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The Case of the Blind Brain and Other Strange Tales posted 04 July 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Case of the Blind Brain and Other Strange Tales by TakLoufer, Candidate

I've already acknowledged there's value in exploring 'frame questions' (my dissertation would be pointless otherwise!) It's your cognitive commitment to ONE answer - mental monism - that I'm dogging you on.

Well, I'm not committed to it, but I see it as a fairly good possibility. Though, now that I'm taking it to its logical base:

{Minds}---<---{Metamind(God)(Process?)}---<---{Eternal Objects}

I see that Berkeley's (& Lloyd's) Idealism seems like an unrefined form of Whiteheadian panexperientalism - just take account of Platonic forms and replace "Metamind" with "process". Though, of course, Whitehead would have denied he was an Idealist.

Regarding which, you seem ready to bite the bullet... Once you take the metaphilosophical picture into account, agnosticism really seems to be the only rationally defensible position. The fact is, we just don't know.

I guess I do bite the bullet, though not that hard.

I'm sure there is a limit to what we can know about our own ontology, but we can learn to an extent about our world, just like ducks can learn to an extent about theirs.

You're right in that in we can't know (or know for certain, at least), but I feel safe in stating that the true metaphysic will be, in some form, one of these three "frames":

Physical World (w/ intrinsic "experience" (*) )->-(creates)->- Mental World = Panexperientalism

Physical World --(interaction)-- Mental World = Dualism

Physical World --(created by)-- Mental World = Idealism

*-This is opposed to materialism's physical world, which is described as being composed of insentient "stuff," intrinsically void of any experience.


Ok that makes sense. And whilst I have a different idea of what sentience is and think it is a mistake to really think there is such a thing as an inside and an outside,

Well, I don't mean to say that they are literally outside or inside; but this is the impression we get. The "world" (whatever that is) is "out there" where as we are "in here". I have a feeling this confusion results from us not recognizing that we are not ontologically distinct from "out there" - our difference is one of token, not type. Think of a conscious whirlpool in a sentient ocean. The whirlpool, because it is more "focused," and therefore has a higher complexity of experience, mistakenly believes that the ocean (which is what it is made of) lacks experience and is insentient. The whirlpool may ask itself "How can insentient water, twirling about, cause me to be conscious?" Well, the correct answer is: it can't. The assumption in the question denies it a suitable answer.

I have no problem with such a classification. From a certain point of view, it can certainly be helpful in describing it in such a way. The problem comes though when we get caught up in these classifications and begin to think they are real things by themselves.

Exactly. This is what Whitehead called a "fallacy of misplaced concreteness".

Due to all the classifications we have in the world today, such as night and day, hot and cold, static and dynamic, inside and outside, sentience and insentience, it can often seem like we live in dualism. When you look closely at them though, you can see that this just isn't so. They are just labels we put on things to make it easier for us to discuss them. And as I said, the problem only comes when we take the label for something concrete, instead of looking closely at the thing it describes.

I agree.

For instance, hot and cold are not really two different things, they are just different phases of heat. And heat is not something that stands by itself either.

Well, to us, hot and cold are experienced as sensations, which are eternal objects (the experience of burning/the experience of freezing) manifest within our minds.

The same goes for night and day, static and dynamic, inside and outside or sentience and insentience. They are all just phases.

Yes. Just as "cold" is just a lower level of "heat" - so is sentience. There is no "insentience" (at least not within Pan-ex-ism or idealism). Experience in a matter of degrees, not a fine line.

Basically what i am trying to say is that nothing stands by itself and that even though it is hard to see, everything can be tracked back to see how it interrelates.

This is part of Whitehead's cosmology, this interrelation.

This is why i said in my previous post that I really have no problem with there being insentience and sentience without moving into dualism, as to me, they are just labels.

But they can be confusing labels indeed! While "insentience" and "sentience" are useful everyday labels, when it comes to the mind-body problem, this "misplaced concreteness" really makes the issue into a world knot.

