Here, I'm not so much interested in Dennett's ideas on consciousness as I am in his ideas concerning privileged access.

 

I like the opening idea that there is the folk-belief among people that everyone is an expert on their own consciousness. After all, they have a direct relationship with their own consciousness, and this, thereby, makes them an expert on consciousness.

 

I'm not all that impressed with this talk -- not that it's not good -- but he really only presents one piece of evidence, and we are lead to the inference that we don't know our own minds only indirectly through that evidence. I was hoping for something a bit stronger.

 

I like though how he incorporates real time thought experiments into his work.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjbWr3ODbAo&feature=player_embedded

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Kela: Suppose that someone now says, "Well, the experience of the meditator can be corroborated by an outside authority, a guru or roshi, or whatever."

But then the "special" status of that inner knowledge has been forfeited and so it is no different than other forms of knowledge.

When I was young I spent a lot of time around a table with people who spoke another language I did not understand (my father was from Honduras and my mother Germany). I had little clue as to what was being said as my parents spoke English to us kids so I developed a keen sense of body language (now they discovered mirror neurons). I learned to feel the states that people were in. Of course I was interpreting them at the level of a kid. Now when I teach meditation I can just look at a person and gauge much about their mental state. I've been accused of reading minds. But that's because I can match their demeanor with my own experience of meditation. I can tell them what they are experiencing without them telling me. So meditation is like any other discipline. You played hockey right? Someone can go on and on about how good they are but you know within 1 minute of watching them skate and shoot at warm ups whether they are full of it or not.

 

Someone might also think that he has had an "experience" of nibbana. But can that belief not also be wrong? Is it not possible that it was some sort of "pseudo-nibbana?"

This is one reason you spend a lot of time developing and becoming familiar with deep states of concentration. When someone experiences nibbana it is qualitatively different than anything they have experienced before so they at least know something very different has happened. Their wise friends can then clue them in. The Buddha's nibbana and yours would be the same. The only difference would be the depth.

With respect to "visions" and "pseudo-nirvana," what I also have in mind is the "makyo" of Zen and what Goleman talks about on pp. 12, 24 in The Meditative Mind. In this paper, Part III, Epstein writes, 

Higher stages of meditation contain numerous experiences, well catalogued in the traditional literature (Nyanamoli, 1976) and variously involving visions of bright lights, joyous and rapturous feelings of body and mind, tranquillity, lucid perceptions, and feelings of love and devotion. Termed the "ultraconscious" (Dean, 1973), "transcendental experience" (Walsh, 1980),"mystic experience" (Runions, 1979)or "awakening of the kundalini" (Sannella, 1976), these states exert seductive influences which can become quite serious according to the meditative traditions. Termed "pseudo-nirvana" (Goleman, 1977; Goleman & Epstein, 1980) in the southern Buddhist tradition and "Makyo" or "diabolical enticements" in the Zen tradition (Kapleau, 1965),attachment to these states marks a major abuse of the meditative process. It is not until the pride and attachment, themselves, are made objects of meditation that the individual can pass beyond this stage.

Yoga Sutra 3:26 refers to access to the "subtle" (suksama) via meditation on the inner light as a form of siddhi. Sutra 3:38 says that the siddhis are obstacles to release (kaivalya). Sutra 3:52 (paralleling exactly what Epstein writes above) says that attachment to the siddhis leads to egoism/arrogance or "pride" (smaya); Sutra 3:51 notes that they must be renounced (vairagya) if there is to be release (kaivalya).

kelamuni said:

Let me try another tack here. After some snooping online, I came across what I think is the basic denial being referred to here. According to Sydney Shoemaker, it is the claims 1: that privileged access implies that the knowledge one obtains from introspection is infallible or incorrigible; and 2. that that knowledge is of a different order than other forms of knowledge like external perception, that it is a "special" form of knowledge of a "higher" order.

To use the example of the mayavadins, I see what I think is a piece of silver on the beach, but upon inspection it turns out to be a piece of nacre, or mother or pearl. So external perception can be doubted.

But, so says the privileged accesser, because I have direct access to my inner states, there is not the same kind of doubt for what I "see" or experience internally.

Of course I "see" something. But is it what I think or believe I see? In other words, can I not doubt that what I see internally is what I believe it to be?

Let's say I see a vision of something or have an experience of something. But how do I know that it is what I believe it to be? One imagines that for someone who makes claims to "privileged access" there is the claim that I need not doubt it since I have direct access to my inner states of consciousness.

Let us imagine that I have had a vision of Krishna in meditation and that the belief subsequently arises that I have actually seen Krishna in the vision. There is the tendency for someone who has had such an experience to say, "But I saw Krishna. He was right there, before my inner eye! I know I saw Krishna because I have privileged access to my own states. " But is it not possible that I can be mistaken about that belief, that it was some sort of hallucination?

