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The Mind As Culture

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posted on Jun, 1 2016 @ 07:46 PM
The philosopher and phenomenologist Dan Zahavi argues that at the most minimal level, the human self is the self of our own individual point-of-view on the world. Being a body, with a head oriented forwards, with my eyes constraining how I see, this is Zahavis "minimal self", and I largely agree with it. Being a body and seeing through your body is always basically the fundamental invariable from body to body and person to person. The self sees through eyes fitted within a particular head, looking out upon the world. The eyes can close, and still, something "unique" to the perceiving mind keeps its unique "self-ness".

But this of course is partly a confabulation. The self Zahavi describes is an abstraction, because it ismpossible to be a self that is not shaped by its unique experiences. In whatever animal, the body and perceiving of the organism represents a unique evolutionary lineage, literally expressing its present dynamical equilibrium as an "image" for the perceiving onlooker, even though they too exist in the same way as dynamical systems structured by a unique history of contingent events between itself and it's relations with the "outside". This is why its valid to say that the "self" was born with the first organism on Earth 3.8 billion years ago. It's emergence marked the entry point of the dual into what had hitherto been a monad.

It is also true to speak of ourselves as an elaboration of this animating life-process into the present, evolving into what Stuart Kauffman calls the "adjacent possible". Every mind, each embodied in a different way, comes to associate with the external world in a different manner. The rule or laws that human development seems to follow are entirely relational and ecological, from the point of conception to the various points of fetal development, to the first 2 years of life when brain growth more than doubles its neonate volume, it is the events surrounding the event which define the behavior of the developing structure.

Inside the mothers uterus, the developing fetus receives molecular "messages" from the "world" of its mothers biochemistry. What happens here is an interesting ontological transformation: the thoughts, feelings and social and theoretic problems of the embodied human mother, are continuously communicated within the nervous system and cardiovascular system to developing fetus on the inside, leading most scientists working in human development to conclude that the "baseline tendencies" of the newborn child to be heavily biased by the presence of the mothers biochemistry. Diet and nutrition and thinking and emotion regulation are two poles of an integrated biochemistry that feeds the developing fetus with information; some are relevant and helpful (if your mother lives in a world with low caloric resources, its good logic to prepare the developing organism with the suitable metabolic biases) and others aren't. But the more basic point is the contiguity between parent and offspring: the belief that the lived experiences of the parent doesn't impact the biology of the offspring is now scientifically untenable; high cortisol secretion (i.e. experienced mental stress) during pregnancy predicts a higher-reactive temperament in the child. The logic, again, can be made sensible: if the mother is being stressed by the world, maybe it would be adaptationally good for the organism to be aswell.

The ecological philosopher Andreas Weber has recently written a beautiful book (The Biology of Wonder) that keenly describes the possibility of all biological life to be expressions of a basic "desire to live", as a basic, fundamental purposiveness, that is expressed externally as the physical accretion of molecules into something like Kauffmans "autocatalytic sets", into teleologically structured unities, becoming something like Deacons Teleodynamics. Whats the unity of self-cohesion begins, its pushes forward at the edge of chaos, or supracriticality. The most amazing thing of all is that this process may be intrinsic to natures laws: the making of life may in fact be something that emerges as a dynamical probability within a particular phase space in physical matter, only to "explore" and "find" the resources to maintain its internal cohesion.

On a side note, does such an idea obviate God? No. God or the necessity of a God is a personal issue, probably the most personal question a human can address to him or herself. How anyone person answers it, is, again, a function of a cultural history towards it - cultural being a shorthand for the present developmental structure of their current dynamical existence. But the idea of God, surely, is not as stupid and meaningless as someone like Richard Dawkins has claimed it to be; nor it is as necessary for morality and human meaning as many fundamentalists claim it to be. It's at the same time tremendously subtle and patently obvious. The very embeddedness we experience as individual objects of personal experience places us in two true relations, yet many people instinctively go to the easy solution: God exists (and so they try to force the other into seeing things in the same way; even though the very act of forcing induces an affective opposition in the Other against their intrusiveness) or God obviously doesn't exist. The former focuses on the obviousness but ignores the subtle aspects of the question (which then brings about a more empathic, sensitive attitude towards Others) whereas the latter can think about the technical aspects of the question, yet ignore (or dissociate from) the obvious "beg the questionness" of being a being who is a unique self, and so wonder about an ultimate meaning about existence (i.e. God).

Each human mind is a storehouse of images and feelings that derive their functional logic from evolutionary developments from earlier dynamical systems i.e organisms.

A Collection of Attractors

In strictly dynamical terms, the behavior of our phenomenology (what we experience) is a function of how our adapted biology (via prenatal development) reacts and anticipates the world. In this flow of images, feelings felt during perception becoming dynamically "linked" with anticipatory motor processes, thus linking for a whole life time - and all the familiar stories that occur therein - perception-motivation loops that evolve to maintain a coherent "self-concept" image for the developing mind.

Notice that I try to maintain a dynamical focus in my description of the functioning of our phenomenology. It is an irrefutable truth that the brain "expresses" consciousness, or as I would put, the brain-body expressing the dynamical biochemical stability of a exploratory energy, now become aware of itself because of the emergence of a recursive logic that makes consciousness aware of itself - and so functionally organized around a conscious self-concept, or ego, by which we humans experience meaning in the world.

There is thus a strange dualism in us: we are biomolecular autocatalytic sets of intense biomolecular complexity, and yet, we are conscious, experiencing and needful beings; so needful that the very knowing of its existence spreads a petrifying meaning of its mortality. The biomolecular process, which began with a certain external knowledge of purposiveness of wanting to exist, to a being that has paradoxically become organized by this impersonal bio-molecular process to become fearful of its own perceptions of mortality.

posted on Jun, 2 2016 @ 12:09 AM
This is wonderful, I appreciate the quality and depth of thought you've put into this. It is a very intellectual, all encompassing summary of my own beliefs, and will be immensely useful in explaining to others my perspectives, while also being "smart" enough for them to consider it seriously. This will hopefully help enlighten a few people

posted on Jun, 2 2016 @ 12:35 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

I microcringe, for just a moment, everytime I click on a thread and discover that you've authored it. I know I'm going to enjoy it, but damned if I don't have to read it 5 or 6 times over just to make sure I'm comprehending the big picture view. Flagged for now, gotta get to work. Cheers.

posted on Jun, 2 2016 @ 07:56 AM
Not to diminish any of what you say ......... "The philosopher and phenomenologist Dan Zahavi argues that at the most minimal level, the human self is the self of our own individual point-of-view on the world."

But it could be condensed down to this... "I think, therefore you exist" The implications..... well ?

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