• Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by DocWatts

  1. A bit of background for this subject: I'm currently in the process of doing research for an eventual philosophy book I'm planning on writing. The book will focus on cultivating Construct awareness, and on a process for examining the emotional attachments we form to the Paradigms we use to navigate Reality. My basic aim is to make these subjects more accessible for a general audience of otherwise educated people who are non-specialists, and who may not have been exposed to any of these ideas in an explicit way. As such, the last year or two of my life has involved copious amounts of reading across a wide variety of epistemological and sociological subjects, which includes taking detailed notes on what I read. It occurred to me that it might be a worthwhile endeavor to share a few of the summaries I've developed for the books I've been reading over the past few years, both as an opportunity to revisit my notes and also as something which might pique someone else's interest enough to pick up the work in question. The first book I'll be providing a summary of is The Embodied Mind by Francisco Varella, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The work is a fascinating exploration into the depths of human consciousness that manages to challenge reductionist paradigms in penetrating ways, while developing an alternative paradigm for studying consciousness that honors the rich immediacy of direct experience while being grounded in science. To keep this post at a reasonable length, the summary will necessarily be partial, and only hit up some of the more important points of a very complex and nuanced work. In short this will be part summary part interpretation, of course filtered through my own perspective that's coupled to my interests and purposes. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Summary and Interpretation of The Embodied Mind The Embodied Mind is a scientific and philosophical exploration of mind which attempts to build a bridge between cognitive science and Eastern contemplative practices by articulating the role that our embodiment plays in the ways that our pre-reflective, direct experience is structured. The authors outline an (at the time) newly emerging Enactive Paradigm of mind within cognitive science as a lens to chart a 'middle way' between the extremes of: (1) materialist paradigms which posit that cognition consists of unproblematic representation of a fixed world that consists of pre-defined features (the disembodied mind hypothesis) (2) solipsistic paradigms which posit that the mind 'creates' Reality independent of an intersubjective world In this Enactive paradigm that the authors build a case for, the mind is neither disembodied nor is it independent of the world. Rather, in the Enactive paradigm minds are intrinsically embodied (in a body) and embedded (in an environment), and the mind exists in a reciprocal relationship with both of these elements. Far from being a passive process that 'happens' to a mind, consciousness is recontextualized as a purposeful and participatory activity in which the mind both shapes and is shaped by the Reality that it's embedded in. Which is another way of saying that the fundamental activity of minds is to disclose (or Enact) worlds. That this is so is a necessary result of evolutionary forces which have crafted organisms which are geared for survival, and which need to be able to perceive threats and opportunities in their environments in immediate and pre-experiential ways. What Reality is on an experiential level for a snail and for a human being are very different because the structure of the two organisms is such that they become coupled to their environments in very different ways, necessitating radically different forms of world disclosure to be able to meet their survival needs. What Reality is for a being cannot be understood separately from the bodily structure of that being, from its environment, and from what that being does. The implicit assumption that they are challenging here is that there exists a 'neutral' Reality, which minds form unproblematic representations of. The advantage of this approach is that it enriches the discoveries of an empirical scientific approach with the insights that can be gained from paying close attention to the immediacy and closeness of our direct experience. In this way, the enactive approach to mind can begin to heal the division of mind from the natural world caused by materialist paradigms which have rendered cognitive science without a subject. Furthermore, this paradigm offers a promising avenue to address the meaning crisis within Western culture by providing the voice of authority in our culture, which is to say that of science, with a means to make itself relevant to the rich immediacy of our lived experience. What the Enactive paradigm resists is the notion that the mind is best understood by ever more complex layers of abstraction (which is precisely the approach of both traditional cognitive science and most of Western philosophy). Rather, what the Enactive paradigm proposes is to couple our conceptual models to the mindfulness practices that have been developed over thousands of years by contemplative traditions such as Buddhism. In grappling with the role that philosophy has played in forming our basic conceptions of mind in the West, the authors contrast the Western approach of treating philosophy as a detached and theoretical endeavor with the approach of contemplative practice taken in the East. By developing wisdom traditions which have over thousands of years been able to cultivate rigorous methodologies for interrogating one's direct experience, theory hasn't been something that's been largely divorced from practice, like it's been in the West. In charting the paths that cognitive science has taken since the discipline's establishment in the 1940s and 50s, the authors distinguish their own approach from the earlier Representationalism and Emergence paradigms of first and second generation cognitive science. The guiding metaphor and model for the representationalist paradigm within cognitive science has been the digital computer. According to this paradigm, cognition