Re: MF Discussion Topic for December 2003

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Mon Dec 22 2003 - 19:39:11 GMT

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    Hi all,

    Catching up on various comments thrown at me. Starting with David M on Saturday, December 20, 2003.

    > Can you clarify two things for me.
    > 1) Often people talk about intellect in terms
    > of logic/maths on this site. Do you consider
    > Freud/Weber intellectuals?

    Sam says: you'll need to specify what you mean by 'intellectual'..... I think they operate at the
    fourth level, if that's an answer.

    > 2) Quality is linked by Pirsig to experience.
    ...When you say that
    > atoms are influenced by quality when combining do
    > you imply that atoms have a form of experience to
    > be able to move towards what has the greater quality?
    Sam: In short, yes.
    Let's agree that value (Quality) is the primary reality. So in the hot stove example, the value
    comes first, and the reaction etc is the product of that value.
    When atoms combine etc, they are led to do so by the value inherent in the situation. The different
    chemical valences (?) combine to form new molecules which are of more value etc. So also with genes
    and organisms etc - they are able to react to the situation, and as I read RMP, he says that the
    entire scientific edifice can be redescribed using 'value' instead of traditional terms, without
    loss of sense.

    "The only difference between causation and value is that the word "cause" implies absolute certainty
    whereas the implied meaning of "value" is one of preference. In classical science it was supposed
    that the world always works in terms of absolute certainty and that "cause" is the more appropriate
    word to describe it. But in modern quantum physics all that is changed. Particles "prefer" to do
    what they do. An individual particle is not absolutely committed to one predictable behavior. What
    appears to be an absolute cause is just a very consistent pattern of preferences. Therefore when you
    strike "cause" from the language and substitute "value" you are not only replacing an empirically
    meaningless term with a meaningful one; you are using a term that is more appropriate to actual

    My point is that unlike atoms and genes etc, symbols have no direct relationship with value. It is
    the human judgement that has a relationship with value, and a human judgement which says whether a
    particular symbol has value or not. I can't see the point of building up a level on a derivative
    aspect, rather than the primary aspect.

    By the way, I can't remember if I've said this before, but there probably IS a way of defining
    'symbol' (preserving the 'standing for experience or mental content' part of RMP's approach) in a
    way that could overcome this objection, to some extent. But it would have to include judgement as a
    'governing symbol' in that sense - and it would change the common meaning of symbol.

    > 3) I find it hard to see what we mean by the social level in
    > isolation as if this could exist without the activity of human intelligence...

    I think you have to consider what the governing values are. If the governing values are tribal, then
    however 'clever' an act might be, it's still on the third level.

    Amilcar wrote, also Saturday:
    "Sam, i think your three examples of 'logic' are a little misleading. What i
    found obviously missing (smirk) from your description was any notion of
    semantics and/or categories. You contrasted grammatical structure and
    'quality' without the natural counterpart of grammar, semantics. The
    'wrongness' that we discern in the latter two examples, varying from
    'quality'/truth, stems from us knowing that though these sentences do have
    correct grammatical structure, they lack correct semantic content. They are
    'wrong' or 'lack quality' because they conflict with and contradict the
    categorical distinctions of English (and social relaity in general). I don't
    think that this example indicts the coherence of intellect at the fourth
    level. That's because the intellect to me isn't the mind but the body of an
    immaterial consciousness. IMO what should be addressed is where
    consciousness and will fit into this hierarchy."

    Sam: I think this is a big red herring. I didn't go into the details too much because a)it can get
    extrememly tedious and b) it wasn't essential to my point, which was to do with our perceptions of
    Quality. I was only using logic as the example because RMP said that logic was definitely fourth
    level. I'm trying to show that there are no interactions between symbols at the fourth level without
    the determining influence of human judgement. I disagree that "The 'wrongness' that we discern in
    the latter two examples, varying from 'quality'/truth, stems from us knowing that though these
    sentences do have correct grammatical structure, they lack correct semantic content." That's quite a
    contentious claim, philosophically (but, thankfully, not one relevant to our present discussion).

    Amilcar: "The other issue i have with some of the posts is the explicit and implicit equation of
    emotions with intellect."

    Sam: I think we need to include emotions in an overall conception of mind. I'm not sure many people
    agree with that - most would place it at the biological (eg DMB) or social level (eg Bo). I don't
    agree with either of those - I think there are emotions at each level (eg lust, shame, sense of
    truth). So you're hardly on your own. I do think the location of 'emotion' within the standard MoQ
    is a monstrous platypus, however.

    Amilcar: "However we don't have a tangible entity to ascribe our 'decision-making unit' or
    'consciousness unit' to."

    Sam: I think we do. See the work by Damasio I keep citing (see my post to MD of 7/6/01, 'Emotions
    revisited'; from that post, Damasio "sees the constantly refreshed picture of the internal body
    state as the original source for a sense of self: 'our experiences have a consistent perspective'
    rooted in 'a relatively stable,
    endlessly repeated biological state'. Damasio writes, 'I see self and the subjectivity it begets as
    necessary for consciousness in general'.

    In response to my:
    > "As the atom is to the physical level, and the gene is to the
    > biological level, and the tribe is to the social level, so is X to
    > the intellectual level" - What is X?
    Bo wrote (18/12):
    The Subject/Object divide naturally, what else?

    Sam: Let's not go too far into this, just to say that S/O has no independent relationship to Quality
    or value either - and as such can't be a natural analogue to the atom or the gene IMHO.

    Bo: Watch out Sam or you'll be accused of creating a different MOQ and asked to call it something
    else (which means "remove yourself") ;-)

    Sam: I freely confess I've "created" (adapted?) a different MoQ. I've called it the eudaimonic MoQ
    to differentiate it...

    Bo: Intellect's value is that of rising above emotions, just as societys value was rising above

    Sam: Don't agree with that, in fact it's precisely what I object to. The idea of intellect being
    'above' the emotions is, IMHO, incoherent - that's precisely why I object to the RMP account. As
    Damasio says, 'It does not seem sensible to leave emotions and feelings out of any overall concept
    of mind'. From the point of view of integrating this with the MoQ, I would argue that 'emotion'
    cannot be reduced to either the biological, the social, or even the intellectual level. It is a
    combination of all the different parts of human being. It would also be true to say that the
    intellectual level depends upon the social and biological for both existence and proper functioning.

    DMB 16/12: I think Pirsig makes it quite clear that there can be no intellect without biological
    brains and social level language. In other words, I don't think MOQ would deny that both sensation
    and emotion plays a role in what we think. This is the premise that I think is mistaken....I mean,
    the mind has a heart too, you know?

    Sam: My premise is that there is an emotional element in the fourth level, that cannot be reduced to
    levels 2 or 3. Which I think the MoQ *does* deny - doesn't it?

    Amilcar from 12/12: one detail from Sam's grid that i noted was that the first two levels
    (inorganic-atom and organic-gene) the 'choosing unit' has specific tangible entities, whereas the
    second two levels (social-tribe and
    intellectual-intellect) do not. Were we to take Sam's suggestion of the "Autonomous Individual", the
    intellectual level would gain a tangible entity, the individual, however the social level would
    still remain without a specific entity...

    Sam: I think the specific entity is the tribe, variously defined.

    That'll do for me until after Christmas. Hope you all have a jolly festive time.


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