Taking The Descartes Challenge

This morning I got to wondering about a nifty little mind experiment* in the spirit of Rene’ Descartes, so first I should set the stage with a taste of his words (perhaps it was simply recognizing what I’ve been doing most my life, ).

From: A Discourse on Method, by René Descartes
The Project Gutenberg eBook of


** Descartes: "I learned to entertain too decided a belief in regard to nothing of the truth of which I had been persuaded merely by example and custom; and thus I gradually extricated myself from many errors powerful enough to darken our natural intelligence, and incapacitate us in great measure from listening to reason. But after I had been occupied several years in thus studying the book of the world, and in essaying to gather some experience.**’

I at length resolved to make myself an object of study, and to employ all the powers of my mind in choosing the paths I ought to follow, an undertaking which was accompanied with greater success than it would have been had I never quitted my country or my books.

Descartes … "And as a multitude of laws often only hampers justice, so that a state is best governed when, with few laws, these are rigidly administered; in like manner, instead of the great number of precepts of which logic is composed, I believed that the four following would prove perfectly sufficient for me, provided I took the firm and unwavering resolution never in a single instance to fail in observing them.

The first was never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgement than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.

The second, to divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution.

The third, to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence.

And the last, in every case to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that I might be assured that nothing was omitted. …"

I don’t presume to have D’s smarts, let alone mental discipline, but I don’t live in the dark ages either, so I fancy I do have a scientific edge on him, no matter how masterful his mental abilities were.

This is probably what makes me surprised at how much of contemporary philosophy still seems to be echoing his struggles.

This morning I thought of grande mind experiment.
If we swept away all of today’s philosophical musing and stuff them away in an old sailors chest for future reference.

Upon what foundational tenets would you create a new philosophy, knowing that the human condition is going to be changing in challenging and most radical ways over the next decades?

What comes to my mind for me is:

Appreciating the physical reality ~ human mindscape divide on a deep personal level.

Appreciating I am an evolved biological sensing creature, a product of Earth’s evolutionary pageant with a string of parents going all the way back to Earth’s origins.

Appreciating it’s self-evident that Gods are created within our personal and collective human thoughts and imagination.

Consciousness and life is all about dynamic interactions, not a thing to study like a specimen.

We need each other to keep ourselves honest.

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This may not fit the title of philosophy per se, but one thing is 100% guaranteed.

If we stuffed all books of natural mathematics in a chest and started from scratch, all the maths would be exactly as they are now and apply just as accurately as they do now.

IOW, Gods are not real. Why bother with it, other than as entertaining mythology, with some useful moral lessons?

I don’t think you stuffed away enough. Mind is a philosophical construct. It doesn’t have a physical definition. Brain and nervous system do. Not mind

No one is arguing that.
I’m talking about the stories we are telling each other.

Please don’t try to make more out of it than what it is.
I’ve no problem with serious sober physical science findings, dragging metaphysics into it, that’s another matter.

You are being disingenuous. Gods are as real as one thoughts want to make them. That realness is within the mindscape, but it’s damned real (even Sherlock observed ghosts are real to the people who believe in them.) - but it projects through the actions of individuals.

Thus my contention that for any deeper serious understanding, a fundamental realization about our Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide in a deep down personal, humbling manner, is an essential first base for sober understanding.

Since I believe it has a way of providing a benchmark that’s missing and it helps one check our naturally boundless egos.

OK, if you believe that the mindscape is reality and is alive then the entire universe is alive and we are a projection of universal consciousness. If you are going to cherry-pick what is or is not alive and conscious, you run the risk of becoming prejudicial in your choices.

Do you see now why I prefer to use the term “mathematically quasi-intelligent”? It avoids the necessity of self-aware consciousness but only needs to be responsive to the known universal constants which are governed by generic mathematical equations and logarithms.

A key point that bothers me. I feel like I’m trying to nail jello to the wall. A little more starch is needed, maybe some water cement

Your being deliberately obtuse. On an individual level I believe our mindscape is real to us! Nowhere have I implied more than that. In fact, it’s specifically our habit of kidding ourselves, that makes the explicit appreciation of our Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide, on a visceral level significant because it provides a benchmark, that enables its to see through the mega-physical shell games we people, especial thinkers, love playing.