Reading the rest of what you said, i think you pretty much grasp this though. Especially the bit about saying rocks have some primordial sentience; something that makes them really no different to us, just at a lower stage of development. So the question once again becomes the one I first asked you: Just what is this sentience?

I think this is Whitehead's god, the "one who experiences." The "nothing" that is under all the layers. If I understand it right, there really only is one "one who experiences," though individual personalities are this OWE wrapped in different archetypes and eternal objects.

Whitehead's god is the one who experiences everything and who is constantly changing along with the "process" of reality.

Don't worry about answering that though as i don't really expect an answer. Its one of those questions that runs far deeper than it first appears and can perhaps take years to answer (and even if you do, there is always room to deepen that understanding). I am just hoping to point out that perhaps it is a question worth spending more time on.

Well, this thread and the one before it have encouraged me to re-read Whitehead and re-access it in comparison to mental monism. I don't really understand Whitehead's metaphysic entirely, but it seems to encompass all of the problems.

The only other thing i would say is that while from a certain point of view i would agree that things are composed of "occasions of experience", i don't really agree that they are only made up of what you call external objects such as colours, sounds, mass etc. Whilst they are certainly a part of what makes a thing what it is, i think you would find your time much better spent looking for the source of these attributes.

Whitehead's eternal objects are the "universals" of reality. Mountains may rise and fall; suns may form and die, but the color green remains. The problem is, these eternal objects don't have any "real" existence (except in the Platonic Realm) but only as potentials - unless they combine into "Actual Entities". Take an apple. It has the eternal forms of color, taste, mass, volume, duration, etc. Individually, these EO's cannot be Actual Entities, but only in combination can they exist.

The forms attach by way of process, which seems like evolution. I'm going to have to read up on it to better understand what this means.

As to the origins of EOs, well they are timeless (since, IMO, time is an EO as well) and irreducible. They are the end of the line, or at least the end of the line we are ever going to see. And they aren't unexplained explainers either, as any ontology starts with a reality that is presumed to be fundamental. And, at least with EO, we know they exist. They are what comprise our experience. They can't be reducible, since any reduction would be only a correlative.


Okay, reading this and almost being able to follow some of the subcurrents that are implied has made me acutely aware that I need to read up more on this. So if you guys would please help me here, what are some of the texts that would explain "mental monism," among other things?

Well, mental monism is the position that "mind" is the foundation of reality and what we call the physical world supervenes upon mind. Mental monism is also called "Subjective Idealism," or, more often, idealism (though there are many different kinds of idealism).

I have a feeling that I should know this under another guise, but it's eluding me now...

Don't feel bad; two years ago, I wouldn't understand myself either <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) -->

So any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated - thanks!

Here are a few

Radical Nature by Christian De Quincey: A good introduction to Whiteheadian panexperientalism, though I feel Quincey suffers from a bit of "misplaced concreteness" himself. Still, a good book.


The Self Aware Universe by Amit Goswami: I strongly disagree with Goswami's "Objective Idealism" (which is basically ill-conceived dualism) (*), but his book does cover all of the different positions in a clear (and humorous manner.


The Mysterious Flame by Colin McGinn: This book presents a good coverage of all of the different positions from a materialist minded mind-set (though he doesn't think we can ever know the answer). He also gives a rather disappointing dismissal of panexperientalism, IIRC. Good intro book, though.


Here's an link to an online "Philosophy of Mind" encyclopedia: [url:1m4yrhmh]http&#58;//www&#46;artsci&#46;wustl&#46;edu/~philos/MindDict/[/url:1m4yrhmh]

Here's another made by a Buddhist. It contains some good arguments against emergentism and the materialist model of mind. [url:1m4yrhmh]http&#58;//home&#46;btclick&#46;com/scimah/[/url:1m4yrhmh]

*-See [url:1m4yrhmh]http&#58;//easyweb&#46;easynet&#46;co&#46;uk/~ursa/philos/goswami&#46;htm[/url:1m4yrhmh] view post


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