Wednesday, November 16, 2016

FOM5 first call for participation A Western Way; or, When the Foundations of Mind meets the Ground of Being SF Bay area, California Fall 2017

Since its foundation in 2014, Foundations of Mind (FOM) has initiated a reparse of nature based on the following principles;
1. It must be consistent with best practice in science and society;
2. It must take account of ontological differences, for example between the physical and biological;
3. Neuroscience, it is self-evident, cannot be simpler than the math reasoning that comprises our physical theories of the world;
4. In like vein, consciousness studies cannot be simpler than our total experience of reality
We were lead to certain radical conclusions; for example, causal explanation must vary in nature between the physical and biological. Theories of the brain must become several orders of magnitude more complex in order to work. Our late member, Walter J Freeman, demonstrated that the initial sensory stimulus has been lost by the time the input is processed in the cortex and most experience is what he terms “solipsistic”.
Thus, to create a “science” of consciousness, we need a formalism that distinguishes mere solipsistic “awakeness” from moments in which experience is authentic. It seems to be the case that the game could not be bigger; it is as if we have been compelled to view consciousness as nothing less that the absolute becoming manifest in us.
If that is the case, we can distinguish such moments from our normal alienated, indeed subaltern experience. We can invoke quantum physics to argue that the noetic products of such moments have permanent effects on reality. Indeed, we can claim charter from 20th century physics to argue that human beings are indeed part of a thing-less, entangled, noetic reality that the best minds of the 21st century will spend their careers trying to understand.
A generation after the “end of history,” Western civilization faces twin threats. The first, epitomized by the Bataclan attack, is that from radical Islamic terrorism, the latest unpleasantness from the God of Abraham. This is a fundamentalism that wishes to roll back the victory of Charles Martel at Tours and finally conquer Europe. Indeed, for French writers like Eric Zemmour, disapproval of such attacks by mainstream Islam is because they are premature, and risk the longterm project of taking over by stealth and force of numbers. As Zemmour puts it, one refugee is a guest, to be welcomed, but a million is an invasion, to be repelled.
The second threat is the decay of values that has turned neoliberalism, best thought of as a fringe economic theory, into a totalizing force. The response by the western academy to both these threats has been at best feeble. At worst, the relativism that has become dogmatic there would insist that the impetus within Islam to turn back the clock on the rights of speech, thought, assembly, property and reproduction that epitomize the greatness of western culture is to be valued as simply another perspective in a multicultural society.
For all its arrogance, modern science is as timid about its ultimate quarry as modern politics is about its purpose. Instead of pursuing the ground of Being, an encompassing realization that will inform each act of consciousness before its birth,
science focuses on a reductive third-person instrumental description. This makes it vulnerable on the one hand to the Semitic realization of the Abrahamic god, and on the other to the instrumentalization continued to the point that economics does a claim-jump into politics, to neoliberalism as effectively a religion.
The success of Western science in instrumentalizing nature has led to a paradox; the fact that normative disciplines like morality cannot pass muster in a scientistic worldview may lead in coldly logical steps to concession to claims on truth arising from irrationality. Instead of an articulate response to these twin threats, attacks on believers from a scientistic perspective and refuge in a trivially incorrect version of psychologism have become the norm.
Of course the Church was assiduous in wiping out all traces of native religions in Europe. Since then, the nearest the West has come to a totalizing worldview attested by a “religious” personal conversion is Marxist utopian socialism. While its roots are in emanationist thought that can be traced from Plato’s Timaeus through Eriugena to Hegel, it is ultimately a theory of consciousness. Geist/spirit manifests itself in physical reality and human societies and we are seduced by false consciousness until we realize within ourselves the paramount reality that is class struggle and the unreality of Geist itself in a material cosmos.
Timothy Leary, before he became a byword, made what is for us a very essential point; since the contents of our consciousness involve ever more amplified political narratives, the beginning of enlightenment is to find a way to “drop out” from this veil of Maya. His later solution–the wise use of the internet–is also laudable. For the moment, it perhaps suffices to argue that Marxist “false consciousness” is as useful a toll to explore the contents of our psyche than anything from a “spiritual” tradition.
Yet Marxism is of course, in Koestler’s felicitous phrase, “The God that failed,” perhaps due to its roots in the apocalyptic/historicist vision of the book of Daniel. Moreover, in practice it sought to roll back exactly those rights of rights of speech, thought, assembly, property and reproduction that western society clawed away from the Abrahamic god as manifest in the Church. This conference asks whether we can now do better.
Yet the failure of current neuroscience to generate a theory of brain process even remotely powerful enough to explain how we speak, let alone do physics, surely gives pause. From quantum mechanics (QM) and post QM, we are converging on the idea that, for the conscious observer to function, there must be in some ineluctable sense contact with the infinite. That goes even for the most hard-boiled of skeptics like Feynman. Surely there is space here for the cosmic to become manifest in the quotidian, the core of any religious movement.
Perhaps we are close to the endgame in how 21st century consciousness studies will evolve. We as humans are intentional symbolic systems; the only ones we know in the cosmos. Thinkers like Pradhan, argue that ultimate reality is Uroboros, beyond subject and object. His use of Hilbert space is perhaps a limit case of the PQM Sarfatti/Bohm/Hiley model.
Indeed, perhaps a conscious moment is when Uroboros knows itself through an obscure primate on a small planet. Thus, the pilot wave does not have qualia; these manifest in the interaction. Both the Pradhan and Sarfatti/Bohm/Hiley models involve connection to a transcendent and ubiquitous Reality; that is essential to QM, and used even by the most hard- nosed in their versions of QM.
As a religion, then, we can perhaps hold as sacred human action that connects us to the infinite and promote praxis that implements this connection. The goal of human life is to act as a vehicle for the Absolute to know itself and be through us in our individual unique existence--and the goal of the human psyche is to act as a vehicle for knowing Absolute Being in our individual unique existence. Part of the authority of religion springs from its magisterium that delimits a necessary profane/secular part of human existence along with the sacred, which normally requires a premises.
We can add to this core the ideas of code, community, and–above all–the sense that religion is above all Immanuel, assertion of the sacred in our experience. This holds whether the religion is secular, like Marxism; atheistic, like some schools of Buddhism, or the religion of the West that is only in the face of twin threats daring to speak its name, the assertion of our freedoms as sacred. Therefore, this conference proposes to debate what we should hold sacred, and how the infinite is realized for us.
About Foundations of Mind (FOM)
Foundations of Mind (FOM) is an independent secular research group. It offers the most generous copyright terms possible; you keep copyright of your paper, and do not pay. We have published 79 peer-reviewed papers in our 30 months of existence, including by greats like Walter Freeman, Stuart Kauffman, and Henry Stapp, We already have a contract for a book version of FOM4, which will be held in 2017 in conjunction with a celebration of what would have been the late Walter Freeman’s 90th birthday.
Please send a 5k words proposal to by Feb 5 2017. All peer review will be made public.

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