Not Communication by Marc Burock - HTML preview
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On a similar negative line, if you spend the majority of time agreeing or disagreeing with another person’s statements, then you are also not communicating. Agreement and disagreement serve a purpose, but that purpose has little to do with the goal of communication. If Wendy says that ‘I like apples’, and you agree that ‘I like apples, too’, then it is still possible that you have said the same things for wildly disparate reasons, that both of you are controlled by evil demons, or that each of you understands liking and apples in different ways and do not really agree upon anything at all. With regard to communication, expressing agreement does not confirm successful communication, but is rather a methodological technique that opens up the beginning of communication. We can see this most clearly when agreement is contrasted with disagreement. Those who ostentatiously disagree rarely begin communicating at all. As well, those who try to communicate with the purpose of reaching agreement often fail to communicate, for they are too focused upon disagreement at the start. If reaching agreement is taken to be the goal of communication, then the involved parties will almost surely not be able to communicate.
1.3 Introduction to intentional directedness We began discussing communication with the hope of clarifying what it means to take oneself as a self-object for receiving communication. With regard to spoken language, we have suspected that there is more to communication than focusing attention upon the words that are spoken by another, for I can clearly focus upon words without engaging in communication. I can even focus upon another’s words, then reply with words of my own with consideration of the words that were spoken to me, but this still is not communication. People in the midst of pas-sionate argument often perceive the words that are spoken—they can even take turns speaking—but the words bounce off each other without leading to communication. To communicate, I must assume that another directs something at me, but more than just assumption, I must become something that can receive communication. Although I can assume that someone is talking to me, unless I open myself up to communication, communication will not be taking place. On our understanding, opening oneself to communication and taking oneself to be a receptive self-object are roughly equivalent.
Becoming a receptive self-object and focusing attention upon oneself are not equivalent. In focusing attention upon myself, I am both the source and object of attention. As a receptive self-object I am also an object, but rather than an object of my attention, I am an object of communication where the directedness of communication flows from a source that is not me to the receptive self-object. Whereas the attentional field is composed of objects that are directed away from me, there is also a field in which sources are directed to me. Sources constitute this field just as attentional objects constitute the attentional field, and the values of the field at each source represent the magnitude of field. To make the difference concrete, from now on we will differentiate the at-tentional field of objects from the in-tentional field of sources. The ‘at’ of at-tention corresponds to pointing at objects while the ‘in’ of in-tention corresponds to the inward pointing of sources.
Our understanding of in-tentional should not be confused with the philosophical concept of intentionality. Intentionality is said to be the property of mental states that they are directed upon objects or about something. At first sight, the philosophical definition of intentionality appears similar to our usage of at-tentional; both are at least concerned with directedness at objects, however, the similarity does not go much beyond. We use at-tentional to describe an attentional field that is 26
metaphorically analogous to a dynamic physical field composed of objects as described above. The attentional field is a natural phenomenon in part under our direct control and measured in degree. Philosophical intentionality is a logical property of so-called mental phenomena or states. For example, if I have a belief, that belief must be about something; if I have fear, I must have a fear of something. Beliefs and fears are said to be mental phenomena, and it is said that it makes little to sense to say, for instance, that ‘I have a fear’ without having an object of that fear—like a fear of clowns.
The philosopher accustomed to intentionality may claim that our use of attention is a special case of intentionality in that at-tention is directed at objects. Firstly, it is difficult to see how our description of the attentional field is a special case of a logical property of mental phenomena since we have not acknowledged the category mental, and since the logical property alone does not entail the completeness of our description.
Nor are the objects of attention the objects of intentionality. The fear-of-clowns, taken as a whole, and simply clowns or a clown can all be objects of at-tention. The objects of philosophical intentionality always occur within mental states like fear and belief. Distinguishing between mental and physical states is unnecessary within attention, while this is the defining characteristic and puzzle of intentionality. More, intentionality is closely connected with the problem of the mind’s ability to represent the world, while attention has, thus far, little to do with representation or minds.
An in-tentional field is even further removed from the philosopher’s intentionality. Sources in the in-tentional field are always directed toward a receptive self-object—there is only one thing that is pointed-to within intention. The sources within the intentional field are often a sub-set of the objects within the attentional field, but this is not always the case. Something may be an intentional source but not be an object of the attentional field, as we will discuss later. An example of an attentional object that is often an intentional source is another person, although every person within the attentional field is not automatically an intentional source.
Everyday communication requires both attentional directedness at an object and intentional directedness into the self-object, but we have yet to say what intentional directedness is. We have begun by assuming that the intentional field is composed of sources, and that each source within this field is directed to the self-object. We will discuss the nature of intentional sources later on; for now, we are concerned with the 27
understanding of intentional directedness, knowing that a full understanding will not be possible until we clarify the nature of a source.
We have already discussed how directing language at the self-object and understanding meaning are not jointly sufficient to establish communication, and that communication requires an openness to a cascade of reasons without judgment, agreement, or disagreement. In the language of the intentional field, openness means that the self-object is receptive to the source. Intentional directedness cannot exist without this receptivity, but we also assume that the self-object may manifest particular receptivity without a source present to fulfill that receptivity. Metaphorically, intentional receptivity is a measure of the natural efficiency or ease in which an entity becomes a source for the self-object. Some entities will perturb or influence the self-object with ease, while others will have no influence. Once an entity becomes a source for the self-object, we say that intentional directedness is established between the source and self-object.
When discussing the attentional field we questioned whether the field values were binary or multiple-valued, and if it made sense to speak of the magnitude of attentional directedness at an object. The same question arises for the intentional field—once intentional directedness of a source is established, can we talk about the magnitude of that directedness? Are all intentional sources related to the self-object with the same intentional strength? We have already assumed that the receptivity associated with different sources can vary in magnitude, but receptivity is distinct from intentional directedness. Nonetheless, we might assume that magnitudes of receptivity covary with magnitudes of directedness.
