Sunday, October 23, 2011

Agentship of the Soul (per the Brahma Sutra)

Rama, who daily receives voluminous correspondence from all of the world, recently brought to my attention something sent to him by an independent scholar in India concerning the nature of the soul as explained in the Brahma Sutra, which has been the subject of considerable exegesis in India as well, such as that by Adi Shankara (788-820 A.D.), who has been called the "St. Thomas Aquinas of Indian thought."

I was particularly struck by the analogy used therein likening the soul to a carpenter and agentship to that carpenter using his tools, as it brought to mind some of the argumentation on the nature of the soul from Augustine and Aquinas that David McGraw reviewed relative to Descartes last November (see his posting "Mind and Body, Medieval and Modern: Augustine and Thomas Aquinas Versus Descartes") that we discussed some months ago. I would be interested in discussing how this might be applied to the position of the (central) ego Smythies describes vis-a-vis the "observer" of visual space. This is a link to some of the summary/commentary:
More exegesis/argumentation has been published in this volume:,+independent+though+it+is+as+regards%22&dq=%22just+as+this+soul,+independent+though+it+is+as+regards%22&cd=1
I have a Xerox of the relevant pages that I could supply.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


It is ironic that the last comment on the blog was one I made three months ago now (6/12/11) in response to the first posting on the blog a year ago by Bob French, "Apparent Distortions in Photography and the Geometry of Visual Space." Bob did not respond to my comment but did visit UCSD and gave a fine presentation to the members of the Center for Brain and Cognition on the geometry of visual space July 27th (which, alas, was under attended).

We seem to be left with three theoretical contretemps:

(1) a geometry of visual space that either changes or is under determined by empirical data

(2) a theory of perception (the "causal theory") that cannot be reconciled with the topological and metric attributes of visual space as related to any part of the visual system, whether peripherally in the eyes, or centrally in the brain

(3) dualism provides no solution to the requirements of geometrical congruence as I stated in my 1985 paper "Visual Space as Physical Geometry"

Though this forum has provided an unusually rich exchange of both traditional and novel ideas, like many blogs it seems to have run its course, perhaps not so much because the contributors have nothing more to offer, but because I don't think most were willing to really question fundamental assumptions, instead holding to theories based on metaphysical or abstract ideas, even when challenged or contradicted by logic, observation, and experimental findings. Ultimately that results in an impasse, and discussion ceases--and philosophy and science are the worse for it.

Hopefully one of you or someone new will throw down the gauntlet and restart the dialog...

-Bill Rosar

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wittgenstein on "Mental Processes"

306. Why should I deny that there is a mental process? But "There has just taken place in me the mental process of remembering . . . ." means nothing more than: "I have just remembered . . . . " To deny the mental process would mean to deny the remembering; to deny that anyone ever remembers anything.

307. "Are you not really a behaviourist in disguise? Aren't you at bottom really saying that everything except human behaviour is a fiction?"If I do speak of a fiction, then it is of a grammatical fiction.

308. How does the philosophical problem about mental processes and states and about behaviourism arise?The first step is the one that altogether escapes notice. We talk of processes and states and leave their nature undecided. Sometime perhaps we shall know more about themwe think. But that is just what commits us to a particular way of looking at the matter. For we have a definite concept of what it means to learn to know a process better. (The decisive movement in the conjuring trick has been made, and it was the very one that we thought quite innocent.)And now the analogy which was to make us understand our thoughts falls to pieces. So we have to deny the yet uncomprehended process in the yet unexplored medium. And now it looks as if we had denied mental processes. And naturally we don't want to deny them.

(Philosophical Investigations, I)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monads Look Inward

Gottfried Leibniz, who speculated that human r...Image via Wikipedia

Philosophers during the modern era wrestled with various philosophical problems. Some of these were cast as new problems, although many had been vexing philosophers since the start of the profession. One of these is the problem of the external world: how do I know that my perceptions match what is real? Another is the mind-body problem: how does the mind interact causally with the body? Leibniz attempted to address these problems (and more) with his monads.

For Leibniz, monads are the fundamental entities that make up the world. They are immaterial and, although they have qualities, they have no parts. There are supposed to be an infinite number of these entities and, apparently, they all perceive. On most interpretations, each monad is a mind. However, the monads do vary in their degree of mental capabilities and they range from the most minimally perceiving monad to the supreme monad (not to be confused with the supreme Dalek or a nacho supreme) which is, of course, God. The higher sorts of monads are conscious and aware while the lower sorts presumably are not. As such, while your soap perceives (think about that the next time you lather up) it is not conscious (which is probably best for both of you).

