Philosophy as peering

Paul Ennis on contemplative gaze, the purest form of conscious speculation. I concur. The best and most satisfying way to confirm one’s own phenomenological suspicions is to take a good look at the world around you. However, the act of confirmation constitutes the necessity of keeping a philosophical mind towards consciousness itself instead of pretending it isn’t there. Julian Jaynes outlined this nicely in 1976 ( brackets mine):

The most extensive possible solution [to the problem of consciousness] is attractive mostly to physicists. It states that the succession of subjective states that we feel in introspection has a continuity that stretches beyond into a fundamental property of interacting matter. The relationship of consciousness to what we are conscious of is not fundamentally different from the relationship of a tree to the ground in which it is rooted, or even of the gravitational relationship between two celestial bodies. The view was conspicuous in the first quarter of this century. What Alexander called compresence or Whitehead called prehension provided the groundwork of a monism that moved on to a flourishing school called Neo-Realism [now called speculative realism?]. If a piece of chalk is dropped on the lecture table, that interaction of chalk and table is different only in complexity from the perceptions and knowledges that fill our minds. The chalk knows the table just as the table knows the chalk. That is why the chalk stops at the table.

This is something of a caricature of a very subtly worked out position, but it nevertheless reveals that this difficult theory is answering quite the wrong question. We are not trying to explain how interaction with our environment, but rather the particular experience that we have in introspecting. The attractiveness of this kind of neo-realism was really a part of an historical epoch when the astonishing successes of particle physics were being talked of everywhere. The solidity of matter was being dissolveed into mere mathametical relationships in space, and this seemed like the same unphysical quality as the relationship of individuals conscious of each other.


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