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  • Maurice McCarthy
    Thought you might like to see this. One point I ve not gone into is the meaning of Vorstellung has been changed by information processing. IT has made the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 17, 2004
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      Thought you might like to see this. One point I've not gone into is the
      meaning of Vorstellung has been changed by information processing. IT has
      made the informational content an objective thing so that there is a three
      point process in moving this objectivity to representation: real object,
      vehicle, phenomenon. The informational content co-varies (or remains
      unchanged) through each point. All our minds ever see is the phenomena. This
      is a very different meaning to RS's individualised concept.

      Notice how Metzinger has in fact penetrated to the sentient soul (PSM) and
      the willing soul or consciousness soul (PMIR). Outstanding achievement I

      by Maurice McCarthy
      April 2004.

      In the sense in which I use the word 'realism', i.e. to indicate a specific
      point of departure in considering the world, as an intuited reference to
      the self-subsisting durability of the things in the world then there are not
      too many realists in the scientific community today. Munévar's quote from
      Bohr makes this plain:

      "...an independent reality in the ordinary physical sense can neither be
      ascribed to the phenomena nor to the agencies of observation" TA69 [10].

      A realist, in my sense, would have to think, "The electron is incapable of
      continuously supporting its own appearance, therefore it does not really
      exist. With no self-subsistence it can only be an explanatory concept, valid
      within the range of certain theories derived from thoughtful observation,
      but not valid beyond that."

      In this essay I shall attempt to compare the three differing worldviews
      exhibited in TA67-69. An objective view can only be taken from outside of
      them and so it is done from the point of view at the origin of knowledge, an
      origin which is inside experience in a non-personal sense. If there is
      knowledge then there must be a content, an activity and a closure to obtain
      it. At the origin the content is undefined, the activity is indefinable and
      the closure must relate the two necessarily, if knowledge is to have

      TA67 (Metzinger)
      Page references are to the full text article.

      This article declares itself as phenomenalist from the beginning but also
      relies upon a "multi-level" perspective so that functio-phenomenalist, a
      hybrid worldview, would be more accurate, perhaps. Functionalism and
      phenomenalism are distinct views, one either side of realism. Neither is
      sure of real world knowledge, in the sense of being able to grasp objective
      entities directly. The phenomenalist feels that the world is only knowable
      through appearances which are not the true entities. (Yet, from the
      observation of the origin of knowledge, then, if one is a phenomenalist,
      epistemic closure would mean that knowledge truly is established only if
      there is a class of phenomena which are also realities.)

      On the other hand functionalists feel that the hidden realities are always
      hidden but, also, the world cause of our phenomena so that we can only ever
      know through effect. The functionalist actually skirts the superstitious and
      mystical. Naturalists of both kinds from the very beginning both deny the
      possibility of genuine epistemic closure. Neither ever gets a grip, nor
      expects to get a grip, on the reality itself but makes do with a parallel
      description or "co-variant isomorphism." (A phrase from "Being No One".)

      That the self does not exist is both a "central claim guiding the current
      investigation" (p. 385) and its conclusion:

      "The phenomenal property of selfhood is constituted by transparent,
      non-epistemic self-representation, ... no such things as selves exist in
      the world." (p. 390)

      The journey from this "central claim" and back again is lucid and full of
      new insights.

      The strong intuition of the phenomenalist that there is no self (in
      Metzinger's sense of the word) is easily illustrated. Everything knowable
      must have an appearance of its own but if we look for a phenomenal self*
      (Castaneda's reflexive use of the asterisk) there is not one. There is only
      a central absence of a phenomenon inside a person, an absence only knowable
      by its distinction from the positive phenomena - that content which which
      is our "phenomenal self-model" or PSM. The PSM is sufficient for a weak
      first-person perspective, in Baker's sense.

      It would seem that humans locate this absence far more intensely than any
      other sentient beings by being able not only to make distinction of
      themselves from other beings but also to attribute the concept of
      first-person perspective to themselves. (Baker p. 330) In order to explain
      this the phenomenalist must look for another phenomenon. To the PSM there is
      now added an image of the functioning of the person, a will-image in the
      most general sense, the "phenomenal model of intentionality-relation" or
      PMIR. The combination of PSM and PMIR leads us to believe in our existence
      as selves because we can now attribute the concept of ourselves to
      ourselves. We are deceived into the proposition, "I myself am." Beamish
      might say that the combination of PSM and PMIR is a 'vector' form, a Mind
      Vector Protocol or MVP, which lends us the strong first-person perspective.
      The "aboutness" of intentionality gives us direction in our lives.

