nota bene 6 GM annotated

Architectural plan of  ‘the quest for meaning: Time and Mind’



Summa Philosophico-Istoria:

we are trying to answer proklyatye voprosy: what is to be done, how should one live, why are we here, what must we be and do?
“philosophical principles can only be understood in their concrete expression in history.” tolstoy.






ego sum qui sum : consciousness: what is happening?

Mind and Consciousness: ego sum ego existo: knowledge begins with consciousness, comprehended by the mind and expressed by a language… this is why I have chosen consciousness as my standpoint.

Standpoint determines the broadness perspective & perspective defines the orientation, your vision of future actions comes along with your chosen orientation. “All meaning is an angle.”


cosmic consciousness

  1. Self identity: Who am I? What Am I?

What is Mind? Mind(soul) and body problem.

Mind and Consciousness: ego sum ego existo: knowledge begins with consciousness, comprehended by the mind and expressed by a language

“Dubito; ergo, cogito, ergo, sum”

consciousness: what is happening?

The real problem begins with self awareness of the identity of a self which is the owner of a mind and consciousness and also whole body and personal identity which perceives believes and conceives the whole reality of existence in accord with its tools of sense, common sense, mind, and metaphysical/linguistic tools of expression.

Ego sum qui sum: rigid designator and naming

Identity thesis: brain and consciousness identity ego nerede beden beyin her ikisi sadece information

However, Avicenna posited the brain as the place where reason interacts with sensation. Sensation prepares the soul to receive rational concepts from the universal Agent Intellect. The first knowledge of the flying person would be “I am,” affirming his or her essence. That essence could not be the body, obviously, as the flying person has no sensation. Thus, the knowledge that “I am” is the core of a human being: the soul exists and is self-aware.[41] Avicenna thus concluded that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance. The body is unnecessary; in relation to it, the soul is its perfection.[42][43][44] In itself, the soul is an immaterial substance.[45]

Max Muller, in his lectures, noted the striking similarities between Vedanta and the system of Spinoza, saying “the Brahman, as conceived in the Upanishads and defined by Sankara, is clearly the same as Spinoza’s ‘Substantia’.[107] Helena Blavatsky, a founder of theTheosophical Society also compared Spinoza’s religious thought to Vedanta, writing in an unfinished essay “As to Spinoza’s Deity—natura naturans—conceived in his attributes simply and alone; and the same Deity—as natura naturata or as conceived in the endless series of modifications or correlations, the direct outflowing results from the properties of these attributes, it is the Vedantic Deity pure and simple.”[108]



Consciousness and Me-ness


John F. Kihlstrom

Yale University



Note:  An edited version of this article appeared in: J. Cohen & J. Schooler (Eds.) Scientific Approaches to the Question of Consciousness[25th Carnegie Symposium on Cognition] (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997).


At the very beginning of scientific psychology, William James (1890/1981) noted the intimate relationship between consciousness and the self:

Every thought tends to be part of a personal consciousness…. The only states of consciousness that we naturally deal with are found in personal consciousnesses, minds, selves, concrete particular I’s and you’s [sic]. Each of these minds keeps its own thoughts to itself…. It seems as if the elementary psychic fact were not thought or this thought or that thought, but my thought, every thought being owned…. On these terms the personal self rather than the thought might be treated as the immediate datum in psychology. The universal conscious fact is not “feelings and thoughts exist” but ‘I think’ and ‘I feel’ (p. 221, emphasis original).

Consciousness comes, in James’s view, when we inject ourselves into our thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions — when we take possession of them, experience and acknowledge them as our own. Consciousness is always apersonal consciousness, and this was at least as true for memory as for any other mental faculty (James, 1890/1981, 610-612, emphasis original):

Memory proper, or secondary memory as it might be styled, is the knowledge of a former state of mind after it has already once dropped from consciousness; or rather it is the knowledge of an event, or fact, of which meantime we have not been thinking,with the additional consciousness that we have thought or experienced it before.

The first element which such a knowledge involves would seem to be the revival in the mind of an image or copy of the original event…. [But] a farther condition is required before the present image can be held to stand for a past original.

That condition is that the fact imaged be expressly referred to the past, thought as in the past….

But even this would not be a memory. Memory requires more than the mere dating of a fact in the past. It must be dated inmy past. In other words, I must think that I directly experienced its occurrence. It must have that ‘warmth and intimacy’ which were so often spoken of in the chapter on the Self, as characterizing all experiences ‘appropriated’ by the thinker as his own.

A general feeling of the past direction in time, then, a particular date conceived as lying along that direction, and defined by its name or phenomenal contents, and imagined as located therein, and owned as part of my experience, — such are the elements of every act of memory.


Pierre Janet (1907), in his lectures on The Major Symptoms of Hysteria, picked up the theme:

The complete consciousness which is expressed by the words, “I see, I feel a movement”, is not completely represented by this little elementary phenomenon [i.e., of a sensation of vision or of motion]. It contains a new term, the word “I”, which designates something very complicated. The question here is of the idea of personality, of my whole person…. There are then in the “I feel”, two things in presence of each other: a small, new, psychological fact, a little flame lighting up — ‘feel” — and an enormous mass of thoughts already constituted into a system — “I”. these two things mingle, combine; and to say “I feel” is to say that the already enormous personality has seized upon and absorbed that little, new sensation which has just been produced (pp. 304-305).


This connection to the self appears to be missing in cases of nonconscious influence. Consider the following passage from Claparede’s (1911/1950), classic paper on what we now call the amnesic syndrome (for an extended discussion, see Kihlstrom, 1995):

If one examines the behavior of such a patient, one finds that everything happens as though the various events of life, however well associated with each other in the mind, were incapable of integration with the me itself (p. 71, emphasis original).


In other words, when mental representations are integrated with the self, they become part of conscious mental life; when this integration is lacking, they are not accessible to introspection, although they may influence experience, thought, and action outside of phenomenal awareness.


Linking Thought to the Self

How might we translate these ideas into the language of modern psychology? One way is through associative network models of cognition and memory, such as the successive generations of Anderson’s (1976, 1983, 1990, 1993) ACT framework. These models represent declarative knowledge in a graph structure, with nodes standing for concepts and associative links standing for the relations between them, forming sentence-like propositions that capture the gist of an event but may eliminate a great deal of perceptual detail. A subset of declarative memory, known as working memory, contains a representation of the organism in its environment, current processing goals, and other units of declarative knowledge which have been activated above a certain threshold.

There is also a procedural memory, in which nodes representing goals and conditions are linked to actions; these goal-condition-action links form productions, grouped into production systems. The goals and conditions are themselves represented by declarative knowledge structures, and execution of the procedure may activate some node in declarative memory, or form a new one. Procedural knowledge is unconscious in the strict sense that we have no direct introspective access to it, and can know it only by inference.

Within the network-theory framework, we can begin to see what the self might look like. Viewed as a declarative knowledge structure, the self can be defined as one’s mental representation of his or her own personality, broadly construed (Kihlstrom & Cantor, 1984; Kihlstrom, Cantor, Albright, Chew, Klein, & Niedenthal, 1988; Kihlstrom & Klein, 1994; Kihlstrom & Marchese, 1995). In this way, the self can be construed as a fragment of a larger declarative memory network. So, my own mental representation of self consists of interconnected nodes representing my name, the names of people intimately associated with me, and my physical, demographic, and personality characteristics. Beyond these meaning-based representations, there may be links to perception-based representations of my face and body — quite literally, a self-image. And in addition to this context-free knowledge about self, there is also autobiographical knowledge about specific experiences, thoughts, and actions that occurred at unique points in space and time. The presence of this contextual information ordinarily distinguishes episodic from semantic memory (Tulving, 1983, 1993).

In theory, an activated mental representation of the self resides in working memory, where it routinely comes into contact with representations of the environmental context (both local and global), current processing goals, and other knowledge structures activated by perception, memory, or thought. This connection defines the self as the agent or patient of some particular action or the stimulus or experiencer of some particular state (Brown & Fish, 1983) — whatever event is simultaneously represented in working memory.

According to models like ACT, perceptual activity and other acts of thought activate nodes corresponding to the features of the perceived event. Thus, for example, if we observe a hippie touch a debutante (Anderson & Bower, 1973), nodes corresponding to the concepts HIPPIETOUCH, and DEBUTANTE are activated, and linked to form a propositional representation of the event:


Note that the associative links actually join tokens, referring to particular hippies, touches, and debutantes, of more abstract types stored in semantic memory. Each node then serves as a source of activation that spreads to related semantic knowledge (Anderson, 1984). Thus, activation of HIPPIE also activates tokens ofLONG STRINGY HAIRLOVE BEADS, and VOLKSWAGEN BUSDEBUTANTEactivates LONG CURLY HAIREVENING GOWN, and PORCHE; and TOUCHactivates BRUSHHIT, and KISS.

By virtue of achieving a particular level of activation, the mental representation of this event enters working memory, where it contacts representations of other sorts of knowledge — specifically, representations of the context in which the event has taken place, and of the self as the agent or patient, stimulus or experiencer, of the event. Thus, the full-fledged mental representation of the event corresponds to a more complex piece of propositional knowledge than a mere statement of fact (Brewer, 1986) — for example, self as subject:



or, self as object:


or, perhaps:


To summarize, a full-blown episodic representation contains at least three different propositions, all linked together: an event node, which provides a raw description of the event; a context node, which represents the spatiotemporal circumstances in which the event occurred (there are probably separate propositions representing time and place); and a self node, representing the self as the agent or patient, stimulus or experiencer, of some event (there may be nodes representing the person’s emotional and motivational state as well). Simplified versions of these representations are depicted in Figure 1. Residual activation at these nodes is the mechanism underlying repetition priming effects; activation spreading to related nodes in declarative memory forms the basis for semantic priming effects; and if some activated nodes comprise the goals and conditions of a production system, some piece of procedural knowledge will be automatically executed.

<<<<<Figure 1 About Here>>>>>

Figure 1. Example propositional representations of an event in which the self is an external observer (Panel A), agent (Panel B), or patient (Panel C) of the action.

By virtue of elaborative and organizational processing at the time of perception, a trace of the event is encoded in permanent storage, available for subsequent use; that is, it does not disappear entirely when it loses activation and drops out of working memory. At the time of retrieval, a query to memory activates nodes corresponding to the elements of the query, while the accessibility of information represented at associated nodes serves as the basis for the person’s response to those queries. Thus, a question such as “What did you see in MacArthur Park last Thursday?” activates the self and context nodes; activation emanating from these nodes converges on the associated event node, and the person replies, “A hippie touched a debutante”. A similar account can be given of queries and responses concerning current experience, except that the probe is worded in the present tense, and the response reflects direct readout of the contents of working memory. Thus, the mental representation of self is the key to conscious perception and memory: whatever is concurrently or retrospectively linked to the self is represented in awareness and available for report.


Linking Experience to the Self in Memory

I go through all of this because I am persuaded by Claparede (1911/1951) that what is missing in cases of nonconscious processing is this sense of moiite, orme-ness, or the link to the self as the agent or patient, stimulus or experiencer, of some event. To explain what I mean, let us consider the famous incident that gave Claparede his insight. The case in point was of a woman with Korsakoff’s syndrome, whose anterograde amnesia was so dense that she remembered nothing that had happened to her since the onset of her illness. Nevertheless, Claparede reported that she showed what we now recognize as source amnesia (Evans, 1979; Schacter, Harbluk, & McLachlan, 1984; Shimamura & Squire, 1987). After Claparede pricked her hand with a pin hidden in his fingers, causing her palpable pain, she quickly forgot the episode (and everything else about her encounters with him).

But when I again reached out for her hand, she pulled it back in a reflex fashion, not knowing why. When I asked for the reason, she said in a flurry, “Doesn’t one have the right to withdraw her hand?” and when I insisted, she said, “Is there perhaps a pin hidden in your hand?” To the question, “What makes you suspect me of wanting to stick you?”, she [replied], “That was an idea that went through my mind,” or she would explain, “Sometimes pins are hidden in people’s hands.” But never would she recognize the idea of sticking as a “memory” (Claparede, 1911/1951, pp. 69-70).


The interpretation here is that the link to the self was established in working memory at the time that the pinprick occurred, and was maintained so long as the event resided in working memory. Thus, the patient was aware that it was she who had just been pricked, and she could still talk about it moments or minutes later. By virtue of direct readout from working memory, she was conscious of what was happening to her at the moment, and what had happened to her in the very recent past. As she was distracted by other events, however, the pinprick dropped out of working memory, and other events took its place.

Under ordinary circumstances, given enough elaborative and organizational activity, a representation of the event — something like CLAPAREDE PRICKED ME WITH A PIN HIDDEN IN HIS HAND — would now be permanently encoded in the patient’s declarative memory. But suppose that — perhaps by virtue of damage to specific brain structures — the link to self was not encoded as well: rather, it was permanently lost. Now Claparede returns to the patient, and asks whether they have ever met. This query activates the mental representation of self in working memory — the question is whether she has ever met him — but since the active representation of self isn’t connected to relevant material outside working memory, she draws a blank. Put another way, the patient had concurrent, but not retrospective awareness of the episode. Apparently the link to the self was made at the time of perception, but not preserved in memory.

But despite the failure to consciously recollect having met Claparede before, something about the previous event has been retained in memory. Forced to choose, she may guess that he is a doctor rather than a lawyer; perhaps Claparede’s face or tone of voice activates perception-based representations stored in memory — enough to give her a vague feeling of familiarity; forced to guess, she might choose Claparede over another doctor, himself objectively unknown to her, as someone she might have met before. Certainly enough world-knowledge has been gleaned from her previous experience that she will now greet him in an unusual manner: After all, sometimes people hide pins in their hands.

By this time, there have been a large number of demonstrations that amnesic patients can show priming, savings, transfer, and interference effects, acquire new facts and skills, and display other manifestations of memory, all without any conscious recollection of the event responsible for the effect (e.g., Graf, Squire, & Mandler, 1984; for reviews, see Shimamura, 1989; Moscovich, Vriezen, & Goshen-Gottstein, 1993). These kinds of observations led Schacter (1987) and others to distinguish between two forms of memory: explicit and implicit (for comprehensive reviews, see Johnson & Hasher, 1988; Richardson-Klavehn & Bjork, 1988; Roediger, 1990, 1993; Schacter, 1995; Schacter, Chiu, & Ochsner, 1993; Schacter & Tulving, 1994) . While this distinction has sometimes been couched in terms of two different memory systems, or two different processes acting on a single memory system, I prefer to stick closer to the phenomenology and think of explicit and implicit memory as two different expressions of memory for an episode. Explicit memory involves conscious recollection of a prior event, as reflected in recall or recognition. Implicit memory refers to any change in experience, thought, or action that is attributable to a past event, independent of conscious recollection — in other words, memory is implicit in task performance. From my point of view, implicit memory is memory without the self. The contents of memory have been changed by the perception of an event, which is roughly what we mean by a memory, but reference to the self as the agent or patient, stimulus or experiencer, of the event has not been preserved.

Of course, implicit memory is observed in normal subjects, without any signs of brain damage (for a comprehensive review, see Roediger & McDermott, 1993). But here, I think the underlying mechanism is the same. By and large, the explicit-implicit dissociations observed in normal, intact subjects are produced by experimental conditions which prevent the subject from engaging in the elaborative and organizational activity that produces a good, solid encoding. For example, shallow processing impairs explicit memory, but has little effect on implicit memory (Jacoby & Dallas, 1981). Alternatively, the encoded trace may be degraded over the retention interval, leading to failures of recall and recognition; nevertheless, subjects can still show significant savings in relearning forgotten items (Nelson, 1978). Apparently, a permanent link to self is not automatically encoded (else it would be encoded under shallow as well as deep processing conditions); and it appears to be somewhat fragile (else it would remain intact over the retention interval). Nevertheless, other aspects of the event are encoded, and remain available in memory to support such classic implicit memory phenomena as priming, source amnesia, savings, and interference.

Other manifestations of implicit memory involve the acquisition of cognitive and motoric skills, which are also performed unconsciously. Again, I think the common element is the absence of a link to the self. Assume that skill learning begins with a step-by-step recipe for some activity (such as tying a necktie in a Windsor knot). In the early stages of skill learning, these steps are brought into working memory one at a time, and performed consciously — that is, the person is aware of performing each step individually. With enough practice (many years in the case of the Windsor knot, apparently, and even then some people don’t get it!) the whole sequence is compiled into a single routine that, once initiated, just runs itself off automatically. The person is no longer aware of what he or she is doing. From the present point of view, this is because the intermediate steps have been compiled into a single production system (Anderson, 1982) which never gets represented in working memory, and thus never has the opportunity to make contact with the mental representation of the self. The person was aware of selecting the tie (perhaps), and later was aware that the tie was successfully tied, but not of anything that went on inbetween.

In the last years of Eugene Ormandy, when the Philadelphia Orchestra virtually confined its repertoire to 19th-century warhorses, one of the ‘cellists quit when he discovered himself playing the third movement of a Tchaikovsky symphony, but couldn’t remember playing the first one. That’s automatization for you. A similar account can be given of more dramatic instances of automatization, such as musicians or motorists who play pianos or drive cars during petit malseizures. Or drunks who manage to get home from the bar without killing themselves or anyone else. Or sleepwalkers who wander around the house and return to their beds, and have no recollection of their activities the next morning. Some of this behavior is mediated by highly automated procedural knowledge, which never makes contact with the self during its execution. The rest may be deliberate and effortful, and therefore conscious at the time; but because of impairments in encoding processes the link to the self, and thus the possibility of conscious recollection, isn’t preserved in memory.


Linking Experience to the Self in Perception

Recently, my students and I have extended the explicit-implicit distinction to the domain of perception (Kihlstrom, Barnhardt, & Tataryn, 1992). Following Schacter (1987), explicit perception refers to the individual’s conscious awareness of a current (or very recent) event, as reflected in signal detection, or the identification or description of an object; implicit perception is reflected in any change in experience, thought, or action that is attributable to an event in the current (or very recent) stimulus environment, independent of conscious perception. Again, perception is implicit in the person’s task performance.

The paradigm cases of implicit perception parallel those of implicit memory. In blindsight, damage to the striate cortex prevents the construction of conscious percepts (Weiskrantz, 1986). In subliminal perception, a stimulus is degraded by various conditions of presentation (for reviews, see Greenwald, 1992; Merikle & Reingold, 1992). What they have in common, on this view, is that the perceptual representation never enters working memory, and thus never makes contact with the self in the first place. Thus, when the person is asked to report what he or she sees or hears, there’s nothing to report. But the availability of the representation, or some byproduct of it, somewhere in the cognitive system, can support implicit perception effects. Thus, if blindsight patients are forced to choose, they can guess the characteristics of the unseen stimulus at above-chance levels. And in subliminal perception, subjects can show various sorts of priming effects. Implicit perception is sometimes reflected in performance on implicit memory tasks. So, in the classic experiment by Kunst-Wilson and Zajonc (1980), subjects showed mere exposure effects while making preference judgments of tachistoscopically presented irregular polygons, even though recognition was at chance levels (for a review, see Bornstein, 1989). The exposure effect shows that the stimuli were perceived, at some level; but formally, the task involves memory rather than perception. Subliminal stimulation created some representation of the stimulus in memory, but that representation never made contact with the self, either at the time or later.

The same thing sometimes happens in general anesthesia, but perhaps for a different reason (for a review, see Cork, Couture, & Kihlstrom, 1995). Our laboratory has obtained evidence that patients can show implicit memory for events occurring while they were under an adequate plane of general anesthesia, even though they have no conscious recollection of these events afterward. Thus, in one experiment (Kihlstrom, Schacter, Cork, Hurt, & Behr, 1990), patients were presented with a tape-recording of paired-associates of the form BREAD-BUTTER; in the recovery room, they were unable to remember the response term with which the stimulus terms had been paired; but when presented with the stimulus terms, and asked to report the first word that came to mind, they were more likely than control subjects to produce items from the study list. Other investigators have obtained similar results, although admittedly there is more to be done to bring the phenomenon under good experimental control. Again, assuming that adequately anesthetized patients really are not aware of what is happening to them at the time it is happening, we have implicit memory giving evidence for implicit perception. In this case, however, I think that the detailed mechanism is slightly different. I think that when a person is rendered unconscious, he or she doesn’t have any working memory at all. Thus, it’s not just a matter of event representations failing to make contact with a mental representation of the self. The problem is that there is no activated self to make contact with.

The situation appears to be rather different in the case of sleep. The old conclusion about sleep learning, based on the classic review by Simon and Emmons (1955), was that sleep learning is possible to the extent that the subject remains awake. But that conclusion was based on studies of explicit memory, raising the question of whether implicit memory might be preserved even in the absence of explicit memory. But Wood and his colleagues failed to find any evidence of implicit memory either (Wood, Bootzin, Kihlstrom, & Schacter, 1992). Wood presented sleeping subjects with a tape recording of paired associates consisting of a homophone and a disambiguating context, such as TORTOISE-HARE. Upon awakening, the subjects were unable to produce the response terms in a test of cued recall; but neither did they show any priming when asked to spell the response terms. Similar results were obtained in a category-instantiation task. It appears that we will have to take even more seriously the notion that sleep involves a kind of sensory gate, preventing stimulus information from reaching higher cortical centers. In any event, the discrepancy between sleep (where both explicit and implicit memory are impaired) and general anesthesia (where implicit memory is sometimes spared) is something that needs definitive resolution.


Dissociative Phenomena and the Self

As noted earlier, some theorists (e.g., Schacter & Tulving, 1994; Tulving & Schacter, 1990) hold that explicit and implicit memory reflect the operation of two different memory systems in the brain; the same hypothesis may apply to the perceptual case. Others (e.g., Jacoby, 1991; Roediger, Weldon, & Challis, 1989) have vigorously argued that explicit-implicit dissociations are mediated by two different sorts of mental processes operating on a single representation. These theories (for a comprehensive review, see Roediger & McDermott, 1993) have been so successful that one could be forgiven for wondering why I bother talking about the role of the self in nonconscious influence. The reason is simple: there are cases of nonconscious influence that cannot be accounted for by presemantic representations and automatic, data-driven processes.

Consider Ansel Bourne, a case of psychogenic fugue studied by William James (1890/1981). Bourne was an itinerant preacher in and around Greene, Rhode Island, upright and self-reliant, if given to occasional bouts of depression. In January 1887 he disappeared from Rhode Island and was declared missing by the police. Two months later he turned up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he had set up business as a shopkeeper selling stationery, candy, fruit, and sundries. There he was known by his neighbors as A.J. Brown, a taciturn and orderly individual, and a regular church-goer. Brown made no reference to his previous life, much less his identity. The discovery of his dual existence occurred when A.J. Brown went to sleep one night and awakened the next morning as Ansel Bourne, unaware of where he was. He identified himself as Ansel Bourne, but had no memory of what he had been doing for the past eight weeks, for six of which he had been living in Norristown. James was able to get this information by means of a hypnotic interview, but none of this material was accessible to Bourne in his normal waking state: just as Brown seemed unaware of his life as Bourne, so Bourne seemed unaware of his life as Brown. James (1890/1981, p. 371) writes in the Principles, “Mr. Bourne’s skull to-day still covers two distinct personal selves.”

A more dramatic variant on this situation occurs in cases of multiple personality disorder, such as The Three Faces of Eve reported by Thigpen and Cleckley (1954). Eve White was a 25-year-old housewife, demure and retiring but also industrious and devoted to her daughter, with no particular history of psychological problems, who had been referred for psychiatric consultation for persistent headaches and blackouts. But during one treatment session an entirely different self-presentation occurred: Eve Black, childish, mischievous, carefree, and erotically playful. It turned out that the Eves White and Black had alternated control over the patient’s behavior since childhood; and the asymmetrical amnesia between the ego states — Eve Black knew all about Eve White, but Eve White knew nothing about Eve Black — made for some interesting episodes. Once, during childhood, Eve was caught playing with a particular neighbor’s children, despite a specific injunction against doing so; nevertheless, the child steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. As an adult, Eve received by mail-order a rather slinky evening dress, which she denied ever ordering. Both episodes, and many more, were apparently the work of Eve Black, outside the awareness of Eve White — though it was Eve White who faced the consequences. The third personality, Jane made her appearance later, in the course of therapy. Jane had access to each personality’s experiences since she herself began to emerge, but not to much material from their lives before treatment. The core personality characteristics of each alter ego, and the pattern of asymmetrical amnesia, is depicted in Figure 2.

<<<<<Figure 2 About Here>>>>>

Figure 2. Schematic depiction of relations among the three “faces” of Eve (Thigpen & Cleckley, 1954). Eve White is ignorant of both Eve Black and Jane; Eve Black knows about Eve White, but not about Jane; Jane knows about both Eve White and Eve Black.

Here, to borrow James’s phrase, we have three “personal selves” inside the same skull, alternating in control over conscious awareness, voluntary behavior, and communication with others. Fugue and multiple personality patients also show evidence of implicit memory (for reviews, see Kihlstrom & Schacter, 1995; Kihlstrom, Tataryn, & Hoyt, 1993; Schacter & Tulving, 1989). So, for example, A.J. Brown once gave testimony in church that referred to an incident that had actually happened to Ansel Bourne. And a formal experiment by Nissen and her colleagues (Nissen, Ross, Willingham, Mackenzie, & Schacter, 1988) gave evidence of priming effects that were preserved across personalities, despite interpersonality amnesia affecting recall. What distinguishes these cases from other displays of implicit memory is that, under some circumstances, implicit memory can become explicit. Thus, Eve Black can give a full account of those incidents that puzzled Eve White. So the problem is not exactly one of degraded encoding.

Genuine cases of fugue and multiple personality are admittedly rare, but something similar can be seen in large numbers of otherwise normal human subjects experiencing posthypnotic amnesia (Kihlstrom, 1985). In one early experiment (Kihlstrom, 1980), hypnotized subjects memorized a list of words, and then received a suggestion that upon awakening from hypnosis they would not remember the words they had learned until the amnesia suggestion was canceled. The resulting amnesia was very dense, compared to the memory shown by control subjects who were not deeply hypnotized. On a later test, the subjects were asked to give the first words that came to mind in response to cues that targeted the list items as free associates. The nonamnesic subjects showed a substantial priming effect, but so did the amnesics. Another recall test showed that production of list items as free associates did not remind the amnesic subjects of the items they had memorized. Finally, after the amnesia suggestion was canceled, everybody remembered the list almost perfectly. This dissociation between explicit and implicit memory is quite different from the usual priming study, in a number of respects: good encoding was insured by requiring the subjects to meet a criterion of two perfect repetitions of the list before the amnesia suggestion was given; and adequate retention was demonstrated by the full recovery of memory after administration of the reversibility cue. Moreover, the priming observed here is true semantic priming, not repetition priming: because the cues were not presented in the study list, a semantic association between cue and target had to be formed by the subject at the time of encoding, and preserved in memory over the retention interval.

If conscious awareness (evidenced by explicit expressions of perception and memory) is mediated by links to the self, the puzzle is how an event-representation can be linked to the self sometimes, but not at other times. James (1890/1981) understood this problem, and I propose to adopt his solution here: perhaps there is not just one mental representation of the self. Speaking of the phenomena of hysteria (as it was then known) and hypnosis, James wrote:

The buried feelings and thoughts proved now to exist in hysterical anaesthetics, in recipients of post-hypnotic suggestion, etc., themselves are parts of secondary personal selves. These selves… are cut off at ordinary times from communication with the regular and normal self of the individual; but still they form conscious unities, have continuous memories, speak, write, invent distinct names for themselves, or adopt names that are suggested; and, in short, are entirely worthy of that title of secondary personalities which is now commonly given them. According to M. Janet these secondary personalities… result from the splitting of what ought to be a single complete self into two parts, of which one lurks in the background whilst the other appears on the surface as the only self the man or woman has (p. 222).


Considerations of the self as a concept suggest that each individual possesses a number of context-specific selves, arrayed as a set of exemplars or coexisting with a summary prototype (Kihlstrom & Cantor, 1984; Kihlstrom et al., 1988; Kihlstrom & Klein, 1994; Kihlstrom & Marchese, 1995). Ordinarily, these contextual selves are linked to each other, so that the person is aware of what he or she is like under different circumstances. In terms of associative-network models of memory such as ACT, we may say that there are several different knowledge structures, each representing a different token of the self-concept. Working memory can hold one of these at a time. Newly activated knowledge structures, if they are represented in working memory at all, are linked to whatever token of the self is resident in working memory; and if the link to self is encoded in memory, it is in terms of that particular self and no others. Some of the self-tokens may be linked to each other, but in general only the self resident in working memory can report on phenomenal awareness; and the only memories accessible to conscious recollection are those that have been encoded with respect to that particular token of the self.

Similarly, in hypnosis, we may assume that the highly hypnotizable subject’s deep level of involvement in the experience sets up something like a new, temporary self-concept, to which the experiences of hypnosis are linked. When hypnosis is terminated with a suggestion for amnesia, this “hypnotic self” moves out of working memory, and is replaced by the subject’s “normal self”; and the link that would normally unite the two self-concepts is temporarily suppressed. This situation will result in an inability to remember the list items and the other experiences of hypnosis; but those items will remain active in declarative memory, and this residual activation will support priming effects and other forms of implicit memory. When the reversibility cue is given to cancel the amnesia, the link is restored, and with it access to the experiences of hypnosis.


Unconscious, Preconscious, Subconscious

I have focused on the mechanisms associated with the division of consciousness in hypnosis and hysteria, because those are the phenomena that especially interest me. I share with James (1890), Janet (1907), and Hilgard (1977) the sense that these sorts of phenomena tell us something new about the nature of the psychological unconscious, and the relations between conscious and unconscious mental processes (Kihlstrom, 1987, 1990, 1993). These dissociative phenomena cannot be understood in the terms that we normally apply to unconscious and preconscious processing; they seem to demand some sort of reference to the self and its vicissitudes.

On the other hand, it seems that the link to the self is also implicated in unconscious and preconscious processing of as well. In unconscious processing, procedural knowledge is executed without ever making contact with a mental representation of self. In preconscious processing, events have been so degraded that they too never enter working memory at the point of perception — although in contrast to procedural knowledge, they could do so if conditions were different. Thus, they never achieve any links with the self in the first place. Alternatively, events are processed in working memory, and thus make contact with the self at the time of perception, but the traces are so poorly encoded, or suffer such serious degradation over the retention interval, that the links to self originally forged at the time of perception are lost.

The scope of the psychological unconscious is very broad, and the manner in which mental structures and processes are rendered unconscious varies widely as well: proceduralization and knowledge compilation, degraded stimulation and poor encoding, and functional dissociation. But in terms of their phenomenology, all appear to share a lack of association to a mental representation of the self as the agent or patient, stimulus or experiencer, of events. In the end, this final common pathway appears to be what makes the difference between conscious and unconscious mental life.


Author Notes

Paper presented at the Carnegie Symposium on Cognition, “Scientific Approaches to the Question of Consciousness”, sponsored by the Department of Psychology, Carnegie-Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 1993. The point of view represented here is based on research supported by Grant #MH-35856 from the National Institute of Mental Health. I thank John Allen, Terrence Barnhardt, Melissa Berren, Lawrence Couture, Elizabeth Glisky, Martha Glisky, Heather Law, Chad Marsolek, Victor Shames, Susan Valdiserri, and Michael Valdiserri for their comments.





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Naming and necessity

Identity in Semantic, logic, math, coincidental identical

Sense impulses beware us about alien existence of natural forces

Identity in nature: Empiricism and verification correspondence to reality

benlik ve kimliğin damgasını basarak kendi dışımızdaki dünyayı kurgulamak: personal

theseus un gemisi

For to be aware and to be are the same.  Thus, he concluded that “Is” could not have “come into being” because “nothing comes from nothing“. Existence is necessarily eternal.

This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (DK 22B1)

For this reason it is necessary to follow what is common. But although the Logos is common, most people live as if they had their own private understanding.

Paul Ricoeur has introduced the distinction between the ipse identity (selfhood, ‘who am I?’) and the idem identity (sameness, or a third-person perspective which objectifies identity) (Ricoeur & Blamey 1995).


