Monday, 18 September 2017

Panpsychism


I’ve been reading here and there about panpsychism, panexperientalism, protopanpsychism and whatever you’re having yourself. It’s various and varied and those deeply read in the literature of the topic such as David Skrbina, (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy), would claim that many thinkers hold it. Among them would be Henri Bergson. His ideas on memory and duration fit with only light trimming into the information based intuitions of David Chalmers. The concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘memory’ are analogical applied to inanimate nature. We feel that they are present in some rudimentary form. The canyon holds the memory of many floods, the pitting of the rock is the memory of rain. Their history is written on them, they are informed and their nature is made manifest. Inanimate matter is submissive to events. Simple cells and bacteria can ‘select’ their experience and move to a better part of the petri dish of life. This is all metaphorical and that is just the point.

In the concrete object memory and experience are layered as information. They are embedded. In the sentient creature they can be separated out and considered in a an abstract way as well as interact. The greater the separation the more consciousness their is. In the human we have memories, dreams, and reflections all inter- penetrating yet Bergson would say that our soul reality is duration. All these elements which are conscious are compacted in a sold ‘I AM’.

The IMAGINATION then, I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealise and unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.
(from Biographia Litteraria by Coleridge)


Monday, 11 September 2017

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage (pub.1967)


The story is told with the yarning tone of a cowboy God hopping from mind to mind. Pay attention; everything is significant, anything that is left out would have impeded the story that you the listener can plait in yourself. Phil is the older brother of the two that run a big cattle spread in Montana. They trail a thousand head in the fall down to the railhead at Beech a dismal little town that has the amenities that a cowboy might require, whiskey and sporting women. The time is 1925 as near as I can make out. Phil is the smart one that affects yokelosity. There’s a sneer in that and surely must have been part of the profound contempt that drove his parents to a retirement in Salt Lake City. They originally came from Boston, Mass. and they brought their gentility with them even unto fingerbowls which the invited rich ranchers and distinguished locals never knew what to do with. The other brother is George a stocky, slow, reliable sort of sound man. Between them they run the ranch and share the tasks. Phil does the castration of the bull calves and George ropes them. My stockman pocket knife has a round ended blade for popping out the testicles, Phil tears them out. Is that a signal one asks oneself? Is Phil a self-emasculating man whose need to control everything has eliminated a point of weakness. I guess.

After an embarrassing visit to the bunkhouse a callow hand asks:

When he had gone, one of the new loudmouthed young cowhands spoke right up. "Hey — he's sort of a lonely cuss, ain't he? Like about what we was saying before he come in, do you guess anybody ever loved him? Or maybe he ever loved anybody?" The oldest man in the bunkhouse stared at the young fellow. What the young fellow had said was unsuitable, even ugly. What had love to do with Phil? The oldest man in the bunkhouse reached down and patted the head of a little brown bitch that slept close. "I wouldn't want to be saying nothing about him and love. And if I was you, I wouldn't call him a cuss. It don't show respect."
"Well, hell," the young fellow said, blushing.
"You got to learn to show respect. You got an awful lot to learn about love."

Phil is a puzzle to all. He can do anything he sets his mind and hands to, woodwork from the little to the large, inch high Sheraton chairs carved with a scalpel and giant derricks for stacking the hay bales adze dubbed and hand planed. He’s a first class blacksmith and taxidermist and a banjo player. This last may have been part of his rube persona to annoy the aesthete parents and their Victrola charged with classical music. Little Red Wing, heh, heh. He likes too to talk about the old times, he’s 40, which is a touch premature. Anyway Bronco Henry was his mentor when he was a young feller who taught him how to fashion a hide lariat. Modern man gets to wondering about this relationship and Annie Proulx in her afterword comes right out with it. Was Phil a repressed homosexual? Plait that in if you wish but it’s a frail strand. Phil has a good college degree from a California university (where George failed), he keeps up with things and if there were the slightest impulse towards homosexuality he would not talk about Bronco. Phil is too guarded to give anything like that away. Bronco was a loved mentor and he died, stomped to death in a corral. Sometimes a lariat is just a lariat.

George is the antithesis of Phil in being not very smart but very kind and he springs a surprise by a secret marriage to Rose the widow of a doctor who committed suicide. The suggestion is that it was the result of a humiliating incident with Phil. Young Peter the son knows this. The interesting element in the characterization is the contrast between clever Phil and clever Peter who according to the code of the cowboy is a certified sissy.

Phil resents the intrusion of a woman into the life of the family, a cheap schemer after the money . He sets out to break her and sets about it methodically.

