Proprioception & conscious movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jan 19, 2007 5:32 am

Greetings Kal,

I read something in Shi Ming’s book this morning that may clarify some of the remarks I’ve been making about “yi.” Thomas Cleary translates “yi” in Shi Ming’s book as “consciousness.” Here’s what Shi Ming wrote:

“Consciousness as we use it here does not mean consciousness in the ordinary sense, abstract logical thought, or abstract ideation; neither is it formal thinking in the ordinary sense. It is not a building in the brain of a builder, not a form or sound in the brain of a physicist. Nor is it the id, ego, superego, consciousness, subconscious, or instinct as conceived by psychoanalysts. The consciousness of which we speak is in every case developed consciousness; in whatever domain, it is always a result of combined refinement of body and mind.

“. . .Except for a few coincidences, ‘consciousness’ in this sense is not innate. It is a highly ordered consciousness that has gone through special conscious training (and under some conditions, unconscious training) and has gone through simultaneous refinement of body and mind. This sort of developed consciouness is referred to in martial arts by the expressions ‘use consciousness, not strength,’ and ‘all this is consciousness.’ In calligraphy and Chinese painting, it is referred to by the expression ‘consciousness precedes the brush,’ and ‘the effective work is outside the brush.’”
—Shi Ming, translated by Thomas Cleary in _Mind Over Matter_, pp. 32-33

I would like to add the observation that the English title of this book, “Mind Over Matter” is terribly unfortunate, as it tends to reinforce a folk theory of mind that is very much counter to the actual content of Shi Ming’s book, which advocates mind-body harmony. I don’t know what kind of decision process accounts for this title—perhaps it was a brilliant marketing choice, but the phrase “mind over matter” sounds to me like pop psychology, or caricatured Karate board-breaking culture. Mind, after all, is matter—why would one propose that mind be over matter? The actual Chinese title of Shi Ming’s book is “Lun wushu lianyi” (On Refinement of Consciousness in Martial Arts).

Kal, it was your great story above that led me to go back and find Shi Ming’s book, looking for this quote—a favorite of mine:

“Self-defense that cannot avoid hitting and hurting people is an expression of martial art that is still not at a sufficiently high level. The highest aim of martial arts using fighting techniques is to ‘defeat the enemy without doing battle.’ At the highest level, no one can even pick a fight with you. The effects of the highest techniques and principles are completely consonant with the highest morality.”
—Shi Ming, p. 101

You wrote: “They never meet.” That’s a powerful idea indeed.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby fol » Thu Jan 25, 2007 3:51 am

This idea about "yi" as "developed consciousness" has been reminding me of the work on differences between expert and novice cognition.

One set of experiments, for example, showed expert and novice chess players a set up of pieces on a board, for just a moment.

When the pieces were randomly arranged, experts were a bit better at novices in remembering the set-up, undoubtedly because they were used to looking at boards and pieces.

But when the pieces were shown as if in the middle of a game, experts did much, much better than novices. It's thought that where novices experience elements of a situation, and try to reconstruct them one by one, experts experience a configuration--a complex unity (or "chunk") which is the outcome of past strategies and is filled with potentialities for future actions. Or you could say, the expert "sees" what the set-up means.

There's a recent Scientific American article on this. Apparently, it takes ten years or 10,000 hours of "effortful study" to become an expert. Yikes! But anyone can do it. Hooray!

[This message has been edited by fol (edited 01-24-2007).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jan 25, 2007 5:35 pm

Greetings fol,

Thank you for your reflections, and for the interesting Scientific American article link. I particularly like your remark that “. . . experts experience a configuration--a complex unity (or "chunk") which is the outcome of past strategies and is filled with potentialities for future actions.”

The word “configuration” is one of my favorite ways of understanding the Chinese concept, “shi,” as in the “Thirteen Shi of Taijiquan”. I think these are better understood as “root configurations” or configurations of energy, rather than as “postures” as they are often translated.

As you say, “the expert "sees" what the set-up means.” The meaning is a function, if you will, of yi as intent manifest in movement or in a given setup as you describe. Although you give an example in visual terms, this extends as well to proprioception, to sensory knowledge inclusive of vision.

Also, the term “effortful study” would be a perfectly acceptable translation for gongfu!

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Simon Batten » Thu Jan 25, 2007 11:03 pm

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Louis Swaim:

'I would like to add the observation that the English title of this book, “Mind Over Matter” is terribly unfortunate, as it tends to reinforce a folk theory of mind that is very much counter to the actual content of Shi Ming’s book, which advocates mind-body harmony. I don’t know what kind of decision process accounts for this title—perhaps it was a brilliant marketing choice, but the phrase “mind over matter” sounds to me like pop psychology, or caricatured Karate board-breaking culture. Mind, after all, is matter—why would one propose that mind be over matter? The actual Chinese title of Shi Ming’s book is “Lun wushu lianyi” (On Refinement of Consciousness in Martial Arts).'[E]