is understood as syntactic manipulation of symbols which represent features of a pre-existing world. The Emergence paradigm envisions a 'society of mind' in which cognition is an emergent phenomenon of much smaller syntactic manipulation 'machines' working in parallel. The main difference from the representationalist paradigm is that cognition is thought to be a result of a highly distributed rather than a highly centralized set of processes. The problem with both the representationalist and emergence paradigms is that in both model it is unclear what the connection between cognition and consciousness is, and as a results consciousness seem to serve no necessary function and supposedly "isn't good for anything". Which is needless to say a strange position to take for what's inarguable the most central and important aspect of our lives; namely that it feels like something to exist in the world. So in both cases science ends up being disconnected from our direct experience under the accretion of layers of abstraction. Both of these paradigms serve to reenforce untenable notions that the mind is disembodied, and as such that cognitive science can tell us nothing about our direct, lived experience. Interpenetrating these examinations of the relationship between cognition and consciousness is an exploration of how some of the contemplative practices of Eastern wisdom traditions such as Buddhism may offer a bridge for cognitive science to integrate methodologies to examine our direct experience. Most prominently, they point to mindfulness practices which point to the lack of a fixed, permanent (or transcendental) self as an experiential confirmation of some of the findings of cognitive science. What the authors make a point of demonstrating are the inadequacies of seeking an absolute ground in either an 'external world' or in a 'dis-worlded mind', by showing how mind and world exist in a relational way through a form of structural coupling. Which is to say that any hard and fast separation between the two is (an admittedly sometimes useful) layer of abstraction that we impose upon an undivided Reality, born out of a habitual tendency to grasp after an absolute ground to anchor our understanding of Reality to.
  2. Below is an article that goes into more detail about it, but the gist of it is that the WTO along with the IMF uses loans and debt as leverage to pressure developing countries into passing Free Trade economic policies which primarily benefit multinational corporations. Countries like the United States, Japan, and South Korea were able to build advanced economies partly by using protectionist policies to develop domestic industries without having to compete with the rest of the world before they could do so on a relatively even playing field. So this results in a situation where developed countries which used protectionist policies to develop their own industries pressure developing countries into opening up their economies to Free Trade before they have an opportunity to compete on a more even playing field, with developed nations effectively pulling the ladder up after them, so to speak. Additionally, loans and aid that isn't tied to requirements of good governance and democratization effectively serve to enable corrupt/ incompetent leaders hold to on to power, since they can continue to pay off key supporters to the (small) coalition of essentials that keeps them in power.
  3. The problem comes from taking something like cobalt mining in vacuum, and not placing it in a larger context of the trade offs that necessarily take place in the real world. To list just one example I could mention the fact that around 7 million people die premature deaths from air pollution every single year. While we can and should care about the exploitation of people who are living in developing countries, and work to reform (or even completely rework) institutions like the WTO which obstruct the development of poor nations, it's not like fossil fuels operate on a different set of socio-economic principles than cobalt extraction. And that's of course leaving aside the civilization ending climate apocalypse that awaits us if we stick to business as usual.
  4. For it to play a constructive role in the world we live in today religion would more or less need to be completely reconstructed, which would involve a painful process of killing (outdated mythic understandings of) God. Which is to say moving beyond magical beliefs and the absolutization of their claims to Truth. Communities built around shared existential values can be a healthy and constructive thing, it's the how of it which makes the crucial difference.
  5. The context in which the question of "should people under the age of 18 be allowed gender affirming care up to and including surgery" matters a great deal here. And yes there is some nuance to this question. But unfortunately, in %99 of instances this question isn't being asked with any concern whatsoever for the wellbeing of people who are struggling with gender identity issues. In the vast majority of cases it's being used as a dog whistle to dehumanize non-gender conforming individuals as somehow 'impure' or 'unnatural'. This is because conservative moral intuitions include "purity" as a moral foundation, and this isn't as pronounced in more progressively minded folks. So it's no surprise that conservatives tend to react to transgender individuals with a gut level feeling of discomfort and disgust that gets misconstrued in ethical terms. Their limbic system is screaming at them that "this just feels wrong". Individuals don't choose these gut level intuitions, they're a results of a person's physiology and of the cumulation of thier life experiences. Now of course these gut level intuitions can be examined and changed over time, but this involves a lot of emotionally difficult inner work. This sort of thing only becomes a realistic possibility when an individual's survival needs doesn't preclude them from reexamining aspects of their identity. So the path of least resistance then will be to use rationalizations and ethical arguments serve as a sort of Public Relations firm to justify the gut level discomfort that the existence of trans folks triggers in them.
