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General Earwa / Re: The Prince of Nothing (Film)
« Last post by Francis Buck on November 13, 2019, 12:33:28 pm »
You always have the best ideas XOXOXO :-[

Only I think Ariana Grande would actually be better casting for Psatma (after the whole "Yatwerian Youth-Age Exchange Ritual" sex magic thing). She has that kinda weird, vaguely offputting appearance that somehow is both adult-like and child-like, yet also neither. But can she act?
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General Earwa / Re: The Prince of Nothing (Film)
« Last post by Francis Buck's Crush on November 12, 2019, 09:13:12 pm »
Arianna Grande as Mimara, is the perfect casting.
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General Misc. / Re: What are you watching?
« Last post by H on November 11, 2019, 02:23:57 pm »
Mr. Robot has been pretty good this season so far.  Also, His Dark Materials has also been a good new show, now 2 episodes in.  I've never read the books though, so I can't compare.

The Watchmen TV show has also been quite good.  At first I was figuring I wouldn't care, since these were new characters, but in actuality, the show is well done and quite interesting in it's own right, plus there seems to be tons of nods to be movie and the comic books.  I'd recommend it, but only if you already saw the movie first.

Also, we checked out the show Dickinson which is on AppleTV+, or whatever they are calling the service.  First, let's start with the good.  The set designs and costumes are top notch.  However, everything that isn't an inanimate object though, unfortunately, is horrendous.  As far as my wife and I could tell, the premise of the show is: "Everyone knows that Emily Dickinson wasn't Dariah, but what this show presupposes is, maybe she was?"  I could go on about the discongruity between all sorts of modern music and notions just don't seem to "work" in the show, but it's wasted breath.  Even the half hour of episode one had me checking how much was left to bear multiple times.

If this the what Apple will be pushing out, I don't expect them to be around long.
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General Misc. / Re: Quotes
« Last post by sciborg2 on November 10, 2019, 07:21:28 pm »
"But who is an initiate? A person who has experienced a knowledge invisible from without and incommunicable except through the same process of initiation. Inevitably, Plato explains, there can be but "few" initiates....
 -R.Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony


'For how can one describe, as other than oneself, that which, when one saw it, seemed to be one with oneself?

This is no doubt why in the Mysteries we are forbidden to reveal them to the uninitiated.'
 -Plotinus
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Philosophy & Science / Beyond Panpsychism : the radicality of phenomenology
« Last post by sciborg2 on November 09, 2019, 08:09:30 pm »
Beyond Panpsychism : the radicality of phenomenology

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Abstract: A central presupposition of science is that objectivity is universal. Although this presupposition is the basis of the success of scientific inquiry, it also creates a blindspot in which the conscious knower/objectifier is hidden, ignored, or surreptitiously objectified (which is tantamount to ignore it). Several strategies were accordingly adopted in the West to overcome this induced ignorance. One of them is Phenomenology, with its project of performing a complete suspension of judgments (epochè) about the alleged objective world, and evaluating any claim of knowledge, together with its activity of objectification, on the basis of lived experience. Another one is panpsychist, or rather pan-experientialist metaphysics, that puts back lived experience in the very domain that was deprived of it by the act of objectifying. I will compare these approaches, thereby establishing a hierarchy of radicality  between avoiding the blindspot from the outset and compensating for it retrospectively.
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General Misc. / Re: Quotes
« Last post by H on November 08, 2019, 11:22:40 pm »
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The path from illusion to its critical denunciation is the very core of philoso­phy, which means that successful ("true") philosophy is no longer defined by its truthful explanation of the totality of being, but by successfully accounting for the illusions, that is, by explaining not only why illusions are illusions, but also why they are structurally necessary, unavoidable, and not just accidents.
Slavoj Žižek - Less Than Nothing
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Philosophy & Science / Can a Trip-Free Psychedelic Still Help People With Depression?
« Last post by sciborg2 on November 08, 2019, 04:41:08 pm »
Can a Trip-Free Psychedelic Still Help People With Depression?

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During and after taking a high dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, something changed. "It was like being on holiday away from the prison of my brain," one person said. "I was a ball of energy bouncing around the planet, I felt carefree, re-energized."

