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Friday, October 8, 2010

Are objects enough or do we need a subject experiencing them?

Are external objects able to convey information? Are they, that is, independent of me meaningful objects?
During the open discussion following the paper of Wolfgang Fasching I have summarised before, Joel Krueger (who asked, by the way, some among the most interesting questions during the whole conference) challenged Fasching's approach from the point of view of Gilbert's ecological psychology. In summary, Gilbert proposed that the only world we experience is a world made of already meaningful objects. That is, they are already meaningful, even before me attributing them a meaning. Consequently, they are also able to tell me some information about myself. Hence, the world itself is a continuous space of self-specifying information (=information specifying myself, yourself, etc.). If this all is true, we would need nothing more than a consciousness interpreted as sheer openness.
Instinctively, I would have objected like Irina Kusnetsova did, that is by claiming that objects can convey self-specifying information only in relation of me. They are telling insofar as I "interrogate" them, they tell me about me because they tell me how I like or dislike or am attracted, etc. them.
Once again, I am back at the problem that if all we want to establish is a sheer consciousness, without personal characteristic, then it seems that even less than that would do (just the saṃskāras instead of the owner of memories, for instance). A full-shaped sense of mineness seems to me the minimal requisite to distinguish between a "mental state" and a subejct.

11 comments:

Dominik Wujastyk said...

Somewhere in the middle of all this, a tree falls in the middle of a forest, unheard ...

elisa freschi said...

Thank you Dominik. That's exactly my point. A sound (unlike, arguably, a fallen tree) exists only for a hearer.

Jayarava said...

If objects are a priori meaningful... how would we know?

michael reidy said...

When you consider that everything on this planet has evolved from the primordial cosmic soup then it is logical that in the higher organisms there is internalised all the lower that they have used as a launch pad. They are informed by those lower forms of life so there is a built in resonance. The focus on consciousness as though it were a matter of complete disjunction from all other forms of life is dualism. Basically the more autonomy, the more information, the more complexity of structure. The idea that recognition of structure is a projection is a denial of common heritage.

Advaitins hold that the organs are of the same category as the objects. In this acute pre-scientific intuition, physical interaction throws up real information. There is no tabula rasa.

skholiast said...

Perhaps there is meaning "first," (ontologically) which then coagulates (as it were) into the events (= encounters between objects) which are its own occasions.

elisa freschi said...

Jayarava,
I see your point. But I guess Gibson would answer that we can know, because we can observe this pattern (I'm sure G. would explain it it in a much nicer way): the same object X causes the same reactions in various subjects. Hence, the object is the core, not the subject.

Michael,
this is an interesting point of view. The only point which does not convince me is its "natural scientific" allure. Could not we avoid it? After all, natural sciences are exactly the result of the kind of projection you seem to refute (a scientist sits by her microscope observing inert entities…).

Skholiast,
do you mean to say that meaning pre-exists the event of its being grasped or actualized? Why such a presupposition-load theory? Why not just the event of the actulization of meaning?

michael reidy said...

Elisa:
Where's the projection in science? I thought science was a reflection of what is really there and not something that we dream up. Of course theories are adapted because new information becomes available through experiment or observation.

elisa freschi said...

Michael, thanks for this interesting dialogue. Well, I do not think that natural sciences are as neutral as you seem to imply. They presuppose, for instance, that objects are somewhere outside their observer and they long assumed that they were "already" there, ready to be observed. I understood your first comment as implying that this scheme could be questioned. Did I miss your point?

Jayarava said...

"the same object X causes the same reactions in various subjects. "

I suppose it depends on what is meant by 'meaning'.

But it is patently the case that we don't always agree on the meaning of objects or the statements of philosophers for that matter :-)

michael reidy said...

Thanks Elisa for pointing out the 'ambiguity' in my original post. I use quotes because 'ambiguity' only arises if there is in operation a subconscious picture of inner and outer, subjective and objective. Being an inner hard-wired predisposition does not mean being a subjective condition that gets projected on to the objective or external world. It's a complicated because very simple idea. Both the predisposition and the world get switched on at the same time, neither exists 'in the dark' waiting on the other.

skholiast said...

Elisa,
I am going out on a limb, but the notion of a pure consciousness (Atman) that pre-exists the object seems to me to be tantamount to a pure meaning which pre-exists its occasions. I know this is vague here, and it's all too plausible that I am misconstruing the Upanishads here. In case it needs saying, 'pre-exists' here means for me timelessly, not temporally.

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