselves from others or finding a niche in society — is a liminal process, and fears naturally arise.
Detailed Analysis of Boundary Types (comparison to precursors and personality measures including MBTI)
II. Precursors of the Boundary Concept
Nothing under the sun is entirely new. The concept of thin and thick boundaries is related in some way to a number of previous dimensions and dichotomies. For instance, William James (1907) divided people into “tough minded empiricists,” and “tender minded rationalists.” Kurt Lewin, in the 1930s diagramed the mind as a number of regions acting on one another, separated by divisions of various thickness (Lewin, 1936). Freud discussed boundaries only a few times, especially when he speaks of the stimulus barrier or “reitzschutz” – a protective shield against stimulation. He referred to the entire ego as initially a body-ego derived from the body surface (Freud, 1923). Many of Freud’s followers did explore boundaries in more detail (see for instance Federn,, 1952). There is an entire literature on “ego boundaries” which definitely form part of what we are speaking of here. In the psychoanalytic literature, solid ego boundaries are considered a kind of ideal, and the emphasis is on defects and weaknesses in ego boundaries which lead to psychosis or other pathological conditions (this is quite different from the view of thin and thick boundaries as a value-free personality dimension, which we develop below). A French psychoanalyst, Anzieu has worked clinically with the concept of the “ego skin” (moi pau) as an “envelope for the ego,” (Anzieu, 1987). He is obviously speaking of boundaries too.
Clinical psychoanalysts have generally made no attempts to quantify these boundary measures. Such attempts have however been made by such as Blatt, and Ritzler (1974) using the Rorschach test. Peter Landis has studied ego boundaries in detail and developed some ingenious tests for ego and interpersonal boundaries (Landis,1970). All of these measures can be related to thin versus thick boundaries. Fisher and Cleveland (1968) have worked extensively with two measures, “Barrier,” and “Penetration,” based on the Rorschach test. Theoretically, “Barrier” ought to be closely related to thick boundaries and “Penetration” to thin boundaries. However, empirically, this is not the case. The “Barrier” and “penetration” measures turn out not to be opposites (Fisher and Cleveland, 1968), and further, neither seems closely related to thick and thin boundaries (Fisher, 1992, unpublished manuscript).
Rokeach (1960), in his work on the “open and closed mind,” was clearly dealing with an aspect of boundaries as were Adorno and his colleagues in their classical work on the “authoritarian personality” (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik,, Levinson,. & Sanford, 1950). The “closed mind” and the “authoritarian personality” definitely describe aspects of people with very thick boundaries.
Finally, thick and thin boundaries may be relevant to different styles of organizing mental contents. In different ways, Mednick (1962), Spence (1964) and Broadbent (1971) distinguish between a conscious, logical, hierarchical style of conceptual organization, on the one hand, and a preconscious, connotative, parallel processing style of conceptual organization on the other. Each style may serve important defensive as well as adaptive purposes. By being neat, explicit, and well organized, people with thick boundaries can reduce the chances of different concepts becoming confused with each other; perhaps at the cost of not seeing novel connections between them (Mednick, 1962). Thick boundaries can be used defensively to avoid seeing connections between related ideas. While thin boundaries between concepts permit novel and sometimes creative associations between normally unrelated ideas, thin boundaries may be implicated in confused and autistic thinking. In this regard, a cognitive style, category width, (Gardner, Holzman, Klein, Linton,, and Spence, 1959) has to do with the number of diverse objects a person can tolerate as belonging to the same category or group. To consider two different things as belonging to the same group, the conceptual boundaries between them must be relaxed. Thus, we believe that thin and thick boundaries represent an important and pervasive personality dimension.
IV. The Relationship of the BQ to Other Personality Measures
When the BQ was first used in 1985, it appeared to be a new dimension of personality, not clearly related to any of the then standard personality measures. Thus, there are only low and non-significant correlations between BQ and Eysenck’s personality dimensions, although one study found some relationship between thin boundaries and Neuroticism in a small group (Sand and Levin, 1996). There were also no clear relationships to Cloninger’s three dimensions of personality.
The BQ did show some relationships with MMPI scales (Hartmann, 1991). In 299 subjects, relationships found were very consistent with what we had predicted on the basis of the definition of boundaries. Sumbound correlated positively (r = 0.32) with the F (“atypical response”) scale, and this appeared to be a valid relationship. Subjects scoring thinner on the Boundary Questionnaire did frequently report and discuss the unusual experiences described on the F scale, for instance, “I have a nightmare every few days.” Sumbound showed a negative relationship (r = -0.37) with the K scale, which measures “defensiveness,” which can be considered an aspect of thick boundaries. Sumbound correlated positively (r = 0.41) with Pa (paranoia), which is not surprising, since it is accepted that Pa in normal groups measures a kind of sensitivity rather than blatant paranoia. Finally, Sumbound correlated positively (r = 0.40) with the Mf scale in males – consistent with the view that thin boundaries involves the ability for males to be interpersonally sensitive, and to see feminine elements in themselves. Although these were highly significant correlations, all p < .001, the modest size of the correlation suggests that the BQ is obviously measuring something different than these individual MMPI scales.
Significant positive correlations have been reported between Sumbound on the BQ and several measures of hypnotizability and suggestibility (Barrett, 1989, Rader, Kunzendorf, and Carrabino 1996), as well as measures of creativity (Levin, Galen, & Zywisk 1991). An especially strong correlation (r = 0.67) has been found between Sumbound and Tellegen’s Absorption Scale (Barrett 1989). Again, these relationships were as predicted from our description of thin boundaries, above.
On the Rorschach test, subjects with thinner boundaries were found to have significantly higher boundary disturbance scores, and also significantly lower form quality scores (Levin, Gilmartin, & Lamontonaro 1998-1999). Recent studies have established a relationship between thin boundaries and a number of other measures relating to personality, including certain forms of anxiety. An especially strong relationship is found between Sumbound and Insecure Attachment, measured on the Bell Object Relations and Reality Testing Inventory (Bell , Billington & Becker 1986). (Hartmann and Zborowski, 2001). Thin boundaries are also positively related to measures of connection-seeking, at least in women (Bevis, 1986). And there is a high correlation (r = 0.51) between thin boundaries and rated openness in an interview study (Zborowski, Hartmann, & Newsom 2001 Manuscript submitted for publication).
There have been two separate investigations relating the Boundary Questionnaire to the Meyers-Briggs Inventory. In both studies the most striking finding was a positive correlation(r between 0.4 to 0.5) between Sumbound and “Intuition,” and a somewhat smaller correlation with “Feeling” (Erhman and Oxford, 1995, Barbuto & Plummer 1998, 2000).
