Being No One One, Precis: Part 2

This is the reading for Sunday, December 12th.  We will be meeting in a Cafe Bene between Jonggak Station and the Kyobo bookstore at 4:30; directions are on the page.

A printable copy is here.  Please print it if you can – I am not sure I will get a chance to print it.

Last week, we saw how Metzinger’s self-model theory of subjectivity (SMT) accounts for the first person perspective with a series of constraints on the brain’s information processing systems.  The first three constraints work together to produce a minimal world: that is, a static representation of an environment.  The globality constraint makes some information available for some systems; the presentationality constraint means that information must be available now, and the transparency constraint basically means the actual processing stages are unconscious, and must be so.

The world is more than a static representation, however.  To achieve an actual first person perspective within a dynamic world, three more minimal constraints are necessary.  The first is convolved holism, which means that our perceptions are always interconnected – there are no decontextualized atoms.  The second is dynamicity, which integrates individual moments in a flow of time (beyond the static nature of presentationality).  The third is perspectivalness, the fact that I experience my experience as my experience.  Finally, Metzinger will put all 6 constraints together into his phenomenal model of intentionality relation and the self.

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Being No One, Precis: Part 1

This will be the reading for Saturday, December 5.  A printable copy can be found here.

In Being No One, Thomas Metzinger attempts to develop an account of the first-person perspective that is both adequate to our phenomenal experience of being persons and to the empirical data, especially the neurological data.  He calls this the self-model theory of subjectivity (SMT).  The SMT is a constraint-satisfaction approach to phenomenal experience: it describes what properties representations in an information-processing system need in order to become phenomenal presentations, i.e. the contents of consciousness (Constraint usually implies limitation, but I think he is just as much using the word to mean condition).

In the full version of this work, there are ten constraints, but this precis covers six of them. First, there is the globality constraint, which means there must be a subset of information which is globally available for many different systems at once.  This is his way of describing the fact that this information is found within a world.  Second, there is the presentationality constraint; this is the window of the “now” in which everything appears as present to us.  Third, the transparency constraint is the fact that we cannot get behind experience to see how it is made; we cannot experience our brain processing information.  The final three constraints extend and deepen the first three, and we will leave them for part 2.

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The Emergence of Correlational Forms

We know there was a time when no form of subjectivity existed, and we know there was a subsequent time in which subjectivity did exist.  The question is, how can we describe the gap between these two times?  How, and on what basis, can we think the time of the emergence of subjectivity?  The Scylla any answer to this question faces is that any description of pre-subjective time is always thought from within subjectivity, or from within what I will call a correlational form. This problem would indict any such description as either dogmatically metaphysical or as a performative contradiction (i.e. to think where one is not).  The Charybdis is the possibility of a positivist neurological or eliminative reductionism, in which subjectivity is eliminated altogether.  With the elimination of subjectivity comes the elimination of phenomenal appearance and any kind of normative structure, which would produce its own form of performative contradiction (i.e. to insist on the truth of eliminativism after having eliminated truth and falsity).

In order to think the time of the emergence of correlational forms, we have the necessities to think where one is not and to maintain a distinction between truth and falsity.  The project is an attempt to describe a correlational form that can fulfill both requirements.

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