O, Wow, The Whole Thing: Part 2
If somehow you missed the first part, read it here.
Birth of the Machine Age
Our most recent fully formed notion of reality — causal mechanism — is epitomized in what generally is called Cartesian dualism, in honor of Renee Descartes. It was he who famously pronounced its mantra, I think, therefore, I am. Its natural causal reality subsumed earlier C1, C2, and C3 memes into a new, revised common sense view that touts a notion of the world as being curiously split into spiritual and material counterparts. In such bifurcated causal cosmos, the physical seemingly is inspired and pondered by what Arthur Koestler has characterized as The Ghost in the Machine.
Social Machines Wear Out
But, ultimately, Cartesian assertions of parallel spirit and material worlds have proven quite dubious, unsustainable and unworkable. In our own time the so-called spiritual side largely has ceded actual social arenas of human endeavor to purely physical machinations. This has induced great anxiety among those, especially in religious and civic organizations, that are rooted in antecedent C2 and C3 memes, where the spiritual was felt to be not only ascendant, but most importantly, absolute.
But among C4 sociocultural institutions, the stridently competing, complementary and equally materialistic bureaucratic machines — the Communist versus the Capitalist — also have failed. Widespread ills, discrepancies and moral pitfalls yet afflict vast numbers of individual and family lives. As single persons among multitudes of fellow beings, we each now pitifully cope within massively organized but increasingly alienated and alienating gargantuan societies.
Whence the Spirit?
In the earliest stage of the dualistic paradigm that birthed the modern era, the notion of spirit was included, legacy of antecedent C2 and C3 orders. Spiritual forces — God, His Angels and Demons — all were consigned to an unseen phantom reality apart from and said to be working wonders within the actual physical world. They were regarded as other-worldly.
Then empirical science gradually expanded the domain of the causally explainable, the wholly natural realm. The spiritual counter-world grew ever more remote and hard to discern by any actual evidence. But even actual empirical evidence has encountered its own explanatory enigmas, beginning late in the nineteenth century with the Michelson-Morley experiment. Puzzlement blossomed with the advent of both relativity physics and quantum mechanics in the early twentieth century. The two theories separately were demonstrably true, but they happened to contradict each other! “What kind of truth has two contrary faces?” screams outraged reductionist materialism.
A Greater Whole Heals All Lesser Divide
Dawning C5 implications suggest that an abiding, intrinsic wholeness perhaps relates all things, even contraries! And throughout the entire cosmos! A counter-view to reductionist C4 duality, a unified monism of perceptual experience now awakens to invoke a new, more comprehensively empirical paradigm.
Mirroring complex informational neural patterns of individual perceptions and expectations in regard to, and of, organisms, holistic thinking engages entities that act with intention from their own individual experiences. (See PCT Process Schema, below) Such organic dynamic lives within each individual from moment to moment, whatever their particular circumstances. Through it each person learns to distinguish living and non-living entities and to respond appropriately to each.
Individually, in our respective personal experiences — at M5 — we personally contemplate reality itself as being intrinsically organic, an animism. Young children naturally respond thus until taught other “grown up” ways of thinking. Each such moment of personal experience is constructed (construed) out of constituent momentary events. But they are remembered and communicated in terms of relationships that remain in dynamic relation to others. Within social groups — at C5 — common sense behavioral patterns within social accords themselves become vitally responsive. They invoke not mere C4 machines, nor just C3 enclaves of arrant privilege, nor C2 theocratic fiefs, nor even C1 pathways toward realization, but "multi-celled organic entities" acting with purposive intent.
Within C5, all events are understood as being contingent, conditioned by changing circumstances. All is related within mutual, organic flux.
Engineering the Next Paradigm
The character of what actual mechanisms might underlie and explain organic experience is perhaps most succinctly captured in the work of an enterprising and innovative engineer, William T. Powers. Beginning during the 1950’s, Powers challenged the then dominant C4 behaviorist models, stimulus-response mechanisms, to arrive at a surprisingly simple idea by which to explain actual behaviors of all living entities: Behavior arises from the control of perception. (See PCT Process Schema, above. The diagram depicts a single level PCT control loop. Multiple control loop nodes may be stacked hierarchically in a complex organism, such as a human. See Comparison of Hierarchical PCT Levels and Manifest Orders, below. )
[To gain a sense of how such a model might function in the actual neural networks that afford cognition, consult Chris Eliasmith’s How to Build a Brain. A more complete treatment is given in his subsequent book.]