A few preliminary studies suggested that the BQ was unrelated to Norman’s basic Five-Factor structure of personality. However the Five Factor Model has evolved, and the more recent model championed by Costa and McRae (1992), includes, as one of the five dimensions, “Openness to Experience.” McRae (1994) has recently reported a very high correlation (r = 0.73) between thinness of boundaries on the BQ (Sumbound) and Openness to Experience. We have attempted to further examine this surprisingly high correlation. Indeed the Boundary Questionnaire includes at least two items “I am a very open person” and “I am a very sensitive person” which plainly relate to items in “Openness to Experience.” And in fact, factor VI of the BQ was named “open-ness” long before the relationship of the BQ to “Openness to Experience” was known. A detailed examination of the items in the “Openness to Experience” scale is also revealing. The items involve several aspects of boundaries, but emphasize the desirable or positive aspects of thin boundaries. For instance, “I have a lot of intellectual curiosity,” “I often enjoy playing with theories or abstract ideas,” and (scored negatively) “I have little interest in speculating on the nature of the universe or the human condition.” Openness to Experience does not include any of the less attractive aspects of thin boundaries, such as feeling overwhelmed by input, vulnerability, becoming over-involved in a maladaptive way, etc. Thin Boundaries and Openness to Experience are obviously closely related, but in our opinion thick versus thin boundaries represents a broader and perhaps more useful measure since it is neutral or value-free and covers both adaptive and maladaptive features.
In this connection it is interesting that BQ shows close to 0 correlation with the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scale (Earle 1992). Overall, neither thin nor thick boundaries are considered more desirable than their opposite. However, a careful examination of the answers and a series of interviews has convinced us that by and large people consider their own type of boundary structure as most desirable. Thus, people with very thick boundaries tend to use terms for others with thick boundaries such as “solid,” “reliable,” “lots of perseverance,” etc., while they characterize people with thin boundaries as “flaky,” “far out,” “unreliable.” People who themselves score very thin on the BQ speak of those with thick boundaries as “dull,” “rigid,” “unimaginative,” while they think of those with thin boundaries as “exciting,” “creative,” “innovative.”
V. Thin Boundaries and Unusual Sensitivities
There are a number of suggestive studies indicating that people with thin boundaries may be not only creative and open, but may have a series of other interesting and so far poorly understood characteristics. For instance, there appears to be a relationship between thin boundaries and multiple chemical sensitivities (Jawer, 2001). There is also a correlation between thin boundaries and a belief in or tendency to experience paranormal phenomena. Factor V of the BQ – see table 3 – appears to pick up this aspect of thin boundaries and has been labeled “clairvoyance.”. Groups of people who characterize themselves as shamans or psychics score thin on the BQ (Krippner, Wickramasekera, Wickramasekera, & Winstead, 1998). Thalbourne and his collaborators, in their studies of persons who experience paranormal phenomena, have devised a “Transliminality scale” to measure these traits ( Lange, Thalbourne, Houran, & Storm 2000; Thalbourne, 1991). Preliminary analysis suggests a high correlation (r = 068) between thin boundaries and the Transliminality Scale.
These relationships may be worth exploring further, since two very different hypotheses may explain them. The most parsimonious view would be that all “paranormal” phenomena are imaginary, and that people with thin boundaries simply have better or looser imaginations, are more suggestible, or are more sensitive with a tendency to elaborate creatively on their sensitivities. On the other hand, we could consider the possibility that phenomena such as telepathy, now considered paranormal could be related to transmission of information using perhaps portions of the electromagnetic spectrum which we are not usually able to detect. Under unusual circumstances our ability to detect such information could be altered slightly, and quite possibly there might be inter-individual differences in the ability to detect information of this kind. If so, it is possible that persons with thin boundaries who are sensitive in so many other ways, may also be sensitive to detecting such portions of the spectrum.
Boundary Types, Personality, New Age
or without highlighting
Paranormal and mystical beliefs are closely related. The personality factors most consistently associated with paranormal beliefs and experiences are the interrelated cluster of absorption, fantasy-proneness, and temporal lobe symptoms. All three of these personality constructs involve a high degree of imagination and fantasy. These factors generally correlate in the .5 to .6 range with each other and with mystical and paranormal experiences (summarized in Kennedy, Kanthamani, & Palmer, 1994).
Thalbourne (1998; Lange, Thalbourne, Houran, & Storm, 2000) found that mystical experience, belief in paranormal phenomena, absorption, and fantasy proneness actually constitute a single factor. He proposed that it reflects a tendency for unconscious processes to emerge into consciousness and called the factor transliminality. Hartmann’s (1991) earlier concept of thin boundaries of the mind is the same idea and has been associated with paranormal experiences (Palmer & Braud, 2002; Richards, 1996) and with the transliminality scale (r = .66) (Houran, Thalbourne, & Hartmann, 2003).
Based on his work with the Myers-Briggs personality model, Keirsey (1998) stated that people having intuitive, feeling (NF) personality types are mystical in outlook and often explore occultism, parapsychology, and esoteric metaphysical systems. Those with NF dispositions aspire
to transcend the material world (and thus gain insight into the essence of things), to transcend the senses (and thus gain knowledge of the soul), to transcend the ego (and thus feel united with all creation), [and] to transcend even time (and thus feel the force of past lives and prophecies). (p. 145)
Research studies have found that belief in paranormal phenomena is associated with the N and F personality factors (Gow, et. al., 2001; Lester, Thinschmidt, & Trautman, 1987; Murphy & Lester, 1976). In a study of a technique attempting to induce a sense of contact with someone who had died, 96% of the participants with NF personality types reported after-death contact experiences, whereas 100% of the participants with ST (sensing, thinking) personality types did not have these experiences (Arcangel, 1997). In a survey of parapsychological researchers, Smith (2003) found that the F factor was associated with experimenters who were rated as psi-conducive. Temporal lobe symptoms have been found to be associated with the N and P Myers-Briggs personality factors, and to a weaker extent with F (Makarec & Persinger, 1989). Thin boundaries have been found to be associated with NF personality dispositions (Barbuto & Plummer, 1998).
Taken together, these findings indicate that certain people have innate interests in and motivations for mystical and paranormal experiences. Behavioral genetic research indicates that absorption, the Myers-Briggs personality types, and interest in spirituality all have significant genetic components similar to other personality factors (Bouchard & Hur, 1998; Cary, 2003; Hammer, 2004; Tellegen, et al., 1988).
The Rational Scientific Personality
Keirsey (1998) described the development of rational scientific understanding and pragmatic application of science as the central motivations for people with intuitive, thinking (NT) personality types. People with these dispositions are naturally attracted to the process and results of the scientific method. Of course, experiencing scientific culture presumably enhances rationality and empiricism. The tendency to elevate a rational, scientific, mathematical style of thinking to an almost religious-like level of commitment and faith is widely apparent in scientific writings.
The inability to reliably control, predict, or understand psi may exclude paranormal phenomena from the interests of many who have pragmatic, scientific orientations. From this perspective, it is not surprising that scientists tend to be skeptical of psi (McClenon, 1982; McConnell & Clark, 1991). Prediction is the foundation of science, and control and application provide the most compelling evidence and value. For example, the concepts of quantum physics are as radical as the ideas of parapsychology; however, quantum physics has provided numerous successful applications, including lasers and transistors. If psi experiments produced reliable results, and particularly if they produced useful applications, scientists would likely accept the phenomena and begin developing theories for further control and application.
