the excluded middle way

Your great-great…great-grandmother was a robot

My favourite quote from Kinds of Minds – “Your great-great-great-great-grandmother was a robot”.

We’re artifacts! Artifacts of mother-nature. We take this design-stance almost every minute of every day, assuming someone is for something, that they have a purpose. We take the intentional-stance, assuming people have intentions and they’re trying to do something to get something else to happen.

We’re amazingly well designed at being, at doing. And for analysing what we think other minds are being and doing.

But we’re artifacts! We’ve been ‘designed’ by evolution the smartest blind-designer in the known Kosmos.

It’s not just machines that have virtual intelligence, we do too. And virtual dominant monads!

Dennett’s view of the mind (or self) as a virtual-machine running on the physical hardware of the brain can be seen as a kind of reductionism but I think that’s unfair to label him a reductionist and the label is becoming less and less useful (and more and more pejorative) every year.

Considering the huge implications his of the view it is disingenuous to call it ‘simple reductionistic’ .

If Dennett is guilty of reductionism then so was Buddha!

Dennett’s view is stripped down to a physical realism, and a wholly naturalistic worldview, one I’m starting to hold more and more despite Dawkins and Hitchens muddying the water with their anti-theist rants, but Dennett, for all the reducing he does, still maintains a non-monist in that he allows for there to be non-physical, memetic, structures that would be external to the mind.

Kessels suggests that IF Dennet is saying “3rd person approaches are all we have” THEN “the validity of important methodologies are denied”.

The idea of hetero-phenomenology, which Dennett outlines in Consciousness Explained, shows how nothing is denied but, rather, put in it’s rightful place. Rather like Ken would like to index things properly within 1 of the 8 zones.

Jane Austin’s Emma isn’t true in any objective sense, we can’t find Emma’s bones buried somewhere near Trowbridge, for example. But we can say that in, the world of the book, Emma lived in Trowbridge and married a man in possession of a large fortune and that can be studied and validated – or not, I’ve not read it 🙂

Ken says the same about Hamlet not being set in Hawaii I think.

But I don’t think AQAL theory has grokked hetero-phenomenology yet.

Taking the Emma example again… we can even directly infer a whole lot of stuff without it being stated explicitly by the author – Emma didn’t live on Saturn or drive a Ford Taurus, for example, this is all data we can use. We can’t EVER know what Emma felt, whether she lied about x or y, but we don’t need to. We can remain agnostic but still gather a great deal of data.

“Nobody has yet pointed to any variety of data that are inaccessible to heterophenomenology”, says Dennett ( and I don’t think they ever will. I think if people break this wall then it’s just BAD science and BAD phenomenology. The circle around Zone 1 creates and holds Zone 2 in place for good reason. It’s not a fuzzy line, it’s not a broken line, it’s a REAL line. As real as the line between odd and even numbers, or the equator. ‘Theorists fictions’ to use Dennett’s words, ‘Orienting Generalisations’ to quote Wilber.

Heterophenomenology allows for insights (data) to come from the UL while remaining agnostic about what will always be unknowable about the UL. And other minds will always be unknowable (until we’re a Buddha!).

All this data can be collected without making any objective truth claims about the subjective universe – which is fine by me.

Dennett is not just saying there is no Cartesian theatre, he is saying there is no Cartesian cinema go-er either.

Despite appearances.

For me this totally fits with the Buddhist view of not-self, especially Nagarjuna’s (Turquoise) insights that fuelled the Madhyamaka Prasangika school which dominates and pervades all of Tibetan Buddhism, Zen and Non-dual schools.

I think the easiest way to say it is that…

“Non-Dual” is not “Not-Dual”.

There is a dualism, just not a Cartesian one.

So… any attempt at monism will ultimately fail and people will forever argue and regard ‘the other camp’ as ‘reductionistic’ or ‘essentialistic’.

This TED Talk by Hod Lipson ( shows a very basic self-awareness. The robots do not have a mental image of their bodies like we do, but they must generate something similar in order to start making intelligent decisions about how to move. Of course the volition is still programmed but the mental self-image is not.

Dennett says we humans don’t have a dominant monad in the way Ken/Whitehead use it. In the multiple-drafts model the only thing that is dominant is the script at the time you measure it, but there is never a final script or a complete agreement on it’s contents. It’s like there are multiple editors editing multiple drafts except the editors are not part of the system either, they just arise and pass like the drafts do, and like everything else in the universe does.

I’m totally with Dennett when he says that 3rd persons methods are all we have. This sounds non-intuitive at first, and non-integral at second though/second-tier, but even Buddha taught that we can never know others minds (until we become a Buddha).

The classic Mahayana illustration of this is that YOU may be the last unenlightened person on the planet and you’re surrounded by Buddha’s who are desperately acting in all sorts of (often seemingly deluded) ways to get you to wake up. We just don’t know. We can NEVER say person x is not enlightened, we can only speak for ourselves.

While this seems old-fashioned and archaic to the post-metaphysical among us, it was Dennett (not Wilber (or my teacher) (or Buddha))) that helped me really understand the two perspectives on this whole debate are really not-two.
As for subtle-energy? I think it’s a dead end.

Unless we can say prime numbers “resonate” in some “real” way I don’t think we’ll find something we can detect as “self-awareness” except for the self awareness of self awareness. Like I said, the Zones help us a lot, but there will always be certain agnosticisms we’ll have to live with… all the way up and all the way down.


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