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Concepts 2.

Ede Frecska: Cogito in Epistemological Make-up

The basic principles of the second foundation of knowledge (the direct-intuitive-nonlocal) can shed light on peculiar features of consciousness what several cultural views and wisdom traditions attribute to it. For example, the indigenous Arawate people of the Amazon state that in the jaguars’ perspective they are the people and we are the jaguars. In essence, jaguars are conscious beings, we might be less so in their mind. Ignorance besides, how can rational thinking make sense to a statement of such reciprocal nonsense? How come that there are traditions which connect consciousness with beings and inanimate objects other than the human brain? The following passage may help to interpret these concepts and the principles of panpsychic and hylozoic views.

As starting point I refer to Ervin Laszlo, who had a profound, unrevealing notion what I wish to take forward: “What we call ‘matter’ is the aspect we apprehend when we look at a person, a plant, or a molecule from the outside; ‘mind’ is the aspect we obtain when we look at the same thing from the inside.” For us it means that if we use the perceptual-cognitive-symbolic-the “outsider” approach-then everything is seen as an object without consciousness. How do we relate to our brain from inside, how do we perceive our own consciousness? Naturally, we cannot see, touch, smell our own or others’ mind. We are left only with the other approach, the direct-intuitive-nonlocal mode of knowing, that is the method of looking at things from the inside, intuitive apprehension is the way to recognize that we are conscious. What comes is that all of us have a direct, intuitive knowledge of our consciousness, and not a perceptual one. As far as other people are concerned, we do not sense, just assume that members of our race are conscious by deducting it from the intuitive knowledge of our own.

My conclusion may sound trivial, yet carries non-trivial consequences. Direct-intuitive-nonlocal is a way we relate to things from their inside, and in the eye of the “insider” -as Ervin Laszlo pointed it out eloquently- we always sense consciousness connected to them. Consequently, intuition and consciousness seem to be intimately related. We can get intuitive knowledge without awareness of its source. However, if we are aware of its origin then consciousness is attributed to the source in nascendi. Within this framework Stuart Hameroff is right: subneural structures (the interface for the direct-intuitive-nonlocal processing) mediate consciousness. I would add: not only our consciousness, consciousness of every entities we relate to intuitively.

At the base of the yet overwhelming Newtonian-Cartesian worldview stands Descartes’ Cogito (I think, therefore I am), which is an ontological statement. What is its epistemological flip side then? The answer is hidden behind the question ‘How do I know about myself?’ Turning Descartes’ coin to the other side: “I am aware of myself, therefore (because) I am intuitive (i.e., I have a way of getting knowledge without the senses).” The irony is that Western empirical-rational thinking is based on an intuition!

What follows next is a generalization: The same way I attribute consciousness to myself, I can attribute it to everything else via the intuitive-direct-nonlocal approach since consciousness arises during the intuitive process. Our perceptual reality consists of material objects, while the world of intuition is filled with conscious entities. Animals, plants, even rocks or the whole Universe are conscious, can be felt that way in altered states of consciousness, what are the modus operandi of the direct-intuitive-nonlocal approach. The eternal philosophical debate over the priority of consciousness or matter seems to me to be run over nonlocal and local processes. Consciousness and matter are attributions dependent on the way we are getting the knowledge.