Someone might also think that he has had an "experience" of nibbana. But can that belief not also be wrong? Is it not possible that it was some sort of "pseudo-nibbana?"

Here is another form of "privileged access" that is problematic. Someone at another forum had pointed out some of the problems inherent with the Hindu Nationalism of the BJP, namely that it discriminates against religious minorities. This is what his interlocutor (a Hindu Nationalist) said: 

"Yeah some things are well magnified. Nobody is aware the conversion racket that is spread by missionaries. I live in India and i am well aware of the incidents better than anyone."

The implication is: "I am an authority of what goes on in India because I live here. You do not live here. So even though you may site reputable sources for your info, you are not an authority since you do not live here."

It is clear that this kind of move is fallacious, no?

Yeah sure all of that stuff can happen when you develop concentration. But it is not really necessary to renounce them as it is to become dispassionate towards them. I loved watching John Riggins score a touchdown (here he is scoring at the super bowl for the lead no less, sets a record and does not even keep the ball). He would cross the goal line and toss the ball to the ref and trot back to the side line...all in a days work.

It's good to keep bliss and/or happiness around as you need to balance effort and concentration. Having a little happiness around let's you sit for longer periods of time. It adds a little pleasant energy when you need it.

kelamuni said:

With respect to "visions" and "pseudo-nirvana," what I also have in mind is the "makyo" of Zen and what Goleman talks about on pp. 12, 24 in The Meditative Mind. In this paper, Part III, Epstein writes,

Higher stages of meditation contain numerous experiences, well catalogued in the traditional literature (Nyanamoli, 1976) and variously involving visions of bright lights, joyous and rapturous feelings of body and mind, tranquillity, lucid perceptions, and feelings of love and devotion. Termed the "ultraconscious" (Dean, 1973), "transcendental experience" (Walsh, 1980),"mystic experience" (Runions, 1979)or "awakening of the kundalini" (Sannella, 1976), these states exert seductive influences which can become quite serious according to the meditative traditions. Termed "pseudo-nirvana" (Goleman, 1977; Goleman & Epstein, 1980) in the southern Buddhist tradition and "Makyo" or "diabolical enticements" in the Zen tradition (Kapleau, 1965),attachment to these states marks a major abuse of the meditative process. It is not until the pride and attachment, themselves, are made objects of meditation that the individual can pass beyond this stage.

Yoga Sutra 3:26 refers to access to the "subtle" (suksama) via meditation on the inner light as a form of siddhi. Sutra 3:38 says that the siddhis are obstacles to release (kaivalya). Sutra 3:52 (paralleling exactly what Epstein writes above) says that attachment to the siddhis leads to egoism/arrogance or "pride" (smaya); Sutra 3:51 notes that they must be renounced (vairagya) if there is to be release (kaivalya).



e said:

Yeah sure all of that stuff can happen when you develop concentration. But it is not really necessary to renounce them as it is to become dispassionate towards them. I loved watching John Riggins score a touchdown (here he is scoring at the super bowl for the lead no less, sets a record and does not even keep the ball). He would cross the goal line and toss the ball to the ref and trot back to the side line...all in a days work.

It's good to keep bliss and/or happiness around as you need to balance effort and concentration. Having a little happiness around let's you sit for longer periods of time. It adds a little pleasant energy when you need it.

I'm not saying that shamatha, dharana, dhyana, samadhi, or subtle techiniques like nada yoga and jyoti mudra, and the experiences that derive from them, are "bad" and need to be renounced, as much as to saying, first, that such experiences -- or even moments of "insight" or jnana derived from "causal" techniques -- need to be contextualized by a teacher and the tradition from which they come. In other words there is the possibility that inflation or self-agrandizing (what the above terms "pride" or smaya) can arise when one practices on one's own in a "self-grounding" manner.

What I also have in mind, and this is the second point, is that the self-styled yogin who sits on his own cannot be his own authority as to what is he is doing and achieving he practices. I'm taking a cue from Wittgenstein's critique of the empiricists and their notion of a private language. So my target here is also those who conceive of practice as a kind of "mystical empiricism," an empiricism that lionizes personal "experiences" over other components of what it means to practice. There is a sense, in other words, that mystical empiricists tend to see personal experiences as grounding their practice, to the detriment of other components that not simply should be included but need to be. There are certain "criteria," as Wittgenstein would put it, that come from outside of one's private experience, that need to be considered in an adequate understanding or conceptualization of what one is doing when one sits and "practices." This latter point is "epistemic" in a sense. Personal experience, on its own, cannot "ground" one's practice. Interaction with a teacher is necessary, and understanding the teaching (upadesha) that has been transmitted by the teacher, and having that understanding confirmed, are also necessary -- and that teacher also should also not be lionizing personal experience, either, precisely because those personal experiences are private and intimately personal and need to be contextualized by conditions that lie outside of private experience.