In everyday language, the concept of influence is perhaps closest to intentional directedness. If we consider people as sources, we notice that different people have varying degrees of influence upon us—not in the sense of control or in getting us to agree with them—but in how they shape our understanding of the world. To be influential, the other person need not be trying to get you to believe anything in particular or to manipulate your actions for a specific goal; in simply communicating, some people change how we are, and in ways that are often mutually unexpected. A newborn infant, for instance, can be highly influential but presumably lacks the ability to purposefully manipulate anyone. While influence is not intentional directedness, just as focus is not attentional directedness, these more common concepts are related to directedness and suggest magnitudes of degree.
It will be helpful to continually contrast the attentional and intentional fields to gain a fuller understanding of both. Recall that attention is associated with the force by which one is drawn to an object, mediated by what we have metaphorically called the attentional rest mass of an object. Some objects attract us more than others. An object distorts the attentional field in the sense of the force analogy, but the attentional field values do not represent forces of attraction. The attentional field values represent the intensity of directedness at an object, or similarly, the directed distance between oneself and an object. One can be strongly pulled toward an object—like pain—yet not have attention strongly directed at that pain, and one can have attention strongly directed at an object—like dust— that barely pulls one at all. Forces mediated by the attentional rest masses of objects change the degree of directedness without completely determining the precise value of directedness, which is dependent upon other factors. For example, the effort expended to turn away from a highly attractive object demonstrates that other factors are involved in attention. Here, turning away from an attractive object of attention can be understood as a force that operates in addition to the forces generated by the masses of other objects. The presence of a degree of directedness is distinct from the forces of attraction typically associated with attention and distinct from the concept of force in general.
The dual of attentional rest mass within the intentional field is receptivity. Whereas attentional rest mass is grasped through the gravita-tional metaphor, intentional receptivity may be associated with other physical analogies such as atomic valence, electromagnetic permeability or permittivity, and fluid dynamical receptivity. A self-guided understanding of these analogies would be helpful before proceeding further.
We have assumed that the self-object has varying degrees of receptivity for different entities, and that receptivity is ‘measured’ by the efficiency by which an entity becomes a source for the self-object. This language suggests that the self-object may couple to an entity, the entity thus becoming a source, but only if the self-object is appropriately receptive.
Receptivity is in some sense an absence that draws in intentional directedness, whereas attentional mass is a presence that draws in attentional directedness. Receptivity is associated with the self-object, while attentional mass is associated with the attentional object. With effort, as in purposeful attention, I can open up or let through a degree of intentional directedness from a source, even if my natural receptivity to that source is low. Some sources are naturally disagreeable to me, but this does not completely prevent intentional directedness.
The magnitude of the intentional field upon the self-object is not wholly determined by the receptivity of the source. Just as some objects strongly draw our attention yet need not be attended to, some sources we are highly receptive to yet need not open our intention. For example, my wife as a source is associated with a large receptivity but my intentional field value associated with her may be small during angry argument. In angry argument we may exchange words, but neither of us feels that the other is listening, even though each of us perceives the meaning of the spoken words. In anger I may not be open to intention—the intentional field value at her as a source is small or zero—despite the large intentional receptivity of my wife. Of course, with repeated and continuous argument, one might learn to associate a small receptivity with a particular source, even if that source receptivity was large at an earlier time. Like attentional rest mass, the strength of a source’s intentional receptivity can change with learning or experience.
When I am purposefully directing attention to an object with a low attentional rest mass, that direction takes sustained effort, and the attentional value tends to quickly decrease once purposeful selection ceases.
Intentional directedness differs. Once intentional directedness begins or opens, it tends to self perpetuate and does not require sustained effort to be maintained. Although it does require effort to initiate directedness if the natural receptivity to the source is low, once initiated or increased, the intentional directedness carries on. That is not to say it cannot be interrupted or closed. Certainly this may occur, but the tendency is persistence. Whereas the attentional rest mass of an object is often slow to change, dependent upon learning, experience, and time—with the not-able exception of trauma—the receptivity of a source grows with the intentional directedness of the source, thereby perpetuating that directedness.
Intentional directedness, once changed to a particular value, tends to persist at that value whereas attentional directedness fluctuates quite rapidly, dependent upon the other objects in the attentional field and other factors. Both intentional and attentional fields possess stability and instability, although stability characterizes intention and instability attention. Attentional directedness requires the concept of attentional rest mass to give constancy to the attentional field, or else attention would be in constant flux. Intentional directedness is intrinsically stable or self-perpetuating, largely mediated by the receptivity of the self-object. Attentional directedness can be interpreted as the directed distance from oneself to attentional objects, while intentional directedness as the 30
directed distance from sources to the self-object. An intentional source, once made close to the self-object, tends to maintain that distance, but an attentional object, once brought close to the I, will typical move away unless the object’s attentional rest mass is large or sustained effort keeps it in place.
The degree of receptivity tends to follow the degree of intentional directedness of the source. Because of this, it is difficult to speak of the natural receptivity of a source. We may more appropriately call it the initial receptivity, or initial compatibility of the source at first meeting it.
Initial receptivity influences our initial intentional directedness to a source, but once we forcefully change directedness, the receptivity tends to follow that change so that the degree of intentional directedness is maintained through time. A problem remains in that our distinction between receptivity and intentional directedness is not completely clear, especially since we have argued that they covary together.
It is likely that individuals vary with regard to total intentional capacity, just as we have varying degrees of attentional capacity. As a societal and statistical generalization, women are typically associated with more intentional capacity than men—under the guise of empathy and the ability to listen—while men are associated with more attentional capacity than women. This generalization has anatomical correlates: the female genitalia, like receptivity, are characterized by absence and the male genitalia, like mass, by presence. Attentional capacity has traditionally been valued above intentional capacity, so much so that the intentional field has been largely ignored, and similarly, men have been traditionally valued above women.
1.4 Receptivity and compatibility
The present state of the attentional field is strongly coupled to present sensory perception because sensory objects compose much of the attentional field, so much so that many believe that only sensory objects may be attended to, although this is hardly the case. I was right then focusing upon the concept of perception itself more so than any sensory experience in the moment, even though sensory experience was part of my attentional field. In contrast, the intentional field of sources is rather independent of present sensory perception. We each, in a sense, carry around a relatively static intentional field wherever and whenever we go. This follows from the intrinsic stability of the intentional field, and from our observation that most, but not all, sensory perceptions have little effect upon intentional directedness. For instance, my intentional directedness of a particular person does not typically change when that person leaves the room, or when I turn my head to look the other direction, or when I close my eyes. Sources that are associated with large values of intention maintain those values despite changes in sensory perception.
