|2009-03-21, by John Ringland|
Comments inspired by the article:
Excerpt from the abstract: "Starting with the Descartes'
cogito, "I think, therefore I am"--and taking an
uncompromisingly rational, rigorously phenomenological approach--I
attempt to derive the basic principles of recursion theory (the
backbone of all mathematics and logic), and from that the principles
of feedback control theory (the backbone of all biology), leading to
the basic ideas of quantum mechanics (the backbone of all physics)."
This is an admirable attempt however the problem that strikes me
with this approach is that the enquiring mind is already full of all
kinds of unconscious conditioning hence it is using a distorted lens.
Thus many assumptions are made which are unwarranted by the supposed
initial condition of pure scepticism.
The author claims that they will not use any knowledge that is not
clearly derivable from the initial consciousness of consciousness –
however they fail to realise how many assumptions they are
introducing because these assumptions are so deeply ingrained in them
from their life experiences.
The very fact that they are conducting a philosophical enquiry
using concepts and language shows that they have previously learnt a
particular mode of doing these things.
They also draw upon knowledge about objects such as the idea that
a ball has sides that exist even though they cannot be directly
perceived. We learn at an early age that our percepts relate to
objects that seemingly continue to exist even though we cannot see
them – this is related to the game of peek-a-boo.
The author also assumes that “2 2=4” is immediately apparent
to consciousness but only if it has received a mathematical
If the enquirer was to truly start from consciousness of
consciousness and employ the intellect without the introduction of
any prior beliefs then they would have to revert back to the
condition of a foetus – or not even that because many cognitive
reflexes are built into us.
It is impossible to revert to a truly blank-slate and even if one
could then one would not think to start conducting a philosophical
enquiry. A mind needs to reach a certain level of development before
it occurs to it to enquire into such things – otherwise its inbuilt
instincts cause it to follow the natural course of development.
I had previously thought that the cogito intellectual approach was
reasonable but seeing it in action has changed my mind – it is a
seemingly plausible idealisation that doesn't really work in
practice. Without particular kinds of conditioning we could not do
it, but with conditioning we cannot do it in a sceptical manner.
I think a major flaw is that it starts with consciousness of
consciousness but then brings in high level cognitive faculties to
perform intellectual analysis – this is where the anti-sceptical
assumptions creep in.
If we start with consciousness of consciousness and then, without
words or concepts, we simply stay with consciousness of consciousness
and go deeper into consciousness through pure meditation then this
approach might work – but how? Is it that when the mind is cleared
of complex static the intuition reveals things. Where does the
intuitive knowledge come from? Is it that consciousness is the
foundation of reality hence the knower and the known are the same
once the turbulence of false ideas subsides?
Whilst the existence of consciousness is apodictic (absolutely,
perfectly certain) the complex contents of consciousness are not. But
when things arise from the intuition of a still mind is this knowing
If it wasn't for the remarkable metaphysical accuracy of the
ancient Vedic, Daoist and Kabbalistic sages I would say that a
rationalist approach was the best and that an embodied perspective
“through an individual mind” is inherently unable to approach
genuine truth but only pragmatic truth. But any rationalist approach
has to start from some hypothesis – so where does this hypothesis
come from if not from intuition?
The sages did arrive at genuine knowing without complex
rationalist methods and experimental verification. I say this not due
to antiquity or authority but from resonance with my own deepest
intuitive knowing. The cutting edge of science is only just beginning
to approach what the sages know, however ignorance of what the sages
have said or fixation on the many naïve or corrupt interpretations
means that science in general is unaware of this.
Perhaps, rather than start from cogito then follow a intellectual
approach it may be better to start with cogito then still the mind
through meditation and receive intuitive insight, which can then be
encoded in whatever form has meaning to it given its conditioning.
This then forms the foundation of a rationalist approach that can be
logically developed and experimentally tested.
This has been my own approach and it has worked well for me so
far. I cannot think of any other way that could be truly sceptical.
Consciousness of consciousness is the only thing we can be truly sure
of – so rather than just touch upon it then leap into speculation
based upon hidden assumptions, why not dwell with it and gradually go
deeper into it and see what happens – intuitions do indeed arise.
As soon as the intellect and other complex cognitive faculties are
introduced they bring with them a whole raft of unconscious
assumptions. Hence it is best to lay the foundations of a rationalist
theory with consciousness of consciousness and spontaneous intuition,
without any input from intellect, and only later use the intellect to
develop the theory – but with the guidance of intuition grounded in
stillness. If the theory then connects with experienced reality then
it can be considered to be potentially truthful.