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This should probably be in Laboratory section, but I haven't found a way to post there, so I am posting to the next most related forum, which is one concerned with epistemology and metaphysics. I've recently been fascinated by David Kelley's philosophy of mind described in Diana Mertz Hsieh's "Mind in Objectivism: A Survey of Objectivist Commentary on Philosophy of Mind" (2003). Here is an excerpt:

Quote

Kelley argues that the Aristotelian/Objectivist account of causality, in which “causality is a matter of the nature or identity of the objects which act,” does not limit causality to antecedent factors. Rather, it allows for “many different modes of causality in nature,” including simultaneous causality between the levels of organization that emerge in complex systems, such as in conscious organisms. Kelley discusses two basic forms of such simultaneous causality: upward causation and downward causation. In upward causation, entities acting at a lower level of organization simultaneously cause effects on the entities in a higher level of organization. Downward causation is simply the reverse, such that entities acting at a higher level of organization simultaneously cause effects on the entities in a lower level of organization. For Kelley, consciousness is “a higher level phenomenon distinct from the electrical activity of specific parts of the brain.”

The idea of upward and downward causation in terms of brain-consciousness interface is really interesting and, I think, can be applied to a deeper understanding of epistemology. It would be helpful if anyone knows where Kelley elaborates on this idea, if he ever did so. Maybe since 2003 he touched upon it in any of his articles or books? Maybe it can be applied if we consider downward causation a stimulation done by consciousness in the manner of focusing as in Harry Binswanger's understanding of perception. Let me first explain some things before I go into further details.

Sensation, as I define it, is a thought that is externally stimulated or excited. There are five kinds of sensation in two groups: electromagnetically stimulated (sight - photons, touch - electric force) and molecularly stimulated (taste and smell - chemical, hearing - vibrational). We may be not aware of these thoughts, such as when we sit we may not be aware of the chair and our body pushing against each other or when we close our eyes we may not be aware of all the photons that are continuously sensed in our eyes. We may be aware of these thoughts but still not focused on them. I think that focus is directly related to our consciousness, and it is the stimulation that is caused by our consciousness internally and in a downward manner. When we focus on a sensation we are more than aware of it - we are also affecting it consciously. Here is the idea: it depends on the strength of sensation whether it would directly get into our consciousness. So if we feel very strong pain, we focus on it, so it becomes a conscious experience. This can be called an upward causation. Upward causation can also occur when we think about something internally (conceptually) and we get a random thought or even a related thought but one we didn't cause with our consciousness but rather that came from a stimulation of some adjacent neurons, thus entering our consciousness from our brain, like other sensation does.

I think these ideas can be related to how we perceive. If perception is an integration or synthesis of sensations, then it is also an integration of thoughts. But the question is: what thoughts are being integrated? Are we aware of these thoughts or not, are we conscious of them or not, and are they only internally or only externally stimulated? Moreover, can we have a pure perception, that is from only externally stimulated thoughts, pure sensations? I think this question directly relates to the epistemological questions academically posed: namely by Thomas Reid. Are perceptions conceptually manipulated? Kant took this important point and basically reduced perceptions into his categories and forms of intuition, whose content is sensation. An interesting point is that sensation in Reid, Kant, and also Rand is considered to be pure empiricism and not related to thought per se. But I think that by understanding sensation as thought we are not necessarily mixing it with conscious thought, as I explained. Moreover, this picture becomes more complex when we consider how sensation is synthesized by our brain and consciousness.

If we are to form percepts or concepts, all agree that we must somehow synthesize sense data, that is, we need to take multiple sensations as they are co-occurring or coexistent. But how does this synthesis occurs? I think this synthesis is formed by particular processes in our consciousness. First, we focus. The focus implies limitation to what enters our consciousness. We cannot focus on all thoughts that are constantly happening in our consciousness or in the tissues of our body. Instead, we like to work optimally, so we don't go insane. However, we do not know what to focus on if we haven't had enough experience. So how we focus depends on our prior experience. We learn to focus through trial and error in order to know what are the essential areas to focus upon. But this means that concepts that we have formed affect what we focus on, and a lack of concepts affects our ability to focus efficiently and correctly. For example, American Indians never experienced ships before and so hadn't formed a concept of a ship. When Europeans were approaching in ships, Indians had a hard time of focusing on them right away. Instead, they were only able to perceive the ships when those were already near land. Moreover, they didn't even necessarily try to focus, but could have just been unaware of the ships when those were on the horizon.

