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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Yes, I'm referring to Bergson, it was a typo and corrected. We've also been discussing time quite a bit in the forum lately, given Bryant's use of Derrida in "Time of the object" as one example. Also see this post and following on a recent discussion of time. This material will figure into my ongoing discussion of endo-structural relations in the state/stage/lattice thread.

Here's something Vivekananda says (from my blog page). It seems to be almost paradigmatic for contemporary accounts of the meditative process:

"The science of Raja-Yoga... proposes to give us such a means of observing the internal states. The instrument is the mind itself. The power of attention... directed towards the internal world, will analyse the mind, and illuminate facts for us... That is the only way to anything which will be a scientific approach to the subject."

Nothing in the classical Yoga sources that says anything like this. Vivekananda is writing at a time -- the time of Bergson, James and Husserl -- wherein phenomenological "instrospection" is in its ascendancy, and I suspect he is writing under that influence.

I suspect that the Goenka style meditation may also be an modern invention, developed under the influence of the psychology and phenomenology of its day, then retroactively fitted to the classical Vissudhimagga-style accounts of meditation.

The book The Heart of Buddhist Meditation is also clearly influenced by contemporary accounts of the phenomenological process in its description of "bare attention." (It's author was European.) The description reads more like an account of Husserl than of the classical descriptions of smriti (sati), actually.

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

Not necessarily. I know it would be a huge task to read it but we've covered a lot of this ground in the OOO thread. The onticologists have some interesting things to say about (strange) mereology and assemblages. And while they typically are anti-teleological as something inherent to the nature of things, nonetheless we humans can and do impose a teleology upon things and do make progress (by our own definitions at least). While accepting their notion of the withdrawn as being inaccessible I do think we can access more of it than we do now, and just that little bit is significant. And we can still make transcendental deductions about the withdrawn, which also leads to progress in my view. After all, postmtaphysics is progress over metaphysics, not just on the philosophical armchair but with significant socio-political consequences.

"...contemporary accounts of the phenomenological process in its description of 'bare attention.'"

Hence my investigation of Damasio and Thompson on this bare attention in previous links, and how to better describe it postmetaphysically. It is still invaluable stuff, just not privileged access to the Real.

In any case, I think I have shifted the discussion, or that I am discussing two points:

1. The idea that I am not an authority on my internal states of consciousness in the sense that I have a "privileged access" to them; and

2. I do not have [privileged] access to the constituting structures or "deeper" processes of my consciousness/mental states.

The second point appears to simply be simply about access and not about my special status vis a vis my internal states.

The two can be related though, of course.

Even if we say mindfulness entails "observing my internal states" (which is an ambiguous statement), when we clarify it, we are actually only really saying that we are observing thoughts and feelings as they arise in (or better, come to) consciousness, and not that we are pulling the curtain open and observing the "inner, secret workings" of the process that is giving rise to or causing those thoughts and feelings to arise.

The account in TM, like the account in Zen and Psychoanalysis and in Vivekananda, also describes the process of meditation as an observational process that takes one "ever deeper" until one comes "face to face" with the actual causes for the arising of thought. This too would appear to be an account that has been subjected to modernist influences.

It depends on how you interpret dependent origination as conditionality or causality. I currently see it is conditionality as there is not this thing called ignorance that intentions, mind and matter, etc. come out of. So ignorance conditions the whole process. Meditation will help to make that process explicit. First at a superficial level then deeper as your meditative ability deepens. You want to call that "privileged"? I call it good hard work. So that work will certainly reveal certain aspects of what was previously "hidden". Will all of the unconscious be made explicit or some seems to be an intellectual cul de sac which amounts to the hindrance of skeptical doubt. What we are really after (probably not you :-) is understanding via a first person perspective how all of our experience is conditioned. That is all Buddhism is about... seeing the truth of that conditioning all the way up and all the way down. 



kelamuni said:

Even if we say mindfulness entails "observing my internal states" (which is an ambiguous statement), when we clarify it, we are actually only really saying that we are observing thoughts and feelings as they arise in (or better, come to) consciousness, and not that we are pulling the curtain open and observing the "inner, secret workings" of the process that is giving rise to or causing those thoughts and feelings to arise.

"It depends on how you interpret dependent origination as conditionality or causality. I currently see it is conditionality as there is not this thing called ignorance that intentions, mind and matter, etc. come out of. So ignorance conditions the whole process. Meditation will help to make that process explicit."

The comments about interdependent causality pertained to the "time" thread not meditation and privileged access. 

"Meditation will help to make that process explicit. First at a superficial level then deeper as your meditative ability deepens. You want to call that "privileged"? I call it good hard work."

I'm not sure if you are understanding what I am on about, e. The question is whether or not I am more of an authority on my inner states than someone else. 

There is an obvious -- and trivial sense -- in which I have privileged access to my own mental states. They are mine and as such are private and so only I have access to them. You cannot access the felt sense of my intentional states, though perhaps you can access my neuro-physio processes (with an eeg, cat scan etc.). In this trivial sense I do have privileged access.

I can also, perhaps, access "deeper" or "higher" states of consciousness. This is not in question. And I can, perhaps, access aspects of the arising of thought through meditation. But that is not the issue here.

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?"

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.

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 "special."

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!" 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?"

"2. I do not have [privileged] access to the constituting structures or 'deeper' processes of my consciousness/mental states."

We obviously can never get at most of these unconscious processes, the cognitive unconsious of L&J or the withdrawn of Bryant. But we can learn to go deeper than our normal waking state and gain some access, control and development of more subtle (dream) and causal (sleep) states by conscious techniques like meditation, which exerts downward causation upon our cognitive unconscious and transforms those states. Again, we do not directly access them but we do indirectly access them in some small way that has real and significant effects. And we do not need to interpret (mistake) this for such direct access to the really Real with claims to Enlightenment. From Thompson in this post:

"But whereas the Advaitin takes this minimal selfhood to be a transcendental witness consciousness, I think itʼs open to us to maintain that it is my embodied self or bodily subjectivity, or what phenomenologists would call my pre-personal lived body. In this way, I think we can remove the Advaita conception of dreamless sleep from its native metaphysical framework and graft it onto a naturalist conception of the embodied mind."

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