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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I also started a thread on free will a while back. It began with a dialog with Andy Smith that brought in Dennett, Churchland, Damasio, Eagleman, Harris, Thompson and more. As with many debates on free will it starts with Libet's research and then some new neuroscience research refuting Libet.

I sometimes find it difficult to follow discussions about free will because terms like "self" and "I" are often used so casually, and I never know quite what to make of them.  I consider the self an illusion insofar that is created as a sort of fictional center by our cognitive processes.  It's only as real as a character in a novel, and so it's free will is also just as fictional.

But "fictional" does not necessarily imply that is a total lie with no connection to what we pleased to call reality. 

I think I'm more or less in agreement with Dennet on this one.  Storm in a teacup.

Those terms are being refined quite a bit by Damasio and Thompson in the linked free will thread, and in the links there to other threads. I'm also using that info in my new thread on states/stages and the WC lattice.

Harris appears to be some kind of closet Advaitin/Nygmapa.

In any case, it's apparent that notions about the "illusoriness" of free will can be made to resonate with certain "spiritual" teachings, particularly advaita-style teachings, a point Andy Smith seems to be making in theurg's thread on free will. He also mentions the metaphor of being "asleep." I remember a teaching of Gurdjieff's that suggested that we are asleep at the wheel, as it were, and not in control of the horse cart we are in. It's not clear though if for Gurdjieff, "awakening" means regaining control of the cart. The point of the Advaita and Samkhya teachings (as well as Dzogchen teachings?) though is that the witness does not exert itself or have any causal effects, and "awakening" is simply the conscious recognition of this.

Andy asks and wonders why someone involved with a spiritual teaching would invest so much in the concept of free will. But I think it depends what sort of teaching one is involved in. Teachings that stress effort, tenacity (virya), concentration, and "practice" in general, such as the various yogas other than jnana yoga, would it seems, stress the importance of will and the ability to choose "proper" action from "improper" actions.

Shaivism also refers to the will frequently, but the point there appears to be bringing the individual will in sync with the "big" Will, or Shiva. Kashmiri Shaivism, particularly the Pratyabhijna teachings share much in common with the anarchic advaita teachings, though they also appear to stress the "freedom to" aspect of liberation along with the "freedom from" concept of moksha found in Advaita Vedanta and Samkhya.

Getting back on topic though, the reason I bring this up is its relevance to the issue of privileged access. The following two sentence are most relevant. One from Harris:

"Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we have no conscious control."

And the comment by Tom Clark:

""Harris is right of course that we don't have conscious access to the neuro physiological process that underlie our conscious choices."

As I think about it though I'm wondering about the relevance of all this neuro-physio stuff to my initial point, which had to do with privileged access to one's mental states. Neuro-physio processes are not, phenomenologically speaking, the same as mental states. Insofar as [someone might think that] "meditation" and concept of privileged access has to do with or implies accessing the "inner workings" of the mind or accessing unconscious "processes" it may be relevant. 

The recent discussion mentioning Bergson (I think it is Bergson, as theurg's intial post refers twice to "Bergon" which must be a typo?) led me last night to a long reading session on Bergson on memory (in Memory and Matter), which led to more readings on Husserl's account of time and memory (in the Phenomenology of Time Consciousness), as well as to Heidegger's critique of Husserl (in The History of Time ), Heidegger's critique of Kant's concept of time (in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics), and Heidegger's own account of time-consciousness (in Being and Time), as well as Merleau Ponty's account of memory, which is a synthesis of Heidegger and Husserl (in the Phenomenology of Perception), as well as James' account of time, memory, and the stream of consciousness (in his The Principles of Psychology). Apparently, a foreunner to these accounts is Reid (in the Intellectual Powers of Man) who criticizes Locke. (Husserl too had initially been inspired by his reading of Hume's phenomenalist and atomistic account of memory).

In any case, James, Husserl, and Bergson are all addressing the same problem, and come up with parallel or analoglus answers to the classical empiricists.