    These testimonies came from a clinical trial for treatment-resistant depression at Imperial College London in 2016. As soon as one week after taking psilocybin—and for as long as three months after—the subjects' depressive symptoms were "markedly reduced," a paper on the results said. Since then, psilocybin and other psychedelics have been hailed as powerful and much-needed interventions for mental illness. Psychedelic research centers have been formed at Imperial College, and more recently at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In October 2018, psilocybin received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration, recognizing it as a promising treatment for hard-to-treat depression, and potentially expediting the process for its approval as a legal medication. (Psilocybin is currently illegal at the federal level in the U.S. and the U.K.)

    As scientists strive to understand exactly how these drugs lead to such dramatic outcomes, there's a growing desire to tease apart the experience of psychedelics from the drugs' other effects. Can the hallucinogenic trips that psychedelics induce be separated from other interactions the drugs might be having on the brain?

    The experiences people have on psychedelics can be profound, emotional, painful, blissful, and seemingly transformative. One patient in an Imperial College study reported that they "had an encounter with a being, with a strong feeling that that was myself, telling me it’s alright, I don’t need to be sorry for all the things I’ve done. I had an experience of tenderness towards myself. During that experience, there was a feeling of true compassion I had never felt before.”

    But what if this "trip" is just smoke and mirrors? A window dressing on a neurobiological process happening elsewhere that itself is reducing depression symptoms? Psychedelic drugs interact with receptors in the brain that cause the trip itself, but there are many other effects that are distinct from the hallucinogenic journeys people go through. For instance, they can create an increase in the connections among regions of the brain, and disruptions in other brain circuitry. Yet, up until this point, many experts have considered the entire psychedelic experience one single thing.
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Philosophy & Science / Pragmatic Metaphysics: Strategic Ontology In A Scientific World
« Last post by sciborg2 on November 08, 2019, 04:20:50 am »
Pragmatic Metaphysics: Strategic Ontology In A Scientific World

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Though the 20th century was largely defined by a science that espoused a metaphysics of materialism, more recent developments (and lack thereof) point to the insufficiency of a substance-based, physicalist ontology to explain the nature of reality. The ‘hard’ problem of consciousness shows no signs of abating, while quantum phenomena such as the observer effect are continuing to demonstrate that mind and matter are fundamentally connected (Barad, 2007; Radin, 2006). Consequently, ontological conjectures hitherto dismissed are being given extra layers of texture, and validity, from scientific inquiry. This essay will evaluate the revival of some of these conjectures within a scientific world, and propose a suggested route forward for the re-integration of metaphysics into broader discourse. To set the context, I will begin by outlining the centuries-old decline of Western metaphysics and demonstrate why physicalism has failed in its attempts to fill our ontological void. I will then proceed to evaluate alternative ontologies to physicalism — panpsychism, relational ontologies and monistic idealism. I will argue that although a step in the right direction, panpsychism’s position as a quasi-materialist ontology cannot overcome its combination problem, while relational ontologies fail on the account of what I refer to as pragmatic metaphysics. To conclude, I argue that monistic idealism succeeds philosophically and pragmatically where other metaphysical systems fail: it is not only conceptually sound, but also scientifically congruent with regards to quantum revelations, parsimonious, intelligible, accessible and of net good for the world, factors I argue should be given more weight in metaphysical discussions as we attempt to strategically re-integrate questions of existence into the mainstream.

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In essence, Kant believed metaphysics at- tempts to infer a priori synthetic knowledge from pure concepts without sensibility, a project destined to fail since “concepts without intuitions are empty” (ibid). Since Kant posits that the mind structures reality (rather than the converse), he insists we are incapable of knowing things in themselves as we cannot discern between what is in our own minds vis-a-vis what is a feature of the thing-in-itself. Thus, according to Kant, since knowledge is limited to appearances, we cannot effectively speculate as to the nature of being itself. With this understanding, metaphysical inquiry torpedoed into terminal decline (Sjostedt-H, 2015).

