This blog article was initially composed in July 2016 and completed in August 2016. It was not posted then as I sensed that doing so would have been premature. Given the recent spate of local, regional and international events, I sense the time is now right and ripe to bring Prof John McMurtry’s life’s work to a more general audience in a less sterile and more engaging conversational format based on email communications between myself and Prof McMurtry.
Hopefully, this missive would help open up avenues for a better understanding of the human condition, the challenges we face in understanding the brain, consciousness, the self, the mind, all of our social constructs, and would serve as the foundation for follow-up posts that would attempt to build a fully-life coherent account of our past blunders and hubris, and how we can better learn from the errors of our past, to help to consciously and coherently create a more socially-shared and participatory-prosperous future based on peace and harmony for people and planet.
Over the past week, two books have taken up much of my thinking, imagination and search for understanding.
The first was a book, entitled The Conscious Mind (2014), by Zoltan Torey, a clinical psychologist and philosopher of mind. His ideas were heavily influenced by the insights of Antonio Damasio, a neurologist and neuroscientist investigating the neurobiological basis for emotions and decision-making, a field of enquiry that has gained popularity over the last 15 years due in part to developments in functional brain imagining technologies. (Please see Antonio Damasio’s book Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain (2010), and his TedTalk The Quest to Understand Consciousness (2011).)
What piqued my interest was that there was a picture crystallising out of the neuroscience paradigm that posited that life regulation was the modus operandi and the evolutionary driving force behind the development of the nervous system, brains, minds and eventually consciousness, and that there was a unifying neurobiological basis that provided, as Torey calls it, “the unique solution to the human puzzle.”
Given my recent exposure to Prof. John McMurtry’s Life-Value Onto-Axiology, I wondered if there was a connection, if the cognitive map provided by his life-work in investigating global value systems based on universal human life necessities, life capital and a life economy could be further grounded in the neurobiological basis of the life regulating processes in the brain and as a matter of fact of all life in general. In other words, can a connection be made between our best cognitive map ever explicated on the ultimate value of life on the one hand, and our best scientific understanding of the functioning of that device (the brain) that created that map in the first place on the other hand? If there was an answer to this question, it had to be found.
Hence, as a result, as you might have expected, there was a flurry of communications with Prof John McMurtry where his expertise was sought in guiding me to find some of these deep answers.
What follows are the email exchanges organised in dialogue form that will give you a real sense of the issues involved and how further exploration can serve to enlighten all areas under investigation. This is a work in progress which Prof McMurtry has encouraged me to share and has given his blessings. Hopefully it will be able to help others who also stumble across similar paths we are mutually investigating, and can become a living and breathing reality of knowledge, insights, understanding and wisdom that could help guide and steer humanity in wiser life-value decision-making processes. Please feel free to make comments and I am sure that Prof McMurtry (and I, if I am able to) would be able to assist to clarify any points made or answer any queries as it pertains to life-value onto-axiology, neuroscience and the self.
JM = Prof John McMurtry
BS = Bichara Sahely
Source: ‘What is Good? What is Bad? The Value of All Values across Time, Place and Theories’ by John McMurtry, Philosophy and World Problems, Volume I-III, UNESCO in partnership with Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems: Oxford, 2004-11.
“LSS = Life Support Systems – [A]ny natural or human-engineered (constructed or made) system that furthers the life of the biosphere in a sustainable fashion. The fundamental attribute of life support systems is that together they provide all of the sustainable needs required for continuance of life. These needs go far beyond biological requirements. Thus life support systems encompass natural environmental systems as well as ancillary social systems required to foster societal harmony, safety, nutrition, medical care, economic standards, and the development of new technology. The one common thread in all of these systems is that they operate in partnership with the conservation of global natural resources.”
“LVOA = Life-Value Onto-Axiology – The value-system which regards life and means of life to more coherently comprehensive ranges of life as the ultimate and universal good. (Also referred to as life-value onto-ethic when emphasis is on the normative dimension of the axiology.)”
“Civil Commons = A unifying concept to designate any and all social constructs which enable universal access to life goods e.g., common life support systems.”
“Universal life goods or necessities = All goods without which human life capacities are reduced or destroyed (eg., breathable air, potable water, means of free communication).”
“RVS = Ruling Value System – A society’s value-system presupposed by those governed by it which ultimately regulates the decision norms and goals of the society’s dominant social institutions, individual roles within them, and the thought structure of those internalizing it.”
“RGM = Ruling/Regulating Group Mind – A screening system of thought and value which is recognized by a distinguishing set of properties across cultures:
- (i) A ruling set of group presuppositions which are conceived to be
- (ii) As given as the structure of the world and
- (iii) Demand the compliance of each for collective survival so as to
- (iv) Frame social ideation and communication to
- (v) Select only for what confirms this order to thereby
- (vi) Block or invalidate whatever does not,
- (vii) To generate stereotypes or myths as replacement standards which
- (viii) Only enemies or inferiors reject who
- (ix) Are variously attacked to sustain or extend the group’s ruling value program.
While this criterial set of the normative group-mind is diversely expressed and admits of polar degrees of rigidity and harmful consequence, it is a unitary mechanism whose interlocking operations constitute (x) a defining mind-set of mutual understanding and self-identity of group members.
The ruling money-sequence system of value is thus sustained. One can walk through each of the operations (i) to (x) and find its regulating value syntax confirmed in the mass media, political and economic discourses, and – by tacit consent – even the manifold specialties of philosophy. The problem is that it is pre-conscious and so is not disputed or conceived as an issue within the sphere of its rule. Indeed exposure of it may be a dangerous act. Yet if not exposed, even a mass-homicidal value system may be consensually assumed as necessary and beneficial.”
