“Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am). – René Descartes
“I participate, therefore I am” – Jeremy Rifkin, Empathic Civilisation
“Life is making sense” – Francisco Varela
Subquestions and everyday relevance:
- Your mind, what is it actually?
- Who are you?
- Is it true, what you see?
- Can we know reality?
- Is it brain or heart or both or neither?
- The mind, the self and the soul, which is which and who is in charge?
- Can one improve?, Can one forget? What do you regret and what can be done about it?
How to work on the answer to the Question #6:
Even if you are a neuroscientist or a shaman you do not know the answer. Even the question itself is new for us humans. The critical thinking and especially reflective thinking is the latest evolutionary addition to our brain’s toolbox. So, as Dr.Guo would say, don’t get too excited, any thoughts on this subject, if original and yours, would be precious and interesting. (I am, for example, always mad at myself. I am trying to change, to improve. Maybe it is all in the genes, or because of the difficult childhood. I think I need to meditate more.)
An example from philozophy.com:
From ‘Richard The Lion Heart’: “The mind is the real you. It is the ghost in the shell, the soul, the conscious thinking eternal energy that experiences and retains.”
View more answers on philozophy.com
This is a great area to work for all of us who feel like we’ve got the short of the stick. Excellent for a victim attitude, regrets, and blaming. This work will help with looking at your problems from outside, as an observer.
I am interested in human intelligence as it evolved from the animal intelligence. What are our abilities and our constraints? Looking into the past, into the nature of our world, who did what? Which part is done by animals: colors, for sure? Fear and pleasure, certainly? But reality??
It seems that the objective world is just the evolutionary construct of the subjective experiences of our ancestors. How far back this construct reaches? It reaches further and further back, as our understanding broadens, our science reaches deeper into cosmos and time and consciousness.
This all can be interesting, but “so, what?” It seems that I have got entangled into mind/body jargon.
Let’s see what somebody else would say about the nature of mind.
I am talking to Lawrence Mathis King, author of “Opinion on first principles”, a philosopher, a painter and an architect.
Me: Lawrence, I want to start our conversation with the general lay-out of the inquiry, so to speak, what comes to mind when we question the nature of mind?
LMK: First thing that comes to me is the metaphor – the concept of the mind is like the concept of the water for the fish. The fish doesn’t see it, it’s a part of her of her medium, her nature. Unless there is a turbulence in the water, it is invisible. If you do not look into water you have the depth of vision, but if you concentrate on the water itself, you are suddenly surrounded by the opaque fluid which doesn’t allow you to see through it. The same is with the mind, if you say that it is “trillions of synaptic interactions” biochemical and electrical and leave it at that you put yourself in the corner, madly, because you leaving no room for “the water”, the blind spot. The mind , I think is much more , beyond the matter of the brain, any substances of the body, is much more shared.
Me: Shared? with whom?
LMK: Shared with all humans, all creatures, all beings even all environment.
Me: You mean the sharing developed by the eons of the evolutionary process?
LMK: I think the evolution is very slow, it makes all the organisms related, yes. But more importantly I am thinking about the fact that everything affects everything. the connection, the sudden leap in understanding can happen by intuition, the insight, revelation. Also by the necessity, the danger, the survival- when you run out of food – the unthinkable become possible. When the construct become a narrative, it actually works with environment and it sculpts the story, the outcome. The things, like the jump of faith, irrelevant yesterday become relevant, even important today.
Me: Your language, the concept of constructs, narratives and relevances, you give new meaning to these terms. I like it, you get some traction in an area that has nothing but the philosophical jargon.
LMK: The questions we ask, about mind , cognition, reality, we have to bring our own language, very private and intuitive. this is a creative process, everyday language is different, most often can not raise to the occasion. I decided to use my own formal language and my terms and defend it as best as I could, but not to yield to the urge to make it “easy”. I thought: ” to hell with it, it is like going to the concert of classical music- one has to prepare for that way of expression, not the easy way”. For example- the narrative is the verb for the construct-it is created by necessity and it might become relevant. As, like a little creature living happily on the lily pad, then one day it crawls to the edge and the big pond and everything is suddenly, “uh,uh,” not very lily-paddish. A new relevance, new construct is created- the old language just would not do- needs to search for the new thing.
Me: How do you understand constructs and their origins? You imply that when you try to understand the world and the nature of mind, the constructs are not only useful but crucial terms to connect these two.
LMK: I think the constructs are necessity of consciousness .
Me: Explain this please!
LMK: When you are a conscious being, what the consciousness mean that you are looking at the world through an aperture, through your senses, the sight, the sound touch, etc, through your intellectual ability, your memories. The consciousness is much more than that, but it is a starting place. You get a tiny glimpse of the great spectrum of reality. S o you go back to your lily pad where things make sense locally. You see these past experiences which are relevant and this became the structure- you create or use old- constructs. if you are blind the colors are irrelevant( until somebody invents brain waves to transmit colors to the blind). Constructs are inevitable parts or results of the situation of consciousness. they arise spontaneously, by necessity to interpret the world we see through this aperture. Then, what you do, from the present you extend these constructs through the time and space. If you travel, the snow storm in the distant city messes your flight schedule, suddenly it become relevant to you.
Me: Your philosophy, like for Husserl was, is a mixture of the content and the method. Like him you use old words in new way, like him you are trying to figure out the relationship between self, the perception and the environment. Trying to explain this to yourself and share with us this explanation of the reality and social structures.
LMK: Social structures are shared via language. Being “gifted with the present” we use the language to communicate with other, very imperfectly. It is why I love to be around the animals. their language, their communication is so direct, unequivocal, not affected by time and space, so immediate.
Back to humans, our social constructs are very important, there are millions of them. For me they emphasize the unity of consciousness. through them we realize our interdependence, , co-thinking, co-creating, co-being.. On the good day it tell us that our similarities are so much bigger than the differences. We feel our oneness down to the atomic levels , from here to the edge of the universe, I believe that the consciousness extends to all organism and to the inanimate objects too. On the bad day, these constructs, this interdependence can be so powerfully destructive- dangerous to our very existence, to the existence of humanity. So, this necessity of other, the social structure of our world is a double, more than double, many edges sword. It brings all goods…
Me: if we do not behave like a animals.. or worse
LMK: much worse.
Me: You wrote your book, you tackled many big questions, about our humanity, structure of mind , of reality, you did something similar to writing your worldview. It is what this manual is about- write your thing down, show that you are not scared or embarassed, show you level of freedom. Did it work for you?
LMK: Yes, it helped a lot. What I wrote is very satisfying, regardless what other people think about it, if they read it , etc, etc. I have more peace, I obsess less…
Me: Now, I encourage my readers to treat it as a work in progress, to come back to it, edit it, make it more “mine”.
LMK : Maybe, maybe I’d return, but now I am more free to do other things, like return to painting.
Me: Thank you Lawrence, any conclusions ?
LMK: No, thank you for doing this work, it is important and relevant.
Me: Now all we need is to the world to catch up.
Thomas Nagel, “What is it like to be a bat?” The Philosophical Review 1974