Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Theory of Material Dualism in a nutshell

The Theory of Material Dualism in a nutshell

1. In order to discover the relationship between phenomenal space (A) and physical space (B) I will follow the method of Sherlock Holmes, who said (more than once) “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” I shall assume that A and B are both real spaces (that in which real events occur). In which case we can distinguish three possibilities: (1) Points in A are points in B. (2) Points in A are points in a part of B (i.e. brain space) only. (3) No point in A is a point in B. Possibility A presents the naïve realist (technical) position. Possibility 2 presents the position of an Identity theorist. Possibility 3 presents the position of a material dualist. This eliminates Cartesian Dualism, which makes the mistake of using ‘extension in space’ as the definitive criterion that we use to distinguish the mental from the physical (i.e. A exists but has no points). This scheme also eliminates Eliminative Materialism, which does not recognize the existence of A, as well as Idealism that does not recognize the existence of B.
Now this blog has reviewed very good reasons from science (neuroscience and introspective psychology) for rejecting both 1 and 2.
So we need to look at 3 more closely. This theory (ignoring time for the moment) suggests that A and B are two different 3D slices of a common higher-dimensional space. Both A and B contain events, but these comprise two different classes of event (phenomenal and physical) made of different kinds of ‘matter’. Real space cannot merely be empty and must contain events. Space A will contain ‘consciousness modules’ each one of which is the phenomenal world of a single conscious individual.

2. We can illustrate the relevant geometry by considering the situation in Flatland. One can cut two 2D slices (planes) in a 3D cube. If these planes are parallel to each other they can represent two parallel Flatland universes. But the two planes can be at right angles to each other, in which case they will intersect about a line. The space in the line belongs to both planes. Likewise in the real world two 4D tesseracts can intersect about a 3D cube. The space in the cube belongs to both tesseracts.
In our model building we can now introduce time. We can take tesseract B to be the 4D physical space-time continuum (block Universe) of special relativity. Tesseract A is the space-time of phenomenal consciousness. It will contain the consciousness module of an individual person. The time of consciousness is always ‘now’.
The physicist Stannard (1987) says: “Physics itself recognizes no special moment called ‘now’ —the moment that acts as the focus of ‘becoming’ and divides the ‘past’ from the ‘future’. In four-dimensional space-time nothing changes, there is no flow of time, everything simply is ...It is only in consciousness that we come across the particular time known as ‘now’...It is only in the context of mental time that it makes sense to say that all of physical space-time is. One might even go so far as to say that it is unfortunate that such dissimilar entities as physical time and mental time should carry the same name!”

3. The Cambridge philosopher of science C.D. Broad (1953) adds: “...if we assume one additional spatial dimension beside the three we can observe, and if we suppose that our field of observation at any one moment is confined to the content of a {3,4}-fold which moves [in t2] uniformly at right angles to itself along a straight line in the {3,4}-fold, then there is no need to assume any other motion in the universe. This one uniform rectilinear motion of the observer’s field of observation, together with the purely geometrical properties of the stationary material threads in the four-fold, will account for all the various observed motions (various in both magnitude and direction) of the material particles which are the appearances of these threads in the successive fields of observation.” (note: “{3,4}-fold” here means Minkowskian space-time). Broad adds “…it has the positive merit of introducing unity and simplicity into the phenomenon of motion that is otherwise lacking.”
4. We can tie all this up into the following statement—
The 3D space A forms a cross-section with the 4D block physical universe B in a higher-dimensional space, and the two are in relative motion in the real time of A (t2) in the direction from the ‘past’ of B to the ‘future ‘of B (both are extended places in Minkowskian space-time). This motion generates both the moving ‘now’ of time—hitherto lacking in physics—and the appearance of movement of objects in B, as Broad describes above). This is all described in detail in ”The Walls of Plato’s Cave” chapter 8.
Next we have to explain how events in the brain interact with events in the consciousness module. Consider a tesseract made up of eight cubes in a 4-D space. Vectors wholly located within one cube can represent a force in physical space. Then a vector that starts in one cube and ends in another cube can represent the interaction between a brain event and a phenomenal event. In the days of Cartesian dualism Thouless and Weisner published their theory of Shin. They suggested that the unextended, immaterial Cartesian mind (Shin) lay somehow outside the brain and interacted with it by two ‘influences’ called ‘psi-gamma’ on the afferent side and ‘psi-kappa’ on the efferent side. These are supposed to be normally focused on the brain but have ‘penumbrae’ that mediate such ‘paranormal’ events as telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis.
Material dualism replaces the immaterial, unextended Cartesian ‘mind’ with a material and extended consciousness module containing a person’s phenomenal world. Psi-gamma and psi-kappa become causal interactions that cross between A and B. Thus a human organism is composed of one functional unit with two anatomical parts—a physical body in physical space-time B and a consciousness module in space A.
5. Material dualism has the advantages
(1) It does not break Leibnitz’s Law.
(2) It avoids the ‘no pictures in the brain’ problem.
(3) It gives a purely mechanistic account of the entire process of perception except for the final subjective Ego. For example the phenomenal visual field becomes the actual surface of a televisual-like representative mechanism.
(4) It allows us to include the findings of parapsychology within one overall scientific scheme.
(5) Experiments can be devised to test the theory (described in “The Walls of Plato’s Cave”.
Some would say that material dualism has the disadvantage of breaking William of Occam’s Law. However, in reply, it can be argued that whether higher-dimensional space exists and contains contents of the type the theory describes is purely a matter of fact. It either does or it does not. Therefore it is merely an arbitrary assumption to state that it cannot and does not. Therefore Occam’s Law does not apply.


