TA101 (Mohrhoff)


Commentary 3 (to R1)




by Herbert FJ Müller

14 March 2008, posted 22 March 2008




In responding to your R1, I think it is best to try, for the moment, to clarify the meanings of a number of terms, to distinguish between different terminologies on the one hand, and differing meanings on the other.



For instance what is meant by ‘gradual transition’ (R1{1b} and {2d}) ?  If UR corresponds to the unstructured ongoing subject-inclusive experience (SE), it seems to me that many aspects are created in it in an all-or-nothing fashion.  Say for instance you walk along a street in a dense fog and then you see a ‘shape’.  A bit later you decide this is a ‘person’.  When you come still closer you decide it is a ‘bush’ of person-size.  These changes are not gradual but stepwise, in terms of ‘entities’. 



‘The manifested world’ :  this sounds more or less like Heidegger who wrote that the world is uncovered, or that it reveals  -  manifests  -  itself as it already is (via ‘ἀλήθεια’ = ‘truth’ defined as un-hidden-ness or un-forgotten-ness of something that is already there and just needs to be found).  He tried to write a ‘fundamental ontology’ starting from phenomenology, which I think is self-contradictory.  It pre-supposes a ready-made world, neglecting the crucial subject-inclusive structuring aspect.  In a working-MIR (working-objective) view one can extrapolate from presently viable structures and construct a working-objective (better than naively MIR-objective) world.   



‘The nature of physical space’ :  this too involves our doing.  We can leave it fuzzy (i.e., more or less unstructured), or we can follow Descartes and endow it with three dimensions (or now, in some theories, up to 23 dimensions, I understand).  But how would this be ‘relations between UR and UR’, if UR = unstructured ongoing SE ?  (see also <6> below)



And what are ‘ultimate constituents’ ?  Again I assume that the constituents are ‘entities’, of (for instance) visual-gestalt type.  A problem in quantum-physics seems to be that the particles (are they the ultimate constituents ?) are not clearly defined as persistent gestalt-entities, one way or another (wave, particle).  The statement that the ultimate constituents are ‘identical in the strong sense of numerical identity’ (TA101[8]) I take to mean that counting (mathematics) is more reliable than gestalt-features, with which I agree.  (See end-note [copied from C3 to TA96])



‘The UR is unstructured’ (R1 {1e}) :  I see the encompassing unstructured ongoing experience (SE) as matrix or background or envelope which is always there; thus I am not sure about the term ‘manifestation’ in this context either.  Structures emerge or are created within SE; thus I cannot see how structures can ‘consist of relations between UR and UR’.  ‘Structures outside’ would imply either MIR-belief or as-if-MIR-belief. 



‘The self’ ({1f}) is in my opinion a structure within SE (or within what you call UR), like other structures, such as ‘the world’.  The split between self and world (TA101[28]) as well is a working-ontologic (pragmatic, not ontic) structure within SE.  I suppose this amounts in effect to the same as what you say.



I am not sure that the distinction of ‘phenomenal brains’ versus ‘real brains’ ({1g}) is helpful.  First we think and perceive etc., then at a later stage we can, but do not have to, expand our thinking by considering that we use the brain to do this; most of the time we don’t, and the ‘process of construction’ (TA101[22]) can go on without this consideration.  Vision is subject-inclusive structuring just as all mental activity (structuring) is.  Studying brain activity, or nervous system activity more generally, and its relation to phenomena in SE, is a specialized endeavour within SE, as are all specialized activities.  Extrapolating from such special activity, one can then say that ‘of course brain activity happens always when one thinks, also when one does not think about brain activity’; but that is (secondary working-MIR-)objectivity.  Perhaps one could talk about ‘thematic brains’ in connection with such studies, similar to ‘thematic weather’ when you concentrate on it.



The relation of perceived colors to light frequencies, etc., ({1h-i}, {2e}) follows from here as well :  the frequencies are involved in the same way as brain activity; one sees colors immediately, studying the frequencies requires special techniques; the connection between the two is (working-)objectivity, which happens within SE.  The statement (in TA101[28]) that ‘colors exist in the directly perceived aspect of the manifested world’ sounds like a straight MIR-comment (see {2f}), and I think it is misleading.  The difference of qualia from gestalt-perception is in my opinion only the absence or lesser importance of (gestalt-)configurations in ‘quale’-situations, not only concerning color, but also for touch, pain, heat, hunger, happiness, etc.  All of them require subject-inclusive structuring, just like gestalt-thinking and -perception.



