Posts by ted lumley
The Owl and the Human engage on the topic of the Foundations of Western Cognitive Understanding
One day, the owl and the man struck up a conversation in which the man was going on about all the improvements that he and his fellow villagers had made to the land. The owl replied; ‘oh yes, I have heard you humans speak of this concept of ‘improvements’ to the land which becomes the basis for taxing yourselves. It is a curious thought that you could improve on Nature even though we are all included in nature, … kind of like biting and chewing on one’s own teeth.
The man then spoke proudly of his long tradition of applying his intelligence to the challenge of design and construction to ‘improve’ the land as exemplified by his present village that he and his friends had constructed that was replete with ‘mod cons’ that ‘made their lives a lot easier’.
The owl could not resist reminding the man of his earlier statement in which he spoke of how this verdant valley with its babbling fish-filled brooks, its game-filled forest and grain-filled fields had induced the men and their families to settle and ‘develop’ the land; saying;
“while you speak of your village as something you have constructed, as if fully from your own will and volition or ‘productive nature’, … you also speak of being ‘attracted’ by the beauty and fertility of this valley, which you described as a ‘teat’ that nourishes you, and/or a cornucopia, that in your softer moments you refer to as ‘mother earth’, … a ‘horn of plenty’ that you and your fellow villagers draw nourishment from. So, were your actions in constructing your village driven by your inside-outward asserting will and intention, … or were they inductively actualized by the outside-inward orchestrating pull of this richly resourced valley environment?”
An Experience-based Note on How a Left Brain Stroke Changes ‘Cognition’
(Explaining why it is called ‘A Stroke of Insight’)
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
Quite simply, a left-brain stroke wipes out the concept of ‘being’ that comes from ‘naming’. If I can’t recall a person’s name in my post-stroke cognitive mode, it is because the cognitive technique of ‘understanding things’ by way of ‘being’ has ‘dropped out’ or at least been seriously impacted.
All is not lost, however, as relational cognition INCLUDES being based cognition, as I have written about in my series of ‘Post-Stroke-Impression’ notes. The ‘three levels of understanding’ model of Erich Jantsch covers that ground; i.e. nature, nurture and flow, … which he illustrates in terms of a person on land, swimming in the flow, and then included as a flow-feature. These three modes of cognition in which level 1 (flow) includes levels 2 and three while level 2 includes level 3, … makes total sense to me.
Exploring the relational reality that lies beyond ‘being’-based abstraction
‘We’ who explore such topics, cannot easily share them because (a) they do not fit into the typical dinner conversation format of our present culture, since to express them takes a lot of relational connections that can’t fit into a rapid-fire repartee, and (b) because the humanism implicit in trying to share them is not seen as “a humanism of real worth” since it undermines, besmirches or topples the esteemed icons, pillars of society, founding fathers, and celebrities of the culture-in-place. – Henri Laborit, ‘La Nouvelle Grille’
What is confusing us is ‘calling a spade a spade’, ‘what a named thing ‘really is” which distinguishes it from ‘what it is not’. As understood within the abstract concept of ‘being’, there are only the two choices of ‘is’ or ‘is not’. This ‘logic of the excluded third’ began to overtake the purely relational understanding of Heraclitean flow as the basis of Western cognition, starting from the time of Parmenides (circa 500 BCE).
“In France, they call this ‘une forchette’, … in Germany, they call this ‘ein Gabel’, while in England, we call it a ‘fork’ which, of course, ‘is what it actually is’”. In this pleasantry, allusion is made to how words that could signify purely relational forms emerging in a flow, are cognitively hardened (reified) to impute thing-in-itself ‘being’ to what is, in the reality of our actual experience, relational form (i.e. names impute ‘being’ to relational forms in the transforming relational continuum, not only in the case of hurricanes in the flow of the atmosphere but in the case of humans/organisms and relational forms in general, in the natural (relational) world of our actual experience. That is, relational forms in the transforming relational continuum are the physical-experiential reality.
Originally sent to [list].
Here is a short (what is intended as) ‘elucidating’ on the ,,, problem of understanding the abstraction of ‘being’ as belonging to ‘physical reality’ rather than belonging to ‘abstraction’.
I would describe the endemic problem, in ‘Western culture’ of ‘belief in the reality of being’ [not recognizing ‘being’ as a linguistic poetic ‘cognition-bootstrapping tool’] as the core source of social dysfunction termed ‘incoherence’ by Bohm.