BS: Hi John:
I honestly think that Torey’s model is the most LVOA coherent. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. I am actually going though it again with your LVOA lens. Interestingly he is a Psychiatrist who is blind. I guess his acquired blindness allowed him to see more clearly than most of us.
I am thinking of doing an illustrated LVOA neurobiology model of organic life, to show how 1) social organizations over the eons were top down social constructs, 2) were not grounded in a bottom-up neurobiological understanding of life needs (ontological basis) to inform the limbic system (axiological/regulator/governor – to determine what connections are made and what is blinkered out), 3) so as to guide the syntactic and semantic neurocortex understanding via the civil commons good of language (epistemology of how we can know).
The model will be as life-transparent and life-accountable and test medical practice from the cellular, organic, up to the social and planetary level.
Getting there, please do not lose faith in the Brownian motion of my mind meanderings, but that is part of getting a better understanding of the landscape of LVOA.
JM: Good re-setting. But “limbic system (axiological/regulator/governor – to determine what connections are made” is agreeable without limbic-axiological equation
No spell out of what this bridging means – –
BS: Thanks John.
The reason why I am re-setting to the brain is because there is a third LSS which seems to have been blinkered out in your analysis and those of your co-authors in the EOLSS, in addition to the natural (planetary) LSS and the social LSS, and that is the LSS within the organism itself. That is the ground zero of the life-ground itself, (a singularity) of sorts that connects the infinite within, with the infinite without.
Once you have regrounded at ground zero, then everything falls in place, and that is where the bridging occurs as now the self is no longer seen as a social construct and consciousness is no longer seen as a concept but all are connected by a single unified living process through and through, hence making all that is transcendent and immanent as one.
Also it explains why postmodernism and relativism are sincerely misguided, as language is no longer free-floating in the clouds but grounded in a well defined process of agency of functional autonomous selves, a living process par excellence. In order for this functional autonomous agent to survive and develop its full life capacities, it requires the full universal life necessities of the planet and society.
Here is the short article by Torey (The Immaculate Misconception) that kinds of raps it up which has axiology built into the selection of process of our “free will” and the choice spaces you frequently mention. It is very succinct and the book (in the subject matter of the email) goes into more detail and puts his model in an evolutionary context of our evolution from homo erectus to homo sapiens and deals with neoteny (which revealingly allows us to be born again through the eyes of a child (this has very deep symbolism and poetry and it blows my mind.)
It is the life coherence principle that ties it all together and moves the explanations of why values matter in determining what we choose, to why we ought to value life in the first place, to as they say “bring heaven here on earth.”
Interestingly, I was meditating on the final paragraphs of EOLSS 12.
“The first major premise of thought and the material base of planetary life itself have been engineered out of view. Philosophy originally led the error as explained in Section 7.9 and the subsections cited in Section 12.10.3. Whatever the cause, scientific reason must be re-set to recognize this first premise of life support systems it has long repressed. What has been excluded must be included – the universal life support systems whose preconditions must be taken into account for full coherence of any claim to truth. There are three general criteria of truth versus falsehood. The first two are known, but the third has been missing. There is (1) consistency of assertions with established evidence, what scientific method has mastered. There is (2) consistency of inferences with premises, what philosophical logic and analytic philosophy have mastered. And there is (3) consistency of objectives and conclusions with life support systems which have been recognized by neither. There is no full coherence without consistency of all three. One cannot deny any of these three requirements of reason without absurdity. It cannot be rational or scientific to ignore or flout empirical evidence, to be inconsistent in claim, or to violate the requirements of universal life support systems. The most primary consistency – that without which life capacity is always reduced or destroyed – is now due.”
This brought to mind a quote that has always resonated with me, and kept my curiosity and search for a more perfect world alive.
“The world is perfect, and the human opportunity is to see that and conform to that fact”. – Huston Smith
from: Smith, Huston. The Soul of Christianity (Plus) (p. 33). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
He was intimating the life coherent principle, and you have provided humanity with that opportunity.
JM: I agree with most of what you say here except my fundamental question of my last letter was “But “limbic system (axiological/regulator/governor – to determine what connections are made” is agreeable without equation”. Maybe it was obscure. What is needed and not in your explanation is the IMMENSE GAP between limbic system of a human organism and life axiology which is a set of principles not deducible or deduced from the limbic system. Equation between them is merely assumed
Until it is spelled out, we have no life coherence to its foundational claim.
BS: Thanks for the clarification. On further reflection, you are correct that there are no set of principles deducible or deduced from the limbic system. I assumed it was the regulator/governor given that the hippocampus is responsible for consolidating memories (“connecting the dots”) which become dysfunctional in Alzheimers’s and the other structures are responsible for the generation of fear like the amygdala which I assumed was the governor of behaviour…
JM: THIS IS AGAIN A COMMON REDUCTION WHICH STILL DOES NOT DISTINGUISH BETWEEN GOVERNING PRINCIPLES AND BRAIN PARTS, WHILE ALSO ASSUMING THE HYPOTHESIS OF LOCATION OF MEMORY (ETC) IN A BRAIN PART. THE FIRST IS OBVIOUSLY FALSE AS SEEN BY THE ABSURDITY OF EXPLAINING SAY SYSTEMIC GREED OF MONEY PARTY AS A BRAIN-PART DISORDER – – THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN LEVELS OF LIFE ORGANIZATION AND THEIR RELATIONSHIPS IS NEEDED TO BE LIFE COHERENT. (EACH LEVEL PRESUPPOSES THE MORE BASIC ONES, BUT ENABLES FUNCTIONS BEYOND THE MORE BASIC ONES – AS IN CELLS–>BRAIN–>L-V O-A….