  6. It is! It was conceived half jokingly as a response to Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life, but written from a metamodern/Integral perspective. Hanzi hits upon some of the same points as Leo, but of course each one brings with it their own unique perspective.
  7. Great video. Really appreciate that he's explicating the dangers of attempting to use spirituality to bypass the necessity of solving more basic survival problems in one's life. Though I am curious if releasing this shortly after Hanzi Frienacht's latest book (about happiness and how to live a good life) was just a coincidence
  8. Because Christianity has largely failed to adapt to the needs of people living in complex, pluralistic societies. An SD-Blue '"one right way" religion that constructs a shared identity from simple moral precepts to follow (don't steal, don't murder) may have been sufficient for someone living in a homogeneous agrarian village hundreds of years ago, but offers little in the way of cultivating the kind of wisdom that is needed in the complex, evolving world we happen to be living in today. Indeed, the Christian religion has on the whole spent more of its energy trying to hold back the floodgates of change than it has finding ways to adapt its existential Truths to make them more inclusive and relevant in a scientific, multicultural world. That said there's no reason why Christianity in theory can't take on more nuanced and inclusive forms, but the inertia that comes with institutionalization makes this in practice very difficult. Mining the existential Truths which do exist within Christianity requires the painful process of killing God, that is of looking beyond magical beliefs (ie Jesus being the literal son of God), which is a price not many are going to be willing to pay.
  9. Another one is Absolutizing a particular rule or principle, rather than trying to make good discernments about where a particular principle is situationally appropriate for a given purposive context. Example: treating the concept of cultural relativity as an Absolute, rather than trying to articulate contexts in which relativity is an appropriate principle, and where it may be counter productive for a given goal. In addition to that, failing to adequately account for the partiality of one's perspective is a huge pitfall. Likewise, failing to adequately understand the core assumptions one is using to understand something (most of the time they tend to be so self-evident and invisible we just experience them as "reality"). You'll also want to be able to clearly differentiate questions of epistemology (theory of knowledge, or how we know what we think we know) from questions of ontology (the pre-reflective and pre-linguistic ways that the world is disclosed to us owing to our physiological structure, cultural conditioning, etc). Failing to adequately differentiate these two realms can lead to wasting one's time and effort investigating pseudo-problems that are a result of bad framing. Enlightenment era philosophy is unfortunately full of these pseudo-problems resulting from bad framing of a problem (such as the supposed 'mind-body problem', stemming from the dubious assumption that the mind is fundamentally disembodied).
  10. A good rule of thumb as to whether someone is practicing scientism rather than science is the degree to which they believe that science can serve as a replacement for a more integrative meaning and purpose for their existence. Which is why scientific pseudo -answers to these questions can be correct in the details, yet deeply unsatisfying for how partial they are for what actually matters to human beings. When used responsibly, science is an invaluable tool for making sure that the meta-narratives we weave arent totally out of sync with the intersubjective Reality that we live in (which was the main failing of organized religions that necessitated killing God). But science itself isn't a replacement for satisfying answers to existential questions, and where deconstruction goes, an eventual reconstruction must flow.
  11. Meditation is indeed a powerful tool for cultivating self awareness and emotional intelligence, but the problem is that meditation only serves these important functions after a person's more basic survival needs have been met. No quantity and quality of meditation in the world is going to help someone who's struggling to keep a roof over their head. It's not going to be a fix for that person who spends all day at a demeaning job which grinds down their body and mind to a festering pulp. It's not going to help lonely men build the interpersonal skills they need to construct meaningful relationships. It's also not going to help someone in a marginalized groups who's being oppressed by the society they live in. Now can meditation help make someone more resilient in the face of bad circumstances? Of course. But at the same time it's not a magic bullet that will replace the need to meet a person's basic survival needs, which I'd argue is what the majority of people actually need. As a supplement to support structures to help individuals meet thier survival needs, meditation is great.
  12. If you want a concrete example of the difference between what healthy conservatism looks like in a pluralistic democracy and how that differs from the fascism of the modern Republican Party, consider how much John McCain's behavior differs from how someone like Trump or DeSantis would have acted in this scenario.
