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THE APPLICATION OF JASPERS TO CONCEPTS OF NUCLEAR PHYSICS AND TO NEUROLINGUISTIC EFFORTS AT DERIVING CONSCIOUSNESS FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS (10-30-2005)
What is attempted here is the application of Jaspers’ experience in clinical psychopathology to general thought-trends today. Jaspers applied his experience and his systematic way of thinking to the trends of his day, and they are equally relevant today. His systematic reasoning maintains a toehold in what is constant in reality. Otherwise he would have been a type of patient rather than therapist. His therapeutic reputation is one reason he remains relevant. Another reason he remains relevant is that we are still dealing with forms of thinking when thinking out of the unconscious; such thinking from the unconscious is part are his specialty. Reality-toeholds can easily be lost especially when the unconscious side of consciousness is associated with nuclear neurolinguistic jargon as a programming technique to hide stretches of the imagination. As when Jaspers was alive a few decades ago, the search for the derivation of humankind’s substance continues on the other side of consciousness, e.g. C. G. Jung’s unconscious constructions--and the content remains theory in imaged form. Educated guesses become more dangerous because presented by academics’ dissertations that include a special language that implies that the unity of nature can anticipate knowledge in some certain degree of probability. Some poor principle of reductionism is gathered from nuclear physics and applied to an immaterialized hope for the more exact measurement of the area between consciousness and unconsciousness, the timeless/spaceless turn around unity that supposedly creates consciousness.
Two examples of nuclear physic’s quantum language can be mentioned: one of many is found voiced by Stuart Hameroff’s “unconscious quantum information” (Journal of consciousness studies, jcs-online), and the other is a new gated colony of constructivists being formed with the title of “Constructivist Foundation”. The Editor of the latter lists ten “constructivist” perspectives (what I call linguistic blocs singing in different octaves) and my application of Jaspers here applies also to a few if not several of those “constructivist” views, but demonstrating this specifically will have to be considered on another page. Only jcs-online will be looked at here. References to PNAS EEG (proceedings of the national academy of sciences and electroencephalography) and EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen thought experiment) seem to be used as a maxim by implication if an application to the unconscious can be made. But due to the lack of content it remains inexplicable. A quote from Jaspers applies here, “Formal understanding of symbols…can only reach as far as an aesthetic appreciation, the special excitation of feeling by a tentative play with exotic material, while the true seriousness of reality is lacking. Symbolic knowledge amounts to more than thinking in images”. (General Psychopathology p. 333, U. of Chicago Press 1963.) An example of an excitation of feeling is the play Mr. Hameroff makes of identifying the EPR experiment to an unconscious-conscious event, and that premise is spun into an anticipated total cognition, i.e., the origin of consciousness. Jaspers refers to this sort of thinking as “scientifically indefensible and philosophically irresponsible”. (Philosophical Faith and Revelation, Collins, London, 1967, p. 173.) The philosophically responsible way is to see the symbolic or metaphoric significance, and as relevant to knowledge already acquired such as the abundance of natural phenomena; namely, that we understand that decision-making aims at a direction or goal, and the seriousness of it is whether one understands decisions can be restrained by the understood limits of immanent transcendence and can be qualified by a learned ignorance attributable to a historical vertical Transcendence. Does one make decisions always with some degree of functional uncertainty, or can one assume that the decisions are determined by an established but unity of nature (generally meaning what is popular, appealing, and acceptable) revealed to each individual through the unconscious (such as the constructivism of Jung). The misuse of nuclear symbols can result in metaphoric thinking being reduced to “definite cognoscibilities in undefinable horizons turn[ed] into absolute Being”. (Ibid. p.173.) While speaking in the frame of reference of symbols (ciphers) of immanence, in particular symbols used in natural studies, Jaspers finds Heisenberg’s clear and thoughtful writings instructive. Why? (Ibid. p. 172.)
It seems that only in dogma does one escape ambiguity, either in a commitment to conscious authority, or commitment to suspension as such, or commitment to solipsist autonomous constructionism. In science in the ultimate sense of an absolute unity comprehended, ambiguity of phenomena is unavoidable. Jaspers continues the evaluation of Heisenberg’s clarity and thoughtfulness by adding that Heisenberg considers “‘a unified scientific picture of matter [note the word “matter” is not “life”--G.W.] as already achieved in principle’”. (Ibid. p.172.) In principle we never escape limitations. There is always a spin-factor reaction to action, and inaction to transaction, that simultaneous to transcending there is a descending to the push-off platform. The antinomies are unavoidable in reasoning and it is what’s involved with Jaspers’ ultimate situations, that one’s education is bought at the expense of another’s ignorance, or comfort at someone’s discomfort, and we can illuminate for ourselves the resulting guilt in the decisions to blame…facts. Or, one’s argument based on prestigious jargon gains strength by the number of those beguiled by it measured by the degree of unambiguity that sets in.