We have some understanding of what it means for an object to be outside of attention, or to not be a part of the attentional field. As above, a knock-at-the-door was not a part of the attentional field at one time, and then became a focus of attention as part of the field. What does it mean for a source to be outside of the intentional field? Without understanding what a source is, it will be difficult to go further with this question.
The example of an intentional source that we have turned to for guidance in understanding the intentional field is another person.
People are often intentional sources, and we may be able to clarify what aspects of people allow them to be sources, with the goal of better comprehending the nature of a source itself. At the same time, we should also consider the characteristics of the intentional field to help constrain what an intentional source must be.
A prominent feature of intentional sources is that they may exist outside of attention. This property of existing outside of attention is most commonly associated with material objects. I assume, for instance, that my hair, as material, exists whether or not it is a part of my attentional field. Although people may be considered material objects, the materiality of a person is not proximately associated with the potential of a person to be an intentional source. Many things may be material, but 32
we do not immediately consider all material objects as sources of intention. We are not typically receptive or open to everyday material objects, rather, material objects are foci of attention, especially within current scientific endeavors. Nor can materiality explain why intentional directedness is relatively independent of the geometric space-time. If an intentional source depended upon materiality, we would expect other material objects and geometric space-time relations to influence intentional directedness, but I may be separated from a person over a great material distance and in different material contexts without an appreciable change in the intentional directedness of that person as a source.
Other entities that may exist outside of attention, but are not necessarily material, include memories, theories, beliefs , concepts, ideas, values, good and evil, knowledge, truths, essence, substance, form, number, possibility, spirit, soul, anxiety, desire, fear, emotions in general, God, and others. We have no immediate way to determine which combination, if any of these, constitute intentional sources. The extra-attentional nature of sources does not narrow down the field any further. To help us proceed, we need recall that the self-object must be receptive to the source for a source to be a source; any object for which the self-object is completely unreceptive cannot belong to the intentional field.
What determines if the self-object is receptive to another object so that it may become a source? In some sense, the self-object must be compatible with an object in order to be receptive to that object, but I have just replaced the word receptive with the word compatible and presented that as an explanation when it is nothing of the sort. Nonetheless, compatibility suggests something distinct from receptivity and may be helpful, but I have to say, if I am to be helpful, what it is for a self-object to be compatible with another object.
My initial thought is to look to a physical analogy for guidance. A pen, for instance, is compatible with the conditions within the room I am in. The same pen, if instantly transported to the corona of our sun, would quickly disintegrate. The pen, while compatible with the conditions near me, is not compatible with the conditions that exist within the corona of the sun. Compatibility in this sense means that conditions external to the object contribute to the continued persistence of that object, where the persistence of the object can be understood as the persistence or stability of the physical interactions that maintain the object.
For the example above, it would be more common to speak of causes and how the heat energy of the sun causes molecular bonds to disassociate, and that the heat energy within my room is insufficient to 33
‘overcome’ the strength of molecular bonds. Rather than physical compatibility and incompatibility, we often speak of sufficient or insufficient forces and energies of destruction. The latter language places the positive aspect upon destruction, while the former locates positivity upon sustenance. For one who is accustomed to thinking in terms of causes, compatibility is nothing more than the absence of sufficient forces of destruction. As such, compatibility is empty and without power. But it need not be this way. We can imagine a world of positive compatibility where compatibility is the presence of mutual forces of sustenance that underlie the existence of every object around us. The total absence of compatibility would be complete homogeneity, void, nothing, or pure beginning or end.
The common focus upon causes allows us to nearly ignore the very conditions that grant human life. We all know that without mechanical assistance humans cannot exist in extreme cold or heat. A physiologist will be able to partially explain what happens to the human body during hyper and hypothermia, and how these changes lead to the death of the organism. What the physiologist does not study is how everyday, comfortable temperatures contribute to the persistence of the human organism. They will allude to the ‘right’ temperatures for particular chemical reactions and stable molecules, but always lurking in the background are the physiologist’s counterfactuals that give the right temperature meaning. If the temperatures were counterfactually different, the reactions would occur at slower or faster rates and proteins would fold differently, leading to such and such undesirable outcomes. Since comfortable temperatures do not cause those undesirable outcomes, they must grant us life. But we have explained nothing positive about everyday temperatures. Attributing causal negative outcomes to particular conditions, and then trivially noting that other conditions are not associated with those negative outcomes, avoids assigning any positive attribute to everyday temperatures other than an absence of bad, counterfactual outcomes.
Condition X creates because Y destroys and X is not Y. This is the extent to which causal logic is used to explain generative, everyday conditions.
Everyday conditions cause the pen be what it is, just as extreme temperatures of the sun cause it to be not, but this sort of thinking has not been taught in scientific education. Everyday conditions are taken for granted and given no appreciable role in the persistence of the pen, and it is enough to study the molecular makeup of the pen in an imagin-ary isolation, an isolation that is completely mysterious and nonphysical because it assumes that nothing need exist outside the pen for the pen to 34
exist. External conditions only become relevant when they are no longer compatible with the pen, when they destroy the molecular bonding of the pen.
There is something missing from the common scientific speak when we try to talk about a pen itself, and more specifically, about a proton or electron as an isolated object. These too are caused or created or sustained by external conditions, and talking about particles without referencing these conditions is a convenient shortcut that allows one to envision a building-block world where everything is composed of particles without the details of how particles continue to be. To say that fundamental interactions keep particles together is not enough because those interactions persist in some conditions and not others. Cosmologists attempt to answer these questions, imagining a universal origin of unified forces and particles at high temperature. As geometric space expanded, the motional energy of original particles decreased, leading to symmetry breakage, phase transition, and particle freeze out. We are led to believe that a decrease in the motional energy of previous particles causes new particles to persist. The magnitude of heat energy sets the boundary conditions for what sorts of entities may be.