-tedbirini terkeyle takdir hüda’nındır
sen yoksun o benlikler hep vehm ü gümanındır

“esrâr-ı ezel râ ne tü dânî vü ne men

v’in harf-i muammâ ne tü hânî vü ne men

hest ez pes-i perde güftügûy-î men ü tü

çün perde berüfted ne tü mânî vü ne men” theseus un gemisi


Dr. Francis Crick, beyni anlayabilmek için görme kabiliyeti üzerinde 50 senedir çalıştığını söylüyordu. Ölmeden önceki son eseri olan, “Astonishing Hypothesis” (Şaşırtıcı Hipotez) kitabında, yalnızca beynin  faaliyetlerinin ceman yekun (holistik) bir sonucu olarak, dış dünyanın bir görüntüsü gibi bir şuuru oluşturmakla beraber ve ayni zamanda kendi şuurunun farkında olmak şeklindeki,  “düşündüğünün, hissettiğinin ve  kendi mevcudiyetinin bile farkında olan bir benlik” duygusunun veya şuurunun nöronlar rası iletişimin teşkil ettiği bir network sayesinde oluşabileceğini ve bunun nörofizyolojik münasebetler ile tasvir edilebileceğini’ iddia ediyordu İngiliz  biyolog (professor of biology and director of the Brain and Behavior Research Group at The Open University in the United Kingdom) Steven Rose  diyor ki: “Bence, şu andaki büyük problemimiz şu ki,  farklı ilim şubelerinden çok  farklı seviyelerde çok fazla bilgi akışı var.Molekuler biyoloji, genetik, biyokimya, fizyoloji, hücre fizyolojisi ve bütün sistemin fizyolojisine dair çalışmaları inceliyoruz- ve  positron emisyonu tomografisi, fMRI( fonksiyonel magnetk resonans imajı) veya benim kullandığım Magnetoencephaografi  (MEG) gibi beynin iç yapısına açılan bütün bu hayranlık uyandırıcı fevkalade pencerelerden gelen imajlar… Sonra tabii,  suni networkler ile (artificial networks)uğraşanlar ve diğerleri gibi teorisyenler var. Yani mesele pek çok yaklaşım tarzı ile ele alınıyor. Problem şu ki, bütün bu farklı yaklaşımlar arasındaki farklı seviyeleri hangi köprülerle birbirine bağlayacağımızı bilmiyoruz, yani bu nerdeyse kör adamlarla filin hikayesine benziyor- insanlar beynin nasıl çalıştığına dair çok küçük parçaları kavrıyorlar, fakat bu parçaların hepsini birleştirmeye muvaffak olamıyoruz. Bu sıralarda, Beyin Çağı’ndan -1990’lar- sonraki bu çağda (decade), acilen ve çok muhtâc olduğumuz bir şey varsa, o da daha fazla Beyin teorisi. Resimleme (imaging) ile molekuler seviye arasında gidebileceğimiz bir yol bulmaya ihtiyacımız var.”

Mesela Bertrand Russell, Analysis of Mind kitabında, zihnî (mental) dünya ile, objektif maddî dünyanın tefrîk edilmesini bile tenkid ediyor. Beş duyu vasıtasıyla algıladığımız dış dünyaya mahsus, “bu katı objektif madde” idrakinin (perception) dahi zihnimizin mantıkî bir inşası (logical construcyion) olduğunu söylüyor. Russell, ‘maddî dünyayı da zihnî dünyayı da inkâr etmediğini; ancak her ikisinin de bizim idrâk ettiğimizden daha primitive gerçeklikler olduğunu; gerek ‘şuur’ gerek “katı madde” hakkındaki idrâkimizin dahi, bu primitive aslî muhtevâlara göre, “soyutlanarak inşa edilmiş tasavvurlar” olduğunu’ söylüyor. Pekala, şimdilik kabul edelim ki bütün şuur hallerimiz, beynimizdeki nörofizyolojik faaliyetlerin –duyu organlarından gelen münferid verileri (sense datum) işleyerek ve inşa ederek holistik (bütünleştirici) bir tarzda tasvir ettiği- bir tasavvurdan ibaret olsun. Ne de olsa beynin dış dünya ile teması ancak duyu organlarımızın ilettiği bir takım “nöroşimik impulse”lardan (elektriki ve kimyevi veriler) ibaret. Bu durumda, bu verilerin de beyindeki nörofizyolojik faaliyetler sonucunda işlenerek inşa edilen bir tasavvur olması elbette kaçınılmaz.

Ancak biz dışımızdaki maddi nesneleri, doğrudan doğruya   temas ederek değil, bunlara dair duyu organlarının ilettiği verileri işleyen beynimizin inşa ettiği bir tasavvur olarak görüyoruz elbette. Ama akleden bir benlik yoksa, bir nesneyi gören beynin bir tek hücresi olmadığına göre ve herhangi bir imaj pek çok beyin hücresi arasında bir ağ şebekesi halinde dağılmış olduğuna göre, herhangi bir nesneyi gören bu beynin bu hücreleri veya maddi yapısı da değil, onda sayısız nöronlar arasında yayılmış bir şebeke/network olarak teşekkül eden bu şuuru/imajı kim görüyor?

Zira, Eğer, benliği beynin faaliyetlerinden ibaret sayarsak, beynin faaliyetleri sonucunda teşekkül eden tasavvuru idrak eden, beynimizde teşekkül eden görüntü tasavvurunun varlığını fark eden ve o görüntüyü gören çağdaş nörofizyolojideki tabir ile bir ‘homunculus’un ( beyindeki görüntüyü gören küçük adamın)  daha varlığını farz etmemiz gerekecek. Çağdaş ilme göre şuur ve benlik bahsini tartışırken böyle bir homunculus farz etmek, hatta onun da arkasında başka bir benlik ve ilahiri homunculuslar şeklindeki, benliğin nasıl olup ta kendi şuurunun farkında olabildiği problemi ile ilerde yüzleşeceğiz. Beyinde şu anda mevcut olan bir şuur hali -ayni anda- bizzat kendisinin objesi olamaz. (No subjective state who is at present, could be its own object at the same time). Kendisini algılayan bir algı, kendini gören göz gibi, bizzat kendine referans veren bir şuur olur bu çünkü. Bu ancak olsa olsa hatırlama vasıtasıyla bir müddet sonra oluşan bir şuur olabilir. Biz işte bu şuurun, tasavvurun, ne gördüğümüzün de farkındayız ve bunu farkedenin ise benlik şuurumuz olduğunu biliyoruz

Acaba Benlik şuuru yalnızca beynin nöroşimik faaliyetleri ile ve her nasılsa oluşan holistik bir benlik tasavvuru neticesinde mi ortaya çıkıyor? Benliği yalnızca beynin faaliyeti diye anlayabilir miyiz? Nefsin ancak beynin nörofizyolojik faaliyetleri sayesinde kendi dışındaki dünyayı tasavvur  ettiği ve şuurun dahi bu beynin faaliyetine bağlı olduğu âşikar. Lakin nesneleri gören gözümüz değil, hatta beynimiz de değil, beyindeki bir takım prosesler şeklinde oluşan bir şuur. Velhasıl bu kendi kendisine  referans vererek anlaşılmaz hâle gelen, şuur, benlik ve beyin münasebetleri, felsefî muhakemeye veya reductionist (indirgemeci) ilmi metodolojiye indirgenemeyecek kadar kompleks görünüyor. Benlik Meselesi, ne eski felsefecilerin yaptığı gibi, beyin hakkında hiç bir ciddî bilgiye sahib olmadan, sadece mantık yürüterek ve ne de çağdaş ulemanın materialist ve reductionist (aşırı detaylara indirgemeci) tecrübi usulleri ile izah edilebilecek kadar basit değil. Reductionism (parçalara indirgemek ve tek tek parçaların/ detayların moleküler -hatta atomik seviyede- fonksiyonlarını anlamaya çalışmak) ise, zaten terkibî ve bütünleyici olan Holistik usulün tam zıt kutbunda yer alan bir usuldür. Hatta ilerde yeri gelince, bu bahsin geniş metafizik  şerhler gerektiren marifet-i nefs yönünü dahi göreceğimizi söylemiştik, ki o da bir bahs-i diger.



Harold J. Morowitz

Rediscovering the Mind

What has happened is that biologists, who once postulated a

privileged role for the human mind in nature’s hierarchy, have

been moving relentlessly toward the hard-core materialism that

characterized nineteenth-century physics. At the same time,

physicists, faced with compelling experimental evidence, have

been moving away from strictly mechanical models of the universe

to a view that sees the mind as playing an integral role in all

physical events. It is as if the two disciplines were on two

fast-moving trains, going in opposite directions and not

noticing what is happening across the tracks.



the ghost in the machine



the ghost in the machine

ego: soul/anima psikhe/pneuma, spirit, can, nefes/nephesh, nefs, ruh/ruah, ego, nesheman (nesîme/ ruh/ supersoul:

Max Muller, in his lectures, noted the striking similarities between Vedanta and the system of Spinoza, saying “the Brahman, as conceived in the Upanishads and defined by Sankara, is clearly the same as Spinoza’s ‘Substantia’.[107] Helena Blavatsky, a founder of theTheosophical Society also compared Spinoza’s religious thought to Vedanta, writing in an unfinished essay “As to Spinoza’s Deity—natura naturans—conceived in his attributes simply and alone; and the same Deity—as natura naturata or as conceived in the endless series of modifications or correlations, the direct outflowing results from the properties of these attributes, it is the Vedantic Deity pure and simple.”[108]













Make-believe game of consciousness and its limits of understanding

  1. Mind and consciousness (awareness): know thyself! last frontier of the human quest is mind: why it is important? the implications of selfhood: (Cognosce te ipsum, gnothi sauton, men arefe nefsehu)


ego: soul/anima psikhe/pneuma, spirit can nefes/nephesh nefs ruh/ruah ego nesheman (nesîme/ ruh/ supersoul:


However, Avicenna posited the brain as the place where reason interacts with sensation. Sensation prepares the soul to receive rational concepts from the universal Agent Intellect. The first knowledge of the flying person would be “I am,” affirming his or her essence. That essence could not be the body, obviously, as the flying person has no sensation. Thus, the knowledge that “I am” is the core of a human being: the soul exists and is self-aware.[41] Avicenna thus concluded that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance. The body is unnecessary; in relation to it, the soul is its perfection.[42][43][44] In itself, the soul is an immaterial substance.[45]

Max Muller, in his lectures, noted the striking similarities between Vedanta and the system of Spinoza, saying “the Brahman, as conceived in the Upanishads and defined by Sankara, is clearly the same as Spinoza’s ‘Substantia’.[107] Helena Blavatsky, a founder of theTheosophical Society also compared Spinoza’s religious thought to Vedanta, writing in an unfinished essay “As to Spinoza’s Deity—natura naturans—conceived in his attributes simply and alone; and the same Deity—as natura naturata or as conceived in the endless series of modifications or correlations, the direct outflowing results from the properties of these attributes, it is the Vedantic Deity pure and simple.”[108]


  1. Mind and consciousness (awareness)

know thyself!  last frontier of the human quest is mind: why it is important?  the  implications of selfhood: (Cognosce te ipsum, gnothi sauton, men arefe nefsehu)


Consciousness Studies



Nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy of consciousness[edit]

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed a confident use of nineteenth century scientific ideas amongst philosophers of mind and a few philosophers such as Whitehead were also coming to terms with modern science.

ER Clay[edit]

ER Clay deserves a mention in the catalogue of important nineteenth century philosophers of consciousness for the quotation from his work given in William James’ classic text The Principles of Psychology:

The relation of experience to time has not been profoundly studied. Its objects are given as being of the present, but the part of time referred to by the datum is a very different thing from the conterminous of the past and future which philosophy denotes by the name Present. The present to which the datum refers is really a part of the past — a recent past — delusively given as being a time that intervenes between the past and the future. Let it be named the specious present, and let the past, that is given as being the past, be known as the obvious past. All the notes of a bar of a song seem to the listener to be contained in the present. All the changes of place of a meteor seem to the beholder to be contained in the present. At the instant of the termination of such series, no part of the time measured by them seems to be a past. Time, then, considered relatively to human apprehension, consists of four parts, viz., the obvious past, the specious present, the real present, and the future. Omitting the specious present, it consists of three . . . nonentities — the past, which does not exist, the future, which does not exist, and their conterminous, the present; the faculty from which it proceeds lies to us in the fiction of the specious present.

Clay provides an eloquent description of the extended, or specious, present, mentioning both the way that consciousness seems to occupy a duration of time and the way that events within conscious experience have their own durations so that they snap out of existence when they end. This description in itself allows us to see how McTaggart’s “A Series” might be constructed from the overlapping extended present’s of events.

Clay’s use of the pejorative term “specious” for the way that experience has a duration was necessary in the nineteenth century but now we know that it was the nineteenth century idea of physical time that was specious. A neutral term for experience laid out in time might be the “extended present”.

Alfred North Whitehead[edit]

The Concept of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1920): 49-73.

Many twentieth century philosophers have taken the nineteenth century idea of space and time as the framework within which their descriptions of experience are elaborated. Whitehead was a mathematician and philosopher who understood the limitations of this framework and pointed out that our failure to understand and overcome these limitations was probably at the root of our failure to understand consciousness. He traces the problem to the nineteenth century view of time and space and rails against materialists who elevate nineteenth century scientific doctrine above observational and scientific reality.

He also believed that mind and nature are part of the same phenomena:

What I am essentially protesting against is the bifurcation of nature into two systems of reality, which, in so far as they are real, are real in different senses. One reality would be the entities such as electrons which are the study of speculative physics. This would be the reality which is there for knowledge; although on this theory it is never known. For what is known is the other sort of reality, which is the byplay of the mind. Thus there would be two natures, one is the conjecture and the other is the dream. Another way of phrasing this theory which I am arguing against is to bifurcate nature into two divisions, (31) namely into the nature apprehended in awareness and the nature which is the cause of awareness. The nature which is the fact apprehended in awareness holds within it the greenness of the trees, the song of the birds, the warmth of the sun, the hardness of the chairs, and the feel of the velvet. The nature which is the cause of awareness is the conjectured system of molecules and electrons which so affects the mind as to produce the awareness of apparent nature. The meeting point of these two natures is the mind, the causal nature being influent and the apparent nature being effluent.

He argued that science is about the relations between things:

The understanding which is sought by science is an understanding of relations within nature.

Whitehead was aware of the way that the simultaneity of events is of crucial importance to phenomenal experience:

The general fact is the whole simultaneous occurrence of nature which is now for sense-awareness. This general fact is what I have called the discernible. But in future I will call it a ‘duration,’ meaning thereby a certain whole of nature which is limited only by the property of being a simultaneity. Further in obedience to the principle of comprising within nature the whole terminus of sense-awareness, simultaneity must not be conceived as an irrelevant mental concept imposed upon nature. Our sense-awareness posits for immediate discernment a certain whole, here called a ‘duration’; thus a duration is a definite natural entity. A duration is discriminated as a complex of partial events, and the natural entities which are components of this complex are thereby said to be ‘simultaneous with this duration.’ Also in a derivative sense they are simultaneous with each other in respect to this duration. Thus simultaneity is a definite natural relation. The word’ duration’ is perhaps unfortunate in so far as it suggests a mere abstract stretch of time. This is not what I mean. A duration is a concrete slab of nature limited by simultaneity which is an essential factor disclosed in sense-awareness.

Whitehead also stresses the role of the extended, or ‘specious’, present in sense awareness:

It is important to distinguish simultaneity from instantaneousness. I lay no stress on the mere current usage of the two terms. There are two concepts which I want to distinguish, and one I call simultaneity and the other instantaneousness. I hope that the words are judiciously chosen; but it really does not matter so long as I succeed in explaining my meaning. Simultaneity is the property of a group of natural elements which in some sense are components of a duration. A duration can be all nature present as the immediate fact posited by sense-awareness. A duration retains within itself the passage of nature. There are within it antecedents and consequents which are also durations which may be the complete specious presents of quicker consciousnesses. In other words a duration retains temporal thickness. Any concept of all nature as immediately known is always a concept of some duration though it may be enlarged in its temporal thickness beyond the possible specious present of any being known to us as existing within nature. Thus simultaneity is an ultimate factor in nature, immediate for sense-awareness.

So a set of events that are extended in time constitutes conscious experience. He then defines continuity in terms of overlapping durations:

The continuity of nature arises from extension. Every event extends over other events, and every event is extended over by other events. Thus in the special case of durations which are now the only events directly under consideration, every duration is part of other durations; and every duration has other durations which are parts of it.

That experience exists as whole durations that overlap means that the overlapping durations can be considered to be composed of moments or instants and these can be assigned to a series which we call ‘time’:

Such an ordered series of moments is what we mean by time defined as a series. Each element of the series exhibits an instantaneous; state of nature, Evidently this serial time is the result of an intellectual process of (65) abstraction.

Processes can occur within a duration of sense awareness so things can change within the extended present of a conscious interval.

Sense-awareness and thought are themselves processes as well as their termini in nature.

So Whitehead’s durations of sense awareness both contain processes and are phenomena in their own right. A movement can be both a succession of changes of position and a quality of motion over the whole duration that contains it.

One disturbing feature of his analysis is that he does not mention the way that durations are attached to events; Clay states that the extension in time of an event disappears when the event ceases.


Edmund Husserl[edit]

Husserl has been influential in postmodern philosophy. He writes in a slightly obscure style that has been adopted by many European philosophers, an example of this almost post-modern style is given below:

The genuine intentional synthesis is discovered in the synthesis of several acts into one act, such that, in a unique manner of binding one meaning to another, there emerges not merely a whole, an amalgam whose parts are meanings, but rather a single meaning in which these meanings themselves are contained, but in a meaningful way. With this the problems of correlation, too, already announce themselves; and thus, in fact, this work contains the first, though of course very imperfect, beginnings of “phenomenology.”” (Husserl 1937).

Husserl seems to be largely a Humean in the sense that he gives precedence to mental experience as the only thing that may be known directly and hence certainly. He regards the components of experience as part of consciousness, so the intention to move, the movement and the sensation of movement are bound or ‘bracketed’ together into a single meaning.

In my perceptual field I find myself holding sway as ego through my organs and generally through everything belonging to me as an ego in my ego-acts and faculties. However, though the objects of the life-world, if they are to show their very own being, necessarily show themselves as physical bodies, this does not mean that they show themselves only in this way; and [similarly] we, though we are related through the living body to all objects which exist for us, are not related to them solely as a living body. Thus if it is a question of objects in the perceptual field, we are perceptually also in the field; and the same is true, in modification, of every intuitive field, and even of every nonintuitive one, since we are obviously capable of “representing” to ourselves everything which is non-intuitively before us (though we are sometimes temporally limited in this). [Being related] “through the living body” clearly does not mean merely [being related] “as a physical body”; rather, the expression refers to the kinesthetic, to functioning as an ego in this peculiar way, primarily through seeing, hearing, etc.; and of course other modes of the ego belong to this (for example, lifting, carrying, pushing, and the like).

It should be noted that Husserl believes we perform acts of perception and that we should refrain from judgement about where the things in perception are located or their nature. This suspension of judgement is called epocheand derives from ancient Greek skepticism.

Husserl seems to share Locke’s view that experience is extended in time. He is obscure about whether he believes consciousness itself is a process that initiates action. He uses a linguistic argument to justify the idea of consciousness as a form of action:

  1. Whatever becomes accessible to us through reflection has a noteworthy universal character: that of being consciousness of something, of having something as an object of consciousness, or correlatively, to be aware of it we are speaking here of intentionality. This is the essential character of mental life in the full sense of the word, and is thus simply inseparable from it. It is, for example, inseparable from the perceiving that reflection reveals to us, that it is of this or that; just as the process of remembering is, in itself, remembering or recalling of this or that; just as thinking is thinking of this or that thought, fearing is of something, love is of something; and so on. We can also bring in here the language we use in speaking of appearing or having something appear.”(Husserl 1928)

Intentionality is a process and Husserl seems to be suggesting that consciousness is a process:

  1. The Purely Mental in Experience of the Self and of Community. The All-Embracing Description of Intentional Processes. (Husserl 1928)

then, not surprisingly, fails to find any processes within it and changes his view of consciousness to that of observation:

… But I <must> immediately add that the universality of the phenomenological epoche as practiced by the phenomenologist from the very beginning the universality in which he or she becomes the mere impartial observer of the totality of his conscious life-process brings about not only a thematic purification of the individual processes of consciousness and thereby discloses its noematic components; (Husserl 1928)

He calls the contents of perception the perceptual noema. Husserl seems to be aware of the problem of the extended present:

How can we account for the fact that a presently occurring experience in one’s consciousness called “recollection” makes us conscious of a not-present event and indeed makes us aware of it as past? And how is it that in the “remembered” moment, that sense can be included in an evidential way with the sense: “have earlier perceived”? How are we to understand the fact that a perceptual, that is to say, bodily characterized present can at the same time contain a co-presence with the sense of a perceivability that goes beyond the <immediate> perceivedness? How are we to understand the fact that the actual perceptual present as a totality does not close out the world but rather always carries within itself the sense of an infinite plus ultra <more beyond>?”(Husserl 1928)

But is vague about whether mental time is a continuum or has three components of remembered past, present and some sort of intuition of the future. His rejection of the possibility of describing the mind through the spatio-temporal models of the physical sciences limits his interpretation of mental space and time.

Husserl, E. (1928) The Amsterdam Lectures. PSYCHOLOGICAL AND TRANSCENDENTAL PHENOMENOLOGY AND THE CONFRONTATION WITH HEIDEGGER (1927-1931). edited and translated by Thomas Sheehan and Richard E. Palmer.
Husserl, E. (1937). The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. An Introduction to Phenomenology. (The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (1954) publ. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1970. Sections 22 – 25 and 57 – 68, 53 pages in all.)

Gilbert Ryle 1900-1976[edit]

Gilbert Ryle is famous for his “logical behaviourism”. He was Waynflete Professor of metaphysical philosophy at Oxford and amongst his eminent students are Daniel C Dennett and David Armstrong. Dennett wrote the Introduction to the Penguin edition of “Concept of Mind”.

The Concept of Mind. First published by Hutchinson 1949. Published by Penguin Classics, Penguin Books, Chippenham, England.[edit]

Ryle begins the Concept of Mind by proposing that there is an “official doctrine” of mind due to Descartes:

The official doctrine, which hails chiefly from Descartes, is something like this. With the doubtful exception of idiots and infants in arms every human being has both a body and a mind. Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and function.

Human bodies are in space and are subject to the mechanical laws which govern all other bodies in space. ….

But minds are not in space, nor are their operations subject to mechanical laws. The workings of one mind are not witnessable by other observers; its career is private. Only I can take cognisance of the states and processes of my own mind.Chapter 1, p13.

Ryle considers that the “official doctrine” is absurd:

Such in outline is the official theory. I shall speak of it, with deliberate abusiveness, as ‘dogma of the ghost in the machine’. Chapter 1, p17.

He considers that the “official theory” is due to a particular mistake that he calls a “category mistake”:

I must first indicate what is meant by the phrase ‘Category mistake’. This I do in a series of illustrations.

A foreigner visiting Oxford or Cambridge for the first time is shown a number of colleges, libraries, playing fields, museums,scientific departments and administrative offices. He then asks ‘But where is the university? I have seen where the members of the Colleges live, where the Registrar works, where the scientists experiment and the rest. But I have not yet seen the university in which reside and work the members of your University.’ It has then to be explained to him that the University is not another collateral institution, some ulterior counterpart to the colleges, laboratories and offices which he has seen. The university is just the way in which all that he has already seen is organized. ….

My destructive purpose is to show that a family of radical category mistakes is the origin of the double-life theory. The representation of a person as a ghost mysteriously ensconced in a machine derives from this argument. Because, as is true, a person’s thinking, feeling and purposive doing cannot be described solely in the idioms of physics, chemistry and physiology, therefore they must be described in counterpart idioms. As the human body is a complex organised unit, so the human mind must be another complex organized unit, though one made of a different sort of stuff and with a different sort of structure. Or, again, as the human body, like any other parcel of matter, is a field of causes and effects, so the mind must be another field of causes and effects, though not (Heaven be praised) mechanical causes and effects. Chapter 1, p 19-20.

Note that Ryle is still ridiculing the “official theory” in his description of the category mistake given above. Ryle’s style frequently makes it difficult to isolate his own proposals from the mockery of the proposals of his imagined rivals.

Ryle continues his attack on the “official doctrine” and considers that the ancient Greeks believed that the theorizing or intelligent part of the person was the mind:

…both philosophers and laymen tend to treat intellectual operations as the core of mental conduct; that is to say, they tend to define all other mental conduct-concepts in terms of concepts of cognition. They suppose that the primary exercise of minds consists in finding the answers to questions and that their other occupations are merely applications of considered truths or even regrettable distractions from their consideration. The Greek idea that immortality is reserved for the theorizing part of the soul was discredited, but not dispelled, by Christianity. Chapter 2. p27

He then attempts to dispel this “intellectualist legend”:

The crucial objection to the intellectualist legend is this. The consideration of propositions is itself an operation the execution of which can be more of less intelligent, less or more stupid. But if, for any operation to be intelligently executed, a prior theoretical operation had first to be performed and performed intelligently, it would be a logical impossibility for anyone ever to break into the circle. Let us consider some salient points at which this regress would arise. According to the legend, whenever an agent does anything intelligently, his act is preceded and steered by another internal act of considering a regulative proposition appropriate to his practical problem. But what makes him consider the one maxim which is appropriate rather than any of the thousands which are not? Why does the hero not find himself calling to mind a cooking recipe, or a rule of Formal Logic? Perhaps he does but then his intellectual process is silly and not sensible. Intelligently reflecting how to act is, among other things, considering what is pertinent and disregarding what is inappropriate. Must we then say that for the hero’s reflections how to act to be intelligent he must first reflect how best to reflect how to act? The endlessness of this implied regress shows that the application of the criteria of appropriateness does not entail the occurrence of a process of considering this criterion. Chapter 2, p31.

This is the famous “Ryle’s Regress”.

Ryle considers that when people use the term “in the mind” they actually mean “in their heads”:

When people employ the idiom ‘in the mind’, they are usually expressing over-sophisticatedly what we ordinarily express by the less misleading metaphorical use of ‘in the head’. Chapter 2. p 40.

Ryle is utterly against the concept of conscious emulation or simulation of the world:

The statement ‘the mind is its own place’, as theorists might construe it, is not true, for the mind is not even a metaphorical ‘place’. On the contrary, the chessboard, the platform, the scholar’s desk, the judge’s bench, the lorry-driver’s seat, the studio and the football field are among its places. These are where people work and play stupidly or intelligently. ‘Mind’ is not the name of another place where work is done or games are played; and it is not the name of another tool with which work is done, or another appliance with which games are played. Chapter 2, p50.

Ryle has an implicitly endurantist idea of time in which introspection can only occur as successions of events:

It would be admitted that only people with a special training ever speak of ‘introspecting’, but in such phrases as ‘he caught himself wondering how to do so and so’, or ‘when I catch myself getting into a panic, I do such and such’, the plain man is expressing at least part of what is meant by the word. Now supposing (which it is the negative object of this book to deny), that there did exist events of the postulated ghostly status, there would still be objections to the initially plausible assumption that there also exists a species of perception capable of having any of these events for its proprietory objects.For one thing, the occurrence of such an act of inner perception would require that the observer could attend to two things at the same time. He would, for example, be both resolving to get up early and concomitantly observing his act of resolving; attending to the program of rising betimes and perpetually attending to his attending to this program. Chapter 6, p157-158.

For Ryle things are known after the instant when they occur, he ignores any idea of the specious present:

If retrospection can give us the data we need for some states of mind, there is no reason why it should not do so for all. And this is just what seems to be suggested by the popular phrase ‘to catch oneself doing so and so’. We catch, as we pursue and overtake, what is already running away from us. I catch myself daydreaming about a mountain walk after, perhaps very shortly after, I have begun the daydream; or I catch myself humming a particular air only when the first few notes have already been hummed. Retrospection, prompt or delayed, is a genuine process and one which is exempt from the troubles ensuing from the assumption of multiply divided attention; .. Chapter 6, p159.

The basis for much of Ryle’s philosophy in Concept of Mind is Aristotle’s regress which he interprets in an endurantist fashion as meaning that there can be no internal mind. He considers observing a robin and says:

If sensations are proper objects of observation, then observing them must carry with it the having of sensations of those sensations analogous to the glimpses of the robin without which I could not be watching the robin. And this is clearly absurd. There is nothing answering to the phrases ‘a glimpse of a glimpse’ or a ‘whiff of a pain’ or ‘the sound of a tweak’ or ‘the tingle of a tingle’, and if there ever was anything to correspond, the series would go on forever. Chapter 8, p197.

Indeed, Ryle’s philosophy is entirely the consequences of the acceptance of Aristotle’s regress as an absolute constraint, it being assumed that there is no further physical theory available to explain mind or behaviour.

Daniel Clement Dennett (1942 -)[edit]

Dennett (photo: Hayford Peirce)

Dennett is well known for his “Multiple Drafts Model” of consciousness. The Multiple Drafts Theory or Model of Consciousness is a theory of consciousness based upon the proposal that the brain acts as an information processor. The Theory is described in depth in the book Consciousness Explained, written by Dennett in 1991. It proposes a form of strong AI.

Dennett describes his theory (CE p117) as operationalist, as Dennett says: “There is no reality of conscious experience independent of the effects of various vehicles of content on subsequent action (and hence, of course, on memory).” (Not to be confused with ‘instrumentalism’).

Dennett’s starting point in the development of the Multiple Drafts theory is a description of the phi illusion. In this experiment two different coloured lights, with an angular separation of a few degrees at the eye, are flashed in succession. If the interval between the flashes is less than a second or so the first light that is flashed appears to move across to the position of the second light. Furthermore the light seems to change colour as it moves across the visual field. A green light will appear to turn red as it seems to move across to the position of a red light. Dennett asks how we could see the light change colour before the second light is observed.

An example of the phi illusion in the format described by Dennett is shown here: phi illusion (use the ‘test’ option to select the simple phi demonstration).

Dennett explains the change of colour of the light in terms of either Orwellian or Stalinesque hypotheses. In the Orwellian hypothesis the subject develops a narrative about the movement of the lights after the event. In the Stalinesque hypothesis the subject’s brain would have a delay in which the movement of the green light towards the red light could be modelled after the sensory information from the red light had been received. He then says that it does not matter which hypothesis applies because: “the Multiple Drafts model goes on to claim that the brain does not bother ‘constructing’ any representations that go to the trouble of ‘filling in’ the blanks. That would be a waste of time and (shall we say?) paint. The judgement is already in so we can get on with other tasks!”

It should be pointed out that fMRI studies by Larsen et al. 2006 have shown that the brain does indeed fill in the blanks during the phi illusion and Blankenburg et al. 2006 have shown that the brain fills in the blanks during the cutaneous rabbit illusion so Dennett’s primary proposal is now known to be incorrect. The brain uses the Stalinesque paradigm – it models events during a delay.

According to the Multiple Drafts theory there are a variety of sensory inputs from a given event and also a variety of interpretations of these inputs. The sensory inputs arrive in the brain and are interpreted at different times so a given event can give rise to a succession of discriminations. As soon as each discrimination is accomplished it becomes available for eliciting a behaviour. A wide range of behaviours may occur ranging from reactions to the event such as running away to descriptions of the experience of the event etc.

At different times after the event a person is able to relate different stories of what happened depending upon the extent to which the event has been analysed. Dennett compares this with a ‘Cartesian Theatre’ model of consciousness in which events suddenly appear on some sort of mental screen and then disappear as quickly. He provides numerous examples to show that events are analysed over a period of time rather than instantaneously.

Although Multiple Drafts is described as a model or theory of consciousness that differs from other models, Dennett points out that even Descartes was aware that reactions to an event could occur over a period of time with reflexes occurring first and judgements later. What makes Multiple Drafts different is that Dennett, in different sections of Consciousness Explained, either denies that normal conscious experiences actually occur or describes these as emerging in some unspecified way from the sheer complexity of information processing in the brain. His emergentism is clear when he defends the Multiple Drafts Model from Searle’s Chinese room argument by saying of the critics: They just can’t imagine how understanding could be a property that emerges from lots of distributed quasi-understanding in a large system (CE p439).

As an example of an apparent denial of conscious experience Dennett denies that there is any internal experience of colour, instead he says that qualia in general are “mechanically accomplished dispositions to react”. This view originates in Dennett’s belief in the method of heterophenomenology in which narrative is thought to be the most crucial tool for investigating consciousness. However, Dennett does not actually deny conscious experience but he does deny internal conscious experience (see below).

