First Person Experience: Universal Characteristics

1.Perception of Mechanism as the Basis for Knowledge of Physical Reality

In the late 2000’s, mirror neurons were discovered, revolutionizing our theories of cognition. It was found that these cellular structures of the brain, present in numerous species and probably universal to the vertebrate phylum, grant organisms some direct perception of the thinking and emotion of other organisms, obtained from simple observations via a “mirroring” effect that elicits similar brain processes in perceivers, the seeming rudiments of a psychiclike phenomenon, suddenly converting reputedly quackish hokum into plausible science. Knowledge of this neural phenomenon could help us better understand language acquisition, empathy, many facets of social interaction, as well as provide scientific explanation and treatment possibilities for conditions such as autism, and confirm the compatibilities of plasticity in human brains to extents that the most fervent multiculturalist or ecologist could have previously only dreamed of.

Though both mechanistical perception and social dynamics, which rely on intuitive cognizance of the unintentional and intentional respectively, arise from many of the same brain structures and functions, making knowledge of mirror neurons potentially applicable in theorizing a wide spectrum of behaviors, from seeing all the way to verbal communication, there are major differences between these two domains. The kind of perception we have introduced as associated with the appearance of inanimacies tends to be more purely a matter of reason, consisting of value-independent cause and effect recognitions that permute logically into all kinds of simply functional beliefs about physical structure and force relationships. In modern times, we have developed detailed and wide-ranging scientific theories, but easily note the commonalities between this methodical constructing of elaborately abstract form and simple concept-based procedures like judging the varying properties of dissimilar objects such as mere differences between a baseball and basketball, nailing boards together to make emergent structures like a fence, or inventing a makeshift net out of twine or some jerryrigged material to catch a fish. All our technical exertions, from the most ordinary to the most cutting edge, are essentially an outcome of material intuitions and their refinement into more mechanistic intuitions, the applications of which do not at base depend on cultural method and institutionalization at all, though imitative behaviors and teaching activity that spread mechanistic techniques are certainly something we would classify as social.

Group dynamics, on the other hand, while often involving some kind of reasoning process, in cases like attempting to deduce probable reactions to our own or others’ behaviors based on previous experiences, or predicting and molding trends of demographics mathematically, also encompass less reasonable activities such as verbally assenting to someone’s bizarre idea just to get along or make peace, deciding to endanger one’s mind and future because of peer pressure to join in drug abuse, eating a jalapeno pepper whole because someone dared you to, bullying someone you could befriend, even human crowds stampeding like herds of cattle.

Educational methods and all kinds of organized learning are the intersection of mechanistic and social experiencing, an integration of reasoning, emotion and instinct of every context into cultural traditions that foster it, grow it, and guide it so that all the partially unique trait endowments of each individual, an ever swelling and diversifying corpus of mutation, can function as a cohesive whole, a developmental process still unfolding to this day in every category of behavior. Perhaps we can analyze characteristics of individuals within cultures to create a synthetic explanation of the various facets of human agency, synchronizing our knowledge in a way that clarifies relationships between the most universal features of perception, which we might regard as basic to the species, and our vast variety of social contexts. This may make theorizing the complex nature of civilized life more manageable and suggest new avenues for examining behavior of all types: technical, emotional, instinctual, and most importantly, ethical. We can begin at a basic level, general properties of how humans interpret the physical world as having structural foundation.

2. Fundamental Recurrences — Patterns

The physical world is enormously variable in the forms it assumes, from frozen rigidity of near absolute zero to seemingly instantaneous synchronicity of subatomic particles, ranging from incalculably weightless quarks to immeasurably massive black holes at the center of galaxies, and furthermore an indefinable acceleration of these galaxies away from the originating point out of which the universe began and to which astrophysicists have proposed it may one day return. However, all of this multiplicity can be cataloged into two basic categories: ‘distal extension’ and ‘occurrence’.

Distal extension is simply the occupying of space that is characteristic of all physical entities. We define this property with geometry accompanied by processing techniques of algebra, trigonometry and calculus, which can be based on any degree of dimension, but in practical applications are usually restricted to one, two, three or four dimensions. The first three dimensions combine in universally intuitive three dimensional space as length, width and depth. The fourth dimension is more technically abstruse ‘spacetime’, with relevance for many scientific fields that involve modeling relativities of change falling within the purview of conceptualizations such as gravitation, chemical reactivity, and quantum mechanical accounts of subatomic phenomena.