BS: I am currently going through Damasio’s book very slowly as it is a bit dense and is filled with many insights I missed when it came out. He is using as his GOVERNING PRINCIPLE – OPTIMIZING LIFE REGULATION/I.E HOMEOSTASIS to create his hypotheses and models and to match to the available biological and clinical evidence he has accumulated over the years. Interestingly, he does not see the mind, consciousness and self as a thing but processes which are localized to certain parts of the brain and are more inclusive of the other as the range of perception, imagination, abstraction and reasoning increases with the complexity of the brain over evolutionary time. Also, lesions and damages to these areas reveal themselves as deficiencies of certain properties, not the irradication of the entire process. Revealingly, it appears he is using implicitly the life coherence principle to select for hypotheses and models and interpret his data, thus steering the discovery and the understanding of life-coherent brain processes like mind, unconscious, consciousness and self. This is the power of your highest level LVOA to select for world-and-life views that enables or disables life and bio-logical value at the cellular, organismal, planetary and social levels. IF the optimization of the life regulation governing principle is universal, then this would be consistent with your LVOA. IF however, in the physical, organic, and social world, there is a counterexample to show that life can be optimized better than via life-capital concepts, then this makes your LVOA falsifiable. I suspect we would have to run the human experiment to infinity to find out. However, if your LVOA and the GOVERNING PRINCIPLE are able to solve many paradoxes and explain more inclusively and allow us to get a better understanding of the world within and without and help our understanding at a higher level, then that would be sufficient proof for us that we are getting closer to TRUTH than we had before.
I suspect that Damasio’s and Torey’s model can also help cut the Gordian Knot between the internalist and externalist view and the bridge is definitely the nervous system (which codes/decodes external events internally). In other words, information is double stranded. All I can ever know are internal patterns, but this is to some extent correlated with external events. It is not a one to one correspondence but is one in which information is coded internally and is selected for optimizing life regulation of the organism. This new view is only recent since 2010 so this is most definitely a work in progress worthy of investigating.
BS: …As you mentioned in a follow-up email, I have a tendency of equating similarity of patterns with identity, which is fallacy you have brought to my conscious mind which I would be more mindful of going forward…
JM: YES. GOOD! IT IS A NOW NEAR AUTOMATIC ERROR
BS:…Having said that, having reread his book today (very short), it is the brainstem that is the governor/regulator of biological value. Since it is a set of nuclei that functions to maintain life homeostasis within the body via its inputs and outputs, and regulate the content and train of thought via disinhibition of percepts from the neocortex, then we can induce based on empirical evidence that since its “goal” is affecting behaviour so as to: eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, eliminative functions under cortical control of appropriateness, temperature, blood pressure and respiratory control, and activation of fight and flight response when in danger, then it has to by necessity be life coherent at the foundational state as these have to deal with core bodily and atmospheric needs.
So this primary life supporting/management system has to cohere with the planetary life-support system, so as to allow the neocortex percepts to create and evolve our social life-support systems in a coherent manner.
Life axiology describes the cognitive anchor and compass, while the brainstem provides the physical anchor and compass that steers the living organism and with the help of the limbic system in life maintenance being nurtured from below by the planetary life support system and by above by the social life support system.
Here is a summary from the book that may shed some more light on the issue:
“The breakthrough to Homo sapiens began with the neotenous regression to neuroplasticity at an ideal age for engaging the vocal medium in interpersonal manipulation. This resulted in the linkup of the speech areas with the motor cortex and led to the laying down of a new, off-line (intracortical) response mechanism. It is this off-line mechanism that enables the brain to access and handle its experience internally and manage its affairs.
The off-line mechanism generates language; language creates the organism’s sense of self or agency, which is an integral feature of reflective functioning. As a result of language, human experience is always double stranded. It is comprised of what we experience and of the sensation that we are experiencing it. This brings on the oscillation of the attention between the two strands, a functional innovation that makes perseveration (the concentration on topics) possible in a “global workspace.”Thanks to the global workspace, an extended time-span is now at the human brain’s disposal, enabling it to collate and integrate disparate sensory information in the production of higher-quality behavior. It is a breakthrough into a world of consciously directed insightful behavior, a vital aspect of autonomous functioning.
The dramatic expansion and the qualitative upgrading of the human brain’s powers alter the relationship between the cortex and the brainstem, the home of biological values and decision making…
JM: THE BASIS OF, NOT THE SAME AS
…The language-using and thought-capable brain generates mental options for the brainstem in every instance. It is this contribution of the cortex that makes it an active partner in the Darwinian selection of behavior and in the shaping of the organism’s fate. The brainstem still does the deciding, but the cortex is now able to load the dice with the options it offers up for selection and the bias this creates.
JM: CORTEX IS OBJECTIVE CONDITION OF A LIFE-GROUNDED STRUCTURE OF DECISION-MAKING, BUT THE LATTER IS NOT REDUCIBLE TO IT – THE GREAT ERROR OF SCIENTISM TODAY. IT ELIMINATES FROM BOTH ENDS.
BS: Not necessarily, the cortex is the physical substrate but the internal maps (processes) in the cortex is the playing field with which self acts, selects, perceives and recalls information, and creates abstract ideas and reasons and hypothesis and world-views etc, again, in increasing sophistication and complexities. Which patterns persist have to satisfy the reality principle of the external world, and conform to the ruling syntax outcomes in the external world. It is when they do not cohere, then well-being is compromised, our decision-making makes errors and we end-up undermining the life-regulation steering system. In other words, life-unnatural world-and-life views result in life-pathologies at all levels, while life-coherent worldviews results in life-well-being and flourishing and life capital expansion. The “SYSTEMIC GREED OF MONEY PARTY” is thus not a BRAIN-PART DISORDER, but a falsified world-and-life view that we have been deluded to accept. The challenge for me now is to see if this new upgraded fine-grained view of the brain dynamics can provide the neurobiological basis for this delusion.
