|Mar30-11, 07:41 AM||#1|
Time and relationships (or, "consciousness" per Martin Heidegger)
In this forum we focus again and again on questions about “consciousness” – and I think there’s a deep reason why the meaning of this term tends to remain so unclear. Basically what we’re trying to understand is how our subjectivity fits into the world of objective reality described by science.
We have two basic standpoints available to us. If we take the (Cartesian) standpoint of science, we treat “consciousness” as an objective property that certain kinds of entities “have”. After all, we experience consciousness, so it must be objectively real, right? But this leads only to confusion.
Or, we can take the (Kantian) perspective of subjectivity itself, which is after all the only thing anyone ever experiences. Therefore “consciousness” must be something basic and irreducible, right? This justifies various kinds of mysticism, but otherwise leads nowhere. It treats “consciousness” so abstractly that it loses any relevance to science or to our actual experience.
Heidegger’s Being and Time (1926) was an explicit attempt to get past this dichotomy. He said, the reason we can’t fit subjectivity into our scientific picture is that we haven’t gone deep enough on either side. Yes, we need to develop an ontology based on our own existence, because that’s ultimately all we have. But our own existence is not mainly a subjective viewpoint on a world of objects – it’s an active / receptive engagement in relationships of many kinds.
In other words, consciousness is not basically “self-enclosed”... though it can seem that way when we become self-reflective about it. This capacity for focusing on our own experience as something going on “in our heads” is basic to how we philosophers think, since the 17th century. But it’s not basic to human consciousness, which is essentially involved with the people and things it cares about.
Now presumably, existing in a world of connections is something we humans share with all other kinds of beings. It’s not a matter of some things being “inert objects” and other things being “conscious subjects”. It’s a matter of different kinds and levels of beings coming to exist in the context of different kinds of relationships. So Heidegger’s project was to develop the kind of categories needed to describe a world of relationships “as seen from inside.”
The idea that consciousness is built on engagement is not unique to Heidegger. But his analysis of human existence was specifically intended to sketch out a new concept of time that he thought was fundamental to all forms of existence as “being in the world,” not just human.
I’ll summarize his idea of time in another post. But does it make sense to anyone that we could “bridge the gap” between subjective awareness and objective reality in this way? Thinking of the world as made not just of different kinds of things – some “conscious” and some not – but as a nexus of different modes of involvement between things.
From this perspective, what’s unique about human beings is not what goes on in our brains, but the kinds of communicative relationships that our brain-software has evolved to support. That is, we grow into “having a conscious perspective” through the kinds of relationships we develop with others who have such a perspective. (And when dogs or cats or chimpanzees have relationships with us, it’s not surprising that they too can at least begin to develop in this direction.)
|Mar30-11, 11:37 AM||#2|
Science is pretty much sterile on questions concerning existence and its not possible to model existence even in principle.
I would say that such questions might be addressed through other means - e.g. self-reflection and meditation. Consciousness is not like anything else we've observed in the universe so it makes sense(to me) that perhaps questions about it should be relegated to exploring its true inner nature. Especially if we can get some form of reputable findings and research to compare and draw conclusions.
I would say that both approaches become equally abtract once you push them hard enough. But the first is definitely more intuitive.
Sorry i am not of much help, your questions seem quite abstract by themselves.
|Mar30-11, 12:04 PM||#3|
From what I can tell, Heidegger’s idea is not unique. It's just another viewpoint, or formulation, of old, old ideas, from many mythologies, and within seemingly disparate belief systems, such as Buddhism to the American Indian myths. (Of course, the disparities aren't as deep as they seem, as has been shown)
It's often called the idea of Interdependence.
In the modern day western mind, we like to view ourselves as seperate beings from the environment around us. But, the claim could be made that this view we hold is just a "modern-day" myth (i.e. an image we create in our minds to help us get on in the world, help us make sense of it), but it's not at all how things really are. If that is the case, then, yes, we are truly limiting ourselves in understanding what consciousness really is, by adhering to this viewpoint.
|Mar31-11, 04:54 AM||#4|
Time and relationships (or, "consciousness" per Martin Heidegger)
It is hard to find anything to disagree with in this preliminary statement. I would much prefer Peirce to Heidegger of course. Heidegger remained too attached to the human condition and a narrowly psychological model IMHO. But the essential approach is the same.