Skeptical scientists tend to explain belief in psi as due to a failure of rational, empirical analysis (e.g., Alcock & Otis, 1980; Blackmore & Troscianko, 1985; Gray & Mill, 1990). These explanations often imply that all people should share the scientist’s devotion to rational, empirical analysis. The possibility that alternative values, personalities, and ways of processing information may also have value is rarely acknowledged in these writings.
Skeptics also tend to have a greater internal locus of control (belief that they control the events in their lives) than those who believe in psi (summarized in Irwin, 1993). This is consistent with a stronger motivation for control by skeptics or possibly with less belief in supernatural influences.
I suspect that there is a closely related motivation for rational explanations but with less emphasis on pragmatic application and empiricism. This motivation would underlie the
pursuit of philosophy and the more abstract, intellectual approaches to religion. However, I have not found a specific personality description that aligns with such a motivation.
Superiority Through Authority and Dominance
Keirsey (1998) described the sensing, judging (SJ) personality types as materialistic, distrusting of fantasy and abstract ideas, and tending to feel a duty to maintain traditional rules of right and wrong. These personality types focus on external authority and tradition rather than internal experience.
People with STJ personality types tend to rise to positions of leadership and authority in hierarchical organizations (Keirsey, 1998; Kroeger, Thuesen, & Rutledge, 2002). Fudjack and Dinkelaker (1994) noted that the masculine “extraverted/rational-empirical/pragmatic/materialist” ESTJ personality is prominent in western culture and tends to prefer hierarchical organizations that emphasize power and control rather than creativity and flexibility. Kroeger, Thuesen, and Rutledge (2002) administered the Myers- Briggs personality test to over 20,000 people in all levels of a wide variety of corporate, government, and military organizations. Across these diverse groups, they found that 60% of 2,245 people in top executive positions had STJ personalities (ESTJ or ISTJ). The proportion of STJ types increased as the level on the management hierarchy increased.
On the other hand, only about 1% of top executives had NFP personalities, which would be more interested in psi and mysticism. For comparison, general population samples have found STJ for 26%-43% of males and 18%-29% of females, and NFP for 6%-12% of males and 9%-18% of females (Macdaid, McCaulley, & Kainz, 1986). Kroeger, Thuesen, and Rutledge also commented that 95% of top executives were T (thinking) types rather than F (feeling) types.
This rational, pragmatic, materialist personality bias in the upper echelons of power and status may be a major factor in the institutional skepticism and resistance to psi described by Hansen (2001). This value system may also be associated with the “hypercompetition” and “hypermaterialism” that Schumaker (2001) believes prevail in modern society and contribute to depression and anxiety. Somit and Peterson (1997) discuss the evolutionary and social aspects of the biological basis for dominance and hierarchy.
Abductions: The Boundary Deficit Hypothesis by Martin Kottmeyer
It seems logical at this point to ask if the psychology of nightmares can throw any light on what is happening in alien abduction experiences. While not all the puzzles of nightmares have been solved, psychology has recently made significant strides in understanding why some people develop them and others do not. In building a profile of nightmare sufferers Ernest Hartmann developed a conceptual model termed boundary theory which expands on a set of propositions about boundaries in the mind formulated by a handful of earlier psychoanalytic theorists. It is from Hartmann’s study “The Nightmare” that we will develop the blueprint of our argument. (8)
Boundary theory begins with the axiom that as the mind matures, it categorises experiences. It walls off certain sets to be distinct from other sets. Boundaries become set up between what is self and what is non-self, between sleep and waking experiences, between fantasy and reality, passion and reason, ego and id, masculine and feminine, and a large host of other experiential categories. This drive to categorise is subject to natural variation. The determinants of the strength of that drive appear to be biochemical and genetic and probably have no environmental component such as trauma. When the drive is weak the boundaries between categories are thinner, more permeable or more fluid. When the boundaries become abnormally thin one sees psychopathologies like schizophrenia. Hartmann discovered individuals who suffer from nightmares have thin boundaries. >From this central mental characteristic one can derive a large constellation of traits that set these people apart from the general population.
>From earliest childhood, people with thin boundaries are perceived as “different”. They are regarded as more sensitive than their peers. Thin character armour causes them to be more fragile and easily hurt. They are easily empathic, but dive into relationships too deeply too quickly. Recipients of their affection will regard them as uncomfortably close and clinging and they are thus frequently rejected. Experience with their vulnerability teaches them to be wary of entering into relationships with others. Adolescence tends to be stormy and difficult. Adult relationships — whether sexual, marital or friendships — also tend to be unsettled and variable. A slight tendency to paranoia is common.
One-third will have contemplated or attempted suicide. Experimentation with drugs tends to yield bad trips and is quickly abandoned. They are usually alert to lights, sounds and sensations. They tend to have fluid sexual identities. Bisexuals are over-represented in the nightmare sufferers’ population and it is rare to find manly men or womanly women in it. Macho pigs apparently do not have nightmares. They are not rule followers. Either they reject society or society rejects them. They are rebels and outsiders. There is a striking tendency for these people to find their way into fields involving artistic self-expression; musicians, poets, writers, art teachers, etc. Some develop their empathic tendencies and become therapists. Ordinary BLUE or white collar jobs are rare.
Hartmann believes the predominance of artists results from the fact that thin boundaries allow them to experience the world more directly and painfully than others. The ability to experience their inner life in a very direct fashion contributes to the authenticity of their creations. They become lost in daydreaming quite easily and even experience daymares — a phenomenon people with thick boundaries won’t even realise exists. This trait of imaginative absorption should also make nightmare sufferers good hypnotic subjects. (9)
Boundary deficits also contribute to fluid memories and a fluid time sense.
To be considered a candidate for the hypothesis that one is a victim of alien abduction a person must present certain symptoms. Among the factors which are looked for are conscious memories of an abduction, revealing nightmares, missing time, forgotten scars, or dramatic reactions to seemingly trivial stimuli like distant nocturnal lights. The last four factors act as screening devices to yield a population of boundary deficit individuals. This is blatant in the case of people whose candidacy is based on nightmares of aliens. It is subtler in the other symptoms.
People who have thin boundaries in their time sense virtually by definition will experience episodes of missing time. People with fluid memories could easily lose track of the event that led to the creation of a scar. People with weak ego-id boundaries and a sense of powerlessness probably would over- react to distant inexplicable lights as symbols of power. These candidates, in turn, are subject to further screening by their performance under hypnosis. The thicker the boundary, the less likely it is that a convincing narrative will emerge or be accepted as emotionally valid. We would predict the final population of abduction claimants would be biased in favour of a high proportion of boundary-deficit personalities.
The evidence that abductees have boundary-deficit personalities is, if not definitive, reasonably convincing. The points of correspondence between abductees and nightmare sufferers are several and consistent.