What’s so difficult about appreciating the difference between biology and elemental matter?
Consciousness is a product of biological life engaged in the process of living.

Please not manipulate and rearrange the words I use. I have been very consistent, even as I dig down deeper.

No. Because it doesn’t say anything.
And the way you talk about it sometimes, sounds just like something people used to call God. So here’s where I get to say about that math as the answer to everything: “I feel like I’m trying to nail jello to the wall play with math as metaphysical master or whatever it is you are alluding to with that. A little more starch is needed, maybe some water cement.”

What would that be,
Appreciating the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide?

Appreciating a different between four billion years of evolution, as opposed to holding an awareness of the day by day refining of Earth’s mineral resources required for life to get it’s foot hold and then to prosper, or the generation by generation struggles of living creatures doing the best they could with what they had?

The fact that I believe human self-interest isn’t the only important thing in the universe?

It is still just a controlled hallucination.

I would modify that to read; Consciousness is an emergent product of dynamic biochemical patterns in the process of maintaining existence and interaction with their specific local environments.

So you deny that there is something deeper underlying all of this?
If I recall those are your words and I agree.

I just have defined that a generic mathematical logical order is a potential candidate for that deeper “ordering function”, what Bohm called the Implicate Order.

it would be that I can’t unpack this:

you can put this “visceral level” anywhere you want, and you expend a lot of energy telling others that they don’t know where it is. Enlightenment thinking has been working through that shell game for a long time. I’m not sure why you don’t see that.

But, I like this other stuff,

So, I keep digging.

Sure in some ways, but it sort of a fail to always harp on “hallucination” when you are in a state of constant feedback loops, which is what consciousness is when we are interacting with the world and not stoned. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so many different levels of consciousness.
When we are in verbal mode, ‘controlled hallucination’ is even more tempting to use - but it’s still misleadingly oversimplified and IMHO a failure on the part of the scientist who haven’t figured out a better metaphor for these mental feedback loops (interaction) with the real physical world that we know as awareness and consciousness.

If that’s what you like.
Though as you might imagine, I don’t look fondly on describing a living creature as nothing more than a “pattern”*. Pulls me right back into all that quantum weirdness and the failure to accommodate the reality of scaling and all that, and the climbing inside the human mindscape and falling more in love with the notions and mathematical possibilities, than the straightforward reality on the other side of your skin. But, then I never claimed to me a scientists, I’m just a spectator trying to make sense of a screwed up world.

No, but it’s out of my pay scale.

Implicate order and explicate order are ontological concepts for quantum theory coined by theoretical physicist David Bohm during the early 1980s. They are used to describe two different frameworks for understanding the same phenomenon or aspect of reality. In particular, the concepts were developed in order to explain the bizarre behaviors of subatomic particles which quantum physics describes and predicts with elegant precision but struggles to explain. [1]

“visceral level” = deep personal understanding, in fact it actually reaching into our viscera. It’s not something I came up with, gut instinct, gut reactions. Though it is something I can relate to.
The difference between grasping a concept and not grasping it.
It doesn’t need to be a shell game.

explicit appreciation of our Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide

Seems pretty straight forward.
An example, I feel like I have a relationship with my body, because it feels somewhat independent of me and wiser. There’s me, with the constant dialogues and looking out upon the world, then there’s this wonderful healthy fit body that presents me to the world. I’ve deeply felt for a long time that “my body has taken better care of me, then I have of it.” I could probably get into detail, but that’s not the purpose here.

I’m saying that didn’t spring out of trying to be cute and poetic, that sprang from describing what I’m experiencing. I like to think a lot of people have the same sort of background sense of something like that, but don’t know.

Sorry about the feelings I have developed about western philosophy, can’t help it, it is driven by the words and ideas and red flags I’ve experienced. It’s pretty basic and doesn’t mean I dismiss western philosophy outright, not at all, still it does have glaring weaknesses and failed at preparing us for the new real future we are facing, in part no thanks to it’s follies and failures:

What stands out for me is,
How much the notion of God (spoken and unspoken) continues pervading human thought, for or against, in different guises, as in the never ending search for the ‘answer to everything’, as if such a thing exists.
The other one is how full of ourselves humans can get (and that colors everything).

Off to bed and tomorrow’s another day.
Thanks for the chat.
You too Write.