Occurrence is the phenomenon of time, mathematically measured as duration integrated with spatial dimensionality as the fourth vector in four dimensional spacetime. While time as pure mensurative concept is very abstract, simply a counting of bare numbers in nondimensional quantities, physically it is no more than distance: length of the equator is the essence of a day on Earth, and it is very intuitive perceptually, the chronological unity of all things, an interrelationship of sequential causes and effects, foundational to notions of structure and logic that underpin civilized reasoning in general.

These two domains, distal extension and occurrence, conventionally known as ‘space’ and ‘time’, delineate basic corporeality, the principal medium by which behavior integrates with nature. They are organically experienced as a synthetic manifold of cyclical ‘recurrence’, the repeated returning of all substances to at least approximately similar states. This seems to be a universal principle of our perceived reality: the constrained, recursive nature of transformation. Though mysteriously fascinating, quite the enigma, we can elementarily define the phenomenon as ‘pattern’, a general concept for ubiquitous, perpetual presence of unity in multiplicity.

3. The General Nature of Concepts and the Types of Patterns They Interpret

Before launching into an analysis of patterns, it would probably be good to clarify the concept of ‘concept’ at the risk of sounding somewhat ridiculous. We have talked about conception as the facet of cognition most associated with self-aware thought, but what is its basic unit in the context of reasoning, our higher-level thinking as we perceive it qualitatively versus some physiology-based account of neural networks or analogous theorizing?

Concepts are essentially any sized unit of the knowledge content intersecting with whatever the perceptual process, our stream of consciousness, has singled out as its focus. Conceptual material consists in amorphous webs of attributes, interpretively defined as the composition of what we are regarding fundamentally as pattern. These patterns partially emanate from outside awareness, with recurrent, characteristic properties that we try to understand by thinking. Human apperception is an interaction of our concepts as units of meaning with patterned perceptions acted upon by extraconscious phenomena first translated into precursor sensations. The conscious and extraconscious converge on the cognitive domain of perceived pattern in all its various instantiations.

The color red is a concept associated with the word “red”, also an ineffable qualia experience (that can nonetheless be stimulated in many cases by mirror neuron function). A house is a hybrid concept, firstly what Kant called ‘a priori synthetic’, consisting of the compositional features of windows, doors, boards, general shape that instantly make it more than the sum of its parts. Houses also have an experiential, ‘a posteriori’ nature involving empirical facts such as their location, owners, and style of construction. This hypothetical house is to some degree just as ineffable as the bare color red, consisting of indivisibly perceived qualia — the color brown, textural roughness, the impression of tallness — only differing in that it is a combination of many distinct qualia we cognize as separate attributes. Perceived patterns are indeterminately both external and internal to consciousness, a puzzle already touched upon that occasions much theoretical uncertainty about the accuracy of many observations, with innumerable experiences being illusory, mere figments of our imagination or glaring errors our thinking deceives us into believing true. This necessitates careful analysis as we strive to incorporate new experimental results and scientific conceptualizings into a common fund of valid knowledge.

The mind/environment interface embodied in perceived patterns is describable as a combination of two facets of basic substance: phenomenality and supraphenomenality. Phenomenality is what the mind contributes to perceptions, which exists as an element or potential element of consciousness even in the absence of direct inspection of complementary contents in the external environment, streamlined to assimilate the natural world with an adequate amount of abductive functionality. Supraphenomenality is what the external environment contributes to perceptions, the compositional integrity of which remains in some way as unobserved reality while inspection is not happening, constituting the nature of what existence essentially is behind the scenes of awareness, which may be nothing like the intuitive perceptual world human minds have adapted to assume veritable within Earth environments. Reality and human subjectivity are of course a unity or at least some kind of linkage or simultaneity, but also separate in a way that has so far limited the capacity of human comprehension, a paradox of intrinsic but to this point imprecisely knowable boundaries.