Louis: I would just like to make some points about your identification of mind with matter. Furthermore, your reference to a 'folk theory of the mind' in which you imply the attribution of a separation of mind from matter to irrational 'pop psychology' and the like is, I believe, misconceived. The philosophical position on that identity or otherwise is of course still far from resolved. I have to say, I am no great expert on Epistemology, but I would briefly like to mention the book by the great 20th century philosopher of science, Karl Popper, entitled 'The Self and Its Brain' which he wrote with the psychologist, Eccles. Without going into Popper's lengthy arguments and proofs, he proposed in that work a tripartite theory of human existence, viz. "World One", which corresponds to the physical brain; "World Two", which corresponds to incorporeal mind; and "World Three" which corresponds to the world of ideas, which have their own independent existence, outside and beyond both the physical brain and the incorporeal mind. Popper demonstrates the necessity of positing "World Three" as follows. Included in World Three must be at least Logic as an independent and objective entity outside the world of the brain and the mind. The validity of arguments can only be judged according to the objective standards of Logic. Popper calls those who equate Brain with Mind and a fortiori, the world of ideas such as Logic, with "World One", 'Physicalists'. The problem for the Physicalists, according to Popper, is that in denying that Logic has an independent and objective, transcendent reality of its own, they thereby DENY the possibility of having the validity of their own arguments for the Physicalist position falsified in terms of objective standards. The Physicalist position on Mind/Brain problem is accordingly SELF-DEFEATING, and must therefore be rejected in rational terms. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jan 25, 2007 11:34 pm

Greetings Simon,

I must have been speaking from the perspective of World One. Can one cogitate absent a brain?

Take care,
Louis

“I’ll let you be in my dream, if I can be in yours.”
—Bob Dylan
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Postby Simon Batten » Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:50 am

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
[B]Greetings Simon,

I must have been speaking from the perspective of World One. Can one cogitate absent a brain?

Take care,
Louis

I would not care to answer that question in specific terms, but would venture to suggest that the answer to it, either way, has no bearing on the existence or otherwise of World Two and World Three. Specifically, although it might be true that Worlds Two and Three cannot be formed without a conscious physical brain, and cannot be apprehended without one either, it does not follow from that alone that World Two must be physical and/or that World Three cannot exist. I would reiterate Popper's criticism of the Physicalist viewpoint as being logically self-defeating. By the way, I forgot that Sir John Eccles, Popper's co-author of 'The Self And Its Brain' was in fact a highly distinguished neurophysiologist, not a psychologist. Popper wrote Part One of the book, and Eccles, Part Two. Eccles' part is highly technical; Popper concentrates of course on the philosophical aspects of the problem. Please consult the book if you are interested in these matters. I have searched on the web for suitable summaries of the work, but have not been able to find any that offer much more than I have already mentioned, so I am unable to provide a suitable web link. I don't know much about Bob Dylan. Did he by any chance subscribe to what you referred to in your penultimate message as 'pop psychology' in connection with the mind/body problem? This is unclear from the quotation which you have provided. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Simon Batten » Fri Jan 26, 2007 2:20 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>Greetings Simon,

I must have been speaking from the perspective of World One. Can one cogitate absent a brain?

Take care,
Louis

“I’ll let you be in my dream, if I can be in yours.”
—Bob Dylan</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Louis: further to my last posting in reply to yours, I would like to add further, that Karl Popper is of course by no means the only distinguished 20th century philosopher to have criticised strongly the Mind/Brain 'Identity Theory'. The American philosopher Hilary Putnam (born in 1926) has also done so, and I subjoin a summary of his position from the following website: http://www.iep.utm.edu/i/identity.htm

'4. Multiple Realizability

In his 1967 paper, "The Nature of Mental States," Hilary Putnam introduced what is widely considered the most damaging objection to theories of Mind-Brain Type Identity-- indeed, the objection which effectively retired such theories from their privileged position in modern debates concerning the relationship between mind and body. Putnam's argument can be paraphrased as follows: (1) according to the Mind-Brain Type Identity theorist (at least post-Armstrong), for every mental state there is a unique physical-chemical state of the brain such that a life-form can be in that mental state if and only if it is in that physical state. (2) It seems quite plausible to hold, as an empirical hypothesis, that physically possible life-forms can be in the same mental state without having brains in the same unique physical-chemical state. (3) Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Mind-Brain Type Identity theorist is correct.