While developed independently, the upward cascade of Manifest Orders seems to correspond well with levels of perceptual complexity given in William Powers’s later extension of his original PCT formulation into a Hierarchical Perceptual Control Theory (HPCT).
[An exceptionally useful and succinct synopsis of Powers’s ideas is available in a web posting by Bruce Abbott. Of course, the original source is Powers’s 1973 book, Behavior: The Control of Perception.] HPCT levels convey an ascending scale of dynamic complexity given in sensory control function, while Manifest Orders expound a parallel holarchic scale of informational complexity among significant, i. e., construed, imaginal relationships that provide the reference signal to each level.
The new thinking of the C5 paradigm reasons thus: Humans are organisms, i. e., they are built of organs. Each organ is made of living cells. Each cell is a construction of proteins. Some are complex chains like DNA and RNA, among others. The more complex ones are capable of carrying complex programmatic instructions. And each of those complicated proteins is built of simpler molecular units, amino acids. Each of those molecules, in turn, is an organization of so-called atoms that are themselves made of protons, neutrons and electrons … . (“So-called” because atoms originally were said to be indivisible. We need a new name for such material units as are formed of sub-atomic entities: perhaps “matom”, for material-atom, since, once divided, quantum effects among sub-atomic constituents become startlingly “immaterial”!)
In Whitehead's process-relational view, discussed below, particulars of a
subatomic entity's "experiences" are subsumed, or as he terms it,
"prehended", into higher levels of organization. Such intra-channel, or
"intrajectory", experiences, organize into holarchically more
comprehensive "experiences" of atoms. [The term "intrajectory" is my
own coinage, derived from "traject", which means "transport, transmit, or
transpose".] Those simpler "experiences" similarly gather on up into those
of the molecule they help configure. Gathering levels of information build
then polymer, and on into protein, into cell, then tissue, then organ and
finally, gathering into the "stuff" of organism, itself. Each entity is
constituent, its simpler experience contributes to the more comprehensive
relational life it constitutes, at each level of the including holarchy.
Any passage of informational perturbation up or down holarchic channels might be likened to presumed effects of Roger Penrose's "microtubules", perhaps even more prone to being privy to nonlocal quantum effects. Ordinary local "information", then would be picked up by sensory fibers responding to extrajectory, local environmental, perturbations. There seems to be opportunity for further empirical exploration of such matters.
This organic “one world” of personal experience arises holistically across many levels of organized occurrence where dynamic entities interact in concert. And we people transact with one another to create social groups that interact through economic and political accords to generate institutions and supra-social entities like nations and leagues of nations. This organic “one world” thereby traces its multilevel evolution through even tumultuous changes recorded in cultural media as well as by personal memory. It presents, cosmically, a world in which philosopher Ernst Cassirer maintains that the basic task for each individual, as organism, is to make sense of the senses.
This one organic world is wholly actual. This is to say that jointly and actively, experience is both spiritual and physical! It simultaneously manifests both aspects — the spiritually ideal, along with the physically material — each of which seems mysteriously to underlie and facilitate the other! And the crucial implication is that its asserted “one wayness” is the way of attentiveness. What you experience is guided by how you pay attention to your own circumstances.
World religions and civic codes typically have agreed on two propositions: namely, that one should
with all one’s being, participate in — love — Divinity, and
treat others as one would be treated by others.
The Role of Attentiveness
According to comic philosopher Reggie Watts, “If you pay attention, the world is an amazing place. If you don’t, then it’s whatever you think it is!”
You are in charge. You are the world-keeper for yourself. Your cultural world, which helped form you — in society with other individuals — also now offers patterns that help to guide your thoughts and behaviors. But, ultimately, it's how you pay attention, how you choose among your available options that determines final outcomes. And ultimately, your final character. Your own creative (or destructive?) endeavors are communicated. They affect the experiences of others. Ultimately, accomplishments (or detriments?) ripple outward; everyone affects everyone.
Where we may socially mold shared patterns and rhythms, there also we find common culture. But each person, tutored and shaped by his or her own cultural moments, is individually and irreducibly unique in spirit. Soul is that uniqueness of experience. There is nothing “otherworldly” about it. Divinity resides in each personal moment, along with, and in concert with, physically pragmatic necessity.