Ufology regards the Slater psychological study of nine abductees as an experimentum crucis for the view that abductees are victims of real extraterrestrial intrusions. It affirmed not only the normality of abductees, but offered a hint of traumatisation in the finding that abductees showed a tendency to display distrust and interpersonal caution. It is time to remind everyone, however, of what Slater’s full results were reported to be. Slater found abductees had rich inner lives; a relatively weak sense of identity, particularly a weak sexual identity; vulnerability; and an alertness characteristic of both perceptual sophistication and interpersonal caution. (10)
All four of these traits are characteristic of boundary-deficit minds. Clearly the abduction-reality hypothesis is, in this instance, unparsimonious. It fails to explain the presence of rich inner lives, weak identities and vulnerability. (I reject Slater’s post hoc attempt to account for the weak sexual identity via childhood trauma induced by involuntary surgical penetrations as undocumented, and just plain weird.) It should not be over- looked that Slater volunteered the opinion that her test subjects did not represent an ordinary cross-section of the population. She found some were “downright eccentric or odd” and that the group as a whole was “very distinctive, unusual, and interesting”. (11)
This nicely parallels Hartmann’s observation that boundary- deficit personalities are perceived as “different” from “normal” people. Slater’s study does indeed seem to be an experimentum crucis, but the conclusion it points toward is perfectly opposite from what ufologists have been assuming.
The boundary-deficit hypothesis evidently can also be invoked to explain the unusual proportion of artist-type individuals that I discovered in testing Rimmer’s hypothesis. Roughly one-third of abductees showed evidence of artistic self-expression in their backgrounds in my sample population, as you may recall. Hartmann’s study would also lead us to expect an unusual number of psychotherapists among abductees. In a recent paper, Budd Hopkins reported that in a population of 180 probable abductees he found many mental health professionals: two psychiatrists, three PhD psychologists and an unstated number of psychotherapists with Master’s degrees. (12)
Trauma, Transitions, and Thriving
Childhood Trauma and Transliminality http://www.onlinedatingmagazine.com/datingoffice08/childhoodtraumarelationships.html#1
Problems with Pathologizing the Transliminal
Transliminal as Spirituality within Psychology http://cache.search.yahoo.net/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=%2Btransliminal&norw=1&fr=yfp-t-501&u=www.thespiritual.org/texts/guestTxt/guestIsabelClark.pdf&w=transliminal&d=eS6_6S72Q8sU&icp=1&.intl=us
Thin Boundary Types, Transliminality, and Psychosomatic Plasticity http://cogprints.org/4862/1/Psychosomatic_Plasticity_-_Paper_in_Explore.pdf
Proceeding from this framework of mind-body unity, let us return
to the Boundaries concept propounded by Hartmann. The
mind of the thin-boundary person, he suggests, is “relatively
fluid,” able to make numerous connections, more flexible and
even dreamlike in its processing than the thick-boundary person,
whose processing is “solid and well organized” but not prone to
meander or make ancillary connections.23 It is not surprising,
therefore, that thin-boundary people exhibit the following characteristics1:
● A less solid or definite sense of their skin as a body boundary;
● an enlarged sense of merging with another person when kissing
or making love;
● sensitivity to physical and emotional pain, in oneself as well as
● openness to new experience;
● a penchant for immersing themselves in something-whether
a personal relationship, a memory, or a daydream;
● an enhanced ability to recall dreams; and
● dream content that is highly vivid and emotional.
The fluidity evidenced by the thin-boundary personality
roughly equates to Thalbourne’s concept of “transliminality,”
defined as “tendency for psychological material to cross thresholds
in or out of consciousness.”24 Thalbourne has found that
the following are part of the personality cluster of the highly
● a penchant for mystical or religious experience;
● absorption (a bent for immersing oneself in something, be it a
sensory experience, an intellectual task, or a reverie);
● fantasy proneness;
● an interest in dream interpretation;
● paranormal belief and experiences; and
● a heightened sensitivity to environmental stimulation.
Michael Thalbourne transliminality
Transliminality (literally, “going beyond the threshold”) was a concept introduced by the parapsychologist Michael Thalbourne, an Australian psychologist who is based at the University of Adelaide. It is defined as a hypersensitivity to psychological material (imagery, ideation, affect, and perception) originating in (a) the unconscious, and/or (b) the external environment (Thalbourne & Maltby, 2008). High degrees of this trait have been shown by Thalbourne to be associated with increased tendency to mystical experience, greater creativity, and greater belief in the paranormal, but Thalbourne has also found evidence that transliminality may be positively correlated with psychoticism. He has published articles on transliminality in journals on parapsychology and psychology.
Schizotypy is a psychological concept which describes a continuum of personality characteristics and experiences related to psychosis and in particular, schizophrenia. This is in contrast to a categorical view of psychosis, where psychosis is considered to be a particular (usually pathological) state, that someone either has, or has not.
Enactivism: no “core” self, anti-dualist, b/t the extremes of solipsism and representationalism, reality is a mixture of regularity and mutability,
Interdisciplinary Thought, Bricolage, Et Cetera http://www.iomas.com/gina/ultrahiq/MI/megarchive/Noesis/Jan01_2.html#BeadGame
Varela and the Emergent Self
Organisms have to be understood as a mesh of virtual selves. I don’t have one identity, I have a bricolage of various identities. I have a cellular identity, I have an immune identity, I have a cognitive identity, I have various identities that manifest in different modes of interaction. These are my various selves. I’m interested in gaining further insight into how to clarify this notion of transition from the local to the global, and how these various selves come together and apart in the evolutionary dance. In this sense, what I’ve studied, say, in color vision for the nervous system or in immune self-regulation are what Dan Dennett would call “intuition pumps,” to explore the general pattern of the transition from local rules to emergent properties in life.
Beyond Reductionism: Difference, Criticality, and Multilogicality in the Bricolage and Postformalism, Joe L. Kincheloe
The alternative cognitive practices that emerge in these diverse contexts are often grounded in cooperative interaction between and among diverse peoples. In this cooperative domain individuals are privy to the various forms of interrelatedness. Attending to the characteristics of such connections, individuals come to see order instead of chaos. The concept of interconnection provides moves postformalists to bring Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s cognitive theory of enactivism into the bricolage. In such interconnections and the patterns and processes enfolded within them we begin to discern one of the most amazing phenomena uncovered in recent times. Francisco Varela (1999) writes that as unlikely as it may seem
Lots of simple agents having simple properties may be brought together, even in a haphazard way, to give rise to what appears to be a purposeful and integrated whole, without the need for central supervision (p. 52).*
In this simple statement we begin to uncover a whole new dimension of not only cognitive activity but also of the character of “the self.” In this domain we blaze new trails into the epistemological and ontological domains. In the epistemological domain we begin to realize that knowledge is stripped of its meaning when it stands alone. This holds profound implications in research because European science has studied the world in a way that isolates the object of study, abstracts it from the contexts and interrelationships that give it meaning. Thus, to be a multicultural researcher in a manner that takes Varela’s enactivist notion into account, we have to study the world “in context.” Bricoleurs understand that they have to search for the interrelationships and contexts that give knowledge meaning while avoiding reliance upon decontextualized study. The notion of difference directly references the relationship of different entities. Thus, the bricoleur’s concern with difference gains its cognitive and epistemological power in these relationships.