This issue of when our perceptions are affected conceptually can be likened to downward causation affecting our thoughts. For example, the better our concepts are of an object, the more expertly we can perceive and understand it. This also applies to external stimulation from reading. When we read a word we first get sight sensation of which we are aware, and when we focus on the word with our consciousness we start stimulating its thought inside our consciousness which relates to our memory of concepts. The accuracy of our knowledge of the concept that is expressed by this word depends on how many integrations of these thoughts we'd experienced before and thus how proficient we are in isolating essential concepts, which means the same process of focus happens not only on sensation and perception but also in conception.

The second process that happens when we focus is our volition or will combining areas that we accept as essential. This is the tricky part that could lead to mixing make-believe hallucinations (upward causation) with our own ideas of what we perceive (downward causation as in Binswanger's explanation of how our concepts affect seeing a pencil bent in water). So can we purify our perception by ignoring our internal stimulation of the externally stimulated thoughts? I think this depends on practice and experience, as mentioned before. The more we learn what are essential characteristics for us to focus on (and this depends on what we do in life, what profession we choose, what we perceive more than anything), the better our essentials become. This means that our concepts change based on practice because we change what essentials we focus on. When we are children we do not yet know what areas of sensation we need to focus on, so we may focus on things that we later deem to be not essential. Education also helps us (if not just inculcates us) to form better concepts, which condition how we perceive the related objects later on.

The point that our concepts affect our percepts is very important. It shows that concepts are required for us to be better observers (this especially applies in art). With concepts internally stimulated, we can become more efficient and knowledgeable concerning our interactions with environment and other people. In a way, concepts precondition our percepts, if we accept that there is evolution of our consciousness in terms of how we 'grasp' things by focusing on them and using our will to synthesize or integrate thoughts to better connect with external things. So in order for external things to be reflected better in our consciousness, we need to have a developed internal 'environment.' That is, we need to have our own concepts to help us better integrate sensations and perceptions.

An interesting consequence of this is that sensations (S) and perceptions (P) that we experience vary from person to person. Additionally, concepts also vary through conception (C), depending on what your area of expertise is. Because of variations of S, P, and C, we may presume that all three are infinite in possibilities. So the next question becomes is there some area that is limited to all people, regardless of what they do or how they conceive. One way to answer this question is no, we are all conceptual beings and thus are different because we all conceive of things differently and relate them to different words. However, we find in this answer a hint that something is still shared in this infinity besides even the trivial understanding of us as human beings. Or perhaps it indeed helps that we as human beings share something that is limited for our purposes of more efficient conceptualization. We call this categories.

Categories are not concepts, but instead they are preconceptual conditions. Categories are in all concepts and also beyond concepts as metaconcepts. We use categories to think more concisely, like we use concepts to perceive better. Categories are filled with concepts like containers with objects or rivers with water. In this case, categories can be viewed as the stage of epistemological development after C. All philosophers, and perhaps most people, use categories of thought. Rand's category, what she called an implicit concept, was existence. She used existence as a precondition for all concepts. Categories thus metaphysically necessitate particular ways we conceive. When we focus upon many concepts that we can summon to our minds from memory encoded in neurons, we learn that we cannot focus on all of them but only on specific ones, as the amount of units we can be conscious of from memory is limited and based on what we are dealing with or thinking about. Categories help with this as essential features of concepts that we pick out when we focus conceptually. In contrast to S and P stages, or stages of externally stimulated and internally/externally - mixed - stimulated thoughts, C and categories (C2) are purely internal stimulations, whether of downward or upward causation.

In any major philosophy, C2 plays a pivotal role in structuring what we conceive. In Kant, for example, C2 are the conditions of deriving knowledge from experience (S, to which P is also reduced). To describe C2 Kant uses a lot of abstract C, which makes it hard to understand. Because there is not one C2 chosen by Kant but instead a bunch (but not all!), we can become kind of lost in his realm of C2. Perhaps what is needed is to simplify C2 further like we had in Rand. Because C2 have a limited number in contrast to the units of S, P, and C, we may think right away that why can't we simplify this number to, say, a single C2. And Rand's way shows that it can be done. However, it also shows that there can be other ways to simplify C2, based on our experience with this internal realm. I will mention how I categorize categories metaphysically just to complete the whole picture of my discussion.