The origin of this operationalist approach can be seen in Dennett’s immediately earlier work. Dennett (1988) redefines consciousness in terms of access consciousness alone, he argues that “Everything real has properties, and since I don’t deny the reality of conscious experience, I grant that conscious experience has properties”. Having related all consciousness to properties he then declares that these properties are actually judgements of properties. He considers judgements of the properties of consciousness to be identical to the properties themselves. He writes:

“The infallibilist line on qualia treats them as properties of one’s experience one cannot in principle misdiscover, and this is a mysterious doctrine (at least as mysterious as papal infal libility) unless we shift the emphasis a little and treat qualia as logical constructs out of subjects’ qualia-judgments: a subject’s experience has the quale F if and only if the subject judges his experience to have quale F.”

Having identified “properties” with “judgement of properties” he can then show that the judgements are insubstantial, hence the properties are insubstantial and hence the qualia are insubstantial or even non-existent. Dennett concludes that qualia can be rejected as non-existent:

“So when we look one last time at our original characterization of qualia, as ineffable, intrinsic, private, directly apprehensible properties of experience, we find that there is nothing to fill the bill. In their place are relatively or practically ineffable public properties we can refer to indirectly via reference to our private property-detectors– private only in the sense of idiosyncratic. And insofar as we wish to cling to our subjective authority about the occurrence within us of states of certain types or with certain properties, we can have some authority–not infallibility or incorrigibility, but something better than sheer guessing–but only if we restrict ourselves to relational, extrinsic properties like the power of certain internal states of ours to provoke acts of apparent re- identification. So contrary to what seems obvious at first blush, there simply are no qualia at all. ” (Dennett 1988)

This identification of qualia with judgements rather than experience is the key to the Multiple Drafts Model, once accepted there is only a need to explain behaviour rather than personal experience itself.

The origin of this identification of qualia with judgements can be seen inConsciousness Explained p407-408. Dennett considers the experiences of someone looking at the world, and describes his idea of the relationship between conscious experience, mind and representation:

“It seemed to him, according to the text, as if his mind – his visual field – were filled with intricate details of gold-green buds and wiggling branches, but although this is how it seemed this was an illusion. No such “plenum” ever came into his mind; the plenum remained out in the world where it didn’t have to be represented, but could just be. When we marvel, in those moments of heightened self-consciousness, at the glorious richness of our conscious experience, the richness we marvel at is actually the richness of the world outside, in all its ravishing detail. It does not “enter” our conscious minds, but is simply available”

For Dennett minds have no “plenum”, no space with objects in it, the plenum is things outside the mind. Dennett considers mind to be processes. In his imaginary dialogue with ‘Otto’ in Consciousness Explained Dennett has Otto say “Are you denying then that consciousness is a plenum?” to which he replies “Yes indeed. That’s part of what I am denying. Consciousness is gappy and sparse, and doesn’t contain half of what people think is there!”. (CE p366). Unfortunately Dennett’s assertion is difficult to understand because even half a plenum is a plenum, perhaps his remarks given above that ‘conscious experience’ has a plenum but ‘mind’ does not, explain his equivocation. This means that Dennett has moved conscious experience into the world outside the body. Unfortunately this still leaves the problem of how this world is turned into the view that we each enjoy (there are no images in the world other than those created by optical instruments such as the eye). Has Dennett shifted the problem of conscious experience from a problem of brain function into a problem of the physics of the world outside the body?

Dennett makes a sharp distinction between information in the world and information in the brain. The information in the world seems to be allowed to be a plenum that can enter conscious experience but ceases to be a plenum in the mind. In contrast, according to Dennett the information in the brain is a “logical space”:

“So we do have a way of making sense of the idea of phenomenal space – as a logical space. This is a space into which or in which nothing is literally projected; its properties are simply constituted by the beliefs of the (heterophenomenological) subject.”

Although how a “logical space” differs from a real space if it contains several things at an instant is not explained and how this “logical space” appears like phenomenal space at each instant is also not covered.

Dennett also attacks “Cartesian materialism” which he defines very precisely as the idea that there is a Cartesian theatre in the brain:

Lets call the idea of such a centered locus in the brain Cartesian materialism, since its the view you arrive at when you discard Descarte’s dualism but fail to discard the imagery of a central (but material) Theater where “it all comes together”. The pineal gland would be one candidate for such a Cartesian Theater, but there are others that have been suggested – the anterior cingulate, the reticular formation, various places in the frontal lobes. Cartesian materialism is the view that there is a crucial finish line or boundary somewhere in the brain, marking a place where the order of arrival equals the order of “presentation” in experience because whathappens there is what you are conscious of.”(CE p107)

It seems that Dennett is unaware of earlier uses of the term “Cartesian materialism” meaning the concept that the mind is in the brain and co-opts the term for his own use. In Consciousness Explained Dennett assumes a model of Cartesian Materialism where some entity is looking at a theatre of events. This is a dynamical interpretation of perception based on the idea that physical events are due to Whiteheadian materialism. As such it is unlike the “theatre” that Aristotle envisaged in his “self aware sense” which has a view but no homunculus to view it. Indeed Dennett(1999) eschews the geometrical physicalism of the last century of physics:

“A curious anachronism found in many but not all of these reactionaries is that to the extent that they hold out any hope at all of solution to the problem (or problems) of consciousness, they speculate that it will come not from biology or cognitive science, but from–of all things!–physics! ……. Not just philosophers and linguists have found this an attractive idea. Many physicists have themselves jumped on the bandwagon, following the lead of Roger Penrose, whose speculations about quantum fluctuations in the microtubules of neurons have attracted considerable attention and enthusiasm in spite of a host of problems. What all these views have in common is the idea that some revolutionary principle of physics could be a rival to the idea that consciousness is going to be explained in terms of “parts which work one upon another,” as in Leibniz’s mill.”

(The section of this book on Leibniz shows that he could find nothing resembling human perception in his mill). Dennett(1998) describes consciousness as distributed in time and space: “Consciousness doesn’t have to happen at an instant; it is much better to think of it as distributed in both space and time.” but, unlike Descartes, Broad or Whitehead uses an early materialist conception of time and process to describe it.


Blankenburg, F., Ruff, C.C., Deichmann, R., Rees, G. and Driver, J. (2006) The cutaneous rabbit illusion affects human primary sensory cortex somatotopically, PLoS Biol 2006;4(3):e69.

Daniel C Dennett. (1988). Quining Qualia. in A. Marcel and E. Bisiach, eds, Consciousness in Modern Science, Oxford University Press 1988. Reprinted in W. Lycan, ed., Mind and Cognition: A Reader, MIT Press, 1990, A. Goldman, ed. Readings in Philosophy and Cognitive Science, MIT Press, 1993.

Dennett, D. C., 1998, The Myth of Double Transduction in S. R. Hameroff , A. W. Kaszniak, and A. C. Scott, eds., Toward a Science of Consciousness, II , Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/A Bradford Book, pp97-107.

Daniel C Dennett. (1991). Consciousness Explained. Little, Brown & Co. USA. Available as a Penguin Book.

Dennett, D. and Kinsbourne, M. (1992) Time and the Observer: the Where and When of Consciousness in the Brain. (1992) Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 15, 183-247, 1992. Reprinted in The Philosopher’s Annual, Grim, Mar and Williams, eds., vol. XV-1992, 1994, pp. 23-68; Noel Sheehy and Tony Chapman, eds., Cognitive Science, Vol. I, Elgar, 1995, pp.210-274.

Dennett, D. (1999). “The Zombic Hunch: Extinction of an Intuition?”, Royal Institute of Philosophy Millennial Lecture

Larsen, A., Madsen, K.H., Lund, T.E., and Bundesen, C. (2006). Images of Illusory Motion in Primary Visual Cortex. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 2006;18:1174-1180.

Ned Block (1942- )[edit]

Ned Block is in the NYU Department of Philosophy.

Two types of consciousness[edit]

According to Block[1], “Phenomenal consciousness is experience; the phenomenally conscious aspect of a state is what it is like to be in that state. The mark of access-consciousness, by contrast, is availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action.” Block feels that it ispossible to have phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness independently of each other, but in general they do interact.

There is no generally agreed upon way of categorizing different types of consciousness. Block’s distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness tries to distinguish between conscious states that either do or do not directly involve the control of thought and action.

Phenomenal consciousness. According to Block, phenomenal consciousness results from sensory experiences such as hearing, smelling, tasting, and having pains. Block groups together as phenomenal consciousness the experiences such as sensations, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, wants and emotions. Block excludes from phenomenal consciousness anything having to do with cognition, intentionality, or with “properties definable in a computer program”.

Access consciousness. Access consciousness is available for use in reasoning and for direct conscious control of action and speech. For Block, the “reportability” of access consciousness is of great practical importance. Also, access consciousness must be “representational” because only representational content can figure in reasoning. Examples of access consciousness are thoughts, beliefs, and desires.

A potential source of confusion is that some phenomenal consciousness is also representational. The key distinction to keep in mind about representational content that Block would place in the access consciousness category is that the reason it is placed in the access consciousness category is because of its representational aspect. Elements of phenomenal consciousness are assigned to the phenomenal consciousness category because of their phenomenal content.


An immediate point of controversy for Block’s attempt to divide consciousness into the subdivisions of phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness is that some people view the mind as resulting (in its entirety) from fundamentally computational processes. This computational view of mind implies that ALL of consciousness is “definable in a computer program”, so Block’s attempt to describe some consciousness as phenomenal consciousness cannot succeed in identifying a distinct category of conscious states. This viewpoint is highly contentious however, see The problem of machine and digital consciousness for a discussion

As mentioned above, Block feels that phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness normally interact, but it is possible to have access consciousness without phenomenal consciousness. In particular, Block believes that zombies are possible and a robot could exist that is “computationally identical to a person” while having no phenomenal consciousness. Similarly, Block feels that you can have an animal with phenomenal consciousness but no access consciousness.

Block shares Chalmers’ belief that we can have conscious experiences that are not possible to produce by any type of computational algorithm and that the source of such experiences is “the hard problem” of consciousness. To functionalists Block’s position with respect to consciousness is analogous to that of Vitalists who defined Life as being in a category distinct from all possible physical processes. To those who support phenomenal consciousness the functionalist viewpoint is like believing in a flat earth, flat earthers see the world through biblical cosmology and functionalists view it through nineteenth century science. Biologists refute Vitalism by describing the physical processes that account for Life. Cosmologists refute biblical cosmology by describing modern physics. In order to refute Block’s claim about the distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness, it is up to biologists and artificial consciousness researchers to describe computational algorithms that account for consciousness. In order to refute functionalism philosophers and scientists draw attention to the fact that they are trying to explain an internal state of a conscious observer, something that cannot be explained in terms of the external behaviour of machines.

Why are some neurobiologists and computer scientists sure that Block’s division of consciousness is wrong? What is the source of Block’s certainty that there are non-computational forms of consciousness? One example of phenomenal consciousness discussed by Block is a loud noise that you do not consciously notice because you are paying attention to something else. Block is sure that you were aware of the noise (phenomenal consciousness) but just not “consciously aware” (access consciousness). Many scientists would say that in this case, you were not “consciously aware” of the noise, but it is almost certain that portions of your unconscious brain activity responded to the noise (you could electrically record activity in the primary auditory cortex that is clearly a response to action potentials arriving from the ears due to sound waves from the noise). This suggests that Block’s controversial “non-computational” category of phenomenal consciousness includes brain activity that others would categorize as being unconscious, not conscious. Some unconscious brain activity can begin to contribute to consciousness when the focus of one’s conscious awareness shifts. This suggests that some of what Block calls phenomenal consciousness is brain activity that can either take place outside of consciousness or as part of consciousness, depending on other things that might be going on in the brain at the same time. If so, we can ask why the consciously experienced version of this kind of brain activity is computational while the unconscious version is not. On the other hand many authors (Eddington, Broad, Penrose, McFadden, Zeh etc.) would point out that brain activity could be both computational and phenomenal.

Block stresses that he makes use of introspection to distinguish between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness. Presumably this means that when the loud noise was not noticed, it was not accessed by introspection. Block has thus defined a category of consciousness that is outside of our “conscious awareness” (although he says we are “aware” of it in some other way) and not accessed by introspection. Maybe it is this inaccessibility of some cases of phenomenal consciousness that motivate Block’s idea that such forms of consciousness cannot be computational. When experiences are accessible to introspection and available for inclusion in reasoning processes, we can begin to imagine computational algorithms for the generation of the content of those experience. However, it is difficult to imagine how the content could become the same as the form of our experience.

Forms of phenomenal consciousness that are open to introspection[edit]

In his 1995 article, Block went on to discuss the more interesting cases such as if upon starting to “pay attention to” the loud noise (see above) that was previously ignored, the experiencer noticed that there had been some earlier experience of the noise, just not of the type that we “pay attention to”; a type of experience that had been just “on the edge” of access consciousness.

In Ned Block’s entry for “Consciousness” in the 2004 Oxford Companion to the Mind[2], he discusses another example that he feels distinguishes between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness.

“Liss[3] presented subjects with 4 letters in two circumstances,

long, e.g. 40 msec, followed by a “mask” known to make stimuli hard to identify


short, e.g. 9 msec, without a mask.

Subjects could identify 3 of the 4 letters on average in the short case but said they were weak and fuzzy. In the long case, they could identify only one letter, but said they could see them all and that the letters were sharper, brighter and higher in contrast. This experiment suggests a double dissociation: the short stimuli were phenomenally poor but perceptually and conceptually OK, whereas the long stimuli were phenomenally sharp but perceptually or conceptually poor, as reflected in the low reportability.”

This experiment demonstrates a distinction between

  1. i) reportability of names of the letters


  1. ii) perceptual sharpness of the image.

Block’s definitions of these two types of consciousness leads us to the conclusion that a non-computational process can present us with phenomenal consciousness of the forms of the letters, while we can imagine an additional computational algorithm for extracting the names of the letters from their form (this is why computer programs can perform character recognition). The ability of a computer to perform character recognition does not imply that it has phenomenal consciousness or that it need share our ability to be consciously aware of the forms of letters that it can algorithmically match to their names.


If Block’s distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness is correct, then it has important implications for attempts byneuroscientists to identify the neural correlates of consciousness and for attempts by computer scientists to produce artificial consciousness in man-made devices such as robots. In particular, Block seems to suggest that non-computational mechanisms for producing the subjective experiences of phenomenal consciousness must be found in order to account for the richness of human consciousness or for there to be a way to rationally endow man-made machines with a similarly rich scope of personal experiences of “what it is like to be in conscious states”. Other philosophers of consciousness such as John Searle have similarly suggested that there is something fundamental about subjective experience that cannot be captured by conventional computer programs. This has led to proposals by physicists such as Penrose, Stapp, McFadden etc. for non-digital versions of machines with artificial consciousness.

Many advocates of the idea that there is a fundamentally computational basis of mind feel that the phenomenal aspects of consciousness do not lie outside of the bounds of what can be accomplished by computation[4]. Some of the conflict over the importance of the distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness centers on just what is meant by terms such as “computation”, “program” and “algorithm”. In practical terms, how can we know if it is within the power of “computation”, “program” or “algorithm” to produce human-like consciousness? There is a problem of verification; can we ever really know if we have a correct biological account of the mechanistic basis of conscious experience and how can we ever know if a robot has phenomenal consciousness? Although of course, such misgivings apply both to those who believe that digital consciousness is possible and those who disagree.


Block’s justification of access and phenomenal consciousness uses a nineteenth century idea of the world so cannot be easily sustained against attack from functionalists and eliminativists. However he has clearly described a persistent division in the science and philosophy of consciousness that dates from the time of Aristotle. Aristotle considers this division in terms of those who consider that the soul originates movement and those who consider it to be cognitive, Descartes has the res cogitans and res extensa, Kant has the noumenal and phenomenal, Whitehead has the apparent and causative etc. and even Dennett has the reflex and emergent.


  1. ^Block, N. (1995). ON A CONFUSION ABOUT A FUNCTION OF CONSCIOUSNESSBehavioral and Brain Sciences 18 (2): 227-287.
  2. ^Block, N. (2004). “Consciousness” (in R. Gregory (ed.) Oxford Companion to the Mind, second edition 2004).
  3. ^Liss, P., (1968). “Does backward masking by visual noise stop stimulus processing?” Perception & Psychophysics 4, 328-330.
  4. ^For a short account, see the Wikipedia entry for phenomenal and access consciousness. Charles Siewert provides a more detailed analysis in his article “Consciousness and Intentionality” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Mind.
  5. ^What is it like to be a bat?” by Thomas Nagel in The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 (1974): 435-50.
  6. ^On Certainty by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Publisher: Harper Perennial (1972) ISBN 0061316865.
  7. ^Güven Güzeldere described such intuition about the distinctions between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness assegregationist intuition. See “The many faces of consciousness: a field guide” in THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS; PHILOSOPHICAL DEBATES Publisher: The MIT Press (1997) ISBN 0262522101.

Francis Crick (1916 – 2004)[edit]

Francis Crick (1994) The Astonishing Hypothesis. The Scientific Search for the Soul. Simon & Schuster Ltd. London.


Crick begins this book with a statement about his opinion of the insignificance of human beings:

“The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: “you’re nothing but a pack of neurons”. This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can truly be called astonishing.”

Crick is not a philosopher so might be forgiven the derogatory “no more than..”, as a scientist he realises that the assembly of nerve cells that form a brain is highly complex and difficult to understand.

He suggests that the hypothesis is “so surprising” for three reasons:

“The first is that many people are reluctant to accept what is often called the “reductionist approach” – that a complex system can be explained by the behaviour of its parts and their interactions with each other.”


“The second reason why the Astonishing Hypothesis seems so strange is the nature of consciousness. We have, for example, a vivid internal picture of the external world. It might seem a category mistake to believe this is merely another way of talking about the behavior of neurons, but we have just seen that arguments of this type are not always to be trusted.”


“The third reason why the Astonishing Hypothesis seems strange springs from our undeniable feeling that Free Will is free. … I believe that if we solve the problem of awareness (or consciousness), the explanation of Free Will is likely to be easier to solve.”

Crick believes that many phenomena in the brain are “emergent” with the vague implication that consciousness may also be emergent. He defines this term in the following way:

“The scientific meaning of emergent, or at least the one I use, assumes that, while the whole may not be the simple sum of the separate parts, its behavior can, at least in principle, be understood from the nature and behavior of its parts plus the knowledge of how all these parts interact.”

He wants to avoid the philosophical debates about the nature of consciousness:

“1. Everyone has a rough idea of what is meant by consciousness. It is better to avoid a precise definition of consciousness because of the dangers of premature definition.

“Footnote: If this seems like cheating, try defining for me the word gene. So much is now known about genes that any simple definition is likely to be inadequate. How much more difficult, then, to define a biological term when rather little is known about it.”

This is an odd standpoint because any brief review of the ideas of philosophers shows that a good deal is known about phenomenal consciousness. The problem lies in explaining such a bizarre experience, not in defining it.

He then elaborates a further four points covering general features of consciousness and avoiding various types of speculation about consciousness. Excluded are: “what consciousness is for”, speculations about consciousness in lower animals and the “self-referential aspect of consciousness”; included are the concept of consciousness in “higher mammals”.

As a guide for the scientific investigation of consciousness he puts forward three basic ideas:

“”1. Not all the operations of the brain correspond to consciousness.

“2. Consciousness involves some form of memory, probably a very short term one.

“3. Consciousness is closely associated with attention.”

The operations of the brain that do correspond to consciousness are the “neural correlates of consciousness” a term that probably predates Crick’s work. Crick shows the openness of ideal science when he concludes with:

“The Astonishing Hypothesis may be proved correct. Alternatively some view closer to the religious one may become more plausible. There is always a third possibility: that the facts support a new, alternative way of looking at the mind-brain problem that is significantly different from the rather crude materialistic view many neuroscientists hold today and also from the religious point of view.”

David J Chalmers[edit]

Review of “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory”. Oxford University Press. 1996.[edit]


Chalmers is perhaps most famous for the “hard problem” of consciousness:

“… I find myself absorbed in an orange sensation, and something is going on. There is something that needs explaining, even after we have explained the process of discrimination: there is the experience.”p xii

….”This might be seen as a Great Divide in the study of consciousness. If you hold that an answer to the “easy” problems explains everything that needs to be explained, then you get one sort of theory; if you hold that there is a further “hard” problem then you get another.”p xiii

Chalmers describes mind as having “phenomenal” and “psychological” aspects.

“At the root of all this lie two quite distinct concepts of mind. The first is the phenomenal concept of mind. This is the concept of mind as conscious experience, and of a mental state as a consciously experienced mental state. … The second is thepsychological concept of mind. This is the concept of mind as the causal or explanatory basis for behaviour.” p11

Chalmers proposes that consciousness can be explained by a form of “Naturalistic Dualism” that is supported by the following argument:

“In particular, the failure of logical supervenience directly implies that materialism is false: there are features of the world over and above the physical features. The basic argument for this goes as follows:

  1. In our world there are conscious experiences.
  • There is a logically possible world physically identical to ours, in which the positive facts about consciousness in our world do not hold.
  1. Therefore facts about consciousness are further facts about our world, over and above the physical facts.
  2. So materialism is false.”

Chalmers describes his naturalistic dualism:

“The dualism implied here is instead a kind of property dualism: conscious experience involves properties of an individual that are not entailed by the physical properties of that individual. Consciousness is a feature of the world over and above the physical features of the world. This is not to say that it is a separate “substance”; the issue of what it would take to constitute a dualism of substances seems quite unclear to me. All we know is that there are properties of individuals in this world – the phenomenal properties – that are ontologically independent of physical properties.” p125

To substantiate his argument he proposes that “zombie” worlds, in which people would behave like us but not be conscious, are logically possible and that worlds that are physically identical to ours, but where conscious experiences are inverted, are logically possible.

Chalmers’ argument about the possibility of zombies runs as follows:

A zombie is defined as “…someone or something physically identical to me (or to any other conscious being), but lacking conscious experiences altogether”. Chalmers considers that silicon based devices or an entity based on the population of china could lack conscious experience although being able to perform the same functions as a person. He then makes a logical leap to suggest that these examples show that something physically identical to a conscious person could not be conscious:

“But given that it is conceptually coherent that the group-mind set-up or my silicon isomorph could lack conscious experience, it follows that my zombie twin is an equally coherent possibility.”p97

In the inverted spectrum argument Chalmers argues that it is logically possible to imagine a world that is physically identical to ours yet where conscious beings experience an inverted spectrum. This assertion is defended on the basis of the elementary science of colour vision.

Unfortunately, without any definite proposal for how conscious experience is realised it seems premature to declare that the zombie and inverted spectrum arguments are correct. Chalmers approaches the problem of the realization of conscious experience when discussing “information”.

Chalmers is aware that phenomenal consciousness includes information that is related to information in the physical world:

“A conscious experience is a realization of an information state; a phenomenal judgement is explained by another realization of the same information state. And in a sense, postulating a phenomenal aspect of information is all we need to do to make sure those judgements are truly correct; there really is a qualitative aspect to this information, showing up directly in phenomenology and not just a system of judgements.”p 292

Unfortunately he does not explain what a phenomenal “realization of an information state” means. This leads him to consider any information state as potentially capable of conscious experience. He notes that “We find information everywhere, not just in systems that we standardly take to be conscious.” and asks whether a thermostat could be conscious. He poses the question “As we move along the scale from fish and slugs through simple neural networks all the way to thermostats, where should consciousness wink out?”.

He answers the objection that there may not be any room for consciousness in a thermostat by saying that “If consciousness is not logically supervenient, we should not expect to have to find “room” for consciousness in a system’s organization; consciousness is quite distinct from the processing properties of the system”. He concludes the thermostat article by declaring that:

“While it could be the case that experience winks in at a particular point, any specific point seems arbitrary, so a theory that avoids having to make this decision gains a certain simplicity.”

This set of ideas leads to the possibility of panpsychism:

“If there is experience associated with thermostats, there is probably experience everywhere: wherever there is a causal interaction, there is information, and wherever there is information there is experience.” p297

However, Chalmers states that:

“Personally, I am much more confident of naturalistic dualism than I am of panpsychism. The latter issue seems to be very much open. But I hope to have said enough to show that we ought to take the possibility of some sort of panpsychism seriously…” p299

He then postulates that “Phenomenal properties have an intrinsic nature, one that is not exhausted by their location in an information space, and it seems that a purely informational view of the world leaves no room for these intrinsic qualities.”. This leads him to suggest that the world is more than just information, that we “need some intrinsic nature in the world, to ground information states”. This leads him to propose that:

“So the suggestion is that the information spaces required by physics are themselves grounded in phenomenal and protophenomenal properties. Each instantiation of such an information space is in fact a phenomenal (or protophenomenal) realization. Every time a feature such as mass and charge is realized, there is an intrinsic property, or microphenomenalproperty for short. We will have a set of basic microphenomenal spaces, one for each fundamental physical property, and it is these spaces that will ground the information spaces that physics requires.” p305

So Chalmers takes the proposal of panpsychism, based on the idea that all information spaces might be conscious, to “ground” the information space. Again, any description of how phenomenal consciousness is actually realized in an information space is missing.

Chalmers’ explanation of information seems to mystify it, in physics information is arrangements of things, in maths or digital transmission it is usually arrangements of the same thing. For instance 11011 is an arrangement of ones and zeroes along a line – the information has not replaced reality it is simply a way of using reality to represent something else. As Zurek put it: “there is no information without representation”. Hence it is difficult to see why microphenomena should be required to instantiate information when the information is already instantiated.

The concept of information as something that can be transmitted from place to place and also as a property of a substance is at the heart of Chalmer’s analysis. He states that:

“We have no way to peek inside a dog’s brain, for instance, and observe the presence or absence of conscious experience. The status of this problem is controversial, but the mere prima facieexistence of the problem is sufficient to defeat an epistemological argument, parallel to those above, for the logical supervenience of consciousness. By contrast there is not even a prima facieproblem of other biologies, or other economies. Those facts are straightforwardly publically accessible, precisely because they are fixed by the physical facts.” p74

The patterns of things that comprise “biologies” are, according to this, “physical facts”. But from the argument about panpsychism above, physical facts are not grounded, they are information that must be instantiated in some way through “microphenomenal” properties. Chalmers seems to be arguing that nothing logically supervenes on the physical because nothing logically supervenes on mind and physical things are mind.

He introduces the idea of organizational invariance as the key feature of a conscious system and declares that a set of beer cans could be conscious:

“I claim that conscious experience arises from fine-grained functional organization. More specifically, I will argue for a principle of organizational invariance, holding that given any system that has conscious experiences, then any system that has the same fine-grained functional organization will have qualitatively identical experiences. According to this principle, consciousness is an organizational invariant: a property that remains constant over all functional isomorphs of a given system. Whether the organization is realized in silicon chips, in the population of China, or in beer cans and ping-pong balls does not matter. As long as the functional organisation is right, conscious experience will be determined.” p249

If two systems have entirely the same fine grained form and function as each other are they not identical systems? Although Chalmer’s arguments stressfunction is it the sleight of hand of arguing for fine grained equivalence ofform that makes the argument difficult to gainsay? Is a statement of identity an explanation?

Thomas Nagel[edit]

Review of: What is it like to be a bat? The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 (October 1974): 435-50.

Thomas Nagel is one of the leading defenders of the concept of phenomenal consciousness, in his article What it is like to be a bat he wrote:

“..fundamentally an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is to be that organism—something it is like for the organism.”

In particular Nagel points out that there are likely to be states within a bat that cannot be imagined by humans:

“But bat sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine. This appears to create difficulties for the notion of what it is like to be a bat. We must consider whether any method will permit us to extrapolate to the inner life of the bat from our own case,5 and if not, what alternative methods there may be for understanding the notion.”

He considers that reductionism leaves out something essential in our understanding:

“Most of the neobehaviorism of recent philosophical psychology results from the effort to substitute an objective concept of mind for the real thing, in order to have nothing left over which cannot be reduced. If we acknowledge that a physical theory of mind must account for the subjective character of experience, we must admit that no presently available conception gives us a clue how this could be done. The problem is unique. If mental processes are indeed physical processes, then there is something it is like, intrinsically, to undergo certain physical processes. What it is for such a thing to be the case remains a mystery.”

Next Page: The Description Of Consciousness | Previous Page: Seventeenth And Eighteenth Century Philosophy



self identity memory emotion qualia


  • Qualia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the philosophical concept. For other uses, see Qualia (disambiguation).

Qualia (/ˈkwɑːliə/ or /ˈkwliə/; singular form: quale) is a term used in philosophy to refer to individual instances of subjectiveconscious experience. The term derives from the Latinadverb quālis (Latin pronunciation: [ˈkwaːlis]) meaning “what sort” or “what kind”. Examples of qualia are the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the perceived redness of an evening sky.

Daniel Dennett (b. 1942), American philosopher and cognitive scientist, writes that qualia is “an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us.”[1]

Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961), the famous physicist, had this counter-materialist take:

The sensation of color cannot be accounted for by the physicist’s objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so.[2]

The importance of qualia as a concept in the philosophy of mind comes largely from the fact that it is seen as posing a fundamental problem for materialist explanations of the mind-body problem. Much of the debate over their importance hinges on the definition of the term that is used, as various philosophers emphasize or deny the existence of certain features of qualia. As such, the nature and existence of qualia are controversial.

  • Contents


This section needs additional citations for verification.Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.(September 2010)

Saturated colors are a commonly used example of a quale.

There are many definitions of qualia, which have changed over time. One of the simpler, broader definitions is: “The ‘what it is like’ character of mental states. The way it feels to have mental states such as pain, seeing red, smelling a rose, etc.”[3]

Clarence Irving Lewis, in his book Mind and the World Order (1929), was the first to use the term “qualia” in its generally agreed upon modern sense.

There are recognizable qualitative characters of the given, which may be repeated in different experiences, and are thus a sort of universals; I call these “qualia.” But although such qualia are universals, in the sense of being recognized from one to another experience, they must be distinguished from the properties of objects. Confusion of these two is characteristic of many historical conceptions, as well as of current essence-theories. The quale is directly intuited, given, and is not the subject of any possible error because it is purely subjective.

Frank Jackson (1982) later defined qualia as “…certain features of the bodily sensations especially, but also of certain perceptual experiences, which no amount of purely physical information includes” (p. 273).

Daniel Dennett identifies four properties that are commonly ascribed to qualia. According to these, qualia are:

  1. ineffable; that is, they cannot be communicated, or apprehended by any other means than direct experience.
  2. intrinsic; that is, they are non-relational properties, which do not change depending on the experience’s relation to other things.
  3. private; that is, all interpersonal comparisons of qualia are systematically impossible.
  4. directly or immediately apprehensible in consciousness; that is, to experience a quale is to know one experiences a quale, and to know all there is to know about that quale.

If qualia of this sort exist, then a normally sighted person who sees red would be unable to describe the experience of this perception in such a way that a listener who has never experienced color will be able to know everything there is to know about that experience. Though it is possible to make an analogy, such as “red looks hot”, or to provide a description of the conditions under which the experience occurs, such as “it’s the color you see when light of 700-nm wavelength is directed at you”, supporters of this kind of qualia contend that such a description is incapable of providing a complete description of the experience.

Another way of defining qualia is as “raw feels”. A raw feel is a perception in and of itself, considered entirely in isolation from any effect it might have on behavior and behavioral disposition. In contrast, a cooked feel is that perception seen as existing in terms of its effects. For example, the perception of the taste of wine is an ineffable, raw feel, while the experience of warmth or bitterness caused by that taste of wine would be a cooked feel. A cooked feel is not qualia.

According to an argument put forth by Saul Kripke in his paper “Identity and Necessity” (1971), one key consequence of the claim that such things as raw feels can be meaningfully discussed—that qualia exist—is that it leads to the logical possibility of two entities exhibiting identical behavior in all ways despite one of them entirely lacking qualia. While very few ever claim that such an entity, called a philosophical zombie, actually exists, the mere possibility is claimed to be sufficient to refute physicalism.