  1. As I have noted previously, mathematics and mathematical physics routinely dimensionalize problems, but that is for the purpose of solving mathematical (/physical) problems. The purpose of invoking a multi-dimensional manifold in this context, though, is not mathematical, or at least primarily so. It is to account for an ostensibly empirical problem: the inability to "find" VS in the physical world--in other words, within the system of physical space-time relations, whether inside brains or outside them.

    Though appealing to the imagination, the basic problem I now have with this proposal is that it is not clear to me how one could determine if it were false, how one would go about trying to falsify it. Also the proposal does not explain how physical processes seemingly cause sensations, and if so, why one set of dimensions would be so passively responsive to physical processes in another set of dimensions, which would seemingly violate Newton's third law of motion, i.e., that to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.

  2. It does occur to me that some (Jung) have entertained the idea of a "reciprocal action" version of psychophysical parallelism. If such exists, we should in principle be able to empirically find half of the process in the physical world. But neuroscience seems to have made no attempt to specifically search for evidence of psycho-physical interaction, so it is not surprising that it would not have found it, if it exists. Such "mind influences" as we all know are a favorite target of the skeptics to debunk. The Amazing Randi has made himself famous for that.

  3. A comment on Bill's first point. I think we should concentrate on devising and doing experiments to test predictions made by the hypothesis (I make one very specific suggestion on how to do this in "The Walls of Plato's Cave" relating to the Ehrenhaft phenomenon).
    Popper's ideas on 'falsification' have been criticised, especially by Paul Feyerabend—
    "Feyerabend was also critical of falsificationism. He argued that no interesting theory is ever consistent with all the relevant facts. This would rule out using a naïve falsificationist rule which says that scientific theories should be rejected if they do not agree with known facts."

    As for Bill's ingenious second point, I do not see that the psi processes postulated in the theory involve Newton's Laws of motion. Physical objects cannot leave their own space to bounce into objects in another space. There have to be special "minute mind influences" (as Eccles called them—or psi-gamma and psi-kappa as Thouless and Wiesner called them) that mediate the causal interactions needed.

    Re Bill's third point. The brain seems to me to be far too complicated ever to allow us to find "mind influences' acting there. This is why we need a much simpler model—such as the tiny dust particles floating in a light vacuum illuminated by a strong beam of light that start to weave out the complex and beautiful helical patterns that baffled Ehrenhaft (Professor of Physics at Vienna in the 1940-50s). Fred Wilson and I confirmed the phenomenon in 1952 (see WPC).

  4. In referring to falsification all I was saying is that it is not clear by what criteria the hypothesis can be proved or disproved, at least as it is formulated, and regardless of whether it explains all the data (whatever those may be in this most unusual of all epistemological cases). In experimental psychology, for example, there is a standard inductive probability model that is used in hypothesis testing because of the stochastic nature of human judgments (false positives/negatives, even in psychophysics). This involves evaluating the hypothesis probabilistically in relationship to a null hypothesis, the latter which is basically saying that "all things are equal" or "no difference" is observed in the experiment.

    Again, Newton's third law is only invoked as a general principle to illustrate a point, because up to the leap into other dimensions, John, you are accepting a strictly *physical* causal chain of light -> retina -> brain. What happens to that physical causal chain vis-a-vis the other non-physical dimensions? Even in each of those stages there are likely physical counterreactions occurring which, of course, are never mentioned when invoking the causal theory of perception.

    It is not clear that sensations are necessarily "mental" for the reasons I have given already in other comments, as in ordinary language we do not regard them as such. No one in ordinary usage speaks of the color "red" as being something mental. Conceived as mental, sensations must therefore entail a broader philosophical definition of "mental" that may not be legitimate in the analysis of this primarily physical causal sequence.

    Talk of "minute mind influences" seems to be based on imagination more than anything observable, regardless of the Greek characters denoting them. Why must such influences be "minute" and not robust?

    I still don't see what relevance Ehrenhaft's experiments on photophoresis have to do with the hypothesis, John. Can you explain why you think they are relevant since Ehrenhaft was seeking a physical explanation for them?