After supper Phil read for a time close by the lamp; then he rose abruptly and marched down the hall to the bedroom, closed the door behind him and got out his banjo and tuned up. He had to smile, had to smile thinking of George coming into that house with this woman, trying to make things smooth. How had he said? You remember Rose? That was it. What kind of a name was Rose. The name of somebody's cook. He had to smile, had to smile thinking of George down on one knee before the unlighted fire — a little disappointed that Phil had not lighted it before their arrival, that the room might be all comfortable and welcoming. Ha-ha-ha. George should have known Phil better than to think he would do something he didn't feel. Phil had to smile thinking of the sidelong glance Rose gave him at the supper table. He knew how he looked, knew it would get her goat. It used to get the Old Lady's goat, the rumpled shirt, the uncombed hair, the stubble of beard, the unwashed hands. She might just as well get smart to the fact that he didn't do things like other people because he wasn't like other people, that he left his napkin pointedly untouched, reached for food rather than asked for it, and if he had to snuffle his nose, he snuffled. If the fancy relatives back East could stomach it, God knew this woman could, and if she was unused to a man's leaving the table without first bowing and scraping and saying ''Excuse me," she might just as well catch on now. Oh yes (he had to smile) she was in for a few surprises.

I’ll say no more about this book which though it was well received critically in 1967 didn’t sell much and then disappeared. The many strands in it are twisted together smoothly and there is no makeweight filler. Quite simply, this is an American classic.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Unattached Self


Besides, one has to imagine that the Self can have the attribute of coming into contact with others, which idea is repugnant to the Vedas and Smirtis; for such are the Vedic and Smirti texts: “Unattached, for It is never attached” (Brh.III.ix.26) “It is unconnected, and is the supporter of all” (B.G. XIII.14) Moreover, since logic demands that a thing that has attributes, and is not of a different category, can come into contact with another having attributes, therefore it is illogical to hold that the Self which is attributeless, undifferentiated, and distinct from everything else, can come into contact with anything whatsoever that does not belong to the same category. Hence if the Self is the witness of all cognitions, then and not otherwise is established the idea that the Self, which is an effulgence that is in reality eternal and undecaying knowledge, is Brahman. Therefore the expression pratibodha videtam (known with every state of awareness) has the meaning as explained by us.
(from Shankara’s commetary on Kena Up. II.4)
Here we have presented an idea similar to that of Aristotle in De Anima namely that only things of the same sort can interact. That book is not to hand at the moment so I will search out that citation later. Unchanging and present in all states of awareness means that it is identified with pure consciousness or Brahman and therefore the highest state of consciousness is spoken of as sahaj samadhi or natural samadhi.
Ramana Maharshi defined it as:
Sahaja samadhi is a state in which the silent awareness of the subject is operant along with (simultaneously with) the full use of the human faculties.
Ramana in the meditation hall sitting on his couch reading the newspaper, chatting with the devotees, ‘it says here’, never loses contact with the Self.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Gulliver's Plea Bargain


It was a custom introduced by this prince and his ministry (very different, as I have been assured, from the practice of former times,) that after the court had decreed any cruel execution, either to gratify the monarch’s resentment, or the malice of a favourite, the emperor always made a speech to his whole council, expressing his great lenity and tenderness, as qualities known and confessed by all the world.  This speech was immediately published throughout the kingdom; nor did any thing terrify the people so much as those encomiums on his majesty’s mercy; because it was observed, that the more these praises were enlarged and insisted on, the more inhuman was the punishment, and the sufferer more innocent. Yet, as to myself, I must confess, having never been designed for a courtier, either by my birth or education, I was so ill a judge of things, that I could not discover the lenity and favour of this sentence, but conceived it (perhaps erroneously) rather to be rigorous than gentle.  I sometimes thought of standing my trial, for, although I could not deny the facts alleged in the several articles, yet I hoped they would admit of some extenuation.  But having in my life perused many state-trials, which I ever observed to terminate as the judges thought fit to direct, I durst not rely on so dangerous a decision, in so critical a juncture, and against such powerful enemies. 


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Twin Peaks got lost on the way home.


Twin Peaks has come and gone with the emphasis on Twins. Did it ever get home? Unlike the dogs of legend that turn up years later this dog didn’t. The longeurs, not more unspooling night-time road, no, no. Don’t stop for gas.

I watched Season 1 again and the superior wit and invention compared to 3 was evident. Lissome, lippy Audrey Horne turned into a hag. Well, that happens but when a biker turns cop I am stretched past my elasticity. The great mistake was sending S.A. Coop into a bardo for most of the show. You can’t do that. It’s bad artistic judgment writing yourself into a hole to demonstrate your ingenuity at getting out again. Paint into a corner then you must wait for the paint to dry or spoil the job. With one bound he should have been free.

