home page conceptual adventuring autotelic self autotelic mind biomindality

naturalized phenomenology of the developmental interest
november 25, 2011 / May 25, 2012


My title expresses a long-range interest, which this section of “biomindality” prospects. This section is emblematic of my interest in a neuropsychology that would validly complement an appropriate ontogenic phenomenology (or experiential theory of child development). I want to understand philosophy of mind relative to naturalized phenomenology of some kind, as well as relative to purely psychalogical ontogeny (which wants to be autogenic—ontogeny itself does, I would argue, not merely my interest in this). Neuropsychology is vital for a comprehension of the biogenic dimension of ontogeny (or comprehension of biontogeny), yet also for understanding emergence of autogeny from biogenic processes. An appropriate philosophy of mind is at once biomindal and autotelic (where philosophy of mind itself is a discursivity of the “and,” so to speak). Yet my prevailing interest is an autotelic conception of mind (or autotelic dimension of mind). But mind is biogenic (an evo-devo organon, brain to mind) as well as possibly autotelic.

I don’t expect that neologistic abstract to yet make coherent sense, and I don’t help matters by wanting to be merely programmatic (i.e., being sketchy, even if exactly so). But I’ll later approach the biogeny of mind in detail, as part of my reconstructive interest in ontogeny (which is prospectively individuational). This is essential for a reconstructive understanding of mind as ontogenically constituted—a lived, selfidentical emergence which developmental inquiry merely models.

distant horizon of evolving minds

Emergence of physicality has led Here to emergence of life which long ago became naturally-selective (“evolving” or ecologically genotypal) through developmentalities (phenotypal variability).

That “became...through” is understood through so many scientific narratives that integrate features of evolving with features of development. Doing so across extant species (synchronically) is considered more-or-less homologous with doing so eonically, from beginnings of life to extant species (diachronically); i.e., variable complexity in extant life “mirrors” the eonic evolution of complexity in life itself.

An exemplary “site” of such homology is research on modularity, which is a conceptual venture seeking to be integrative across “levels” of life, from the biomolecular mode of inquiry, through the genetic mode to symbiogenic individual modes and intelligent life.

The trans-modularity of evo-devo life can be drawn into all manner of discursive inquiries cohering up through evo-devo conceptions of mind. In the past couple of decades, a vast literature emplacingmind” in nature has evolved, as cultural evolvability (ch. 8 of Darwinian Populations) has led to evolvability of inquiry in “Escherian” conceptions of inquiry as such (i.e., advancing inquiry through self-reflective conceptions of advancing that inquiry).

Coincidently, the three previous links pertain to work of philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith, which highlights an importance of particular minds doing conceptual research—a vortexual emergence of mindal singularity (background netweave of inquiries brought into a newly-constructive cohering) which applies to any leading researcher. The rest of us do well to recognize the best ventures and appropriate them fairly, as best one can. Our sense of evolving as such is conceptual, being about real emergence of conceptuality. (I’ll play with the pair ‘being’ and ‘real’ further on, and in the next section of “biomindality.”)

Biogenesis or biogeny isn’t strictly bio“logical” inasmuch as evolution of intelligence isn’t comprehensible biologically. However, intelligence in nature is vastly biological, since some sense of intelligence belongs to any organism with a nervous system. But there is an eonic boundary between biogenic (“hardwired”) and enactive or autogenic intelligence. Increasing degree of freedom in action could be usefully graphed as a rather-linear affair up to mammals, then a suddenly-radical exponential curve. “The” bio-/auto-genic boundary across nature is diffuse; for a life, it’s ontogenic, but equally diffuse in its own way (i.e., relative to the many-year genealogy of autogenic mentability from biogenic beginnings, discussed in the previous part of “biomindality”). It’s not fanciful to say that ultimately understanding intelligence is the same as philosophically being an Earthling.

for love of generative constraints

Let me tell you of longing: Life opens into the open, as if drawn into the light of Opening in itself, “anticipating” especially in absence drawing life into its horizon always some way, going a way.

A telic waying of longing—biogenic need, autogenic desire—constrains the opening (i.e., Opening in itself is already always telic) “postively” or “presuming” (even biogenically) possible fruitfulness, thereby developing in the open.

