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PHD-DESIGN  August 2009

PHD-DESIGN August 2009

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Subject:

Re: Clarifying an epistemological and ontological confusion

From:

Terence Love <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Terence Love <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 23 Aug 2009 19:02:14 +0800

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Dear Ben,

My apologies for the delay in answering your questions.

You asked:
"How does turning our consciousness of the world into
an illusion not create insurmountable difficulties for establishing a
foundation for knowledge? "

One way of seeing this issue is to look at an underlying factor that appears
to create most of the problem. 

This factor is from the self-centred na´ve selfishness of thinking of us as
humans that limits our view of self to that which we can internally reflect
upon..

It occurs when we assume that the self that each of us think we are, is the
self that we perceive we are from looking inside of ourselves.

Put more simply, we all have an idea of 'who we are as a person'. This
usually different from our objective view of someone else as 'a body that
includes a person'.

Adding to the problem is when we assume consciousness is limited to the
personal perceptions that we can make as a self (the ones that we can
reflect on as happening inside ourselves).

Observation in many ways (some of them of others and some via clever
science) shows us that much of our behaviour, thoughts and emotions as
bodily humans occurs without and is extraneous to and hidden from the above
self-reflective 'self' that we self-perceive ourselves to be. 

Similarly, observation and science shows there  is a consciousness that we
have as human bodies that occurs without and is extraneous to and hidden
from the 'consciousness' that we attribute to the above self-reflective
'self' that we self-perceive ourselves to be.

Thus we finish up with a fourfold picture:

A. The self that we self-perceive we are by looking inside of ourselves.

B. The smaller, limited 'consciousness' that we self-perceive from the
perspective  of  the above self-reflective 'self' that we self-perceive
ourselves to be.

C. The whole of body functioning self, most of which cannot be seen except
through objective 'scientific' approaches, that includes amongst many other
functions the processes of the self-reflective 'self' that we self-perceive
ourselves to be.

D. The consciousness of the whole of an individual's body due to its
functioning.


 The problem you raise in essence has come about because we have taken the
picture of self and consciousness as only including A. and D. and assumed
that the consciousness of D. is due to the self-perceived sense of self of
A.

The illusion problem I raised refers to the illusions of the sense of
self-perceived self of A. 

If you segregate the issue into the above four elements and address the
problem in terms of each then there are no  difficulties in building
knowledge in  this area.

Many of the epistemological problems in relation to self and consciousness
seem to be from thinking that confuses  self-perception of self (A.) and
consciousness (D.) The difference between the, however, can be simply seen
in many ways. For example, if one's self (A.)  is perceiving something and
you can watch yourself doing it then it obviously isn't the root level of
consciousness that is doing the perceiving, or there are a lot of parallel
processes. Either way, self (A.) and consciousness (B.) are obviously not
the deepest level of ontological entities.

Interestingly, unraveling the issues relating to self and consciousness,
then raises many challenges against commonly held conceptions of
'knowledge' and the common understanding of 'what it is to know'. All of
these have been central issues in recent posts and concepts that many have
taken as given. It is not only that they cannot be taken as given, there are
indications that traditional conceptualizations of knowledge and knowing are
wrong.

These are not new arguments. They can be seen in the works of Patanjali,
Ghazali and many others .

You might ask how the illusion phenomenon is created. The illusion goes
something like this. Step 1 - we can see simple causality in action in the
world (it's hot, my finger touches it, my finger hurts). Step 2 we can
create representational systems that allow us to see inside ourselves what
the future might hold. There are many ways we do this - some in logic some
visual etc. We can apply these to our own futures . Step 3 - we make
decisions on the basis of these internal speculations. Then step 4 - we
assume that this process is ontologically the whole of our functioning. Step
4 is the illusion.

The challenge is that of understanding what can be knowable when the
instruments (self perception) do not read reality directly or accurately and
often provide erroneous information . 

This is the same problem, however, that human beings as the use of any
instrument for measurement. Humankind has a well established collection of
methods for dealing with these
issues. 

The only change is that we are using these approaches  on ourselves. An
example, we understand and can predict many of  the changes in individuals'
behaviours caused by an individual being in a group. Often the claim is that
the individual is 'no longer themselves' in terms of their behaviour,
feelings and decision-making'  What individuals rarely do is turn the
situation inside out.  Potentially, any individual in a group can
self-realise that they are not themselves - due to the action of the group.
In that case, who are they...?

You ask,
"For instance, what results of an experiment are
able to be obtained outside of consciousness?"

 There are many ways to do this. An obvious one is to compare biological
activity with self reports of consciousness and thinking. Other options are
to compare self reports of thinking with behaviour, memory tests with
behaviour, brain deficits with self reports of thinking and attitudes,
behaviour, reasoning, emotions... There are many ways to look for
discrepancies and alternative explanations.

Cheers,
Terry

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