XXIst World Congress of Philosophy, Istanbul, Turkey

August 10, 2003, 14:00-15:50, Sultan-4
Title: Methodological Integration of Wisdom in the Pursuit of Knowledge
Organizer: Helmut Wautischer (USA, for the Council of Philosophic Societies)
Participants: Antoine Courban (Lebanon), Axel Abraham Randrup (Denmark), E. Richard Sorenson (Tibet)

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Why One is not Another in Maximus of Constantinople ( 580 - 660 ). The Brain-Mind Problem in the Byzantine Culture
Antoine Courban (Lebanon)

“What if anything is Byzantine?” asks Pr. Clifton R. Fox. By modern convention, the phrase “Byzantine Empire” refers to a political entity whose role is not sufficiently understood by the educated public of today. In spite of its rich heritage and significant role, the achievements of Byzantine civilization have often been given short shrift. The problem of Byzantium consists mainly in its historiography.
The eastern roman provinces did not experience the sudden break with Greco-roman antiquity as did the West. Byzantium ( or the Roman East ) can be said to have been the crossroads of the Mediterranean world. This “imperial melting pot” was “roman” in its institutions, “hellenistic” in its culture and “semitic” in its spirituality. This mixture of sources will have the utmost crucial influence on building a relatively non-dualistic anthropology and a vision of nature where the contribution of senses is neither to be rejected nor to be despised. This development is a real innovation it introduces a moral world. It can be traced from late antiquity until the time of Maximus of Constantinople ( 580-662 ), who is considered by many scholars to be the most brilliant thinker of the first millennium. This peculiar “sensualism” is different from Epicurus’ “hedonism” and/or the “sensual ethics” of modern Utilitarian philosophers. Being the foundation of what is called “Philocalia” in eastern-christian spirituality, it is rather to be put together with the vision and sensitivity of Francis of Assisi.
The stake of commenting nowadays these issues is multiple. From a scientific point of view, it deals wit the modern understanding of evolution and causality. It helps to better understand the contribution of Byzantium in the “brain-mind” ( body-soul; flesh-spirit ) problem and the issue it was given to it through the concept of “hypostatic union” and the crucial importance of “free will.” Concerning the history of ideas, the Byzantine era is important in showing how this civilisation assumed selectively the culture of antiquity, mixing it with a new vision of man where the body and the soul are deeply united. If one would like to resume the Byzantine way of dealing with the “brain-mind” problem, one would say: “I don’t have a body, I am my body”. That is probably why every one is able to say the same thing in a unique way, in a way where “One” is radically not and can never be “Another”, although the “One” and the “Other” are constantly related.

 

Collective Comsciousness Across Time
Axel Abraham Randrup (Denmark)
The idealist philosophy followed in this presentation is based on the assumption that only conscious experience in the Now is real. This conscious experience is supposed to be known directly or intuitively, it cannot be explained. Material objects are regarded as heuristic mental concepts constructed from the immediate experiences in the Now. This assumption challenges the currently dominant materialist ontology in the natural sciences, nevertheless it does maintain the methodological presupposition that all scientific research - materialist or idealist - rests on empirical observations from which concepts and theories are derived.
The individualism known in the West may be regarded as extreme, in various other cultures collective and relational features of humans and their minds are emphasized at least as much as individual features. Time as well as events (such as reading a digital instrument) and persons in the past are here also seen as mental heuristic constructs in the Now, based on present experiences, among them memories. Experiences in the Now can then be associated with persons in the past, and this gives a basis for assuming identical or collective conscious experiences across time. In different cultures many different conceptions of time are encountered, for example the view that the past exists also in the present. In the 15th century Nicholas of Cusa said very succinctly: "All time is comprised in the present or ‘now’ .... time is only a methodological arrangement of the present. The past and the future, in consequence, are the development of the present.

 

The Emptying of Ontology: The Tibetan Tantric View
E. Richard Sorenson (Tibet)
More philosophy and science than religion, Tibetan Tantric Buddhism has no deity to which beings are held accountable. Consciousness is held to be supreme. Intelligence trumps doctrinal authority. Intellectual coercion is abhorred. Reasoned challenges to established views trigger interest rather than denunciation. Instead of being expected to answer to a god, human beings are considered to be rather like one. Thus after Buddha passed away, Buddhist philosophy evolved in an atmosphere tolerant of change and difference and interested in and respectful of all well stated thoughts. Hence divergent intellectual currents could form without duress within established schools and gain recognition as schools themselves merely by speaking well.
And so, for a thousand years after Buddha’s death, inquiry into the nature of existence kept expanding into new areas of understanding, with ever more tightly honed methods of rational inquiry. New insights posed new questions which led to further insights. And so on - not unlike how Western science grew. Eventually increasingly rigorous logical analysis of phenomena disclosed realms of consciousness subtler than those of subject/object thinking - and therefore beyond logical purview (since logic must have fixed categories to analyze). Logic’s previously dominant role in determining truth then simply moved enough to side to make room for an experiential type of validation beyond the realm of words.
Early explorers of these un-articulable realms soon noticed they were touching onto much the same things. A stable realness was recognizable in common by all who peered inside. Since it was at root verbally undescribable, techniques of allusion and evocation were devised to position others so they might more easily also touch onto these realms beyond the speakable, and therefore beyond ontology.
Though guidance to such realms requires a high degree of intimate rapport and candid openness between individual students and their teachers, curricula were eventually devised in which Tantric students can focus attention en masse on symbolic representations (of crucial awareness states) designed to prepare them to recognize the actual living states when they spontaneously occur. Dimly at first; but practice brings increasing clarity. Domination of mentality by subject/object cognition and ego-oriented emotions then diminishes. As they fade it becomes easier to enter levels of consciousness subtler than those dominated by the ordinary sense of one’s own body, its verbal mode of understanding, and finally from the strictures imposed by its evolutionary and historical background.

 

Methodological Integration of Wisdom in the Pursuit of Knowledge
Helmut Wautischer (USA)
In the current market of consciousness studies (especially in the US and UK), consciousness is primarily researched within the context of cognitive science, neurobiology, analytic philosophy, and with some caution, the phenomenological tradition. Notwithstanding a successful decoding of brain functions that lead to a presumed occurrence (or emergence) of the contents of consciousness, researchers generally acknowledge that conventional scientific methods have not yet produced a meaningful theory of consciousness that is descriptive with regards to the quality and diversity of conscious experience, especially feelings and the so called “high-order consciousness” related to abstract thought.
Decoding human consciousness appears to bring forth a type of knowledge that is not beneficial for individual human beings. It overlooks such content-related aspects of consciousness that can be claimed only by the individual and that constitute the foundation of what it means to be a human being: unfettered by methodological demands, human freedom claims its authentic emergence as being irreducible to underlying neurophysiological processes. The current consciousness market is primarily shaped by a tight-knit academic community with clear programmatic objectives to identify its research target, isolate relevant variables, handle the data, and predict outcomes. Anyone who applies this formula to his or her very own conscious states will rightfully question the desirability of such approach and insist on preserving authority over one’s conscious states by the respective individual.
The shock value of scientifically positioning the mind into matter fades into oblivion once the motivational key for action unlocks the determination of matter. Thus, the integration of wisdom in the pursuit of knowledge is a critical component of scientific practice that must be carefully protected by academe.