Lynch and Frost, it’s just over, leave it alone, walk, don’t look back. This is the correct, proper, honorable and precise thing.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig


Stefan Zweig is not as simple a novelist as he might perhaps appear to be with his, to our post-modern eyes, silly framing of the story. That it was told to him by the protagonist lulls you into the easy acceptance that this is a yarn with our understanding of it to naturally align with the writer’s. He sets up the pattern with an explanation at the start:

There are two kinds of Pity
One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappi-ness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only kind that counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond.

But is that so? Can one not start with a guilt edged response to a person that then grows in a more profound acceptance and a happy marriage? Four cases of marriage are considered in the novel. To start first with the pity of Anton Hofmiller 2nd. Lieutenant in a crack cavalry regiment stationed in border town of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the fateful November 1913. Anton or Toni as he is to his comrades is 25 years old and has been in a military environment since the age of 10. The apothecary of the small town who is a friend of the local Baron gets him an invitation to a musical evening and dance at the mansion. We have already learned that he is a fine figure of a man and a great dancer. Shake your shako, baby.
He dances with all the ladies and then considers that he has forgotten to dance with Edith the 17 year old only daughter of the Baron who is seated behind a low table to the side. He approaches her and asks her to dance.

I went up to the table - the music rattled on in the next room - and bowed a polite invitation to dance. A startled pair of eyes stared up at me in amazement, the lips remained parted in the very act of speaking. But she made not the slightest movement to follow me. Had she not understood? So I bowed again, my spurs jingling softly as I said: 'May I have this dance, gnädiges Fräulein'
What now happened was appalling. The bowed head and shoulders jerked backwards, as though to avoid a blow; the blood came rushing to the pale cheeks; the lips, parted the moment before, were pressed sharply together, and only the eyes stared fixedly at me with an expression of horror such as I had never before encountered in my whole life. The next moment a shudder passed through the whole convulsed body. With both hands she levered, heaved herself up by the table so that the bowl on it rocked and rattled; and as she did so some hard object, either of wood or metal, fell clattering to the ground from her chair. She continued to hold on with both hands to the swaying table, her body, light as a child's, still shaking all over; yet she did not run away, she clung more desperately than ever to the heavy table-top. And again and again that quivering, that trembling, ran through her frame, from the contorted, clutching hands to the roots of her hair. And suddenly there burst forth a storm of sobbing, wild, elemental, like a stifled scream.

What he hadn’t noticed when he was briefly introduced to her at the dinner was that she was paralyzed from the waist down due to a riding accident. She can only be wheeled about in a bath chair or use crutches with great difficulty. Toni leaves the house feeling that he has committed a brutal faux pas. He sends flowers with a profound apology and Edith likewise apologizes for her outburst and invites him to tea. In this way he is drawn into a relationship with Edith and her family. The boredom of a small garrison town is relieved by his daily visits and he does not consider the Baron’s daughter as a woman unlike the older cousin Ilona, magnificent shoulders, arms like peeled peaches. That latter does not quite work in English but in any case she is affianced and the Baron has promised her a magnificent dowry on her marriage for remaining as a companion to her cousin. Everything is focused on the poor crippled child as Toni takes her to be but we the astute readers know that he is being groomed as the saviour that will generate emotional and physical healing. Now the central figure of Dr. Condor enters the novel and being the chief personal physician to the family notices that the daughter is less in despair about her condition. Has there been another doctor brought in he asks? He becomes aware of the source of the change and warns Toni of the danger of a relationship based on pity. He also relates the background of the supposed aristocrat Baron who started off life as a Jewish peddler. Even though Zweig was a Jew himself the lay figure of the Jew bounder was operative. Building up his fortune by degrees his major coup is to swindle a woman out of her estate and feeling guilt and pity for her defencelessness offers to marry her. She accepts him and curiously the marriage is a happy one. Similarly Dr. Condor, being a stubborn healer continuing treatment by other means, has married a blind woman that he could not cure . That too developed into a loving marriage.

How Toni gets drowned in the emotional needs of Edith and is both repulsed by her sexual desire for him and yet unable to break with her fearing her reaction makes a superb novel and a febrile page turner. I found my copy on

Beware of Pity





Thursday, 31 August 2017

Suspicious Minds


This suspicion thing intrigues me because there’s so much of it about in philosophical discussions. Suspicion can be confirmed or disconfirmed on the basis of further evidence. But is philosophy that sort of scientific empirical activity? An inference to the best explanation makes a suggestion we call a suspicion. I would call it ‘ a theory of interest’ in the way that certain police forces refer to a person of interest i.e. a suspect. Philosophy in the rationalist tradition certainly spins out its web from the basis of axioms, clear and distinct ideas, fundamentals etc. It is not evidential in the way that science is.
In soccer terms I’m probably taking too much out of the ball.