Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Image schemas and nonduality

In researching the relationship between the ego and the witness I came upon this old IPS thread. I did a post on it here before but thought I'd refresh it, as it provides a sort of summary of various ideas from other threads. Some excerpts:

Here's an interesting seminar in the upcoming Science and Nonduality Conference connecting image schemas with nonduality. Recall I've done this is a number of threads.*

Image Schema May Reveal Something New About the Relationship Between Dualistic and Nondual Experiencing.

Dr. Frank Echenhofer (Professor of Clinical Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies)

"Over the last 15 years there has been a very interesting development within linguistics that may offer new insights regarding the relationship between dualistic thought and nondual experiencing. This development has been the research and writing regarding image schema, all artfully explained in Mark Johnson's book The Meaning of the Body. An image schema is one of many recurring pervasive cognitive structures that are formed from our bodily interactions, our linguistic experiences, and our culture. In contemporary cognitive linguistics, an image schema is considered an embodied prelinguistic structure of experience that shapes the mapping of conceptual metaphors.

"Research studies in cognitive psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience support this notion of image schema. This presentation will provide a new look at the relationship between dualistic and nondual experiencing in light of what is known about how image schemas shape our experiences."

* As a few examples, see this and this link.

I recall a recent thread linking to an Beams and Struts post that says Wilber, while trying to include a lot of different topics and fields, just gives a general overview of them and doesn't go into their details. And the devil (and god) is in the details and hence some of what Wilber "includes" is partial at best and often so incomplete as to challenge the very broad generalizations he makes. So let's return to the basis of thought in the body.

Wilber's infamous 4-quadrant graph shows the progression from prehension to irritibility, sensation, perception, impulse, emotions, symbols, concepts in the upper left quadrant. And indeed this is the hierarchy that L&J also recognize from their research. But unlike Wilber, in their detailed study of the specifics of this early development they uncover many things Wilber glosses over or ignores. (Or perhaps he just skimmed the material for a few choice quotes or ideas that fit his preconceived agenda and moved on?) For example, due to the structure of our brains perception requires that it reduce the multitude of sensations into smaller units for processing via categorization. And this inherent, biological, neural categorization is the very basis for all further developments into the more abstract kinds of thought like symbol and concept.

L&J get more refined that Wilber's general graph above as elucidated in this article. The basis of their hierarchy is the image schema involving sensori-motor and proprioceptive experience. These basic categories include part-whole realationships via gestalts and mental imagery. So here we have a physiological basis for the holon concept Wilber is so fond of. Holons aren't an apriori part of the structure of the universe apart from the brain that perceives them, just as math is not. Holons and math are not involutionary* but evolutionary givens firmly grounded in the body and its interactions with the environment. We can eliminate the metaphysical underpinnings of Wilber's edifice by simply going into the details of his own sources.

*You can also see from the footnote cited above how Wilber lists the 20 tenets as part of the involutionary givens, which are based the holon concept.

And another things occurs to me. From above we can see how later concepts like math and holons arise from very primitive brain and consciousness structures. All of which supports my oft-repeated thesis that as we meditate we go backward into these previous evolutionary structures but mistake them for involutionary or ultimate/absolute structures of the universe itself. Naturally these early brain and consciousness structures made no such claims. It was only at the latter levels of abstraction that we confused this, not having the benefit of such neuroscientific research to which L&J refer. However the likes of Wilber did have such access and if he'd taken the time to go into the details instead of shaping the broad generalities to fit his metaphysical agenda this wrong track could have been avoided. But he is not alone in this; the general developmentalist path did so too, like Commons et al but instead through the metaphysical math route. But both false reasonings arise from the same deficient-rational, formal-operational level and they don't have to with a few minor tweaks.

And from this one:

Recall page 7 of the real and false reason thread, where Iglowitz criticized nested hierarchies thus:
"This classical categorization therefore expresses an absolute, rigid and nested hierarchy of levels and containment. In Lakoff’s terms it expresses a hierarchical 'container schema.' Ultimately, (because they are nested), at the limits these processes specify (1) a largest concept: 'something,' (defined by no atomic properties), whose extension is 'everything,' and (2) a smallest concept: a particular 'object' in reality, (or possible reality), defined by all its atomic properties. Given the classical paradigm then, reason necessarily begins with 'something,' (the most general concept), and points, inexorably, to some 'thing,' i.e. a specific object."