So the alternative view (suggested by quite a few) is to generalise the whole(ness) of our experience. Take the mind and reduce the entirety of what it is about.
The alternative view says mind only exists in interaction with the world. It is part of the action. And generalising the very notion of mind as an action is a way of describing precisely those parts of reality that have gone missing in the atomising reductionist paradigm. Like a direct causal linkage for a start.
But I wasn't grabbed by it that much, so it would be interesting to hear more of why you like it.
|Mar31-11, 08:31 AM||#5|
Yes, we’re looking for a way to understand our existence as interdependent. And the notion that the mind grows out of active engagement in the world is by now commonly accepted. This is very good... but it’s not hard to make objective statements like this. In the same vein physicists learned to acknowledge the viewpoint of “the observer” in Relativity, and even “observer participation” in Quantum Mechanics – and continue to develop theories about the world from the same objective viewpoint, as if we could put the world on our desks and inspect it “from outside.”
What I think was important about Being and Time is that it tried to develop a radically new conceptual framework for understanding the world “from inside,” as a web of interactive dependency. And it certainly did not succeed. Heidegger couldn’t even complete the work as he’d originally envisioned it... “Part Two” of the book never appeared. Most readers saw the book as a profound analysis of “the human condition,” but didn’t take seriously its claim to open up a new “fundamental ontology” relevant to all the sciences.
So that task is still before us, as I see it. We know how to describe “systems” of many kinds objectively, from the outside... and we’ve developed ways to investigate the structure of our internal subjective experience. But the deep problem is how to reconceive the “outside” world of relationships from the standpoint of one participating in it.
I have to apologize, because I’m thinking slowly this morning and I have to get to work, so I won’t get to the question of time until tomorrow. But I think this is where Heidegger made his most important contribution. He understood that the essential thing about “the world from inside” is that it operates with a different time-structure, more fundamental than the time-continuum of objective reality. But the point is not to replace the old concept of time with a better, more accurate one.
It’s not that our view of the world “from outside” is inaccurate. The problem isn’t that our objective scientific theories are wrong, but that they’re not fundamental – they’re operating with the wrong notion of what a foundation should look like. So we can know all about the physical world, down to an incredible level of detail, and still have no clue what the picture is showing us.
We can recognize that we live in a “participatory” world, but we’re still looking for a way to understand what that means.
|Mar31-11, 12:32 PM||#6|
He posits two different standpoints, that of the transcendental ("inner experience") and that of the scientific (starts from the world of "physical nature").
Here are his conditions for the reconciliation of the two: "a demonstration of the objective reality of inner experience and a proof of the existence of an external world from which we can then conclude that this external world contains human facts and spiritual meaning by means of a process of transferring our inner life into this world."
While I'm not sure he tells us HOW to fulfill either of the necessary conditions, he seems to encapsulate some of the issues quite clearly.
Let me know if any of these quotes need clarification, or if they are germane to the conversation. Dilthey seemed a natural element to inject into this conversation, as he is manifestly concerned with the ultimacy of the human individual, and the nature of the relationships his existence in the "objective" world entails.
|Mar31-11, 06:28 PM||#7|
Again, I will come back to Peirce. And his reduction thesis. The claim that a worldview must be not monistic, nor even dualistic, but fundamentally triadic.
Monism seeks the one - the one true principle, the one essential stuff, the one fundamental thing. So this is standard issue reductionism. What is reality made of? Atoms. Or energy. Or geometry. Or something. Even "everything is mind" - our mind, god's mind, a panpsychic property, or a Matrix-style simulation.
It then seems obvious that the one must become two. Relationships seem primal. Dichotomies seem fundamental. You have to have a worldview based on dynamic interaction somehow. Monistic approaches always end up with dichotomies anyway. If everything is atoms, you still need a void. If everything is geometry, you still need an energy or an entropic direction to animate it.
But Peirce's approach was triadic. Hierarchical. He pointed out that a little bit of inter-relating eventually must end up with a stable global pattern of relationships. Local dynamics eventually produces global equilibrium states. And the local dynamics has to arise out of some potential in the first place. So you have an essential threeness.