We are not suggesting that material particles require an external God or mind or society for their existence, but that these particles must be dependent upon other natural features of our universe, things that are external to the particle object. Imagine an empty box. Place a marble within that box and then remove the marble. The marble and its properties are largely invariant with respect to being inside or outside the box.
Now consider a proton within our universe. Take that proton outside of our universe (or multiverse), or move it to a different universe. This is surely an impossible task, or at least a nonsensical one. We cannot move a proton outside the universe because we cannot move anything outside of the universe by definition—because an outside does not exist. And if the universe has no outside, then it has no inside either. Protons are not within the universe like the marble is within the box. Protons are parts-of or bound-to our universe, and this parthood differs substantially from the parthood of a mechanical mechanism. A gear may compose a clock, yet that gear can always be removed from the clock. The proton cannot be removed from the universe like the gear from a clock. Protons may only be transformed into something else or perhaps annihilated into nothingness.
It was Einstein who saw the necessary covariation between stress-energy and space-time. Matter and space are intimately coupled such 35
that each is dependent upon the other, and although Einstein’s equations are only structural boundaries on how space and matter may simultaneously be, they open us to the idea that matter and space continuously sustain each other. This is why the fundamental theory of everything cannot consist of original objects within space-time—original objects will be neither matter-energy nor space but a hybrid that births the two. So physicists have postulated quantum spin networks, while others have speculated that everything is information, although these suggestions, at present, amount to little more than neopythagorean mathematical fictions.
These material analogies have taken us off-track our goal in understanding compatibility as it pertains to intentional sources. We feel that the material analogy is inadequate because the material conception of compatibility is largely negative, grounded against a language of destructive causes or incompatibility, and because material thinking presumes that it makes sense to talk about fundamental particles (or interactions) in isolation without considering the external conditions that contribute to sustaining those particles. Against this negative view of material compatibility, the compatibility between a self-object and intentional source means that the self-object contributes to sustaining the source, and that a source cannot be understood as an isolated object independent of external factors for its persistence.
We must also conclude that the self-object is not an object in-itself, but something that is sustained by other things. The self-object persists for multiple reasons, and we do not completely neglect the material. The self-object can withstand destructive forces; it can maintain its shape when stretched and can dissipate energetic modes without giving up its present form. The self-object persists also through adaptation, by choosing to become different in form so as to become compatible with outside objects that would otherwise strain the self-object. It will necessarily change, but by accepting change, persists through a continuous, natural transformation rather than through abrupt trauma. The self-object also persists by becoming mutually dependent upon other objects, where the mutual dependency is non-dissipative and often generative.
1.5 Unknown sources of intentional directedness We have until this point missed an aspect of the intentional field that has a dual within the attentional field. Attention is associated with the capacity of selection, where selection is often understood as a purposeful choice of object, or purposefully making the attentional field a maximum at a particular object. In attentional choice, one object among many is transiently placed within a special location, or given momentarily high value. The occupant of that special attentional location, or the recipient of that high value, can change from moment to moment.
Within the intentional field we do not select objects, but rather, we can either purposefully accept or reject an entity as an intentional source. The choice in intention is one of acceptance and not of selection.
Multiple objects may remain accepted, or special, for extended periods of time. Intentional acceptance tends to persist—once an entity is accepted intentional directedness persists, in contrast to attentional selections which are often short-lived. Most of us recognize our power to select objects of attention. It is a power that has been subjected to rigorous scientific study. Most of us do not recognize our power to accept or reject intentional sources, because most of us do not yet recognize the intentional field.
The self-object may be non-receptive to an entity. Intentional acceptance occurs when an initially non-receptive entity is purposefully transformed into a source and begins to participate in intentional directedness. With the onset of becoming a source, the self-object becomes receptive to this previously non-receptive entity, which maintains intentional directedness. A source may also be purposefully rejected which requires that the self-object be made non-receptive to a previously receptive source. Like focusing attention, intentional acceptance and rejec-tion require effort.
Not all sources are purposefully accepted sources, and not all rejected objects are purposefully rejected, just as not all foci of attention are purposefully selected. We are naturally receptive or non-receptive to some sources and the issue of purposeful choice need not ever arise. For example, the power of a charismatic leader and a successful advertising campaign reside within the recipient’s purposeless intentional receptivity without purposeful choice. As well, we automatically reject many objects from the intentional field without ever choosing to do so.
A source may be purposefully accepted or rejected. This is another characteristic that may help us clarify the nature of intentional sources.
Things commonly accepted and rejected include propositions, theories, hypotheses, gifts, people, God, and others. We can accept propositions, theories, and hypotheses as true or false; people for what they are; gifts as possession; and God into our lives. Intentional acceptance involves making an entity a source as part of the intentional field, or making the self-object receptive to or compatible with the entity. Intentional rejec-tion involves purposefully excluding a source from the intentional field.
Gifts, when understood as material exchanges, cannot be intentional sources given the lack of relation between intentionality and materiality. Of course, gifts may be understood in other ways—the gift of knowledge, the gift of love; but to go further with these would require us to analyze every sort of gift for its compatibility with intentional sources.
Gifts may have something to do with intentionality, although we will not proceed at this time.
We have assumed from the beginning that people may be intentional sources, and the possibility that a person may be accepted or rejected is likely connected with this assumption. We also assume, for previously stated reasons, that the materiality of people has little to do with their capacity to be intentional sources. We suspect, without clear reason at this point, that the acceptability of people is related to the relation between people and other things commonly accepted. For instance, people may produce accepted things such as propositions, hypotheses, and theories; although not all people can. The logician may consider a person or the world to be composed of propositions. We may also hold theories and hypotheses about people. We imagine what people desire, what they feel, what they believe—we treat them as philosophical intentional systems, mentalize about them, or hold theories about their mental states as a matter of practical utility. Similarly, as physicians and armchair dia-gnosticians, we propose theories about bodily states when symptomatic problems arise.