  • Arguments for the existence of qualia[edit]

See also: Hard problem of consciousness

Since it is by definition difficult or impossible to convey qualia verbally, it is difficult to demonstrate them directly in an argument; a more tangential approach is needed. Arguments for qualia generally come in the form of thought experiments designed to lead one to the conclusion that qualia exist.

  • The “What’s it like to be?” argument[edit]

Main article: Subjective character of experience

Although it does not actually mention the word “qualia”, Thomas Nagel‘s paper “What Is it Like to Be a Bat?[4] is often cited in debates over qualia. Nagel argues that consciousness has an essentially subjective character, a what-it-is-like aspect. He states that “an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism.”[5] Nagel also suggests that the subjective aspect of the mind may not ever be sufficiently accounted for by the objective methods of reductionisticscience. He claims that “[i]f we acknowledge that a physical theory of mind must account for the subjective character of experience, we must admit that no presently available conception gives us a clue how this could be done.”[6] Furthermore, he states that “it seems unlikely that any physical theory of mind can be contemplated until more thought has been given to the general problem of subjective and objective.”[6]

  • The inverted spectrum argument[edit]

Main article: Inverted spectrum

Inverted qualia

The inverted spectrum thought experiment, originally developed by John Locke,[7] invites us to imagine that we wake up one morning and find that for some unknown reason all the colors in the world have been inverted. Furthermore, we discover that no physical changes have occurred in our brains or bodies that would explain this phenomenon. Supporters of the existence of qualia argue that since we can imagine this happening without contradiction, it follows that we are imagining a change in a property that determines the way things look to us, but that has no physical basis.[8][9] In more detail:

  1. Metaphysical identityholds of necessity.
  2. If something is possibly false, it is not necessary.
  3. It is conceivable that qualia could have a different relationship to physical brain-states.
  4. If it is conceivable, then it is possible.
  5. Since it is possible for qualia to have a different relationship with physical brain-states, they cannot be identical to brain states (by 1).
  6. Therefore, qualia are non-physical.

The argument thus claims that if we find the inverted spectrum plausible, we must admit that qualia exist (and are non-physical). Some philosophers find it absurd that an armchair argument can prove something to exist, and the detailed argument does involve a lot of assumptions about conceivability and possibility, which are open to criticism. Perhaps it is not possible for a given brain state to produce anything other than a given quale in our universe, and that is all that matters.

The idea that an inverted spectrum would be undetectable in practice is also open to criticism on more scientific grounds (see main article).[8][9] There is an actual experiment—albeit somewhat obscure—that parallels the inverted spectrum argument. Karl H. Pribram—emeritus professor of psychology and psychiatry at Stanford University—had some of his students perform an experiment in which they wore special prism glasses that caused the external world to appear upside down.[10][11] After a few days of continually wearing the glasses, an adaptation occurred and the external world appeared righted. When the glasses were removed, the external world again appeared inverted. After a similar period, perception of the external world returned to the “normal” perceptual state. If this argument provides indicia that qualia exist, it does not necessarily follow that they must be non-physical, because that distinction should be considered a separate epistemological issue.

  • The zombie argument[edit]

Main article: Philosophical zombie

A similar argument holds that it is conceivable that there could be physical duplicates of people, called “zombies“, without any qualia at all. These “zombies” would demonstrate outward behavior precisely similar to that of a normal human, but would not have a subjective phenomenology. It is worth noting that a necessary condition for the possibility of philosophical zombies is that there be no specific part or parts of the brain that directly give rise to qualia—the zombie can only exist if subjective consciousness is causally separate from the physical brain.

  • The explanatory gap argument[edit]

Main article: Explanatory gap

Joseph Levine‘s paper Conceivability, Identity, and the Explanatory Gap takes up where the criticisms of conceivability arguments, such as the inverted spectrum argument and the zombie argument, leave off. Levine agrees that conceivability is flawed as a means of establishing metaphysical realities, but points out that even if we come to the metaphysicalconclusion that qualia are physical, there is still an explanatory problem.

While I think this materialist response is right in the end, it does not suffice to put the mind-body problem to rest. Even if conceivability considerations do not establish that the mind is in fact distinct from the body, or that mental properties are metaphysically irreducible to physical properties, still they do demonstrate that we lack an explanation of the mental in terms of the physical.

However, such an epistemological or explanatory problem might indicate an underlying metaphysical issue—the non-physicality of qualia, even if not proven by conceivability arguments is far from ruled out.

In the end, we are right back where we started. The explanatory gap argument doesn’t demonstrate a gap in nature, but a gap in our understanding of nature. Of course a plausible explanation for there being a gap in our understanding of nature is that there is a genuine gap in nature. But so long as we have countervailing reasons for doubting the latter, we have to look elsewhere for an explanation of the former.[12]

  • The knowledge argument[edit]

Main article: Knowledge argument

In an article “Epiphenomenal Qualia” (1982),[13] Frank Jackson offers what he calls the “knowledge argument” for qualia. One example runs as follows:

Mary the color scientist knows all the physical facts about color, including everyphysical fact about the experience of color in other people, from the behavior a particular color is likely to elicit to the specific sequence of neurological firings that register that a color has been seen. However, she has been confined from birth to a room that is black and white, and is only allowed to observe the outside world through a black and white monitor. When she is allowed to leave the room, it must be admitted that she learns something about the color red the first time she sees it — specifically, she learns what it is like to see that color.

This thought experiment has two purposes. First, it is intended to show that qualia exist. If we agree with the thought experiment, we believe that Mary gains something after she leaves the room—that she acquires knowledge of a particular thing that she did not possess before. That knowledge, Jackson argues, is knowledge of the quale that corresponds to the experience of seeing red, and it must thus be conceded that qualia are real properties, since there is a difference between a person who has access to a particular quale and one who does not.

The second purpose of this argument is to refute the physicalist account of the mind. Specifically, the knowledge argument is an attack on the physicalist claim about the completeness of physical truths. The challenge posed to physicalism by the knowledge argument runs as follows:

  • Before her release, Mary was in possession of all the physical information about color experiences of other people.
  • After her release, Mary learns something about the color experiences of other people.
  • Before her release, Mary was not in possession of all the information about other people’s color experiences, even though she was in possession of all the physical information.
  • There are truths about other people’s color experience that are not physical.
  • Physicalism is false.

First Jackson argued that qualia are epiphenomenal: not causally efficacious with respect to the physical world. Jackson does not give a positive justification for this claim—rather, he seems to assert it simply because it defends qualia against the classic problem of dualism. Our natural assumption would be that qualia must be causally efficacious in the physical world, but some would ask how we could argue for their existence if they did not affect our brains. If qualia are to be non-physical properties (which they must be in order to constitute an argument against physicalism), some argue that it is almost impossible to imagine how they could have a causal effect on the physical world. By redefining qualia as epiphenomenal, Jackson attempts to protect them from the demand of playing a causal role.

Later, however, he rejected epiphenomenalism. This, he argues, is due to the fact that when Mary first sees red, she says “wow”, so it must be Mary’s qualia that cause her to say “wow”. This contradicts epiphenomenalism. Since the Mary’s room thought experiment seems to create this contradiction, there must be something wrong with it. This is often referred to as the “there must be a reply” reply.

  • Critics of qualia[edit]
    • Daniel Dennett[edit]

In Consciousness Explained (1991) and “Quining Qualia” (1988),[14] Daniel Dennett offers an argument against qualia that attempts to show that the above definition breaks down when one tries to make a practical application of it. In a series of thought experiments, which he calls “intuition pumps“, he brings qualia into the world of neurosurgeryclinical psychology, and psychological experimentation. His argument attempts to show that, once the concept of qualia is so imported, it turns out that we can either make no use of it in the situation in question, or that the questions posed by the introduction of qualia are unanswerable precisely because of the special properties defined for qualia.

In Dennett’s updated version of the inverted spectrum thought experiment, “alternative neurosurgery”, you again awake to find that your qualia have been inverted—grass appears red, the sky appears orange, etc. According to the original account, you should be immediately aware that something has gone horribly wrong. Dennett argues, however, that it is impossible to know whether the diabolical neurosurgeons have indeed inverted your qualia (by tampering with your optic nerve, say), or have simply inverted your connection to memories of past qualia. Since both operations would produce the same result, you would have no means on your own to tell which operation has actually been conducted, and you are thus in the odd position of not knowing whether there has been a change in your “immediately apprehensible” qualia.

Dennett’s argument revolves around the central objection that, for qualia to be taken seriously as a component of experience—for them to even make sense as a discrete concept—it must be possible to show that

  1. a) it is possible to know that a change in qualia has occurred, as opposed to a change in something else; or that
  2. b) there is a difference between having a change in qualia and not having one.

Dennett attempts to show that we cannot satisfy (a) either through introspection or through observation, and that qualia’s very definition undermines its chances of satisfying (b).

Supporters of qualia could point out that in order for you to notice a change in qualia, you must compare your current qualia with your memories of past qualia. Arguably, such a comparison would involve immediate apprehension of your current qualia and your memories of past qualia, but not the past qualia itself. Furthermore, modern functional brain imaging has increasingly suggested that the memory of an experience is processed in similar ways and in similar zones of the brain as those originally involved in the original perception. This may mean that there would be asymmetry in outcomes between altering the mechanism of perception of qualia and altering their memories. If the diabolical neurosurgery altered the immediate perception of qualia, you might not even notice the inversion directly, since the brain zones which re-process the memories would themselves invert the qualia remembered. On the other hand, alteration of the qualia memories themselves would be processed without inversion, and thus you would perceive them as an inversion. Thus, you might know immediately if memory of your qualia had been altered, but might not know if immediate qualia were inverted or whether the diabolical neurosurgeons had done a sham procedure(Ungerleider, 1995).

Dennett also has a response to the “Mary the color scientist” thought experiment. He argues that Mary would not, in fact, learn something new if she stepped out of her black and white room to see the color red. Dennett asserts that if she already truly knew “everything about color”, that knowledge would include a deep understanding of why and how human neurology causes us to sense the “quale” of color. Mary would therefore already know exactly what to expect of seeing red, before ever leaving the room. Dennett argues that the misleading aspect of the story is that Mary is supposed to not merely be knowledgeable about color but to actually know all the physical facts about it, which would be a knowledge so deep that it exceeds what can be imagined, and twists our intuitions.

If Mary really does know everything physical there is to know about the experience of color, then this effectively grants her almost omniscient powers of knowledge. Using this, she will be able to deduce her own reaction, and figure out exactly what the experience of seeing red will feel like.

Dennett finds that many people find it difficult to see this, so he uses the case of RoboMary to further illustrate what it would be like for Mary to possess such a vast knowledge of the physical workings of the human brain and color vision. RoboMary is an intelligent robot who, instead of the ordinary color camera-eyes, has a software lock such that she is only able to perceive black and white and shades in-between.

RoboMary can examine the computer brain of similar non-color-locked robots when they look at a red tomato, and see exactly how they react and what kinds of impulses occur. RoboMary can also construct a simulation of her own brain, unlock the simulation’s color-lock and, with reference to the other robots, simulate exactly how this simulation of herself reacts to seeing a red tomato. RoboMary naturally has control over all of her internal states except for the color-lock. With the knowledge of her simulation’s internal states upon seeing a red tomato, RoboMary can put her own internal states directly into the states they would be in upon seeing a red tomato. In this way, without ever seeing a red tomato through her cameras, she will know exactly what it is like to see a red tomato.

Dennett uses this example to show us that Mary’s all-encompassing physical knowledge makes her own internal states as transparent as those of a robot or computer, and it is almost straightforward for her to figure out exactly how it feels to see red.

Perhaps Mary’s failure to learn exactly what seeing red feels like is simply a failure of language, or a failure of our ability to describe experiences. An alien race with a different method of communication or description might be perfectly able to teach their version of Mary exactly how seeing the color red would feel. Perhaps it is simply a uniquely human failing to communicate first-person experiences from a third-person perspective. Dennett suggests that the description might even be possible using English. He uses a simpler version of the Mary thought experiment to show how this might work. What if Mary was in a room without triangles and was prevented from seeing or making any triangles? An English-language description of just a few words would be sufficient for her to imagine what it is like to see a triangle—she can simply and directly visualize a triangle in her mind. Similarly, Dennett proposes, it is perfectly, logically possible that the quale of what it is like to see red could eventually be described in an English-language description of millions or billions of words.

In “Are we explaining consciousness yet?” (2001), Dennett approves of an account of qualia defined as the deep, rich collection of individual neural responses that are too fine-grained for language to capture. For instance, a person might have an alarming reaction to yellow because of a yellow car that hit her previously, and someone else might have a nostalgic reaction to a comfort food. These effects are too individual-specific to be captured by English words. “If one dubs this inevitable residue qualia, then qualia are guaranteed to exist, but they are just more of the same, dispositional properties that have not yet been entered in the catalog […].”[15]

  • Paul Churchland[edit]

According to Paul Churchland, Mary might be considered to be like a feral child. Feral children have suffered extreme isolation during childhood. Technically when Mary leaves the room, she would not have the ability to see or know what the color red is. A brain has to learn and develop how to see colors. Patterns need to form in the V4 section of the visual cortex. These patterns are formed from exposure to wavelengths of light. This exposure is needed during the early stages of brain development. In Mary’s case, the identifications and categorizations of color will only be in respect to representations of black and white.[16]

  • Gary Drescher[edit]

In his book Good and Real (2006), Gary Drescher compares qualia with “gensyms” (generated symbols) in Common Lisp. These are objects that Lisp treats as having no properties or components and which can only be identified as equal or not equal to other objects. Drescher explains, “we have no introspective access to whatever internal properties make the red gensym recognizably distinct from the green […] even though we know the sensation when we experience it.”[17] Under this interpretation of qualia, Drescher responds to the Mary thought experiment by noting that “knowing about red-related cognitive structures and the dispositions they engender—even if that knowledge were implausibly detailed and exhaustive—would not necessarily give someone who lacks prior color-experience the slightest clue whether the card now being shown is of the color called red.” This does not, however, imply that our experience of red is non-mechanical; “on the contrary, gensyms are a routine feature of computer-programming languages”.[18]

David Lewis has an argument that introduces a new hypothesis about types of knowledge and their transmission in qualia cases. Lewis agrees that Mary cannot learn what red looks like through her monochrome physicalist studies. But he proposes that this doesn’t matter. Learning transmits information, but experiencing qualia doesn’t transmit information; instead it communicates abilities. When Mary sees red, she doesn’t get any new information. She gains new abilities—now she can remember what red looks like, imagine what other red things might look like and recognize further instances of redness. Lewis states that Jackson’s thought experiment uses the “Phenomenal Information Hypothesis”—that is, the new knowledge that Mary gains upon seeing red is phenomenal information. Lewis then proposes a different “Ability Hypothesis” that differentiates between two types of knowledge: knowledge that (information) and knowledge how (abilities). Normally the two are entangled; ordinary learning is also an experience of the subject concerned, and people both learn information (for instance, that Freud was a psychologist) and gain ability (to recognize images of Freud). However in the thought experiment, Mary can only use ordinary learning to gain know-that knowledge. She is prevented from using experience to gain the know-how knowledge that would allow her to remember, imagine and recognize the color red.

We have the intuition that Mary has been deprived of some vital data to do with the experience of redness. It is also uncontroversial that some things cannot be learned inside the room; for example, we do not expect Mary to learn how to ski within the room. Lewis has articulated that information and ability are potentially different things. In this way, physicalism is still compatible with the conclusion that Mary gains new knowledge. It is also useful for considering other instances of qualia; “being a bat” is an ability, so it is know-how knowledge.[19]

  • Marvin Minsky[edit]

The artificial intelligence researcher Marvin Minsky thinks the problems posed by qualia are essentially issues of complexity, or rather of mistaking complexity for simplicity.

Now, a philosophical dualist might then complain: “You’ve described how hurting affects your mind—but you still can’t express how hurting feels.” This, I maintain, is a huge mistake—that attempt to reify “feeling” as an independent entity, with an essence that’s indescribable. As I see it, feelings are not strange alien things. It is precisely those cognitive changes themselves that constitute what “hurting” is—and this also includes all those clumsy attempts to represent and summarize those changes. The big mistake comes from looking for some single, simple, “essence” of hurting, rather than recognizing that this is the word we use for complex rearrangement of our disposition of resources.[20]

Michael Tye is perhaps the most outstanding example of those who hold to our directly confronting the objects of perception. In Tye’s opinion, there are no qualia, no “veils of perception” between us and the referents of our thought. He describes our experience of an object in the world as “transparent”. By this he means that no matter what private understandings and/or misunderstandings we may have of some public entity, it is still there before us in reality. The idea that qualia intervene between ourselves and their origins he regards as “a massive error”; as he says, “it is just not credible that visual experiences are systematically misleading in this way”;[21] “the only objects of which you are aware are the external ones making up the scene before your eyes”;[22] there are “no such things as the qualities of experiences” for “they are qualities of external surfaces (and volumes and films) if they are qualities of anything.”[23] This insistence permits him to take our experience as having a reliable base since there is no fear of losing contact with the realness of public objects.

In Tye’s thought there is no question of qualia without information being contained within them; it is always “an awareness that”, always “representational”. He characterizes the perception of children as a misperception of referents that are undoubtedly as present for them as they are for grown-ups. As he puts it, they may not know that “the house is dilapidated”, but there is no doubt about their seeing the house. After-images are dismissed as presenting no problem for the Transparency Theory because, as he puts it, after-images being illusory, there is nothing that one sees.

Tye presents his theory about phenomena as having five basic elements, for which he has coined the acronym PANIC—Poised, Abstract, Nonconceptual, Intentional Content.[24] It is “Poised” in the sense that the phenomenal experience is always presented to the understanding, whether or not the agent is able to apply a concept to it. Tye adds that the experience is “maplike” in that, in most cases, it reaches through to the distribution of shapes, edges, volumes, etc. in the world—you may not be reading the “map” but, as with an actual map there is a reliable match with what it is mapping. It is “Abstract” because it is still an open question in a particular case whether you are in touch with a concrete object (someone may feel a pain in a “left leg” when that leg has actually been amputated). It is “Nonconceptual” because a phenomenon can exist although one does not have the concept by which to recognize it. Nevertheless, it is “Intentional” in the sense that it represents something, again whether or not the particular observer is taking advantage of that fact; this is why Tye calls his theory “representationalism”. This last makes it plain that Tye believes that he has retained a direct contact with what produces the phenomena and is therefore not hampered by any trace of a “veil of perception”.[25]

  • Proponents of qualia[edit]
    • David Chalmers[edit]

David Chalmers formulated the hard problem of consciousness, raising the issue of qualia to a new level of importance and acceptance in the field.[citation needed] In his definitive paper“Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia”, he also argued for what he called “the principle of organizational invariance”. In this paper, he argues that if a system such as one of appropriately configured computer chips reproduces the functional organization of the brain, it will also reproduce the qualia associated with the brain.

  1. J. Lowe[edit]

Jonathan Lowe, of Durham University, denies that holding to indirect realism (in which we have access only to sensory features internal to the brain) necessarily implies a Cartesian dualism. He agrees with Bertrand Russell that our “retinal images”—that is, the distributions across our retinas—are connected to “patterns of neural activity in the cortex” (Lowe 1986). He defends a version of the Causal Theory of Perception in which a causal path can be traced between the external object and the perception of it. He is careful to deny that we do any inferring from the sensory field, a view which he believes allows us to found an access to knowledge on that causal connection. In a later work he moves closer to the non-epistemic theory in that he postulates “a wholly non-conceptual component of perceptual experience”,[26] but he refrains from analyzing the relation between the perceptual and the “non-conceptual”. Most recently he has drawn attention to the problems that hallucination raises for the direct realist and to their disinclination to enter the discussion on the topic.[27]

  1. B. Maund[edit]
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John Barry Maund, an Australian philosopher of perception at the University of Western Australia, is noteworthy in being the first[citation needed] to draw attention to a key distinction which had been ignored in the current debate on qualia. Qualia are open to being described on two levels, a fact that he refers to as “dual coding”. Using the Television Analogy (which, as we have seen in here, can be shorn of its objectionable aspects), he points out that, if asked what we see on a television screen there are two answers that we might give:

The states of the screen during a football match are unquestionably different from those of the screen during a chess game, but there is no way available to us of describing the ways in which they are different except by reference to the play, moves and pieces in each game.[28]

He has refined the explanation by shifting to the example of a “Movitype” screen, often used for advertisements and announcements in public places. A Movitype screen consists of a matrix—or “raster” as the neuroscientists prefer to call it (from the Latin rastrum, a “rake”; think of the lines on a TV screen as “raked” across)—that is made up of an array of tiny light-sources. A computer-led input can excite these lights so as to give the impression of letters passing from right to left, or even, on the more advanced forms now commonly used in advertisements, to show moving pictures. Maund’s point is as follows. It is obvious that there are two ways of describing what you are seeing. We could either adopt the everyday public language and say “I saw some sentences, followed by a picture of a 7-Up can.” Although that is a perfectly adequate way of describing the sight, nevertheless, there is a scientific way of describing it which bears no relation whatsoever to this commonsense description. One could ask the electronics engineer to provide us with a computer print-out staged across the seconds that you were watching it of the point-states of the raster of lights. This would no doubt be a long and complex document, with the state of each tiny light-source given its place in the sequence. The interesting aspect of this list is that, although it would give a comprehensive and point-by-point-detailed description of the state of the screen, nowhere in that list would there be a mention of “English sentences” or “a 7-Up can”.

What this makes clear is that there are two ways to describe such a screen, (1) the “commonsense” one, in which publicly recognizable objects are mentioned, and (2) an accurate point-by-point account of the actual state of the field, but makes no mention of what any passer-by would or would not make of it. This second description would be non-epistemic from the common sense point of view, since no objects are mentioned in the print-out, but perfectly acceptable from the engineer’s point of view. Note that, if one carries this analysis across to human sensing and perceiving, this rules out Daniel Dennett’s claim that all qualiaphiles must regard qualia as “ineffable”, for at this second level they are in principle quite “effable”—indeed, it is not ruled out that some neurophysiologist of the future might be able to describe the neural detail of qualia at this level.

Maund has also extended his argument particularly with reference of color.[29] Color he sees as a dispositional property, not an objective one, an approach which allows for the facts of difference between person and person, and also leaves aside the claim that external objects are colored. Colors are therefore “virtual properties”, in that it is as if things possessed them; although the naïve view attributes them to objects, they are intrinsic, non-relational inner experiences.

  • Moreland Perkins[edit]

In his book Sensing the World,[30] Moreland Perkins argues that qualia need not be identified with their objective sources: a smell, for instance, bears no direct resemblance to the molecular shape that gives rise to it, nor is a toothache actually in the tooth. He is also like Hobbes in being able to view the process of sensing as being something complete in itself; as he puts it, it is not like “kicking a football” where an external object is required—it is more like “kicking a kick”, an explanation which entirely avoids the familiar Homunculus Objection, as adhered to, for example, by Gilbert Ryle. Ryle was quite unable even to entertain this possibility, protesting that “in effect it explained the having of sensations as the not having of sensations.”[31] However, A.J. Ayer in a rejoinder identified this objection as “very weak” as it betrayed an inability to detach the notion of eyes, indeed any sensory organ, from the neural sensory experience.[32]

  • Ramachandran and Hirstein[edit]
  1. S. Ramachandranand William Hirstein[33]proposed three laws of qualia (with a fourth later added), which are “functional criteria that need to be fulfilled in order for certain neural events to be associated with qualia” by philosophers of the mind:
  1. Qualia are irrevocable and indubitable. You don’t say ‘maybe it is red but I can visualize it as green if I want to’. An explicit neural representation of red is created that invariably and automatically ‘reports’ this to higher brain centres.
  2. Once the representation is created, what can be done with it is open-ended. You have the luxury of choice, e.g., if you have the percept of an apple you can use it to tempt Adam, to keep the doctor away, bake a pie, or just to eat. Even though the representation at the input level is immutable and automatic, the output is potentially infinite. This isn’t true for, say, a spinal reflex arc where the output is also inevitable and automatic. Indeed, a paraplegic can even have an erection and ejaculate without an orgasm.
  3. Short-term memory. The input invariably creates a representation that persists in short-term memory—long enough to allow time for choice of output. Without this component, again, you get just a reflex arc.
  4. Qualia and attention are closely linked. You need attention to fulfill criterion number two; to choose. A study of circuits involved in attention, therefore, will shed much light on the riddle of qualia.[34]

They proposed that the phenomenal nature of qualia could be communicated (as in “oh that is what salt tastes like”) if brains could be appropriately connected with a “cable of neurons”.[33]If this turned out to be possible this would scientifically prove or objectively demonstrate the existence and the nature of qualia.

  • Howard Robinson and William Robinson[edit]

Howard Robinson is a philosopher who has concentrated his research within the philosophy of mind. Taking what has been through the latter part of the last century an unfashionable stance, he has consistently argued against those explanations of sensory experience that would reduce them to physical origins. He has never regarded the theory of sense-data as refuted, but has set out to refute in turn the objections which so many have considered to be conclusive. The version of the theory of sense-data he defends takes what is before consciousness in perception to be qualia as mental presentations that are causally linked to external entities, but which are not physical in themselves. Unlike the philosophers so far mentioned, he is therefore a dualist, one who takes both matter and mind to have real and metaphysically distinct natures. His books (particularly Matter and Sense and Perception[35]) are characterized by the thoroughness with which he deals with the arguments of opposing philosophers, thus setting a professional example that it would be well for his opponents to follow (for there has been a tendency to take for granted that the theory of sense-data is wholly obsolescent). In one of his most recent articles he takes the physicalist to task for ignoring the fact that sensory experience can be entirely free of representational character. He cites phosphenes as a stubborn example (phosphenes are flashes of neural light that result either from sudden pressure in the brain—as induced, for example, by intense coughing, or through direct physical pressure on the retina), and points out that it is grossly counter-intuitive to argue that these are not visual experiences on a par with open-eye seeing.

William Robinson (no relation) takes a very similar view to that of his namesake. In his most recent book, Understanding Phenomenal Consciousness,[36] he is unusual as a dualist in calling for research programs that investigate the relation of qualia to the brain. The problem is so stubborn, he says, that too many philosophers would prefer “to explain it away”, but he would rather have it explained and does not see why the effort should not be made. However, he does not expect there to be a straightforward scientific reduction of phenomenal experience to neural architecture; on the contrary he regards this as a forlorn hope. The “Qualitative Event Realism” that Robinson espouses sees phenomenal consciousness as caused by brain events but not identical with them, being non-material events.

It is noteworthy that he refuses to set aside the vividness—and commonness—of mental images, both visual and aural, standing here in direct opposition to Daniel Dennett, who has difficulty in crediting the experience in others. He is similar to Moreland Perkins in keeping his investigation wide enough to apply to all the senses.

  • Edmond Wright[edit]

Edmond Wright is a philosopher who considers the intersubjective aspect of perception.[37][38]From Locke onwards it had been normal to frame perception problems in terms of a single subject S looking at a single entity E with a property p. However, if we begin with the facts of the differences in sensory registration from person to person, coupled with the differences in the criteria we have learned for distinguishing what we together call “the same” things, then a problem arises of how two persons align their differences on these two levels so that they can still get a practical overlap on parts of the real about them—and, in particular, update each other about them.

Wright mentions being struck with the hearing difference between himself and his son, discovering that his son could hear sounds up to nearly 20 kilohertz while his range only reached to 14 kHz or so. This implies that a difference in qualia could emerge in human action (for example, the son could warn the father of a high-pitched escape of a dangerous gas kept under pressure, the sound-waves of which would be producing no qualia evidence at all for the latter). The relevance for language thus becomes critical, for an informative statement can best be understood as an updating of a perception—and this may involve a radical re-selection from the qualia fields viewed as non-epistemic, even perhaps of the presumed singularity of “the” referent, a fortiori if that “referent” is the self. Here he distinguishes his view from that of Revonsuo, who too readily makes his “virtual space” “egocentric”.

Wright’s particular emphasis has been on what he asserts is a core feature of communication, that, in order for an updating to be set up and made possible, both speaker and hearer have to behave as if they have identified “the same singular thing”, which, he notes, partakes of the structure of a joke or a story.[37] Wright says that this systematic ambiguity seems to opponents of qualia to be a sign of fallacy in the argument (as ambiguity is in pure logic) whereas, on the contrary, it is sign—in talk about “what” is perceived—of something those speaking to each other have to learn to take advantage of. In extending this analysis, he has been led to argue for an important feature of human communication being the degree and character of the faith maintained by the participants in the dialogue, a faith that has priority over what has before been taken to be the key virtues of language, such as “sincerity”, “truth”, and “objectivity”. Indeed, he considers that to prioritize them over faith is to move into superstition.

  • Erwin Schrödinger[edit]

Erwin Schrödinger, a theoretical physicist and one of the leading pioneers of quantum mechanics, also published in the areas of colorimetry and color perception. In several of his philosophical writings, he defends the notion that qualia are not physical.

The sensation of colour cannot be accounted for by the physicist’s objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so.[2]:154

He continues on to remark that subjective experiences do not form a one-to-one correspondence with stimuli. For example, light of wavelength in the neighborhood of 590 nm produces the sensation of yellow, whereas exactly the same sensation is produced by mixing red light, with wavelength 760 nm, with green light, at 535 nm. From this he concludes that there is no “numerical connection with these physical, objective characteristics of the waves” and the sensations they produce.

Schrödinger concludes with a proposal of how it is that we might arrive at the mistaken belief that a satisfactory theoretical account of qualitative experience has—or might ever—be achieved:

Scientific theories serve to facilitate the survey of our observations and experimental findings. Every scientist knows how difficult it is to remember a moderately extended group of facts, before at least some primitive theoretical picture about them has been shaped. It is therefore small wonder, and by no means to be blamed on the authors of original papers or of text-books, that after a reasonably coherent theory has been formed, they do not describe the bare facts they have found or wish to convey to the reader, but clothe them in the terminology of that theory or theories. This procedure, while very useful for our remembering the fact in a well-ordered pattern, tends to obliterate the distinction between the actual observations and the theory arisen from them. And since the former always are of some sensual quality, theories are easily thought to account for sensual qualities; which, of course, they never do.[2]:163–164

  • Neurobiological blending of perspectives[edit]
    • Rodolfo Llinás[edit]

When looked at philosophically, qualia become a tipping point between physicality and the metaphysical, which polarizes the discussion, as we’ve seen above, into “Do they or do they not exist?” and “Are they physical or beyond the physical?” However, from a strictly neurological perspective, they can both exist, and be very important to the organism’s survival, and be the result of strict neuronal oscillation, and still not rule out the metaphysical. A good example of this pro/con blending is in Rodolfo Llinás‘s I of the Vortex (MIT Press, 2002, pp. 202–207). Llinás argues that qualia are ancient and necessary for an organism’s survival and a product of neuronal oscillation. Llinás gives the evidence of anesthesia of the brain and subsequent stimulation of limbs to demonstrate that qualia can be “turned off” with changing only the variable of neuronal oscillation (local brain electrical activity), while all other connections remain intact, arguing strongly for an oscillatory—electrical origin of qualia, or important aspects of them.

  • Roger Orpwood[edit]

Roger Orpwood, an engineer with a strong background in studying neural mechanisms, proposed a neurobiological model that gives rise to qualia and ultimately, consciousness. As advancements in cognitive and computational neuroscience continue to grow, the need to study the mind, and qualia, from a scientific perspective follows. Orpwood does not deny the existence of qualia, nor does he intend to debate its physical or non-physical existence. Rather, he suggests that qualia are created through the neurobiological mechanism of re-entrant feedback in cortical systems [39][40][41]

Orpwood develops his mechanism by first addressing the issue of information. One unsolved aspect of qualia is the concept of the fundamental information involved in creating the experience. He does not address a position on the metaphysics of the information underlying the experience of qualia, nor does he state what information actually is. However, Orpwood does suggest that information in general is of two types: the information structure and information message. Information structures are defined by the physical vehicles and structural, biological patterns encoding information. That encoded information is the information message; a source describing what that information is. The neural mechanism or network receives input information structures, completes a designated instructional task (firing of the neuron or network), and outputs a modified information structure to downstream regions. The information message is the purpose and meaning of the information structure and causally exists as a result of that particular information structure. Modification of the information structure changes the meaning of the information message, but the message itself cannot be directly altered.