      A person, for Metzinger, seems at once both to be and not be. This
      schismatic self is a leitmotif in the work of Samuel Beckett. (How do you
      stage a theatrical production with an existent and a non-existent such that
      the audience can realise that they are the same person?) About 1929 or 1930
      Joyce was working on "Finnegan's Wake" and he asked the young Beckett to
      read Fritz Mauthner's "Critique of Language" for him. He wrote down the
      following paragraph from the third volume and kept that same piece of paper
      for 50 years.

      "Epistemological nominalism is not a world view that can be proved, that is,
      pure and consistent nominalism such as was never expressed by nominalists
      but which presumably was merely ascribed to them by vicious opponents:
      namely the doctrine that all the concepts or words of human thought be
      nothing beyond mere ejaculations of air on the part of a human voice, that
      consistent nominalism according to which the human brain - the same way as
      the surface of a stone is closed off from its chemistry -has no access to
      reality, this pure nominalism that despairs - all natural science
      notwithstanding - as quietly of any knowledge of gravity or of color or of
      electricity as of a knowledge of consciousness - this epistemological
      nominalism is not a provable world view. It would not be nominalism were it
      to pass itself off as anything more than a feeling, as a mood of the human
      individual when confronted with the world. Even a thinking-through to the
      end of this doctrine, even a satisfactory immersion into this mood, is
      denied to us, for all thought takes place within the words of language, and
      thought dissolves itself once the nebulousness of words has become clear to
      us. To be sure, for a short while immersion into a mere mood is possible,
      but then the ponderer tries over and over again to get hold of this mood in
      one pure word, just like a poet, and if he no longer believes in the word he
      must reach out into emptiness. Pure nominalism puts an end to thinking and
      - with a new shudder of humanity - pure nominalism feels that color and
      sound, leftovers from a way of looking at the world, are children's toys
      that the accidental senses (Zufallssinne) have put into the cradle of
      man­kind. Truly, words can be used merely for quarrelling but not for
      creating; they can fight old beliefs but they cannot prove new ones. 'It is
      possible to refute opinions universally; to prove opinions universally is
      not possible'. " (Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache, Mauthner 1903.
      Translated from the very last section (Wissen and Worfe) of the work by
      Linda Ben-Zvi for The Journal of Beckett Studies.)

      Mauthner epitomises the dying 19th century materialism of his time. The
      poet-philosopher reasons that nothing is real unless it comes to us through
      sight or touch, yet these are 'accidental'. From the first, thoughts cannot
      be real because they do not come through the senses - and all reality must
      come to us that way. Beckett summarised for Ben-Zvi in 1980:

      "For me it came down to:
      Thought words
      Words inane
      Thought inane
      Such was my levity."

      To find meaning in life is impossible - and Beckett finds it ironic, hence
      his "levity". The reality itself is unobtainable, transcendent. Driving
      functionalism to this limit Mauthner finds that he must deny the rationality
      of the world itself.

      This is polar to Descartes who presumes rationality and proceeds to grasp
      real objects through it. Meditation II strips away transparent phenomena
      (the feel of the wax, the sweetness of the honey, the smell of the flower in
      it etc.) to lead to the concept of matter so that, ultimately, it is the
      intellectually formed opaque concept of matter which allows the attended
      perception of transparent phenomena. The last paragraph of Meditation II

      "But, in conclusion, I find I have insensibly reverted to the point I
      desired; for, since it is now manifest to me that bodies themselves are not
      properly perceived by the senses nor by the faculty of imagination, but by
      the intellect alone; and since they are not perceived because they are seen
      and touched, but only because they are understood (or rightly comprehended
      by thought), I readily discover that there is nothing more easily or
      clearly apprehended than my own mind. But because it is difficult to rid
      one's self so promptly of an opinion to which one has been long accustomed,
      it will be desirable to tarry for some time at this stage, that, by long
      continued meditation, I may more deeply impress upon my memory this new

      Now if we compare Metzinger (p. 363)

      "First, transparency is not an epistemological notion, but a
      phenomenological concept. In particular, it has nothing to do with the
      Cartesian notion of epistemic transparency, the philosophical intuition that
      in principle I cannot be wrong about the content of my own consciousness,
      that the notion of an unnoticed error in introspectively accessing the
      content of your own mind is incoherent. Descartes famously expressed this
      idea in the last paragraph of his second Meditation, and the advance of
      clinical neuropsychology today makes this classical philosophical
      assumption about the human mind untenable. The study of anosognosia,
      neglect and many other disorders has demonstrated that unnoticed (and
      unnoticeable) errors about the contents of one's own consciousness can
      occur at any time."