The theoretical nature of the mental has been well-discussed in philosophy and psychology. As scientists, we treat the mind as a theoretical entity, typically in a pejorative or negative way. We say that the mind is ‘just a theory’, and that this theory is not backed by material evidence. As philosophers, we engineer elaborate theories about what the mind is, try to eliminate it, and attempt to characterize the contents or states of the mind. As everyday people, we theorize about what other people are thinking and feeling right now and plan our actions accordingly. As cognitive scientists, we are atheorectical about the minds’ of others; we take the mind to be an obvious determinate object and 38
purport to study the mind directly by assessing mental and brain phenomena, making use of a dualistic identity theory equating brain and mind. We attempt to evade the theoretical nature of mind by accepting as true a theory about the mind. Except for cognitive scientists—who are methodologically dogmatic—a mind is always a theory about a mind.
The body is not theoretical in the same way, at least not since we have cut it open and displayed its parts, but the problems of the body are in some sense theoretical. A localized pain, as a problematic symptom, suggests a source of that pain. The pain’s source, as a cause, is at first unknown, and as unknown, remains theoretical. As commonly experienced, medical science does not identify the sources of all bodily problems, and different physicians often designate conflicting theoretical sources. Physicians offer treatments based upon theoretical speculation of sources. Some theories are better justified than others. If the bodily problem subsides after the treatment, we may claim that the speculative source was correct, although such conclusions do not logically follow.
Bodily problems can also be understood within the classical communication model. In this medical model, there is a source S and a problem P such that S causes or has the potential to cause P, where S is a material object or structure. A problem P is a relative absence of ability, an unwanted bodily object, an unwanted feeling, an unwanted behavior, or some combination. P is a message that something is ‘wrong’ with the body. Death is—medically—the absence of all ability. Unwanted objects, feelings, and behaviors are generally associated with a relative absence of ability. Pain in the foot, for instance, is an unwanted feeling, but is most problematic in that it limits the ability to walk. One’s total ability is a function of the number of things that a body can do and the effort it takes to perform each thing. Effort, although not taken seriously in today’s bodily medicine, will become more relevant in the future.
Within the medical model, a source S is a material object or material system within the body, perhaps exogenously introduced, that is imagined to cause P. Medical sources S are unwanted objects because they cause bodily problems, and in this sense every S is a P, although not every P is a S. A wart is an unwanted object, and as such, is a problem P. We say that the source S of the wart is the human papillomavirus.
The virus and the wart are both unwanted objects and are also both problems, but the wart itself is not a source within the medical model. We can also ask ‘what is the source of the virus?’, and in this sense, the virus is strictly a problem that is caused by another source. Perhaps contact with a foreign object is the source of the virus? Because the relation 39
between S and P is apparently causal, we can always look for the cause of S, which implies that a medical source is always relative, fixed by a proximal causal link to the specified problem. If the virus is the problem, then we can theorize about the source of the virus.
A medical source and a medical problem also differ in that the problem is always determinate while the source is at least initially unknown and theoretical. By determinate I do not imply clear and singular in meaning—a problem may take the form of ‘I don’t feel right’ or
‘my energy is low’. These problems are semantically poorly-defined, and we are not certain what the patient means by them. Nonetheless, there is nothing uncertain or unknown about the existence of a present-ing problem; rather, ambiguity arises in naming the problem that is happening. In contrast, the source is unknown in a way beyond semantic ambiguity. Consider the example of a pain. It is often difficult to describe the exact nature of a pain and the limitations associated with that pain. Those ambiguous albeit meaningful descriptions constitute the known problem. The source of the pain—as a material object and not a location— is not initially subject to description at all, thus the question of ambiguity of description cannot arise. A burning, throbbing pain of the first metatarsal-phalangeal joint of the big toe may be caused by different material objects. This pain does not intend to describe the nature of uric acid crystals or staphylococcus bacteria or some other source; it describes if anything the relation between each of these sources and the body. A direct description of the source is not present in the problem. We instead hy-pothesize a differential diagnosis composed of distinct possible sources, each being determinate in-itself, and assume that the known problem is connected to one of the unknown sources, although this is never absolutely established.
In psychoanalysis the medical practice of theorizing about bodily sources of problems was extended to the mental and beyond. Just as in bodily medicine, in psychoanalysis unwanted feelings, objects, and behaviors, and decreases in ability were taken to be problems, but rather than speculating about the bodily sources of these problems, we began to theorize more broadly about what the sources may be. Experiences, desires, fears, and conflicts became acceptable theoretical sources of problems, and by identifying a source with the help of a therapist, the patient could take control and perhaps modify the source and remove the problem. In conjunction with accepting non-material objects as sources, psychoana-lysts devised non-material techniques and theories to track down these sources.
We theorize about sources. The mind is thought to be the source of a person’s behavior, and thus we theorize about a mind, just as we theorize about the sources of bodily problems. Bodily theorizing differs from mental theorizing in that bodily theorizing about sources is almost always negative. We only theorize about the body when we recognize problems that we want to eliminate; we do this by identifying sources and eliminating or modifying them if possible. When the body performs well, we do not theorize about the source of this performance because we have no desire to modify positive sources. The concept of a positive endogenous bodily source—that something within the body is generative, beneficial, restorative, persevering— is nearly foreign to medical science, isolated within the decrepit idea of vitamins, which again, derive their positive features only from absence.
In everyday life, theorizing about the minds’ of others is more goal-oriented than problem-focused. We theorize about source beliefs, desires, and fears in another so that we can understand or predict behaviors with greater fulfillment. Understanding and prediction are used to achieve some purpose. Perhaps one wants to make money off someone, make someone angry, make a friend feel better, avoid someone’s anger, make someone anxious, tell a joke… The problem in identifying mental sources becomes: how can I satisfy my ends through other people?
Our notion of a source is intimately coupled to the unknown, for in every example, whether bodily or mental, I have assumed that a source begins unknown. Since the unknown is taken as prior, I assume that sources occupy the unknown or that the unknown is a space where sources arise. A source begins unknown, and it does so as a theory.
Granted, theories like Newton’s force law and General Relativity are precise—there is nothing unknown about them except for the values of variables, but that is not the concept of unknown we mean. Prior to Newton something was unknown about the movements of material bodies, and Newton’s theories subsequently filled that unknown space. The question ‘how does matter move?’ creates a problem with an unknown source. The unknown of the source generates and sustains the theory, while the theory cements the problem. Those of us who learn Newton’s laws without ever self-posing the question of movement will never fully appreciate the theoretical nature of Newton’s theories nor appreciate the source of their power.