To bring the above into relevance, this article makes the following point:

"Heidegger explicitly rejects the outcome of the phenomenological reduction as a privileged access to absolute time-constituting consciousness."

Which makes me wonder: Does a post-metaphysical view (if Heidegger can be considered "post-metaphysical") mean or imply questioning and/or rejecting ideas of "privileged access" within the phenomenological process?

As an aside, there are some interesting parallels between the Jain critique of the Abhidharmists' "momentariness" doctrine, which could be seen as atomistic, and critiques of the atomism of the classical empiricists referred to above, as well as Madhyamika critique of the Abhidharmists, and Derrida's own account and critique of Husserl.

The Jains and Nyayikas held that the Abhidharma teaching (as well as perhaps the Yogachara-Sautrantika account in Dignaga/Dharmakirti's works?) is incoherent as it cannot adequately account for memory (which is the point made by Bergson, James and Husserl contra the classical empiricists).

The Madhyamika take a different tack. They hold that past, present, and future moments are all mutually determinative, a position that reminds me of Derrida's critique of Husserl's on time and memory in the essay, "The Blick of the Eye," found in Speech and Phenomena.

How all this is relevant to Bergson thread vis a vis the construction/constitution of the "self" I'm not sure...

Well, as a start, it would appear that if we are going to be talking about emergence, development, and so on, any account that implies time and its relation to consciousness, if it is going to take into account post-metaphysical ideas, will have to jibe with those ideas. Bergson and Merleau-Ponty, and perhaps Heidegger, feel like the most fruitful sources in that regard.

kelamuni said:

As an aside, there are some interesting parallels between the Jain critique of the Abhidharmists' "momentariness" doctrine, which could be seen as atomistic, and critiques of the atomism of the classical empiricists referred to above, as well as Madhyamika critique of the Abhidharmists, and Derrida's own account and critique of Husserl.

The Jains and Nyayikas held that the Abhidharma teaching (as well as perhaps the Yogachara-Sautrantika account in Dignaga/Dharmakirti's works?) is incoherent as it cannot adequately account for memory (which is the point made by Bergson, James and Husserl contra the classical empiricists).

The Madhyamika take a different tack. They hold that past, present, and future moments are all mutually determinative, a position that reminds me of Derrida's critique of Husserl's on time and memory in the essay, "The Blick of the Eye," found in Speech and Phenomena.

How all this is relevant to Bergson thread vis a vis the construction/constitution of the "self" I'm not sure...

Which reminds me of something found in Kant: that we cannot be aware of the constituting structures or "a priori conditions" of knowledge. Those are transcendental. Saying that we can is contradictory -- to use the Advaitins' metaphor, it is like pulling yourself up by your boot-straps. Which in turn reminds of Balder's recent comment vis a vis Jung, that the archetypes are not directly accessible to consciousness, but only appear or act as images.

Collingwood too says that what he calls "absolute presuppositions" remain unconscious until a later time when they are no longer functioning as absolute presuppositions.

There is also an ambiguity in Gadamer in regards what he calls "prejudices" (Vorurteilen). The usual (as applied in the social sciences, for example) account of hermeneutics is that we should not merely bracket our prejudices ala classical phenomenology but that we "need to become aware of them." I'm not sure about this pedestrian account, as Gadamer too seems to imply at times that these Vorurteilen remain unconscious to some extent, as "conditions" for understanding. It's not that we should not it's that we cannot.

I'm also reminded here of a book called Zen and Psychoanalysis, which explicitly states at one point that "enlightenment" or the process of enlightenment entails "becoming conscious of the unconscious." Setting aside the semantic incoherence of this statement, this idea reminds me of the Hegelian account of the development of conscsioussness, and of Enlightenment (and non-postmetaphysical) ideas in general that speak of a progressive and ever-inclusive expansion of consciousness/knowledge.

Heidegger rejects the Hegelian idea, and says that when some new domain is revealed, others are simultaneously closed off -- like shining a flashlight on different parts of a dark room. 

Are expansionist and "ever-inclusivist" accounts of the "development of consciousness" pre-postmetaphysical?

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