The PNAS EEG studies are inconclusive because the spin in direction of knowledge is not quite equal to the spin of what is unknowable—to use EPR metaphorically. Here we’re referring to learned ignorance, i.e. the more we know the more we know we don’t know. When that learned-ignorance is forgotten in principle, searches for knowledge—e.g. in mystic cultures--continues if one’s own personal introspection yields nothing tangible to measure. Corporeal certainty, reality, is searched for elsewhere in definite entities located in outer time and space. The references for Jaspers thinking is primarily based on his treatment of the ciphers of immanence and ciphers of nature where he addresses the way scientists conceive of the unity of nature, and the significance of Heisenberg’s contributions and the dangers it offers if dogmatized. (Ibid. pp. 170-174.)
With regard to the scientific search for the derivation of consciousness by consciousness through unconsciousness, what we are dealing here with is something immeasurable in practice, and Jaspers’ question, which proceeds from Heisenberg’s instructive comments, fills the void of unconsciousness: “Is it that the difficulties are theoretically soluble, if not by the means available to present-day mathematics—or is the task insoluble in principle, either because it is endless or because a leap, unsurmountable by quantitative derivation, lies in the matter itself?” That question remains applicable no less now then when he uttered it. When researchers meet the quantitatively “unsurmountable” an easy perversion tendency sets in, and the momentum continues grasping and finally finding the whole beyond consciousness. The unconscious becomes the unifying artifact.
We conclude this short critique of the impossibility of theoretical perfection in consciousness by holding fast to the need to remember “the limits of modern natural science” (Ibid. p. 173) to avoid inappropriate cantilevering (overshooting) in the quest for unity by providing monastic institutions (whether religious or tax-supported secular) for mystics where measurements are impractical and an emphasis on quality escapes fiscal unaccountability. Now, to where the rubber meets the road.
We begin with his PART V of General Psychopathology where Jaspers considers the social and historical aspects of psychoses and personality disorders. There is a normal thread in the manifestations of the abnormal psyche, i.e., humankind, unlike animals, is free to make mistakes, and in that sense mankind is “as it were ‘sick’, at the mercy of free choice.” (761) That proneness to ill choices shows up in the application of somatic medical techniques and epistemological errors. It’s manifested in the amateurish quantum-somatic-medical-mechanic’s comment to a patient; that the state of the art quantum mechanical apparatus has revealed bad news and good news; the bad news is that you have terminal cancer, and the good news is that the derivation of consciousness has been found which is essentially bad too for one can now know an immortal truth: that there’s no such thing as immortality. Or the physician can lean toward learned ignorance, comprehending the limits of knowledge and the unpredictable and immeasurable uniqueness of the human spirit, and ask the patient, when appropriate, “Would you like to have us add you to our non-denominational physicians’ prayer list?”
The bridge between psychopathology and normal pathetic misjudgments is as misty as the Golden Gate Bridge is often foggy. Jaspers begins PART V at the conclusion of PART IV where he cites a clear example of how basic concepts are “themselves in question and their limitations constantly felt”--demonstrating by case history (Betzendahl’s biographical study of a patient) how mental states can be unnoticed due to the impressiveness or beauty of one’s captivating performance in society. The last paragraph of PART IV amounts to a reminder that a previous diagnosis of classic schizophrenia can easily be changed to a complex personality-development. So, we can take it on at least textbook authority that the line is fine between personality disorders and pathology when we look at the psyche in society and history—near or far.
It almost seems incoherent to move from biographical case histories to the totally groundless or empirically void area of the unconscious, but that is what Jaspers does as he moves objectively as possible into displaying abnormal-psyche examples—from current society and history for him, but more historical for us now. He examines C. G. Jung’s “collective unconscious” and shows how easy it is to slip into therapeutic error. The error is the presumption that a collective consciousness is revealed, and as the biologically restrained basis for human potentialities. Jaspers does not need to show anything more than the content-less-ness or presumptuousness of social unconsciousness; but I interject here that Jung spoke the popular and appealing Freudian language on one hand, and on the other, that the universal life urge, progressed and became desexualized in the course of human “evolution”, and that it cannot be reconverted into sexual energy. Jung’s progressivism stanch here is unavoidable.