We have observed that bodily, mental, and physical sources most often derive from specified problems within a space of the unknown, thus we might conclude that the relation between the self-object and an 41
intentional source follows from a fundamental problem as well, but that conclusion repeats the negative focus pervasive in today’s thought. Not all sources are problematic. Not all sources need to be eliminated or controlled. Many sources should persist as they are without any intervention other than gratitude and respect. Although intentional sources are not necessarily problematic, we have no reason yet to deny their theoretical nature and relationship to the unknown. This conclusion, however, runs against everyday philosophy in that we deny the supposed necessary precondition of the unknown upon a problem. How can the unknown exist outside of a problem? Is not something only unknown because we pose an unsolved question—like this—about it? Ought we not strive to eliminate the unknown? We suggest that the unknown can exist positively, independent of any problem for its existence.
People disagree over the value placed upon the unknown, and this realm of disagreement sheds light on the conflict between material and mystical thinking. Material thinking sees the unknown only as an entity to be vanquished. The unknown tortures us, brings with it uncertainty and danger, and as such, is held to be morally evil. Descartes demonstrated this morality most clearly in his attempt to destroy doubt.
Today’s materialists often pretend to be beyond moralizing altogether, but if they believe that it is best that all things ought to be explained, and that the unknown offers nothing positive itself, then they level a massive value judgment against something hardly understood. Or if denying valorization directly, then they are mechanically responding to a fear of the unknown or hedonistically pursuing its destruction. The materialist must rebel against the unknown because the unknown is fundamentally non-material and not open to explicit material representation. Whereas knowledge may, superficially, be associated with neuro-bio-chemical material patterns, the unknown is not directly amenable to this sort of speculative identity. On the other side, mystical thinking presumes that the unknown can be positive, and that in some cases, Pandora’s Box ought not to be opened. The mystic tends, however, to over-project the positive value of the unknown, so much so that ignorance itself becomes worshipped and that honest attempts to find knowledge are shunned.
The mystic rebels against materialistic knowledge in righteous ignorance which is completely consistent with attributing hyper-positivity to the unknown.
We would like to clarify the nature of the unknown, but we are immediately witness to a dilemma. To clarify the unknown, we need to describe something about the unknown that is known, but this presents a 42
possible contradiction. If the unknown manifests the property of being unknown itself, then I can say nothing definitely known about the unknown at all—and even that last statement would contradict itself, for the inability to say nothing definite is something definitely known. Perhaps I should concede and say that the unknown is an intrinsically con-tradictory concept, but I still cannot find rest in this, for the attribute of contradiction constitutes a possible known property of the unknown.
Any and every property attributed to the unknown cannot knowingly be about the unknown. Or nothing can knowingly be attributed to the unknown—although I do not know that. The unknown is known to be nothing, and nothing is known about nothing. This is the same problem we run into when trying to define randomness.
Let us put aside the dialectic and take the unknown in the context of a practical question. I can ask if you know my birthday. If you claim that it is unknown to you, then we can clarify the nature of this sort of unknown. The question ‘what is my birthday?’ constitutes a space or structure or boundary that is waiting to be filled or completed. If that space remains open or unfilled within you despite your current efforts, then you will claim that my birthday is unknown to you. If you read about my birth date somewhere, or heard about it, or inferred it from some other perceptual experience and you believed what you witnessed, then you may say that my birth date is known to you. A particular unknown is a bounded space with personal rules and procedures for its fulfillment. A question may create a new unknown space, or a question may thicken already solid walls that close in an ever shrinking space.
For example, the question ‘does God exist?’ does not create a new space; it hardens and closes in an already small space of nourishment and prevents greater understanding. We are drawn to old questions primarily because they give us a sense that we have conquered the unknown and provide feelings of safety, yet at the same time they leave us empty. A truly new question is an outpost in an unexplored land where safety cannot be guaranteed.
If the unknown is only the empty, unfilled space of a question, then we cannot help but see the unknown as a negative entity. Remove the question and the unknown vanishes with it. Answer the question and the unknown vanishes, too. This sort of unknown is analogous to the material volume of ‘empty’ space within a cup, where the cup is the question. Fill the cup with cement—answer the question—and the unknown space vanishes. Smash the cup into pieces and space disappears just the same. But there are things for which we cannot even pose 43
questions, and questions for which boundaries are ill-defined. Most current questions, I wager, define amorphous and ambiguous spaces, and for this reason, answers define questions as much as they fill spaces.
And most questions have not been asked at all.
The concept of effort has arisen several times in our elaboration of tension, such as the effort required to divert attention away from an object with large attentional rest mass, the effort of maintaining a particular object as selected, the effort required to open up to an intentional source, and the effort expended in completing tasks in general. We speak about effort in quantitative terms, and commonly assume that effort is a limited quantity analogous to a sort of human fuel. We place effort and time together, e.g. solving this problem will take time and effort. In physics, effort-time type relationships manifest in the Heisenberg uncertainty principal as the product of energy and time, and in the definition of impulse which is the integral of force over time.
Like impulse, effort is often understood as a force applied over time and directed toward a particular goal or object. This definition of effort applies to the effort of pushing a rock uphill and similarly to the effort of directing attention away from an object with large attentional rest mass.
The difference between these two examples follows from different conceptions of distance and space. In the first, we imagine material space and the measurable distance relative to a reference standard such as a light-clock or an extended material object for comparison; in the latter, we imagine the space of the attentional field and the attentional distance between the self-object (reference) and the objects of the attentional field. The effort required to move the rock is in part dependent upon the earth and other objects in the material space, just as the effort required to divert attention is in part dependent upon the self-object and other objects in the attentional field. Changing attentional directedness, or changing the shape of the attentional field, is roughly analogous to movement in material space. We may not expect to find anything similar to linear movement in attentional space, and it is perhaps better to envision the general relativity conception of space-time world-lines, where the world-lines of attentional space are possibly tortuous. Nor is it obvious that the concept of a path applies to attentional space at all.
