Toward a Unified Metaphysical Understanding: Descartes, Scepticism, Rationalism, Meditation and Intuition    
 Descartes, Scepticism, Rationalism, Meditation and Intuition
2009-03-21, by John Ringland

Comments inspired by the article: Quantum Phenomenology

Excerpt from the abstract: "Starting with the Descartes' cogito, "I think, therefore I am"--and taking an uncompromisingly rational, rigorously phenomenological approach--I attempt to derive the basic principles of recursion theory (the backbone of all mathematics and logic), and from that the principles of feedback control theory (the backbone of all biology), leading to the basic ideas of quantum mechanics (the backbone of all physics)."

This is an admirable attempt however the problem that strikes me with this approach is that the enquiring mind is already full of all kinds of unconscious conditioning hence it is using a distorted lens. Thus many assumptions are made which are unwarranted by the supposed initial condition of pure scepticism.

The author claims that they will not use any knowledge that is not clearly derivable from the initial consciousness of consciousness – however they fail to realise how many assumptions they are introducing because these assumptions are so deeply ingrained in them from their life experiences.

The very fact that they are conducting a philosophical enquiry using concepts and language shows that they have previously learnt a particular mode of doing these things.

They also draw upon knowledge about objects such as the idea that a ball has sides that exist even though they cannot be directly perceived. We learn at an early age that our percepts relate to objects that seemingly continue to exist even though we cannot see them – this is related to the game of peek-a-boo.

The author also assumes that “2 2=4” is immediately apparent to consciousness but only if it has received a mathematical education.

If the enquirer was to truly start from consciousness of consciousness and employ the intellect without the introduction of any prior beliefs then they would have to revert back to the condition of a foetus – or not even that because many cognitive reflexes are built into us.

It is impossible to revert to a truly blank-slate and even if one could then one would not think to start conducting a philosophical enquiry. A mind needs to reach a certain level of development before it occurs to it to enquire into such things – otherwise its inbuilt instincts cause it to follow the natural course of development.

I had previously thought that the cogito intellectual approach was reasonable but seeing it in action has changed my mind – it is a seemingly plausible idealisation that doesn't really work in practice. Without particular kinds of conditioning we could not do it, but with conditioning we cannot do it in a sceptical manner.

I think a major flaw is that it starts with consciousness of consciousness but then brings in high level cognitive faculties to perform intellectual analysis – this is where the anti-sceptical assumptions creep in.

If we start with consciousness of consciousness and then, without words or concepts, we simply stay with consciousness of consciousness and go deeper into consciousness through pure meditation then this approach might work – but how? Is it that when the mind is cleared of complex static the intuition reveals things. Where does the intuitive knowledge come from? Is it that consciousness is the foundation of reality hence the knower and the known are the same once the turbulence of false ideas subsides?

Whilst the existence of consciousness is apodictic (absolutely, perfectly certain) the complex contents of consciousness are not. But when things arise from the intuition of a still mind is this knowing also apodictic?

If it wasn't for the remarkable metaphysical accuracy of the ancient Vedic, Daoist and Kabbalistic sages I would say that a rationalist approach was the best and that an embodied perspective “through an individual mind” is inherently unable to approach genuine truth but only pragmatic truth. But any rationalist approach has to start from some hypothesis – so where does this hypothesis come from if not from intuition?

The sages did arrive at genuine knowing without complex rationalist methods and experimental verification. I say this not due to antiquity or authority but from resonance with my own deepest intuitive knowing. The cutting edge of science is only just beginning to approach what the sages know, however ignorance of what the sages have said or fixation on the many naïve or corrupt interpretations means that science in general is unaware of this.

Perhaps, rather than start from cogito then follow a intellectual approach it may be better to start with cogito then still the mind through meditation and receive intuitive insight, which can then be encoded in whatever form has meaning to it given its conditioning. This then forms the foundation of a rationalist approach that can be logically developed and experimentally tested.

This has been my own approach and it has worked well for me so far. I cannot think of any other way that could be truly sceptical. Consciousness of consciousness is the only thing we can be truly sure of – so rather than just touch upon it then leap into speculation based upon hidden assumptions, why not dwell with it and gradually go deeper into it and see what happens – intuitions do indeed arise.

As soon as the intellect and other complex cognitive faculties are introduced they bring with them a whole raft of unconscious assumptions. Hence it is best to lay the foundations of a rationalist theory with consciousness of consciousness and spontaneous intuition, without any input from intellect, and only later use the intellect to develop the theory – but with the guidance of intuition grounded in stillness. If the theory then connects with experienced reality then it can be considered to be potentially truthful.

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