As a tentative, somewhat speculative effort, patterns can be divided into six general types: simple, natural, theoretical, technological, symbolic and artistic. These categories correspond not to some underlying metaphysical or ontological structure, but rather to concerns of human activity such as observation, function, aesthetic sensibility, meaning, and further delineations. Distinctions made according to these criteria can be considered the general parameters of parallel and related observational perspectives with features central to human agency at various scales, from the qualitative experiences of an individual mind all the way to civilized cultures comprised of billions. Augmenting this notion with more specificity, there is some degree of overlap: all categories of pattern can be symbolic; natural patterns are applied and simulated with technology; theoretical patterns interact with or are a central component of other types of patterns, especially everything technology-related; simple patterns are the building block material of all other patterns; and more possible connectivity.

4. Simple Patterns

Simple patterns are basic perceptual phenomena resulting from a constraining resolution of apparencies into particulars within the manifold of our observing, a process greatly impacted by the conceptual facet of consciousness, in instances like noticing an individual color as set apart from its surroundings, or noting a surface as simply rough, distinct from its other qualities and without cognizance of slight textural variabilities.

Perceiving is never devoid of extraneous content having minimal or no relevance to what we are focusing on, but it is undoubtedly the case that any observation involves numerous indivisible unities the mind forms within perceptual contexts, isolated in active awareness, at least as something hypothetical like a pure color, the unitary form of an object, a flawlessly uniform texture, a particular sound, or anything from our other perceptions as well. Once contents of our mental process are fixed into the form of a simple pattern in thought, we can divide the substances associated with this specific perception into a multiplicity of more finely grained parts by applying technical practices, so that naked human hand/eye coordination creates ten shades of blue, or a hundred shades using computers, a variability so far only limited by our conceptual capacities as contextually bounded in theory and technology.

5. Natural Patterns

Natural patterns are the spontaneous phenomena of nature, occurring as an immediate heterogeneity produced by a combination of our perceptual apparatus and what it interacts with, from out of which simple patterns become apparent as we focus on particulars, a specifying influenced by conception. Natural patterning is everywhere, to the extent that we hardly note most of it; on a walk through the wilderness, almost everything we experience is a purely natural pattern, with all biological systems and their contents falling into this category.

A blueberry is a simple instance: it is the combination of slightly uneven coloring we perceptually resolve into the form of a more definite, simple pattern, conceptualized as pure blue, purple and green; an approximately round shape cohering with our basic concept of a sphere that exists in a matrix of further mathematical conceptualizations; added upon by the aural and tactile memory of berry plucking, its sound and feel that we can imagine independent of the act itself; and an arc concept associated with the shape of its stem, also connected to the broader context of math. These among many more perceptual/conceptual simple patterns are experienced as apparent parts of a synthetic manifold in consort with constellations of more technical conceptualizing such as those of engineering and science.

Many natural patterns are also symbolic patterns, representative in their implications of phenomena not being observed or interacted with directly. Symbolic natural patterns can be found everywhere: a tree frog’s bright-colored skin indicates its toxicity; bright colors of fruits can suggest edibleness; a snake’s rattle or hissing communicates it might strike; and many trillions more examples of varying complexity, all the way down to molecular processes of identification involving cell membrane structure, antibodies, hormones, neurotransmitters, or genes.

6. Theoretical Patterns

Theoretical patterns, which are concepts fashioned by analytical efforts, arise from investigating parsed natural patterns in technical contexts such as physical experiments or conceptual simulations, then hypothesizing about the implications of resultant metaconceptually defined patterns of all kinds in an attempt to devise causal generalizations. This technical process breaks down natural patterns into simpler patterns in environments that are substantially controlled or initially predictable, then formulates causal principles based on observation and measurement of these analytically contextualized patterns, ultimately for purposes of further prediction and the fabricating of technology. Analysis configures patterns as concepts in theoretical structures, often a translation of these patterns into technically abstract variables within systems of mechanisms, in many cases utilizing quantitative definition. While actuating technical contexts, we hone in on the few most salient or suggestive regularities of observed patterns, which seem to hold the largest promise for more apt description, better prediction and improvement of technology, then try to manipulate or anticipate their behaviors presumed to be operative in numerous settings. Theorizing approximates select patterns in order to create conceptual frameworks of structurality and abstraction, arrays of mechanistic interrelations that are schematically representative of observations, making patterns more intelligible to extents sufficient for furthering technical practices.