And how else could we place ourselves in the universe except in the middle of it? To be the interior or subjective POV, we must have reality extending to either side. To both the larger and the smaller. We must be bounded both above and below.
Dyadic relations still leaves one side standing looking at the other. There may be an interdependence, but the two entities anchoring it are not "inside" the relationship. They are its object(ive) boundaries.
But a triadic framework puts all the localised interacting within a more general realm, a broader, more stable and enduring, context. So a local subjective POV can make sense as it is now both made of - or generated from - something (firstness), and it constrained by something (thirdness), and it is then freely doing something (secondness) within this world. The world, in the end, is all spun of relating. But there is that further level of global relations which stabilises the local relating, forming a meaning-making context.
Now this is obvious to many people. But Peirce really went to town to construct a whole metaphysics based on triadic systems principles. It was fundamental and explicit in his worldview, rather than something that popped out as a result, or was left vaguely implied.
Heidegger's approach to time in fact also seems to have just this Peircean structure of firstness, secondness, and thirdness. But more by luck than design perhaps.
Time is naturally triadic - we divide it psychologically into past, present and future. And as you say, the objectifying reductionist wants to reduce our subjective experience to a monistic description. Time is a linear succession of moments - atomic intervals, points on an endless line. Past and future are meaningless. We have mechanical equations that can describe everything as a frozen block.
But Heidegger wanted to re-psychologise time (from the admittedly little I have read him). So the past became firstness - the ground of possibility. A history of events creates a memory that sets the scene for what can happen. Then the future weighs down as a strong set of global constraints that create a context for what ought to happen. Then the present is about what is happening, the freedoms being expressed from this POV suspended between grounding possibility and super-arching constraints.
So, to the extent that Heidegger sounds to have got it right, it is because he is talking about a hierarchically organised, dynamically evolving, systems view. The Peircean metaphysic. Does this sound plausible from your readings?
|Apr1-11, 06:43 AM||#8|
I don’t know Dilthey well, though Heidegger did. He mentions Max Scheler along with Dilthey in a passage in Being and Time. They were all looking for ways to talk about the depth of human “lived experience” (as opposed to the merely observational sense of “experience” as used in physics). In effect, instead of making the opposition between objective, physical reality and conscious subjective awareness, they took “subjectivity” in a deeper “existential” sense. This was when Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegelianism was becoming widely read.
So Dilthey took “life” as a fundamental category – not in a restricted biological sense, but in the sense of an entire human life, from beginning to end. I don’t know where he went with that, but it’s appealing to me. But of these philosophers, I think Heidegger is the one who made a real breakthrough, seeing “subjectivity” as growing out of relationships, taking “being in the world” as his basic category, describing subjectivity as “being there”.
This points toward human connection as what’s fundamental in our “lived experience” – though Heidegger’s was too abstract a thinker to develop that theme very far. I think it’s the basic weakness of his work that it doesn’t focus specifically on human communication, or give it a central role in the nexus of relationships that underlie our existence. But by making being-in-relation a basic ontological category, he did open up the possibility of seeing both physical “objects” and conscious “subjects” as having the same ultimate ground in a world of connections.
|Apr1-11, 08:10 AM||#9|
Apeiron – thanks for putting so much into your response. I’ll have to discuss the time question separately – with apologies again if it gets pushed off to another day!
In the abstract, I can agree with what you say here. “Triadic” thinking has a long history in our tradition, always as a kind of resistance movement against the monistic ontology and dualistic logic of the dominant Greek philosophy. In the development of Christian doctrine, which was (from an intellectual standpoint) a defense of a “mythic” way of thinking against Greek rationalism, the Trinity was a key idea. Where the NeoPlatonists, for example, saw the dynamic of the universe as an emanation of Oneness out into Difference, Trinitarian thinking always kept alive a sense of connection-in-difference as belonging to unity itself.