I'm trying to bring the principles of inter-subjectivity to bear here and am finding it a bit odd that in a forum dedicated to conceiving a post-metaphysical spirituality there is so much resistance to the attempt to do so coupled with a dogged attachment to older models based on classical empiricism.

Speaking of access, does anyone have access to the original thread upon which this one was based or of which this one is a continuation? theurg? It would be nice if I could summarize all my points succinctly, create a succinct blog post from them, then move onto other matters...

Admittedly, the nature of my rhetorical style is probably contributing to this, leading people to think that I am attacking tradition, or the "teachings," or meditation, or "experience" per se, or worse themselves personally. I'm not. 

kelamuni said:

I'm trying to bring the principles of inter-subjectivity to bear here and am finding it a bit odd that in a forum dedicated to conceiving a post-metaphysical spirituality there is so much resistance to the attempt to do so coupled with a dogged attachment to older models based on classical empiricism.

hey kelamuni

glad to hear it ,since this is exactly what have been saying for....years.



kelamuni said:


e said:

Yeah sure all of that stuff can happen when you develop concentration. But it is not really necessary to renounce them as it is to become dispassionate towards them. I loved watching John Riggins score a touchdown (here he is scoring at the super bowl for the lead no less, sets a record and does not even keep the ball). He would cross the goal line and toss the ball to the ref and trot back to the side line...all in a days work.

It's good to keep bliss and/or happiness around as you need to balance effort and concentration. Having a little happiness around let's you sit for longer periods of time. It adds a little pleasant energy when you need it.

I'm not saying that shamatha, dharana, dhyana, samadhi, or subtle techiniques like nada yoga and jyoti mudra, and the experiences that derive from them, are "bad" and need to be renounced, as much as to saying, first, that such experiences -- or even moments of "insight" or jnana derived from "causal" techniques -- need to be contextualized by a teacher and the tradition from which they come. In other words there is the possibility that inflation or self-agrandizing (what the above terms "pride" or smaya) can arise when one practices on one's own in a "self-grounding" manner.

What I also have in mind, and this is the second point, is that the self-styled yogin who sits on his own cannot be his own authority as to what is he is doing and achieving he practices. I'm taking a cue from Wittgenstein's critique of the empiricists and their notion of a private language. So my target here is also those who conceive of practice as a kind of "mystical empiricism," an empiricism that lionizes personal "experiences" over other components of what it means to practice. There is a sense, in other words, that mystical empiricists tend to see personal experiences as grounding their practice, to the detriment of other components that not simply should be included but need to be. There are certain "criteria," as Wittgenstein would put it, that come from outside of one's private experience, that need to be considered in an adequate understanding or conceptualization of what one is doing when one sits and "practices." This latter point is "epistemic" in a sense. Personal experience, on its own, cannot "ground" one's practice. Interaction with a teacher is necessary, and understanding the teaching (upadesha) that has been transmitted by the teacher, and having that understanding confirmed, are also necessary -- and that teacher also should also not be lionizing personal experience, either, precisely because those personal experiences are private and intimately personal and need to be contextualized by conditions that lie outside of private experience.

"Speaking of access, does anyone have access to the original thread upon which this one was based or of which this one is a continuation?"

I only saved a few of the old Gaia threads in this link and it doesn't appear there's one on privileged access. Perhaps Balder has it somewhere?

Seems rather obvious there is no private language as language was developed to communicate. But then I just saw a show on Nova last night about advanced tool making (shaping stone) and the brain and language. How Broca's area of the brain is the place where both of these "occur". The tool making is a sort of private language (talking to oneself in a logical sequence) as one makes a tool. Which came first language or tool making? Did they tetra-arise? I am also not so sure as you seem to be about the rest of it. What does freedom in its most radical sense mean? Free to walk around without clothes on? I agree that most need friends to keep them on the straight and narrow. But I just don't know if this applies to everyone. A Pacceka Buddha comes to mind. A friend in my meditation group has been meditating and practicing yoga by herself for 12 years from books. She learned to meditate from a book on Zen in French. She didn't know French when she started! She lived in isolated places and had no access to teachers or a Sangha and she has done very well for herself. She's makyo free.
PS I don't take your communication style personally. It's yours after all.



kelamuni said:

I'm not saying that shamatha, dharana, dhyana, samadhi, or subtle techiniques like nada yoga and jyoti mudra, and the experiences that derive from them, are "bad" and need to be renounced, as much as to saying, first, that such experiences -- or even moments of "insight" or jnana derived from "causal" techniques -- need to be contextualized by a teacher and the tradition from which they come. In other words there is the possibility that inflation or self-agrandizing (what the above terms "pride" or smaya) can arise when one practices on one's own in a "self-grounding" manner.