  5. I am very sympathetic with your position for the most part Johb, but I think I would prefer some variant of the name "spatial dualism" over "material dualism" since "material" may have a connotation of being physical in the sense of being comprised of atoms etc. One question I have is whether or not you believe in action at a distance. If not the neural correlates of events in phenomenal space would have to be spatially adjacent to them. I also don't see why it wouldn't at least be coherent to claim that a two dimensional phenomenal space is embedded in three dimensional physical space, with different points of the phenomenal space being spatially adjacent to different points of the physical space.

  6. First, Bill, I would say that the new dimensions are just as "physical" as the old ones. As Bernard has said we need a new paradigm in our understanding of space and time to include the new dimensions on a reality par with the old ones as equal partners in his Universal Structure.
    Second, there is a common sense use of 'red' —"this tomato is red"—as well as a technical sense of 'red'—"The after-image is red" & "This sensation is red". We just have to careful of what sense we are using when we say "X is red".
    If mind influences were ordinarily "robust" the brain would be flying all over the room. But, perhaps they sometimes are robust, as in cases of levitation and other manifestations of psychokinesis? Incidentally my father witnessed the best recorded instance of levitation in Nepal during the war. He published this in the SPR Journal.
    More on Ehrenhaft coming up plus a photo if I can manage it.

  7. Bob,
    "Spatial dualism" is a good name too. But I do not see that the term 'material' is necessarily confined to something made of atoms. Classical Hindu psychology had the concept that the mind was material but made of a substance so fine as to undetectable by our instruments. The contents of the parallel universes of Brane Theory does not have to be made of atoms either. It is very anthropocentric to insist that all universes have to be like ours: who are we to say that!!

  8. Bob's point is well taken, because including sensations in the definition of "material" would probably entail a contradiction in terms, especially if sensations have been deemed "mental" by philosophers as something separate from the material world (= physical world).

    One must distinguish between "new" physical dimensions and the possibility of other dimensions containing sensations. The "new" physical dimensions of string theory (and brane theory) have not been adduced to explain sensations. It is not clear to me that Bernard offers an ontological theory of sensations in his Universal Structure, he just posits a form of direct perception of objects, which does not entail substance dualism.

    If we stick to the ordinary sense of "red" it is synonymous with the color of a ripe tomato, or anything of that color, whether paint on a car or an after image. The color is still red.

    I think that the discussion of cosmology and psi should be very carefully circumscribed here, because otherwise we are juggling too many balls (JMHO)! The main problem remains that VS is not congruent with brain events. Presumably it is congruent with itself, as the rules of congruence dictate. As I have argued earlier, VS resembles more closely events *earlier* in the visual system than ones in the brain, which resemble it less. So Bob's question as to whether action-at-a-distance is admissable vs. action-by-contact is quite relevant. Culbertson argued that sensations occur at the surface of objects (which is what Bernard believes), so the causality implied by this is not one dictated by temporal constraints but is closer to a 4-D view of causality that may entail the paradox of earlier events being in some sense caused by later ones (Bob: Please feel free to correct my characterization of all this!)

  9. If Culbertson says that perceptions are supposed to occur (naive realistically) at the surface of objects, we can ask him how are they supposed to get there? I published a paper long, long ago (Smythies JR. (1954) Analysis of projection. Brit J Phil Sci., 5; 120.) promoting the opinion that this alleged 'projection of sensations' was a myth. Lord Brain wrote a paper at about that time coming to the same conclusion.

    The physicists, who came up with brane theory, of course did not have the space of sensations in mind when they did so. It is I and fellow space dualists who have added that further development.

  10. Culbertson was ostensibly a neutral monist, rather like Mach, because he identified sensations with physical elements. He does not credit Mach's thinking as being the basis of his theory of consciousness, however. No "projection of sensations" is involved in Culbertson's theory, rather consciousness results from a specific kind of 4-D space-time connection between particles at the surfaces of objects and brain events. The entire structure of a what he calls a "clear" worldline is what brings about consciousness in his view. It is not naive realism as that is generally understood in philosophy, and he believed that his theory explained illusions, mistaken perceptions, and could be extended to explain psi.

    The general assumption of the causal theory of perception is that the steps in the causal chain are moving unidirectionally in space as well as in time from eye to brain. But if action-at-a-distance is possible, as Q.M. has argued, then causality is not "chained" to spatial location in the causal nexus, as would be required in Newtonian mechanics (action-by-contact). Russell's account of the causal theory of perception does not include the implications of Q.M., but is still based on Newtonian ("classical") causality.

  11. To respond to some of John and Bill's points, John may well be right that "material" does not necessarily mean physical, in the sense of being comprised of atoms, but I am afraid that it may often be read that way. My own preferred term for the position is "spatial substance dualism" and I believe that that describes my position as well. What Bill says on my reasons for raising the issue of action at a distance is largely accurate although I am not sure what you mean Bill by earlier events in the visual system than ones in the brain. It is hard to say anything definite a priori about much of anything here, but I think that contact action is a fairly natural restriction to put on a theory, and if so, if the neural correlates of perceptual space are spread out, as in projection areas in the brain, as far as I can see perceptual space would have to be embedded so that corresponding points are in contact.