This modern organic view first was systematically espoused in the process-relational philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. It has been further elaborated by a number of other contemporary philosophers, such as Charles Hartshorne, who extends and elaborates such ideas to espouse a cosmic metaphysics of triune Divinity. The three "natures" of Hartshorne's Divinity echo basic powers of cognitive process: recollection (what was), perception (what is) and anticipation (what may be). His Divinity is author of eternal truths that never change (beauty, ethics, mathematics, and so on, as recollected from prior experience), which Hartshorne characterizes as being of the Original Nature of God. Such eternal truth works through evolutional elaboration of new perceputal possibilities by means of the Creative Nature of God. Finally, Divinity manifests in ongoing actuality, in anticipatory experiences of causally responsive entities that manifest as trees, cats, dogs, humans, and so on, in the Consequent Nature of God. In the words of Grasshopper, “All that is, or was or ever may be.”
[For the philosophically innocent, C. Robert Mesle skillfully relates Whitehead’s ideas to ordinary experiences in his book Process Relational Philosophy. But I think the best, if more rigorous, introduction to these views is not in Whitehead’s own originally published academic lectures (1929), but in Donald Sherburne’s A Key To Whitehead’s Process and Relation (1966). Sherburne faithfully restructures and delivers Whitehead’s original words, but gathers them into tutorial presentation for more effective assimilation by newcomers. He contributes, as well, his own incisive commentary that runs in parallel to Whitehead’s articulation of propositions and arguments. For a satisfying taste of Hartshorne’s take on the spiritual (metaphysical) character of the cosmos, try his Creative Experiencing: A Philosophy of Freedom (2012)]
Meaningfulness of Perception / Perception of Meaningfulness
Within individual experience, perception is actual, as well as latently significant. Said another way, signals are actual; their significance is virtual, about relationships. To the extent that a moment of sensory activation resonates with remembered informational traces, forms, of earlier moments, there is associative relationship within which it may be said that one form suggests, or represents, the others. Such is the nature of a sign: it represents other entities or experiences that are “like it”.
Such immediacy of association, within any given sensory perception itself, is intrinsically iconic. (Iconic: a sign that is similar to what it represents.) Any physiological pattern of sensation is similar to those sensory memories with which it resonates. Any one can evoke, or “stand for”, all other associated ones, because they are perceptually similar.
Iconic affinities are intrinsic to imaginal consideration of memories. Such affinities assess likelihoods among any prospect of actual possibilities. Attentive moments, or at least their momentary sensory patterns, are equally fraught with signification, i. e., with virtual, relational content. And that signification extends to the “stuff” intuited in actual physical manifestation. Signification inheres in the nature of associative memory; without it attentiveness could mirror no intention or purpose.
But degree of affinity within such association may vary widely. Some iconic relations are so strong as to be virtually identical — twins, for instance. Others are more vague and general, as with “legs”, the sense of which may be triggered by any extensive projections or segments, whether capable of walking about, or not. For instance, compare the “legs” of a dog with those of a table, or of a journey.
Flavors of Meaningfulness
Beyond iconic representation, significant reference also may be occasioned in either consequential or indexical relations, as with Pavlov’s dogs, for whom bells came consequentially to represent feeding time. Or when a pen metonymically represents a power mightier than that of any sword. (A metonym is a statement in which a part stands for a whole: The power of the pen to persuade is said to be mightier than the power of the sword to coerce.)
Charles Sanders Peirce denoted three types of sign: iconic, indexical and symbolic. (Note that Peirce’s use of the word “symbol” to mean “conventional or arbitrary sign” is the converse of Carl Jung’s usage, for whom a symbol was intimately related to the nature of what it represents. These contrary implications have occasioned much confusion among theorists and practitioners alike.)
Sensations provide the only information we have concerning events among circumstances beyond our immediate grasp. The very fact of perception itself carries a significant charge: it represents what incites a perceptual moment. This significant charge is the information given in the perception.
At its most elemental that charge, that significance, constitutes a relation between a perceptual form and the actuality of its instantiation. It is the most basic vector of experiential information — a one-dimensional, i. e., linear, associative relation.
Actions are Effects
Such vectors also are capable of representing more objectively actual relations, such as a perceived or imagined target of some action. Linear actions and relationships are the basic constituents of individual M1 attentiveness. Among earliest primate groups, sequences of M1 moments dominate activity patterns that are emulated, learned and passed along to others, largely through vocalization, gesture and mimicry.