In support of the second premise above--the so-called "multiple realizability" hypothesis--Putnam raised the following point: we have good reason to suppose that somewhere in the universe--perhaps on earth, perhaps only in scientific theory (or fiction)--there is a physically possible life-form capable of being in mental state X (e.g., capable of feeling pain) without being in physical-chemical brain state Y (that is, without being in the same physical-chemical brain state correlated with pain in mammals). To follow just one line of thought (advanced by Ned Block and Jerry Fodor in 1972), assuming that the Darwinian doctrine of evolutionary convergence applies to psychology as well as behavior, "psychological similarities across species may often reflect convergent environmental selection rather than underlying physiological similarities." Other empirically verifiable phenomena, such as the plasticity of the brain, also lend support to Putnam's argument against Type Identity. It is important to note, however, that Token Identity theories are fully consistent with the multiple realizability of mental states.' Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby shugdenla » Fri Jan 26, 2007 3:30 pm

Simon,

My observation is that modern "Western orientation" creates a mind/body division (a la Descartes) that has become so disconnected that they both drift apart instead of coming together. The concept of "xin" is apropos but it too has become more philosophy instead of practice!
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jan 26, 2007 5:56 pm

Greetings Simon,

I acknowledge that there are different ways of approaching these issues. I recall from grad school that Karl Popper was an influential thinker, but one who certainly has had his critics. On the basis of your synopsis, I don’t find his argument a compelling way of understanding or explaining mind, but will certainly look into it. I have been influenced by a number of thinkers on the issue, including the philosopher Gilbert Ryle (The Concept of Mind), the Nobel prize-winning biologist, Gerald Edelman (Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind), the cognitive scientist/linguist, George Lakoff & philosopher Mark Johnson (Philosophy In The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought), and, on the lack of emphasis on transcendence or on a mind-body dichotomy in traditional Chinese thinking, by A. C. Graham, and Roger T. Ames.

My reference to a “folk theory of the mind” was not meant to be necessarily a term of disparagement. Lakoff elaborates on folk theories in the book mentioned above. Folk theories are so called because they endure in a culture as accepted or agreed upon strategies for explaining things. In many cases they are useful and convenient strategies, but it is often productive to examine and challenge the foundations of such theories.

The Bob Dylan quote is from a song he wrote when he was about 21 years old, “Talkin’ World War III Blues.” I have no way of knowing what he subscribed to, but the song is both funny and sobering. It was a response to a precarious social and political moment. I just quoted the line because I like it, and it seems to address subjectivity and alienation.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 01-26-2007).]
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Postby Simon Batten » Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:44 pm

Louis: thanks very much for your reply. I fear I might have given a wrong impression in my answers to your postings. I really do not have any 'partisan' view on this, but I only wanted to point out, on the basis of what I had read in your postings, that the identity of mind/body is by no means purely a 'pop psychology' phenomenon. On the other hand, it now appears, from the citations you have given, that your already knew that anyway, so really, in the circumstances, my replies were otiose - although in fact they might have profited me, as I will certainly consult the works that you have mentioned. I am not a philosopher: I'm just a graduate in Classics and Law, though I have read a little philosophy, but not much. Frankly, I'm in fact not all that much interested in reading much more Western philosophy. It seems to be so destructive! All that scepticism! And then again, they all seem to want to be the 'great man' who knocks all other previous philosophies for six! What a lot of arrogance and conceit. And for what? Just to reduce people to even more confusion than they were already in, and then worship the 'great man' for making their lives such a misery as a result of his destructive and deconstrucionist conceits. No, believe me, I HATE Western philosophy, and I only mentioned Popper and Putnam for the limited purposes which I had in view in response to your postings - nothing more. What a relief to turn instead to the New Testament, and to the Tao Te Ching and The Book of Chuang Tzu. To me, Western philosophy is about as utterly useless in comparison to these latter two works as Boxing and Fencing are to Tai Chi and Tai Chi Sword (and I have, in fact, in my time, done all four). Nevertheless, I will pursue your references in due course - but will probably remain profoundly unconvinced. As the great English 20th Century poet Philip Larkin said in one of his poems: 'Get stewed: books are a load of crap'. Kind regards, T.
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Postby shugdenla » Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:34 pm

Simon,

When I was in university, I got tired of Hegelian philosophy and logic but it does have its place. Where is a different matter!
I do enjoy Nietzche or Schopenhauer because they are more "spiritual" than logical and much of their words appear more grounded in expeience and observation! As spiritual as they may be to me, others see extremes based on their own character flaws or life goals.
Taijiquan for ever.
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Postby Simon Batten » Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:42 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by shugdenla:
<B>Simon,

When I was in university, I got tired of Hegelian philosophy and logic but it does have its place. Where is a different matter!
I do enjoy Nietzche or Schopenhauer because they are more "spiritual" than logical and much of their words appear more grounded in expeience and observation! As spiritual as they may be to me, others see extremes based on their own character flaws or life goals.
Taijiquan for ever.</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Shugdenla: Hegel can certainly be turgid, though probably useful for understanding early Marx. I agree, personally, I am certainly becoming more attracted to the more aphoristic type of philosophy, such as you mention, and I've just discovered 'The Human Province' by the 20th century philosopher Elias Canetti, which is entirely composed of aphorisms and short observations of an illuminating sort. But one thing I did study up to a point was formal logic and symbolic logic and I think these have been very useful to me in giving me a clearer way of analysing arguments. I'd like to get into formal logic more, and investigate such things as 'fuzzy' logic, as well as revising the formal logic I studied in the past. But, well, one thing at a time, and for me Tai Chi has been my most important daily activity and interest for some years now. As you say, Tai Chi for ever! Kind regards, Simon.
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