  12. In truth there are very good logical and empricial reasons for both the causal theory of perception and identity theory being true, but that has not guarantteed their truth. We have already discussed most of these points now, but the problem is that when we look in the brain there is "no cigar." What we would expect to find, were VS there, is simple not there, and thus far, there is no reason to believe that we have yet to find it there, compelling evidence from clinical neurology and experimental brain science notwithstanding. The brain would be the place in which perceiving becomes a form of being, what we call visual consciousness. But the more we probe the visual areas of the brain which seem to break down or "analyze" the visual input, taking it to bits, the less it appears to be making something that would even correspond to VS even were it in a separate space-time manifold as John would have us believe. This poses a major problem for congruence, unless all the "bits" into which the visual input are "analyzed" is for the purpose of generating the precursor to VS. Hubel & Wiesel expressly stated that they could find no evidence in their own studies of the functional architecture of the visual cortex that any sort of picture was being created by it. Nothing other researchers have found in the brain suggests that either. Rather, the general impression one gets is that the visual input is broken down for purposes relating to the body's orientation to the world around it, as that is supposedly what the senses are doing, not creating "virtual" pictures in another realm non-physical realm (pace, John).

    Ordinarily we assume that VS is largely veridical relative to the external physical world. That would suggest that VS is closer to it than it is to what I have described of the visual areas in the brain--just the opposite of what the causal theory of perception would predict. Unfortunately what the casual theory of perception predicts is not what we find empirically in the brain which has suggested to some of us that there is something wrong with that theory, Culbertson having taken the lead in this regard. Culbertson, it should be noted, was a well-trained philosopher, and was perfectly aware of naive realism and did not regard his theory as being such. Again, as noted above, Bernard Carr is ostensibly a direct realist, though his model entails higher dimensional relations as a way out of the paradoxes posed by the causal theory of perception.

  13. Your points are well taken about the known functions of cortical projections Bill, which is why I have also been considering projections to the superior colliculus. I read the Strehler paper on this topic which John referred us to, and one thing that is striking is while there have been many studies of animals surviving the surgical removal of the colliculi,Strehler was only aware of one human case, and what he says about it was rather inconclusive. Perhaps in the animal cases the animals act like they can still perceive to some extent, but have actually lost consciousness. I think that the whole subject here is still very much up in the air.

  14. Some of us were very interested in the superior colliculus (optic tectum) at one point a while back, but as the experimental evidence mounted, behaviorial measures in animal experiments alone seemed to indicate that it was not involved in vision (as in conscious vision) but in visually-guided behavior, involving eye, head, and body-turning movements. So I would not hold out much hope that it will turn out to be the locus of VS, because it mainly seems involved in the control of visuo-motor activity.

    I see this as an example of the "false hope" created by promissory materialism and central state materialism, that if we just keep probing the brain we will find consciousness, when it is not clear that the problem of consciousness--in this case visual consciousness--is fundamentally an empirical problem, a position that comes mostly from neurology, because only our fellow humans can tell us whether they see or not (this has been called "defectology"). This in turns suggests the cause and effect relationships between certain brain regions and conscious experience.

    But ruling in OBEs and NDEs as a point of reference, when eyes are closed, and brain function is compromised, what are those people "seeing with" such that they are often able to obtain veridical information about their surroundings as Thomas has recently noted? Those people seem as surprised as anybody by their experiences, wondering how they are able to "see" under such circumstances.

  15. Nobody (apparently) stops to think about the peculiarity that only certain brain areas foster sensations. Why should that be the case? Why is not the whole brain sensation-producing? I doubt that there is anything special about the neurobiology of the visual areas, for example, that predisposes them to "making" visual sensations, as the identity theorist would have it. One can therefore readily appreciate the old notion of specific nerve energies for that reason!

    I really think that a larger process is involved of which by studying the brain we are only seeing one part, and that process is one
    of reality making, much as it was initially envisioned by Bohr and developed by Wheeler--unfortunately without a psychological component,
    which they assiduously omitted from their formulations except to include the abstract "observer" which Wheeler then reduced to defining as an "irreversible process of amplification"!

  16. So obviously it has been John's conviction (and Culbertson's) that the solution to identifying the locus of VS is not solely an empirical problem, but a theoretical one, that in turn can perhaps be checked empirically.