“As for the human mind, it is a neural subsystem of the brain. Its tool is language,…
JM: WHY NOT BRAIN THE TOOL OF LANGUAGE? “I HAD TO USE MY BRAIN A LOT TO TRANSLATE”
BS: That is the conventional view. In the new view, it was the development of mapping object and subject via protolanguage during our brain development that preceded the development of self (both as subject/knower and object (internal coded maps of fixed body (viscera, body, internal milieu) interacting internal maps of external objects and event). So the internal self (subject/knower) interacts with maps of internal self which is always connected with the body over time which explains where the felt side of being comes in, and also with the internal maps of external objects and their interactions. So everything occurs internally. TO REPHRASE, HOW COULD YOUR BRAIN TRANSLATE WITHOUT LANGUAGE? Again, language appears to be where I suspect most of the fallacies, paradoxes and confusions in philosophy, medicine, science, and all area of studies arise. The added bonus of understanding the neurobiological basis of language is that if the life-optimization regulation principle is universal, it would help us to again deal with several Gordian Knots, another falsifiable test.
…while its range and experience are defined by what language is able to access and handle. The mind is not a nonmaterial agency, but a physical entity, a subsystem that uses the same circuitry and brain processes that perception uses in registering and dealing with the world.
JM: YES, EACH A CONDITION OF THE NEXT HIGHER OR MORE INCLUSIVE FUNCTION LEVEL
BS. Thanks, this was missed in my analysis of everything, Very important point.
To summarize, all the phenomena of human experience are traceable expressions of the system and make sense only in terms of it…
JM: YES, BUT NOT ONLY IN IT TERMS OF IT ALONE
…Thus, the off-line mechanism (our brain within our brain), the mind module, the attentional oscillation, and our sense of agency and functional autonomy (our free will)…
JM: THIS FUNCTIONAL AUTONOMY IS A HIGHER LEVEL OF OPERATION OF THE BRAIN WHOSE SECOND-ORDER CHOICE SPACE IS NOT EXPLICABLE BY THE BRAIN ALONE.
BS: Yes, and no. It is also a higher level of organization from the conceptual space point of view, but from a physical space it a subsystem of the brain that is more complex in its interactivity. (I suspect Schrodinger’s (What is life?) concept of negentropy (organized information – again related to language) may help resolve this paradox.
…are no longer unconnected mysteries, but are achievements of the brain’s emancipation into the world of knowledge and thought.“
JM: WELL WE STILL CANNOT UNDERSTAND THIS BY THE BRAIN ALONE WHICH ENABLES LANGUAGE AND FREE CHOICE, BUT IS ONLY REDUCED TO THEM BY THE PHSYICALIST FALLACY (IN EOLSS). THERE IS A HIGHER SYSTEM OF LIFE ORGANIZATION AT WORK WHICH, I AGREE, EMERGES FROM THE BICAMERAL MIND BREAKDOWN.
BS: The externalist fallacy may be resolved as mentioned earlier, by the nervous system acting to map internal states with external states. Interestingly, this has many similarities with holography, black holes, and braneworlds in M-string theory, and with brain structures where 3 dimensional external information can be coded, stored and processed in extended internal 2-d structures. That is its great power, of including ideas that we initially thought unrelated, which is by definition akin to the spiritual journey of discovering the universal oneness of the universe. Maybe the meaning of life is in the journey itself and not the destination, and the more inclusive the journey is the more meaningful it becomes. Only the most examined life is the most meaningful.
BS: I am very curious to hear your take on the book as I am sure you can add or even clarify where the shortcomings are. But for me, his model is life coherent and the brainstem appears to be the stem, that connects planetary roots with our social flowerings.
JM: THESE MATTERS ARE DONE TO DEATH IN PHILSOPHY WHICH NEVER FIGURES OUT THAT THE THIRD-PERSON STANDPOINT (AS IN OBJECTIVE SCIENTIFIC REDUNDANT FACTS OBSERVED FROM WITHOUT) AND THE FIRST-PERSON LEVEL AND EXPERIENCE OF BEING A BRAIN AND ORGANISM WHICH USES THIS STANDPOINT BUT MAY UNLIKE IT EXPERIENCE GOD UNITY OR WHATEVER) ARE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF LIFE ORGANIZATION AND UNDERSTANDING, WITH SCIENTISM ALWAYS TRYING TO REDUCE THE LATTER TO THE FORMER. THIS ‘GRAMMATICAL’ ANALYSIS WORKS, BUT IS NOT IN THE LITERATURE.
BS: Not necessarily. All third person view is always from inside, and by default all first person view is done from inside, so no scientism. Not solipsism, as internal maps are correlated to external physical-energy-events which would allow information to be shared externally via the internal maps between individuals. We are basically life-regulating and optimizing simulacras where life-enabling information is decoded from the external energy events through and through from the physical, cellular, up to the organismic, and social level! THE UNIQUE SOLUTION TO THE HUMAN PUZZLE!!!!!
JM: In my last send, I used the term “physicalist fallacy” when in fact it is the “externalist fallacy” as described in Unesco volumes, 7.1 – 7.18.
Even here however, my point at the end of last version of this note is not yet spelled out as I do here.