What I also have in mind, and this is the second point, is that the self-styled yogin who sits on his own cannot be his own authority as to what is he is doing and achieving he practices. I'm taking a cue from Wittgenstein's critique of the empiricists and their notion of a private language. So my target here is also those who conceive of practice as a kind of "mystical empiricism," an empiricism that lionizes personal "experiences" over other components of what it means to practice. There is a sense, in other words, that mystical empiricists tend to see personal experiences as grounding their practice, to the detriment of other components that not simply should be included but need to be. There are certain "criteria," as Wittgenstein would put it, that come from outside of one's private experience, that need to be considered in an adequate understanding or conceptualization of what one is doing when one sits and "practices." This latter point is "epistemic" in a sense. Personal experience, on its own, cannot "ground" one's practice. Interaction with a teacher is necessary, and understanding the teaching (upadesha) that has been transmitted by the teacher, and having that understanding confirmed, are also necessary -- and that teacher also should also not be lionizing personal experience, either, precisely because those personal experiences are private and intimately personal and need to be contextualized by conditions that lie outside of private experience.

 

Hey people, it’s been a while. So stop me anywhere down the line….  

The question is whether or not I am more of an authority on my inner states than someone else. 

There is the ambiguity to my inner states. to account for the movement from me to the whole, Let me draw on a handy semantic instance, the in-dividual as in-divisible and consequently whole. It tags Inner access to the deconstruction of the personal. However to discriminate the personal from identity, it could be perspectivally useful to link identity with attention  -  shifting to dynamic. So experiences of identity can be infinitely identical or different or a mix, within or without. Just because there’s room, in the consciousness accessed. Of course here the experience is more the identity than the experiencer. Which would make, an undifferentiated transpersonal experience the essence of uniqueness, given the shifting identity.

If not trans, de-personalization has a ring to it. Sort of stripping down instead of skipping like transcend and include. Still, underneath if not over, the drift is regenerative rather than a dissolution of identity.

On that note, I’ll consider intersubjectivity as an initiative besides its perpetual dependant origination consequence. There’s the implied transition, the agency of the initiative slipping into an inner or axial intersubjectivity. The continuum a nice touch

Perhaps the question is validity of inner experience before authenticity is in order. Evidently knowledge has validity. As does the existential and the stuff of time and space. Authenticity (as in original) as the other. If I can never know for sure, I can be sure.  If to be sure flirts with the absolute, the ground for it is time and space.  The unconditional has no reference point, does it need a context in knowledge….* (An opportunity to float the autopoetic potential of contradiction, I’ll just add an arbitrary note, sub contexts for the absolute have a legitimacy as common place references . ha ha. please skip this note )

To and fro

I want to make a case for practice as comprehensively personal. From a post structural view. My practice has to be precisely structured for me, so the structure can and needs to be improvised every single time, addressing the state I’m in at that time. For effective access which is a creative take. Actually I think access happens first and then the structure for practice is an interpretation of which, and so, is higher precision*.  I’m not discounting, teaching. What I’m getting at is, the teaching is the teacher who lives his art, embodies it. In real time, not as something that is passed on. I could draw from it in a radically personal way. Experience, of course is polar, the deconstruction of the personal. On to identity, the path attention describes via a subject is at the same time unrestricted identity. The twist, opposition between unequals has to pan out, and to wit, relish the personal. Because Tom says (and even Niels Bohr):) for every great truth its opposite is also true…

Sorry, If I go over the some old ground. However intersubjectivity as initiative is interesting, encroaching access or the inner thing. to get over it as a consequence of subjective content. A post integral intersubjectivity :) I suspect the sleight of the move from innate to initiative is the art in praxis. The span of transition could be reductive without the contradiction, the paradoxical. Of the to and fro between agency and the end of action.

* The universe has no reference point for conceptualized structure (which we know can go pathological on its own. A case in point why groups are fragmented and individuals are whole) which in turn gets contextualized to genres, disciplines, vocations et al. * When I was referring to an order of precision, vis a vis practice, it follows a directive to be closer to nature. Which needn’t be a naturalist absurdity of going back to nature, but a necessity to take nature forward. A paradigmatic necessity in the sense of giving the universe that reference point, in becoming that reference point 

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