So I’m in sympathy with your metaphysical inclinations. I appreciate the grand scale of your vision and how much thought has gone into constructing it. To me, though, you seem to be standing a long way outside the universe, not merely viewing it objectively the way a physicist does, but seeing it as a unfolding drama of essences, ideas. I get what you mean when you say “one must become two”... or “how else could we place ourselves except in the middle”? But although I recognize this is trying to express the dynamic / relational nature of existence, this kind of quasi-logical language doesn’t appeal to me – “local dynamics has to arise out of some potential...”
When I read “self-evident” statements like this, I think of Heidegger’s constant (and even tiresome) refrain, that the basic categories we use rest on assumptions we haven’t thought through. To me, what we take as “basic” reflects the aspects of our own “lived experience” that we’ve implicitly chosen as most meaningful. So with Peirce – he takes very seriously that as thinking beings we emerge out of a formless vagueness, as we grow up, and learn to structure our experience through interacting sets of dichotomies. As I’ve mentioned before, this has a kinship with Hegel, who found deep meaning in the intellectual experience of resolving philosophical antinomies by brilliant strokes of insight, and developed his basic ontological categories on this model – thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Peirce also seems like someone for whom the experience of achieving intellectual clarity went very deep.
As for me, I identify with Kierkegaard, in that struggling with personal relationships is by far the deepest experience in my own life. What I found in Heidegger was an attempt to build categories not to describe the world as “a nexus of relationships” seen from afar, but to describe existence as an issue of being in relationships. So even as I’m trying to understand the physical world, I remind myself over and over – the basic structure of a world of relationships can’t be envisioned “from the outside”. Relationships don’t even exist, except for the ones who are in them.
This is just my own perspective, the basis from which I’m trying to work. But it explains why I don’t find Peirce’s categories and logic convincing, even though I appreciate the creativity of his intellectual imagination. But the dynamic of intellectual dichotomies just does not seem profound to me, as compared with the dynamic of actual one-on-one relationships.
|Apr1-11, 04:37 PM||#10|
I of course see selfhood as hierarchically and semiotically structured. So it is full of internal or subjective dichotomies such as impressions~ideas, surprise~anticipation, habit~attention, what~where, figure~ground, action~sensation, psychology~sociology. And all these dichotomies are based on local~global interactions, and all can be mapped onto the brain's actual design.
So I see selfhood/consciousness as having an immense amount of structure. It is not at all a pure "being there", but complexly organised. And organised according to the common logic of a hierarchy in which local and global are in interaction - that is the fundamental nature of interaction.
But I don't see how this obvious rich complexity can be handled just by a stripped-down view of pure relating, with no account of the differing scales of relating.
My view is essentially asymmetric. There is the small at one end interacting with the large at the other. Whereas you seem to be talking about a symmetric interaction (neither side is dominant). Or at least scale seem irrelevant.
So is "being there" really about a "me" in interaction with a world (which is actually pretty asymmetric I guess). Or is it more accurately describe as my ideas in interaction with my impressions? So my global weight of memories and expectations bearing down as a context to organised the current upwelling flood of stimuli both predicted (so able to be handled thoughtlessly) and surprising (so the proper focus of attention and learning).
Being there could be very simple (a pure dyad), or it could be irreducibly complex (a hierarchical triad).
|Apr2-11, 06:41 AM||#11|
Yes, “self” is complicated, and operates on many levels. Likewise “relating”. One of the things I most like in Being and Time is that in trying to grasp what’s fundamental in human existence, Heidegger isn’t looking for a single basic structure. For example, he talks about the “being in” aspect of existence – that is, relating to one’s overall environment – and the “being with” aspect – relating to other people – and he calls them “equiprimordial”.
We could say – existence involves an “I - it” kind of relationship, which is asymmetrical. It could be a relationship of “observing”, or a more practical kind of involvement with things we need and things we make. In any case there are particular objects we’re relating to, as well as a general background-context of other relationships.
And, existence also involves an “I - You” kind of relationship, which we experience as mutual, or at least as having a potential for mutuality. Here also we’re having a relationship with someone in a context of other relationships.
And our relationships with ourselves involve both an “I - it” aspect – reflecting on our own behavior, for example – and an “I - You” aspect, i.e. talking with ourselves. So there are quite a few “basic” relationships going on, each contributing to the context of meaning in which the others evolve.