BS: Thank you very much John. Your responses have given me more clarity and has helped me to better understand your LVOA and how it can help me to better understand Damasio’s and Torey’s work.
Interesting quote from “Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain”
BS: Hi John:
Torey referenced Damasio on several occasions in his book, and I had already read his book when it came out. So I started to reread it again given he is a clinical neuroscientist, and in the introduction, this is what I found. (Quoted below.) I guess subconsciously he had primed my mind to integrate/affirm your LVOA and I now agree our medical profession is where this needs to be introduced, but I am not sure of the method, medium and the opportunities for doing so, although medical ethics may be where it needs to formally come in. All the different theories of the mind and self, Descarte’s and theological errors were not grounded, hence we were left adrift in our social constructions,…
JM: SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONS (SC) ARE NOT NECESSARILY TOP-DOWN or a problem AS CLAIMED ELSEWHERE, THE CIVIL COMMIONS ITSELF IS DEFINED AS SC TO BEGIN EG. OF LANGUAGE ITSELF
BS: But language is grounded in the material reality of the brain structure, so it is well grounded and the civil commons is basically bottom-up guided by the brainstem LSS. When I claimed elsewhere that top-down social constructions are non-grounded, I was thinking about religious, theological, philosophical and economic systems which are based on rulers (superiors), warriors/enforces (gatekeepers) and workers (inferiors) where it is the arbitrary diktats by ungrounded rulers, be they deities, kings, priests, transnational corporations that go against the best interest of the brainstem LSS. Again, the civil commons is grounded and modelled on the brainstem LSS – sociocultural homeostasis – via “life protective regulations and investment via civil commons in accord with life capital measure and advance.”
BS: …despite our immense imagination and creativity. Hopefully identifying the missing primordial LSS at the level of the brainstem, will help convince my colleagues and the wider community, that we now stand on firm ontological, epistemological and axiology ground in cocreating life-coherently our civil commons infrastructure, its management, and its safekeeping. Thanks again for engaging me in this most wonderful adventure and ride of self, social, and cosmic discovery.
JM: YES IT IS, MY EXPERINCE THROUGHOUT, IN SLOW MOTION.
“Managing and safekeeping life efficiently are two of the recognizable achievements of consciousness: neurological patients whose consciousness is compromised are unable to manage their lives independently even when their basic life functions operate normally. And yet mechanisms for managing and maintaining life are not a novelty in biological evolution and are not necessarily dependent on consciousness. Such mechanisms already exist in single cells and are coded in their genome. They are also widely replicated within ancient, humble, un-minded and un-conscious neuron circuits, and they are very much present deep in human brains. We shall see that managing and safekeeping life is the fundamental premise of biological value. Biological value has influenced the evolution of brain structures, and in any brain it influences almost every step of brain operations. It is expressed as simply as in the release of chemical molecules related to reward and punishment, or as elaborately as in our social emotions and in sophisticated reasoning. Biological value naturally guides and colors, so to speak, almost everything that happens inside our very minded, very conscious brains. Biological value has the status of a principle…
BS: (IS BIOLOGICAL VALUE PRIMORDIAL TO LIFE VALUE? IS THERE A NEED FOR PRIMORDIAL AXIOM? CAN THERE BE ANY PRIMARY AXIOM OF VALUE WITHOUT PRIMORDIAL BIOLOGICAL VALUE OR IS LVOA A BOOTSTRAPPING TECHNIQUE/BRIDGE/META-RULE THAT OBVIATES THE BIOLOGICAL VALUE?)
JM: Biological value here is the material base of LV OA at individual organism level, but life value is of course much broader and deeper in reach. As well biological value as here is not consciousness OF it, the first step of understanding even it.
BS:Yes, I agree that understanding of biological value underpins life value. I am left wondering if bringing biological value to the collective consciousness would enable a better understanding and appreciation of life value, as it provides a more unifying perspective with more awe and wonder with the cells within us and our organs, and the microbiome and our past evolutionary cellular ancestors – a bio-logical life-grounded spiritually of sorts that connects in a unified thread to 3.8 billion year ago from the planetary LSS, prebiotic, unicellular, multicellular, up to civil commons LSS and cultivates in us a sense of infinite gratitude, responsibility and service for and to our planetary/individual(brainstem) and social LSS.
…In brief, the conscious mind emerges within the history of life regulation. Life regulation, a dynamic process known as homeostasis for short, begins in unicellular living creatures, such as a bacterial cell or a simple amoeba, which do not have a brain but are capable of adaptive behavior. It progresses in individuals whose behavior is managed by simple brains, as is the case with worms, and it continues its march in individuals whose brains generate both behavior and mind (insects and fish being examples). I am ready to believe that whenever brains begin to generate primordial feelings-and that could be quite early in evolutionary history-organisms acquire an early form of sentience. From there on, an organized self process could develop and be added to the mind, thereby providing the beginning of elaborate conscious minds. Reptiles are contenders for this distinction, for example; birds make even stronger contenders; and mammals get the award and then some…
JM: ALL THIS IS VERY NICE SUMMARY. BUT THE KEY IS “organized self process” WHICH ADMITS OF MUCH AMBIGUITY ON, TO BEGIN, “SELF”.