*Varela, F. (1999). Ethical Know-how: Action, Wisdom, and Cognition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Bricolage and the Quest for Multiple Perspectives: New Approaches to Research in Ethnic Studies, Joe L. Kincheloe
Concerned with the limitations of monological approaches to knowledge production, we all subscribe to the “practical reason” of the bricolage that operates in concrete settings to connect theory, technique, and experiential knowledges. Here the theoretical domain is connected to the lived world and new forms of cognition and research are enacted. This improvisational enactment of the bricolage, buoyed by the insights of Francisco Varela and Humberto Mataurana’s Santiago Theory of Enactivism, moves research to a new level. This is the place where the multiple inputs and forces facing the researcher in the immediacy of her work are acknowledged and embraced. The bricoleur does not allow these complexities to be dismissed by the excluding, reducing impulses of monological methodology coming from particular power blocs (Fischer, 1998; Weinstein, 1995, Mataurana and Varela, 1992; Varela, 1999; Geeland and Taylor, 2000). Such a refusal is in itself an act of subversion.
The subversive bricolage accepts that human experience is marked by uncertainties and that order is not always easily established. “Order in the court” has little authority when the monological judge is resting in his quarters. Indeed, the rationalistic and reductionistic quest for order refuses in its arrogance to listen to cacophony of lived experience, the coexistence of diverse meanings and interpretations in a socially, culturally, economically, and ideologically diverse world. The concept of understanding in the complex world viewed by bricoleurs is unpredictable. Much to the consternation of many there exists no final, transhistorical, transcultural,non-ideological meaning that bricoleurs strive to achieve. As bricoleurs create rather than find meaning in enacted reality, they explore alternate meanings offered by others in similar circumstances. If this wasn’t enough, they work to account for historical, social, and cultural contingencies that always operate to undermine the universal pronouncement of the meaning of a particular phenomenon. When researchers fail to discern the unique ways that historical, social, and cultural context make for special circumstances, they often provide a reductionistic form of knowledge that impoverishes our understanding of everything connected to it–the process of research included (Burbules and Beck, 1999; Marijuan, 1994; Cary, 2003).
The monological, monocultural quest for order so desired by many social, political, psychological, and educational researchers is grounded on the Cartesian belief that all phenomena should be broken down into their constitute parts to facilitate inquiry. The analysis of the world in this context becomes fragmented and disconnected. Everything is studied separately for the purposes of rigor. The goal of integrating knowledges from diverse domains and understanding the interconnections shaping, for example, the biological and the cognitive, is irrelevant in the paradigm of order and fragmentation. The meaning that comes from interrelationship is lost and questions concerning the purpose of research and its insight into the human condition are put aside in an orgy of correlation and triangulated description. Information is sterilized and insight into what may be worth exploring is abandoned (Simpson and Jackson, 2001). Ways of making use of particular knowledges are viewed as irrelevant and creative engagement with conceptual insights is characterized as frivolous. Empirical knowledge in the quest for order is an end in itself. Once it has been validated it needs no further investigation or interpretation. While empirical research is obviously necessary, its process of production constitutes only one step of a larger and more rigorous process of inquiry. The bricolage subverts the finality of the empirical act.
Bricoleurs make the point that empirical research, all research for that matter, is inscribed at every level by human beings. The assumptions and purposes of the researcher always find their way into a research act, and they always make a difference in what knowledge is produced. Even in the most prescribed forms of empirical quantitative inquiry the researcher’s ideological and cultural preferences and assumptions shape the outcome of the research. Do I choose factor analysis or regression analysis to study the relationship of a student’s SAT score to college success? The path I choose profoundly affects what I find. What about the skills and knowledges included on the SAT? Are they simply neutral phenomena free from inscriptions of culture and power? How I answer such a question shapes how my research proceeds.
Such inscriptions and the complexity they produce remind critical multicultural and ethnic studies bricoleurs of the multiple processes in play when knowledge is produced and validation is considered. They understand that the research process is subjective and that instead of repressing this subjectivity they attempt to understand its role in shaping inquiry. All of these elements come together to help bricoleurs think about their principles of selection of one or another research perspective. Such decisions can be made more thoughtfully when a researcher understands the preferences and assumptions inscribed on all modes of inquiry and all individuals who engage in research. Thus, an important aspect of the work of the bricoleur involves coming to understand the social construction of self, the influence of selfhood on perception, and the influence of perception on the nature of inquiry (Richardson and Woolfolk, 1994; Pickering, 1999; Allen, 2000).
An interobject is a phenomenon of dreams, in which there is a perception of something that is “between” two objects. The term was coined by Blechner in his book The Dream Frontier. Interobjects differ from typical dream condensations in which two objects are fused into one. Instead the condensation is incomplete. Some examples from the literature on dreams include “a piece of hardware, something like the lock of a door or perhaps a pair of paint-frozen hinges,”  and “something between a record-player and a balance scale.”  Interobjects are new creations derived from partially-fused blends of other objects.
Interobjects, like disjunctive cognitions, would sound bizarre or psychotic as perceptions in waking life, but are accepted by most people as commonplace in dreams. They have implications for both the theory of dreaming and the theory of categorization. Interobjects show the dreaming mind grouping items together whose connection may not be apparent to the waking mind. “Something between an aqueduct or a swimming-pool”  reveals the category of “large man-made architectural objects that contain water.” “Something between a cellphone and a baby” reveals a category combining a relatively new piece of technology and a live infant: both make noise when you don’t expect it, both are held close to your body, and both can give you a feeling of connectedness.
We do not know if interobjects occur only in dreamlife or may occur as unconscious categorizations during waking life. Freud  called interobjects “intermediate and composite structures.” He thought they were inferior mental constructions and were scrupulously avoided in waking life.
Interobjects may have an elementary function in human thought. By transgressing the normal mental categories described by Eleanor Rosch, interobjects may be the origin of new ideas that would be harder to come by using only fully-formed, secondary process formations. They may be one example of “Oneiric Darwinism”  in which new thought-mutations are created during dream-life and rejected or retained in waking life depending on their usefulness.
A common phenomenon in dreams, first identified by psychoanalyst Mark Blechner , in which two aspects of cognition do not match each other.