I think your asymmetric dichotomies capture some aspects of this kind of structure. The key question for me is whether they’re adequate to describe this intersection between the essentially impersonal world of “I - it” relationships and the essentially personal world of “I - You” relationships. Since I think the difference between these two is fundamental, along with their interdependency.
There’s no question about the importance of hierarchies and differences of scale. And I think we agree that the very notion of “relationship” has nothing “pure and simple” about it, since relationships can happen only in the context of other kinds of relationships (even in physics). The question is how best to clarify what’s involved in this irreducibly complicated business of being in relationships.
|Apr2-11, 09:14 AM||#12|
We’re talking about two kinds of time. The one is the objective time we measure with clocks and mark out on calendars. This sense of time is basic to the very notion of an “object”, as something that keeps on being what it is over time, and also moves and changes, in time.
Heidegger calls this “inauthentic” time (“uneigentlich”, i.e. not one’s own). Essentially this just means time conceived “from no point of view,” as if we could stand outside of time and view the whole course of history from a distance, mapped on a time-line. In contrast, “authentic” time is this ongoing present time that is all we ever actually experience, in which we live our lives from our own points of view.
The conceptual shift from the usual “subjective” / “objective” dichotomy to “authentic” / “inauthentic” is at the heart of Heidegger’s project in Being and Time. It’s a shift from a relatively neutral language about experience and reality into language that’s highly charged with psychological and even moral overtones. For Heidegger, being a “self” and having a point of view of one’s own is not at all something to be taken for granted. Our normal view of the world is an inauthentic one, a view we learn from other people as we learn to talk and think. The shared world of “objective reality” is an aspect of this inauthentic view.
Because of the highly charged language, it’s very easy to misunderstand this, and interpret Heidegger as saying that the “inauthentic” view of the world is wrong. On the contrary, we can only be “objectively right” about things within this inauthentic framework, which is the framework of science, among other things. Our own “authentic” view is of course partial and limited and biased, always merely subjective, with respect to the facts about reality.
“Subjectivity” in this sense is just a given. “Authenticity” in contrast is something we have to fight for and struggle to achieve – learning to see and understand things from our own unique viewpoint. We get to “have a self” only to the extent that we learn a certain degree of independence from the way “everybody” thinks.
Now the reason this is so important, for Heidegger, is not just that independent thinkers may sometimes break through the limits of our collective worldview and discover new truths. The point is that what’s truly fundamental about the world can only be seen from a point of view “inside” it. The objective, inauthentic view may get the facts right, but because it only sees the world in general, from a distance, it misses the inner life of the world, so to speak – that is, the one-on-one engagement each of us has in our relationships. Our lives are not just the subjective observation of objective facts!
So there’s a paradoxical aspect to the language of Being and Time. This highly charged language of “authenticity” seems to pertain exclusively to human psychology and human morality. But it’s only by getting to the depths of our own emotional existence that we can see what’s fundamental to “existence” as such. A more neutral language – for example, about logical dichotomies and hierarchical systems – remains at a distance. So it may not be able to get to the heart of what it means to “have a point of view” – to be lucky enough to get to participate in this world.
Inauthentically, we live in a world of objects, things that last through time and change over time. No doubt, this objective reality is important for us to get to know and understand. But authentically, we live in a world of "real-time" connections which is no less important, and maybe even more fundamental.
So what is “authentic” time? The idea is not to replace the “inauthentic” view of the time-continuum, as if it were incorrect. The objective view is right, but may not be fundamental – since it doesn’t get how time actually happens, how this business of “the present moment” actually works. It just takes it for granted that “time passes”.
From one’s own point of view, there is always only “now”. The objective past is gone, and the objective future doesn’t yet exist. But this ongoing moment in which each of us lives is nothing like the frozen “point in time” captured in a photograph. It’s a continual happening, that has an “authentic past” and an “authentic future” built into it.
So you’re correct about the “triadic” structure of time, except that the “ground of possibility” is what Heidegger understands as the “authentic future”. The “now” we experience is first of all an anticipatory openness to what can happen. Like the wave-function in Quantum theory, the “present situation” is essentially a structure of what’s possible. Secondly, it’s constrained by “the authentic past”, i.e the structure of facts inherited from the past. Thirdly, what happens in each moment, in our connection with the world, revises the shape of what’s possible by adding new facts to the situation.
