Dr. Jack Hunter, Anthropology, Animism, Panpsychism and What’s Next|383|

#24
What do you make of animism vs idealism? Does the "vs" make sense? Or are we talking about two different categories?

Returning to that question, Jack Hunter makes the point that primitive societies should be listened to more, and we should avoid interpreting everything they say through Western cultural norms. I guess one thing is clear, they talk a lot about different spirits, and hardly at all about Idealism! This makes me wonder if we are still focused too much on a Western concept - namely the idea that reality should ultimately be incredibly simple.

Aren't we are in danger of taking a whole mass of complicated phenomena, and forcing them into the model of Idealism?

David
 
#25
I am not a philosopher but I think this article might be relevant, it's a guest post on Bernardo's blog:

https://www.bernardokastrup.com/2017/06/is-panpsychism-irreconcilable-with.html


My personal view is that the physical universe is like a simulation running, not in a computer, but in the mind of God (consciousness). That explains a lot, including all the evidence that the universe is a simulation and the evidence from quantum mechanics (double slit experiments, quantum entanglement, and the quantum Zeno effect) suggesting that consciousness is fundamental and that matter depends on consciousness for it's existence

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/occasionally-i-post-something-to.html#misc_universe_sim_god


The belief that the physical universe exists in the mind of God is found in the Christian tradition as Palamite Panentheism (that's pan-en-thesim, not to be confused with pantheism)

https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/realizing-ultimate.html
I think I generally agree with almost everything yr saying... I mean, at some point this gets down to the limits of language and the differences in our experience. it's just kinda funny to see folks who are coming from the strong belief in materialism try to warm up to panpsychism :)
 
#26
Still his "One School, One Planet" -- YIKES! Does this not scream of One World/New World Order Disney social programming?
I totally get yr point! I mean, I think Jack is coming from a really great place with what he's doing, but it's not like we can pretend like these other forces/influences are not at play.
 
#27
But, like Jack, I don't think that animism is the last word here. To me its more a political expression - in the sense that it stands as a clear counterpoint to materialism.
nicely put. thx.

However we are inherently conditioned by a cultural agency that delivers materialism and liberalism as a kind of toxic impost on our natural consciousness, which, I believe, is natively animistic. There's a thing in psychology whereby children go through an 'animistic' phase, and this is considered mostly to be some kind of inexplicable throw back to a 'primitive' 'pre-rational' mentality that is 'corrected' by proper education and mental conditioning. That's why children's stories are full of talking ducks, toothbrushes and sponges.

But I argue that our ancestors were naturally animistic. There was no mechanistic or materialistic option open to them.The human reality was full of spirits - agencies - persons. Retreat from animistic awareness has been an intellectual process that rendered the divine spiritually dull through theory and dogma. In fact we retain that native animism and it is everywhere present in our culture, at least in vestigial form, if we go looking with curiosity and an open mind.
wow... excellent!

seems self-evident when you put it that way :)


In New Zealand, for example, a river has been accorded the rights and dignities of personhood. It is an agent, not a thing, and hence, definitely not a resource whose passive objective attributes renders it ripe for exploitation.
I get yr point, but I think the policy crossover is wrought with so many problems that it's almost impossible to bring into the conversation. for example, "9/11 was an inside job" renders ALL geopolitical discussions meaningless... I suspect there's something similar at a local level.
 
#28
However we are inherently conditioned by a cultural agency that delivers materialism and liberalism as a kind of toxic impost on our natural consciousness, which, I believe, is natively animistic. There's a thing in psychology whereby children go through an 'animistic' phase, and this is considered mostly to be some kind of inexplicable throw back to a 'primitive' 'pre-rational' mentality that is 'corrected' by proper education and mental conditioning. That's why children's stories are full of talking ducks, toothbrushes and sponges.
I think young kids can probably tell us a lot about reality. For example, those kids are about the same age as the kids that Stephenson studied, that are (in some cases provably)aware of a former life.
But I argue that our ancestors were naturally animistic. There was no mechanistic or materialistic option open to them.
That could be interpreted as a negative comment - that our ancestors just made an understandable error. However, I don't suppose you meant it that way.
The human reality was full of spirits - agencies - persons. Retreat from animistic awareness has been an intellectual process that rendered the divine spiritually dull through theory and dogma. In fact we retain that native animism and it is everywhere present in our culture, at least in vestigial form, if we go looking with curiosity and an open mind.