The Three-Levels of Language-Based Understanding of ‘Reality’
* * * 4TH RESEND – REFLECTIONS ON THIS SERIES OF COMMENTS * * *
Public events such as the ‘trial of Omar Khadr’ bring out the divisions in Western society with respect to modes of cognition. The three modes of cognition formulated by Erich Jantsch in ‘Design for Evolution’ are useful in exploring what is actually going on in the cognitive habits of Westernized society. We can see how it is possible to socially divide into ‘three groups’ depending on ‘cognitive preference’ as to ‘what is ‘real’ in the process of ‘making sense of’ or ‘understanding’ the world we are included in. In Western society, the split into the two cognitive ‘realities’ of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ are the most popular. Both of these impressions assume the ABSTRACT (non-experience-grounded) ‘existence’ of human BEINGS as associates with NAMING relational forms in the flow, and differ as follows;
The following ‘Reflections on Reality’ have been informed by my ‘Stroke of Insight’ (as Jill Bolte Taylor’s book of the same name terms a ‘left-brain’ stroke). This type of stroke undermines one’s capacity for cognition that is dependent on ‘being/s’ as connoted by ‘names’ that stand for ‘things-in-themselves’. Names can come in a relational web of names where the relations among the named entities (which transcend the meaning in the names themselves) become the primary ‘informer’ that elicits ‘understanding’ (e.g. ‘Dances with Wolves’). Alternatively, ‘names’ can be ‘abstract’ in that they connote ‘stand-alone’ ‘things-in-themselves’ (e.g. ‘Rumpelstiltskin’) where the name is ‘abstract’ as in ‘absolute’ and does not derive its meaning from our relational experience. This type of abstract ‘thing-in-itself’ name that does not derive from relational exprience can ‘turn a pauper into a Prince’ as alluded to in the tale of Rumpelstiltskin who had the power to spin straw into gold. In Western culture, one might know two paupers very well through one’s relational experience yet discover, one day, that one of those paupers is Prince Igor. In Western culture, the name (intellectual cognition) over-rides experiential cognition so that one might kneel or curtsy and kiss the feet of a well-known (by experience) person the moment his Princely status is revealed or even ‘decreed’.
Not all cultures put intellectual cognition via ‘naming’ in precedence over relational experience, but that is the salient feature of Western culture that is examined in the fable of Rumpelstiltskin. Poets understand that relational experience informs us at a deeper level than ‘names’ ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ (Shakespeare). Nevertheless, in our Western culture, the poets no longer have the predominating influence of the mythopoetic era, thanks to the rise to (unnatural) precedence of ‘Newtonian’ science based (rational) understanding. Rational understanding elevates named-thing-in-itself based cognition over relational cognition and puts rational understanding into service as the ‘operative reality’, eclipsing the natural primacy of relational experience.
When the magic sword of Excalibur taps a pauper on the shoulder and has him arise as Sir Knight, those in his presence who have been born and raised in Western culture curtsy/or and kneel accordingly. So it is also when the big boss ceremonially anoints a common worker as a supervisor in a now common Western society replay of the ‘fairy-tale’ of ‘turning straw into gold’. Rational-intellectual cognition that cultivates pseudo-realities thus takes over from experiential reality, … in Western culture, that is, … although not in indigenous aboriginal culture where experiential-relational reality remains in its natural precedence over rational-intellectual pseudo-reality. It is also clear that the ‘poets’ of Western culture have not become extinct but have merely been ‘marginalized’ by the rise to social relational power of those who put ‘name-based rational intellection’ into an unnatural precedence over ‘relational experience’ “whereof one cannot speak, one mus remain silent” (Wittgenstein).
The philosophical works of Wittgenstein, Bohm, Nietzsche and others point to how the Western culture practice of inverting the natural precedence of relational experience over intellectual being-based cognitive construction is infusing dysfunction into the Western social dynamic that Bohm calls ‘incoherence’. As Nietzsche points out, ‘ego’ serves as an absolute (abstract) foundation that holds this ‘upside-down’ approach to cognition in place in Western culture.
The following ‘reflections on reality’ aim to illustrate how Western culture gives unnatural precedence to ‘language’ (abstraction) over ‘relational experience’ to construct a rational ‘operative reality’ that is (mis-) guiding and (mis-) shaping the Western social dynamic.
* * *
Reflections on ‘reality’
This morning, the sense of mitakuye oyasin (mitahkweeasay) or ‘all my relations’ has been clear. what is clear is that language is the source of the abstraction of ‘being’. By ‘naming’ relational forms in the flow (Tao) we abstractly impute ‘being’ to them. Language allows us to re-present forms-in-the-flow in the abstract sense of ‘things-in-themselves’. Grammar allows us to ‘cast them’ as the jumpstart authors of actions and developments. All of this is name and language-based abstraction that enters into a cognitive competition with our experiential awareness of inclusion in a transforming relational continuum (the Tao) in which we, ourselves, are relational forms, and wherein ‘everything is in flux’ (Heraclitus).
Erich Jantsch’s three level model of cognition (three levels of reality) makes a lot of sense in both my pre-and-post-stroke impressions of ‘reality’.