Disjuntive cognitions can tell us much about how the brain is organized. Blechner has suggested that whenever disjunctive cognitions occur, the two aspects of cognition that are disjunctive are handled in different parts of the brain whose mutual integration is suppressed or shifted during sleep. Disjunctive cognitions between what the person looks like and who the person is suggest two brain systems for those aspects of perception. This is supported by research in neuropsychology and neurobiology. For example, some people who have suffered strokes or other brain damage have a syndrome known as prosopagnosia. A prosopagnosic man may look at his wife of 50 years, see all of her features clearly, and yet not recognize who she is. In such people, the process of seeing is intact, but the process of facial recognition is damaged  There is also the phenomenon of Capgras syndrome, in which a person may feel that a close relative is actually an impostor. The features of the relative are recognizable, but the person’s identity is not. And there is also Fregoli delusion, in which a person may mistakenly identify strangers as people he actually knows. In all of these syndromes, there is a disjunction between the appearance and perceived identity of the person.
Neurobiological research has identified separate areas of the brain responsible for recognizing faces. In humans, identifying unfamiliar faces activates one region of the brain (the fusiform region) while recognizing familiar faces also activates another area of the brain (in the lateral midtemporal cortex). A similar division of function is found in macaque monkeys.  Such findings indicate that the process of recognizing faces may be achieved by special parts of the brain that are diffent from the brain areas involved in analyzing the general visual features of things.
Since the brain has separate systems for deciding what a person looks like and who the person is, this division of labor may be responsible not only for disjunctive cognitions, but also the phenomenon of transference. In psychoanalytic treatment, patients frequently experience transference, in which the psychoanalyst is perceived to be very much like someone from the patient’s past. As in disjunctive cognitions of dreams, the patient may feel “You look like Dr. X, but you feel like my mother.” The separate areas of the brain involved in telling us what the person looks like and who the person is may give a neurobiological basis for transference, the phenomenon in which we know who a person is, yet we react emotionally to that person as if they are someone else.
Evan Thompson (son of William Irwin Thompson)
2.1 Constructivist epistemology constructivist epistemology (radical constructivism, constructivism and constructionism are interchangeable)
Maturana and Varela wrote in their Santiago Theory of Cognition: “Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with or without a nervous system.”
embodied philosophy Embodied cognitive science Embodied mind situated cognition embodied cognition
- “An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network.” (Maturana, Varela, 1980, p. 78)
- “[…] the space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described by using dimensions that define another space. When we refer to our interactions with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system on the space of our manipulations and make a description of this projection.” (Maturana, Varela, 1980, p. 89)
From field experiments she conducted in the 1970s with the Dani people of Papua New Guinea, Rosch concluded that when categorizing an everyday object or experience, people rely less on abstract definitions of categories than on a comparison of the given object or experience with what they deem to be the object or experience best representing a category. Although the Dani lacked words for colors other than black and white, Rosch showed that they could still categorize objects by colors for which they had no words. She argued that basic objects have a psychological import that transcends cultural differences and shapes how such objects are mentally represented. She concluded that people in different cultures tend to categorize objects by using prototypes, although the prototypes of particular categories may vary.
Eleanor Rosch: Interview and Summary
“Wholeness. There is a powerful intuition of wholeness which goes beyond conceptual analysis into isolated units. Analytic detail is included but must be seen in proper perspective.
Humans bear the suspicion that causality (and/or contingency) is not the one-on-one relationship between separate units which the conceptual mind finds it easy to imagine, but rather a basic interdependence of phenomena.
There is the sense that time may not be merely the linear flow we take for granted. Instead, supposedly lasting objects and experiences may be made up of the momentary, and the momentary can have a sense of timelessness. This sense of time is most developed in the arts, where evocation, rather than proof, is the medium of communication.
Humans can be haunted by the intuition that experience can be real and direct rather than an abstraction filtered through representations, and they can spend a lot of time confusedly trying to “get real.”
Humans have the experience of action that appears to arise without intention, effort, self referential motivation, or conscious control or even without the sense of “me” doing it. In fact some of the most valued of actions appear thus. Recent neurophysiological and psychological research also suggest that action should not be viewed in terms of conscious agency. Such phenomena very directly challenge the assumed sense of oneself as actor.
The intuition that to be alive and mortal and have experience has some inherent value is basic to human life and art. This issue is generally bypassed completely in all of our sciences.
There is a strong sense that there is a kind of knowing not captured by our models, a fundamental knowing not explicit or graspable. This is the kind of knowing that senses wholeness, interconnectedness, and so on, in fact, all of the other intuitions. Our psychology and culture have attributed this knowing to a variety of sources (such as the unconscious) which may actually be sidetracks, rather than aids, in exploration of knowing.
Sense of oneself.
All of the intuitions challenge the sense of oneself as knower, oneself as actor, and any other assumed sense of the self and its world that one might take for granted.”
Table l: Two modes of knowledge and knowing (from: Eleanor Rosch)
|In Cognitive Science
||In Primary Knowing
|Mode of Knowing
||Representational (mind & world separate)
||Participatory (mind & world not separate)
||In surface habits
||Underlies both conscious and unconscious knowledge
|Units of Knowledge
||Separate things and events
||Contingencies between events; Phantom causes
||Storage: memories, plans
||Present time – or timeless
||Presentations: real, concrete
||Conscious (or unconscious); Homunculus
||Product of habits and of self-referencing decisions
||Spontaneous product of whole
||Open, unmitigated freedom
||Conditional usefulness; Facts and values separate
||Unconditional; Cognition and value inseparable
Postmodernism, and Folk Taxonomies http://www.asia.ubc.ca/fileadmin/template/main/images/departments/asian_studies/Faculty/Ted_Slingerland/Chapter_3.pdf
Categories and Cognititve Anthropology http://cognition.clas.uconn.edu/~jboster/articles/coganth.pdf Gregory Bateson
“No organism can afford to be conscious of matters with which it could deal at unconscious levels.”  (reminds me of Ligotti, Zapffe)
3.2 Double bind double bind Cognitive dissonance (Derrick Jensen, Nazis, domestic violence, victim/victimizer) False dilemma Splitting (psychology) dissociation Cartesian anxiety
Full double bind requires several conditions to be met:
- a) The victim of double bind receives contradictory injunctions or emotional messages on different levels of communication (for example, love is expressed by words and hate or detachment by nonverbal behavior; or a child is encouraged to speak freely, but criticised or silenced whenever he or she actually does so).
- b) No metacommunication is possible; for example, asking which of the two messages is valid or describing the communication as making no sense
- c) The victim cannot leave the communication field
- d) Failing to fulfill the contradictory injunctions is punished, e.g. by withdrawal of love.
The double bind was originally presented (probably mainly under the influence of Bateson’s psychiatric co-workers) as an explanation of part of the etiology of schizophrenia; today it is more important as an example of Bateson’s approach to the complexities of communication.
When Lakoff claims the mind is “embodied”, he is arguing that almost all of human cognition, up through the most abstract reasoning, depends on and makes use of such concrete and “low-level” facilities as the sensorimotor system and the emotions. Therefore embodiment is a rejection not only of dualism vis-a-vis mind and matter, but also of claims that human reason can be basically understood without reference to the underlying “implementation details”.