A scientific rhetoric would be less appealing, but it might have its own poiesis. Terrence Deacon’s Incomplete Nature: how mind emerged from matter (I mentioned earlier) takes a reader into a long story of “absence,” “wholes,” “emergence,” “constraint,” “homeodynamics,” “morphodynamics,” “teleodynamics,” “autogenesis,” and more such that “previously esoteric notions like self and sentience can be given fairly precise physical definitions” (540). “It is time to recognize that there is room for meaning, purpose, and value in the fabric of physical explanations” of “autogenic processes” (541). “[S]elf-rectifying constraint preservation is the defining criterion of referential information,” i.e., to mind, there being phenomenality. “This property is the foundation of all higher-order intentional processes” (ibid.). So, “the title of [my] book is slightly misleading. Mind didn’t exactly emerge from matter, but from constraints on matter” (539) [my emphasis].

Elaborately complex stories can be told of autopoietic and biogenic strains in the vortexual evolution of intelligence. (The point of [at] the vortex is a mind, not [conversely] a distant point of Origin flowering into our presence. The base of the vortex is reflectively [phenomenally / being] and reconstructively [scientifically / really] an ontogenic background figured in phenomenal horizons.)

concerting goodness

To my mind, one of the more profound notions in neuroscience is neural value, which I expect to discuss more soon. In short, neurons have evolved to be quorum sensitive (at the nanosecond level, I surmise), thus hormonally being drawn into the appeal of other neurons (so to speak), resulting in field resonances strengthened by the field itself. Figuratively speaking, it’s as if neurons want to be fielding each other—not just connecting, but strengthening their connectivity through the good vibrations emergent among them. This fielding is genomically predisposed to be drawn into well-formedness of fields (mentability, I call it) during prenatal mental development (emergent from brain development), which is the basis of fluid intelligence (which we experience as an immediacy of vastly-distributed concerts or coherings of elemental fields as phenomena: simply what’s perceived), distinct from later, highly-ontogenic crystallized intelligence (relating to capabilities and background concepts). Ontogeny of fluid into crystallized intelligence leads, through experience, to a reliable sense of Self, beliefs, anticipations, etc., which background emergent reliability of one’s sense of intuition (which is grammatically odd to say, I know; e.g., a toddler knowing how active s/he can be without falling; or believing reliably that some event is soon to happen). I have a long-range interest in developing a conception of reliable intuition based in good ontogeny. Feeling oneSelf is an increasingly crystallized conception of the “I” enacting.

how I minds

I’m afraid that mere listing of neuroscientific books that excite me has little usefulness, other than to emphasize how I would detail a conception of biomindality. Leading neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás, in I of the Vortex: from neurons to self, develops an empirical theory of “mindness states” (mental events of mindality, in my idiom) “intended” by evolution to facilitate, first, motility, then autogenic enactivity. He is another leading researcher (besides Nobel Laureate Edelman, indicated in the link above on neural value) to venture a theory of neural quorum sensing, from which mental fields emerge “like oscillating crickets atuning to each other.” A well-known colleague of Llinás, Joseph LeDoux, argues similarly in Synaptic Self. Actually, most neuroscientists nowadays, I believe, understand mental events as electrochemical fields. An art of topological modeling is now integral to neuroscience. Another colleague of Llinás (all at NYU around the turn of the millennium—a neuroscientific gang), Elkhonon Goldberg, theorizes the “I” of the vortex as The Executive Brain. The NYU gang could be playfully regarded as an interpsychal sense of mindality unto themselves: A theory of mind emerging from the “extended mind” of collaborative research.

But the model-theoretic difference between primal mental events (pre-nonconscious neural quorum fielding) and widely-distributed concerts of fields (nonconscious equilibrating and changing at nanosecond rates) which lead to mental events at a level susceptible to being experientially coherent aspects of one’s attention is, I surmise, incalculable, relative to the diffuse results of brain scanners (those relatively coarse-grained traces of subject experience, which are not representations of phenomenality itself). Yet, somehow, an ecology of vastly-distributed neurophenomenal fields constitutes simple experience.

But more difficult than explaining any simple perception—ontogenically being (phenomenally perceived) real (representably phenomenal)—is the vortexual challenge of theorizing mind itself (especially as conceptual conception of one Self), let alone an evo-devo conception of mind evolving (to which professional philosophical naturalism aspires). Yet we make careers believing in the promise of such ventures, and we do make progress. Amazingly (relative to, say, playing in a forest), this is the kind of beings we’ve become, that we’re continuing to become.