To select a unity among categories you need to conceive (select a word with some conceptual connotations, of course, and not a mere idea) a metacategory that can structure other categories and contain them precategorically. Such a metacategory also needs to organize other categories. For me, existence is a metacategory of choice, but not the only one. Perhaps it would help if we think not of C2 per se but C in terms of infinity of concepts. Since all concepts are organized by categories, they can also be used to understand how we can organize categories themselves. An infinity of concepts involves taking all concepts there are and trying to find basic distinctions among them. Once we think of infinity (which is a daunting task requiring much abstract thought) we cannot help ourselves but think of something singular, like a line, a unity, or singularity.

To think of all concepts becomes easy when we think of just one or two. Or three, when we also include infinitesimally small and infinitely large in C. These three ways of thinking of C is how I think of metacategories. The infinitesimally small is nonexistence and infinitely large is existence, but both at the same time, as in singularity, is APEIRON, which cannot be comprehended as it becomes meaningless from the metaphysical equation of nonexistence and existence, thus continually mixed, spread through all space and time, containing all that is conceptually physical but themselves are categorically metaphysical. Nonetheless this fifth stage, let's call it A, provides a condition for C2 that is based on belief, since we already know that all our C2 are internally stimulated and condition our internal stimulation retroactively. To understand A, we reduce it to C2, to understand C2, we reduce it to C, C to P, P to S. Once we grasp each stage, we can understand how epistemology, through David Kelley's two causations, works in both directions.

Any thoughts? :)

Edited by Ilya Startsev
connecting the lines of the quote

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12 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

We may be not aware of these thoughts,

Why call it a thought? If you are not at all aware of a specific thought, it is not a "thinking thing" as implied by being the noun form of "think". A mental event, or mental content, makes more sense.

12 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

the question is: what thoughts are being integrated?

Taking the above, the question becomes: what mental content is being integrated into a percept?

12 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

This issue of when our perceptions are affected conceptually can be likened to downward causation affecting our thoughts.

Cognitive psychologists study exactly how and to what degree. There a number of studies, particularly in psycholinguistics.

12 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

We learn to focus through trial and error in order to know what are the essential areas to focus upon.

Your reasoning goes wrong here. Trial and error is  needed to know how to focus well and why. The problem is to focus at all doesn't require experience. To focus purposefully, maybe. But the human body is innately attuned to certain stimuli, thus allowing for initial focus without innate concepts. As far as Objectivist epistemology here, this does not contradict Rand's notion of tabula rasa - the mind is only ever blank as far as knowledge and concepts. The scientific analysis shows how it is focus works in detail.

13 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

a lack of concepts affects our ability to focus efficiently and correctly

This is true, but your example is bad. If you need to have the concept "ship" to detect ships..... no one would see ships nor would the concept exist. Whales would literally wander into boats, fish wouldn't nibble on hooks.

You'd be fine as an Incan to see a huge Spanish Galleon. You'd see a floating thing, all its sails, but it'd be a little confusing. Drawing it from memory would not work well. In this way, your focus would be less efficient. Forming new concepts helps make narrower distinctions. Concepts do not alter how the world looks, but recognizing distinctions helps you decide what to look for.

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8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Why call it a thought? ... A mental event, or mental content, makes more sense.

Because it passes through nerve tissues. When we dream, especially lucidly, we don't experience mental events but actual thoughts that are otherwise subconscious or unconscious.

8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Your reasoning goes wrong here. Trial and error is  needed to know how to focus well and why.

I meant to say to focus better. It also implied that we may focus without experience, but trial and error implies we can get to focus better or more purposefully.

8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

your example is bad. If you need to have the concept "ship" to detect ships...

You are right, the example is not actual but perhaps a misrepresentation of Indians. However, I never wrote that the ships weren't detected, they were, but not at first because maybe Indians didn't have enough experience to detect them right away or they didn't think them to be dangerous.