BS: Torey completed what Damasio started. He “presents an account of the human brain’s augmented functioning that underpins the emergent entity, the mind, and throws light on objective facts and subjective experiences alike. It identifies the brain’s new “off-line” internal response mechanism, its “second brain” so to speak, with which it accesses itself and then, in combination with brainstem/ limbic functions, forms a Darwinian selection mechanism for mentally generated and competing behavioral options. This is a functional breakthrough, one that is impressively straightforward and unexpectedly self-evident. It shows how the animal brain’s awareness, its internal representation of the world, became self-accessible and reflective, that is, conscious in the human sense. It shows how protolanguage evolved into language, how a brain subsystem for the emergent mind was built, and why these developments are opaque to introspection. But most importantly, it shows how this new and hitherto unlooked-for and, therefore, undiscovered mechanism furnishes the human brain’s emergent mind with the functional autonomy that we experience as free will, yet which is consistent with determinism.” The “organized self process” is the functional autonomous material base of the brain.
…Most species whose brains generate a self do so at core level. Humans have both core self and autobiographical self. A number of mammals are likely to have both as well, namely wolves, our ape cousins, marine mammals and elephants, cats, and, of course, that off-the-scale species called the domestic dog.”
JM: HERE TOO THE ISSUE. IN UNESCO WORK, THERE IS MUCH ON the SELF ADMITTING OF INFINITE POSSIBILITIES OF MEANING, inclusively life-coherent to atomic money maximization.
BS: Without a regrounding in the LSS of the brainstem, of course the self WILL admit an infinite possibilities of meaning. It is the bridge from the planetary to the social LSS. Also what is the homeostatic value of atomic money maximization. None! The life coherent selection principle will only admit one bona fide meaning of the self. His book is the most concise, principled account and is the unique solution to the human puzzle. The neurobiological ground of the life-ground is the clincher to remove all doubt. and ties in everything. What is left is to marry your LVOA with an epistemology based on this regrounding where the self is not something out there, or some epiphenomenon, but a grounded reality of infinite worth.
I am beginning to see a fractal coherent universal pattern at many levels, from the cells, tissues, organs, bodies, communities and planet, and even the universe. I am not saying that they are identical, but considering them wholes within wholes as opposed to partial similarities, will life regulation/homeostasis be a general principle that can link them, or would this be an illusion or fallacy of identical organizing principles? Not sure how to deconstruct this.
“The march of mind progress does not end with the arrival of the modest levels of self. Throughout the evolution of mammals, especially primates, minds become ever more complex, memory and reasoning expanding notably, and the self processes enlarge their scope. The core self remains, but it is gradually surrounded by an autobiographical self, whose neural and mental natures are very different from those of the core self. We become able to use a part of our mind’s operation to monitor the operation of other parts. The conscious minds of humans, armed with such complex selves and supported by even greater capabilities of memory, reasoning, and language, engender the instruments of culture and open the way into new means of homeostasis at the level of societies and culture. In an extraordinary leap, homeostasis acquires an extension into the sociocultural space. Justice systems, economic and political organizations, the arts, medicine, and technology are examples of the new devices of regulation…
BS: (SOCIAL IMMUNE SYSTEM?)
…The dramatic reduction of violence along with the increase in tolerante that has become so apparent in recent centuries would not have occurred without sociocultural homeostasis. Neither would the gradual transition from coercive power to the power of persuasion that hallmarks advanced social and political systems, their failures notwithstanding. The investigation of sociocultural homeostasis can be informed by psychology and neuroscience, but the native space of its phenomena is cultural. It is reasonable to describe those who study the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, the deliberations of the U.S. Congress, or the workings of financial institutions as engaging, indirectly, in studying the vagaries of sociocultural homeostasis…
BS: (CANCER STAGE OF CAPITALISM, WITHOUT LIFE PROTECTIVE REGULATIONS?)
…Both basic homeostasis (which is nonconsciously guided) and sociocultural homeostasis (which is created and guided by reflective conscious minds) operate as curators of biological value. Basic and sociocultural varieties of homeostasis are separated by billions of years of evolution, and yet they promote the same goal-the survival of living organisms-albeit in different ecological niches. That goal is broadened, in the case of sociocultural homeostasis, to encompass the deliberate seeking of well-being. It goes without saying that the way in which human brains manage life requires both varieties of homeostasis in continuous interaction. But while the basic variety of homeostasis is an established inheritance, provided by everyone’s genome, the sociocultural variety is a somewhat fragile work in progress, responsible for much of human drama, folly, and hope. The interaction between these two kinds of homeostasis is not confined to each individual. There is growing evidence that, over multiple generations, cultural developments lead to changes in the genome.”
BS: (LIFE COHERENT PRINCIPLE NEEDED AS ANCHOR AND COMPASS, NEEDS TO BRING IN THE PLANETARY LSS (ECOLOGICAL/PLANETARY HOMEOSTASIS?)
“Viewing the conscious mind in the optic of evolution from simple life-forms toward complex and hypercomplex organisms such as ours helps naturalize the mind and shows it to be the result of stepwise progressions of complexity within the biological idiom…
BS: (IS THIS A FALSE ANALOGY? IT SO, HOW, IF NOT WHY NOT?)
…We can look at human consciousness and at the functions it made possible (language, expanded memory, reasoning, creativity, the whole edifice of culture) as the curators of value inside our modern, very minded, very social beings. And we can imagine a long umbilical cord that links the barely weaned, perennially dependent conscious mind to the depths of very elementary and very un-conscious regulators of the value principle.
The history of consciousness cannot be told in the conventional way. Consciousness came into being because of biological value, as a contributor to more effective value management. But consciousness did not invent biological value or the process of valuation. Eventually, in human minds, consciousness revealed biological value and allowed the development of new ways and means of managing it…
BS: (VERY, VERY INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE – CHICKEN OR EGG SCENARIO? PRIMORDIAL VALUE?)