Linear vectors of significant behavior may be simple, or they can be chained together in long articulations of steps, such as performing a task. And tasks, themselves, may be combined into conditionally branched sequences that facilitate more complex projects, especially those in which multiple individuals cooperate. M1 patterns become socialized, through communication across groups, into C1 pragmatic paradigms of nomadic and other linear cultures.
At their most basic, M1 patterns are simply patterns of direct action or relationship. Those linear informational patterns, as memes, of course, still live on in linear relations and actions of our higher-order cultural modes. Everyone, everywhere, no matter the cultural mode they inhabit, does things one step at a time, in sequence, at M1, whether fully attentive, or not. And every project manager in every C4 industrial and corporate setting is responsible for monitoring and maneuvering the myriads of separate task chains that make up even the most complex of projects.
[It should be noted that our culture unfortunately tends to regard lower level paradigms as somehow inferior. To do so is inappropriate. The criterion of superiority should appeal to organic harmony of consequences and outcomes. Lower order paradigms are quite capable of consonant affiliation and affinity within their own natural and spiritual circumstance. Whatever the complexity of a paradigm, its ultimate effect is experienced by all as either an intrinsic unity, or lack thereof. It is we modern “civilizers” who have disturbed countless Original Paradises so nostalgically recalled in our fantasies of simpler, yet somehow fully conversant lives.]
Actions Also are Agencies
In cultural activity modes, each higher order type of activity incorporates all lower ones within a holarchy of constituent agency:
C0: Contemplative, by intuitive knowing
C1: Relative, by attentively associating
C2: Directive, by authoritative driving
C3: Competitive, by characteristic valuing
C4: Functional, by causally inciting
C5: Responsive, by organically inspiring
During personal cognition, elemental forms of perception combine with related memories to construct (construe) more complex elaborations of implied possibilities. (See Elaboration of PCT Levels and Manifest Orders, as well as Comparison of Hierarchical PCT Levels, below.) These more complex constructs , stacked levels of PCT/imaginal feedback, include all lesser complexes as constituent moments. Such cognitive process hierarchically builds into a nested holarchy of ever more adequate perceptual/attentive construction. (Compare with physicist F. David Peat’s concept of gentle action, which has been compared with the mode of Wu Wei.)
Cognitive holarchy comprises unique particulars of any specific personal psyche. Lower orders are construed in combinations of simpler perceptions of actual relations. From M5 on, the farther up the holarchy of construance one climbs, the more abstract, or virtual, become any representations.
Manifest Orders derive from the underlying implicate of vitality itself, unconscious processes, at M0. Up to the most abstruse of conceptual implication, I count eleven such levels, or dimensional potentials for elaboration (construction). Each level presents some cognitive context for an attentive moment, the simplest being “linear“ association between two M0 “point” instances. The next higher is an organized “planar” collection of instances of linear association. And so on. Each next level up is just an organizing collection of multiple instances of the next simpler.
I designate each by M (for “manifest”) plus an integer, to represent its respective informational density, i. e., complexity of its constructions: M1 is built of M0s. M2 is built of M1s (each of which conveys its own constituent set of M0s). M3 organizes out of gatherings of M2s (formed of M1s bearing M0s), and so on. The orders holarchically proceed up to M10, which is the most complex (that I can imagine!). M10 I project to be some sort of Shared Pluripotence, a wisdom, perhaps akin to that expressed among the Grasshopper band, mentioned above, just beyond universally valid constructs at M9.
Surely There is More … .
Lest this functional sketch seem just too basic to account for all the bizarre and curious exploits among members of the human race, realize that it merely points toward a core idea. Different circumstances, as perceived by any particular individual, will quickly adapt the core PCT organic schema to their variously imaginal particulars.
For instance, a person who is perfectly content and has no pressing concerns typically dozes off or simply stays put for the moment, perhaps in meditation. But if they become bored, then they have ceased to be content. Their abiding interests and proclivities likely will spark some compensating intent to drive new behavior within their own perceived circumstances, toward some intended goal. But still, at each moment, they act to control their perception of their own circumstances. And they subsequently behave to bring those circumstances into alignment with their intended purpose. Actual behavior is a consequence of controlling perception within particulars of a circumstance to attain or sustain some intent.
Recall that socioculturally, behavior is driven by compensating redress of perceived deficiencies, coupled with eagerness to repay grief in kind and with interest.
And therein lies seed of the tumultuous history of humankind. What lies beyond is up to us. We each enact our own proclivities within our local human neighborhood of Consequent Nature.