Subsequent to Kant’s subjective critique, logical positivists such as Ayer emphasised the verification principle, which holds that a statement is meaningful only if it is either empirically verifiable or else tautological, of which metaphysical inquiry is neither. Subsequently, Wittgenstein (1966) ap- peared to put the final nail in the coffin of metaphysics with his argument that the very linguistic nature of metaphysical statements are meaningless, and that their place in discourse is just part of a multitude of language games. Both linguistic and thought-based arguments can be thought of as variants of correlationism, a term coined by Meillassoux (2008, p49) to depict the “idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.” For correlationists, it is assumed that one cannot know the reality of an object in and of itself since we cannot discern between its objective properties and the subjective properties that give access to the object.

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Emergentism often draws parallels between consciousness and matter and structural examples such as whirlpools emerging from water, or water emerging from hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Yet the change in parts of the brain that give rise to emerging mental phenomena is not of the same category — these states are unobservable, unquantifiable, and lack any known trans-or- dinal laws that would bridge matter to mind (Sjostedt-H, 2015). Advocates of this physicalist school of thought imply that sentience can be inferred from biology in the same way that biology can be inferred from chemistry, despite no explanation as to how sentience can emerge from insentience. For Strawson, (2006a, p15), “intelligible emergence can be drawn from given a single set of conceptually homogeneous concepts. But it’s very hard to see how any set of conceptually homogeneous concepts could capture both the experiential (i.e., consciousness-involving) and the non-experiential (non-conscious-involving).”

This rebuke to emergentism, and thus materialism, can be developed as follows. Let us take the emergent property B as a derivative of a prior form A. For B to emerge from A is for B to arise from A given how A is. B must emerge or be given in A in a non-arbitrary way in order that it arise in the first place. Thus A has everything to do with B’s emergence. Some essence of B has to be already, in some configurative constituent, within A. “It is in essence an in-virtue-of relation [and thus] cannot be brute” (ibid).

Moreover, emergentism cannot, given its materialist foundation, accept that mental events can impact the world (such as through intention) since mental phenomena are not accepted forces of nature (Sjostedt-H, 2015). Emergentism developed to its logical conclusion thus refutes the possibility of mental causation in a physical world. Yet since emergentists also often reject epiphenomenalism (Chalmers, 2014), the notion that mind is the mere residual consequence of physical processes, they are stuck in the middle ground of neither accepting nor rejecting mental causation (Sjostedt-H, 2015). Thus to reject the upward and downward causation of emergentism, one could argue we ipso facto must accept that mind always co-existed with matter. This opens the conceptual door for the embracement of an alternative that transcends such problems, such as panpsychism, as consciousness is seen as a fundamental characteristic.

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Since our understanding of the nature of matter has been evolving over time, it is impossible to take a firm position on a substance-based metaphysics. Moreover, said ‘understanding’ of matter is an abstraction taken to be real, in which it is known only as for what it does rather than what it is. Our materialist paradigm thus accounts for ontology through physical structure rather than content (Sjostedt-H, 2016). This is a perfectly valid position if attempting to account for the behaviour of certain particles, but does not go beyond abstract description of be- haviour into what a particle is, in and of itself. We have no thorough account of the intrinsic nature of matter, leaving the door open to debate as to what ontologically underpins it.

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The ontological architecture of panpsychism makes for a convincing argument given the problematic prevailing paradigm of emergentism. Emergentism fails to provide an intelligible account of sentience from insentience and situates itself in a physicalist paradigm that has no sound laws for the interconnection between mental phenomena and physical constituents. Indeed, the emergentist argument positions itself as a physicalist account for which the empirical evidence it bases its endeavours is nonexistent. A simple Occam’s razor argument, one could argue, would invite the notion of panpsychism, which transcends the limitations of physicalist ontology in suggesting that consciousness itself is primary (either as protoconsciousness or some other version of sentience).

Combination problem

Yet panpsychism suffers from the combination problem, which challenges the validity of pervasive constituent-level sentience. In short, the question arises: how do the experiences of micro-level entities such as protons combine to give rise to human and animal consciousness?