From a material perspective, the effort of pushing the rock uphill can be understood as the muscle contractions that move the body then the rock, where muscle contraction is explained by actin and myosin cross-bridging within particular muscle fibers, a process initiated by electrical activity of the nervous system. Chemical energy of molecules is converted into mechanical tension and movement. Material effort is not as much a product of the individual as it is a product of stored 45
potential energy waiting for release. We might imagine that it requires a type of effort to at least initiate pushing the rock uphill, but we can easily envision a person who is hooked-up to a future mechanical device that can exquisitely manipulate the contractions of individual muscle fiber groups. From remote control, we will be able to control the movements of this person and be able to have this person push the rock uphill without any purposeful effort on the part of the person. Of course, this mechanically manipulated person may experience pain and exhaustion upon being moved uphill, but we can easily rectify this condition with counteracting medications or other mechanical devices that blunt dis-comfort or activate feelings of pleasure. The person, although being manipulated uphill, may experience pleasure all the while. At some point the person may breakdown and perhaps die without even noticing it.
Our mechanically controlled person expends potential energy to perform mechanical work but does not put forth individual effort into this work. If the person is aware of being controlled, that person may attempt to oppose the muscle contractions that move the rock, or may accept those movements as his own. We assume that the person can differentiate self-initiated movements from other-initiated movements.
For instance, electrically stimulating the precentral gyrus will initiate muscle movements that an awake person can recognize as being other-produced. These involuntary movements are experienced as foreign.
One has a feeling of I-didn’t-plan-that-to-happen. However, it seems possible that a controller might simultaneously stimulate a person to believe that she planned the involuntary movement; that is, unless involuntarily stimulating a belief or expectation produces a feeling of foreignness in the same way that involuntarily stimulating muscle contractions does.
A mechanically-manipulated person and a fully mechanical robot may both push rocks uphill. Upon a classical understanding of effort, neither of the two put forth effort. Both, however, may be said to expend mechanical energy, and we may therefore decide to associate expenditure of energy with effort, although it is immediately strange, and perhaps a confusing use of language, to say that the robot is putting forth effort to push the rock. For instance, we talk about putting forth effort when people attempt to solve conceptual problems—as do the physicist, the philosopher, the student, and the parent—but it is not clear that they expend significant quantities of mechanical energy; and we also talk about effortlessness when people perform seemingly difficult physical 46
tasks without apparent strain—like the gracefull acrobat and extreme athelete—yet they expend significant energy nonetheless.
Like attention, effort is directed toward a particular object or end, but in addition to directedness, effort implies the action taken toward that end. We need not assume a ‘conscious’ end in effort; someone may put forth effort without knowingly directing that effort toward a particular end. We further assume that taking action expends something or uses something up—if effort came for free, without a price, the concept would cease. Effort is difficult, and the difficult requires effort, but understanding difficulty is no simpler than understanding effort itself. We can, however, point to what is most difficult. Nothing is more difficult than moving against the flow of nature. And you can, if you like, take the flow of nature to be the law of nature, but I worry that you will get stuck in the idea of physical laws that cannot possibly be transgressed.
Certainly laws like these may exist, but since we do not understand the limits and constraints of the physical, I am not quick to hide behind this concept. I am rather suggesting boundaries of nature that, although perhaps high and wide, are not impossible to overcome. These boundaries of nature may not govern the universe at all points of space and time.
We instead imagine them as regional physical laws that govern the flow of the universe locally. As laws, we believe they cannot be overcome, but as local laws, they may be transgressed by moving into new locations. You may be confused by my use of location—because I have not been specific. I use the concepts of space, time, and location in the abstract, and not in accordance with the geometric space-time of today’s physics. The place of a local natural law cannot be pointed-to in geometry, but it may be felt in the effort required to overcome it.
1.7 Materialism and directedness
We have spoken about medical problems, using the medical model as an example of bodily communication, and have shown how material concepts define this communication, yet leaving unanswered how this communication can take place. Rather than speaking of medical sources and medical problems, it is more common within the medical community to speak of diseases of the body. The typical physician believes, in accordance with her training, that a disease is an objective or absolute malady of the body. By objective we mean that the disease would maintain its disease-ness in any culture, in any time period, in any universe, and under any circumstances imaginable—or negatively, that disease is not a relative concept. This criterion is far too rigid to be amenable to scientific testing or to be useful, thus the concept of disease is grounded practically. Most physicians pragmatically believe that a disease is some bodily condition, further qualified, that decreases, or has the probability of decreasing, the natural functioning of the organism.
It is interesting, and not often noticed, that in today’s medicine it is the parts of the organism that cause disease, and that the organism as a whole is no longer diseased. I say no longer because in the past it was acceptable to believe a person was diseased, or to believe a person as a whole was possessed or cursed. Possession, for example, took over the person as a whole and invaded every aspect of that person; one could not point to a specific anatomical location of possession, or isolate the possessed gene. From a systems perspective, possession took over and changed the organism’s functioning as a whole which made it impossible to cut-out or medicate a possession away.
Today’s medicine may claim to see you as a whole person, but it is only your parts that may be diseased. Your cholesterol and blood pres-sure are high, your sugar unregulated, bacteria are in your blood, your lungs obstructed, your mood depressed. These are your parts, and they may be diseased, but nowhere in medicine do we say that the person is diseased or that the person as a whole has a malady. We do say that a person may be unhealthy, but in this case we are usually referring to particular behaviors—eating too much sugar, not exercising, drinking too much alcohol. Again, it is not a malady of the person as a whole, but a behavioral part of all possible behaviors. In everyday conversation outside of medicine it is almost the opposite—I am an asshole, I’m stupid, I’m crazy; these are not parts of the organism, or particular behaviors, but enveloping predicates that invade the whole person. In as much as 48
we have excised belief in possession, possessive language persists quite comfortably in everyday speech.
Medical health is typically thought to be the absence of disease, and is therefore a negative concept. As above, when we use the word healthy we typically mean particular healthful behaviors like exercise and diet choice that are healthful only because they decrease the chance of disease and not because they are healthful in themselves. Just as a person as a whole is no longer diseased, a person as a whole is no longer healthy. A healthy person is simply a person whose parts are not obviously diseased.