The following is a brief review of how this model ‘makes sense’ (reconciles with our actual experience) in the context of the unfolding social dynamic of our times.
What may be difficult to accept is how far off our popularly accepted Western worldview is, from the physical reality of our actual experience. This could also be expressed: … ‘What may be difficult to accept is how far off our popularly accepted Western worldview is from the indigenous aboriginal worldview.” In other words, the indigenous aboriginal worldview is far closer to the physical reality of our actual experience than is the popularly accepted Western worldview, as elucidated by physicists David Bohm and F. David Peat in ‘Blackfoot Physics’;
A few months before his death, Bohm met with a number of Algonkian speakers and was struck by the perfect bridge between their language and worldview and his own exploratory philosophy. What to Bohm had been major breakthroughs in human thought — quantum theory, relativity, his implicate order and rheomode – were part of the everyday life and speech of the Blackfoot, Mic Maq, Cree and Ojibwaj.” – F. David Peat, ‘Blackfoot Physics’
Author’s Preface: The Eastern manner of conceiving of reality (eg. as in the writings of Lao Tzu) is rooted in the purely relational terms of ‘flow’ or ‘the Tau’. In this worldview, there is only an overall ‘becoming’ while ‘being’ is a cognitive abstraction. Nevertheless, as Wittgenstein points out, given that the world is flow and we are flow-features within it, it is impossible to speak about it because ‘everything is in flux’ and there are no fixed/persisting references on which to construct a linguistic representation that we could share with one another. The ‘work-around’ to this obstacle which would otherwise keep us ‘silent’, is called ‘bootstrapping’ where we use the abstraction of ‘being’ to assign ‘names’ to relational forms in the flow. The ‘name’ is something that cognitively persists even though the named form is an inherently transient relational feature in a transforming relational flow [e.g. as with a purely relational ‘whorl’ (hurricane) in the purely relational flow of the atmosphere which we impute ‘being’ to by naming it]. The ‘name’ has cognitive persistence and is not subject to continuous relational transformation as is the form it refers to. That is, a name imputes, cognitively, persisting existence otherwise known as ‘being’. ‘Being’ is cognitive abstraction which is not available to our real-life physical experience (as relational forms in a transforming relational continuum).
Nevertheless, ‘bootstrapping’ is a kind of ‘cognitive sleight-of-mind’ wherein we use language to set notional ‘things-that-be’ in relative motion with (noun-and-verb) grammar. The ultimate aim of this use of language is to get the mind to latch onto the ‘relational dynamics’ and when it does, ‘let go of’ the abstract notion of the ‘existence of things’ so as to ‘bootstrap’ a purely relational cognitive impression/understanding. The ‘being’ of name-labelled ‘things-in-themselves’ is thus an abstract expedient; … a cognitive tool (‘Wittgenstein ladder’) to ‘lift oneself up into purely relational cognitive mode.
The division between Eastern and Western cognition pivots from whether one considers ‘being’ to be ‘real’ or ‘poetic abstraction of convenience’ used in bootstrapping to facilitate language based discussion of a fluid reality that would otherwise be beyond linguistic capture/expression’.
“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen” … “that which we are unable to capture in language, we must pass over in silence.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein
The following is a short (500 word) comment; ‘Acknowledging/Employing the ‘Insight’ that comes with a Stroke’.
(A supplementary discussion on the salient points follows in a brief ‘Appendix’)
Acknowledging/Employing the ‘Insight’ that comes with a Stroke
A stroke that leaves one with an inability to ‘bring names to mind’ is a stroke that ‘demotes’ the role, in cognition, of the abstract concept of ‘being’. The ‘insight’ that comes with the stroke is where the cognitive faculty goes directly to ‘relations’ without dependency on ‘being’. ‘Relations’ are the basis of the real physical world of our experience. Names signifying ‘being’ are an abstract ‘add on’ that can ‘block’ relational cognition. For example, relational cognition ‘comes first’ in indigenous aboriginal culture. E.g. ‘Dances with wolves’ is a relational way of identifying ‘John Dunbar’ that does not impute ‘being’ to the ‘relational life form as occurs in cognition of a particular thing-in-itself connoting ‘name’.
In the fable ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, Rumpelstiltskin is a curious little fellow who has the power to spin straw into gold. This is an allusion to what a ‘name’ does; i.e. it imputes ‘being’ to a relational form in the flow. A name can transform a pauper into a prince in our Western culture, although not in the indigenous aboriginal culture. What a (left-brain) stroke does is remove the concept of ‘being’ (cognition that is triggered by thing-in-itself naming) so that relational understanding ‘rises to the fore’. (more…)
Why East Doesn’t Meet West
The following is a ‘condensed’ account of how indigenous aboriginal ‘relational reality’ is faithful to our experience while Western ‘being-based’ (abstract) reality is the source of endemic social dysfunction. (more…)