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It seems perfectly reasonable for micro-entities to exist in summation without a necessary flaring forth of a macro-entity. Applied to human consciousness, why would the summation of distinct conscious entities give rise to a single conscious mind? As Coleman (2014) argues, since each phenomenal micro-entity has a viewpoint that is its own, if micro-entities are to combine to form a universal experience, then said experience would have to combine each entity’s individual experience at the expense of all others as well as the same all other entities. This is a contradiction (assuming each entity has a different phenomenological experience). Other variants of the combination problem include the palette problem (Chalmers, 2014) (how can a limited number of micro qualities give rise to the complex array of macro phenomena of colours, sounds and smells?) and the grain problem (Lock- wood, 1993) (how do microexperiences result in homogenous macroexperiences such as the colour blue rather than a mass variation of distinct qualities?) It is clear that any refutal of the combination problem would have to take into account all of its iterations, less it be a rebuttal of a single strand.

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Relational ontology

Let us proceed to an alternative to the panpsychist perspective, and move beyond its substance-based ontology and into a dynamic, relational version. A substance-based view of reality has been critiqued as overly “individuated, formalized, mechanistic, and reductive to make proper sense of our existence” (Asch, 2004, p20), yet to discuss a relational ontology within the linguistic con- straints of philosophies we are habituated to employing is a difficult task. Relational ontology sug- gests that being is dynamic rather than static, and that this dynamism should be the focus of our on- tological investigation. Western metaphysics holds within it an implicit assumption that the cosmos is constructed of substantial constituents, in which the fundamental units of reality are static and undifferentiated (Seibt, 2018). In contrast, relational ontologies hold the premise that reality is, instead of consisting of individual objects with attributes, ‘made’ of interconnected processes of becoming. The idea that individual objects exist is the result of our tools of perception (we perceive separate objects in an external reality for everyday purposes (Bergson, 1903)) and a consequence of the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness” (Whitehead, 1929), which holds that we believe single lin- guistic terms reflect individual objects, so that our language solidifies a reality in motion. In other words, our everyday navigation and language systems are built around an implicit atomistic ontology, with objective reality described in terms of nouns rather than dynamic verbs.

Arguably the most comprehensive metaphysical system based on this understanding is Whitehead’s (1929), though his framework is often deemed somewhat impenetrable. That said, one can see that Whitehead’s view of subjectivity is conceptualised in a temporal manner, an act of becoming. Whitehead places events and the processes of their arising and passing as the most accurate descrip- tion of ontological reality, as opposed to the prevailing (un)holy trinity of space, time and matter. He also employs a version of panpsychism that holds that the events that constitute reality (actual occasions) enjoy and exhibit some degree of subjectivity. Although avoiding some of the core prob- lems of substance-based panpsychism, this ontology still fails to account for the combination problem articulated previously.

Versions of relational ontologies are contained within the new materialism movement, a group of philosophical perspectives that do not seek to homogenise matter, but rather make room for its heterogeneity. The new materialists argue quantum experiments have put an end to substance-based ontology and that we must begin to see matter not as substance but rather as force or movement (Meillassoux, 2008). This is a promising movement for metaphysics in that its offshoots take into account quantum processes that physicalism fails to address, such as the measurement problem, whilst also overcoming post-Kantian anthropocentric ‘limits’ on metaphysics. A key thinker in this space is Karen Barad, who proposes a relational ontology of “agential realism” in which matter is seen as a dynamic expression of intra-active becoming. For Barad (2007), agentiality is occurring in a world that is becoming different than it is at all times, and phenomena and objects do not exist prior to their relationship but, rather, objects emerge through ‘intra-actions’. Agential realism implies a ubiquity of meaning (versus panpsychism’s ubiquity of mind) but does not address the par- ticular component parts in terms of their relationship to the whole. Instead, each expression is seen purely as an unfolding of the entirety. It remains to be seen, however, whether agential realism is legitimate in its transposition of indeterminacy at the quantum level to the macro level.

Although the relational ontologies of Whitehead, Barad and other new materialist thinkers act as marked improvements on physicalist ontology, several core issues can be raised. Without a substance-based metaphysics, it is not clear how one can define a dynamic process category feature, (though this critique could be nullified as language evolves more dynamic descriptive capacities), while there is as yet no indication from an ontological perspective how a philosophy of becoming corresponds to a reality of space and time. Yet I believe pushback against relational ontologies relate more significantly to issues of pragmatism, as outlined below.