While all these myriad monads perceive, this perception is not (as Leibniz sees it) a perception caused by external objects. As Leibniz famously claimed, the monads do not have windows and (in addition to making it hard to enjoy warm spring days) nothing enters or departs from them. However, each monad is supposed to mirror all of reality. While I usually use the analogy of a bowl full of polished ball bearings as an analogy to illustrate that bit, the analogy rather obviously fails badly. But, I do think it is a nice image.

While this windowlessness might seem rather odd, it does enable Leibniz to solve two problems with one nad, monad, that is. First, the mind body problem is elegantly solved: reality is fundamentally mental (which I am sure you have long suspected) and hence there are not two distinct metaphysical types to have relationship problems. There is but one type and, perhaps even better, there are no causal relations between these monads (well, aside from God's act of creation, but God is always mucking up things). Thus, these problems are solved. Well, sort of anyway. Second, the problem of the external world is also solved. Monads do not perceive what is outside of them, for there are no windows via which they interact with an external world. The split between experience and reality that allows the problem of the external world to gain traction simply is not there, hence its wheels spin futilely. Or would, if problems had wheels.

Assuming that you buy this, there are still some obvious problems remaining. One is the matter of addressing the intuitively plausible view that we are perceiving the same reality and that we seem to interact. For example, as I type the blog my husky (a husky monad) is watching. I believe that she is perceiving me doing this and I believe that I am perceiving her perceiving me and that she is no doubt wishing that I was handing her some treats rather than typing. So, how does this work with monads?

For Leibniz the answer is very straightforward. In the beginning, God created all the monads and placed "in" each one all its experiences (sort of like downloading a whole movie before starting to play it). Being really amazing, God makes sure that all the monads are in sync (no, not in the boy band). So, back to the husky example, when I have the experience of seeing my husky and she has the experience of seeing me, we are not "really" seeing each other. Rather Isis (my husky) is having an experience in her mind as if she were seeing me and likewise for me. While I do suspect that husky hair could actually get into a monad, there is no actual causal interaction between us. However, the experiences are in a state of pre-established harmony and hence it all works out. Really.

Not surprisingly, this has caused some people to wonder why this does not just collapse into solipsism. After all, if all my experiences are pre-loaded, then I should have them whether there are any other monads or not. By Occam's Razor, one might argue, it would seem simplest to hold that I and I alone exist. Or, at best it is just me and the creator-which sticks us (or rather just me) into the problem raised by Descartes. Perhaps even worse, if the God monad perceives everything perfectly, then it would seem to entail that everything is just a quality of God's mind. This is, of course, pantheism and something the sane generally endeavor to avoid whenever possible. As such, let us quietly close that door and sneak away.

Now that all those problems have been successfully ignored, there is the obvious problem of space. If we are just immaterial monads, then the space we perceive would thus clearly not be space in the usual sense of a box in which God keeps his stuff. Also, what we take to be extended (three dimensional) objects cannot actually be three dimensional in the usual sense.

Leibniz solves the first problem by taking space to be a system of relationships between what a monad experiences. To use a contemporary example, think about "moving" around in 3D video game like Halo or World of Warcraft. It seems like you are moving through space because of the relationship between the elements of your experience, yet there really are not three dimensions in the usual sense. Space is merely a matter of perception and relative to the experiences.

In regards to objects appearing to be extended, this is also a matter of perception. While Leibniz uses the analogy of a rainbow, the video game analogy works even better. In video games we experience what seem to be extended objects, even though they are not actually extended. Rather, the extension is something of an illusion. Likewise for the monad's experience of extension-it is all in their minds. The monads look inwards and see all that can be seen.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

