Dennett's Dangerous Idea LO5305

Doug Seeley (
02 Feb 96 10:38:00 EST

Responding to Sanjeev Khadilkar in LO5270 and John Woods in LO5248..

I want to largely support the positions of these two gentlemen, and
suggest why this issue is important to Learning Organizations because of
what it says to the issues of Autonomy and Empowerment.

[compuserve has not sent me the LO digests from Wednesday, so please
forgive me for not taking into account early responses to Marion Brady's
nicely poised posting.]

Marion, have You seen the article by David Chalmers, " The Puzzle of
Conscious Experience " in the December issue... he has a nice way of
separating the " easy " issues of consciousness (which have to do with
what is really sensory awareness... like Johns " sense-making organisms "
from the " hard " question which is " what is the nature of subjective
consciousness ? " I am frustrated, I suppose like John, by the insistence
of science and modern philosophy (with all of its authority and intrinsic
belief structures) that everything has to be explained objectively, and
that the subjective is a mere derivation of the objective. At least
Chalmers suggests that subjectivity may be fundamental, although his
suggestion that it is based upon " information " for me, belies the point.

For me there are important distinctions to be made between i) the brain
processing behind sensory awareness, ii) our construction of our
perceptual reality, iii) the subjective quality of consciousness, and iv)
the one who is conscious. It seems to me that the current academic
interest in consciousness is completely concerned with i) and ii). To me
this is the Danger, and not Dennetts suggestion of an " intentional
stance " (which was certainly current in my grad school experience 30
years ago.)

I believe this belated work on consciousness is dangerous for the
following reasons (by dangerous I do not mean they have not the right to
do this work, but rather that the consequences of this work being carried
out with such a narrow and exclusive perspective, could have a very
negative impact upon the quality of our civilization).

Although not disagreeing with the content of Sanjeevs Hindu reference or
with the allusion to existentialist/phenomenological thought in this
century (which seems to have survived far longer in Europe than in
English-speaking academia), for me the truth of such things lies in our
own individual experience and not in declarations or in belief structures,
whether from organized religion or materialist science.

For me, iii) the subjective quality of consciousness and iv) the one who
is conscious, are not in the material realm. Why is it that modern
science has no room to grant this perspective equal billing? Is it merely
because we cannot run repeatable experiments or do stats on the
non-material? This lack of openness in modern science is what threatens
autonomy and empowerment in our culture and organizations, because it
insists that scientific dogma has authority over individual subjective
experience (whose existence it seems it would prefer to discard).

The only autonomy which I can see surviving this co-option of
consciousness, is that which inherently pledges allegiance to the primacy
of an objective, material realty. This puts a cap upon the Learning
Organization by constraining the learning experiences of its individuals,
and hence limiting what can emerge in response to the organizations

This co-option of consciousness then for me makes empowerment a hollow
manipulation of people who could not possible have any spirit or primal
subjectivity because the scientific perspective only allows them to be
material creations. This is what is so dangerous for our civilization.
For me, it is the unique individual whose fundamental subjectivity is what
becomes empowered independent of any outside authority (although
encouraged by supportive environments). This co-option for me inevitably
leads to a stance wherein we are all victims to the authority of so-called
objective reality, much in the same spirit of Humberto Maturanas position
(c.f. " Reality: The Search for Objectivity or the Quest for a Compelling
Argument; The Irish Journal of Psychology, 1988, 9, 1, 25-82). For me,
personal growth and hence personal mastery means the devolution of all my
victim stances and hende co-dependencies.

Why is it that the exploration of the nature of consciousness must be
exclusively from an objective, materialist perspective, what could be
termed science in the 3rd person? Is it because meditation, what I would
call science in the 1st person when pursued without dogma, and other
spiritual practices suggest the excesses, authority and dogma of organized
religion? Are we not now mature enough as a culture to sanction the
exploration consciousness from 1st and 2nd person science with openness
and with equal billing with 3rd person science?

Doug Seeley:
		" Is there a time or space where networks do not exist? "