  17. Answer to William Rosar's remark on visual perception during OBEs and NDEs: when there still is recordable electrical activity in the cortex, we can still resort to what I would call the “ESP + visual reconstruction” hypothesis (apparently inaccessible information being first retrieved by a –admittedly controversial- non-imaginal, non-sensory mechanism and then being reconstructed in the visual modality thanks to the residual activity of the visual cortex), but it’s true that when NO recordable electrical activity (even residual) was observed in the brain (at any case in the cortical primary and secondary sensory areas of the brain) and that, yet, visual information of the surgical procedure itself was accessed by the subjects, the “ESP + visual reconstruction” hypothesis becomes problematic and, indeed, the question of how this visual perception was (physically, organically) “mediated” arises! In the literature about NDEs, there are a few cases in which, as it seems, there was apparently (according to the physiological monitoring devices during the operations) NO possibility of any remaining cortical activity in the brain during the surgical operation at the moment of the veridical visual perceptions in an “OBE” state. The best known case is Pamela Reynold’s visual experience (she naively but accurately reported the exact appearance and functions of surgical tools that she, as a singer with no medical training, could not have known about, and also the surgeon’s technical gestures, etc) during a very delicate surgical cerebral operation which consisted in a “standstill” procedure to treat a basilar artery aneurysm: her brain was drained from its blood and cooled (hypothermic cardiac arrest). During the operation (when the tools, that she could not have seen when she was brought into the operating room), her brain waves were flattened (EEG record) and there were no evoked potentials (small speakers inserted in her ears). There has been a controversy about the timeline of Reynold’s experience, but even in skeptical “hallucinatory” interpretations of the experience or in extreme far-fetched reconstructed “ESP + cortical visual reconstruction” hypotheses resorting to the “clairvoyant” access of information in the future (precognition) or in the past (retrocognition), there still remains a huge problem : how can a recovering brain produce serendipitous “hallucinations” or exert “ESP – veridical information retrieving” of a temporal moment in which it was completely “de-activated”?

  18. It is because of all these difficulties that some “survivalist” dualistic interpretations were given of these cases of visual perception during a surgical operation involving a “de-activated” (to be more accurate: a brain rendered temporarily cortically non-functional). But even in these survivalist dualistic descriptions, two obsessing questions remain –questions that, I must admit it, have been puzzling and bothering me for many years:
    1/HOW is it possible for our mind to operate (both on the perceptual and on the cognitive level) in the case of OBE or NDE information retrieval with a de-activated brain : in other terms, what kind of physical (energetic/material ?) non-cerebral (or hyperdimensional cerebral!) carrier or substrate and what kind of structure enable the perpetuation of these perceptual, emotional, mnesic and intellectual operations?
    2/And the BIG question: if OBE and NDE (sensory in general and visual in particular) veridical perceptions are genuine (and not mere hallucinations or a posteriori serendipitous reconstructions), and if the conscious "something" (whatever it is) can perfectly operate without relying on the signal-processing tasks usually realized by the visible and tangible neuronal networks, then how can we account for the well established fact that, in normal daily conditions, cerebral lesions can "block" or "impinge upon" the perceptual or mental operations (I write "block" or "impinge upon" because it is the only apt way – bearing a strong resemblance to Bergson’s theory of the brain function as a reducing valve- to describe the psychophysical relation in a theoretical framework that is in accordance with a kind of non-cartesian neo-dualism or neutral monism that would be able to integrate both, on the one hand, the clinical neuropathological data suggesting at least a causal/functional dependance of perceptual and mental processes on cortical integrity, and on the other hand, the parapsychological NDEs data suggesting, on the contrary, at least a causal/functional independance of these processes from that cerebral integrity)?

  19. My puzzlement could be formulated in the following way: how can we account for the functional role and paradoxical status of the mechanism involved in consciousness-brain interfacing and interaction, when we admit: 1/ that, when we are in an "intra-corporal" (for lack of better words coming to my mind) state (organic embodiment), and when there is a partial cerebral de-activation due to cerebral lesions or at least alterations in the electrophysiological activity, that situation can affect so much the various activities of our mind, whereas .... 2/ when we are in a seemingly "extra-corporal" (so-called OBE) state (another kind of embodiment? what kind of embodiment???) with a total cerebral de-activation (at least in the visible realm of our brain, but maybe not in the hyperphysical realm of its hypothetic hyperdimensional “lobes” –cf: John’s hypothesis mentioned in The walls of Plato’s cave), then that situation cannot affect the activities of our mind anymore !!
    This seems to be highly contradictory: in situation n°1 a reduced cerebral activity seems to abolish or at least prevent our perception and mentation from being fully functional, but in situation n°2 an inexistent /abolished cerebral activity seems to free and enhance our perceptual and mental capacities (if we admit the veridicity of the most documented and credible cases of OBEs/NDEs, this really looks like a liberation of dormant capacities : hightened perceptual skills, high velocity with quasi-immediate topological projection, instantly retrieved memories, a sense of global understanding, a sense of strengthened personal identity, etc)….

