Topic for #41: Pat Churchland on the Neurobiology of Morality (Plus Hume’s Ethics)

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With special Guest Pat Churchland herself!

What does the physiology of the brain have to do with ethics? We were contacted by Pat Churchland’s publisher and invited to speak with her about her new book Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality.

She was good enough to chat with us (Mark and Dylan) for a full, regular length show yesterday, and not only about her own book, but also about one of her major influences, David Hume, who pioneered a “naturalistic” approach to ethics: we look not for normative laws to provide commands for our behavior, but at the moral sense we already have, and how this plays as a practical matter into the challenges we face in making laws, deciding on punishments, and just getting along in a society.

Churchland’s addition to this project is reporting on and synthesizing the broad swath of current scientific findings on what exactly this moral sense is: how is it realized in the brain and our endocrine system? What mental operations make moral assessments and rule-following possible? Much of her book is taken up with reporting on animal physiology and behavior, so we can see where on the evolutionary path we picked up the abilities to expand the circle of self-regard to include kin and associates, to represent others’ intentions and beliefs to predict their behavior, and to understand and follow social norms.

To read along with us, pick up Churchland’s book.

For a further preview (as it’ll be a couple of weeks before I have the episode edited for your listening pleasure), here’s a lecture she gave in 2010 at the University of Edinburgh (iTunes link). You might know her from her earlier work in the philosophy of mind (we tangentially discussed her husband Paul’s Matter and Consciousness

Re. Hume (who we covered re. knowledge on a previous episode), you can read his Treatise on Human Nature (1739), Book III, Part I and his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), Section V, Parts I and II.

Comments

  1. The Atheist Missionary

    June 28, 2011

    Suggestion: you guys should add a share button on the bottom of these posts to make it easy for people to share them on social media sites.

    I am forlorn by the realization that it is going to take me a long time to catch up with you guys. I have been listening to the shows in order without reading the underlying source materials (aside from the few that I have previously read). However, after listening to your Pragmatism episode #20 for the second time, I realize that the only way to fully enjoy these shows is to read the source materials first.

    [Apologies in advance for gushing] I have been searching for a podcast like this for years. I am university educated (business followed by LL.B.) but was never introduced to even the most rudimentary philosophical concepts in high school or university. It took a simple book by Stephen Law (The Philosophy Gym) to open my eyes to an exciting world that I never knew existed. I know it must take you guys a tremedous amount of time to put these shows together and I just want you all to know it is greatly appreciated. Also, as I am sure you recognize, you are creating something that has timeless appeal. Best, TAM.

  2. Josh Davis

    June 29, 2011

    Pat Churchland! I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read much of her work which, if I’m not mistaken, has a lot to do with neuroscience, philosophy, eliminative materialism(?) I’d appreciate any talk about her philosophical positions if anyone is read up on her, the required reading, etc. The book sounds interesting.

  3. burl

    June 29, 2011

    There are hours and hgours of video lectures, conference presentations, pansl discussions, and interviews of Pat all over the web, and especially at TheScienceNetwork.

    I have high regard for her hard work as both philosopher and later neuroscientist. I have mentioned her work in some PEL comboxes.

    I would be interested in her take on Whitehead’s theory of non-sensory perception as explanatory of the causality that Hume overlooks. In essence, what Whitehead refers to as perception in the mode of causal efficacy is the aspect of subjective experience by which nature is continuous (not as with Hume’s disjointed associations). Whitehead uses the simple example of uttering a phrase whose beginning words are already part of our sense-perceptable past even before we utter the last syllable. “We finish sentences because we start them” is hid way of stating that the affective tone (emotion, subjective form) of the content of that which has gone before is hurled forward vector-like into the subject’s present wherein its forward future directedness weighs heavily on our actions/decisions.

    So in a way, non-sensory perception is intuition/memory of the immediate past, as are all sense perceptions which also come with a microsecond delay.

  4. Ethan Gach

    June 29, 2011

    burl, I’m curious, when and how did your fascination with ANW begin?

  5. burl

    June 29, 2011

    Thanks for the interest, Ethan.

    I uften wonder about it too. I think my interest in Robert Pirsig is the ultimate connection – I have been a fan since the mid 70s, and in his second book _Lila _ (1990, or so) he develops a process metaphysics that is squarely based on the pragmatists, and I’ll bet anything he studied Whitehead carefully at some point, but after his electroshock therapy, he may have forgotten to credit AMW.