8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

your focus would be less efficient. Forming new concepts helps make narrower distinctions. Concepts do not alter how the world looks, but recognizing distinctions helps you decide what to look for.

That's what I tried to describe. But instead of just narrower distinctions it's more essential distinctions.

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The point why I call sensation internally represented as thought and not mental content is actually really important. Mental content is too vague and ambiguous a term. It's ambiguous because it doesn't differentiate emotions from thoughts, and this differentiation is extremely important in my philosophy. It's the difference between mystical and idealistic tendencies. The mystical tendency is not presented in this article, however, because currently there don't seem to be problems of attaining knowledge in this framework, so it is explained without emotions. If such problems occur, then the emotional perception will need to be explained to avoid disintegrations of knowledge caused by skeptics and such like. I am aware that skeptics reject any kind of emotion as its own thing, but that is explained by their form of consciousness as it maps ontologically. The downward/upward directionality is actually the important idea that connects this epistemology with my ontology.

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9 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

Mental content is too vague and ambiguous a term. It's ambiguous because it doesn't differentiate emotions from thoughts, and this differentiation is extremely important in my philosophy.

Forget "your" philosophy for one moment. I wasn't even presenting a substantial argument. I wanted to get the terms right. I was first giving a broad distinction as "what happens in the head mentally" and "what doesn't happen in the head mentally". This way thoughts one isn't aware of makes some sense, as long as we stop saying "thought" and note that mental content says nothing about how aware one is of a particular mental happening. From there, it is fine to differentiate emotion from deliberation. Notice how I didn't say "thought". Also, neither of those are unconscious. There is no such thing as an unconscious thought, emotion, or intuition. To be sure, there are non-conscious mental content or events (arguable which one as a scientific theory). What you are describing needs some name besides "thought", as the term gets confusing.

On 5/1/2017 at 4:37 AM, Ilya Startsev said:

When Europeans were approaching in ships, Indians had a hard time of focusing on them right away. Instead, they were only able to perceive the ships when those were already near land.

"Not enough experience to detect them" suggests, along with the above, that they literally saw the ships in a vaguer way. There's no reason to suppose that their eyes had trouble focusing as if it were blurry. Concepts help in terms of what to focus on and why, thus aiding perceptual interaction with the world. By the way, some psychologists suppose that thinking -alters- perception, or tweaks it. Like wearing a heavy backpack makes a hill look steeper, that sort of idea. That might be arguable. But it goes too far to say that seeing a Galleon clearly is harder for an Incan.

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5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Forget "your" philosophy for one moment. ... There is no such thing as an unconscious thought, emotion, or intuition.

How can you forget philosophy if it covers everything there is? Would you rather reduce this discussion to science and its terms? I don't know enough about cognitive psychology to be your opponent. All I can do is continue examining your words through my philosophical lens.

Ontologically speaking, thoughts and emotions are in consciousness but not of it or on the same level with it because consciousness is a whole that cannot be broken without losing its wholeness and thus without stopping being consciousness. For this reason thoughts and emotions are not consciousness, and also consciousness is limited in its scope, as you know, because we don't consciously feel, for example, our brain or other parts of the body, sometimes even when focusing on them. In fact we aren't consciousness of our inner organs because we cannot wholly perceive them. We can sometimes feel the beating of our heart or our stomach's sounds but we can't actually feel the heart or the stomach. This shows that what is ontologically within our consciousness (and therefore within our body) is not of consciousness, as we cannot perceive it or focus on it.

There are pulses and impulses in our body of which we are not necessarily aware as well. Because these (im)pulses are similarly not of our consciousness as thoughts and emotions aren't, and since these (im)pulses are on the same level with thoughts and emotions I associate the two to be one and the same. Because I associate thoughts and emotions with (im)pulses in which our tissues (nerve and blood) exist, then it follows that thoughts and emotions, in themselves, are sub-subconsciousness or even unconsciousness. The idea of 'mental content' is confusing the scales here because, even though it connects things to the brain and mind (which one, though?), it doesn't differentiate between consciousness and the parts of our body and consciousness, such as those existing on the level of tissues and (im)pulses.

Also, I describe emotions as correlating with changes of heart rate. This means that excitations like we experience in gym would also be emotional, but we surely don't necessarily experience them as emotion because we don't necessarily focus on them. If we do, we may express these emotions (and people sometimes do that in gym, whether positively or negatively but strongly).