Local cortical networks have the capacity to receive feedback from their own output information structures. This form of local feedback continuously cycles part of the networks output structures as its next input information structure. Since the output structure must represent the information message derived from the input structure, each consecutive cycle that is fed-back will represent the output structure the network just generated. As the network of mechanisms cannot recognize the information message, but only the input information structure, the network is unaware that it is representing its own previous outputs. The neural mechanisms are merely completing their instructional tasks and outputting any recognizable information structures. Orpwood proposes that these local networks come into an attractor state that consistently outputs exactly the same information structure as the input structure. Instead of only representing the information message derived from the input structure, the network will now represent its own output and thereby its own information message. As the input structures are fed-back, the network identifies the previous information structure as being a previous representation of the information message. As Orpwood states,

Once an attractor state has been established, the output [of a network] is a representation of its own identity to the network.[41]:4

Representation of the networks own output structures, by which represents its own information message, is Orpwood’s explanation that grounds the manifestation of qualia via neurobiological mechanisms. These mechanisms are particular to networks of pyramidal neurons. Although computational neuroscience still has much to investigate regarding pyramidal neurons, their complex circuitry is relatively unique. Research shows that the complexity of pyramidal neuron networks is directly related to the increase in the functional capabilities of a species.[42] When human pyramidal networks are compared with other primate species and species with less intricate behavioral and social interactions, the complexity of these neural networks drastically decline. The complexity of these networks are also increased in frontal brain regions. These regions are often associated with conscious assessment and modification of one’s immediate environment; often referred to as executive functions. Sensory input is necessary to gain information from the environment, and perception of that input is necessary for navigating and modifying interactions with the environment. This suggests that frontal regions containing more complex pyramidal networks are associated with an increased perceptive capacity. As perception is necessary for conscious thought to occur, and since the experience of qualia is derived from consciously recognizing some perception, qualia may indeed be specific to the functional capacity of pyramidal networks. This derives Orpwood’s notion that the mechanisms of re-entrant feedback may not only create qualia, but also be the foundation to consciousness.

Main article: Ideasthesia

Research on ideasthesia (from idea + aesthesia, meaning sensing concepts)[43] indicated that qualia depend on the activation of concepts. In order to experience it is necessary to posses concepts and activate them. Furthermore, qualia seem to be organized into networks similar to the semantic networks of concepts.[44] The research on ideasthesia emerged as a spin-off of the research on unique forms of qualia in synesthesia. The results from those studies indicate that research on qualia must be closely tied to research on semantics.[45]

  • Other issues[edit]
    • Indeterminacy[edit]

It is possible to apply a criticism similar to Nietzsche‘s criticism of Kant‘s “thing in itself” to qualia: Qualia are unobservable in others and unquantifiable in us. We cannot possibly be sure, when discussing individual qualia, that we are even discussing the same phenomena. Thus, any discussion of them is of indeterminate value, as descriptions of qualia are necessarily of indeterminate accuracy.[citation needed] Qualia can be compared to “things in themselves” in that they have no publicly demonstrable properties; this, along with the impossibility of being sure that we are communicating about the same qualia, makes them ofindeterminate value and definition in any philosophy in which proof relies upon precise definition.[citation needed] On the other hand, qualia could be considered akin to Kantianphenomena since they are held to be seemings of appearances. Revonsuo, however, considers that, within neurophysiological inquiry, a definition at the level of the fields may become possible (just as we can define a television picture at the level of liquid crystal pixels).

  • Causal efficacy[edit]

The position known as epiphenomenalism, which states that consciousness lies outside the physical world, and does not have any causal power over it, is often regarded as unlikely,[46]if only because our own consciousness seem to be causally active. In order to avoid epiphenomenalism, one who believes that qualia are nonphysical would need to embrace something like interactionist dualism; or perhaps emergentism, the claim that there are as yet unknown causal relations between the mental and physical. This in turn would imply that qualia can be detected by an external agency through their causal powers.

  • Epistemological issues[edit]

To illustrate: one might be tempted to give as examples of qualia “the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the redness of an evening sky”. But this list of examples already prejudges a central issue in the current debate on qualia.[citation needed] An analogy might make this clearer. Suppose someone wants to know the nature of the liquid crystal pixels on a television screen, those tiny elements that provide all the distributions of color that go to make up the picture. It would not suffice as an answer to say that they are the “redness of an evening sky” as it appears on the screen. We would protest that their real character was being ignored. One can see that relying on the list above assumes that we must tie sensations not only to the notion of given objects in the world (the “head”, “wine”, “an evening sky”), but also to the properties with which we characterize the experiences themselves (“redness”, for example).

Nor is it satisfactory to print a little red square as at the top of the article, for, since each person has a slightly different registration of the light-rays,[47] it confusingly suggests that we all have the same response. Imagine in a television shop seeing “a red square” on twenty screens at once, each slightly different—something of vital importance would be overlooked if a single example were to be taken as defining them all.

Yet it has been argued whether or not identification with the external object should still be the core of a correct approach to sensation, for there are many who state the definition thus because they regard the link with external reality as crucial. If sensations are defined as “raw feels”, there arises a palpable threat to the reliability of knowledge. The reason has been given that, if one sees them as neurophysiological happenings in the brain, it is difficult to understand how they could have any connection to entities, whether in the body or the external world. It has been declared, by John McDowell for example, that to countenance qualia as a “bare presence” prevents us ever gaining a certain ground for our knowledge.[48]The issue is thus fundamentally an epistemological one: it would appear that access to knowledge is blocked if one allows the existence of qualia as fields in which only virtual constructs are before the mind.

His reason is that it puts the entities about which we require knowledge behind a “veil of perception“, an occult field of “appearance” which leaves us ignorant of the reality presumed to be beyond it. He is convinced that such uncertainty propels into the dangerous regions ofrelativism and solipsism: relativism sees all truth as determined by the single observer; solipsism, in which the single observer is the only creator of and legislator for his or her own universe, carries the assumption that no one else exists. These accusations constitute a powerful ethical argument against qualia being something going on in the brain, and these implications are probably largely responsible for the fact that in the 20th century it was regarded as not only freakish, but also dangerously misguided to uphold the notion of sensations as going on inside the head. The argument was usually strengthened with mockery at the very idea of “redness” being in the brain: the question was—and still is[49]—”How can there be red neurons in the brain?” which strikes one as a justifiable appeal to common sense.

To maintain a philosophical balance, the argument for “raw feels” needs to be set side by side with the claim above. Viewing sensations as “raw feels” implies that initially they have not yet—to carry on the metaphor—been “cooked”, that is, unified into “things” and “persons”, which is something the mind does after the sensation has responded to the blank input, that response driven by motivation, that is, initially by pain and pleasure, and subsequently, when memories have been implanted, by desire and fear. Such a “raw-feel” state has been more formally identified as “non-epistemic“. In support of this view, the theorists cite a range of empirical facts. The following can be taken as representative. There are brain-damaged persons, known as “agnosics” (literally “not-knowing”) who still have vivid visual sensations but are quite unable to identify any entity before them, including parts of their own body. There is also the similar predicament of persons, formerly blind, who are given sight for the first time—and consider what it is a newborn baby must experience. A German psychologist of the 19th century, Hermann von Helmholtz, proposed a simple experiment to demonstrate the non-epistemic nature of qualia: his instructions were to stand in front of a familiar landscape, turn your back on it, bend down and look at the landscape between your legs—you will find it difficult in the upside-down view to recognize what you found familiar before.[50]

These examples suggest that a “bare presence”—that is, knowledgeless sensation that is no more than evidence—may really occur. Present supporters of the non-epistemic theory thus regard sensations as only data in the sense that they are “given” (Latin datum, “given”) and fundamentally involuntary, which is a good reason for not regarding them as basically mental. In the last century they were called “sense-data” by the proponents of qualia, but this led to the confusion that they carried with them reliable proofs of objective causal origins. For instance, one supporter of qualia was happy to speak of the redness and bulginess of a cricket ball as a typical “sense-datum”,[51] though not all of them were happy to define qualia by their relation to external entities (see Roy Wood Sellars[52]). The modern argument, following Sellars’ lead, centers on how we learn under the regime of motivation to interpret the sensory evidence in terms of “things”, “persons”, and “selves” through a continuing process of feedback.

The definition of qualia thus is governed by one’s point of view, and that inevitably brings with it philosophical and neurophysiological presuppositions. The question, therefore, of what qualia can be raises profound issues in the philosophy of mind, since some materialists want to deny their existence altogether: on the other hand, if they are accepted, they cannot be easily accounted for as they raise the difficult problem of consciousness. There are committed dualists such as Richard L. Amoroso or John Hagelin who believe that the mental and the material are two distinct aspects of physical reality like the distinction between the classical and quantum regimes.[53] In contrast, there are direct realists for whom the thought of qualia is unscientific as there appears to be no way of making them fit within the modern scientific picture; and there are committed proselytizers for a final truth who reject them as forcing knowledge out of reach.

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  1. Jump up^“Dennett, D. ”Quining Qualia””. 1985-11-21. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
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  7. Jump up^Locke, John (1689/1975), Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, xxxii, 15. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  8. Jump up to:ab “”Inverted Qualia”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy”. Retrieved2010-12-03.
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  10. Jump up^George M. Stratton, Some preliminary experiments on vision. Psychological Review, 1896
  11. Jump up^Slater, A. M.(ed.)(1999) Perceptual development: Visual, auditory and speech perception in infancy, East Sussex: Psychology Press.
  12. Jump up^“Joseph Levine, Conceivability, Identity, and the Explanatory Gap”. 2000-09-26. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
  13. Jump up^Jackson, Frank (1982), “Epiphenomenal Qualia”, Philosophical Quarterly, 32, 127–36.
  14. Jump up^Dennett, Daniel (1991). London: Penguin Books; (1988)
  15. Jump up^Daniel Dennett (Apr 2001). “Are we explaining consciousness yet?”. Cognition79 (1-2): 221–237. doi:1016/S0010-0277(00)00130-XPMID 11164029.
  16. Jump up^Churchland, Paul (2004), Knowing qualia: A reply to Jackson (with postscript 1997), in There’s Something about Mary, Peter Ludlow, Yujin Nagasawa and Daniel Stoljar (eds.). Cambridge MA: MIT Press, pp. 163–78.
  17. Jump up^Drescher, Gary, Good and Real, MIT Press, 2006. Pages 81–82.
  18. Jump up^Tye, Michael (2000), p. 82
  19. Jump up^Lewis, David (2004), What experience teaches, in There’s Something about Mary, Peter Ludlow, Yujin Nagasawa and Daniel Stoljar (eds.). Cambridge MA: MIT Press, pp. 77–103.
  20. Jump up^“Edge interview with Marvin Minsky”. 1998-02-26. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
  21. Jump up^Tye, Michael (2000), Consciousness, Color and Content. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, p. 46.
  22. Jump up^Tye, Michael (2000), p. 47.
  23. Jump up^Tye, Michael (2000), p. 48.
  24. Jump up^Tye, Michael (2000), p. 63.
  25. Jump up^Tye (1991) The Imagery Debate, Cambridge MA: MIT Press; (1995) Ten Problems of Consciousness: A Representational Theory of the Phenomenal Mind, Cambridge MA: MIT Press
  26. Jump up^Lowe, E.J. (1996), Subjects of Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 101
  27. Jump up^Lowe, E.J. (2008), “Illusions and hallucinations as evidence for sense-data”, in The Case for Qualia, Edmond Wright (ed.), Cambridge MA: MIT Press, pp. 59–72.
  28. Jump up^Maund, J.B. (1975), “The representative theory of perception”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 5:1, 44–55; see p. 48.
  29. Jump up^Maund, J.B. (1995), Colours: Their Nature and Representation, Cambridge University Press; (2003), Perception, Chesham, Acumen Pub. Ltd.
  30. Jump up^Perkins, Moreland (1983), Sensing the World, Indianapolis, USA, Hackett Pub. Co.
  31. Jump up^Ryle, Gilbert (1949), The Concept of Mind, London, Hutchinson, p. 215
  32. Jump up^Ayer, A.J. (1957), The Problem of Knowledge, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, p. 107
  33. Jump up to:abRamachandran, V.S. and Hirstein, W. (1997), “Three laws of qualia; What neurology tells us about the biological functions of consciousness”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4:5–6, 429–57.
  34. Jump up^“Ramachandran, V.S. and Hubbard, E.M. (2001), “Synaesthesia — a window into perception, thought and language, Journal of Consciousness Studies”, 8, 3–34″(PDF). Retrieved2
  35. Robinson, Howard (1982), Matter and Sense: A Critique of Contemporary Materialism, Cambridge University Press; (1994), Perception, London, Routledge
  36. Jump up^Robinson, William (2004), Understanding Phenomenal Consciousness, Cambridge University Press.
  37. Jump up to:ab Wright, Edmond (ed.) (2008), The Case for Qualia, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  38. Jump up^“Wright, Edmond (2008) ”Narrative, Perception, Language, and Faith”, Palgrave-Macmillan, Basingstoke”. 2005-11-16. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
  39. Jump up^Orpwood, Roger. “Neurobiological Mechanisms Underlying Qualia.” Journal of Integrative Neuroscience 06.04 (2007): 523-33
  40. Jump up^Orpwood, Roger D. “Perceptual Qualia and Local Network Behavior In The Cerebral Cortex.” Journal of Integrative Neuroscience 09.02 (2010): 123-31.
  41. Jump up to:ab Orpwood, Roger. “Qualia Could Arise from Information Processing in Local Cortical Networks.” Frontiers in Psychology 4 (2013): 1-10.
  42. Jump up^Elston, G. N. “Cortex, Cognition and the Cell: New Insights into the Pyramidal Neuron and Prefrontal Function.” Cerebral Cortex 13.11 (2003): 124-138.
  43. Jump up^Nikolić, D. (2009) Is synaesthesia actually ideaesthesia? An inquiry into the nature of the phenomenon. Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Synaesthesia, Science & Art, Granada, Spain, April 26–29, 2009.
  44. Jump up^Gómez Milán, E., Iborra, O., de Córdoba, M.J., Juárez-Ramos V., Rodríguez Artacho, M.A., Rubio, J.L. (2013) The Kiki-Bouba effect: A case of personification and ideaesthesia. The Journal of Consciousness Studies.20(1-2): pp. 84-102.
  45. Jump up^Mroczko-Wąsowicz, A., Nikolić D. (2014) Semantic mechanisms may be responsible for developing synesthesia. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience8:509. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00509
  46. Jump up^Epiphenomenalism has few friends. It has been deemed “thoughtless and incoherent” —Taylor, A. (1927). Plato: The Man and his Work, New York, MacVeagh, p. 198; “unintelligible” — Benecke, E.C. (1901) “On the Aspect Theory of the Relation of Mind to Body”, Aristotelian Society Proceedings, 1900–1901 n.s. 1: 18–44; “truly incredible” — McLaughlin, B. (1994). Epiphenomenalism, A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, ed. S. Guttenplan, 277–288. Oxford: Blackwell.
  47. Jump up^Hardin, C.L. (1988), Color for Philosophers. Indianapolis IN: Hackett Pub. Co.
  48. Jump up^McDowell, John (1994), Mind and World. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, p. 42.
  49. Jump up^O’Regan, Kevin and Noë, Alva (2001), “A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness”, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24:5, 939–1011.
  50. Jump up^Warren, Richard M. and Warren Roslyn P. (eds.) (1968), Helmholtz on Perception: Its Physiology and Development. New York: John Wiley & Sons, p. 178.
  51. Jump up^Price, Hubert H. (1932), Perception, London, Methuen, p. 32
  52. Jump up^Sellars, Roy Wood (1922), Evolutionary Naturalism. Chicago and London: Open Court Pub. Co.
  53. Jump up^Amoroso, Richard L. (2010) Complementarity of Mind & Body: Realizing the Dream of Descartes, Einstein & Eccles, New York, Nova Science Publishers
  1. Mroczko-Wąsowicz, A.; Nikolić, D. (2014). “Semantic mechanisms may be responsible for developing synesthesia”. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience8: 509.
    • External links[edit]
  2. The dictionary definition of qualia at Wiktionary
  3. Consciousness Studies at Wikibooks

Philosophy of mind

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  1. Mind and its fictions and dreams :

fictive and constructive nature of consciousness, as creative imagination enacted upon past, present or future time

contemplative dreams as acts of mind: art, nature, history , future and the mind itself

For this reason, it would be a good idea to begin with the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams as an exemplary introduction to my philosophy of history: “As narrated in the Old Testament’s section of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babel, having been depressed by the dreams he saw and thus being awaken, orders all the soothsayers and fortune-tellers to be gathered in order to interpret his dream. There would be no problem as long as his dreams are interpreted. The interpreters will be rewarded, but in the case of not being able to come up with an adequate interpretation, all the fortune tellers will be killed. When fortune tellers ask their king: “May our King tells us his dream so that we may interpret his dreams?”, the King of Babel replies: “The dream I have seen has gone out of my mind, I have forgotten it.” and adds; “You shall tell me my dream so that I understand you can interpret it.” Isn’t it true? If they cannot see what the King has dreamt, how could it be evident that they may be trustworthy for their interpretations? As I contemplate what we live in the modern world, and see it in television, I agree with Nebuchadnezzar. What could be the meaning of this nightmare? How to interpret the reality we live in, the dream of history, the humankind have seen up to our day? First of all, are the events that took place like forgotten dreams, or is it the reality; is this the reality of the world and the humankind? How are we going to interpret history and reality?”

Due to the exile of Jews to Babel by Nebuchadnezzar, at that time Prophet Daniel was also living in Babel. Afterwards Daniel appears on the scene and says to Nebuchadnezzar: I saw the dream you had, because I have seen the same dream. You have seen a statue whose head is made of gold, and whose body is made of silver, and whose legs are of bronze and the pedestal is of iron, and at the end the statue falls down. The head gets severed from the body. Daniel interprets this dream that since Nebuchadnetsar is the head of the state, he will fall from the throne soon. History too is like the lost dreams of Nebuchadnetsar and the historian holds the same position as Prophet Daniel, who dreams the King’s dream a second time, and interprets it.

Historian consciously dreams (like the lucid dreams) about forgotten and lost dreams of humanity, with the help of evidential and partial guides of historical relics, tries to imagine and re-enact that dream again in his consciousness which actually had been dreamt by the dead people, say, not only King of Babel but by the all Kings and people of History. There are also historical novels (War and Peace being the most successful of its genre) which can be compared to science fiction in that one of them is dreaming about the past and the other is dreaming about the future.

History-as-fiction is the fictive story of the past as dreamed of what happened in the past.(Alert:do not confuse it with historification.) It is a conscious dream like lucid dreams, dreamt with the intention of creative imagination to see what happened really in the past. History-as-fiction, like science-fiction has the same elementary tool of creative imagination to construct a story about past by the use of historical information -sometimes very tiny information bits which remained as historical relics from the past events and occasional resourceful stories as the first hand sources of history as witnessed and written or ready-made presentations of stories that are large enough to help to the construction of the story of the whole past. Such as the memoirs of Babur. History-fiction uses historical information provided by historiography, as the material context of a creative imagination to construct a story of the past: it has been dreamt intentionally like lucid dreams by the use of the conscious effort, and written by an intensional logic to make a true representation of what actually happened in the past. Science fiction also uses scientific information as materials for dreaming what may happen in the future.

As it seems, science-fiction writers use the creative imagination much more freely than historian to construct an imagined portrayal of future without being forced to search after what would truly happen in the future. So, it appears, that it is the job of the futurist, more than of a science-fiction writer. But the difference between them and historians might be over-estimated as science-fiction writers use their creative imagination with much more freedom than historians do. Of course, historian care and search after the truth of his story about the past. But the past is different from future: Past is definitely unchangeable because it has already happened in real time. Whatever once happened in history remains forever unchangeable, though it could be imagined in different ways. If historiography discovers some new facts and changes our knowledge of the past, then it is not true that the past time changes, on the contrary, it remains forever without any change as it had happened. The change happens to be in our increased or differently imagined knowledge about past, not past event itself. In contrast, the future seemingly is open to every possibility. So it implies more freedom, that, so be it, the craft of science-fiction has more freedom. I usually say that: “What is determined and necessary in Space might be contingent in Time.”

The difference comes partly from the nature of the subject rather than the use of free imagination between these two craftsmanships. Lastly, I will compare the differences of perspective between historical fiction and science-fiction the subject of history is the past while the subject of science fiction is the prospect of open future, both of the craftsmanships are very similar in nature. Science fiction is dreaming about future and History-fiction is dreaming about the definite past -within a lucid dream Like Daniel‘s dream- using reliable materials of the relics of the past. Somewhat like historification, we dream about history, imagine it and present this imagination as the actual past. These two crafts essentially are the same craft of fiction. History is like a fictional narrative as post-modernists say.

My philosophical disposition also infuses me with a skeptical standpoint, preventing me from accepting even the nature as it is. Perhaps the nature is quite different from our consciousness of it, as objective reality, is truly real in itself and unchangeable as space-time; but at least our knowledge about nature is a fiction of our conscious dreams. I would rather agree with the famous Polish semanticist Alfred Korzybski about the ‘reality of nature’ “that, people do not have access to direct knowledge of reality; rather they have access to perceptions and to a set of beliefs which human society has confused with direct knowledge of reality”. I usually cite Korzybski’s dictum: “The map is not the territory”. We can neither experience nor express the world directly, but only through the use of some “abstract symbols” which stand as the image of reality. Our consciousness is limited both by the structure of our nervous systems, and by the structure of language. We imagine freely and creatively in our dreams, but we have a limited imagination of nature while we are awake and are aware of ourselves. Our dream of nature is a kind of restricted imagination of nature, limited by our own awareness of space, under the influence of five senses which provide the sensory data to our consciousness; and according to the imagined reconstruction of that sensory data, our consciousness builds a constrained dream about nature.

That dream is constrained by the imposed data which comes from sensory organs -without interruption- filling the full content of consciousness and leaving no more room for free imagination of dreams while we are awaken and aware of ourselves, in our conscious state, the whole content of the imagined dream of reality as consciousness constructed with the the sensory data. This information was provided and imposed upon consciousness while it was paying attention to them; so our ‘awareness of nature means’ only a ‘constrained dream of consciousness about nature‘. Conscioussness always gives the same picture of reality around us, but only, because of this constrained content of sensum data which imposed to fill the consciousness seemingly in the same way, since these sense datum of the objective reality never changes as sense datum, as appearance. consciousness is so constrained that ascribes even more reality to the sense datum than itself. So be it; not constructed by the use of free imagination but a restrained dream about reality. But yet, our conscious representation of nature in our present time consciousness is very consistent in taking the same picture of nature, as invariably observed, always as a coherent picture of the world. In short, nature itself also is a dream which is observed by the use of senses which constrain our consciousness; and therefore, nature is a self-restrained dream of imagination which is happening in the consciousness of awareness of the present time.

I remember here again the dictum of St Paul: “Videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate: tunc autem facie ad faciem. Nunc cognosco ex parte: tunc autem cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum”: ‘Now we see in a mirror, in darkness; but later we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; but later I shall know as I am known’. I know by experience that the the historians consciousness -as the mirror of enigma- cannot reflect the true nature of history and what really happened in history. Historical knowledge can reflect only fragmentary knowledge of individual events which could be depicted only from the evidence of historical relics and from that “mirror of enigma” comes as fragments of knowledge, ex parte, innately partial. It is the historians’ imagination which assigns a form of story or a pattern to those fragmentary events of the past and narrates them as large scale processes of history. This mirror of enigma serves as a good metaphor for the consciousness of the historian, which also reflects the fragmentary facts of history through those dark paths of consciousness. Thus historians construct a story from their dream-work of imagination. The next step is to narrate this imaginary story as a vivid representation of history.


  1. kinds of dreams (rem, yakaza, lucid, hypnotic etc)

 on kere fatiha okumadan uyanamama kabusu


  1. dreams of imagination and reality: art as a free and fictive dream of virtual reality by imagination creatrix
  2. constructive but constrained dreams,: time, causality and space, history, synchronical reality as present and futuristic dreams
  3. korzybski’s concept of time-binding
  4. mind and comprehension :

apriori, aposteriori; empiricism rationalism scepticism


  1. Mind and its knowledge:


  1. works and tools of the mind: sensation, perception, conception, qualia (feelings), intuition, imagination creatrix, intellect

Wilfrid Sellars provided for what he called the “Myth of the Given”—the notion that all empirical knowledge is based on certain assumed or ‘given’ items, such as sense data.[7] Thus, in rejecting the Myth of the Given, McDowell argues that perceptual content is conceptual “from the ground up”, that is, all perceptual experience is a form of conceptual experience. Put differently, there are no “bare” or “naked” sense data that serve as a foundation for all empirical knowledge

testimonydocumentary evidence, and physical evidence.

A useful demonstration of this principle in scientific understanding can be found in Karl G. Heider‘s work on ethnography.[3] Heider used the term to refer to the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it.

as creative imagination enacted upon past, present or future time, dreaming about reality


  1. acts of the mind and its perspectives: it dreams, creates, believes, knows (scire), contemplates, memorizes (the history of past experience) tries to find a meaning in his personal history and also, in history in toto,  and tries to find the meaning of  life and existence, aspirations of the soul, self articulation and realization of selfhood

mana, mazmun ve mefhum

There are dreams as free imagination of mind, and restricted dreams as conscious awareness of nature, and dreams of past as history; twice dreamt dreams of historians, like the forgotten dreams of Nebuchadnezzar which had been dreamt for the second time by Daniel, and dreams of future as science-fiction. Essentially they are all dreams of a consciousness. History is the forgotten dreams of the past time. We act, as if we can remember some parts of that dream, by using some relics of history provided by chance, taken as partly memorized tokens of the past time: But a single night awaits everyone. I do not know how this “speech act” of mine would be appreciated or depicted by anyone of you, or how it would be seen by a future historian. This is why I think that the self consciousness should be the first standpoint of every perspective. First things first; My standpoint is my self consciousness, and this saying follows readily: ‘nosce te ipsum’know thyself.


“to live and to dream are synonymous”


III.  How mind acquires knowledge? and what is true knowledge?

Res cogitans :

Mind’s Limitations of consciousness  :limited consciousness because of limited sensations: limits of sensory organs organs

A useful demonstration of this principle in scientific understanding can be found in Karl G. Heider‘s work on ethnography.[3] Heider used the term to refer to the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it.

  1. Sensation, light and colour mişkat el envar… emotioın, perception (Esse est percipi ), intuition, conception, imagination, self awareness. A priori, a posteriori





, conception,

Nefs, mahall-i ma‘kûlâtdır”  gazali


  1. Memory and Timepast, present, future or nunc aeterna impossibility of synchronical time, time itelf as a framework of events

“There where is the nous, lies the treasure.” The Gospel of Mary, p. 10


  1. Mind’s limitations

 expression tools : art and language; semantics, logics, mathematics

  1. Mind’s linguistic limitations of comprehension because of the usage of everyday language and the logic of ordinary languages

tarihi bilgi probleminden epistemolojiye

personality bias

language and metaphore

mana mazmun mefhum

naming and nominalism

Immanuel Kant states that we cannot know the “thing in itself”. We can not know neither names (nomina) nor ‘noumenon’ we know only phenomens (which means in one sense events). As Lao Tzu stated, “the name that can be named is not the eternal name.” This is why I love the saying, “ego sum qui sum: Iam that I am” as the best naming of God. We think by the usage of “names” (nomina) “Ve alleme ademe’l-esmâe küllehâ”: And He imparted unto Adam all the names of all things. Quran, Bakara/31. And here is the commentary made by Muhammed Esed: “The term ism (\’name\’) implies, according to all philologists, an expression \’conveying the knowledge [of a thing] … applied to denote a substance or an accident or an attribute, for the purpose of distinction\’ (Lane IV, 1435): in philosophical terminology, a \’concept\’. From this it may legitimately be inferred that the \’knowledge of all the names\’ ” The Holy Quran. Still, a name/‘nomen’ is just like a ‘noumenon’ (which means what is thought of, and comes not from Latin nomen but from the Greek Nous, it is like “idea”)and it cannot be known in itself. We should pay more attention when we name something and remember that according to the Old Testament, God did not make any naming, as the name of God to Moses, but only said “ego sum qui sum”/I am that I am. A metaphor in which lies a hidden meaning (we call it “mazmun” in Turkish literature) could be very useful to explain how we think. We name things and think they are not only signified but also defined by that name.“Structure can be considered as a complex of relations, and ultimately as multi-dimensional order. From this point of view, all language can be considered as names for unspeakable entities on the objective level, be it things or feelings, or as names of relations.”Quoth Korzybski.

But if you remember that the names (nomina) could be regarded as universals then you have to remember those discussions of Nominalism against universals, and that phrase as “I cannot see the idea of horse” together with the aforementioned Universal versus Particular arguments; then, you will excuse the statement I am going to make: “I cannot see the history,” but I can conceive the individual historical events even though I cannot explain them too. What we can see is the ‘historiographical materials’ which lies before our eyes in present time. In fact, no one can see or experience history: it has passed away. If we remember and paraphrase St. Jerome’s statement; “videmus per speculum” thenceforth, ‘we have a partial and enigmatic awarenes of events, so we cannot know for sure what is happening around us even in this very present moment too.’





Words and Rules, The Ingredients of Language, Language, problems of the philosophy of Meaning and the Problem of Universals, Liar Paradox cognitive meaning Meaning and Naming Universals Tarski’s Truth Definitions

Papers on Meaning and Modality (David Chalmers).

This page contains some papers around the borders of the philosophy of mind and language, metaphysics, and epistemology. These papers (except “The Extended Mind”) mostly presuppose significant philosophical background (non-philosophers might prefer my page of less technical papers on consciousness). The papers mostly deal with interwoven issues concerning meaning and modality, sometimes against a background of issues in the philosophy of mind.

The first six papers all involve the two-dimensional framework for thinking about meaning and possibility. For an introduction, “On Sense and Intension” or the review piece “Two-Dimensional Semantics” are the best places to start. The papers on epistemic space and conceptual analysis set out important foundational elements. Two more papers give application to issues about belief content and the conceivability-possibility relation. The foundations paper gives philosophical context and fine details. All this and more will eventually be cannibalized for a book.

Two-Dimensional Semantics

A review piece on various approaches to two-dimensional semantics, and especially on the epistemic two-dimensionalism that I favor. This is a good place for an overview. Forthcoming in Lepore and Smith’s Oxford Handbook to the Philosophy of Language.

On Sense and Intension

This paper motivates a two-dimensional approach through the defense of a Fregean conception of meaning. I articulate some Fregean theses about sense, develop an intensional account of sense on which it is constitutively connected to epistemic possibility, and use this account to deal with various objections to Fregean views. Along the way, the two-dimensional framework as I understand it emerges. This paper was published in Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 16, 2002. There have been discussions of this paper by Alex Byrne and Jim Pryor and Diego Marconi, among others.

The Nature of Epistemic Space.

This unpublished paper takes a more foundational approach to some of these issues, grounding some of the key ideas in a notion of epistemic possibility. The central idea is that of epistemic space: the space of maximal epistemic possibilities, or “scenarios”. I explore various ways of constructing this epistemic space — one tied to centered possible worlds, and one tied directly to epistemic notions. And I outline some applications of the framework from this perspective: e.g. to Fregean sense, narrow content, indicative conditionals, and hyperintensionality.

The Foundations of Two-Dimensional Semantics

This monster paper (written for the Barcelona conference on two-dimensionalism, and forthcoming in Garcia-Carpintero and Macia, Two-Dimensional Semantics: Foundations and Applications, OUP 2006) is a sort of “compare-and-contrast” on the various versions of two-dimensional semantics. It starts by motivating this sort of framework, and then discusses in detail the two main sorts of available understandings of the framework: contextual and epistemic understandings. I argue that contextual understandings (e.g. that of Stalnaker) can’t do the work that is required, but that an epistemic understanding can. I set out my own understanding in detail, and then locate existing versions of the framework in the conceptual space as set out. An abridged version of this paper appeared as “Epistemic Two-Dimensional Semantics” in Philosophical Studies in 2004, with an interestingresponse by Laura Schroeter (who also has related critiques here and here).