World Views of Monism, Dualism, Trialism, and Quadrialism

Contempory science and philosophy prefer a monistic world view which is always in some competion with a dualistic view. The "Evolutionary Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG), however, which is an elaborated theory of the structure of visual (phenomenal) space exhibits a trialistic world view, while its supertheory, the "Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB) is even based on a quadrialistic world view that encloses the trialistic one of the ETVG: cause enough for dealing with the differences between these views.
Contempory monists believe that the world we live in consists of only one stuff: "matter". But they have difficulties in explaining something that is usually called "consciousness", which does not at all look like matter. In particular, the monists cannot explain, for example, the strcture of visual sensations, i.e. of conscious visual perception, which is an important ability of humans and many animals.
Other scientists (and philosophers) favor a dualistic world view by saying: no, the world does not consist exclusively of matter, "consciousness" must be a second stuff besides matter. However, also the dualists cannot really explain the important conscious experiences like visual sensations and their structure in space and time.
Both world views differ in the "nature" of consciousness; the monists say: consciousness is nothing else than matter and can in a certain sense be understood as an "emanation" of matter, while the dualists say: consciousness is of quite another nature than matter.
Monists and dualists believe that there are both material things with consciousness and material things without consciousness. Thus in both world views consciousness is somewhat additional to matter, while the opposite is not true as one cannot really believe that matter would be somewhat additional to consciousness. Thus both world views conceive a kind of hierarchical order between matter and consciousness with the latter being on a higher level above matter.
The dualists have developed different theories on the relations between matter and consciousness but obviously failed to recognize the right and convincing relations between them although science possesses a lot of knowledge just on matters involved in visual perception. However, our knowledge of conscious experience stems more from everyday life. Only few research has ever been done on visual experience, for example, as the astonishing lack of images proves that have been sketched from vision experience in experiments and thus could be found (or not found) in the literature.
There are few authors who are contented neither with monism nor with dualism and thus favor a trialistic world view, with or without calling it a "trialistic" one. Most of the "trialists" accept the two dualistic entities "matter" and "consciousness" so that the third entity is added to them. However, with proposing a third entity the universe is thought to consist of, an author has to determine the locus of this third entity relative to the loci of the other two entities.
Let us consider the case in which the third entity (X) is thought to be added to the accepted entities matter (M) and consciousness (C) in their accepted hierarchical order in relation to the course of evolution from the bottom up. This means that three potential cases of relations have to be considered:
the relations between M and X, between C and X, and between M and C.
There is an accepted hierarchical order between M and C with C is lying above M, independently whether this fact has or has not been considered in the respective theory If we write the higher level entity on the right side of the lower level entity, we theoretically contain the following three cases:
(a) If the third entity has evolved after consciousness (case M-C-X), the relations between matter and consciousness remain the same as conceived in monism or dualism; i.e. there is no need to change them in a trialistic view.
(b) If the third entity has evolved before matter (case X-M-C), the relations between M and C remain unchanged as well.
(c) If, however, the third entity has evolved after matter but before consciousness (case M-X -C), then all relations between M and C that ever have been conceived in all the dualistic and monistic theories are wrong.
The "Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG) ( is a trialistic theory of case M-X-C. As is shown in the diagram of the Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB) ( visual perception relates predominantly to the worlds PF and PC. But it relates anyhow also to the worlds below PF/PC as seeing with PF/PC is only possible for living Beings (that are already evolved up to the worlds VM and VF), and life is only possible when already certain atoms and molecules (in the worlds UCO / UCM) are available. Thus both entities are necessary for conscious visual perception: the entity matter (=material manner of Being") and the entity consciousness (=phenomenal manner of Being").
However, to be able to conscious visual perception (=visual experience PC including "phenomenal space"), a third entity X is needed, which is called the "functional manner of Being". In the ETB diagram is to see first, that the "functions" (F) lie between matter (M) and consciousness (C) and second, that these three entities realize the hierarchical order of case M-X(F)-C. This means: the trialistic ETVG exhibits a general structure according to which all usual monistic theories (M) and all usual dualistic theories (M-C) must be wrong because any direct relations between matter and consciousness as conceived in monistic and dualistic concepts are not existent.