    Since Lila, a webpage and forum of Pirsig fans worldwide was created at moq.org, and it was in discussions I read there about connections among _Zen/MM _, _Lila _, Pirsig, pragmatism, the Sophists, Eudaemonia, F S C Northrop, and Whitehead.

    ANW did not yet have much impact, but later, after getting with discussions with Unitarians, I was led to study process thought, Hartshorne, and once again, Whitehead.

    Also, after adopting dogs from our no-kill shelter, I had a new interest in philosophy w/r dogs. You may not realize it, but Whitehead (and Hartshorne’s process theology) is one of the few non-anthropocentric, naturalist views on the place of all living creatures in the cosmos. My interest in animal compassion led me and my wife to become vegans (I am deeply troublrd to admit we are no longer – though we try to keep close to vegetarian).

    I was infuriated at the impact Christian dogma (except process thought) has had on the creatures (notable exceptions: http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&q=stephen+webb+god+and+dogs&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1024&bih=553&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=3978255885361271884&sa=X&ei=K24LTrKXCKe30AGEx6xk&ved=0CEUQ8wIwAA and http://www.all-creatures.org/). The doublespeak of theologians, clergy, even recent popes pissed(es) me off. I had many heated go arounds on some Catholic/conservative evangelical forums expressing my concerns. FWIW, the posters at these religion sites are no less interested in ANW than has been the case here at PEL. I left their circles when I saw the popes (JPII and Benny, both students of Husserl), promoting for humans alone a personalist theology that nevertheless describes the human-dog and just creature-creature emotional bond as the epitome of what is noble in life).

    I got really deeper into Whitehead as I tried to explain his epistimology to an anthropocentric dog forum host and trainer/author whom I thought needed a better framework upon which to hang his philosophy of animal emotions.

  6. David Buchanan

    June 29, 2011

    I’m looking forward to the Churchland episode, not least of all because “eliminative materialism” gives me the creeps. Big time. Hopefully, it won’t seem so scary after I hear it in a human voice. Do NOT read the Stanford article on eliminative materialism to your kids as bedtime story, whatever you do. ;-)

    • Daniel Horne

      June 29, 2011

      Hi David,

      If you want to find some other references to the Churchlands’ thesis which are “one step removed” — and thus perhaps less off-putting — here’s a pretty good book review of _Braintrust_ here:
      http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=416003&c=1

      For a sidebar discussion of a similar topic, here’s an appreciative yet critical book review by philosopher Colin McGinn of one of Churchland’s colleague @ UC San Diego, Prof. VS Ramachandran:
      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/mar/24/can-brain-explain-your-mind/

      …which prompted a good rebuttal and rejoinder between Ramachandran and McGinn here:
      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jun/23/tell-tale-brain-exchange/

      Ultimately, McGinn gets the best parting shot:

      My advice would be to spend some time studying some basic philosophy, instead of caricaturing it (“‘forging ahead’ is a concept alien to philosophers”); that might lead to a neuroscientist with philosophical sophistication—which would be something of real value in today’s intellectual culture.

      Finally, Pat Churchland’s husband Paul makes an attempt toward the end of this video to explain why — aside from the issue of whether you accept the EM thesis — it shouldn’t creep you out:
      http://youtu.be/LpJSeLY8cWs

      As I understand it, the sales pitch is this: If we only…

      – stop wasting our time treating consciousness and morality as subject to higher religious powers, and
      – stop wasting our time on “folk psychology” and a priori reasoning (via 2500 years of Western tradition), and
      – start seriously study consciousness using neuroscience

      …then we will better understand what are _true_ psychological wants, needs, desires, are. And that includes the desire for justice, ethics, aesthetics, etc. And in so doing, we’ll come to better actually human happiness.

      I’m not sure Paul Churchland’s sales pitch will persuade the unpersuaded. But the Churchlands themselves don’t think EM must simply result in Camusian despair.

  7. burl

    June 29, 2011

    Whitehead refers to elim matl’ism as vacuous substance, or nature lifeless. Instead, he views the cosmos as an ocean of feelings which form the ‘life’ of all occasions of experience. In panexperentialism, for inorganic subatomic particles, these ‘feelings and their specific emotion (affective tones)’ are their energy transmissions with specific spins and charges; whereas for organic experiences at the higher end of evolution, they are what we know them to be – the stuff that motivates and directs us – affects.

    Nature lifeless is a fallacy.

    • Ethan Gach

      June 30, 2011

      Sound’s like magic to me.