My concern about asserting that everything is consciousness is not that it untrue, but that it is unhelpful as a guide for living. Yes that takes us away from materialism, but not as a guide. Understanding that our reality is a community of agencies demands a relational awareness as opposed to an analytical one. And that then leads us to think about conduct and values.
I am starting to backtrack on my belief in Idealism. If there are phenomena seem to be animistic spirits, it is probably best to treat them that way!
Idealism is in danger of taking on a role analogous to that of neuroscience - whatever people discover, they play lip-service to the idea that one or other ultimately explains it.

Maybe everything isn't in consciousness - where is the evidence?
In New Zealand, for example, a river has been accorded the rights and dignities of personhood. It is an agent, not a thing, and hence, definitely not a resource whose passive objective attributes renders it ripe for exploitation.
Wow that is seriously weird! Politics in the Western world has become pretty unhinged.

David
 
#30
We were given the apple, the knowledge of good and evil, in other words the power to choose. God didn't sacrifice his only son for our sins, god begat himself into individuated forms (the sons/suns/daughters) so that we CAN sin by relinquishing and distributing his own free will into the smaller whirlpools of consciousness and creating a veil of forgetting. This simulated material plane is held in a delicate balance to make choices/free will possible and it seems to be an incredible wonder of the universe despite how horrific the Earth can seem at times.
nice Bible recasting :)

I'd like to take a swipe at the liberalism jab as well, but I have other things to get to at the moment. How anyone can be "spiritual", but decry appeals to empathy is beyond me.
I'll add a jab... liberalism is a category error for the spiritual seeker.
 
#31
I like this a lot. For me and my way of looking at things, I wouldn't want to limit this idea to modeling the non-physical. I would want it to apply to modeling just about anything.

In the model I like to play around with, there's that which is known and there's that which is unknown.

In this model, "that which is known" includes anything a person can experience like thoughts, feelings, ideas, fantasies, beliefs, speculations, perceptions, desires, etc. "That which is unknown" is whatever we don't know and can't even imagine or fantasize about. "That which is unknown" can't be speculated about, because once you start speculating, you are back in "that which is known." "That which is unknown" is well and truly unknown.

Another way to say it is:

That which is known = experience
That which is unknown = that which is outside of experience

In this model, I like to envision "that which is known" as a superstructure or a bubble or an island floating in a much larger field of "that which is unknown." The superstructure changes as we experience things, but it never fills the much larger field of "that which is unknown." (It's a limitation of language to call "that which is unknown" a field, because the whole concept of a field belongs in "that which is known", but it's just a model/metaphor and I have to compare it to a field to make my point and to make myself happy.)

Furthermore, in this model, as if to guarantee that the superstructure of "that which is known" can never entirely fill the field of "that which is unknown", we can posit that the very process of knowing/experiencing generates "that which is unknown" as a byproduct of the process. (That's a stretch, but I think it's a fun idea, so I'm throwing it in here.)

In this model, ideas like animism, idealism, non-dualism, panpsychism aren't really what they say they are. They are pretenders to the throne of ultimate knowing. They are red herrings. They pretend to describe some ultimate knowledge of the nature of things, but in this model, the nature of things is unknowable to the point where nothing that we can imagine can live up to the task of describing ultimate reality. (I believe Jack Hunter mentions this point in the podcast.) In this model, the most charitable thing we could say about animism, panpsychism, etc, is that they themselves can be useful models or tools for a person to work with in their life.

I like this model, because it leaves a lot of room for mystery.

This model also provides room for psi experience, mystical experience, etc, without having to choose sides in the debates between materialists and non-materialists. (If "that which is known" is real and if we don't know all that there is to know, then it is logically necessary that "that which is known" has an endpoint. And if it is acknowledged that "that which is known" is capable of changing, perhaps we can say that it is logically necessary for there to be some border experience between "that which is known" and "that which is unknown," and this border experience is the realm of psi, mystical experience, etc.)

Materialists would interpret the border experience in a materialist fashion and non-materialists in a non-materialist fashion, and both perspectives can be accommodated by the model.

Edit: Fixed spelling of throne.
Yeah, the delusion that we can describe anything in definitive way of saying what it is permeates our culture. All we can ever do is describe experience of a thing/event, not the thing/event itself, which must, of necessity, be forever unknowable. This is an entirely relational interaction with whatever aspect of reality we can encounter - and hence more animistic.