The Components of Content

This paper tries to do for thought what some of the other papers do for language: give an account of the contents of thought on which content is closely tied to reason and cognition. I decompose content into epistemic and subjunctive content, both of which are truth-conditional. Epistemic content is generally internal to a cognitive system, and governs rational relations between thoughts, so it can play the role of “narrow” or “cognitive” content. I apply this framework to a number of puzzles (Frege’s puzzle, Kripke’s puzzle, the problem of the essential indexical, the mode-of-presentation problem, etc.) in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. The unpublished 1995 version of this paper has been fairly widely cited. The revised version was published in my 2002 anthology Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. A closely related paper appeared as “The Nature of Narrow Content” in Philosophical Issues in 2003. Here are a couple of replies, by Stephen Schiffer (and my response) and by Alex Byrne.

Does Conceivability Entail Possibility?

This paper addresses the epistemology of modality, and argues for a sort of modal rationalism (a priori access to modality). It distinguishes a number of sorts of conceivability, and with these distinctions in hand argues that certain sorts of conceivability plausibly entail sorts of possibility. The second half of the paper addresses potential gaps between the two, and gives a positive argument for modal rationalism. Lots of interesting issues come up along the way. This paper was published inConceivability and Possibility, edited by Tamar Gendler and John Hawthorne (Oxford, 2002). There have been discussions of the ideas in this paper by Lauren AshwellGeorge BealerBrian Weatherson, and Stephen Yablo, among others.

Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation

This paper, co-authored with Frank Jackson, is a reply to Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker’s paper“Conceptual Analysis, Dualism, and the Explanatory Gap”. It doesn’t presuppose knowledge of that paper. It defends from first principles the thesis that there is an a priori entailment from microphysical and phenomenal truths (plus or minus a bit) to macroscopic truths; it addresses Block and Stalnaker’s objections to this thesis; and finally argues that a priori entailment is required for reductive explanation and for physicalism. The paper appears in Philosophical Review 110:315-61, 2001. There have been a couple of replies, by Peter Carruthers and Laura Schroeter.

Materialism and the Metaphysics of Modality

This paper was my response in a symposium on my book The Conscious Mind in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research in June 1999 (the corresponding precis of the book is also online). The commentators were Sydney Shoemaker, Brian Loar, Chris Hill & Brian McLaughin, and Stephen Yablo, all of whom take a “type-B materialist” position on which there is an epistemic gap between physical and phenomenal, but no modal gap. This gets quickly into issues about the 2-D analysis of a posteriori necessity, and whether there are “strong necessities” that escape it. I argue that there are not, and argue for a sort of modal rationalism.

The Tyranny of the Subjunctive

This is just an extended outline at the moment. I argue for a parallel between indicative and subjunctive conditionals, on the one hand, and the two dimensions of possibility in the 2-D framework. The standard contemporary analysis of possibility and necessity is grounded in subjunctive conditionals. I suggests that this is entirely arbitrary, and has had a distorting effect on many areas of philosophy.

The Extended Mind

This paper (jointly written with Andy Clark) argues that cognitive states are not necessarily “in the head”, for reasons quite independent of the reference-based considerations of Putnam and Burge. Instead, we advocate an “active externalism”, focusing on situations in which an organism is coupled with their environment into what is effectively a single cognitive system (as with a person who relies on a notebook as memory, for example). We argue in detail that mental states such as beliefs can be externally constituted in this way. This leads to a reconception of the relation between mind and world. (Reconciling the externalism of this paper with the internalism of “The Components of Content” is left as an exercise for the reader.) This paper was published in Analysis 58:10-23, 1998, and was reprinted in The Philosopher’s Annual, 1998. Here is some literature responding to this paper and on related ideas.

Is There Synonymy in Ockham’s Mental Language?

This is my sole venture into the history of philosophy so far. It was written when I was a graduate student in Paul Spade’s medieval logic class at Indiana. William of Ockham held that we think in a “mental language”, not unlike the language of thought that some contemporary philosophers believe in. The question arises whether the mental language can contain synonyms, or whether these are just artifacts of ordinary language. Most people have said no. Here I give some reasons to say yes. This paper is published in The Cambridge Companion to Ockham, edited by Spade, published by Cambridge University Press in 1999.

Go to:



  1. semantics, abstraction levels, what is the meaning of truth? Truth:

TRUTH: The Principal Problem What Sorts of Things are True (or False)? Ontological IssuesConstraints on Truth and FalsehoodWhich Sentences Express Propositions?Problem CasesCorrespondence Theory Tarski’s Semantic Theory Extending the Semantic Theory Beyond “Simple” PropositionsCan the Semantic Theory Account for Necessary Truth?The Linguistic Theory of Necessary TruthCoherence Theories Postmodernism: The Most Recent Coherence TheoryPragmatic Theories Deflationary Theories Redundancy TheoryPerformative TheoryProsentential Theory of TruthRelated Issues Beyond Truth to KnowledgeAlgorithms for TruthCan “is true” Be Eliminated?Can a Theory of Truth Avoid Paradox?Is The Goal of Scientific Research to Achieve Truth?


Idealism, for example, is the belief that reality is mentally constructed or otherwise immaterial whilerealism holds that reality, or at least some part of it, exists independently of the mind.Subjective idealism describes objects as no more than collections or “bundles” of sense data in the perceiver. The 18th-century philosopher George Berkeley contended that existence is fundamentally tied to perception with the phrase Esse est aut percipi aut percipere or “To be is to be perceived or to perceive”.[13]

In addition to the aforementioned views, however, there is also an ontological dichotomy within metaphysics between the concepts of particulars and universals as well. Particulars are those objects that are said to exist in space and time, as opposed to abstract objects, such as numbers. Universals are properties held by multiple particulars, such as redness or a gender. The type of existence, if any, of universals and abstract objects is an issue of serious debate within metaphysical philosophy. Realism is the philosophical position that universals do in fact exist, while nominalism is the negation, or denial of universals, abstract objects, or both.[14]Conceptualism holds that universals exist, but only within the mind’s perception.[15]

Idealism, for example, is the belief that reality is mentally constructed or otherwise immaterial whilerealism holds that reality, or at least some part of it, exists independently of the mind.Subjective idealism describes objects as no more than collections or “bundles” of sense data in the perceiver. The 18th-century philosopher George Berkeley contended that existence is fundamentally tied to perception with the phrase Esse est aut percipi aut percipere or “To be is to be perceived or to perceive”.[13]

In addition to the aforementioned views, however, there is also an ontological dichotomy within metaphysics between the concepts of particulars and universals as well. Particulars are those objects that are said to exist in space and time, as opposed to abstract objects, such as numbers. Universals are properties held by multiple particulars, such as redness or a gender. The type of existence, if any, of universals and abstract objects is an issue of serious debate within metaphysical philosophy. Realism is the philosophical position that universals do in fact exist, while nominalism is the negation, or denial of universals, abstract objects, or both.[14]Conceptualism holds that universals exist, but only within the mind’s perception.[15]

Conceptualism is a philosophical theory that explains universality of particulars as conceptualized frameworks situated within the thinking mind.[1] Intermediate betweenNominalism and Realism, the conceptualist view approaches the metaphysical concept of universals from a perspective that denies their presence in particulars outside of the mind’s perception of them.[2]

Peter Abélard was a medieval thinker whose work is currently classified as having the most potential in representing the roots of conceptualism. Abélard’s view denied the existence of determinate universals within things, proposing the claim that meaning is constructed solely by the virtue of conception.[3] William of Ockham was another famous late medieval thinker who had a strictly conceptualist solution to the metaphysical problem of universals. He argued that abstract concepts have no fundamentum outside the mind, and that the purpose they serve is the construction of meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.[4]

Conceptualism was either explicitly or implicitly embraced by most of the early modern thinkers like René DescartesJohn Locke or Gottfried Leibniz – often in a quite simplified form if compared with the elaborate Scholastic theories. Sometimes the term is applied even to the radically different philosophy of Kant, who holds that universals have no connection with external things because they are exclusively produced by our a priori mental structures and functions.[5] However, this application of the term “conceptualism” is not very usual, since the problem of universals can, strictly speaking, be meaningfully raised only within the framework of the traditional, pre-Kantian epistemology[citation needed].

Conceptualism and perceptual experience[edit]

Though separate from the historical debate regarding the status of universals, there has been significant debate regarding the conceptual character of experience since the release of Mind and World by John McDowell in 1994.[6] McDowell’s touchstone is the famous refutation that Wilfrid Sellars provided for what he called the “Myth of the Given”—the notion that all empirical knowledge is based on certain assumed or ‘given’ items, such as sense data.[7] Thus, in rejecting the Myth of the Given, McDowell argues that perceptual content is conceptual “from the ground up”, that is, all perceptual experience is a form of conceptual experience. Put differently, there are no “bare” or “naked” sense data that serve as a foundation for all empirical knowledge—McDowell is not a foundationalist about perceptual knowledge.

A clear motivation of conceptualism, in this sense, is that the kind of perception that rational creatures like humans enjoy is unique in the fact that it has conceptual character. McDowell explains his position in a recent paper as:

I have urged that our perceptual relation to the world is conceptual all the way out to the world’s impacts on our receptive capacities. The idea of the conceptual that I mean to be invoking is to be understood in close connection with the idea of rationality, in the sense that is in play in the traditional separation of mature human beings, as rational animals, from the rest of the animal kingdom. Conceptual capacities are capacities that belong to their subject’s rationality. So another way of putting my claim is to say that our perceptual experience is permeated with rationality. I have also suggested, in passing, that something parallel should be said about our agency.[8]

McDowell’s conceptualism, though rather distinct (philosophically and historically) from conceptualism’s genesis, shares the view that universals are not “given” in perception from outside of the sphere of reason. Particular objects are perceived, as it were, already infused with conceptuality stemming the spontaneity of the rational subject herself.


semantical distortion of truth

Coherence theory of truth

History of Truth: The Greek “Aletheia”


  1. Mind’s Logical limitations of reasoning:

 different kinds of logic.

logıc: Classical Logical Paradoxes : Moving to Modern Times Some Recent Logical Paradoxes Paradoxes of Self-Reference A Contemporary Twist Category Theory Temporal Logic Many-Valued LogicSemantics Proof Theory Systems of Many-Valued Logic Applications of Many-Valued Logic History of Many-Valued Logic Paraconsistent Logic Zeno’s Paradoxes 1. Background 2. The Paradoxes of Plurality 2.1 The Argument from Denseness 2.2 The Argument from Finite Size 2.3 The Argument from Complete Divisibility 3. The Paradoxes of Motion 3.1 The Dichotomy 3.2 Achilles and the Tortoise 3.3 The Arrow 3.4 The Stadium 4. Two more paradoxes 4.1 The Paradox of Place 4.2 The Grain of Millet


A fundamental aspect of the human condition is that nobody can ever determine with absolute certainty whether a proposition about the world is true or false. In addition, whenever the truth of a proposition is expressed, it is always done by an individual, and it can never be considered to represent a general and objective belief. These philosophical ideas are directly reflected in the mathematical formalism of subjective logic. Irrationality can be described in terms of what is known as the fuzzjective.

Thomas Hofweber writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that logic “does not, however, cover good reasoning as a whole. That is the job of the theory of rationality. Rather it deals with inferences whose validity can be traced back to the formal features of the representations that are i Thomas Hofweber writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that logic “does not, however, cover good reasoning as a whole. That is the job of the theory of rationality. Rather it deals with inferences whose validity can be traced back to the formal features of the representations that are involved in that inference, be they linguistic, mental, or other representations”.

Subjective logic

Not to be confused with the homophone intention; or the related concept of intentionality.




A fundamental aspect of the human condition is that nobody can ever determine with absolute certainty whether a proposition about the world is true or false. In addition, whenever the truth of a proposition is expressed, it is always done by an individual, and it can never be considered to represent a general and objective belief. These philosophical ideas are directly reflected in the mathematical formalism of subjective logic. Irrationality can be described in terms of what is known as the fuzzjective.

Thomas Hofweber writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that logic “does not, however, cover good reasoning as a whole. That is the job of the theory of rationality. Rather it deals with inferences whose validity can be traced back to the formal features of the representations that are involved in that inference, be they linguistic, mental, or other representations”.

involved in that inference, be they linguistic, mental, or other representations”.

  1. Mind’s Mathematical limitations of reasoning for the conceptions of reality

Formal, realist and intuitive mathematics, Infinity and set theory, CH continuum Hypothesis ,What is space and space-time continuum? Geometry: space and its dimensions, Geometries with 2, 3, 4 ,6N 10, 11, 26 and “ n “ infinite dimensions, Euclid, Riemann, Lobachevsky, Hilbert 6N faz spin, chaotic, string (String theory needs 11 or 26 dimensions)



Formal, realist and intuitive mathematics, Infinity and set theory, CH continuum Hypothesis ,What is space and space-time continuum? Geometry: space and its dimensions, Geometries with  2, 3,  4 ,6N 10, 11, 26 and “ n “  infinite dimensions, Euclid, Riemann, Lobachevsky, Hilbert 6N faz spin, chaotic, string (String theory needs 11 or 26 dimensions) Measurability

Number is the symbol of causal necessity. Like the conception of God, it contains the ultimate meaning of the world-as-nature.” Spengler.

Paradoxes of Multiplicity and Motion Kant’s, Hume’s, and Hegel’s Solutions to Zeno’s Paradoxes. The Contemporary Solution to Zeno’s Paradoxes. Russell’s Paradox

history of the philosophy of mathematics

A history of set theory: Infinity and continuum

cantor and set theory

Goedel: On Gödel’s Philosophy of Mathematics: Chapter I: Gödel’s Methodology of Mathematics 1.) Gödel’s Defense of Classical Mathematics 2.) The Vicious Circle Principle 3.) Gödel’s Research in Intuitionistic Mathematics 4.) Gödel’s Dilemma of Higher Axioms 5.) Truth Criteria for Higher Axioms 6.) Some Concluding Remarks on Gödel’s Methodology Appendix A Appendix B Chapter II: Gödel on the Existence of Mathematical Objects [33.5K] 1.) Gödel’s Realism 2.) Gödel’s Interpretation of ‘exist’ 3.) Some Criticisms of Gödel’s Realism 4.) Gödel’s Realism vis à vis Gödel’s Methodology of Mathematics related to set theory

Mill’s analysis of ‘cause’ as ‘invariable unconditional antecedent

analysis of Knowledge  as “justified true belief”

analytic statements contains its predicates.  Categorization porphirius tree or denial of those statements  are cself-contradictorythey are described as  they are true in virtue of their meaning. E.g. : by definition! its truth   is determined by the rules or conentions of language. Some ph. Maintain that all necessary truths are analythic too.. semantics and necessary truth W.van orman  quine




B- Res extensa:
Comprehensive limitations of Mind: empiricism, rationalism, scepticism
knowledge about external phenomenon: Esse est percipi
perception and conception: individuum (est ineffable)x Universal

facts, undividable individual event and events, Principle of individuation,) processes: substance-existence and events of space-time facts, undividable individual event and events, Principle of individuation, processes,

events: singular event as it happens in planck time and flux large scale events as becoming processes

  1. discernible patterns and trends
  1. Is it possible to discern patterns and trends in this conscientious dream
  1. singularity versus holism particular/universal
  2. causality, causal uniformity
  1. Finally, we must briefly think about the problem of historical interest. Almost any event of significant size is so rich in detail that one could not enumerate the detail completely. At the same time, not every little detail is in fact “relevant” in all situations. That is why in historical writing we find “historical interest” at work, namely the observation that the authors of historical texts will choose from the multitude of details those details that they consider relevant to the stories that they want to tell.
  2. The problem is that people can and will disagree on what the important details of an event are. In addition, rhetorical devices such as the “lie of omission” indicate that manipulating the amount of information can seriously distort the impression that one gets of an event. At the same time, historical interest is itself historical and influenced by socio-political conventions.


substance-existence and events of space-time









external objects, name, concept: particular, universal individualism and holism
time, space, space time, substance (essence, mode, attribute), change, causality (necessary and Sufficient reason), determinism, consistency



  1. Instincts, intuition and illumination by mystical experience

critical evaluation and jurisdictive judgements:

Sceptical argumentation about mind and knowledge


Conclusions: drawn from this analysis of consciousness

.nature of time and mind

in culpa est animus qui se non effugit unquam

consciousness: what is happening?

ve la yuhitune bişeyin min ilmihi illa bima şae…

  1. Philosophical Skepticism vs. Ordinary Incredulity 2. Two Basic Forms of Philosophical Skepticism 3. Academic Skepticism 4. The Argument for Academic Skepticism Employing the Closure Principle 5. The Cartesian-style Argument for Academic Skepticism Employing the Eliminate All Doubts Principle 6. Contextualism 7. Pyrrhonism 8. The Mode to Respond to the Foundationalist 9. The Mode to Respond to the Coherentist 10. The Mode to Respond to the Infinitist 11. The Overall Effect of the Modes


a.  perception and conception

  individuum (est ineffable) Universal

substance-existence and events of space-time









  1. Time-past, present, future or nunc aeterna impossibility of synchronical time, time itelf as a framework of events
  2. facts
  3.  events: singular event as it happens in planck time and flux large scale events as becoming processes. Now what does it mean the word “event”? And what is the real meaning of a historical event?


  1. As a scientific description event means what happened in a particular space at a definite time; in time dimension plus, at least, three dimensions of space (as it could be expressed in defining coordinates of x,y,z)
  2. if we wish to isolate an individual fact from a process of happening as the so called event, we should desribe every fact with a definitely described time and place.
  3. Then I would rather state an absolutely definite time as short as planck time as the time unite of one instant which scientifically is the shortest imaginable time element. Nowadays what we can measure with more precision than everything else is the time not space or some tangible materials. We can measure time at such a precision that we can use use atomic clocs. Nevertheless even the shortest possible measurement of time consists of a process of time instants, since even atomic molecules could exists or come into existence in the unimaginably long series of instants of planc time. That means even atomic molecules could be regarded as events and processes if we could measure planc-time instances. Nowadays with the emergence of string theories we begin to imagine matter as the waves of strings

individuum est ineffable, is it possible to narrate it then?






 knowledge about external phenomenon:

Esse est percipi


 substance-existence and events of space-time

external objects, name, concept: particular, universal   individualism and holism

 time,  space, space time, substance (essence, mode, attribute), change, causality  (necessary and Sufficient reason), determinism, consistency


Conclusions: drawn from this analysis of consciousness

ScepticAL  judgements  about mind and knowledge

.nature of time and mind

in culpa est animus qui se non effugit unquam

consciousness: what is happening?

ve la yuhitune bişeyin min ilmihi illa bima şae…

  1. Philosophical Skepticism vs. Ordinary Incredulity 2. Two Basic Forms of Philosophical Skepticism 3. Academic Skepticism 4. The Argument for Academic Skepticism Employing the Closure Principle 5. The Cartesian-style Argument for Academic Skepticism Employing the Eliminate All Doubts Principle 6. Contextualism 7. Pyrrhonism 8. The Mode to Respond to the Foundationalist 9. The Mode to Respond to the Coherentist 10. The Mode to Respond to the Infinitist 11. The Overall Effect of the Modes





SECOND Chapter

Speculum mentis II: seven pillars of wisdom:



rainbow; all meaning is an angle

angles of perspectives: introspectare, perspectare?, prospectare, inspectare, retrospectare, conspectare, extrospectare

angles of perspectives: introspectare, perspectare?, prospectare, inspectare, retrospectare, conspectare, extrospectare. when they used all at once whether it be colours or lights make a black pitch view so they should be used separately but integrated at last to make a full understanding from this holistik view of existence. Earth from space: visible and invisible lights….

metaphysical consciousness,

  • art (begins from intuition dreaming and consructing a virtual reality by using imagination creatrix)

imagination creatrix


  • religion/theology (belief for orientation and need for social cohesion theologian begins from the knowledge revealed by god and being so absolute truth)

as cultural stanpoint and a framework of understanding

with its social and mystical dimensions


In the view of al-Kindi, prophecy and philosophy were two different routes to arrive at the truth. He contrasts the two positions in four ways. Firstly, while a person must undergo a long period of training and study to become a philosopher, prophecy is bestowed upon someone by God. Secondly, the philosopher must arrive at the truth by his own devices (and with great difficulty), whereas the prophet has the truth revealed to him by God. Thirdly, the understanding of the prophet – being divinely revealed – is clearer and more comprehensive than that of the philosopher. Fourthly, the way in which the prophet is able to express this understanding to the ordinary people is superior. Therefore al-Kindi says the prophet is superior in two fields: the ease and certainty with which he receives the truth, and the way in which he presents it. However, the crucial implication is that the content of the prophet’s and the philosopher’s knowledge is the same. This, says Adamson, demonstrates how limited the superiority al-Kindi afforded to prophecy was

In addition to this, al-Kindi adopted a naturalistic view of prophetic visions. He argued that, through the faculty of “imagination” as conceived of in Aristotelian philosophy, certain “pure” and well-prepared souls, were able to receive information about future events. Significantly, he does not attribute such visions or dreams to revelation from God, but instead explains that imagination enables human beings to receive the “form” of something without needing to perceive the physical entity to which it refers. Therefore, it would seem to imply that anyone who has purified themselves would be able to receive such visions. It is precisely this idea, amongst other naturalistic explanations of prophetic miracles that al-Ghazali attacks in hisIncoherence of the Philosophers.[45]

. Even al-Ghazali, who is famous for his critique of the philosophers, was himself an expert in philosophy and logic. And his criticism was that they arrived at theologically erroneous conclusions. The three most serious of these, in his view, were believing in the co-eternity of the universe with God, denying the bodily resurrection, and asserting that God only has knowledge of abstract universals, not of particular things (not all philosophers subscribed to these same views).[46]

  1. science(tries to acquire objective knowledge by scientific methods, relies on experience and testability of the results
    scire-science pertaining to space and material objects of nature



  1. science (tries to acquire objective knowledge by scientific methods, relies on experience and testability of the results

scire-science pertaining to space and material objects of nature

  1. Philosophy of Science

Jun 06 2004 08:00 PM | Hugo Holbling in Philosophy for beginners


By Paul Newall (2004)

In the last article we looked at the sources, scope and—in general—the theory of knowledge. Given that much of the information we have about our world today has come from science in one way or another it makes sense to look next at the philosophy of science. As usual, we’ll investigate the subject by looking at some of its history initially before moving on to some of the interesting topics being discussed today. First, though, we need to understand what the philosophy is concerned with and why it should bother us at all.

Why study the Philosophy of Science?

It’s possible to give technical justifications for our studies, but let’s instead start from the very beginning. Suppose, like Galileo, we stand near the top of the leaning tower of Pisa and drop simultaneously balls of differing weights of roughly the same size. What, before we let go, is the point of this experiment? It’s intuitively obvious that the heavier will hit the ground first, so why do it in the first place? Indeed, it may be at least partly because it was (and usually still is) so obvious that few people actually checked. Even so, what does this first theory (“the heavier will land first”) mean?

  • The heavier piece will land before the lighter piece of the same size if both are dropped at the same time from the leaning tower of Pisa.
  • The heavier piece willalways land before the lighter piece of the same size if both are dropped at the same time from the leaning tower of Pisa.
  • The heavier piece willalways land before the lighter piece of the same size if both are dropped at the same time from anywhere.
  • The heavier piece willalways land before the lighter piece of the same size if both are dropped at the same time and under the same conditions from anywhere.
  • The heavier piece willalways land before the lighter piece of the same size if both are dropped at the same time and under the same conditions from anywhere and at any time.

Already we can see that the meaning of our theory is not immediately clear and that even these few alternatives are very different. Also, they tell us what we expect to happen if we actually tried the test (that is, they predict), but not why (that is, they don’t explain). Here we have another question to ask of science before we go any further: what are we aiming at? That is, what goal do we have in mind, excluding the remark “just throw things at Hugo”?

  • A theory that tells us what to expect and hence allows us to predict the consequences of our actions.
  • A theory that tells us why one thing should happen instead of another.
  • A theory that describes whathappened but says nothing about what might happen in the future, or why.
  • Some combination of the above, or something else.

Again, these aren’t the same at all. The first reminds us of the practical person who says “I don’t care how it works; I just want to know how to use it.” The second seems to be looking deeper, but it of course depends on the context—after all, what do we want the theory for in the first place? The third manages to capture what happened in a description but tells us nothing further. It seems, at this stage, that a little of all would be a better prospect.

Galileo—to get back to the story—had different ideas. He proposed a different theory, according to which both would land at the same time. In fact, the Aristotelian thinking he was opposing was very complex indeed and to check his theory he decided to try the test that was supposed to give an obvious result: he climbed the tower and started dropping things. He found, of course, that they did land at the same time, so we have two theories, a test and some results. What can we say now?

  • Galileo’s theory is correct.
  • The first theory is wrong.
  • Both of the above.
  • Galileo’s theory is correct under certain conditions but may still be wrong under others.
  • The first theory is wrong under certain conditions but may still be correct (or useful) under others.
  • Galileo’s theory is more likely to be correct than the other.

… and so on again. The conclusion we’re entitled to make is not so obvious; perhaps Galileo cheated to prove his idea, meaning we’d be wrong to reject the first idea? Alternatively, perhaps he was right after all but still cheated in his experiment? What could we say then? It could also be that the test was flawed in some way, such that although Galileo was honest in his approach he in fact didn’t show anything. Moreover, perhaps the theory is a good one for Pisa, but are we justified in claiming that it’ll work anywhere? Here we are up against the problem of induction again.

Some people are aware that what Galileo actually found was a good deal more complicated. On some occasions the heavier object fell slightly quicker, striking the ground just before the lighter. At other times the lighter fell quicker, a result also obtained by Borro using lead and wood. Galileo was not inclined, however, to reject his theory because he thought there may be ways to account for the puzzling results that weren’t quite as he expected. Indeed, a recent paper by Settle has managed to solve this mystery: it’s actually impossible to release two objects from the hands at exactly the same time; instead, and without meaning to, an experimenter will invariably let the heavier one go first. Thus we see that the experiment when taken literally seems to be confusing without some notion of how to interpret it; we have to be very careful when asking what it all means. Galileo used experiment to test his theory, but when it didn’t quite work out he nevertheless kept his theory because of some still more theoretical reasons. It’s about time, then, that we looked at how science is supposed to proceed—the scientific method—and what philosophy has to say about it.

The Scientific Method

Why do we need to worry about what we mean by scientific method? It’s true that your humble narrator is inclined to talk to himself on the matter, but what difference does that make? Well, suppose we look at the history of science, particularly those episodes that—with the benefit of hindsight—we consider to have contained good ideas or decisions, such as supposing that theories should be tested by experiment or that the earth isn’t flat. Are there any features in common that could account for the success? If so, we could perhaps say something like “if you want to find a good theory, you should do x”, or at least “… you shouldn’t do y”. This way, both good and bad moves made in the past can inform us today. On the face of it, this seems like a good idea, so let’s see what suggestions for methods were offered historically.


It’s often held that early scientists didn’t approach their work with the same sophistication as we do today, but we’ve already seen that Galileo was both doing experiments and considering what the implications were for knowledge. In the early seventeenth century, on the other hand, Bacon was advocating for science an inductivemethod: the idea was to gather as much data as possible about the world and infer general theories therefrom, all the while taking care not to allow any assumptions or theories to influence the finding of information in the first place. We already know about some problems with the former; the latter we’ll come to in more detail soon, but for the time being we can at least note that stopping ourselves from having any prior thoughts on what we expect to find is a tall order. Lakatos also pointed out the logical impossibility of deriving a general law from facts.


Although he didn’t call it so, this method was conceived by Newton late in the seventeenth century. The principle is as follows: first, we have an idea or suggested theory (the hypothesis part) that we come up with for some reason or other; then, we try to figure out what the consequences of it would be (the deduction part). The final stage is to test for these expectations and, by so doing, verify whether the theory is a good one or not. In this method it doesn’t matter where the theory comes from, but only how well it’s confirmed by experiment.

Unfortunately there’s a significant problem here that becomes clear when we set the method out in logical form, as we saw in the earlier article. We want to say:

  • P1: If theory T is true, then we would expect to see a set of facts or results F;
  • P2: We see F;
  • C: Therefore, T is true.

This is a logical fallacy called affirming the consequent; the flaw is that although T may be true, F might instead be due to something else entirely. Look at this argument, for example:

  • P1: If rain dances are effective, we would expect to see rain after a dance;
  • P2: Rain is found to follow rain dances.;
  • C: Therefore, rain dances are effective.

In fact, it could be that the rain is caused by something other than the dancing (we would say that it is) and the dance leader has a fair idea of what signs to look for, only starting a dance at such times. If that’s so, no amount of wiggling is likely to open the floodgates. Hence, the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. The flaw in this argument is a difficulty for the hypothetico-deductive method.


The generally overlooked philosopher C.S. Peirce wrote a good deal on this method that dates back to Aristotle. It’s often called inference to the best explanation and reasons thus:

  • P1: Facts of the form B have been observed;
  • P2: The statement, “If A, then B” can explain B;
  • C: Therefore, A.

This is much the same as the previous method but the important distinction for Pierce was that A is the bestexplanation for B and therefore is the probable explanation. In our example of the rain dancing, then, it would seem that this isn’t the best explanation of the rain, unless your dancing is quite something.

One problem with this theory is what we mean by the “best” explanation. Another is how it can cope with Hume’s problem (it can’t). A third is that making a statement like “A is the most probable explanation” has proved very difficult indeed and prompted a great deal of (highly technical) work in inductive justification.

According to the philosopher Hilary Putnam, however, it would be a miracle if a false hypothesis was nevertheless as successful as some of our scientific theories are and many people consider this a decisive objection. Of course, it isn’t; one of several objections is that this scheme uses inference to the best explanation to justify inference to the best explanation—a decidedly unsatisfactory situation.


Before he became the butt of philosophical jokes, Karl Popper claimed to have conceived the method of falsification that in fact—again—dates back to Aristotle. It took several forms (naïve, methodological and sophisticated) as it proved very difficult indeed to stick up for and was battered by a succession of brutal critiques. In its basic form it was an attempt to avoid the problem of induction by suggesting that science could instead proceed in a deductive fashion: scientists would propose theories and then try to falsify them (i.e. show them to be wrong). A theory that had stood the test of many such attempts is a good one but may still be wrong; a theory that is falsified is discarded. On the other hand, a theory that cannot be falsified at all is thereby not scientific.

An uncharitable way to look at Popper is to ask if—in common with many philosophers of science—he neglected to check how scientists were actually working, but in fact he was suggesting a new way in which science was to be understood. Unfortunately his ideas were taken to task because very often theories are proposed that don’t specify what would falsify them (perhaps they’re at an early stage), or else are falsified but still clung to by scientists (Einstein is the paradigmatic example of both)—and why not? It may be that an experiment discovers an anomaly, not a falsification; also, what if the experiment was in error somewhere, or its consequences misunderstood? What if the theory was wrong but by clinging to it scientists found a way around the difficulty and thereby made it stronger? None of the possibilities that take place throughout the history of science are accounted for by Popper’s ideas and hence falsification was eventually treated with some hostility.

Who needs method?

As a result of these difficulties, some philosophers began to wonder if the prospect of a unique scientific method was such a good one after all. (Meanwhile, other philosophers worried that such thinking would swiftly send the world to hell in a hand basket.) Research found that in fact the many sciences were not unified at all and employed different methodologies (for example, compare particle and condensed matter physics, or molecular and organismic biology), very often even within the same field (compare Einstein or Dirac to Ehrenhaft). Nowadays this disunity of the scientific enterprise is gaining greater recognition and scientists and philosophers alike are less keen to hold forth on the scientific method. Moreover, studies in the history of science have shown that no methodological account seems to be able to take in all the twists and turns made by individuals.

The demarcation problem

Perhaps none of this is such a big deal but many people want to distinguish between science and non-science (or pseudo-science), usually to disparage the latter. In that case, we may not be too concerned at the lack of a distinct method but it would help if we could say “this is science” and, similarly, point out what isn’t; sometimes we see “scientific” used as a word meaning “you should accept this”, so if it’s wrongly applied then people could be deceived. This became especially important to debates on funding (who gets the little money available to try all the ideas out there?) and education (how do we decide what goes in the curriculum as science?), the latter particularly with regard to creationism. Thus the demarcation problem: what factors characterise science?

It seemed that the ideal solution would state that science consists of xy and z but creationism (or whatever) doesn’t; therefore, creationism isn’t science and shouldn’t be on the curriculum. Some philosophers, though, warned either that this wasn’t possible (Lakatos and Feyerabend in particular) or that it would backfire (Laudan). Due to the former, the latter is what happened: science was defined according to a few flawed criteria, leaving creationists the task of adapting their ideas to fulfil them and hence giving birth to creationscience, so-called.