When I developed the ETVG further (2001) I also conceived another theory, the "Eight-World-Model of Reality" or "Four-Manner-Four-Level-Model of Reality" (first published in 2001, Part 10), later called "Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB). While the ETVG is a trialistic theory as shown above, the ETB is a quadrialistic theory. The ETB is a supertheory in respect to the ETVG insofar as the ETB encloses the ETVG: The three manners of Being that have evolved up to the third level on which perception occurred are thus thought to be "embedded" in a fourth manner of Being, called "ordinal manner of Being". As seen in the ETB diagram, first, the phenomenal manner of Being develops a second world of Mental Consciousness (MC) above Psychical Consciousness (PC). The MCs, however, produce when "actualized" their Mental Orders (MOs). With occurrence of the world MC, the living (VM/VF) and already perceiving (PF/PC) Being evolves itself into a fourth evolutionary level. With the MOs as produced by the MCs, it reaches in that fourth (="ordinal") manner of Being.
As the other three manners of Being do, the ordinal manner of Being consists of two "worlds" as well. Here on the fourth evolutionary level, there is the world of "Mental Order" (MO) or "Individual Cosmic Order" (ICO). The other world of the ordinal manner of Being lies on the first evolutionary level and is called the "Universal Cosmic Order" (UCO). So all worlds of the material, functional and phenomenal manners of Being lie inside the ordinal manner of Being as the Being "begins" with UCO and "ends" with ICO.
Now we have to ask for the locus of the fourth ("ordinal") manner of Being relative to the other three manners. The answer is less simple: indeed, also the ordinal manner of Being consists - like the other three manners - of two worlds (here UCO and ICO), but these worlds are lying extremely far from another, so we have to ask a twofold question:
a) When has UCO evolved? Answer: before matter.
b) When has ICO evolved? Answer: after consciousness.
Thus the relations M-F-C remain unchanged if the two "halves" of the ordinal manner of Being (O) are introduced and a fourth case is formed: O-M-F-C-O.
In summery: the most important innovation introduced in science and philosophy are both the "Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG) with the trialistic concept in exactly that form as described, and its supertheory, the quadrialistic ETB.
If the ETVG and the ETB are true, all monistic/dualistic theories are wrong as according to the monistic/dualistic theories consciousness is immediately caused by matter, while according to the new ETVG and ETB, there is not at all any immediate connection of consciousness ("phenomenal" manner of Being) with matter ("material" manner of Being). On the contrary, an entire group of entites (the "functional" manner of Being) even separates consciousness from matter. Moreover: it is only a certain kind of matters that immediately causes a certain kind of functions, while a higher level kind of functions causes a certain kind of consciousness. So the lack of any immediate connection of consciousness and matter is perfect.
Since every monistic/dualistic theory and the trialistic ETVG are mutually exclusive, no intermediate stages are possible. So every scientist (particularly every reader of this blog) has to decide which theory or world view, respectively, he will overtake as his own. None of them has to be favored per se because it is absolutely irrelevant wether two, three, four, eight, or 25 parts (areas, spheres, worlds, manners of Being, evolutionary levels) are distinguishable as parts of "all that is".
It is the efficiency of a theory that is relevant for its scientific acceptance. In this respect, the number of facts that are explainable with a theory and the consistency of the laws which have been applied to explain them are relevant. Not the theoretical background is decisive for the choice of a theory, rather it is the efficiency of a theory that is decisive for the choice of its theoretical background.
If you - may be as a very young student - decide yourself for the most possible vicinity to scientific truth, then you will accept the trialistic ETVG as this theory is able to explain such a large quantity of visual facts, particularly in the domain of visual (phenomenal) space, as no monistic / dualistic theory ever was able to do. You will, moreover, also accept the quadrialistic ETB as there is no other world view suitable to be the ETVG's theoretical background.
However, I warn you not to accept the ETVG and the ETB or at least not to tell somebody else that you have accept them. In particular: you never should expect from other scientists to do the same as you have done: to throw their monistic / dualistic world views (fervently loved since centuries) on the scrapheap of History, no learned scientist is able to do that. Consider also the reaction of the scientific community on this scandalous demand for a shift in its members' usual thinking!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception (ETVG)