Lakoff offers three complementary but distinct sorts of arguments in favor of embodiment. First, using evidence from neuroscience and neural network simulations, he argues that certain concepts, such as color and spatial relation concepts (e.g. “red” or “over”; see also qualia), can be almost entirely understood through the examination of how processes of perception or motor control work.
Second, based on cognitive linguistics‘ analysis of figurative language, he argues that the reasoning we use for such abstract topics as warfare, economics, or morality is somehow rooted in the reasoning we use for such mundane topics as spatial relationships. (See conceptual metaphor.)
Finally, based on research in cognitive psychology and some investigations in the philosophy of language, he argues that very few of the categories used by humans are actually of the black-and-white type amenable to analysis in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. On the contrary, most categories are supposed to be much more complicated and messy, just like our bodies.
“We are neural beings,” Lakoff states, “Our brains take their input from the rest of our bodies. What our bodies are like and how they function in the world thus structures the very concepts we can use to think. We cannot think just anything – only what our embodied brains permit.”
Many scientists share the belief that there are problems with falsifiability and foundation ontologies purporting to describe “what exists”, to a sufficient degree of rigor to establish a reasonable method of empirical validation. But Lakoff takes this further to explain why hypotheses built with complex metaphors cannot be directly falsified. Instead, they can only be rejected based on interpretations of empirical observations guided by other complex metaphors. This is what he means when he says, in “The Embodied Mind”, that falsifiability itself can never be established by any reasonable method that would not rely ultimately on a shared human bias. The bias he’s referring to is the set of conceptual metaphors governing how people interpret observations.
Lakoff is, with coauthors Mark Johnson and Rafael E. Núñez, one of the primary proponents of the embodied mind thesis. Others who have written about the embodied mind include philosopher Andy Clark (See his Being There), philosopher and neurobiologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela and his student Evan Thompson (See Varela, Thompson & Rosch’s “The Embodied Mind”), roboticists such as Rodney Brooks, Rolf Pfeifer and Tom Ziemke, the physicist David Bohm (see his Thought As A System), Ray Gibbs (see his “Embodiment and Cognitive Science”), John Grinder and Richard Bandler in their neuro-linguistic programming, and Julian Jaynes. All of these writers can be traced back to earlier philosophical writings, most notably in the phenomenological tradition, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger.
No objective world?
No subjecitve world?
Objecitvity vs. Subjectivity
Youtube Search on Enactivism
Youtube Search on Francisco Varela
Youtube Search on Humberto Maturana
Laetus in Praesens search for enactivism
The contrast offered here, in terms of the periodic table, between comprehension and understanding fails however to address another dimension briefly acknowledged earlier in terms of self-reference. The question was well raised by Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach, 1979) . How implicated is the creator or user of a periodic table in that device? In the case of an array of religions and belief systems, the periodic table then stands as a kind of mirror of the mind’s ability to variously order reality. The relation to such a mirror has been a theme of centuries of dialogue between the “sudden” and the “gradualist” approaches to enlightenment in Chinese thought (Peter N Gregory (Ed) Sudden and Gradual; approaches to enlightenment in Chinese Thought. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1991). This dialogue was notably triggered by two very simple contrasting poems based on a mirror — by Shen-hsiu (606-706) and Hui-neng (638-713) in the Platform Sutra [texts] and whether it needed “cleaning”. For Luis Gomez (Purifying gold: the metaphor of effort and intuition in Buddhist thought and practice):
…those who assume that the object of religious, aesthetic or intellectual apprehension is somehow innate in the apprehending subject tend to assume at the same time that the act of apprehension is direct, abrupt, effortless. The most common metaphor employed by the advocates of this type of position… is the mirror as symbol for the mind: both are innately pure, both are able to know (or reflect) clearly, passively, and integrally. The opposite view would then propose that the object of religious esthetic, or intellectual apprehension is not innate, and that the act of apprehension is indirect and gradual, the result of dedicated self-cultivation.
A different take on this challenge is offered by Bill Halpin (Engaging Emptiness: Stepping into the Mirror, 2000). This is consistent with the reflections on enactivism (Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind, 1991; George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought, 1999) http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/detach.php The eclectic sense of “discipline” is inspired by the work of Paul Feyerabend (Against Method: outline of an anarchistic theory of knowledge, 1975 [review]). Varela’s perspective is associated with what is termed enactivism [more; more; more], as used by Gregory Bateson, Humberto Maturana, E Rosch and E Thomson to label their theories. It is itself associated with radical constructivism [more]. The “Experientialism” of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson is closely related to enactivism. The text amplifies and extends arguments presented in earlier papers.
Francisco Varela and Christian de Quincey
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Varela and Wilber on enactivism
http://cache.search.yahoo.net/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=enactivism+spirituality&fr=yfp-t-501&u=www.jimforce.ca/dissertation_2.html&w=enactivism+spirituality+spiritualities&d=M15Ifi72RNBp&icp=1&.intl=us or without highlighting
Wilber on Sheldrake and Varela
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George Leonard on Ken Wilber’s Twenty Tenets http://www.esalenctr.org/display/confpage.cfm?confid=10&pageid=113&pgtype=1
3. Holons emerge.
Holons emerge. Owing to the self-transcendent capacity of holons, new holons emerge. Sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, polymers, cells, and so on, the emergent holon is in some sense novel. They possess properties and qualities that can’t be strictly and totally deduced from their components, and therefore they and their descriptions can’t be reduced without remainder to their component parts. Emergence always means indeterminacy is sewn into the very fabric of the universe. Quoting from Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (p. 47) Leonard read, Emergence is neither a rare nor an isolated phenomenon. As Varela, Thompson, and Rosch summarize the available evidence: “It is clear that emergent properties have been found across all domains-vortices and lasers, chemical oscillations, genetic networks, developmental patterns, population genetics, immune networks, ecology, and geophysics. What all these diverse phenomena have in common is that in each case a network gives rise to new properties. . . . The emergence of global patterns or configurations in systems of interacting elements is neither an oddity of isolated cases nor unique to [special] systems. In fact, it seems difficult for any densely connected aggregate to escape emergent properties.” (Francisco Varela, et. al., The Embodied Mind, pp. 88-90.)
6. The lower sets the possibilities of the higher; the higher sets the probabilities of the lower.
The lower sets the possibilities of the higher; the higher sets the probabilities of the lower. Even though the higher goes beyond the lower level, it does not violate the law or pattern of the lower level. It can’t be reduced to the lower level or determined by the lower level, but neither can it ignore the lower level. Your body follows the laws of gravity. Your mind follows other laws, such as those of symbolic communication and linguistic syntax. But if your body falls off a cliff, your mind goes with it. Clearly, the lower sets the possibility of a large framework within which the higher has to operate, but to which it is not confined. As for the higher restricting the possibility of the lower, here is how Sheldrake puts it (Quoted from Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p.55),
At every level, the fields of the holons are probabilistic, and the material processes within the holon are somewhat random or indeterminate. Higher-level fields may act upon the fields of lower level holons in such a way that their probability structures are modified. This can be thought of in terms of a restriction of their indeterminism: out of the many possible patterns of events that could have happened, some now become much more likely to happen as a result of the order imposed by the higher-level field. This field organizes and patterns the indeterminism that would be shown by the lower-level holons in isolation. (Rupert Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past, pp. 120-121.)