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An inaccessible metaphysics saturated in complexity, while potentially an improvement upon materialism, does little to re-integrate metaphysics back into mainstream discourse. It maintains, and indeed widens, the chasm between philosophers and the populous. I believe it is essential for the flourishing of society for us to widen the net of metaphysical reach, so that we begin to look beyond the superficial consciousness of materialism. If we are to re-establish metaphysics as a driving force in everyday life, in our systems and our institutions, as Panikkar (2010) suggests we used to, then factors such as intelligibility and elegance should be important considerations alongside philosophical thoroughness. Relational ontologies fail on these accounts. In fitting with this, I propose a perspective of pragmatic metaphysics.

Pragmatic metaphysics would rank metaphysical systems not just in terms of their philosophical rigor but also in terms of their applicable impact, so that the strength of a metaphysical theory would be judged not only by its conceptual thoroughness but also by its ability to positively impact life itself. Put differently, the validity of the ontological conjecture would be seen as inextricable from its practical applications.

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Monistic idealism avoids the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness of physicalist ontology whilst also overcoming the combination problem that plagues the perspective of panpsychism. In relation to the aforementioned conditions, monistic idealism has been thoroughly articulated philosophically in various Western and

Eastern traditions (Kastrup, 2010), is consistent with old and new forms of science (Radin, 2006), is parsimonious (Kastrup, 2010), intelligible (“all is contained in a single awareness), accessible (Spira, 2017), and emphasises interconnectivity, thus satisfying the proposed conditions.

I have been drawn to monistic idealism (and non-dual philosophy) since a particular course of med- itation designed to invoke persistent non-symbolic experience (Martin, 2017) left me with an insight into the nature of reality that I fundamentally intuited as ‘more true’ than the relativistic un- derstanding I had been living by. Somewhat Bergsonian, it was my intuition that pointed towards my Being-ness as nonlocal awareness, the sense that universal consciousness just is, and that ‘I’ am said consciousness individuated. This ‘understanding’ stayed with me for several weeks before I lost its essence after taking a break from practice. This catalysed my interest in idealism, since it was a consciousness-only paradigmatic experience that I had stepped into. In considering why I felt it to be ‘more’ true, my experience of reality was not that there is no distinction between objects, but rather that the base ontological container and nature of said objects is the same — consciousness. It was a prolonged experience of lucidity, the dirt cleared from my windscreen, an intuition that consciousness (though not thought itself) is fundamentally primary, the screen upon which the film of reality is projected.

To ensure my attempts to provide ontological rigour are not overtly coloured by my personal experience, I will examine idealism from the lens of Kastrup (2015), who holds a unique vantage point, much like Barad, in that his training is both in physics and philosophy. As with panpsychism, there are a multitude of iterations of the category, but for the purposes of this essay, let us propose ideal- ism to be based upon two central claims. First, that consciousness is irreducible, and second, that the entirety of nature is reducible to unitary consciousness. Kastrup (2015) outlines several scientif- ic facts about the nature of consciousness and reality (such as there are tight neurological correlates between the brain and experience) and concludes in various iterations that the most parsimonious ontology, “that which requires the smallest number of postulates whilst maintaining sufficient ex- planatory power to account for all facts” (Kastrup, 2015) is one of monistic idealism.
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General Misc. / Re: Quotes
« Last post by sciborg2 on November 05, 2019, 04:43:34 pm »
'The mystical is an irreducible, primordial phenomenon, a basic, primordial givenness that cannot be traced back to or derived from some other phenomena, such as colours, sounds, values, and so on.'

– Gerda Walther
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Literature / Re: Yearly Targets 2019
« Last post by Wilshire on November 05, 2019, 02:32:57 pm »
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (The Locked Tomb 1)  (29)

This was a fun book. The main character is a jaunty 19 year old swordsman and she follows about a slightly younger necromancer as a body guard. The story prose begins a bit purple, which after finishing the story I'm happy to write off as 'first novel nerves'. Tamysn Muir does a good job throughout making the characters feel real, and the plot unfolds nicely. There's a lot of humor, which livens up a story that could be rather dark considering it follows around a group of Necromancers.

Maybe not as strong a showing as other recent new authors, like Pierce Brown with Red Rising, or Poppy War by RF Kuang, but its a solid read, and I'll absolutely be looking forward to her finishing this series. Plenty of world building, plot, and characters, to keep me interested.

If you're looking to read something published in 2019, or for new authors, this is a good choice.
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