The general topic of this blog is the "Structure of Visual Space". In my "Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception: Hierarchy and Interactions of Visual Functions" (ETVG) (2001, Koeln, Germany: Enane) I have already described and explained the structure of visual space. Many chapters are online: With this posting I am giving the blog members the opportunity to get to know, discuss and even further develop this theory.

Here I am giving some information on the ETVG to prevent unnecessary misunderstanding:

(1) With "gestalt" perception is only meant perception as opposite of color perception. It contains figure-outfield, quantity, orientation, and form perception.

(2) In my first posting I described with the "Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB) a kind of supertheory in which perception is immediately realized on the 3rd , the "psychic", evolutionary level of Being, while the 2nd level contains living matters and functions, and the 1st level contains inorganic matter to which physic is related. At the 4th level, "mind" has been evolved.

(3) As shown in the ETB (see diagram), perception is realized as two kinds ("worlds"): (a) the psychic consciousnesses (PC) (including "phenomenal space" as called by John Smythies) and (b) psychic functions (PF) which, however, are absolutely unknown to vision science, and thus are also not considered in any theory that might be known to a blog member.

(4) Since a certain PF is "producing" a certain PC, the PCs are immediately and convincingly explainable only by referring to these their producers. This means: the entities that have been evolved prior to PF are the less responsible for the structure of a certain PC the farther away from PF they are located, according to the ETB. So visual theories that relate visual experience (PC) to physics or chemistry (UCO/UCM) are less useful for explaining visual sensations (PC) than theories that relate it to "neuronal [VM] mechanisms [VF]". And these neurological theories can account for sensations and other visual experiences less well than PFs do as only PFs are immediately connecting PCs because they "produce" them. However, despite these restrictions, the ETVG shows a certain correspondence between the general properties of the function carriers "neuron" and "gestalt factor". And it shows a certain correspondence between the functions of six ETVG-levels and the functions of six neurobiologically defined levels.

(5) Only after the trialistic view of vision has been described in the ETVG, a "Quadrialistic Theory of Man" has been introduced ( the "Four-Manner-Four-Level-Model of Reality" (later called "Evolutionary Theory of Being" = ETB), with its terms "psychic function" (PF) and "psychic consciousness" (PC). In the ETVG it is "functional/ functionology" that refers to PF, and it is "phenomenal/ phenomenology" that refers to PC.

(6) Since the structure of phenomenal visual perception (PC) (e.g. phenomenal space) can be explained convincingly only by referring to PF, and PF is unknown to science, vision science practically avoids in their theories of vision to depict the visual experiences (PC) they are claiming but are not able to explain. In contrast to it, in the ETVG a lot of relevant illustrations of visual experiences (PC) are shown and explained by their producers (PF).

(7) While the PCs are entities dependent on the PFs, the PF hierarchy itself evolves independently as the result of an unconscious learning process in early infancy. The hierarchically ordered gestalt factors are fixed as memory contents and must be "actualized" step by step in order to produce their corresponding gestalt qualities.

(8) The most important relations between sensory stimulus and visual experience consist of the fact that different visual experiences can follow one and the same sensory stimulus. This happens, for example, when attention directed on the stimulus increases or decreases. Or when the same optical pattern impinges the eye for different but very short times (as shown in tachistoscopic experiments), or when instead of time the light intensity changes (you can see the same material things in darkness less accurately than in full illumination). There is not any theory of visual percption except the Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception that is able to explain which visual experiences are theoretically expected under different conditions of stimulation. The ETVG describes both a ten-level hierarchy of 25 "gestalt factors" (in the world PF) and its product, the corresponding ten-level hierarchy of 25 "gestalt qualities" (in the world PC). When the conditions of stimulation smoothly increase, the PF hierarchy of gestalt factors will be "actualized" step by step from the bottom up, so that the corresponding gestalt qualities will appear step by step as well and thus enrich the visual experience and make it more and more complex.This process is called the "actualgenesis" of the percept. The opposite process, the "actual lysis", consists in the "de-actualization" of the PF hierarchy from the top down which leads to the "de-differentiation" of the percept or even to its total disappearance. The ETVG deals predominantly with those 17 of the 25 gestalt factors that constitute the static two-dimensional visual perception.

(9) Since many gestalt factors interact one with another, a lot of "gestalt laws" are to be found, and thus the ETVG can already account for a number of wellknown visual facts. These laws refer not only to visual space but also to visual time.

As I wrote at the beginning, with this posting I am giving the members of the "structure of visual space group" a chance to get to know, discuss and even further develop this "theory of the structure of visual space". I will see how they seize this chance. This Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception (ETVG) is all that I have to say on visual perception since 2001. It is now the job of others to think about it.

My own job is to further develop that theory which goes - among others - beyond visual perception described in the ETVG (and thus enclosing visual perception): the double-quadrialistic "Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB) (see my first posting) which describes "all that is" as a system of four "evolutionary levels" interlocking with four "manners of Being" and thus forming eight "worlds".