  20. If, to those situations of visual perception in an apparent state of cerebral de-activation in the case of normal-sighted people, you add the cases of visual perception in congenitally blind persons during their NDEs (very well studied by Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper), the inadequacy of current materialistic models becomes evident.
    I think that John Smythies’ or Bernard Carr’s dualistic hyperdimensional models can integrate these apparent “anomalies” that the current numerous versions of (promissory materialistic) “mind-brain identity theory” cannot explain, because, namely in John’s model (if I understand it well), there must be an organical hyperdimensional extension of our bodies : this “extension” could serve as a new medium of perception (both somatosensory and visual) when the visible and tangible parts of our brain are de-activated during such extreme NDE states of consciousness. But I do not know if John’s theory could reconcile the two apparently contradictory sets of data from clinical neurological science and from perceptions during total brain de-activation in some OBEs and NDEs. Is there a way out of the above-mentioned obsessing (at least obsessing my mind!) tension and contradiction (cerebral lesions = abolishing perception / cerebral de-activation = enhancement of perception during NDEs) ???

  21. John has long postulated that part of the perceptual "machinery" is in the sensory manifold of the multi-dimensional system he envisions. Carr offers a similar approach but does not entail substance dualism (at least the version of his theory with which I am familiar).

    If we think of VS as being in some sense "attached" to a given individual, then perhaps it can be detached and no longer available to him, but in some sense, still exist. Clearly in OBE and NDE the ordinary "channel" of vision is not functional, because the person sees themselves from outside, and it is not obvious that their bodily eyes and brain are processing anything, as if the "remote viewing" is somehow being transmitted through their (inactive) visual system in their body "remotely."

    I believe the idea of equating sensations and mind with the brain is a fundamental error, and that sensations and mind are a much larger "system," perhaps with physical aspects that have gone undetected because they are not measurable. The idea that Nature simply exists in exact accordance with scientific procedures and to satisfy scientific mensuration has always struck me as remarkably anthropomorphic (so, yes, I am inclined towards some form of panpsychism, just to make sense of psychokinesis, for one!) Nature may look the way it does to science simply because we are finding in it what we are looking for: measurable order. The artist and poet see it rather differently . . .

  22. A comment on Bill's perceptive observation re "the peculiarity that only certain brain areas foster sensations". One can take this one step further. The microanatomy of the visual, auditory and somatosensory cortices are very similar (except for details of the wiring of the pyramidal cell columns): yet their products are very different. Visual, auditory and somatic sensations seem as different from each other as they could be. This fact seems to me to drive another logical nail into the coffin of the Identity Theory.
    For that theory states that phenomenal events are identical to their correlated brain events (NCCs). Since 'identity' is a transitive relationship, 'near-identity' ought to be too. Therefore, how do we avoid the conclusion that visual, auditory and somatic sensations (each identical to a nearly identical NCC) are themselves nearly identical—which they are clearly not?

  23. Thomas raises a very good point with his formulation of an apparent clash between his "situation 1" and "situation 2". Perhaps we could look upon it this way. Under ordinary circumstances what goes on within a person's phenomenal experience ("consciousness module") is determined by the activity of widely distributed brain mechanisms (via psi-gamma). However, Bergson's reducing valve may depend on a second type of brain mechanism (or a second type of activity in the first set). Empirical data suggests that serotonin 2A receptors play a key role in set 2. If the psychedelic visions represent an uprush of material from the Collective Unconsciousness (as Jung believed), then we know that LSD etc. act by stimulating these receptors. However, that explanation does not seem to cover the NDE during total flat EEG. So there must be more than one way of operation of Bergson's valve.

  24. I would go so far as to say that the different sensation classes (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) are *orthogonal* to one another, as there is no point in which one class seems to turn into the other. One could almost argue that each sensation class is a dimension itself.

    Apparently no philosopher of record ever realized that identifying sensations with brain events is a logical "howler," if one also wishes to claim that the brain "causes" sensations, because as I have already noted, since the time of Plotinus it has been recognized that something does not cause itself. The implications of that is that physical events are involved in causal sequences, but since sensations dob not seem to be part of the physical world (at least as it is presently known to science), they logically can play no part in any physical causal sequence--as Friedrich Paulsen rightly argues.

    Yet having said that, we are still faced with the dilemma that is tormenting Thomas, because ostensibly if my visual cortex is extirpated or disabled temporarily (as is now hypothetically feasible), I won't see anymore--voila! Simple cause and effect--or is it? How does something physical (brain) cause something non-physical (sensations)?

  25. To cover the points that Bill raises, perhaps some cases of NDE depend on pure clairvoyance? That is the usual penumbra of psi-gamma becomes promoted to be the principle inflow to the consciousness module by-passing the brain altogether.
    This idea leads to speculations about what might happen, under this theory, on the death of the physical body.
    (1) The entire system in space A might just vanish, just as the phantom limb vanishes if we remove the parietal cortex.
    (2) Since the 4D physical universe in space B in the theory may exist in order to provide a communication device between minds (Selves), on the destruction of the physical body and brain the consciousness module (CM) in space A might fall apart too (as no longer needed) releasing the Self into what surrounded the CM before (e.g. the Bardo of Tibetan Buddhism or variants on that theme): as Bill said "sensations and mind are a much larger "system"". Various scenarios follow from that.