There have been several attempts to propose criterion that would solve the demarcation problem but they were either subject to severe critique (usually by Lakatos) or proved to have no uncontroversial analysis. This led Laudan to declare “the demise of the demarcation problem” and indeed many thinkers have decided to try for something less ambitious.

What can we say about science?

A description of science today is likely in some quarters to consist in a non-prescriptive list. For example, a scientific theory is one that has some or all of the following factors:

  • It makes testable predictions.
  • It is falsifiable.
  • It predictsnew
  • It unifies already existing ideas.
  • It is consistent with what we already know.
  • And so on…

However, the point of it being non-prescriptive is that even a theory that doesn’t succeed in meeting one of the criteria may be a good or useful theory; we need only be a little cautious about those that fail to meet any or only a few.

Imre Lakatos used this understanding to develop his methodology of scientific research programmes that made an effort to take into account both the philosophical difficulties we’ve seen so far and the history of what happened to various ideas and the thinking proposed by scientists and philosophers over the years. He wanted to appreciate just when it would be appropriate to finally discard a theory or, conversely, whether we should be reluctant to ever do so. This was sparked, at least in part, by some historical cases.

For example, Atomism was proposed back in classical Greek times, in particular by Leucippus and Democritus. Since that time it was mooted, supported, refuted or rejected on several occasions until some two thousand years later it finally became a scientific theory, even though in the early part of the twentieth century it was still looked upon with some scorn. This being so, how can we be sure in eliminating a shaky theory that we won’t be making a mistake in so doing? If the answer is that we can’t, how can we instead minimise our chances of error or giving a similar idea every chance to impress us again?

Mill gave a thorough and quite beautiful argument in his On Liberty in favour of methodological pluralism, the notion of giving even apparently crazy theories a chance and using them to aid our work with others. It can be found here. Feyerabend showed with many examples how such pluralism is indispensable and that very often only another method can illuminate flaws or strengths in one we may support. In combination with the tenacityin the face of difficulties that is the lesson of the history of ideas, Lakatos thought he could take these into account with his two concepts of firstly a negative heuristic, being the core parts of a theory that we are reluctant to give up (this is what Kuhn looked at in his famous work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), and secondly the positive heuristic, being the additional or auxiliary ideas that try to defend the theory against the anomalies and new information that may come up.

He suggested, then, that the distinguishing characteristic of a progressive, scientific research programme is that it makes new predictions or discovers new facts; a degenerating, pseudo-scientific research programme does not. Nevertheless, the latter case is no reason to reject a theory and we may ask just how new facts are to be found unless we employ a methodological pluralism in the first place and devote time and energy to alternative hypotheses. Lakatos was criticised on such grounds but his terminology has become widely-used today in both science and philosophy.

In the philosophy of science, then, we have seen progress; we’ve learned that a simplistic understanding of science won’t suffice and that myriad factors need to be taken into account.

Some concepts in the philosophy of science

It may be useful in closing this article to look at some of the terms that come up often in discussion that are from or related to the philosophy of science. By doing so, we may begin to understand just what the hell your narrator is talking about in the majority of his blustering.

Ockham’s Razor

With the exception of the argumentum ad hominem, parsimony is probably one of the least understood concepts around. Philosophers and scientists alike are very sceptical of its application and with good reason. The idea is usually given as “do not multiply entities unnecessarily”, or that the theory with the least assumptions is to be preferred. Technical analyses of this suggestion can be made, but the general point is that we are very rarely, if ever, in a situation where two theories have exactly the same consequences and content, except for one having more assumptions. A point made with much force by Bohr is that these consequences of the additional assumptions that we’re supposed to reject are never clear before the fact; they have to be investigated to see if they tell us anything extra, either in the area being looked at or outside. Once they’ve been studied in any depth the issue of which theory to choose usually ends up being decided by other reasons, but even when we think we have considered everything it may still be that at a later date something further comes up. Thus it makes little sense, especially given the many examples from the history of science and ideas we could adduce, to reject a theory on the basis of parsimony unless it meets the very unlikely conditions for use.

The under-determination of theories

In the last article we looked at the example of finding white sheep and asking how reasonable it would be to adopt the theory that the next sheep found will be purple. Given that the already available evidence supports equally this hypothesis and an alternative that the sheep would be white, we couldn’t say that one was any more reasonable than the other. This is generally called the under-determination of theories: the evidence we have to hand fails to pick out one theory when all are equally supported, as in this example. One way around this difficulty is to note that we’re rarely faced with an infinity (or even just several) competing theories and when we are (as in this case) there are other reasons why we accept the one and not the other (for example, some information on the possible pigmentation of wool). Nevertheless, and in light of our comments on pluralism, perhaps we should view it as a failing if we don’t have rival theories to choose between?

The theory-ladenness of terms

A much more difficult proposition is given by the idea that the appeal to evidence made by many people is all but empty. In its most extreme (and common) form, the conception is of theories that are tested against the facts that somehow sit in the world awaiting our comparison. Instead, these facts themselves depend on other theories in order to be understood, and they on further facts that are interpreted by other theories, and so on. Theories, therefore, go all the way down: there is no evidence free of any theory to appeal to. Another way of saying this is that there’s no way to make an observation without relying on theory in some way.

What are the consequences of this strange situation? Well, early (naïve) versions of empiricism were killed because the experience to be referred to is infected by theory. Also, the comment “I don’t see any evidence” is to be more carefully considered; if our observations rely on theories then Lubbock was at least partly correct that “what we see depends mostly on what we look for”. There are other more technical points that we won’t consider here.


When Popper began to look at the possibility of comparing a theory to the truth, in the sense of “what there really is”, he conceived the notion of verisimilitude: essentially, a measure of how close to or far from the actual truth a theory is. This would be especially useful if two (or more) theories have the same consequences or are both known to be incorrect because we may still care to know which is closer to the truth. Unfortunately this is a notoriously difficult idea to make satisfactory and, as is the sport, Popper came up against some very serious criticism from the likes of Lakatos and Oddie. In recent times Niiniluoto, Tuomela and others have offered more stringent versions but they require a good deal of mathematics to appreciate so we won’t cover them here.

The problem of realism

The main concern in the philosophy of science today is the problem of realism, which deals with the interpretations of theories. Suppose, for example, that we have a theory that explains in a satisfactory way why an apple dropped outside Notre Dame in Paris falls to the ground, using some form of theory of gravity. Since we can’t see or observe gravity with our own senses except by what we suppose to be its effects, should we say that gravity is real (i.e. that it really exists)? Later on the theory might become more successful, in which case we might be even more tempted to say that it is so because the gravity referred to really does exist, although we need to be wary of making the same logical flaw that we saw earlier of affirming the consequent. However, on many occasions in the past our theories have turned out to be wrong, replaced by others. Should we, then, not be a little more careful when declaring what exists and what doesn’t?

This debate has grown into many threads and even realism is no longer easily defined. Niiniluoto gave six different areas we could be realists about, along with the type of questions we could ask:

  • Ontological:Which entities are real? Is there a mind-independent world?
  • Semantical:Is truth an objective language-world relation?
  • Epistemological:Is knowledge about the world possible?
  • Axiological:Is truth one of the aims of inquiry?
  • Methodological:What are the best methods for pursuing knowledge?
  • Ethical:Do moral values exist in reality?

Some of these areas we haven’t yet covered, but we can see that the problem is wide-ranging and the questions important. If we answer “no” (or similar) to any, we call ourselves anti-realists with respect to them. Note that we could be realists on some issues but anti-realists on others: for example, we could believe that the world really does exist and can be known more or less, but also that there are no moral values other than those we create for ourselves. Presently the discussions are at something of an impasse on traditional fronts but new perspectives are being tried by many thinkers. Perhaps the most famous case of realist versus anti-realist interpretation is that of the Quantum Theory. At a later date much more will be said on this vibrant and impassioned area of study.

There is one significant problem in the philosophy of science to be avoided: poor philosophical ideas may hold back the practice of science. Unfortunately, rather than this being a concern for philosophers (although sometimes it has been), often the guilty parties are scientists who employ uncritical philosophical assumptions in their work without appreciating their basis and their consequences. This has very much been the case with the Quantum Theory, where philosophical decisions made deliberately or unthinkingly have influenced the course of subsequent work—some (including the scientists involved) saying negatively so. Thus it is that whatever our feelings on the philosophy of science, it cannot help but remain relevant and important.

[For more on the philosophy of science, follow the links given above or visit the History and Philosophy of Science section of the site.]

Dialogue the Fourth

The Scene: Still in the Drunken Bishop, Anna has learned that the mysterious girl is in fact Jennifer, Trystyn’s cousin on his mother’s side and also a philosophy student. As a result, Steven has a new-found desire to continue the discussion of the subject.

Steven: So tell me, Jennifer: which area of philosophy are you interested in?

Jennifer: (She looks at Trystyn, who nods.) Realism mostly; the problem of realism.

Steven: There’s a problem?

Trystyn: It depends who you ask…

Jennifer: Look at this table. (She knocks on it.) Is it real?

Steven: Of course it is. (He knocks also.) Is this a trick question?

Trystyn: It depends who you ask…

Jennifer: It certainly seems real enough. (She knocks again.) Kinda solid, really. We also have a picture, though, that says the table is composed of particles in some way, mostly empty space. Are these particles real? If so, which picture is really real; the ordinary one or the technical one? Perhaps both?

Anna: Maybe it doesn’t matter? (Trystyn smiles.)

Steven: Hold on—I don’t think we should minimise the importance of philosophy here. (He knocks the table for good measure. Trystyn has rolled his eyes so far they do not appear to be coming back.)

Jennifer: Of course it matters. The whole point of science, after all, is to find out what the world is really like, so if we have conflicting ideas about what’s real or how sure we can be about any such claims, we ought to be worried about it.

Anna: (Indicating Steven…) I thought you said science aimed only at explaining what had happened and predicting what might?

Steven: (Quietly, through clenched teeth…) Did I? I don’t recall. (To Jennifer…) Tell me some more about the problem.

Jennifer: Well, we can see and feel the table here; other theories about sub-atomic particles and the like aren’t so obvious and even experiments have different interpretations. Not so many people are inclined to doubt the existence of the table…

Steven: (Nodding at Trystyn…) Make I present exhibit A? This fellow will argue for or against anything.

Jennifer: The scientific picture is slightly different, though. We had ideas in the past about what’s real and what isn’t that turned out to be wrong, so we need to be careful that they aren’t again. Think about it: many times before we’ve come up with theories that explain something on the basis of the existence of something else – like the ether, phlogiston or the power of sympathy – but they turned out to be poor theories and now we say those things don’t exist after all. Why should we agree, then, that the latest round of similar declarations should fare any better?

Anna: What’s the alternative?

Jennifer: There are several. We could say that our theories only have instrumental value; that is, we use them as instruments to explain or predict but say that their successes prove nothing whatsoever about what exists or doesn’t.

Steven: Of course. (He nods.) Anything else is the business of head-in-the-clouds types like… (He trails off.)

Trystyn: (Grinning…) Like…?

Steven: (Ignoring him…) What else?

Jennifer: We could say that the point of our theories is to enable us to model our world and that the truth or otherwise of them is beside the point; in fact, it might even be meaningless.

Anna: That seems to me like an excess of skepticism.

Trystyn: How so?

Anna: Just because we can’t be sure of our ideas, it doesn’t mean talking about them being right or wrong is meaningless or that we should give up trying to find the model that most closely fits reality. (Jennifer smiles at Trystyn.)

Steven: I think I can see the point here. Many scientists have a basic idea that they’re trying to find out “the way it really is”, while others don’t think that makes any sense and just want successful models, along with the other positions you said there are. In either case, what we can find is limited or defined by the philosophical ideas we start with. Separating philosophy and science doesn’t make much sense, I guess.

Anna: Bravo. (She smiles.)

Trystyn: My turn to buy, I think.

Steven: (Deep in thought…) I’m going to ask around my colleagues and see what they make of this.

Jennifer: You could be a Bohr instead of a Feynman.

Trystyn: I’ve always found him an interesting fellow.

Steven: (Motioning towards the bar with a tilt of his head…) I’m thirsty…

Anna: (To Trystyn) Come on—I’ll go with you. (They leave, conspiratorially.)

Steven: Tell me how you got into philosophy, Jennifer. Start at the beginning.

Curtain. Fin.




  1. philosophy (uses logic semantic and mathematics as the tools of mind for contemplation), thinking tools

inspective analyses of truth value etc, and synthetical understanding


  1. history tries to discover past experience and constructs and tells a story of the past experience of humanity)

“history would be an excellent thing if only it were true.” Tolstoy declares to gusev in 1908

history- what is told as historical narratives and history itself (as the events of past time)

But side by side with this… very important passage to be cited : H.F. 31

Babil Kralı Nebukadnetsar’ın Rüyası..


Facts events meaning


history is nothing but a collection 31

rivayetten dirayete

tarih araştırmasının mahiyeti ve sınırları: tarihin tasviri ne kadar mümkün

dunyayı yorumlamakta tarihin ve tarihcilik pratiğinin çıkardıgı engeller

tarihi kader ve bugünü kurgulamak: tarih geçmişte kalmaz bugünkü hadiselere yani bugüne de iştirak eder.

benlik ve kimliğin damgasını basarak kendi dışımızdaki dunyayı kurgulamak:


fî sebîlillah fesad…”


. history- what is told as historical narratives and history itself (as the events of past time)

batının uygun buldugu tarih masalı ve kendi tarih yorumumuz rivayetten dirayete kendi tarih anlayışımız

: tarih geçmişte kalmaz bugünkü hadiselere, yani bugüne de iştirak eder. conjectural beliefs like historical imagination

: tarih geçmişte kalmaz bugünkü hadiselere, yani bugüne de iştirak eder. geçmişi (tarihi) kurgulamak: eski tarih felsefeleri ve tarihi bilgiye dayanan bir ideoloji arayışı benlik ve kimliğin damgasını basarak kendi dışımızdaki dünyayı kurgulamak: istoria est terra incognita sed quantumcumque istoria homo-sapiens 250000 annos. History means the totality of all past events, in that sense it could be regarded as the synonim of past time but written records of the events of history begin in the last 5000 year


Holism and individualism



  philosophy of history : tries to understand (by finding some understandable patterns, etc.) and explain the meaning of the human experience in toto.

thinking pertaining to time an explanation of history as a quest for meaning

insanlık tarihinin en önemli nirengi noktaları:tarihte anlamlı bir pattern (örüntü, kalıp) var mı? kültür kalıpları kültürler  medeniyetler sanayi devrimi  medeniyet ötesi bir çağa geçişin sancıları

when used all at once whether it be colours or lights make a black pitch view so they should be used separately but integrated at last to make a full understanding from this holistik view of existence

Tarihte duzen fikri

Theolojik menseler


Şahin Uçar: “Tarih ilim değil tarihtir. Zira ancak hevesimiz ve sabrımız nispetinde incelediğimiz bir takım belgelerin verdiği intibalar kadar, tasavvur edebildiğimiz ve sonunda kendi zihnimizde inşa etiğimiz için gerçekliğine inandığımız bu tasavvuru inanç olarak da benimsediğimiz bir dünya kurgusudur. En kötü tesiri de budur, tarih aslında bir inanç olduğu için tartışılması semereli olmaktan ziyade zararlı ve gereksiz ihtilaflar icadı ve bunların ideolojik kavgası biçiminde bugünün hadiselerini de yönlendiren manipülatif bir siyasi tesiri vardır.

İslamcıların da milliyetçilerin de komünistlerin, liberallerin ve akla gelebilecek diğer her ideolojinin de, kendi kurgulanmış ve bugünkü hayatımızın hadiseleri karşısında bir tavır belirlemeye bizi zorlayan tarih inançları var. Hepsi de kurgulanmış ve bizzat kendi tasavvurumuzun mahsulü olan inançlar.

Kültürel müktesebatımız ve inançlarımızın telkin ettiği bu yalan yanlış inançlar şeklindeki tarih hurafeleri, sadece bugünkü hayatımıza iştirak etmek ve onu yönlendirmekle kalmıyor, hayat ve maneviyatımız konusundaki en asli tavır ve inançlarımızı da biçimlendiriyor ve bir zamanlar tarihte gerçekte nasıl yaşanmışsa artık, o asli tarihi hüviyet ve mahiyetinden gittikçe daha fazla uzaklaştırıyor. Her adımda hurafe dozu artarak bizi gerçeklikten daha fazla koparan bu sözde tarihi ve aslında uydurma ve hatta saçma sembollere güvenerek bir takım tercihlerde bulunmamıza ve bunun kavgasını yapmamıza sebep oluyor.

Şuurumuzda teşekkül eden bu self hipnotizasyon sonuçları itibariyle korkunçtur zira bu hipnotik tesir ile yaptığımız tercihlerin kendi irade ve seçimimizin mahsulü olmadığını da bilmeyiz. Tıpkı hipnoz telkini etkisindeki insanların tamamen gayri iradi ve telkin edilmiş saçma davranışlarını bile rasyonalize etmeleri gibi, bizim de beşeri çılgınlıklarımızı bu uydurma tarihi hurafeler ve gerçeklikle ilgisi çok azalmış saçma sembolleri tartışarak rasyonalize etmek ve davranışımızı haklı görmeye ve göstermeye çalışma şeklindeki deliliğimizin sebebidir bu mutasavver ve muhayyel tarih kurguları. Ben bu manada bütün insanlar delidir diyorum bazı psikiyatrist dostlarım kabul etmese de, gerçekte mevcut olmayan tarih halüsinasyonları görmek ve onların çağrısına ve telkinine göre davranmak şizofrenik seviyede bir psikotik delilik değilse nedir? Müslümanların hayal ettiği bir tarzda İslam, tarihte hiç mevcut olmadı mesela. Zira İslam’ın tarihine dair bu tasavvurlar ancak modern zamanlarda oluşan ve her gün de değişen bir tarih kurgusu. Bugünlerde içinde bulunduğumuz bu haller, yani tarihi güya öğrenerek tasavvur edip sonra bu tasavvurumuza inanıp arkasından bu inancın hipnotik tesiri altında absürt kararlar almak ve kendimize de çok zarar veren davranışlar geliştirmek durumundayız ve zamana tabi olarak her an bu tasavvurumuz da değişiyor ve gittikçe daha uydurma ve daha saçma hurafeleri tarih veya Müslümanlık ve benzeri bahisler olarak kurgulamaya devam ediyoruz.

Nasıl oluyorsa bu mevzuda en fazla donanıma sahip olan kişi olarak benim bile karar veremediğim ve bilemediğim bir sözde İslam’ı ve tarihini bütün cahil akademisyen ve entelektüeller ve hatta okuryazar olmayan ahali dahi sular seller gibi ezbere bilebiliyor. Çünkü tarihçiler gibi, bir sürü gerekli gereksiz şey bilmeden ve onların da gönüllü katkısı ile, çok sınırlı ve sathi bilgilere dayanarak dahi bir tarih tasavvuru ve zihnin bu kurgulanmış şuurunun telkin ettiği bir inanç geliştirmek pekala kabildir. İnsan kendi şuurunda mevcut olan inançtan şüphe edemediği için de bir sürü kesin inançlı fanatik delilerden mürekkep bir beşeriyet manzarası çıkıyor ortaya. Hipnotik telkini altında oldukları için çok güzel ve çok gerçek olduğunu düşündükleri bu tarih halüsinasyonlarını da artık tartışmak bile manasızdır.

Elinizden geldiği kadar bu delileri idare edecek ve zararından sakınmak için uzak duracaksınız gayri. Çünkü sadece şu veya bu zihniyetin mensupları değil bütün ideolojik tercihlerin mensupları sadece kendi şuurunu gerçek saymak zorunda ve sadece şu veya bu zümre değil, hepsi deli ve hepsi de kendilerinden farklı bir tarihe inananların düşünce ve inançlarının ne kadar saçma olduğunu görmek ve göstermekle meşgul. İşin kötüsü her bir zümre veya fert kendi şuur veya anlayışını gerçek sansa da karşı tarafın tenkitlerine azıcık anlayışla kulak verse onlara göre de kendisinin yanıldığına dair gayet kuvvetli tenkitler yapılabileceğini görecek. Bırakalım delileri şişeleri ile oynasınlar diyeceğim vaktiyle bir dostumun dediği gibi ama kelle avcılarınca tefsir edilen bir Müslümanlık ta var bugün. Aslında bugünkü Müslümanları görse Cebrail de şaşardı peygamber de şaşardı diye yüzyıl evvel yazmıştı ikbal. güzel söylemiş: Din-i kâfir: fikr ü tedbîr ü cihad / Dîn-i molla:

. philosophy of history thinking pertaining to time an explanation of history as the quest for meaning Summa Philosophico-Istoria

: “philosophical principles can only be understood in their concrete expression in history.” Tolstoy

interpretation as a holistically integrated consciousness of different wavelengths of lights,

ibni haldun umran as economic religious and cultural aspects of human Existence

vico linguagical expression of human construction

voltaire, condorcet history as variouus cultural expressions of progress

kant’s humanist interpretations

hegel as philosophical interpretation

carlyle, plekhanov great man interpretation of history

herder nationalist interpretation of history

mill, montesqio, comte, pareto, weber, sorokin sociological interpretations

buckle scientific interpretation

marxism economical interpretation

dostoyevsky danilevsky orthodox religious interpretation

tolstoy artistic, religious and anarchistical interpretation

spengler as the story of cultures

philosophy of historiography dilthey, croce berlin colingwood, mannheim, tucker etc.

toynbee as the story of civilizations

colingwood as the reenacment of past experience

philosophy of historiography dilthey, croce berlin colingwood, mannheim, tucker etc.


dünyayı anlamlandırmak: tarih felsefesi/ insanın yeryüzü macerası



  1. bugünü kurgulamak: dünyayı anlamakta kültür ve dilin sebep olduğu problemler ve yeni felsefe
  2. tarihin mahiyeti nedir? niçin yeni bir tarih anlayışı / felsefesi lazım
  3. dünyayı anlamlandırmak: usture(mitoloji), mistisizm, din, felsefe, tarih, sanat, ilim ve tarih felsefesl
  4. dünyayı yorumlamakta tarihin ve tarihcilik pratiğinin cıkardığı engeller

5 tarihi kader ve bugünü kurgulamak: tarih geçmişte kalmaz bugünkü hadiselere, yani bugüne de iştirak eder.  

  1. geçmişi (tarihi) kurgulamak: eski tarih felsefeleri ve tarihi bilgiye dayanan bir ideoloji arayışı
  2. ego sum qui sum: benlik ve kimlin damgasını basarak kendi dışımızdaki dünyayı kurgulamak:

tarih metodolojisi (tarihcilik pratiğinin felsefesi yahut yeniden yorumlanması)

kendi tarih metodolojimizin yeni başlıkları:

batının  uygun buldugu tarih masalı ve kendi tarih yorumumuz rivayetten dirayete kendi tarih anlayışımız

tarih araştırmasının mahiyeti ve sınırları: tarihin tasviri ne kadar mümkün perspektif ve oryantasyon yahut sırat-ı mustakim.

Methodology as philosophy of historography

  • events


‘speculum mentis’: the mirror of  the mind as  a guide map for history

narration of event differs from actual history

a simple event as a meeting


facts and events of history-craft

facts and events

holism, individualism, uniqueness:

Methodological holism versus methodological individualism and reductionism:

th 489

semantical discussion?

Mind and perspective






what is history and historiography

lacking knowledge

imagined conjecture as belief


  • epistemological philosophy of historiography



 subject-matter of  history, What is history?

nature of history-craft as art science and epistemological  philosophy

The subject-matter of historical study

Linguistical, semantical and conceptual problems of language and history

history as naming: historiography and history


specialist versus world history

Historical inferences and historiographic reasoning

ph 220, th 373 th 233 PH 301 ph 22o


primary sources, secondary sources, auxiliary sciences

use of sources:selection, evaluation, synthesis

 internal & external criticism

Historiographic Evidence and Confirmation

Ph87, ph 109

Historical events versus historical facts: how to contruct a historical narrative\story

t ph342 ph383 274, ph142

Discrete historical facts and searching for a meaning

meaning in history TH 296,ph 142



For the Implication of a meaning by discerning and displaying a pattern PH 152

Can we know the pattern of the past TH


Historical explanation: Historical evidences of past events

are they discernible, understandable and explainable?

Th 403, 357,386

The Ontology of the objects of historiography

Synchronical happenings versus diachronical order of events PH 209 th 443

Historical objectivity-Historiographic objectivity

ph 172 th329 ph 329

Logical and historical fallacies of historians

ph 262

Causality versus genetic fallacy

genetic fallacy: ad hoc, propter hoc

logical fallacy ph 262

historical necessity th 120, 386

determinism relativism…th320

Realism and antirealism about past

ph 181, 190

Phenomenology and hermeneutics

th 518,529

Historicism and Holism

th 489 ph 243 ph 276

historisizm s.u.tfy

historical \universal laws

TH 106, 344 ph 162

dialectical materialism,


societal facts

TH 476,

prediction and prophecy

th 276

Post modernism PH 540



means ends and justifications

inference, facts and evidences from relics

history as naming

recorded history as footprints

a traffic accident as recorded history

an antiquarians view of history

Narrative& interpretation

 PH199, th408

the  metaphor of  african reader resembles history


speculative philosophy about historical events


oversimplified accounts of history

 limited time span of 5000 years

neglects the individuum

classifies cultures or civilizations

pseudomorph history becomes pseudomorph philosophy of history


 fragmentary knowledge

totality of past events

thamus’ admonishment of thamus’

 perspective of philosophy of history should be conspective

philosophy of history is similar to the daniels  effort of interpretation of the forgotten dreams

my sceptical disposition and semantics; dreams of mind: art, nature, history, future


free dreams, lucid dreams, constrained dreams

history-craft historical novel science fiction, futurism

its subject should be at least world history

 history is a forgotten dream

dream of the bulan khan

could be useful for the evaluation of former experiences as stated in short remarks



The quest for meaning

multi discipliner searh for wisdom

-perspectives of disciplines-

introspectare, prospectare, retrospectare, inspectare, conspectare, religious mystical


  1. standpoint: historical/spiritual: mind’s self knowledge:ego sum qui sum: I am who I am.


frame of reference


events horizon



  • Post humanity: metaphysical consciuousnes

towards singularity artificial intelligence artificial evolution of humanity

apocalypse or post humanity

need for mission


  • Time and Mind

nature of time and mind

cognitive sciences, semantics, mind, self knowledge et cetera.



şahin uçar’s, speculum mentis:

as a holistically integrated consciousness of different lights, To repeat tolstoy, “philosophical principles can only be understood in their concrete expression in history.” (by philosophy of history). To repeat tolstoy The leaves of a tree deligt us more than the roots. şahin uçar, begins from ego sum qui sum:


. Philosophy of History

By Paul Newall (2005)

History may not seem to have much to do with philosophy but—just as we have already seen with science, politics and art—it relies on philosophical assumptions and concepts as much as any other subject. In this discussion we’ll introduce some of the philosophical issues within history and hence try to gain a deeper appreciation of it. First, however, we need to know what we’re dealing with.

What is History?

This may seem like a straightforward question but often an equivocation is made between two distinct uses of the word:

  • History asthe past; and
  • History as anaccount of the past.

These are quite different. The first is what we mean when we say “it’s all history now”, which becomes obvious if we just rephrase it as “it’s all in the past now”. The second, on the other hand, is implied when we talk of the history of the Great War, say, or the history of science. This distinction is sometimes quite subtle: when we refer to the history of a period or event we mean not just what happened (the past) but also how and why. Some thinkers have suggested that a way to clear this up definitively is to use history for the second meaning and simply call the past the past.

What is history, then? In the first instance, the past would seem to be just the past: what happened before, whether in a specific period or just generally before now. (An interesting related question is to ask whether the past exists or not.) The problem arises when we try to decide what history is in the second sense. According to the historian Elton:


The study of history … amounts to a search for the truth.

As a consequence of this perspective, we could say that history is the true account of the past. We have already seen that there are different understandings of truth, but in this case we are speaking of a correspondence between what actually happened in the past and an account of it. Later we will look at whether this conception of history stands up to scrutiny and, if not, what could replace it.

Another question we could ask is “what is the purpose of history?” That is, what is itfor? Why do we study history in the first place? There are several possible responses:

  • For its own sake;
  • To find out the truth about the past;
  • To try to understand where we came from;
  • To try to understand why a particular event happened;
  • To find historical laws;
  • To justify actions in the present.

We will consider difficulties with some of these below.

What is the Philosophy of History?

The philosophy of history is concerned with the concepts, methods and theories used in history; on the other hand, historiography is the study of the writing of history. When we analyse these we can begin to say something about what history is, as well as what it is not or cannot be. A distinction is generally made between two branches of the philosophy of history: speculative and critical. The latter is concerned with investigating those things already mentioned, while the former tries to find a pattern behind historical events—hidden from sight, as it were, until the historian discovers it.

To appreciate where the philosophy of history differs from and expands on history itself we can refer to Hayden White’s explanation:


The principal difference between history and philosophy of history is that the latter brings the conceptual apparatus by which the facts are ordered in the discourse to the surface of the text, while history proper (as it is called) buries it in the interior of the narrative, where it serves as a hidden or implicit shaping device…

Although this may seem confusing, the important part is the emphasis on “conceptual apparatus”: according to White, the philosophy of history brings to light the implicit assumptions that historians rely on and that – more importantly, perhaps – have consequences for their accounts. We shall examine some of these now.

Whose History?

If we go into the history section of a good bookshop and look around, we tend to find plenty of titles on the same familiar subjects: wars, revolutions or other so-called defining moments. In a large or particularly high quality store we can see that there are histories of all sorts of things and all kinds of people (although we search in vain for a copy of the much sought after academic volume Funny Things Hugo Said). However, we do not see all of history: people, places, events and periods are left out—as they must be, given that there are only so many historians, so much time and so many records to look to. This to say that history is always less than the past. After all, who is writing the history of what we are doing right now?

How do we decide which histories are written, then? Obviously there are commercial considerations to bear in mind, but the academic papers that tend to be the basis for the more popular accounts are not so constrained. How do historians choose what to write about (and how to do it – historiography), apart from the straightforward criterion of something that interests them? For some historians this is an easy question: they work on significant issues from the past. Why the French Revolutionaries decided to act is significant, while what they ate for breakfast is probably not.

An objection raised in recent times, especially by so-called postmodernists, is to ask who decides what is significant: who or what is worth the historian’s attention? Although the example above may seem trivial, they say, not everything is so clear-cut and the allocation of significance is a value judgement. In particular, some groups are very much underrepresented—such as women and minorities. Indeed, given the sheer number of women who have lived in the past, it is hard to argue with feminist claims that women have been excluded from history in almost systematic fashion.

Already, then, we can see that some of the high aspirations for history may not be so easy to maintain. Nevertheless, there is another issue that follows immediately: how do we address this imbalance in history, deliberate or otherwise? Feminist historians, for example, are trying to reappraise the role of women in the past; but this means that they are writing with a purpose in mind. Some philosophers of history suggest that this is not limited to marginalised perspectives but that ideological positions are inevitable. Later we’ll consider some of the arguments for why this is so, but for the time being we can note that it would imply that our original “what is history?” becomes “what is the aim of a particular history?”

Explanation and Description

Another distinction made in the philosophy of history is between history asdescription and history as explanation. Those advocating the former suggest that the role of history is only to describe what happened in the past – this much and no further. Others say that history does (or must) do more: it must go beyond description and explain why an event happened as it did (or at all). Thus an account of what occurred in (and before) the French Revolution is not enough—it also has to explain why the Revolution happened at all, not least because there appears to be no contradiction or impossibility in supposing that it might not have.

According to some such thinkers, history as description is like bookkeeping; but someone else has to come along and check the figures to see what the sales meanand to understand why people bought one thing and not another. Although the entries (or “what happened”) are vital, they are not enough to be history.