Varela and Bricolage
Enactivism, Bricolage, and Epistemological Pluralism
Enactivism and Brico-logical Research
Enactivism and Consensuality
Enactivism, Reflexivity, and Bateson
Varela, Sheldrake, and Seeing
Interview with Varela about Buddhism
VARELA: It’s important that people don’t think that we are saying that the nervous system is closed, but rather that the nervous system has closure. It’s not the same thing. Closure is away of looking at the interactions in a different way from the standard model of inputting information. Closure means that you actually shape what counts as information in the coupling you have with the world. Information is brought forth by the actual activity of an organism or a cognitive system embedded in the world. Some people think that means a solipsistic or autistic world. But the contrast is not between a closed system and an open system but rather an input-driven system and a system that is actively shaping the world. That’s the real tension.
DAVIS: Here’s the passage from the section “Mind Waves”: “Nothing comes from outside your mind. Usually we think of our mind as receiving impressions and experiences from outside, but that is not a true understanding of our mind. The true understanding is that the mind includes everything; when you think something comes from outside it means only that something appears in your mind. Nothing outside yourself can cause any trouble. You yourself make the waves in your mind.”
Not a useful paper, but nice quote
Complexity and chaos theorists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela have argued, similarly to Pibram and Schimdt, that language itself is a development of rhythmic vibrations of energy. Capra reports that they come to the same cultural implications as Pribram, Frazer and others:
…due to resonance phenomenon…cognitive experiential states are created by the synchronization of fast oscillations in the gamma and beta range that tend to arise and subside quickly…. Varela’s hypothesis establishes a neurological basis for the distinction between conscious and unconscious cognition…. Since language results in a very sophisticated and effective coordination of behavior, the evolution of language allowed the early human beings to greatly increase their cooperative activities and to develop families, communities, and tribes that gave them tremendous evolutionary advantages.
The crucial role of language in human evolution was not the ability to exchange ideas, but the increased ability to cooperate. As the diversity and richness of our human relationships increased, our humanity-our language, art, thought, and culture-unfolded accordingly. At the same time, we also developed the ability of abstract thinking, of bringing forth an inner world of concepts, objects, and images of ourselves. Gradually, as this inner world became ever more diverse and complex, we began to lose touch with nature and became ever more fragmented personalities. Thus arose the tension between wholeness and fragmentation, between body and soul….
289 Capra, The Web of Life, pp. 292-294. See also Humberto R Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, The Tree of Knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding (Boston: Shambhala, 1998).
The depressed buffered self on the other hand will be able to take a step of disengagement from his feelings by saying ‘it is just my body chemistry’ – and take a pill. The chemistry doesn’t have the meaning – it just feels that way.
Charles Taylor: Intro and Interview
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Charles Taylor and Enactivism
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Merleau-Ponty, Charles Taylor, and Varela
Enactivism and Cartesian Anxiety
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Enactivism and Cartesian Anxiety
Spinoza, Enactivism, and Cartesian Anxiety
Enactivism, Autonomy, Novelty, Play
Enactivism Compared and Contrasted
Enactivism, Biological Philosophy, Signs, and Meaning
Monism is the view that the universe, at the deepest level of analysis, is one thing, or composed of one fundamental kind of stuff. This is usually contrasted with Substance Dualism, the view found, for example in the writings of Plato and Descartes that, fundamentally, the universe is composed of two kinds of stuff, physical stuff and the stuff of soul, mind or consciousness. There are three basic ways in which the apparent differences between physical and mental “stuff” can be understood in monist terms:
1. Mind might be nothing more than a particular aspect or arrangement of physical matter (physicalism; functionalism). Enactivism is an extended form of functionalism (but comes in somewhat different versions, e.g. Noe vs. Thomson)
2. Physical matter might be nothing more than a particular aspect or arrangement of mind (idealism).
3. Mind and physical matter might be aspects or arrangements of something more fundamental that is in itself neither mental nor physical (neutral monism; dual- aspect theory). Reflexive monism is a form of dual-aspect theory (Spinoza)
WHAT ENACTIVISM AND RM SHARE
They both oppose
2. The view that conscious experiences are nothing more than states or functions of the brain.
They both agree that
1. Mind and conscious experience are not entirely “in the brain” – and they are in that sense externalist.
2. Interactions between the brain, body and surrounding world have an important role to play in cognition.
HOW EN AND RM DIFFER
EN and RM develop their understanding of consciousness from very different initial commitments.
EN starts with a theory of how organisms function (Varela, Thomson), then elaborates this into a sensorimotor theory of how perception and cognition operate (O’Regan, Noe, Myin)- and then tries to bridge the mind/body gap by reworking both sides of the gap in an enactive way.
RM starts with a more accurate phenomenology of conscious experience. Conscious phenomenology does not need to be reduced or reworked to anything other than how it seems in order to be understood.
First- and third-person accounts of mind are complementary and mutually irreducible. A complete account of mind requires both.
These accounts can be related to each other through a dual-aspect theory of information.
Experiences really are (roughly) how they seem.
HOW EN AND RM DIFFER
1. Is functionally externalist. It stresses that cognition and perception involve sensory- motor brain, body, world interactions and argues that the search for the neural correlates of consciousness is flawed.
2. In some versions (O’Regan & Noe) EN claims that conscious experience is nothing more than exercising of such sensory-motor skills, thereby dissolving the “hard problem” of consciousness (an extended form of functionalism).
3. But EN opposes phenomenological externalism (Noe & Thomson, 2004)
1. Accepts that brain, body, world interactions are important for aspects of cognition and experience that require such interactions. But there are proximal causes and correlates of experience in the brain not all of which are sensory-motor related, so the search for NCCs is not flawed (although it might not be complete)
2. The sensory-motor activities that relate to a given experience usually operate preconsciously (before the experience arises). So conscious phenomenology cannot be reduced to the exercising of sensory-motor skills (e.g. speech)
3. RM makes the radical claim that experiences are roughly where they seem to be. So it is phenomenologically externalist (at least for some experiences ).
REFLEXIVE VERSUS ENACTIVE MODELS
The reflexive model suggests that what we normally think of as the “physical world” is just the experienced world that arises from a reflexive interaction of the perceiver and perceived. First-person and third-person perspectives co- arise. Consequently there never was an explanatory gap between the physical world as-perceived and conscious experience.
Thomson (2001) (a non-eliminative enactive theorist) takes a similar view, pointing out that the very idea of an “objective world” depends on and arises out of intersubjectively lived experience.
By contrast, Dennett, O’Regan and Blackmore try to eliminative first-person phenomenology, replacing it with “objective” third-person sensorimotor activity.