  26. Here is an illustrative story, based on the space dualism theory, using the model of Flatland (modeled on Jonathan Harrison's splendid tale about Ludwig—the Brain in a Vat). Suppose a Square called Joe (an inhabitant of Flatland whose confidence had been shaken by his encounter with a 3D Sphere passing through his world) ) were to question the dogma held by all squares that their universe is a 2D space (B). Joe, after deep thought, came to realize that part of his organism might actually be located in Cubeland. The square object in B (that he had previously regarded as being his all) was actually attached to another square object located in the adjacent part of cubeland (in space "A"). A and B are two different planes cut in Cubeland so that they intersect. At the point of intersection Joe's organism makes a right-angled bend. Part B contains his physical body and brain. These have sensors sensitive to signals from the 'objects' in B. His brain creates a copy of the world around him (and in him) using signals from these sensors. Joe can move this part about (in part by psi-kappa acting on his motor cortex).
    Part A contains his Self and his consciousness module. The CM extracts information from Joe's brain via a scannning force called psi-gamma. This it can do easily as all parts of Joe's brain are open to this new 3rd dimension. The CM then portrays all this to Joe's Self on his sensory fields that work like TV screens (some as "feelies') . Would not a naive Joe react to all this by thinking he was actually located inside the head of his physical body (and not inside the head of his body image where he actually is) and looking out through his eyes at the world ((instead of looking at a TV screen that pictures that world)?

  27. When Saul-Paul Sirag was working on his own "multiple realities" theory some years ago (partly motivated by his own interest in psi and association with Targ and Putoff at SRI) he stressed there had to be a *physical* process to explain the dimensional reduction from 96 dimensions (in his model) to the ostensive macroscopic 4 dimensions of space-time.

    In the simple geometric analogies John uses above, there is no explanation as to why someone should be trapped in dimensions lower than those of a higher dimensional embedding space. In perspective projection the process of mapping three dimensions down to two is as a result of a *physical* plane of projection intersecting the pencil of lines, whether that be a natural surface (such as the ground), a piece of paper, a canvas, or even glass, on which the projection is made.

    This is why I was so preoccupied with the notion of "physical geometry," which physically interpreted abstract geometrical elements, such as a straight line = a ray of light in a vacuum, et. Whether "scanning" or sectioning, there has to be some sort of more-or-less natural process at work that does that effects the section/projection, probably not a paramechanical one, because I don't think we are dealing with technology (unless one favors the view that the Creator is an engineer).

  28. In my parable about Flatland I was not concerned about geometrical projections from one space to another. Mr Square is not "trapped" in Flatland. He just lives there and cannot get out even if he wanted to: just as we and Mr Sphere cannot get out of our versions of Cubeland.

    In the related parable of Plato's cave that I used in my book, Plato and I are talking, of course about quite different caves. In Plato's cave the prisoners chained to the stakes represent the physical bodies of people, the shadows on the wall are physical objects, and the statues carried behind them are the Archetypes. There is no actual cave. In my version the figures chained to the stake are Selves inside their body images, the shadows are phenomenal objects, and the statues are physical objects. The cave is real—VS (or the 'consciousness module).

  29. Perhaps it should be remembered that the subtitle of Abbott's famous little book is "a romance of many dimensions," the operative word being "romance," in other words, fiction--in fact, it is a novella satirising Edwardian society. In space-time, all objects are extended in 3 dimensions of space and 1 of time. The only parallel to Flatland is one of the initial formulations of string theory that had it that the universe was actually of very high dimensionality (in Saul-Paul Sirag's version, it had 96 dimensions), but that all except for the macroscopic dimensions of space-time, all the rest were rolled up into little balls, and the question that was posed was why only the dimensions of space-time became macroscopic. Actually, Hans Reichenbach envisioned that space-time might be composed in such a manner already in the 1950s, in which he used the analogy of a surface composed of grains of sand that was otherwise ostensibly flat.

    The analogy of Plato's Cave, also fiction, was made famous to the scientific public in the foreword to the "Mysterious Universe" (1930) by astrophysicist Sir James Jeans. The book was denounced by Wittgenstein as being "misleading" and constituting an "idol" to "science and scientist worship." It was roundly criticized by Susan Stebbing as well. Nonetheless the "parable," including John's version of it, serves a heuristic purpose, but what it does not tell us is anything about the nature of the "chains," and it was Sirag's opinion that the chains were the physical forces, which construct our reality in a certain way. Unfortunately this does not tell us anything about perception, and why it is of such (apparently) low dimensionality.

  30. The end of the Victorian era in England saw a flurry of interest in the fourth dimension. This was triggered by the mathematician C.H. Hinton's essay "What is the Fourth Dimension?" published in 1880, and followed by E .A. Abbott's "Flatland" in 1886. Its most famous exponent was H.G. Wells, who used it (as time) in his short story "The Time Machine". "Flatland" is described in Wikipedia as a 'religous (!) allegory' and an allegory as being an "a device used to present an idea, principle or meaning in literary form". "Flatland" certainly has the sub-theme of satire on the social condition of Britain in his time—in particular the lowly state of women: but its main theme, in the long dialogue between Mr. Sphere and Mr. Square, is the difficulty of explaining what a world with n spatial dimensions might be like to an inhabitant of a world with only n-1 dimensions. Thus the allegory of Flatland is being used here as a thought experiment, and has so been used frequently since.