An example is our theory of the color blue. We can with experimental methods observe it as a kind of electromagnetic radiation located in the visible spectrum, a wave shape with a range of wavelengths/frequencies that we perceive as various shades. Visible light smoothly transitions from blue into higher frequency violet on one end of the spectrum and closer to red on the lower frequency end, though there are of course more colors between blue and red, as blue is a relatively high frequency (shorter wavelength) color. This wave form concept, though a keenly practical definition that appears reliably in various experimental contexts, is still no more than a model. There are equally valid photon theories of light that under many conditions interpret the phenomenon of electromagnetism as a stream of particles, and also models of radiation as kinetic and potential energy contained in the structured comportments of atoms, transformed in some way by absorption properties of electrons and their motions. The color blue understood as electromagnetic radiation, though it accords with something that certainly exists, is foundationally a mechanistic concept infused into what we have called our basic cognition of ‘recurrences’ — patterns as they manifest in perception, defined by our conceptualizing — not the actual phenomenon in total. Theoretical patterns are descriptional concepts that enable us to formulate even more generalized, synthetic models of causality while we construct our progressing accounts of reality, not essences.

7. Technological Patterns

Technological patterns are any combination of simple, natural or symbolic patterns grafted together by human proficiency within the context of theory. For example, the door to a house constructed of rough surfaced wood painted forest green is a combination of at least two simple patterns, bare texture and pure color. The smell of an air freshener combined with the aerosol mechanism that sprays it are the natural patterns of freshening chemical and aerosol as well as the simple pattern of spraying, among others. A hammock hung between two trees conjoins theoretical/technological patterns of the hammock’s shape and manufactured composition, also the natural pattern plant substance for which the manufacturing process was designed. Possible arrangements seem endless, soaring into the trillions or more.

The amount of symbolic patterns that can be created technologically is also mind-boggling; they can take pictorial, natural language and mathematical form. A stop sign is composed of the pictorial and mathematical octagon shape, with the natural language word “stop” in the center, the pictorial colors white and red, and a mathematically engineered wooden post functioning as support and for visibility.

Symbolic patterns can be simple, natural and technological: in the case of a stop sign, the color red is a simple pattern, the word “stop” is the simple pattern color white, also the natural pattern of the word “stop” as a linguistic feature, and the support post and octagon shape are technological patterns, among much else. The whole sign and all its parts fall within the designation of theoretical pattern, an imposition of concepts for purposes of conforming environments to the needs of life as we strive to make our world hospitable for ourselves, by driving and more.

8. Artistic Patterns

Artistic patterns are agglomerations of natural, technological and symbolic patterns used to produce aesthetic effects. Natural elements of art consist in what the artist is attempting to depict on canvas, inspire with music, portray while acting, and commonly multiple goals simultaneously in these and additional kinds of artistic efforts. The composition of tools, musical instruments and props can also be reckoned natural patterns: hair of a paintbrush, metal of a brass instrument, costumes of the stage all start out as raw, unprocessed materials garnered from nature’s basic spontaneity.

Once raw materials have been collected, technological puissance assumes its role, crafting tools of the trade, which amalgamate with innumerable techniques that have been developing and maturing for millennia to make technological patterns on canvas, in air, during a performance seem shockingly lifelike, astutely meaningful, sublimely diverting, something the public connects with, either as a piquant reference to its own experience or a startling, perhaps strange or disturbing antithesis to it.

Art is saturated in symbolism as artists begin with general themes coloring and informing the whole work, then proceed to minute depictive detail, usually granting purpose to every brushstroke, note or word, captivating the audience to such an extent that it can actually forget where it is, forget itself, and become wholly immersed in even wildly fictional presentations, seizing upon the grains of truth to be found in the sedatest and craziest fits of imagination alike.