      Surely this is a misreading of Descartes whom I would take as saying that he
      cannot be mistaken about his own thoughts because he produced them himself,
      a theme I shall return to.

      Contrary to Mauthner, too, Metzinger's hybrid, by which a mean
      "functio-phenomenalism", does yield a place to informational content such
      as language. In as much as words are informational content they can
      constitute the representation of reality to us in an isomorphic manner to
      the causal functions thereby giving us an objective and true representation
      of reality, in so far as this is possible.

      Baker (p. 345, n. 23) says "Descartes ... cannot just help himself to the
      concept of thinking." Oh, yes, he can. As follows: I myself think therefore
      thinking exists, inasmuch as I bring it forth. There is thinking but do I*

      Donning phenomenalist mode we may then say:- thinking produces fully opaque
      phenomena, and other concepts, but I myself do not exist, for I have no
      phenomenon, therefore the existence of thinking transcends me. Thinking is
      therefore a causative function of the natural world and like all causative
      functions carries the hallmark of being directly unobservable in itself. I
      can only observe its products. Such products include our understanding of
      the brain. Minimally, it is not the brain which thinks but thinking is, at
      least, one of the causes of the brain. Every argument which uses thinking to
      order the observation of brains and subjects and other phenomena in order
      to deny the causal nature of thinking is necessarily self-defeating because
      it presumes what it denies. This is contradiction inescapable.

      Third-person perspective or naturalist science always presumes itself to be
      in a position of priviledged perception. However, in knowledge as a whole
      such a position does not originally exist. The quest for knowledge is
      internal to experience. Since the phenomenal content of the origin of
      knowledge is a fully transparent but utterly undefined phenomenal manifold
      there is nothing definite to attend to - so that its first ordering, its
      first making sense of, has to be a categorisation. This categorisation
      cannot be inference, since there can be no inference in the absence of an
      attended phenomenon, and so the first categorisation must be, and can only
      be, a postulate. Since thinking is a transcendent reality then it is
      universal and its products, ideas and thoughts and concepts, are objective
      content of the world.

      Transparency is the degree of given-ness in phenomenal content. If original
      content is only fully transparent then no beginning can be made in
      knowledge. Thinking is forced to presume something of its own nature is
      present in the original content. Epistemic closure consists in thinking
      manifesting to itself the ideal in the content through its own act of
      thought. With full opacity epistemic closure is certain because the vehicle
      is thinking and the content is thogut. Definite objectivity, as full
      transparency, only now becomes manifest as objective through its relation
      to the opaque, or its distinction from it.

      This is possibly born out by Carey and Spelke who have shown that children
      at two and a half months (or chicks at two days) have the categories of
      object, agent, number and space. They estimate that these core categories of
      knowledge are unchanging throughout the whole of life, irrespective of
      training in modern physics. (I look forward to Jean Mandler's forthcoming
      book in June 2004 which promises a theory of mind which is "neither
      empirical nor innate.")

      One point I've only just noticed is that once a definite content is achieved
      we no longer have the need to presume an arbitrary ideal content but can
      work with what is given by adding our thoughts to it and testing their
      veracity. The arbitrariness at the origin is the reasonable possibility of
      many worldviews being simultaneously correct and complimenting each other.

      Metzinger's claim for the transparency of the PSM leading to the
      "autoepistemic closure" (a phrase I dislike as means the opposite of its
      etymology) of positing an existent self, essentially turns on a single word,
      viz. "typically", for example, in the sentence "Linguistic self-reference
      always refers to the phenomenal content of the self-model, typically to its
      transparent portion ... " (p. 370). He overlooks that although it is highly
      uncommon to attend to the fully opaque content (because we feel it to be our
      own product and so we already 'know' it) yet such observation is the most
      important of all since this is where certainty of closure lies.
      Phenomenalism can, and possibly must, continue to deny the existence of the
      self but not thinking. Full opacity means having total access to the
      pre-processing which brings forth a phenomenon therefore one cannot be
      mistaken about it. Pure reflexive thought fulfills the naive realist's

      I*, null phenomenon, do not exist but rest my nothingness on transcendent


      Baker, Lynne Rudder, "The First-Person Perspective: A Test for Naturalism",
      in American Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 35 No. 4, December 1998.

      Carey, Susan and Spelke, Elizabeth, "Science and Core Knowledge," in
      Philosophy of Science 63, December 1996, pp. 515 - 533.

      Mandler, Jean, "The Foundations of Mind," OUP, forthcoming June 2004.

      Metzinger, Thomas, "Phenomenal Transparency and Cognitive Self-Reference,"
      in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 2, 2003 pp. 353-393.

      Metzinger, Thomas, "Being No One", MIT 2003.


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