    • Avatar of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      July 1, 2011

      I guess I don’t see the point of this distinction you’re trying to make, Burl. I’m thinking back to the epistemology outlined on our Nelson Goodman episode, which is that for different purposes, you use different ontologies. If one asks whether mental talk can be reduced to physical talk, it always comes down to “for what purpose?” and once you’ve figured out a purpose, than it’s an empirical matter whether you can pull off a reduction convincingly.

      You’re pointing here at on the contrary using “life” terms to discuss inorganic material, and again I’d just ask what you get out of it? Explanatory power? (Probably not.) A good shorthand for discussing things? (Definitely; teleological explanations are very convenient, e.g. in discussing natural selection, but of course we understand that it’s just metaphorical.) Some kind of human relation to the thing being discussed? (Sure, go for it. But be suspicious if you think nature is relating back to you as a personality, as old timey theological habits may have snuck in… and for certain purposes, I don’t have a problem with that either.) If you use a metaphor to gloss over dissimilarities between phenomena, you risk confusion. (Do moral factors apply to my relation to subatomic particles if I conceive them as alive? Maybe in some very abstruse sense, but I sure wouldn’t want that f’ing up my ethical relations to actual people.)

      I’ve been getting farther in listening to the audiobook of Zen and the Art of Moto and am seeing some of where you and David are coming from here, but Pirsig seems to me to get the complexity, e.g. on the one hand the “classical” mode of analysis is stultifying and necessarily ignores Quality (as the latter is indefinable yet vital), but on the other hand analysis of something into its systemic components is extremely useful and foolish to be afraid of (I have yet to see how he really connects up those two threads at the end of the book…).

      • David Buchanan

        July 6, 2011

        Don’t want to spoil the surprise ending for you, Mark, but I think one of the central points in Pirsig’s book is to expand rationality to fully include the affective domain. He wants art and soul to be best friends with logic and facts. Or, as James puts it, our best thinkers will use all of their human faculties. They both trace this flaw in the intellect back to Plato, to the birth of philosophy. James calls it “vicious abstractionism”, which is the kind of excessive intellectualism that de-realizes or denigrates empirical reality. Quality, the cutting edge of the sensible flux, became subordinated to the intellect, Pirsig says. He and James both think it’s time for philosophy to return to the earth of things. They both think that our concepts and verbal formulas are fine in the service of life but they are always secondary additions and they’re always partial and provisional. This is very far away from any slack-jawed anti-intellectualism of course. The idea is to improve and expand our ways of thinking while also showing that our abstractions are only human tools with limited capabilities and uses. It’s a radically empirical humanism. I like to say it’s a vision that calls for beautiful science, intelligent art and religion that isn’t threatened by either of those things.

        Apologies for being so far off the topic. I’ll try harder after the Churchland episode is released.

        • burl

          July 6, 2011

          “I like to say it’s a vision that calls for beautiful science, intelligent art and religion that isn’t threatened by either of those things.”

          David, your whole post is the BEST description of Pirsig I have ever seen in my 35 year odyssey with his thought.

          The part I quote is priceless.

          Well said, good man.

    • Lisaicha

      November 30, 2012

      “I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naualtlry inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still something eminent about them, in their valour, form of government, or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discovered the symptoms of ingenuity; though low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.”- David Hume

      • Avatar of Mark Linsenmayer

        Mark Linsenmayer

        November 30, 2012

        Yep, sure is funny how smart people can believe dumb things, and how a founder of a still vital take on meta-ethics can get a significant factual, and in this case consequently moral, fact profoundly wrong. If I thought there was anything philosophically interesting in the history of such error, I might look into another race-related episode covering it; I’m open to suggestion regarding interesting readings of that sort.

        -Mark

  8. rinky

    June 30, 2011

    A phrase that worries me very slightly: “We were contacted by Pat Churchland’s publisher and invited to speak with her about her new book.”

    • Avatar of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      June 30, 2011

      I can say that we were not at all coached or given conditions re. how we should approach the discussion, and to our surprise, Pat was cool with our regular long-form format and seemed to actually listen to what we had to say instead of just spouting preprepared speeches. That said, it’s still less easy to be critical when the person’s actually talking to you, and I’m sure we’ll have some follow-up in subsequent discussions and on this blog where we are a little harder on certain points raised in her book.

  9. David Buchanan

    June 30, 2011

    Thanks, Daniel. I watched the Scruton piece and then the one with Paul Churchland’s optimistic defense. Don’t be afraid, he says, knowledge is power. It reduces misery and we want to understand more deeply so we can take better care of our fellow human beings.