What we assume to be rational knowledge is only one aspect of the relational interaction - and an impoverished one if that is all we assume we need to 'know' the thing/event. That's the thing with materialism - by its very nature it tends to 'know' a thing/event by its material expression and its utility.

Our minds have been conditioned by cultural materialism to presume that cognitive processes are superior to relational ones - and that usually means cerebral processes in isolation from heart and gut interaction. Hence we think that psi and mystical experiences are remarkable. Materialism has rendered the head as the ruler, where in a better balanced mentality it would be at the very least a co-creator of awareness in harmony with heart and gut.

We can learn something from the religious notion that 'God is Love'. That's a heart statement with a bias toward a particular kind of consciousness. Nobody has come up with a convincing assertion that 'God is Rational Intelligence'. The spiritual attributes we value are wisdom, love, compassion and the like. Braininess is not counted among them. This is because, I suspect, that we inherently know that that kind of cognition works best when it holds the stuff of the world lightly - not when it grips information grimly and makes much of doing so.

The relational awareness that is still best expressed through the idea of animism permits all the things we do value. Like a proper loving relationship it enables certainty (of loving) in the midst of uncertainty (how that love is expressed). Love is a far more complex form of awareness than braininess in isolation and magnified into the monster it has become. It does seem to be what we aspire to - and describe in many unsatisfactory and wordy ways.
 
#33
This thread reminds me that a number of anthropologists have reported that good shamans and medicine men / woman will often say: "Look, at the end of the day, I don't know how it works, but I know it works."
However we are inherently conditioned by a cultural agency that delivers materialism and liberalism as a kind of toxic impost....
I'd like to take a swipe at the liberalism jab as well, but I have other things to get to at the moment. How anyone can be "spiritual", but decry appeals to empathy is beyond me.
I'll add a jab... liberalism is a category error for the spiritual seeker.
From reading his blog, I think Mr. Patterson is using the word liberalism in a very specific way... referring to the hyper-individualist and utilitarian philosophical roots of modernity, industrialism, capitalism, and, imo, the nation state.

So, he's not talking about what people today call liberal values / policies (healthcare, social support, gender-equality, multi-culturalism, blah) which, from reading his posts, I gather he's all for (broadly speaking, anyway).

We can learn something from the religious notion that 'God is Love'. That's a heart statement with a bias toward a particular kind of consciousness. Nobody has come up with a convincing assertion that 'God is Rational Intelligence'. The spiritual attributes we value are wisdom, love, compassion and the like.
Love it.

I think Peterson has a bit of a tendency to over privilege the conservative and demonize the liberal
Any theology that bases itself on myopic views of biological dominator hierarchies is a non-starter for me. Lobsters, really?
 
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#34
Our minds have been conditioned by cultural materialism to presume that cognitive processes are superior to relational ones - and that usually means cerebral processes in isolation from heart and gut interaction. Hence we think that psi and mystical experiences are remarkable. Materialism has rendered the head as the ruler, where in a better balanced mentality it would be at the very least a co-creator of awareness in harmony with heart and gut.

We can learn something from the religious notion that 'God is Love'. That's a heart statement with a bias toward a particular kind of consciousness. Nobody has come up with a convincing assertion that 'God is Rational Intelligence'. The spiritual attributes we value are wisdom, love, compassion and the like. Braininess is not counted among them. This is because, I suspect, that we inherently know that that kind of cognition works best when it holds the stuff of the world lightly - not when it grips information grimly and makes much of doing so.

The relational awareness that is still best expressed through the idea of animism permits all the things we do value. Like a proper loving relationship it enables certainty (of loving) in the midst of uncertainty (how that love is expressed). Love is a far more complex form of awareness than braininess in isolation and magnified into the monster it has become. It does seem to be what we aspire to - and describe in many unsatisfactory and wordy ways.
nice! inspiring :)
 
#35
Yeah, the delusion that we can describe anything in definitive way of saying what it is permeates our culture. All we can ever do is describe experience of a thing/event, not the thing/event itself, which must, of necessity, be forever unknowable. This is an entirely relational interaction with whatever aspect of reality we can encounter - and hence more animistic.
I don't think I get the concept of animism as relational that you're talking about here and that Hunter mentioned on the show. I can't help but think of animism as a belief-system, even though Hunter says explicitly that that's not the best way to think about it.

It reminds me of David Chapman and his "meaningness" website, where he talks about how meaning is an interactive activity:

"meaning can be neither objective nor subjective, but interactive. Like… a rainbow. A rainbow is a three-way interaction among the sun, water droplets, and an observer."

