Dear Skeptiko listeners,
I have asked Alex if he would consider doing an interview with the philosopher Eric Weiss about his soon to be released book called: "The Long Trajectory: The Metaphysics of Reincarnation and Life After Death."
Alex responded favorably as did Eric Weiss.
Also, Alex asked me to gather some questions to ask Dr. Weiss about his book and associated cosmology. That's quite a chore because of time constrains and the topic needs more expertize than I have. The book tries to provide an adequate philosophical framework to account for the physical world, consciousness/mind, life-after-death and reincarnation in an update and extension of Whitehead's process philosophy.
Recently, Dr. Weiss presented this talk about life-after-death and trans-physical worlds: A New Philosophy of Physics, NDEs and Life After Death - Eric Weiss, Ph.D.
Here is a series of talks that are older, more detailed and related to his new book. They start here: 1-1 The Basic Metaphysical Situation
There are also a number of articles and his dissertation on his website ericweiss.com SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK DR. WEISS:
Questions to ask have already come up in other threads. One Skeptiko Forum member pointed to this paper, "A Place For ProtoConsciousness?
", questioning a version of panpsychism. Panpsychism is related to process philosophy.
Dr. Weiss gave me this brief response:
I read the paper that you posted, and found it to be most unimpressive. First of all, the technicalities of the differences of the different versions of panpsychism seems like hairsplitting to me. The philosophy of mind people have these sterile debates because they refuse to entertain a new metaphysical vision. As far as I'm concerned, Whitehead decisively solved the mind/body problem back in the 1930's. I can't figure out why those guys ignore Whitehead, who makes more sense than any of them. |
But ... I want to mention two points in particular. First is the issue of individuals, assemblies and systems. According to Whitehead's version of panpsychism (which I generally follow), it is only self-organizing individuals that have consciousness. Although I have friends who report to me profound communications with rocks, I interpret that as an amplification of the consciousness of the rock atoms through their massive repetition. But a rock doesn't act as an indivisible whole, and so is what I think of as an assemblage of atoms. But when there is self-organization at a higher level, say in a cell or other organism, then at each level of self-organization I envision another conscious individual.
The second point has to do with the plausibility of panpsychism. Many materialists insist that panpsychism is not plausible because it contradicts materialistic beliefs that are widely held. This argument has no force for me. First of all, it is the materialist position that is not plausible, since materialism is systematically incapable of accounting for consciousness. You can't get experience out of dead things. I could elaborate on this if you like. But more importantly, the idea of a dead universe wasn't informalizded ented 'till the time of Descartes and Newton. There's a wonderful book, which I think should be required reading for all scientists called "The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science" by A.E. Burtt ...
To start things off, I have several questions, not on transphysical worlds or what could it be like their after we die, but more on "technical philosophical issues" which actually interest me more currently.
1. In this view, IS PRECOGNITION ONLY APPARENT OR REAL? I believe that the Process Philosopher David Ray Griffin thinks it is only apparent because the future does not yet exist. Likewise, physicist and friend of Process Philosophy, Henry Stapp seems to think all precognition is only apparent. Both think it's related to other forms of psi.
2. In this view, WOULD THE "ACTUAL OCCASION" OR PROCESSES ASSOCIATED WITH THE CORE SELF BE NECESSARILY RELATED TO LARGE AMOUNTS OF fMRI SCAN ACTIVITY OR LARGE AMOUNT OF BRAIN ACTIVITY? I don't think this follows and don't think fMRI's showing no change in imaging at the time of vivid experiences of patients on psychedelics indicates a brain that is not working or not influencing a core self occasion. I would need better evidence indicating a non-functioning brain.