Aesthetic effects of art spring from emotions, thoughts, twists, humor, irony that works utilize to move patrons; these often ineffable qualities can be split into roughly three categories: mood, cognition and uniqueness. Mood is the most irrational, subliminal aspect of art, with dark shades of color, minor key tonality and intense vocalization tensing the body, and bright colors, major tonality and light, cheerful banter exulting or relaxing the nerves of patrons (every form of art deserves recognition for also eliciting these types of responses). Cognitive processing is aroused by concepts and symbolic content, making the patron think about issues that may not have seemed important before artistic exposure, often under the guise of allegory allowing presentation of politically or morally sensitive subjects. And last but not least, uniqueness refers to the need for art of persisting impact to do something unprecedented, an effort that constantly amazes as every major artistic project, numbering in the many millions, manages to somehow be original, if only for just a moment.

Defined at a level this general, we find art everywhere, in building designs, advertisements, books, magazines, newspapers, soundbites and music, internet pics, with millions of instances per second, as almost every human act within modern society involves either constructing art or experiencing it. What most distinguishes a work of art from similarly elegant, complex, even stylish productions, as in the structure of some technological achievements, is intention to convey profound meaning, drawing or startling human populations out of their complaisance so that they actively think in uncharted, unanticipated ways. Art is a constant revolution of sentiment that can peacefully change minds, making political, physical revolts unnecessary.

9. Special Cases of Patterns — Objects and Forces

All recurrence phenomena can be explained as patterned in one or more of the foregoing six ways, from something as inert as a tree, board or ball all the way to material with properties as variable or fluctuating as intensity, viscosity, pressure or memory decay, but there is nevertheless some further specification to be made, namely two especially important categories of mechanistically relevant pattern: objects and forces.

Objects are a special perceptual type: they are composed of patterns, but have emergent properties such as internal stability and externally evident attributes that exceed the typical pattern’s degree of coherence, essentially because our perceptual apparatuses have been sculpted by evolution to mentally subsume these entities as quickly as possible for the purpose of assuring our safety, acquiring food, and many more functions that necessitate extremely intuitive sensory recognitions. To be brief, this is simply like the difference between our perception of a rock and humidity: we sense atmospheric pressure as a vague absence or presence of discomfort caused by moisture on our skin, in essence consisting of physiological and partially cognitive responses to temperature dynamics, but a rock sitting in front of the viewer is as objective as anything can be, requiring not even a thought or bodily sensation to know you are sharing the experience with almost every human being. Objects like that rock are patterns having a larger degree of resonance for the psyche’s reasoning and observational instincts, an intuitiveness built into and adjuncted to the fabric of perception and conception. This type of instinctuality is primarily aimed outward because of its pivotal role in mobilizing efficient response to the superordinately impactful content of sense-perception, as well as having core significance for analytical problem-solving efforts and technological invention.

Forces are essentially the motive features of objects evident within a matrix of positional field, memory and stream of consciousness, exceedingly intuitive compared to motions of more ephemeral or imperceptible kinds of patterns such as rates of chemical reaction, microscopic cellular machinery, or geological and galactical change occurring over millions of years. Compare this to the motion of a thrown rock, which almost any mammal can perceive with similar accuracy given sufficient attentiveness.

Objects and forces can be divided into two main types: natural and conceptual. Natural objects are concrete entities observed in the wilderness, all lifeforms with the objects constituting their environments, any material body that grows or transforms out of some essentially invisible, nonhuman source. A natural force is something like wind pressure, illumination, maturation, death, metabolism, all the processes noticed by observation but impenetrable to naked conception, animating objects as if their perceived forms might be willed by some kind of supernaturality. Conceptual objects are anything engineered by human efforts or envisioned as a particular component in mechanismlike collections of causes, which includes all technological materials and the theoretical content that underlies them. Conceptual forces are something such as gravity, electromagnetism, kinetic and potential energy, any theoretical construction or structural model giving form, as an incarnation of defined causes and effects, to the enigmatic motions of untheorized matter. Natural objects and forces are some of the most salient phenomena of spontaneous reality, and the basis for our concepts of object and force mechanisms upon which the multifarious edifice of scientific knowledge is grounded.

A free download of the book Standards for Behavioral Commitments: Philosophy of Humanism, also available for preview below.  Topics covered include chemistry, biology, genetics, neuroscience, epistemology, the history of Western philosophy, cultural evolution, theory of cognition, ethics and much more.

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