5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

[The example with ships] suggests, along with the above, that they literally saw the ships in a vaguer way. There's no reason to suppose that their eyes had trouble focusing as if it were blurry.

I think it has to do with essentials upon which we learn to focus with practice. For example, maybe Indians focused only on the sail and thus kept the boat vague in their sight, ignoring it because of their focus on the different part that had no people in it. If only the sails drew their attention, then they didn't find enough danger in them or thought them natural, maybe like whales spurting water. So in this case, yes, their perception of some essentials was vague because they focused on the wrong sensations of the ships.

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While listening to David Kelley's lecture on The Nature of Free Will, I've come across an idea that when something sudden happens in our environment, say, like in Kelley's example, while we are reading a book and focusing on it, someone or something scratches against a door, we focus on this sensation quickly and clearly, thinking whether it's a dog, our close one, or a serial killer. I would explain this phenomenon with emotional perception. When something sudden like this happens, our heart rate rises, which means emotions upwardly cause entrance into our consciousness (for some people, of course, who are more prone to react like this or be fearful). Emotions make us more clearly and strongly focus on something. So, returning to the example with ships and Indians, since the ships slowly glided into view, Indians didn't react to them strongly and thus didn't need to perceive them clearly because they were focusing on something else at the moment. But if the ships appeared suddenly to them, they could have reacted to them as danger and perceived them more clearly than they would have otherwise, regardless of the lack of conceptual affect on awareness.

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8 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

consciousness is limited in its scope, as you know, because we don't consciously feel, for example, our brain or other parts of the body, sometimes even when focusing on them.

That's my point. There are elements of one's mind that one isn't aware of. Mental content simply refers to a mental operation using either a representation or a presentation. The operation need not be deliberation.

9 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

Because I associate thoughts and emotions with (im)pulses in which our tissues (nerve and blood) exist, then it follows that thoughts and emotions, in themselves, are sub-subconsciousness or even unconsciousness.

No, this doesn't establish that there are thoughts without awareness. There is no entailment here except that thoughts require a physical realization.

9 hours ago, Ilya Startsev said:

So in this case, yes, their perception of some essentials was vague because they focused on the wrong sensations of the ships.

That's not a change in perception, i.e. the world as you see it. That's a change in conception: if an Incan figures a ship is a whale, this is only an error of identification. Thus, an Incan might choose to ignore it.

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23 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

The operation need not be deliberation.

I am a little bit confused about your term 'deliberation' perhaps as you are confused about my term 'thought.' It looks like deliberation is synonymous with thought but a kind of thought which you focus upon, am I right? If so, then okay, a focused thought can be called deliberation. But an unfocused thought you still call mental content. Is it because it's unfocused that it is vague like the term mental content is vague? However, consider particles. There are many particles that pass us and around us, and we are surely not aware of all of them, but we also don't call them physical content or any such vague term. They are still particles, even when there is no one to observe them. So there must be thoughts, of which no one is yet aware.

27 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

this doesn't establish that there are thoughts without awareness.

I've mentioned dreams before, but you haven't commented concerning them. Dreams are concrete enough entities to be more comparable to thoughts than merely mental content. However, even after having dreams, we don't necessarily remember them or become aware of them. Hence dreams are somethings that can exist within us while we are not aware of them, and yet they are not just mental content which is unorganized in itself. Dreams surely can be organized in a comprehensible framework if we focus on the memory that we have retained. By the way, the topic of why we cannot retain some dreams is interesting to me, but I don't know enough about it other than that our states or brain wave frequencies (Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta) during dreaming affect our memory of them, right?

32 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

That's not a change in perception, i.e. the world as you see it. That's a change in conception

But the change in conception surely affected their change of perception, no? I am not saying there was no perception, but I am arguing that perception can be vague as a misintegration, for example, caused by interfering concepts, especially ones that are not correctly related.

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By the way, I haven't found the upward/downward-causation discussion in Kelley's lecture that Hsieh cited. Then it could have been her interpretation of Kelley's interpretation of Aristotle's matter/form causality vs. antecedent causality in that lecture. What a pity that such an interesting and important (to me) idea has to come up by accident and as some unconfirmed interpretation!

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