3. In this view, IS THE COMBINATION PROBLEM OF PANPSYCHISM A PSEUDO-PROBLEM? First raised by William James, who in the following passage argues that panpsychism will still face its own problem of emergence:
Take a sentence of a dozen words, and take twelve men and tell to each one word. Then stand the men in a row or jam them in a bunch, and let each think of his word as intently as he will; nowhere will there be a consciousness of the whole sentence … Where the elemental units are supposed to be feelings, the case is in no wise altered. Take a hundred of them, shuffle them and pack them as close together as you can (whatever that might mean); still each remains the same feeling it always was, shut in its own skin, windowless, ignorant of what the other feelings are and mean. There would be a hundred-and-first feeling there, if, when a group or series of such feeling were set up, a consciousness belonging to the group as such should emerge. And this 101st feeling would be a totally new fact; the 100 original feelings might, by a curious physical law, be a signal for its creation, when they came together; but they would have no substantial identity with it, nor it with them, and one could never deduce the one from the others, or (in any intelligible sense) say that they evolved it (1890/1950, p. 160, original emphasis).
Eric briefly responded to this in an email when I asked about mixing different colors of paint. I said that I've never read how a blue color qualia and a yellow color qualia can combine to make a green color qualia like when I mix paint. Reading process philosophers like David Ray Griffin still leaves this a bit of a mystery although I can see that metaphysically it maybe non-problematic.
WHITEHEAD DOES ADDRESS THIS ISSUE WHEN HE SPEAKS ABOUT "ETERNAL OBJECTS." ETERNAL OBJECTS ARE RATHER LIKE PLATONIC FORMS, BUT WITH THE SOPHISTICATION ADDED BY A FEW MILLENIA OF THOUGHT ABOUT THE ISSUE. FOR WHITEHEAD, THE ETERNAL OBJECTS ARE "SPECIFIC POSSIBILITIES FOR THE DETERMINATION OF FORM." SO BLUE, YELLOW, GREEN, HAPINESS, SADNESS, CONSCIOUSNESS, ETC. ARE ALL ETERNAL OBJECTS. WHEN WE THINK, WE ARE TRACING THE RELATIONS AMONG ETERNAL OBJECTS. BUT BY VIRTUE OF WHAT DO THESE ETERNAL OBJECTS HAVE A SPECIFIC ORDER? TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION, WHITEHEAD INVOKES HIS PECULIAR IDEA OF GOD. GOD, WHO FOR WHITHEHEAD IS THE FIRST CREATURE OF CREATIVITY. THE FIRST GESTURE OF GOD IS THAT OF ORDERING THE ETERNAL OBJECTS SO THEY HAVE SPECIFIC RELEVANCES TO ONE ANOTHER. SINCE THIS ORDERING OF THE ETERNAL OBJECTS IS "WITH" ALL TIME, AND SINCE IT IS SHARED BY ALL EMERGING ENTITIES, MY THOUHTS ARE RELEVANT TO NATURE. THE THOUGHTS THAT I TRACE IN ANALYZING SOMETHING LIKE AN ATOM ARE THE SAME THOUGHTS THAT THE ATOM ITSELF IS TRACING.
4. This is a follow up on 3. WHAT IS AN ETERNAL OBJECT IN PROCESS PHILOSOPHY? There is this ongoing process of potentials becoming actual but throughout this self-similar process of repetition does any absolute essence remain unchanged? Is this even a legitimate question in this view?
5. This is a follow up on 4. Does time have a beginning in this view of time as becoming (A-theory as opposed to B-theory)? Arguments say that it must (e.g. Kalam Cosmological Argument) because an infinite past series of events is an absurdity since it could never be traversed to get to the present. However, a state of timelessness at which temporal order began seems to me to contradict a process perspective in which there is an ongoing process of change. How does Eric's process view deal with this and is it related to how the simultaneous can become serially ordered?
6. What is analogous to God in Eric's process based view and is this unifying factor even necessary? I believe that some Process Philosophers deny that a God-like entity is needed.
7. What is the meaning of life here in this grade of existence in Eric's cosmology? What is the overall meaning of life across all grades of existence? How does this view avoid becoming to other-worldly or ascetic and pathologically minimizing everyday concerns of this waking world?
I ENCOURAGE LISTENERS TO PLEASE PROVIDE MORE QUESTIONS TO ASK DR. WEISS.