  13. Just my two cents, but I would use caution with saying that somebody is yellow or is green, since it locks in a tendency to misuse Spiral Dynamics as a personal development model ala the Enneagram or the Nine Stages of Ego Development. We're more than our respective meta-ideologies, and Spiral Dynamics is much better used as sociological model for thinking about the dialectics behind how value systems come to be embodied in societies. Thus it's much more productive to think in terms of ideologies or social movements as being Green or Yellow, than it is to couple stages to individuals, in my view. Or to put it more concretely, much more precise to say that someone has a Blue or Green understanding of a particular issue or idea, than it is to say that someone like Jordan Peterson is (insert color here). (For what it's worth I've fallen into the trap of misusing Spiral Dynamics in this way as well so I'm no exception to this; something I'm working to be more mindful of).
  14. That's actually a very good point, as "Rights" by their very definition are intersubjectively constructed, and in a country as large and diverse as the United States it's to be expected that different value systems are going to have their own version of what entails a fundamental human right. There's never going to be one definition that's going to be Absolutely valid for all people and contexts, as you correctly point out. That said, even for a country as polarized as the current United States, there are a number of issues of which it can be said that we have reached a working consensus on as a society (or at least as close to one as it's possible to get in a very large and complex society). Whether women and minorities should be able to vote and hold political office is one of the more obvious examples, since anyone who believed otherwise would be well outside of the Overton window, and would have to use dog whistle rhetoric to make their position palatable within the public sphere (and mind you, this is exactly how modern fascism does work). As for abortion, I'd argue that issue sits somewhere on the border of the Overton window, while a majority of people in a place like America do accept that abortion is something which should be protected, it's also fair to say that it's by no means a settled issue in the way that women's suffrage is. The three far Right justices that Trump was able to appoint to the Supreme Court all had to lie that Roe v Wade was in their view 'a settled issue' during their confirmation hearings, which to me is good evidence that abortions rights are within Overton window (though perhaps near the edge). Had this not been the case, they should have been able to be direct about the fact that it was always thier intention to roll back rights that were in thier view illegitimate. The fact that they were only direct and explicit about this only after landing their positions with lifetime appointment is telling. I also share your concerns about progressives conflating typical conservativism with fascism, which is why I do think it's important to be precise when we say that something is 'fascistic'. A good litmus test to distinguish between the two, in addition to the Overton window aspect which I brought up earlier, is the degree to which the person or movement in question is willing overturn democratic norms in order to get their agenda passed (which consequentially, is why I have no problem labeling the MAGA movement as unequivocally fascistic). Wanting to overturn Roe v Wade isn't necessarily fascistic; trying to forcibly drag the country back 100 years by burning democratic institutions to the ground absolutely is. Likewise, using either implicit or explicit rhetoric which advocates for political violence is another very clear indication that you're dealing with fascism rather than conservatism.
  15. Leaving aside whether this statement is true (let's assume for the sake of argument that it is unequivocally true), this brings with it the implicit assumption that a person's level of intelligence is a measure of their worth. The reason that the motivations behind these questions are (rightly) scrutinized is that they are almost always used as post-hoc justifications for self serving intuitions of superiority. Which in practice is a necessary condition for the construction of dominator hierarchies. One doesn't have to be a postmodernist to question the value of asking these types of questions. A sophisticated understanding of Constructs includes the insight that Constructs are bounded by biology, and are adaptive for a survival context rather than something that's arbitrary (something that the postmodernists tend to lose sight of).
  16. No disagreements here. Hell, considering how much value I've gotten from someone like Heidegger, who's both one of the most brilliant philosophers to ever live and also someone who was sympathetic to Nazi ideology, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest otherwise. That said, in my mind the degree to which their area of expertise can be compartmentalized from their bad political takes matters a lot here. Also the question of whether by supporting the person in question you're also supporting thier political causes when you buy their books or watch their content also matters, a question which would be far simpler if Peterson was someone from a bygone era rather than someone who's influencing events in the present day.
  17. In addition to @Emeralds points, another useful discernment for telling if you're dealing with a conservative or a fascist, is to assess the degree to which they've made peace with expansions of rights and social recognition that have been won in previous eras and are taken for granted these days. The idea that today's conservatives are in some ways the liberals of a generation or two ago. This is also the gist of the philosophy of the patron saint of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, who saw conservativism's role in liberal democracies as protecting society from crazy social experiments by conserving existing institutions and implementing change in a slow, measured way. A conservative will most likely be uneasy with expanding these rights and recognition further or extending them to other groups, but to the degree that their perspective is conservative rather than fascistic, they're generally not trying to eradicate basic human rights that have been extended to people of color, women, gay people, etc. Of course the rub is that the cultural and media environment is such that fascistic rhetoric and social policy has been moving into mainstream politics and culture, so in practice contemporary conservatives who haven't completely disavowed the modern Republican Party (or its counterpart in other countries) will exist on a spectrum between Edmund Burke's conservatism and fascism.