Jerome Feldman theorizes From Molecule to Metaphor to get “a neural theory of language,” which (to my mind) would not be fundamentally linguistic because the “languages of the brain” are the various modes of intelligence, as intelligence is intrinsically multimodal or proximally “modular” (in accord with primal senses and later capabilities for reasoning across modes of experience), even though a singular conception of intelligence may be more developmentally appropriate and philosophically appealing. Congruently with this, I wrote (2008) about “enlanguaging mind.” Nonetheless, biologically modeling language can be profoundly important for understanding the telic nature of human intelligence within a scientifically comprehended sense of teleology in nature.

eros of intents

Neuroscientist David Linden recently writes popularly about a “compass” of pleasure, but the evolved appeal of so much outer-directed attention presumes the inner-directing “needle” in the compass: choosing or preferring, which has its own pleasure of anticipated satisfaction or, better, purposive fulfilling. Cohering all pleasures is the anticipatory appeal of satisfaction that is to be “mine.”

As my just-so story goes (to be substantiated!), the autogenic motive of action is primally (not primordially, but initially) a biogenic appeal of absent (anticipated) satisfaction that draws action into purposive engagement and learning of one’s own. Then, reliable knowledge serves satisfying and fulfilling enactivity of one’s own (increasingly autogenic, employing pleasure for valued purposes). Feeling is an emotioned value of attention being drawn into intently satisfying and fulfilling enactivity.

Accordingly, I would argue, with Antonio Damasio, a feeling for what happens is the primary feature of cognition. But feeling is always interested experience. A valuation of emotion is integral to feeling, and that valuing expresses the primal reality of intentionality. Ontogenic purposiveness motivates cognition because it’s good to do: firstly, pleasurable; generally, satisfying; at best, fulfilling. The biogenic dimension of autogenic activity never fades away for embodied mind in good touch with itself.

origins of “mind”

Extrapolating biogeny into a notion of biomindality could correlatively weave (discursively) with an extrapolation of autogeny into a notion of automindality (or self-formativity—selformativity). I wish to extensively claim that intelligence in nature tends to favor itself such that there is, eonically, self-selection for automindality (or flexible fitness). That’s not an obviously valid kind of claim, given that the planetary biomass is largely microbial, and the planetary tissue of atmosphere is regulated by plankton. Yet, all in all, here we are, challenged to manage an atmosphere for our own good that we can manage. (The Earth adjusts to whatever. Biospheres move north or disappear. Ice ages come and go.)

We are free, in principle, to embody fidelity to generative constraints. Unlike most all of life, we can autotelically flourish. Prenatal brain formation evinces a great forest of neural weaving (and optimizes itself through pruning). From biogeny emerges autogenic composing of electrochemical well-formedness or fluid intelligence that grows to constrain brain activity. Neurological appeal of electrochemical field robustness weaves into widely-distributed well-formedness, the more so as emergent ontogeny is richly evinced (first through the robust pregnancy, then through good enough parenting). An Escherian topogeny of brain into mind grows into mentalities constraining brain processes for their own constitutive ( self-formative) good.

We are the species that has strived to enrich itself by enriching its horizoning children (the “Lemarckian” dimension that belongs to only human evolution). There has been an evolution of childhood, according to Melvin Konner (900+ pages): from “The Phylogenetic Origins of Childhood” through the “Anatomical Bases of Psychosocial Growth” and “The Evolving Social Context of Ontogeny” to immanent “Enculturation: The Transmission and Evolution of Culture.”

However, the evolutionarity of that, I wish to argue, emerges from our evolved capability for conceptualization (which has resulted from intergenerational cultural evolving). A conception of mind emerges from the origin of concepts (which results from evolution of The Child), which individuation may draw into highly conceptual ventures, such as any aspect of higher education, cultural enrichment, professional life, academic prospect, or sense of gardening.

All this may seem eccentric, but the evo-devo reality of mind is a conceptual one, calling for whatever tropology (if not topology) that may enrich the venture.

Last month, in “appealing emergences,” I alluded to a sense of inquiry into mind as scientific art of evo-devo presencing which is primally “bioglyphic and semiotic for discursive cohering” (¶ 11). Yet, such inquiry involves finer detail than even an elaboraton of what I’ve suggested above, fundamentally including conceptions of evolutionary, developmental, and normative cognitive neuroscience.

It’s dizzying. There’s more than enough science to inform the venture. Yet a promise of generative consilience is purely discursive or philosophical.

Next:philosophy of ‘mind’: a love story.


  Be fair. © 2017, gary e. davis