In Chapter V MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS Jaspers continues ideas about meaningful psychic connections and the part that the interpretation of symbols plays in pathology. Here he refers to Jung as an interpreter of symbols within the frame of reference that sees the symbol as a “carrier of a comprehensive meaning, the bearer of an immanent transcendence”. Here immanent transcendence means dogma. Jung thinks of collective unconscious as the bearer of something comprehendible and dependable. The “carrier of meanings that have a personal validity, springing from the person’s life-history…” becomes for Jung the “personal unconscious”. Jaspers points out that the only thing that can come from the unconscious is a “special excitation of feeling by a tentative play with exotic material, while the true seriousness of reality is lacking.” And “psychological understanding moves among perilous ambiguities”. Jaspers then shows how there can be movement or extension of Jung’s thought structures to thought structures with more poetic inspiration. (Gen. Psych. Pp. 332-333.) For example he mentions “the eminent Indologist, H. Zimmer” and how he speaks of the magical, soul-guiding function of Jung’s teaching. Zimmer is quoted as saying Jung’s system, formed from the unconscious, “‘has discovered in the underworld of our being the eternal source, the ancient murmurings’”. The significance of this reference to Jung’s interpretation of symbols out of the unconscious is the lack of something historical and empirical, nothing firmament in the mystical fundament. The empirical is limited to the interpretation of symbols, i.e., the interpretation becomes the empirical by a step back from the symbol. It is sequential then that there should be a delayed braking for imagination under momentum, that reason should overrun into mysticism and then in turn is made historical by some concrete historical personal data, though forgetting that the historical mystic is mystical semiotic data and not real empirical data. The same sort of overrunning is occurring today. (Ibid. p. 334.)
The tentative play around the unconscious as the source of consciousness can be found today in plumage displayed in some poetic artistic use of nuclear-quantum-physics symbols. It can be found in recent discussions by John McCrone, Neil Sims, Stuart Hameroff, and a few others known to the Karl Jaspers Forum (see jcs-online). The discussion recently includes some meaningful critiquing by Phillip Benjamin.
Benjamin points out that out of the unconscious (though talked about in quantum theory and mechanical terms in which uncertainty regarding measurement is involved) there’s a conscious movement near enough to mysticism to be seriously questioned. That movement includes more the search rather than a search for natural unity--specifically the derivation of consciousness. That direction of research slips off something dubious made out of uncertainty in matter, a conjured misapplication of nuclear physic’s limitations in measuring is taken as something unconscious but symbolic enough to be genuflecting before what’s seen as Eastern mysticism.
The fine line between dubious and the practicality of quantum measuring is similar to Jung’s collective unconsciousness and personal unconsciousness. What we have is linguistic play, the immanent-transcendental use of terms. In the hiatus void of quantum measurement, uncertainty/unconscious-certainty/consciousness, in immanent circularity, in the breakdown at some unknown cul-de-sac, consciousness occurs. The Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen symbol (EPR) for a thought experiment sounds like physics, and as an imagined image looks like physics, (even makes room for the effect of unconsciousness more than consciousness on the experiment) and by some self referential semiotic noise sounds like physics, all somehow connected coherently by “microtubules”. But as Benjamin asks: “How is this of any relevance to brain functions? Why bring EPR into the brain at all? Science has yet to explain what a photon is, before fully explaining EPR” and its roll in the derivation of consciousness.
So, Jaspers critique of Jung’s constructivism out of the unconscious (and Zimmer’s finding similarities within a private interpretation of Eastern traditions) is applicable here now as then. Benjamin sees it clearly when he points at Mr. Hameroff’s (anesthesiologist, associate of Arizona State U.) search for a bit of historical and cultural orchestrated leadership in today’s “post-modern” romantic search in blushing Eastern personages. Benjamin sees an obvious preference against the search in the West for the search in the East. So, the trend of several decades—sense Jaspers--continues today due in part to complexity of the unseen unconscious forces, “the nameless powers” Jaspers made clear in Man in Modern Age and in The Perennial Scope of Philosophy, Chapter Five “Philosophy and Anti-philosophy”. The trend is currently seen like in the neuroscientists’ Conference at Johns Hopkins Medical Center with Dalai Lama as the keynote speaker. Benjamin correctly points out the circularity of reasoning in this trend, as had Jaspers. Jaspers shows that the difficult-to-name powers (“nameless powers”) are bent on finding in another culture what is assumed not to be found in one’s own. We have to examine the reasons for this aberration, this loss of respect for one’s culture. If an anesthesiologist is looking for some substitute for chemical anesthesia, that is one thing, but what does pain-control have to do with the derivation of humankind’s consciousness? That is not a facetious question.
One finds the same sort of romantic search in the popular work entitled “The Dancing Wu Li Masters” by Gary Zukav. It’s a descriptive and helpful work on what is current in physics. But the implication that understanding new physics depends on some concepts from some romanticized spatial or temporal geographic cultural center was not helpful to me. As a matter of fact, it was a distraction, for the necessary concepts were already instilled in me through biblical influences, including my Grandmother’s effort at entertainment when she looped a string through a large multi colorful button, swung it in a twisting fashion, and pulled from each end; the phenomena (including the variable hum) was impressively fascinating, and descriptive of life’s dependency on good healthful inherited constitutions, dispositions, and proper acquiescence to tradition.