This is a prime example of kennilingus in showing the dichotomous and metaphysical relationship between strict materialism and idealism. The type of nihilistic materialism referenced above though decries the notion of a fundamental constituent part as well as a fundamental general everything. I commented in page 7 of the referenced thread, discussing L&J's basic categories:

So our basic categories are embodied in image schemas that arise from our interactions with the world. Recall that one characteristic of these basic categories is the part-whole gestalt, aka hierarchy. Since image schemas and basic categories operate below conscious attention we’ve come to assume that they are inherent to the world themselves and thus project this notion of 'natural hierarchy,' with its most developed forms in Aristotelian nested, categorical hierarchies. All of which assumes a basic, particular and inherent 'constituent' as foundation at the bottom and/or a general and inherent 'being' as foundation at the top. Meanwhile the process actually begins in the middle of the classical taxonomy and we get more specific 'downward' and more general 'upward' from there on a useful but constructed hierarchy. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate hierarchy per se, just contextualizes it is a more naturalistic, nondual way and only eliminates its dualistic and metaphysical elements, elements which have some form of inclusivism and hegemony at its core. The notion of holons as involutionary givens is one of those metaphysical elements, and as we’ve seen this is much better explained by the part-whole gestalt properties of basic image schemas.

Following are some posts from “an IP definition of states” thread, quoting the previous “status of states” thread (link in the former thread). From Feb 21, 2009, 8:42 AM I said:

Here are some excerpts from New Developments in Consciousness Research by Vincent Fallio (Nova, 2007). For me it indicates that so-called “spiritual” states of consciousness probably arise in very early levels of consciousness and associated brain structures. Hence there is a very real sense in which “primordial” awareness is ancient, in that it arises from these early brain structures. But it is not timeless or absolute; it is grounded in our psychoneurophysiology.

"On a lower level can be found the state of alertness or of being conscious, which refers to a basic level of consciousness or matrix as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. This aspect of consciousness is clearly related to the concept of tonic attention, and is also related to neural mechanisms in the stimulatory reticular system, the thalamus, the limbic system, basal ganglia, and the prefrontal cortex' (81).

And from the Feb 21, 2009, 3:11 PM post quoting Fallio some more:

"…a basic level of consciousness as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. In this sense awareness could be related to a tonic or basic attention; it is therefore important to realize that this type of consciousness should be understood as a 'condition for' and not so much as a function or cognitive process. As a result of this it can be affirmed that this notion of consciousness, this state of being aware, is a state that does not contain information'" (68).

Then I said:

Balder opens the SOS thread discussion noting that states are enacted as well, not apriori, absolute, or timeless givens. Now if we look at tonic attention described above it is pre-reflective, something naturally "given" by virtue of our embodiment and with which we are familiar long before language or the "I." In that sense it is apriori and given. It is also close to being a direct correspondence with the natural environment, mediated only by the senses, which are accurate enough to allow for pragmatic interaction (survival) with said environment. But this tonic attention, which we share with the animal world, is not ecstasy or samadhi; it requires an "I" (which is social to begin with) to differentiate and qualify experience as such. And unless you're a wolf baby you're going to get your "I" fairly quickly, only to be alienated from your tonic "self" by formal operations, more or less so depending on your culture. As Levin makes clear, while this "I" might be in part the differentiation from the "self" (and hence gets bad press as antithetical to it), without this "I" to look back and integrate the likes of the tonic "self"* an integrated body-mind is not feasible. Unless you're born a wolf baby and never interact with humans you'll never get this unadulterated tonic attention back. Or you obtain cortical brain damage maybe, which does seem the case upon entering certain integral institutions. And metaphysical interpretations of such state experiences don't help the matter, as if they are separate from stages, a point Balder also makes in his opening statement. (Which metaphysical belief is a symptom of said brain damage.)

* I put "self" in scare quotes because it is ludicrous to call it that prior to the ego, as if it is the type of inherent, timeless, metaphysical and pristine "state" we re-discover like an ultimate Self, a retro-romantic notion. This is part of what needs to change in a postmeta description

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