  31. One of the reasons I have recently become very interested in Surrealism is because of its interest in both the fourth dimension and quantum mechanics, and how the idea of those things fired the imaginations of artists and poets--who, nonetheless, often misunderstood them.

    The problem with the Flatland and Cave allegories is that the confinement to a two dimensional existence in the former, and to gazing at shadows in the latter does not really apply very well to our physical existence, which as I have noted, appears to extend in every dimension, not just a subset of them.

  32. 1. This raises very interesting literary/philosophical questions about the nature and function of allegories. To repeat Wikipedia's definition of an allegory —"a device used to present an idea, principle or meaning in literary form". So why is the author using a tale, a romance, a piece of fiction, to present an idea? One answer (1) is to give the power of literary art to his intent to convey a meaning, promote a philosophy, or support a cause—in other words better to sell his case. Another answer (2) might be that the author found that his subject provided difficulties for a simple didactic, logical presentation, and so he resorted to story telling. A third reason (3) might be that the author fancied his skill as a writer of tales and decided to use them for his purpose—which is often to persuade other people to give up their own point of view and adopt your point of view instead. A fourth reason (4) might be that the author grew as bored with the dreary polysyllabic prose, used in most scientific and philosophical books and papers written by other people, as he had grown revolted by his own leaden style—so he followed Edward Fitzgerald’s advice
    “Come fill the cup and in the fire of spring
    the winter garment of repentance fling.”
    An allegory can be regarded as an attempt by the author to get his readers to look at his message in a new way.

  33. 2. Many allegories have been immensely successful.
    For example:
    Consider “Candide” and that role that played in furthering the ideals of the Enlightenment. Voltaire did not need to write a novel to get his message across, so brilliant were his powers of exposition: yet “Candide” certainly helped. Think too of “Darkness at Noon”, which many consider to have played a significant role in rolling back the tide of Communism in Europe, particularly France. My good friend and colleague Arthur Koestler did not need to write a novel either. His statement in “The God that Failed” was powerful enough. But “Darkness at Noon” certainly helped to change the minds of many of the Intelligentsia (particularly in France). I suggest both of these are type 1 allegories. Plato’s allegory of the Cave enabled many people to understand his theory of Archetypes in a way they could not have done without the allegory (that is, it is a type 2 allegory). Flatland, on a more modest scale, is another type 2 allegory. It is designed to help people struggling to understand, limited by their 3D visual images, what a fourth dimension of space might be like.
    Does an allegory have to be literary? Clearly not: stained glass windows in cathedrals are allegories giving illiterate peasants a chance to understand the message of the Christian Gospel. Likewise Picasso’s cubist paintings, and other surrealist paintings, can be regarded as allegories striving to express some aspects of reality that cannot easily be put into words.
    Can music be allegorical? Is the power of great music to evoke powerful emotions in people an allegorical function? It seems difficult to say.

  34. No one is discounting the value of allegories, John, only taking them too far, like analogies. They are only useful to the extent that they shed light, but when they obscure truth, they can be as much an obstacle to knowledge as ignorance. The problem of the "false analogy" is nicely encapsulated on Wikipedia:

  35. It is therefore timely that I found a brief interview with Raymond Tallis on YouTube addressing this very issue, such as the value of the dialog format in Plato, how poetry can convey philosophical truths as well, etc. Hope you enjoy it as I did:

  36. More and more I find myself thinking "VS might as well be in the fourth dimension," given the topological and geometrical paradoxes resulting from the causal theory of perception strictly interpreted. One could even speak of the fourth (spatial) dimension as an allegory like Plato's Cave, given how much it fired the imaginations of writers and artists, as has been noted already.

    It would be nice to review some of the *phenomenological* reasons the "fourth dimension" has been invoked to see what is being explained. Clearly one idea behind invoking it is to have a geometrical metaphor for the spiritualist's "other side," which itself has topological implications. John?

  37. Comments on 4th dimension on the way!
    In the meantime I have been waiting for the postal service to deliver Raymond Tallis's book (which you recommended) which arrived rather late yesterday.
    I found most congenial except for a few details. He and I come from similar backgrounds—we are both Fellows of the RCP (London). I will post some comments shortly.
    I have also been in touch with Jean-Pierre Jourdan—his data is fascinating.

  38. Rama told me yesterday that the idea of Plato's Cave may have been influenced by ideas Pythagoras brought back with him from a trip to India, in which he probably learned about the analogous allegory of the Dance of Shiva and the deity Maya, who is responible for the illusionary dichotomy of self and world

  39. Hi, All. Glad I found this...
    Dave Peterzell