It is and isn’t. Sometimes you speak of the mindscape as if it is physical, but it’s the imagination, right? Lately you’ve been talking about what’s “real to us”, but I don’t see how that fits your “divide”.

I don’t think this needs to be as antagonistic as you make it. I’ve agreed many times about the problems of Western philosophy, but we’re not the first to recognize them and we can find new work to build on.

I’ve lost the point where I said you had not responded to some of my earlier posts. You asked me to remind you. Here’s one that ends with EO Wilson. Someone I’d think you’d be interested in. Sapolsky is no slouch either. (Bonobo and the Atheist)

Important Insights Along the Way - Humanism - CFI Forums (centerforinquiry.org)

It the universe of our thoughts, our consciousness, those voices narrating your day to days.

Too many decades on the Climate Science Communication front, and now really seeing the unassailable evidence unfolding and that crowd has only doubled down of delusional thinking with a vicious hostility towards science, yeah I’m pissed off, the deception and self induced stupidity and delusional thinking is beyond the pale.

Although then I think about Haidt when he gets into his twisted political definitions of who/what a liberal is and his conviction in the superiority of the conservative outlook - but that sort of antagonistic poop (subtle or not) gets a pass?
Oh and too be sure, I’m not taking sides, even if I’d have to categorize myself as a “liberal” but that’s some old school notion of “liberal” totally out of step with the crazy happening on both sides of that political divide.

That’s why my personal last bastion of faith is in the concept of “truth” and “honesty” - all other bets are off.

I never really answered this. I thought maybe you’d just look back and see the point was from Writr4, that you cherry-pick what is or isn’t alive and conscious. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you said in this thread that the “realness is within the mindscape”. Which fits with everything I say about people having beliefs and not being able to just shrug them off, or how our environments shape our thoughts, and how our logical thinking comes after the emotions that come from a less well-defined place in us. I think all of this is seeking a “deeper serious understanding of our Mindscape-Physical divide”.

But you respond like this, as if we aren’t understanding something. I don’t disagree with this, and don’t see how it contradicts anything else I’ve said.

I don’t know why you’d ask that question at all. Of course it isn’t.

That is not what I’m saying.
The mindscape produces an impression of the physical reality, that impression becomes our individual “reality”.
That impression is limited by our own cognitive and experiential abilities/awareness.

Are you saying that doesn’t make sense?

Sometimes you make me want to pound my head against a wall.
This is what “I believe”

“Appreciating the Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide”

(divide being the key concept) this lead to:

Earth is our touchstone with “Reality”

Humans are an evolved sensing organisms - created out of Earth’s processes.



This is what I’m saying:


Well, guess that’s because I can’t divorce this discuss from the self-destructive, dysfunctional, dead-end (that is absolutely unsustainable) society we’ve created.

I literally quote you and you put it in bold that I got it wrong.

Of course our sense of realness comes from within our minds. I’ve never disagreed with that.

Yeah. I see that. I think I’ve tried to point that out. There’s some kind of entangled, cause-and-effect thing you’re doing, that makes it difficult for me to know what’s your point. I agree the society is messed up, and that we need to understand our evolution to avoid that self-destruction. Beyond that, I don’t claim to have an answer, only paths to improvement.

Is that not what I have been saying, quoting Seth’s “controlled hallucination”, which is a description of an individual experience of reality?

I told you that we are talking about the same thing. You just refuse to accept the phrase “controlled hallucination” and cite that the “mind” is capable of much more than making “best guesses.”

I don’t know where I’ve talked about the “mindscape” as being physical in itself. It is produced by the brain/body processing it’s surroundings.

It is the source of our sense (our understanding) of physical reality we exist within.
I’ve been trying to talk about a deep sense of appreciation for how our thoughts are different from the physical reality I can touch.

And the actual physical reality is something beyond our impression of it,
even though our impression is driven by mental processing that is caused by and done by physical components.

Well read these words again:

There’s a big difference between “our sense of” and “the”,
I don’t see what you are calling me to task for.

individual mindscape = individually “controlled hallucination”

The “mind” does not have direct contact with the exterior world. The mind is a result of sensory data processes by which the wave functions of reality are transformed into representative electrochemical bits (or qubits as Penrose would have it)

I’m a human not a mathematical computer.