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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Part 3: Thinking of Ethics

We left off asking if we need to appeal to a higher power in order to recognize the good and bad of our categories for thought and action. Judging seems to imply a separate capacity to stand outside our thinking and acting with objectivity carefully weighing evidence, e.g. a higher power.

But this higher power is not outside or beyond our capacity to categorize. Our capacity includes the capacity to think "outside the box" (i.e., category) and "beyond our beliefs" (i.e., categories). We need to appeal to no higher power than the power we have in ourselves personally and collectively to think. You may of course if you want; but in doing so you use and are within the limits (though expanding) of that same special power--whether you acknowledge it or not.

I suggest that this is the advantage of complementing Hofstadter's theory of thinking as categorizing and analogy-making with the theory of corporeal symbolic behavior. In other words, we found our psychology (theory of mind) on biology (theory of body).

Our species-evolved capacity to use our bodies to make symbols in order to come to terms with our world has both an inside and outside dimension. In our use of symbols, we perceive not only things that appear in categories, metaphors, or movable forms; but we also perceive our uncategorized selves in the world, starting with our own "I/we" consciousness. The act of symbolizing becomes transparent to itself. We have not only an experience of objects "out there," but an awareness of our corporeal selves "in here." The awareness of our living, breathing, sensing bodies is the background of all our thoughts even, or especially, when not focusing on that bodily awareness. The symbols (such as words or art forms) we use to objectify our world are found on a frequently unnoticed pallet of inter-subjectivity. The awareness of our bodies of flesh including our hungers and drives, our sense of fuzzy boundaries between our selves and objects in the world, our sexuality, our opening to new experience or intentionality, even our sense of mortality also appears with the models, words, formulas, or categories we are producing to encounter reality.

Our higher power to move "above" our categories or think "outside" of the boxes which imprison us is an element or dimension of the same power to engage our world. We are in direct, immediate contact with other selves with other styles and perspectives and with ourselves in constant motion, desire, tension, and transcendence. Transcendence is not a state of being. It is not a place, event, person, doctrine outside or above ourselves in communication. Transcendence is ourselves in communion critiquing, reorganizing, and striving beyond our categories (beliefs, truths, formulas, symbolic expressions).

With this pre-objective experience, the awareness of our bodies reaching out and beyond, we can turn the focus on ourselves. We can think and act about thinking and acting. But beware!  As soon as we do this we use categories (words and formulas) that we should constantly re-examine to see if they really fit our dynamic experience which is continually changing and transcending. Some call this a "secondary reflection," the first being thinking about realities in the world. And many believe this to be the role of philosophy as a discipline--to reflect and critique from the inside-out our formulations, ordinary linguistic, religious, artistic, scientific, and philosophic.

Experience, conceptualization, verification are not separate stages or levels of knowing, though in science they are often treated and drawn out in separate processes--especially between model making and verification. Sensation, categorization, judgment, acting, and transcendence are dimensions of the special human capacity and its exercise that we are. They are facets of our corporeal symbolic existence in the world.

And it is the inside-out experience of our corporeal dynamism, which we call "consciousness" when speaking of thinking and "conscience" when speaking of acting, where the "ought" arises from the "is." We are in tension and we are intentionality and so can ask what direction we are going in and who we want to become as persons, communities, and as a species. We can choose within the limits of our environment, our nature, and each other what is good for us and what is not.  We can choose to transcend our categories of ourselves and our world. Or we can choose to stop by hanging on to our categories to exclude new information, other people, different possibilities.


Next Part 4: some consequences of this thinking related to artificial intelligence and our "post-human" era.

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