  18. The difference lies in the absolutizing right wing ideology as an end in and of itself (a perspective from below), and discerning where right wing perspectives are situationally appropriate as part of a larger effort to transcend and include them in a flexible, evolving meta-framework (a perspective from above). Peterson may have ambitions towards the later, but in my view he's too fixated on the former to fully appreciate the dialectics behind how value systems function and evolve. Which is to say that he's nowhere near people like Ken Wilber, John Verveake, or Daniel Gortz who have a solid Yellow understanding of these things. Are there people who, more than anything, really just need to get their shit together, and for whom Peterson's Rules for Life can serve as a 'Volumetric Shit Compressor'? Undoubtedly. But I'd also contend that there are other places you can get the information needed to start embodying self responsibility skills, without it being coupled to reactionary political baggage
  19. It just so happens that I'm in the middle of reading this very book, and I can't commend it enough for laying out the characteristics of fascism in thorough yet approachable way. I feel like I could hand this book to someone who hasn't spent a significant period of time studying sociology and have it be understood. Which is valuable precisely because in a place like America, a typical person has only a very surface level understanding of fascist ideology, often nothing more than a vague association with Nazi iconography they've seen in entertainment media. Which prevents them from being able to see examples of fascism in their own society.
  20. Paradoxes are a result of limitations within the framework we're using to make sense of a particular phenomenon or domain. Often these are born of constructing false dichotomies and dualisms which are perfectly adequate as a simplified model for convenience's sake, but begin to break down under scrutiny. They can also be born of a type or category error, namely by making bad discernments about the inherent nature of a given phenomenon, and ascribing it to a domain where it doesn't really fit.
  21. The gist is that we can never fully abstract ourselves away from our lived experience within Reality, since something as basic as what counts as a fact and what is considered relevant is going to be governed by the paradigm one is operating under. On an even more basic level, due to the biological structure of our bodies and our perceptual system we have a uniquely human ontology (an immediate intuitive understanding of people and objects) that determines what Reality is for us on an experiential level. But that doesn't mean that we're doomed to what Ken Wilber calls aperspectival madness. What it does mean is that realizing that any Truth claims are tied to a purposive context. Or to put it another way, Truth always exists for someone with a particular point of view. Truth discloses something about Reality for that someone, but doesn't exist apart from them. That said, different discernments about Reality will be a better or worse fit for a given purposive context. If I want to build an airplane, then working out the laws of aerodynamics which produce lift will be a much better discernment for that purpose than attaching wings to my arms and jumping off a roof. As to how we know whether or not this understanding of Truth that I outlined is itself truthful, that can be verified by working throughout what's known as the eidetic reduction. The eidetic reduction involves scrutinizing one's assumptions for a given phenomenon, for instance common sense notions of Truth as something that exists apart from us. This process, as is also the case for any other validity claims, will if one kicks the can down the road far enough will always end up relying on an intuition that has been built up by our lived experience within Reality, rather than the sort of thing that can be worked out as a logical proof for example. Ie there is a hard limit to what can be formally 'proved' by any verification method.
  22. There's no such thing as a 'neutral' paradigm/perspective for doing any sort of meta-analysis.
  23. I'd argue that it's impossible to live without an ontology (a basic, pre-reflective understanding of people and objects) and a worldview (an embodied framework of meaning that's coupled to the time, place, and circumstances that we're born into). That said, I would push back a bit against the idea that it's impossible to live without an ideology though, since ideologies are normative (ie this is not only how I see the world and behave, but also how others should see the world and behave). While the two usually overlap, a worldview doesn't necessarily have to be normative, though for most people and in most circumstances this tends to be the case. Another way to think of an ideology is a vision for how people, society, or the world should be. A worldview on the other hand is a way of coping with one's circumstances in the broadest sense, and is always descriptive (though it is often normative as well). Worldviews in the broadest sense form the purposive context for all of our activities and interactions (ie it provides the meaning of what our daily habits and social activities are). *Also since the philosopher in question is most likely referring to adults living in contemporary societies, we'll leave aside instances where human beings are in a State of being pre-differentiated from their environment, ie Spiral Dynamics Beige.