He basically goes on to say that all meaning is interactive; meaning does not reside purely in the human mind nor purely beyond the human mind. I'm not sure if this relates to the relational piece being discussed now, but it might.

(I'll share the link to "meaningness," but please be advised this guy is a dyed-in-the-wool materialist atheist and he's aggressive about it. I wish he would take an agnostic view, I don't think agnosticism would necessarily undercut his approach. Possibly the most interesting thing he talks about is the inseparability of form and emptiness, or as he likes to say, pattern and nebulosity. In the model I like to fool around with, form/emptiness aka pattern/nebulosity aka knowledge/mystery are important for considerations of psi, mysticism, etc.)

https://meaningness.com/objective-subjective
 
#36
I don't think I get the concept of animism as relational that you're talking about here and that Hunter mentioned on the show. I can't help but think of animism as a belief-system, even though Hunter says explicitly that that's not the best way to think about it.

It reminds me of David Chapman and his "meaningness" website, where he talks about how meaning is an interactive activity:

"meaning can be neither objective nor subjective, but interactive. Like… a rainbow. A rainbow is a three-way interaction among the sun, water droplets, and an observer."

He basically goes on to say that all meaning is interactive; meaning does not reside purely in the human mind nor purely beyond the human mind. I'm not sure if this relates to the relational piece being discussed now, but it might.

(I'll share the link to "meaningness," but please be advised this guy is a dyed-in-the-wool materialist atheist and he's aggressive about it. I wish he would take an agnostic view, I don't think agnosticism would necessarily undercut his approach. Possibly the most interesting thing he talks about is the inseparability of form and emptiness, or as he likes to say, pattern and nebulosity. In the model I like to fool around with, form/emptiness aka pattern/nebulosity aka knowledge/mystery are important for considerations of psi, mysticism, etc.)
I think relational, in the animist sense, is very literal - you relate and interact with other people / environments / creatures / spirits / etc. as fellow beings with agency, not as mere objects of utility (or psychological projections, for that matter).

In traditional societies, this comes from taking shamanic experiences, and a life embedded in nature, at face value.
 
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#37
Yeah, the delusion that we can describe anything in definitive way of saying what it is permeates our culture. All we can ever do is describe experience of a thing/event, not the thing/event itself, which must, of necessity, be forever unknowable. This is an entirely relational interaction with whatever aspect of reality we can encounter - and hence more animistic.

What we assume to be rational knowledge is only one aspect of the relational interaction - and an impoverished one if that is all we assume we need to 'know' the thing/event. That's the thing with materialism - by its very nature it tends to 'know' a thing/event by its material expression and its utility.

.
I think relational, in the animist sense, is very literal - you relate and interact with other people / environments / creatures / spirits / etc. as fellow beings with agency, not as mere objects of utility (or psychological projections, for that matter).

In traditional societies, this comes from taking shamanic experiences, and a life embedded in nature, at face value.
Maybe I have a hard time getting my mind around animism because I haven't had experiences that would lead me to think that way. I suppose it would be different for people who experience animism in their lives.

If I go back to my model, I think I would add to it that in the model, experience is somehow wedded to "that which is unknown."

I am imagining being alive ten thousand years ago in a hunter gatherer culture where I grew up with the experience of animism. In my model, experiencing talking plants or animals is, like all experience, inherently wedded to "that which is unknown," also known as mystery.

I like Julian Jaynes' ideas from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, where he speculates that perhaps pre-modern humans heard their "inner voice" as if it were coming from outside of themselves. Over time, according to Jaynes, as the two halves of the mind connected with each other more completely, the inner voice started to sound like it came from within the self, rather than from some external source. I think even if the inner voice/experience is entirely created by nervous system tissue (the brain, the body, etc), that's not the end of the story, because the brain and the physical body themselves are wedded to "that which is unknown" like everything else. Typically, when I am thinking about something, I feel like my ideas are coming from some location within myself. But because the experience of ideas is wedded to "that which is unknown," there may be some other unknown factor in the arising of the ideas that means the ideas haven't originated entirely within myself. But because the other factor is mystery, we can't say what it is.

So, in the model I've been working on, a mystical experience of an animal talking could mean that the animal does have consciousness of some sort, or it could mean that the experience is an illusion of animal consciousness that's happening because of the relationship between experience and mystery. And those two options aren't mutually exclusive of each other, so they could both be true. The main thing in the model is that there is "that which is unknown", and it's in some unknowable way related to knowledge/experience; it is by definition outside of my experience and therefore it is mystery.