So this does have affinities with your way of describing how the world happens. Though Heidegger was building on Husserl’s phenomenology of time-perception rather than Peirce’s metaphysics. Heidegger also sees this as a phenomenological description of our human experience of time – but again, what he’s really is something deeper. He’s trying to develop a basic understanding of how this side of the world works, that’s based on participating in relationships.
And Being and Time was only a preliminary sketch, despite the length and density of its arguments. Even as a sketch, I think it has serious limitations. Heidegger was never able to focus on the structure of one-on-one (“I - You”) relationships, or on human communication. And in his analysis of the triadic structure of the moment, he has surprisingly little to say about “the authentic present” itself.
But these are limitations of our entire intellectual tradition. My sense is that we’re still at a very primitive stage when it comes to envisioning the world we actually experience, each from our own existential viewpoint “in real time”. And I think that’s why we’re still so far from an integrated evolutionary picture of the world that encompasses physics, biology and our own humanity. There are big pieces of the puzzle that are invisible when we only see the world from a distance.
|Apr2-11, 05:04 PM||#13|
I can find zero reason to assume that time is fundamental. Or space or causality. In fact we know they are not. The fields ontology being our by far the best and most consistent theory of the world, i would say that awareness is the odd one out. Think about it, the longer you think, the less likely you'd be to return to naive common-sense views. You do have a no-go theorem that explicitly forbids the fields from being both local and realistic and the foundations of all human knowledge is a philosophy that we believed was true(though it never really made sense either).
Well if space and time really turn out to be not fundamental, then the fundamental dynamics of reality would lie completely out of sight(i am stumped by this possibility).
|Apr2-11, 05:53 PM||#14|
This is why I like Peirce's epistemology.
|Apr3-11, 02:02 PM||#15|
Responding to the OP: read Whitehead's 1925 book Science and the Modern World and his 1929 book Process and Reality. Whitehead is difficult, but SMW is the best introduction to his thought. He presents a comprehensive and compelling worldview that encompasses science, philosophy and faith. He was a mathematician, logician, physicist and philosopher at Cambridge and Harvard so he is well-qualified to write on these issues. The last phase of his career was his philosophical phase and he sums up a lifetime of thinking about nitty gritty mathematical, logical and scientific problems in the books I mentioned. His vision is panpsychist: the fundamental constituents of the universe are "drops of experience" and it's all about relationships, as Heidegger writes. I agree with Apeiron that Heidegger seems to mistake psychology for ontology at times, but he certainly got it right in focusing on relationships.
|Apr3-11, 02:04 PM||#16|
Some essays on these issues, from a Whiteheadian perspective:
|Apr3-11, 05:12 PM||#17|
That would have been the minimalist, no-assumptions, critical view of everyone, had they spent enough time pondering the following:
1. Reality is surprizingly knowable and comprehensible(no requirement that it had to be so)
2. The geometrical nature of spacetime and the relationships that are its sole occupant
3. Laws - the constituents of reality follow strict physical laws that can be modelled effectively by math(no requirement that it had to be so)
4. Mind and awareness cannot be explained by the prevailing philosophy of science(mind is unlike anything else found in the universe)
5. Inexplicable but seemingly fundamental features of the reality we experience - Meaning, Logic, Intelligence
6. The inexplicable by the current mainstream philosophy rich inner life of each one of us(or at least me in particular)
These points don't prove anything yet but should serve as red flags for hasty conclusions.
|consciousness, heidegger, relationships, time|
|Similar Threads for: Time and relationships (or, "consciousness" per Martin Heidegger)|
|Strange question, but is "time" and actual "thing"?||Classical Physics||24|
|Books like "A Brief History Of Time" and "The Black Hole War"||Science Textbook Discussion||12|
|Help needed with the effect of "no time"/"time freeze" on bullet movement||Introductory Physics Homework||13|
|The terms "length contraction" and "time dilation"||Special & General Relativity||11|
|George R.R Martin's "Feast of Crows" is great!||General Discussion||5|