…The time will come when the issue of human responsibility, in general moral terms as well as on matters of justice and its application, will take into account the evolving science of consciousness. Perhaps the time is now. Armed with reflexive deliberation and scientific tools, an understanding of the neural construction of conscious minds also adds a welcome dimension to the task of investigating the development and shaping of cultures, the ultimate product of collectives of conscious minds. As humans debate the benefits or perils of cultural trends, and of developments such as the digital revolution, it may help to be informed about how our flexible brains create consciousness. For example, will the progressive globalization of human consciousness brought on by the digital revolution retain the goals and principles of basic homeostasis, as current sociocultural homeostasis does? Or will it break away from its evolutionary umbilical cord, for better or worse?18 (18 The study of the links between neurobiological networks, on the one hand, and social networks, on the other, is an important area of investigation. See Manuel Castells, Communication Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). )
Naturalizing the conscious mind and planting it firmly in the brain does not diminish the role of culture in the construction of human beings, does not reduce human dignity, and does not mark the end of mystery and puzzlement. Cultures arise and evolve from collective efforts of human brains, over many generations, and some cultures even die in the process. They require brains that have already been shaped by prior cultural effects. The significance of cultures to the making of the modern human mind is not in question. Nor is the dignity of that human mind diminished by connecting it to the astonishing complexity and beauty to be found inside living cells and tissues. On the contrary, connecting personhood to biology is a ceaseless source of awe and respect for anything human. Last, naturalizing the mind may solve one mystery but only to raise the curtain on other mysteries quietly awaiting their turn.
BS: (TOREY’S MODEL IS BASED ALSO ON DAMASIO’S WORK, AND HE HAS CONVINCED ME THAT HE HAS ACHIEVED THIS GOAL TO SOME EXTENT. IT IS WORTHY OF FURTHER STUDY)
Placing the construction of conscious minds in the history of biology and culture opens the way to reconciling traditional humanism and modern science, so that when neuroscience explores human experience into the strange worlds of brain physiology and genetics, human dignity is not only retained but reaffirmed…
BS: (GROUNDED IN LIFE-VALUE ONTOAXIOLOGY)
…F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote memorably, “His was a great sin who first invented consciousness.” I can understand why he said so, but his condemnation is only half the story, appropriate for moments of discouragement with the imperfections of nature that conscious minds expose so nakedly. The other half of the story should be occupied with praise for such an invention as the enabler of all the creations and discoveries that trade loss and grief for joy and celebration. The emergence of consciousness opened the way to a life worth living. Understanding how it comes about can only strengthen that worth.19 (19 See F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz (New York: Scribner’s, 1922).)
Does knowing about how the brain works matter at all for how we live our lives? I believe it matters very much, all the more so if, besides knowing who we presently are, we care at all for what we may become.”
Start reading it for free: http://amzn.to/1rf10Sm
BS: (THE BEGINNINGS OF NEUROBIOLOGICAL BASIS OF LVOA?/ BRAINSTEM AS GROUND ZERO OF LIFE-GROUND – VERY COMPELLING IF I MAY SAY SO.)
Questions on LVOA
BS: Since LVOA has come to collective consciousness by your explication of what has been implicated, what would prevent it from becoming the bona fide ruling syntax now?
JM: NOTHING IN PRINCIPLE, ONLY SYSTEM AND ITS RGM
BS: Why not call it life value onto-episto-axiology for completion with three coherence knowledge priniciples being included?
JM: IT COULD BE, BUT TOO UNGAINLY AND EPISTEMOLOGY AS I ARGUE IS ALREADY PICKED UP BY AXIOLOGY AS STUDY OF ALL VALUE IE. VALID AND INVALID, TRUE/FALSE
BS: Thanks for this clarification. A most important point for me to re-set on.
BS: Why are corporations viewed as supraperson, and not humans viewed as infrapersons as they have been demoted to legal entities? Would this not better suggest that human rights were removed and is seen as an act of commission rather omission? Hence this would be coming at the situation from the other end?
JM: NEITHER TERM IS USED BECUAUSE THE PERSON OF THEM IS A FABRICATION
BS: From a medical point of view, if we ground the brain in the brainstem on the survival and homeostatic needs as this become the rule…
JM: HOMEOSTASIS DOES NOT PICK UP ON THE DYNAMIC NATURE OF THE LIFE PROCESS, A MECHANICAL TERM – – EVOLUTION IS NON-STASIS
BS:…the limbic system becomes the regulator and enforcer…
JM: BACK TO THE OLD FALLACY AGAIN
BS:…and the neocortex is guided to provision of needs based on infinite wisdom of social constructs, would not this turn around the paradigmatic understanding and remove the blind spots from our understanding? Where the ruler would no longer be the ungrounded belief ruling syntax based on the neocortex, driven by the limbic system, to turn our brainstem into appetite seekers? This would be the Copernican revolution that would align everything finally.
JM: YES ALL THIS REQUIRES A LIFE VALUE SYSTEM SHIFT WHICH IS NOT BUILT INTO ANY BRAIN PART THAT MAY BE USED IN ACHIEVING IT)
BS: The limbic system I have moved off from. Damasio calls Homeostasis, Life regulation, which is the dynamic sensing of off-balance and excesses and deficiencies and how to regain balance…
JM: YES, AGREED.