I think if I were to live in a traditional society ten thousand years ago, I could live "as if" the animals and the trees and mountains had their own consciousness. And it might be useful and beneficial for me and my people to live that way. And it may be useful for people to live that way today. But that doesn't mean that mountains, trees, cars, etc DO have consciousness. It also doesn't mean that they DON'T have consciousness. The model would say that the relationship between experience and "that which is unknown" may very well make things weirder and more mysterious than the explanations we can think about now.

Alex's question at the end of the podcast:

What do you make of animism vs idealism? Does the "vs" make sense? Or are we talking about two different categories?
I think the model I've been working on may be a form of idealism. "That which is unknown" is something outside of experience. I don't want it to have ontological reality or material reality or physical form, so I don't know if that is a kind of idealism or not.

If my model is a form of idealism, then it would follow that, when thinking along the lines of the model, animism would also be a form of idealism, since animism would indicate some degree of consciousness outside of human experience. Whether plants and animals and everything else have consciousness or whether the talking animal is an illusion of sorts happening in the human mind, we don't know how any of it works.

"On the other hand, if we understand dependent arising properly, we know that as things appear they are also empty; from the moment things are empty, they also appear."
(Source -- Journey to Certainty: An Exploration of Mipham's Beacon of Certainty)

Another way to say it in my model:
Everything that we know is as mysterious as it is known. We tend to focus on the known aspects. And we tend to try to convert the mysterious into the known. These tendencies are extremely useful in making technological advancements. But there may be times when it is useful to try to hold a space for the unknown and to try to see how the truly unknown may influence one's experience.

Interesting reading list at meaningness website. (Note, I don't mean to support this guy's ax-grinding atheism, but some of his ideas are very interesting to me and others may enjoy looking at his stuff.)

Edit(s): Added meaningness link and cleaned up typos.
Edit 2: Changed some wording.
 
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#38
This is a time lapse of rust spreading.

Is that not analogous to the growth of some biological processes? Even if the oxygen molecules are only motivated by positive and negative charges (as are we, in a way, ultimately) there are pockets of resistance, there are battles won, there are advancing front lines. You can't deny that they have what we would call motive - they are seeking equilibrium. Not to mention that we contain the same 'non-living' materials in our blood and are entirely dependent on them for survival.

I think the anthropomorphizing of everything happened to me while reading the incredible book by the polymath Guy Murchie called The Seven Mysteries of Life. He ascribes motive to things until you are immersed in thinking about all of these interconnected systems pushing and pulling each other more often in cooperation than you would think.

Read through some of these:
https://www.quora.com/How-can-the-h...-made-from-inert-chemicals-atoms-and-elements

"inert chemicals, when combined in a particular way, are capable of movement, reproduction, response to stimuli, homeostasis, and metabolic activity. Most biologists define "life" as any system that exhibits those traits."

"Or put another way, because life is not the magical animation of inanimate matter, but the name we apply to chemical systems that have certain properties. So it is absurd to challenge the living status of something on the grounds that it is, fundamentally, a chemical system. All living things are, by definition, chemical systems."
 
#39
Interesting reading list at meaningness website. (Note, I don't mean to support this guy's ax-grinding atheism, but some of his ideas are very interesting to me and others may enjoy looking at his stuff.)
I'm not entirely sure I understand what you are saying, or whether your model is indeed a variety of Idealism, but I will say that I've been reading the appendix you linked to at the Meaningness web site and am indeed finding it intriguing. Is the guy an axe-grinding atheist? Not sure, but then I haven't read too much on the site yet. Thanks for the heads up... I may have a better idea after further investigation. :)
 
#40
I'm not entirely sure I understand what you are saying, or whether your model is indeed a variety of Idealism, but I will say that I've been reading the appendix you linked to at the Meaningness web site and am indeed finding it intriguing. Is the guy an axe-grinding atheist? Not sure, but then I haven't read too much on the site yet. Thanks for the heads up... I may have a better idea after further investigation. :)
There's a lot at that web site. He's really concerned about eternalism versus nihilism (kind of like idealism vs materialism). He thinks pure eternalism is dangerous (basically, all religions, spiritualities, etc.). He's trying to figure out a way to get away from eternalism without sliding into nihilism (the idea that none of this really means anything at the end of the day). So, he can be very glib in his opinions about spiritual perspectives.
 
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