Wednesday, January 07, 2015

On Non-experientiality

Galen Strawson has written another insightful, pithy and entertaining article on panpsychism titled "Mind and being: the primacy of panpsychism".

There is a lot in the article. Just one thing I would like to highlight in this post is Strawson's critique of the assumption of the non-experiential  nature of reality. Here is an excerpt:

"   '..why not suppose that the basic nature of concrete reality is non -experiential rather than experiential?’

Why suppose that its non-experiential—either in its basic nature or in any respect at all?
What evidence is there for the existence of non-experiential reality, as opposed to experiential reality? None. There is zero observational evidence for the existence of non-experiential reality—even after we allow in a standard realist way that each of us encounters a great deal in concrete reality that is not his or her own experience. Nor will there ever be any. All there is is one great big wholly ungrounded wholly question- begging theoretical intuition or conviction. 
 
‘There isn’t any evidence that the intrinsic nature of reality is wholly experiential either.’
True—but we know that some of it is experiential. We know it for certain because [22]
in the case of experience, the having is the knowing.

To have experience is not only to be directly acquainted with the fundamental nature of experience—at least in certain respects. It’s also of course to know that the experiential exists. The view that there is any non-experiential concrete reality is, by contrast, wholly ungrounded. It’s a radically and irredeemably verification-transcendent belief. Hume knew this. So did many others including Quine, who famously judged that physical objects that are assumed to be non-experiential are ‘posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer’ (1951: 44)  "

The prevalence of the assumption of non-experientiality, like many philosophical trends, is something which perhaps can be most profitably analysed from a historical and socio-cultural perspective. In a broad sense, in one way or another this has been done many times before of course. One book that I read many years ago which springs to mind which addresses the issue is Morris Berman's "The Re-enchantment of the World". In accordance with Berman, it seems to me that in shaking of the shackles of superstition and unreason, Western thought uncritically accepted the ungrounded non-experiential supposition.

It is a long way to go from challenging the assumption of non-experientiality to having any rationally grounded conception of what the intrinsic nature of concrete reality might be like. Nevertheless, in uncritically accepting the assumption, perhaps we have not realised or intuited that there could after all be some real wisdom in such "ancient wisdom" as that quoted below (taken from here and here):

Chief Seattle:

Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.

Chief Dan George:

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.


The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.


The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.


And my heart soars.


 
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2 comments:

Visionary said...

Hi Justin,
I’ve just stumbled across your blog. I ‘m sorry I don’t have time to give it a lot of thought at present because I’m writing a manifesto of my 42 years of private research into life by following my intuition to the answers to my questions (about everything). In the process I have inadvertently developed/evolved my visual right hemispheric (R-mode) faculty and become an R-mode scientist with a unified concept of existence. This means I am able to synthesize fragmented left-hemispheric abstract verbal L-mode ‘knowledge’ back into the living (qualitative) context from which it was abstracted. The left perceives the quantitative 3D content of reality; the right perceives the qualitative 4D context. Basically my book will be challenging our biased L-mode thinking and values to their core.
I love Chief Seattle’s speech too.
I have a concept of the Evolution of Perception which began back in 1975 when I had a spontaneous altered-state experience while sitting on a granite rock in a stream in the early morning, still half-asleep. Suddenly I was fully conscious that I was within the rock, and experiencing what it was like to ‘be’ granite through its atomic vibration. What I experienced eventually became the foundation of my ‘Evolution of Perception’ concept, which I continue to develop to this day. The granite’s perception is non-dimensional ‘beingness’, experienced as the pure bliss of its atomic vibration. If I had a choice and could go to that state at will, I’d be happy to stay there forever. Unfortunately, I again spontaneously ‘popped’ back into my own consciousness, but with my soul full of love and compassion for the mineral realm that surrounded me, as my younger ‘kin’ in spirit. And I knew beyond doubt that the mineral realm is alive and evolving.
Must get back to work!
Please feel free to reply if you are interested in corresponding or finding out more.

coach keith said...

Hi Justin,

Thank you for a nice essay reminding us of the limitations of current materialist belief systems.
In the nexus point of quantum physics, biology, philosophy and psychology lies the tantalizing potential of a knowing state, which can only be discovered and validated by personal experiential means.
The description is never the described, existing as an idea only unless directly experienced.
Luckily the actual experience is beautiful and benefits flow into life expression. So i consider myself to be a "conscious experientialist", with a practical bent.

NB to Visionary.

It was a pleasant surprise to read of your experience with the rock. I had a similar experience within my own mindbody during meditation in 1977 and that opening from within led me to leave the monastic life.
I am currently uncovering self-healing or re-creation processes that anyone can use without the need for any belief system, other than the belief that they are an alive, conscious human being.
The space from which this can be activated is the key.
A very simple framework for understanding the intrinsic integration of the mindbody includes the left and right hemispheres of the brain, so i am very interested in your work and experience.
I also live in Australia and i can be contacted via keithoz88
Mail me at the G (a clue to which state i live in)

Best,
Keith