BS:…His evolutionary umbilical linking with biological value up to sociocultural life regulation (similar to social immune system), makes upgrading his ideas very much possible to help shift the system to one based on life value…
JM: YES, IN DOING THIS (1) NOTICE HIS SOCIOCULTURAL LIFE REGULATION HAS NO PRINCIPLED LIFE-VALYUE BASE. (2) THE MOVE TO THIS LEVEL IS GOOD, BUT IT IS LONG AGO DONE BY L-V O-A AS A MORALLY DECODED VALUE SYSTEM, ALL OF THIS MISSING IN THIS WORK DOWN TO THE LEVEL OF SELF ITSLF AND ITS OPEN ELECTIVE SPACE. (3) HIS BIO-SELF IS TRUE, BUT NOT YET L-VALUE STEERED BY SECOND-ORDER L-V O-A WHICH DOES NOT YET HERE EXIST, THE MISSING LINK I THINK WE AGREE –
BS:…I accept that the value system is not built into any brain part, but we can use our mind to discover and test the hypothesis that our brain parts are built in such a way that achieving the life value coherent shift goes with the grain of our evolutionary adjacent possible…
JM: ONLY AT THE LEVEL OF THE INDIVIDUAL ORGANISM, THUS RED IN TOOTH AND CLAW IN RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER LIFE ORGANISMS. L-V O-A FILLS IN ALL THE GAPS UP TO COSMIC VALUE IDENTITY, WITH COMPREHNESIVELY INCLUSIVELY COHERENCE OF UNIVERSAL LIFE NECESSITIES ACROSS SELVES AND SPECIES, ALL OF THIS MISSING NOW IN SCIENCE AND ELSEHWHERE.
BS:…So the LVOA provides the microscope to connect with biological value, while bio-logical value provides the telescope to connect with LVOA.
JM: THIS METAPHOR MISSES THE RELATIONAL ORDERING OF L-V PRINCIPLES AND RULES, THAT IS, THE MAIN POINT.
Questions on Neuroscience and Ethics
A discussion prompted by the article:
Neuroscience and Ethics: Intersections
by Antonio Damasio
The American Journal of Bioethics
Volume 7, Issue 1, 2007 Pages 3-7 | Published online: 16 Jan 2007
“The words neuroscience and ethics, placed together in the same sentence, conjure up two different ideas. One idea has to do with the fact that modern neuroscience has not only opened the way for new treatments of brain disease but also made possible a variety of unexpected applications of neuroscientific progress at the level of the individual and the culture at large. The goal of treating brain diseases is clearly laudable, provided it follows time-honored ethical medical practices, but it is legitimate to wonder about some of those other applications, debate them, and establish the ethical framework for the related practices. This is an important endeavor and it is currently underway in the new discipline of neuroethics.
The other idea evoked by combining the words neuroscience and ethics has to do with the possibility of using new scientific facts to help us understand the neural underpinnings of moral behavior. While these two ideas are different and are cultivated by distinct experts, it is apparent that they are related (Roskies 2002). The ethical questions we ask and the just guidelines we hope to formulate depend on the boundaries of what constitutes ethical behavior, and the setting of those boundaries, may come to be influenced by new knowledge regarding how the brain operates in health and disease. The comments in this essay focus on the second idea…”
JM: again I point out that dependency of moral principle on a functioning brain is to be distinguished from functioning brain explains moral behaviour – – the latter is plainly non-sequitur, another variation on the externalist fallacy – –
BS: I am not sure I understand the non-sequitur here. Dependency of moral principle on a functioning brain is an internalist stance. A functioning brain explaining behavior is an externalist stance is false because? It has not taken into consideration internalist emotional feelings into the equation, hence it had started off with the wrong premise?
JM: yes the limit of science as explained.
BS: Why can’t we use our powers of reason and logic of the LVOA to dissect out the felt side of being/self to explicate why we can on firm ground state that life-enabling actions are morally right and and life-disabling actions are morally wrong?…
JM: OF COURSE.
BS:…Damasio’s greatest insight for me at least, is that we are not thinking being who feel and act, but we are feeling beings who think and act.
JM: YES. BUT NONE OF THIS IS A SCIETIFIC DESCRIPTION OF THE BRAIN AS SUCH
BS: …Feelings are our life GPS…
JM: ONLY IF GUIDED BY REASON, AS EXPLAINED
BS:…and the reason why we may have steered off course and created a life-disabling ruling group mind, is because of giving thinking primacy over felt being.
JM: NO, LIFE-BLIND OR BAD THINKING.
BS:…Is there something called a ruling group feeling that has been suppressed? Could this be the basis of Freud’s unconscious, Jung’s shadows, and be the missing undervalued, underappreciated value field of life?…
BS:…This is very new stuff which as whole, we have all felt, but never able to articulate as we did not have the tools to ask and question and reason…
BS: …My felt side is telling me this is a fruitful path to explore.
JM: AND YOUR REASON, THAT WHICH TAKES INTO INCLUSIVELY COHERENT ACCOUNT, IS THE COGNITIVE MAP MAKER REQUIRED TO COMMUNICATE AND OPERATIONALIZE- –
Interesting quote from “Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain”
“The self in each conscious mind is the first representative of individual life-regulation mechanisms, the guardian and curator of biological value. To a considerable extent, the immense cognitive complexity that hallmarks the current conscious minds of humans is motivated and orchestrated by the self, as a proxy of value.”
JM: this presupposes the same old fallacy, but another refuting truth – – Buddhists deny the self, but claim enlightenment by so doing – – so the self cannot be the ultimate regulator
BS: John, but does not that mean that if in truth and in fact, the self is the ultimate dynamic life regulator, then the Buddhists were wrong. You cannot deny the self and claim enlightenment, as you would have denied the felt side of being which takes primacy over all life fields. This is endarkenment reversely projected.
JM: The felt side of being becomes, au contraire, not limited to what is inside one’s skin. The biological-self always remains as organically given self (what B’s do not recognise). But the capital-S self becomes boundless to the extent that one is so constituted in one’s thought, felt being and action, as described in 6.1 and after in Eolss as well as 7.1 and after.