The search for something constant in tradition and history is not only good anthropological science it also involves the science of psychology. But those studies should not be short circuited by the view that humankind’s history, early or late, is preconditioned by some view of immanent transcendental progression from an assumed source and that variation in potential is an aboriginal aberration of unconsciousness into consciousness seen now by “post-modern” academics. What we have not arrived at here is the importance of tradition and history from a critique of pure conscious and empirical perspective, both in contributing to abnormality as well as normality. That is the other two ends of the simple yin-yang string apparatus. On one hand we have tradition and on the other we have inheritance strung throughout history, and when the spinning momentarily stops we can see a constant formula but not the dynamic content. I inherit my grandmother’s string and button-experiment (but start anew with another button and string which is the extent of any radical constructionism involved) and the traditional performance too is inherited, and to some degree the historic memory and the hard to measure difference between inheritance and tradition (history), though unclear, it remains practical and functional. Jung’s collective unconscious is suppose to arise as something universally human and can appear at any time in symbolic form such as in dreams or even in psychoses that can lead to universal changes. But, the question remains, is it something biological and personally immanent only or is it historical and traditional? Jaspers (Gen. Psych. P. 709) sees as valid the statement that “acquired properties are not inherited”. Tradition and the history of tradition are acquired but do not imply acquiescence to traditional or historical institutionalism. Nor does tradition’s history require that each individual start anew constructivistically by ignoring the most ancient tradition of one-to-one communication. (Jung’s, or any other social anamnesis—case history—is not to be minimized, for one person’s biographical shoes must be walked in, and one person’s unusual home environment and resultant effort at coping may require temporary constructivism-like props, and there should be at least half-way gated communities for them where the suppression of early or recent experiences is tolerated by the groups spirit. But these communities should be recognized for what they are.)
So neurolinguistic symbols (jargon) are not inheritable but stand potentially, traditionally, as acquirable ideologies with a fascination and acquiescence that can work like surrogate fillers for the historical voids, such as in radical constructivism (voids filled by references to relatively insignificant historical personages like Vico and Anaximander and efforts to portray Karl Jaspers as a “Constructivist”).
That acquired properties are not inherited, Jaspers says,
“make(s) void all those statements about pre-historic or historical acquisition of such symbols, which rise again out of the unconscious without tradition. But if the collective unconscious were only the biological basis of human potentialities as they evolve historically, when looking for what is universally human in our comparison of the myths and symbols of all people, we would have to ignore the historical element, which it would be impossible to do. Something that is unhistorical yet universally human cannot be grasped in terms of content but only in a purely formal way. If we go beyond that our concepts get confused—as is the assertion that landscape and climate affect psychic characteristics and deeply determine the nature of the local inhabitants in all that they say and do; for example make an Indian psyche in every American. … Hereditary properties can remain dormant if no appropriate stimuli in the environment arise, but they will come to light again later after many generations when the environment summons them to function. In hereditary connections nothing is ‘forgotten’. What is founded in history on the other hand requires a tradition to hand it on and a continuous appropriation of it by a newly awakened consciousness. We are what we have become as human beings because of the actual historical basis that has been laid once for all, which is exactly what it is and no other and which is not something universally human. But what is given historically can be lost; it can be forgotten when the tradition perishes and the later generations have no access to it through any remaining traces of its records and works. Functions become dormant through non-usage and may perhaps come alive again in psychoses and dreams. But historical contents can be truly forgotten and can only be acquired through fresh contact with an actual tradition. At all times there are certain possibilities of human life which become buried but the ways in which they can be resuscitated differ radically according to whether they are matters for heredity or tradition. In matters that belong to tradition an absolute forgetting can undoubtedly occur and there can be an irrevocable loss of historical continuity.” (Gen. Psych. p. 710.)
Functions can become dormant like in constitutional inheritance, such as in the case of deaf mutes, and here tradition can lead to excellence, and this is an example of how resuscitation can differ radically. Traditional communication can accommodate inherited abnormalities to affect the manifestation of the human wholeness.
Further related considerations: Deaf and mute remain at level of idiocy without inherited property, but through communicated tradition can excel; the significance of pain, natural (battle amputations without anesthetics) and neuroleptic drugs; Neurology and psychopathology, applied basic concepts of Brain, Brain Process, localization, neuro-mechanism, neuropathic families, translation and application of neurological viewpoints and basic concepts into performance psychology…