I am also not familiar with sophisticated yogic techniques (R1{2b-c}).  Thus I try to translate some of those terms into my own (and would like to know your opinion on that).  According to Wikipedia, the ‘atman’ is a sort of soul, self, or also universal spirit, in Hinduism or Buddhism.  Mana’ is an impersonal force in people, animals, or objects that generates a sense of wonder (would that be similar to what the Greek philosophers called ‘θαυμάζειν’ = to wonder, the start, or precondition, of philosophical thinking according to Plato and Aristotle ?    If you don’t question what everybody thinks, or what some authority says, you are stuck with it).  I have been distinguishing (a) self-structures, which are developed in the same way as other concept-structures within (b) unstructured experience, and experience can not only be shared (‘whose experience ?’ R1{2a}), but in a different sense also become (c) universal including certain structures, for instance in mysticism (see TA106 [10] to [12]); this last might correspond to what you call panentheism.  Knowledge translates into power, or ability to do things (‘siddhi’, accomplishment).  Based on learning and universal consciousness, there is a potentially shareable universe, testable by people who go into it.  The result (UR = ‘brahman’) seems to be similar to (b), the encompassing unstructured ongoing experience-origin from which we have to start; I suppose that essentially this is = mind, ongoing encompassing experience (once you abandon the mistaken MIR-notion).  



Concerning ‘dual-aspects’ ({3a-b}) :  It would be helpful to clarify the mentioned points concerning ‘the manifested world’ etc.; they are the main reason for my impression of a dual-aspect view.  In dualist views the MIR-view tends to take over in practice, if it is not explicitly excluded. 





(copied from C3 to TA96)






There is a hidden factor :  visual-gestalt formations are commonly implied to represent, or to refer to, a fictitious generally valid (even absolute) MIR.  This interpretation is strengthened in case words (‘logoi’) with their own identity and authority (‘in the beginning was the word’) and their potential for wide human communication are attached to them (word-gestalt-concepts). 

But images are not able to do that (although naiveté, or indoctrination, can make people believe that they can), and that not only in ambiguous drawings ([37]ff; see also TA93[52-53], and Byers 2007).  Gestalt-formations are our tools like other structures, and we use them to structure, stabilize, and handle experience.  Visual-gestalt-MIR assumptions, although very common, intuitive, implicit, and mostly automatic, are erroneous shortcuts of thinking.  And if something is ‘weird’ in the QM-context, it is the imputed MIR-function of the gestalt-view, despite its intuitiveness. 



Here again ‘understanding’ refers to the use of notions that are familiar.  Instead of human-like images it is the visual-gestalt image-MIR method per se which is preferred, but of doubtful help, and may actually be a hindrance.  The analytic non-gestalt, mathematical-only, view (iv) is the most adequate (since ‘it works’, and QM ‘is, in fact, the most effective physical theory’ [8]), for instance for situations like the double-slit experiment, or the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment ([11]ff, [43]ff).  The conclusion is :  forget about the images; despite our habits they are not helpful here.  If anything they are an impediment.  The numbers are more reliable than the gestalt formations (see also TA93 [52-53]).


To my knowledge no one has proven that visual-gestalt entities, without or with words attached to them, guarantee either MIR, or certainty.  And they don’t, though in many areas one can act as-if they did; but not usually in particle physics, it seems.  (Nor do, more generally, realist, materialist, and similar views, which use, or rather only imply, gestalt-MIR as foundation for their reasoning.)   



Related to this is the puzzling notion of ‘super-positions’ (of reality-possibilities; [10]ff).  It implies belief in MIR (actually in visual-gestalt-MIR) of these possibilities, since without that you would simply talk about possible schemes of thought and action.  For instance say you want to paint a picture :  before you paint it, it can, according to that kind of reasoning, ‘potentially have’ a very large (infinite) number of fictitious MIR combinations of shapes, colours, styles, topics, etc.  Does it make sense to say that they are all superimposed until they collapse when you have completed the painting ?  Are they resurrected when you then decide to modify the painting ? 





Why is the gestalt-view (‘can be spread out’, ‘superposed states’) proposed for QM ?  The answer is obviously that we use the gestalt-tool because we like it, because we are familiar with it and much of the time it works reliably (it works best for macroscopic solid objects).  We want and have structured a world that is prominently characterized by visual-gestalt-MIR properties.  But in the situation under discussion here, the wish to have an intuitive MIR-gestalt-understanding leads to a quite counter-intuitive superposition of multiple possibilities, misinterpreted as MIRs. 




Herbert FJ Müller

     e-mail <herbert.muller (at) mcgill.ca>