Historical Causes

If we take it as given that the historian has to provide an explanation for an historical event, does it make sense to talk about historical causes? As we saw in our thirteenth discussion, causation is a difficult concept with many associated philosophical problems. Even so, one place we can start is to distinguish betweennecessary and sufficient causes via the more general notion of necessary and sufficient conditions.

necessary condition is one that must be satisfied before we can say that something belongs to a class. Much like a guessing game, then, if someone is thinking of an animal that happens to be a horse, we could ask lots of questions that give us the conditions that are necessary for something to be a horse. For instance, a horse has:

  • Four legs;
  • Hooves;
  • A mane;

… and so on. If an animal is to be a horse, these conditions must be satisfied. An animal without hooves cannot be a horse (unless some notorious wit is thinking of a seahorse). A question like “does it have a mane?” answered in the negative would tell us that the animal cannot be a horse (or a male lion, and so on) because a necessary condition for being a horse is having a mane.

sufficient condition, on the other hand, is one that is enough to conclude immediately that we have—in this example—a horse. If someone asks, say, “does the animal compete with rider in show jumping?” and receives an answer in the affirmative, we know it must be a horse without any need for further questions. Thus this answer suffices to conclude that we have a horse.

This is a simplistic instance because we do not say that a horse with only three legs is no longer equine. In general, a necessary condition for x to be a y is one of potentially very many that have to be satisfied before we can say “x is a y“, while a sufficient condition is one that includes all the necessary conditions and is enough on its own.

To return to historical causes, how far back do we need to go and how wide do we need to look before we can speak of what caused an event to happen? Suppose we take an example like the advent of science and ask, “what caused the rise of science?” Historians of science say that this is a vague question, but necessarycauses would take the form of a list of things that were, in the judgement of the historian, required before science could develop. A sufficient cause, however, would be a single event that could bring about science on its own. Almost immediately we can see that the latter course is too ambitious: historical events, it would seem, arecomplex; that is, they are the result of many different factors, so that to look for justone as a cause is perhaps a mistake (although we might speak of more or less important factors).

Nevertheless, another problem with historical causes is that the notion of causality has been brought into history from science and some philosophers of history feel that this was a mistake. The main difference, they say (apart from the epistemological problems we will come to later), is that the actionsmotives and other foibles of people are involved in historical events, unlike causal chains in science. When we say that an illness was caused by a virus, for instance, we mean that there was a link between the two that did not depend on the political opinions or upbringing of the person getting sick, say. If, on the other hand, we want to say that the French Revolution was caused by Royal excess, it doesn’t explain much. Why did Louis XIV act in one way and not another? What was the influence of his childhood, or his advisors? What of all the other people involved? And so on. The causal chain is rendered far more complex by the involvement of the human factor, or so the argument goes.

Since history (or, more accurately, the past) is continuous, when can we stop and say that a cause has been found? The difficulty lies in ending the quest for causes in a way that is not arbitrary or according to the whim of the historian. One response is to suggest that we have a cause (or set of causes) when we have enough to offer anexplanation of an event. The philosopher of history R.G. Collingwood proposed that a necessary cause in historical investigation is one such that without it the subsequent actions would make no sense. Similarly, a sufficient cause is one that would make the course of events that followed considered “rationally required”. That means, for example, that a necessary cause of the Boer War would be one anyexplanation of the war must include to be convincing; while a sufficient cause would be one that, once it happened, would seem to make the war inevitable.

Historical Laws

Expanding on the question of historical causes and continuing the parallels with science, some historians and philosophers of history have claimed that it is possible to find historical laws, meaning much the same as we do when we talk of scientific laws. An historical law might take the form “whenever x happens, y is bound to follow”; so that, for instance, it could be claimed that “states always turn to war when their resources are insufficient for their population” is an historical law. For those who suppose that it is meaningful to talk of such laws, historical investigation would be the way to check the claim.

Several objections have been made to the very idea of historical laws, of which Popper’s The Poverty of Historicism is perhaps the most famous (historicism being, in this case, the belief that historical laws exist). We have already seen that some philosophers find laws to be problematic. Another complaint is to say, with Oakeshott, that history is always concerned with the particular, not the general. In reply, it is said that occurrences in science are no less unique; but what is sought is the general case that can be described with general concepts. Since history uses these just as science does—with terms like “revolution”, “conflict”, and so on—there is no reason to suppose that the search for laws must fail.

A further criticism is to say—again—that history is concerned with the actions of people and that hence an historical law would have to account for the reasons why a person acted as they did. In response it is said that laws have the form “a person, acting in a rational way in situation A, will invariably do B”. In this way A and B constitute the reasons for acting and the action itself. This is not to say that an irrational person may not do otherwise or that other reasons may change the situation, but only to generalise empirically.

Karl Popper took a distinct line of attack. The error in supposing historical laws to exist, he suggested, lies in supposing history to be similar to science when it differs in one crucial respect: scientific laws apply to closed systems, whereas history—composed of the actions of individuals—is neither closed nor even a system at all. Moreover, the growth of scientific knowledge added to this point: since knowledge has an effect on human behaviour and hence history, we can only predict history via laws if we can also predict the growth of knowledge. If we could do that, however, we would already know it. As a result, there can be no historical laws.

Facts in History

Given the importance of “what really happened” to history, it makes sense to ask if matters are as clear-cut as perhaps some people (including historians) suppose. Here we’ll look at the uses that facts in history are put to and if we can say that there are such facts in the first place.

Facts and Interpretation

It seems a commonplace that we have historical facts to work with, such as “there was a world war between 1939 and 1945”. Even so, these apparently simple facts are not the business of history; instead, it is their combination as explanations that we have seen is taken (usually) to be the historian’s task. However, a question asked by philosophers of history is how much of history is fact and how much interpretation? Since facts themselves are silent, goes the argument, the historian must interpret them to understand their meaning. This interpretive dimension is unavoidable and is added by the historian—it is not “already there”, like the facts are supposed to be. This suggests that we can never get past interpretation to the ultimate meaning or definitive account of the past.

Generally speaking, working historians tend to be unaware of this concern or remain unconvinced by its import. Although interpretation goes on, they say, most facts are not disputed or subject to contention and there is wide agreement about the majority of historical issues. When debate takes place amongst historians, it is at the margins—around a central core agreed by (almost) everyone. For example, most of the facts about the Second World War are known, with discussion not really calling much of this body of knowledge into doubt.

The difficulty with this response is that it overlooks a glaring assumption: namely, that this centre is fixed. Instead, it lies on a spectrum of possible interpretations of the same facts. An example given by Jenkins is that of historical accounts in the old Soviet Union, in which the facts about the Second World War were interpreted from an agreed centre that differed significantly from the centre used by Western European historians. The mistake lies in supposing that a particular centre is the onlypossibility. The problem of interpretation comes up again on another level when we ask how one centre comes to dominate historical discourse, rather than another.

Historical Facts

A difficulty of an altogether different order arises when we begin to look closely at historical facts. To begin with, the term “facts” is loaded: what historians are actually confronted with are fragmentary accounts or traces of the past that are subsequently organised into facts. As we saw in our sixth discussion, facts are theory-laden; and for historians they are doubly so, as it were. The historian constructs an account of the past from other accounts, the evidence he or she refers to consisting in the accounts left by others. These accounts record not facts but what people in the past considered important, selected, interpreted and given from their particular perspective.

We will dwell on this area because of its importance. Consider:

  • The records we have of the past are incomplete and must always be so.
  • People in the past did not record everything, any more than we do today.
  • The historian relies on the observation and memories of others in the past for the accuracy of these records.
  • The past has gone and hence cannot be recalled to check the accuracy of our accounts of it.
  • The past is studied from a modern view, using contemporary concepts and understandings.

Several of these are specific concerns that we will return to later.

The problem for the historian is that there is no way around this epistemological issue. If he or she tries to check the truth of an account by it correspondence with “what actually happened”, this appeal is found to be empty. Unlike science, where reference is made to reality, there is no historical reality within reach: all we have are traces of the past, accounts of others that may or may not be accurate. In the absence of any way to say whether they are or not, can it be meaningful to speak of historical truth? We will come to this question below, but for now we can note that the only way to check an historical account is by comparison with others. Thus the historian is forced, as it were, into retreating to a coherence theory of truth. The traces we have can function as limits to interpretation, such than any history has to take them into account (whether by incorporating them or discounting them, with reasons for both), but they cannot determine which of a multiplicity of possible histories within the boundary provided is more accurate. In a sense, then, we have the problem of under-determination from the philosophy of science that we studied before, only much worse.

Language in History

These philosophical concerns may be all very well, but do they really impact on history in a significant way? One way to see that they do is to look at the language used in historical accounts and ask if it possible to use a neutral, value- (or theory) free language to discuss the past. The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is no: the words we use reveal perspectives because of the epistemological problems identified above.

A well-known example is the adage that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. Should an historian call the crossing of an army from one state to another in the past a war, a disagreement, a liberation, or any number of other possibilities, none of which are theoretically neutral? Is an internal conflict an uprising, an insurrection or a revolution? Is calling it a conflict already to prejudge it? Even something as apparently straightforward as a World War is only obvious to those that share the interpretive framework and may not have the same meaning for everyone—Bushmen, for instance. We can say that the historian describes the event in a way enjoined upon him or her by the evidence, but—as we said before—the records from the past are silent and do not insist on any particular reading. Moreover, the same problem was present for those who recorded events in the first place.

The historian can try to tread a fine line, attempting to avoid describing events from the past in loaded terms, but the very act of composing an account reveals choices made. Consider, for instance, an art historian: by deciding to give the history of a painting, he or she presupposes implicitly that the work is art—not trash. We have seen in our seventh piece, however, that deciding what is or is not art is far from simple. As soon as the historian opens his or her account, decisions are made about what to include or exclude. This leads us, then, to the question of historical method.

Historical Method

According to Hayden White:


… the so-called ‘historical method’ consists of little more than the injunction to ‘get the story straight’ (without any notion of what the relation of ‘story’ to ‘fact’ might be) and to avoid both conceptual overdetermination and imaginative excess (i.e., enthusiasm’) at any price.

In this section we’ll look at the situation within history and see if it is as bad as White insisted.

What Method?

When we look for the historian’s method we are faced with the same problem as the similar quest for the scientific method: an overabundance of choices. Jenkins makes this painfully clear when he asks:


… would you like to follow Hegel or Marx or Dilthey or Weber or Popper or Hempel or Aron or Collingwood or Dray or Oakeshott or Danto or Gallie or Walsh or Atkinson or Leff or Hexter? Would you care to go along with modern empiricists, feminists, the Annales School, neo-Marxists, new-stylists, econometricians, structuralists or post-structuralists, or even Markwick… to name but twenty-five possibilities?

Each of these (and more besides) is an example of a methodology that is consistent, gets results and is profitable for its users. Unfortunately, however, the epistemological difficulties identified above make a choice between them a tricky matter: what criteria should we use to decide which, if any, is the “best” method? We cannot compare their accuracy in getting at the past because there is no such beast.

Unlike science, then, where we can at least try to say that experiment is better than guesswork by reference to something like reality, with history we have nothing to appeal to but other accounts. We might propose that the structuralists explain something better than the feminists, say, but that can only mean that the explanation accords with most or all of the available records of the relevant past and that the account “makes sense”, explaining matters satisfactorily. None of these terms (“accords with”, “makes sense” or “satisfactorily”) can be given a rigorous definition precisely because a history can only convince subjectively within the boundary set by the traces of the past we have. It can never go beyond them and invite comparison with “what actually happened.”

In summary, there are historical methods but no historical method. The same goes for science and hence this should probably not be surprising, reflecting the breadth of history rather than a shortcoming.


Sometimes we hear the complaint that an historian is not ideologically neutral. What we can learn from the discussion of method, however, is that there is no neutral position from which to do history. It may be the case that an historian distorts (or outright lies about) his or her sources, thus going beyond the boundary set on his or her account by the records of the past, but otherwise history from one perspective is no closer to the past than from another. The complaint that a particular history is based on ideology is rather hollow, then.

Perhaps a less ambitious understanding of the role of ideology in history is to note that people—not just historians—use history as a means to ground or legitimate themselves? Where we have come from can tell us where we are going or justify claims we want to make in the present. We see this practice often enough in attempts to validate the assertion that a country (or crown) justly belongs to one group and not another, or even in the popularity of family trees.

We might want to call a Marxist history of Europe ideological, but why are the alternatives any different? Each seeks to understand the past from within an inevitable framework. As we touched on above, the choice of one word (“invasion”, say) instead of another (“liberation”) only makes sense within a perspective that leads us to choose one and not the other. Rather than dismiss certain ideologies, then, perhaps it would be better to examine them and hence try to counteract the unavoidable influence of our own?


The historian has a potential way out of these concerns, however: empathy. By studying his or her sources in great depth and at length, it is said, the historian can begin to empathise with his or her subject(s) and gain an understanding from their perspective. This is the historical skill or tool that helps avoid many of the epistemological and other difficulties and grants the historian a privileged ability to say what motivated people in the past and why they acted as they did.

There are several reasons why philosophers of history find this wholly unconvincing. The first is the general philosophical problem of other minds, in which it is asked how we can ever know the content of another mind; that is, what someone else is (or was) thinking. This is compounded by the distance between the past and the historian. Another objection is revealed by Croce’s dictum that “all history is contemporary history”, which is to say that although historical sources are from the past they must nevertheless be read in the present. This makes the historian atranslator of meaning, but he or she has to do so from his or her own perspective that—as we have seen—is never neutral. In like fashion, Dewey wrote that “all history is necessarily written from the standpoint of the present”. Given that the historian is using contemporary concepts, methodologies, epistemological assumptions, modern understandings of words, and so on, how can these be fully (or partially) shed to empathise with those in the past?


A charge often made against historical accounts in criticism is that they are guilty ofanachronism. Perhaps the best way to appreciate what this means is to use an example.

Some historians of science point to the work of Newton and note that, in addition to his work on mechanics, mathematics and other areas for which he is famous, he also spent the better part of his time studying alchemy and biblical prophecy. According to some, this is at best a shame and at worst a tragedy: imagine what Newton could have achieved if he had not wasted his time on the latter subjects, putting all his efforts into the former.

The problem here is that contemporary ideas or values are projected backwards: although we may think that alchemy is a hopeless endeavour (or we may not), that is not to say that Newton did. A similar question asked in his time (“think you alchemy a waste of time, sir?”) may or may not have been answered differently, but since we do not know what he thought (except insofar as we could guess that his efforts suggest he would not agree) we cannot say that he should have acted otherwise without being anachronistic.

From the discussion of empathy we can see that a certain amount of anachronism is unavoidable. Nevertheless, the value judgement that alchemy is worthless is not forced upon the historians by the records he or she has of the past, hence the objection that to say so is anachronistic.

Truth in History

At this point in our discussion, the notion of truth in history seems to have taken a battering. Now we’ll look at possible ways to save it and see if we can breathe life back into it.

Truth as a goal

Earlier we learned that some historians consider their task to be the search for the truth. In spite of the apparent impossibility of ever achieving that, they still maintain that it is worth aiming for. However, if—as we have seen—the truth is not a meaningful concept in history, how can striving for it fare any better?

Thinking back to our long look at truth in our tenth piece, what we see is that these historians are employing a correspondence theory—trying to match up the past and our accounts of it. Whatever we think of correspondence (or semantic) theories in general, it is at least clear that they are inappropriate for history. Instead, the realisation that the only way to test historical accounts is by comparison with others suggests that history requires a coherence theory, with Joyce, Appleby and Hunt calling for “well-documented and coherently argued interpretations that link internally generated meanings to external behaviour”.

Given that the historian is faced with nothing but traces of the past, combined and recombined into accounts but never any more than that, he or she can try to construct a new account that coheres with what is available. As further sources are found, the process begins anew and some previous accounts may be shown to be false. As we found when discussing truth, this gets the historian no closer to “what actually happened”, but what it does do is follow the way he or she works with the available material.

Critics of this understanding suggest that the historian is actually working with apragmatic theory of truth. History is linked, like truth, to power, with accounts serving to support or undermine dominant or marginalised histories. On this view, truth and falsity serve to shut down interpretations that do not accord with what is useful for a society or group.


Another important concept in history is bias, the idea that traces of the past or accounts of it can be intentionally distorted to serve the purposes of the historian. However, bias only makes sense alongside the similar existence of unbiased accounts; that is, with the assumption that true stories exist that correspond to the past and from which biased versions differ. Since this has been thoroughly undermined, there being no neutral position from which to judge the degree of difference, where does it leave bias?

In some sense, as we said, we can identify where an historian has gone beyond the limits of interpretation given by his or her sources. However, histories that do not rely on a correspondence theory of truth can speak of failing to cohere with other accounts or say that using history in different ways need not be biased but just a difference in goals or methods. In general, if the problem of bias is present within all histories then—again—perhaps a diversity of approaches can help appreciate what historians can achieve instead of striving after correspondence?

Philosophies of History

In our final section we come to speculative philosophies of history—attempts to find patterns in or a structure to history. We’ll consider two general approaches to take to history and then look at two classes of theory in the philosophy of history.

Historical Realism

The notion of historical realism is analogous to its scientific counterpart and supposes that the concepts and theories employed in history get at reality—in this case, historical reality or “what really happened”. In particular, the past exists independently of what we think of it. It relies, as we might expect, on a correspondence understanding of truth: even if a particular theory (or account) may not be true, it is more or less accurate by comparison and the aim of historians is (or should be) the truth.

As we have seen above, and as a survey of the scholarly literature within historiography would show, historical realism is a thoroughly discredited position, often disparaged as naïve realism (in the pejorative sense). Nevertheless, there are still very many historians who adopt it and some philosophers of history have lambasted their unwillingness to face up to the failings of realism. However, still others advocate a much-reduced conception of the kind of objectivity that is possible (“defined anew as a commitment to honest investigation, open processes of research, and engaged public discussions of the meaning of historical facts” for Joyce, Appleby and Hunt) and point out that few practising historians today ever believed in this kind of realism in the first place.

Historical Anti-representationalism

In opposition to the realists, having accepted the criticisms given, historical anti-representationalists contend that the correspondence theory of truth within history has to be given up and the constructs of historians understood as fictions, not closer and closer approximations of the past as it happened. They may suggest that a coherence theory of truth is more appropriate or that talk of truth should be dropped completely, “what actually happened” being ultimately meaningless within history since it is forever inaccessible. Historians’ accounts are to be read as attempts to organise the available traces of the past in a coherent way, not to latch on to something that cannot be found.

Much work is still to be done in responding to anti-representationalist ideas, particularly with questions relating to the ancient world. Anti-representationalists hope that a history that can come to terms with its limitations will provide us with more interesting and significant accounts of the past.

Linear Theories

Some philosophers of history, most notably Hegel, have proposed that history proceeds in a line—hence linear—and so is directional, or “going somewhere”. For those holding to a linear theory, history is a process that unfolds towards a final goal. This is a progressive view in which what came before was in a sense more “primitive” than now, while what will follow will be an advancement, until such time as the limit is reached. A quote from Hegel that gives a nice example is his remark that:


… the Eastern nations knew only that one is free; the Greek and Roman world only thatsome are free; while we know that all men absolutely (man as man) are free.

On this view, then, the development of the notion and application of freedom is an instance of a linear advancement.

Although the concept of teleology (discussed in our fifteenth piece) has come in for much criticism when applied to life, many people do seem to feel that we can justifiably say that we have progressed from the past and, moreover, that this is likely to continue into the future. For linear theories this is an inevitability—the playing out of historical laws or plans—which is separate from the idea that progress is contingent: it has occurred but need not have. A further distinction is to ask whether we should say that progress is strictly linear or whether a civilisation (or history in general) can advance and regress, showing a pattern of progress overall but not necessarily in all specific periods. The objections made to historical laws also apply to any speculative philosophy of history.

Cyclical Theories

Another class of theories holds that history proceeds in cycles. The philosopher of history most commonly associated with cyclical theories is Toynbee, who suggested that all civilisations showed a similar pattern of growth, dominance and decay. Using examples from ancient history, he divided the past into several complete civilisations and tried to demonstrate that they each arose through responding to challenging circumstances, developed into fully-fledged societies before eventually crumbling. He used these case studies to look for patterns and hence derive historical laws.

In criticising his work (which, at ten volumes, is far too extensive to effectively summarise here), it was pointed out that it is unreasonable to suppose that general laws could be found on the basis of at most thirty-two examples. Another, more significant problem is that civilisations—not clearly defined by Toynbee—do not exist in isolation and continuation between them is not accounted for in positing their demise. Perhaps the most damning aspect to his work, however, was his refusal to announce the doom of our own civilisation when his studies—if we accept their conclusions—pointed to that conclusion with no likelihood of reprieve.


  1. the quest for meaning: Nosce te ipsum- beginning from the meaning of self existence, self identiy and Mind

 gnosis is a quest which begins from self knowledge tries to discover the meaning of life and existence in toto)

.cosmic consciousness as mystical experience: nunc aeterna


man, being and space-time; syncronical and diacronical existence, history as time…



THIRD  Chapter


 Mind’s Frame of reference: observation, memory, imagination, contemplation

we are trying to answer proklyatye voprosy: what is to be done, how should one live, why are we here, what must we be and do?

tarihte bir oryantasyon arayışı, insanlık tarihinin en önemli nirengi noktalarına bakarak:



Orientation, events horizon

we are trying to answer proklyatye voprosy: what is to be done, how should one live, why are we here, what must we be and do?

insanlık tarihinin en önemli nirengi noktaları:tarihte anlamlı bir pattern (örüntü, kalıp) var mı? kültür kalıpları kültürler  medeniyetler sanayi devrimi  medeniyet ötesi bir çağa geçişin sancıları


Projection: post humanity, metaphysical consciousness

a guide map of futuristic landscape: the fate of humanity

çağımızın bunalımı/ neye inanmalı: kimlik ve inanç, nereye gidiyoruz, uzaya mı? dünya tarihinin sonu mu?

a guide map of futuristic landscape: the fate of humanity

nereye gidiyoruz, uzaya mı? dünya tarihinin sonu mu?

. a guide map of action: What is to be done?

medeniyet ötesi bir çağa geçişin sancıları

The limits of my language means the limits of my world

space-time s alexander

Demokrasi, Anarşi, Adhokrasi ve Meritokrasi



we are trying to answer proklyatye voprosy: what is to be done, how should one live, why are we here, what must we be and do? tarihte bir oryantasyon arayışı, insanlık tarihinin en önemli nirengi noktalarına bakarak:

  2. ThirdChapter
  3. Mind’s Frame of reference
  4. Speculum mentis III: Gnosis.

orientation & Projection:


UNDERSTANDING: observation, memory, imagination, contemplation
 the quest for meaning: Nosce te ipsum- beginning from the meaning of self existence, self identiy and Mind
gnosis is a quest which begins from self knowledge tries to discover the meaning of life and existence in toto)
.cosmic consciousness as mystical experience: nunc aeterna

man, being and space-time; syncronical and diacronical existence, history as time…



Orientation, events horizon

we are trying to answer proklyatye voprosy: what is to be done, how should one live, why are we here, what must we be and do?

insanlık tarihinin en önemli nirengi noktaları:tarihte anlamlı bir pattern (örüntü, kalıp) var mı? kültür kalıpları kültürler  medeniyetler sanayi devrimi  medeniyet ötesi bir çağa geçişin sancıları  tarihte bir oryantasyon arayışı, insanlık tarihinin en önemli nirengi noktalarına bakarak:








FOURTH Chapter


What is necessarily determined in Space, is contingent, in Time.”

istoria est terra incognita sed quantumcumque istoria homo-sapiens 200000 annos.

.the meaning of our existence


the quest for the meaning throughout Time

a new framework of reference: i.e. novum metaphysicum

, nunc aeterna

“What is necessarily determined in Space, is contingent, in Time.”

we are trying to answer proklyatye voprosy: what is to be done, how should one live, why are we here, what must we be and do? tarihte bir oryantasyon arayışı, insanlık tarihinin en önemli nirengi noktalarına bakarak:




Time binding


What is time? Change Synchronic, diachronic, arrow of time, myth of passage, creative evolution


 Time and existence space-time point instants

thought advances by the correction of corrections by correction.” Quoth Douglas Templeton


Time, meaning and destiny


Mind’s comprehension of time

Humanity had begun with the art: creating tools and language which uses metaphors as tools as poetry (“Poema” simply means “that which is made… or creation.”  It means “work of art.”) by his imagination. Then comes beliefs. After a while he makes science and philosophy. Real historical understanding or historical worldview (historicism) appears with reanaissance and develops later on. Real Methodology and Philosophy of history begins in 20th century. 21st century it is the time for gnosis -a real quest for meaning- we began to decipher the meaning of existence


Goedel’s ontological proof as inspired by St. Anselm and Leibnitz

Bismillah. alimet nefsün mâ kaddemet ve ahheret…


Gödel’s ontological proof as inspired by St Augustine & St Anselm…

.et cognoscetis veritatem et veritas liberabit vos.
Ve Hakîkat râ hâhîd şinaht ve Hakîkat şümâ râ âzâd hâhed kerd:

Ve Hakîkati bileceksiniz ve hakikat sizi hür kılacak

Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas

z’an taalluk kerd bâ cism-î ilâh

tâ ki gerded cümle âlem râ penâh”

Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo, quia, nisi credidero, non intelligam. ” (“Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.”) St. Anselm

bu dünya yalan (geçici ve değişken) çünkü şuura göre biçimleniyor, yalan dünyada gerçeklik arıyoruz. ilim şuurun dışında objektif gerçek aramakta haklı matematik de ideal gerçeklik aramakta haklı ama ikisi de hissedilebilir/ölçülebilir cansız madde ile ve kulandığı teknikler ile sınırlı. Tarih ve yani tarih felsefesi hadiselerin hikayesini gelişme safhalarını anlatabildiği ölçüde mevzuya başka açıdan bir ışık tutabilir ise de o da cognitive dir dini tecrübe ve mistik şuur da öyle. Felsefe bütün bunların semantik tahlil ve tenkidini yapmak bakımından faydalı ise de hadisatı kavramaya müsait değil. Felsefenin gücü buna yetmez. ( Mülk ve Hilafet kitabımın sonunda, işte tam bu ma’nâda, söylediğim bir sözü hatırlıyorum: cognitia historiana cognitia factorum: tarihî anlayış, hâdiseleri, vâkıaları anlamaktır; felsefenin buna gücü yetmez.”… hasıl-ı kelam hülasatül meram) Gerçekliği tarif etmeye bu insani şuur yetmiyor. Sanat zaten kendi mutasavver dünyasını inşa ediyor ve sadece yaratıcı faaliyete ilham vemek bakımından müsmir olabilir. Ilahi şuur zaten dünya ve anlamak istediğimiz realie. Insani şuur nakıs olduğuna göre ancak insanın kendi varlık tarzı ve şuurunu aşması halinde daha yüksek bir anlayışa ulaşması mümkün olabilir. Şu halde insanlık grçrkliği daha iyi anlamak istiyorsa bunun için kendini aşmaya çalışmalıdır. Insanlık kendi sınırlarını aşabilir mi?

Ferdi sınırları aşabilmek için bütün şuur biçimlerini anlamaya çalışmak benim daimi meşgalem oldu ise de bunun ancak bir ölçüde mümkün olduğunu ve anlayışa diğer insanlara göre fazla olsa da matluba göre gayet az faydası olduğunu a bittecrübe gördüm. Insanlık olarak bu şartlar altında bunu bu kadar dahi gerçekleştirmemiz mümkün değil. Şu halde insanlık tekamül etmeli ama zamanı sınırlı zamanı olduğu için hızlı tekamül etmeli. Demek ki eugenic dahil dna ya müdahele edilmeli ve insan idraki yardımcı aletler ile de desteklenmeli. Bu da geleceğimizi mutant ve cyborg karışımı bir insanlık şeklinde tasavvur etmek anlamına gelir. Mümkünse dna ikili yerine üçlü sarmal -edirne üçşerfelideki gibi-biçimine dönüştürülebilir mesela. Bugün itibariyle değil böyle bir müdahele dna yı anlayabilmekten bile çok uzaktayız ancak idraki mutasyon ve yardımcı şuur aletleriyle artırdığımız tekamül etmiş bir insanlık bunu bizden daha iyi anlayabilir ve belki de gerçekleştirebilir. Tabii ömür ortalaması ve kalitesinin de çok artırılmış olması gerekir.

Devlet- mülkiyet-aile-cemiyet ve fert gibi kavramların yok olacağı bir dünyadan bahsediyoruz. Gerçi bunlar zaten iyi ve meşru şEyler de değildi. Bu gelişmeler yüksek orand bir kıyamet riski de ihtiva edecektir. Bu riske rağmen ayakta kalabilirse bile böyle tekamül ettiğini farz ettiğimiz insanların artık insan sayılamayacağı ve bu anlamda beşeriyetin sonu gelmesi anlamında kıyamet kesin görünüyor ve 30 yıl içinde bütün emareleri ortaya çıkar.

Çok Büyük bir dünya harbi veya başka bir felaket sebebiyle insanlık büyük ölçüde yok olur ve kalanlar iptidai avcılık şartlarına dönebilişrse insan ırkı bugünkü şekliyle devam etme şansına kavuşur. Ama o takdirde ugünkünden bile daha kötü bir insanlık manzarası muhtemeldir.

Sen yoksun bu benlikler hep vehm ü gümanındır. Çün perde berüfted ne tü mani vü ne men.

Memory increase plus conjecture is already established by mobil-internet.

Singular conscieousness is easy to implant via chip to brain

to rapair and improve.body by transcending and implanting parts of body like cyborgs : it is on its highway already.

What is lacking is AI and dna mutation and genetic engineering though they also are increasingly applied technics.

Singularity as it is called nowadays would then mean a singular humanity without personal consciousness. No society and no personality.

Shared and empowered consciousnes of that conglomeration of superhumanity could be considered as the evolution of humanity if it can change the structure of dna. e.g. trilateral dna which can improve consciousnnes and life expectancy

no need for children or overpopulation

working class : robots with artificial intelligence


To seek after Truth and Wisdom is the final goal of all studies, they all try to illuminate our mind each in their own way: But a quest for the meaning of truth throughout all time means you cannot accept to remain in the limited subject of any discipline. This means, whenever you need, you shall employ all methods of inquiry of all human endeavors.

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” Quoth Jesus… “Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest.”,_Higher_Dimensions,_and_the_Future_of_the_Cosmos.pdf

kehf suresi 300 yıl 309 zamanın durması

cosmic and metaphysical consciousness as mystical experience: nunc aeterna

Bir sâlik mertebe-i küfre vâsıl olub, o mertebeyi kat’ itmeyince tam müslümân olamaz. Bu mertebe iki islâm arasında bir berzah ol­duğundan orada tevakkuf iden sâlik tezânduk ider. Bu tevakkufdan Allah’a sığınırız. Ben dahî o mertebeye vâsıl oldum ve orada birçok zamanlar kaldım ise de lehü’l-hamd ve’l-minne inâyet-i ezeliyye imdâdiyle oradan kat’-ı mesafe iderek sâhil-i selâmete çıkdım! Şeyh bedreddin

çağımızın bunalımı: neye inanmalı: kimlik ve inanç

nereye gidiyoruz: dunya tarihinin sonu

gelecegi kurgulamak: ne yapmalı yahut insanlığın kaderi




  2. FOURTH Chapter:
  3. Speculum mentis IV: TIME & MIND

TIME and MIND: the ultimate meaning of Time and Being

Time binding

What is time?

Change, Synchronic, diachronic, arrow of time, myth of passage, creative evolution

Projection: post humanity, metaphysical consciousness

a guide map of futuristic landscape: the fate of humanity

çağımızın bunalımı/ neye inanmalı: kimlik ve inanç, nereye gidiyoruz, uzaya mı? dünya tarihinin sonu mu?

a guide map of futuristic landscape: the fate of humanity

nereye gidiyoruz, uzaya mı? dünya tarihinin sonu mu?

. a guide map of action: What is to be done?

medeniyet ötesi bir çağa geçişin sancıları

The limits of my language means the limits of my world

space-time s alexander

Demokrasi, Anarşi, Adhokrasi ve Meritokrasi


Transcendence, singularity




Memory and Time -past, present, future or nunc aeterna impossibility of synchronical time, time itelf as a framework of events

“There where is the nous, lies the treasure.” The Gospel of Mary, p. 10



Time and existence, space-time, point instants

Time, meaning and destiny

Mind’s comprehension of time

Mind, time and existence

Cosmic consciousnes

Absolute Being