Most of us see our bodies as collections of parts that may wear down or go bad. We are mechanical mechanisms when it comes to health, regardless of our philosophical or religious leanings. The only way to correct a faulty part, from this mechanical perspective, is to intervene with a forceful intervention. We must direct force or energy at the faulty part, or consume substances that interact with the faulty part to destroy it or change it into something else. Material interventions and religious prayer interventions share in this forceful directedness; they differ in believing different external sources of this force. Today’s medicine is roughly the accumulated knowledge of directed interventions that reliably change various parts of the whole person.
Forceful directedness between objects is related to the directedness of the attentional and intentional fields. Recall that the attentional field is composed of objects, each associated with a degree of directedness at that object in relation to the self-object. Objects within the attentional field may also be interpreted as possessing a degree of directedness toward other objects in that field, independent of the self-object. In some sense each object may become a self-object and a source of directedness.
For example, the directedness of rocks and other material objects is most commonly interpreted as ‘in the direction of’ or ‘towards the other object’ where a 3-element change vector quantifies direction in geometric space. When one material object moves toward another material object, the distance between those two objects decreases (so long as the space between them is not also expanding). Like attentional directedness, which is a relation between the self-object and the attentional object, material velocity is a relation between an object-of-reference and another object. We might even call a change in attentional directedness the attentional velocity toward an object in the attentional field.
While there are obvious material analogies of attentional directedness, which derive readily from the idea of material objects in geometric 49
space; it is not clear that intentional directedness has similar material analogies. Intentional directedness is a relation between a source and the self-object that is oriented into the self-object. The self-object must be receptive to the source for intentional directedness to develop. Material objects are all equally treated as closed-objects, and it is not clear that there is a place—in material thinking— for intentional sources, or a place for the intentional field as a whole. However, a quick consideration of a material world of objects directed in geometric space, without any other relational ingredients, shows its limitations. In such a world, there is no reason that objects ought to move or influence each other at all.
Democritus, as one of the founders of materialism, realized this limitation and placed within his ancient atomism the void as the unfilled and yielding quality of the world that was receptive to motion, and further presumed that atoms could collide, repel, and grab onto one another—in other words, that objects influence each other. Like the void, the self-object is receptive and open to other objects. The void is the unfilled space for atoms like intentional receptivity is the unfilled space for sources. Today we do not, however, speak of the void. This concept has transformed into geometric space as the location of objects, and when space is viewed as the geometric location of objects, space no longer has an identity in itself (as the void did) apart from the directed distance, angle, and location of objects. A geometric location is neither filled nor unfilled by objects, and is not analogous to the receptivity of the self-object. Still, when we take space to be an object with identity like the self-object or void, then material objects will present as sources relative to self-space. But this sort of identity is nothing new. Since Einstein space has been given identity as a substance where we imagine that atomic stess-energy acts as sources of spatial distortion, and although we may like to speculate that space itself derives from exotic particles, the identity of space does not demand it.
The yielding or distorting capacity of space suggests that some variety of intentional directedness or receptivity is an aspect of materialism.
Even if we do not admit the yielding aspect of space as an analogue of receptivity, it remains that a materialism composed only of objects directed in geometric space is incomplete. Objects, even when we grant them directed movement, still need not influence one another. One can imagine a world of moving atoms—atoms that are microscopic, homogen-ous, indivisible, and definitely shaped—that do not influence each other in any way. These atoms would pass by one another without notice.
They may occur in interesting collections, at random, depending upon 50
initial conditions, although nothing would guarantee that these collections of atoms would persist in arrangement. You may argue that our world is not this way, and that may be so, though our focus is that nothing prevented Democritus from constructing this sort of atomism. Yet as an observational thinker, Democritus noticed that our world, although varied and changing, does not quickly fall apart. An atomism with non-interacting atoms would not hold its form for long. Thus an atomism with only directed, moving objects is not enough.
The capacity of atoms to collide and to grab on to each other is an independent assumption within ancient atomism that does not follow from the mere solidness of atoms. An object may be solid—without gaps, continuous, shape-holding, one substance—and not have the capacity to interact with other solid objects. No doubt, solidness and the capacity to interact have been conflated since Democritus within the concept of the atom, although interaction was not initially a capacity of atoms but rather a relation posited to exist between them. Arguably, the only useful similarities between Democritus’ atoms and atoms of the Standard Model are microscopic size and the capacity to interact or influence each other.
At the time of Democritus we might not have said that atoms interacted with each other, but rather, that atoms had the capacity to limit and direct each other in motion, for this is the only type of interaction that takes place in ancient atomism. One atom could prevent the movement of another, or they could together change the direction of each other upon contact. Contact, or limitation of motion and change of motion upon contact, exhausts the interactional capacity of ancient atoms.
Again, the capacity of atoms to come into contact with each other is today conflated with the solidness of atoms, but solidness does not imply the capacity to make contact. Two objects may be solid and still pass through one another without making contact—these objects may not be atoms, but this does not imply that such objects are impossible.
Some elements of ancient atomism are as follows: 1) indivisible substance, 2) yielding void, 3) multiplicity of objects composed of indivisible substance, 4) directed motion of objects, 5) contact between objects, and 6) limitation and change of motion upon contact. We should note that 5) and 6) are intimately related—if contact did not lead to limitation and change of motion, then contact loses most of its meaning and becomes nearly synonymous with spatial overlap or adjacency. A Bose-Einstein condensate, composed mostly of nearly non-interacting identical bosons in the same place, is quite similar to the idea of atoms that do not make 51
contact but ‘overlap’ in space. We suggest that in ancient atomism, contact can be interpreted as the limitation and change of motion that occurs when atoms are spatially adjacent. With this understanding of contact, we see that solidness plays little role in ancient atomism, just as in modern particle physics. The preceding sentence and paragraphs will nonetheless be difficult to appreciate if we believe that solidness implies, in principle, the inability to overlap in space.
Perhaps Democritus also held that the indivisible substance of one atom could not occupy the same void as the indivisible substance of another atom, but then we wonder how atoms could influence each other at all. If indivisible substance could not overlap, then at best atoms could be spatially adjacent without void/space between them. During this time of adjacency, atoms must somehow reach out and influence one another, even though the indivisible substance of one atom never ‘melds’