    Okay, no reasonable person could disagree with but it’s just an innocuous truism, if not a platitude. (In “Animal House”, the statue of the founder of the college is engraved with the quote, “Knowledge is good.”) And it begs the central question: can the mind be identified with neurological processes? Can we equate the brain and the mind? This is where Scruton’s objection comes in. He calls it reductionism because it seeks to explain consciousness in terms of observable physical processes. By his analogy, this is like trying to explain a work of art in terms of the distribution of pigments on a two dimensional surface. The work of art is not something other than paint on a surface and yet it cannot be reduced to those physical structures. Knowing all the physical facts counts as real knowledge but it simply doesn’t tell you anything about it AS a work of art. It’s like explaining your cross-country road trip in terms of gallons per mile. It’s like reviewing a movie in terms of frames per second and color saturation levels. It seems to me that this reductionism is a fairly serious charge because it suggests that there is a fundamental misconception at work in this neurological approach to consciousness.

    Don’t get me wrong. Neuroscientists are producing real scientific data. The questions are about how to interpret the data and what claims they can reasonably support. But isn’t true that there is a famous explanatory gap in exactly this spot? Isn’t this what Chalmers call the hard problem of consciousness? To assume that the brain and mind correlate is to assume that this hard problem will be settled in the Churchland’s favor at some point in the future.

  10. Josh Davis

    June 30, 2011

    In Paul Churchland’s spontaneous philosophical outburst at the end of the interview, more disturbing to me than the truism (“knowledge is power”) was the passionate invocation of “greater freedom” that would be granted by forging ahead along eliminative materialist lines. Irony, anyone? Freedom and mind/brain issues are really the central issues of modern metaphysics, which leads me to believe that philosophers and neuroscientists are really talking past one another. I sure do wish that the interviewer would have asked what he means by freedom. I’m not one to deny that there are benefits to be gained from the research of neuroscience. I have a schizophrenic brother and I lost my father to brain cancer last year. But, if you want to sell eliminative materialism to me, I’ll need more than promises of a brave new world. I’m speaking facetiously because I know there is interesting work out there. (Paul Churchland’s “Elim Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes” and stuff by Armstrong come to mind.) However, I don’t think I’ll ever be persuaded of eliminative materialism because of broader issues in metaphysics.

    David’s talk about reductionism is to me precisely to the point, and for me it all gets back to Frege, the concept of a particular, and the fact that there can be numerous descriptions (senses) for an object (reference), and also if causation can be described. To my mind, the materialist is funamentally in error by mistaking whether or not something has reference for whether or not something “is physical”. “Is physical” is a description or predicate among predicates. To say that the world is physical is to me in the end meaningless, as meaningless or meaningful as saying the world is cheese.

    My current stance is one of neutral monism/dual aspect theory. So far, I don’t see that changing.

  11. Avatar of Mark Linsenmayer

    Mark Linsenmayer

    July 1, 2011

    I’ll save most of my comments on this until after the episode drops, but a few points in preview:

    1. Pat Churchland is not anti-philosophy, but thinks that philosophy and science should work together. She compared what philosophers can do to what theoretical physicists do as opposed to the ones actually out there performing experiments.

    2. This is evidenced by what she had to say in our discussion about Hume, which see seems a great enthusiast of. Plenty of historical philosophy makes claims about human nature or how we know things, and brings in physics or psychology or social history in kind of an ad hoc way. If you’re going to do this at this point in history, you should actually figure out what empirical facts are involved.

    3. Eliminative materialism I think is generally misunderstood. The Churchlands are not trying to deny the claim put forward by Nagel in “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” i.e. they do not deny that we have first-person experiences and that (a la Descartes) that’s where knowledge has to start. To say, e.g. that “desire” is actually a theoretical term and not a report on a bare datum of experience is an interesting and not obviously wrong claim.

    4. In any case, this physiology of morality project is I think pretty distinct from eliminative materialism in general. Pat is frankly interested in the physiology in and of itself; there’s no discussion in her book of “reducing” moral truths to physiological facts or anything like that.

    5. I was also surprised that she had so much to say about social ethics itself, not in terms of rules for determining right from wrong (which she thinks, for reasons independent of materialism, is a wrongheaded way to go about doing ethics), but in terms of the complex factors that go into real decision-making, particularly regarding public policy. (She talked a lot about the drug war.)

    Still, I’m not endorsing her views here, and I know Wes did not like the philosophical (as opposed to physiological) chapters in her book one bit. Stay tuned for details.

  12. burl

    July 1, 2011

    Mark

    I will spend some time w/ your comment on mine and try to fuse my comments on Hume’s missed causation as Whitehead’s non-sensual prehension AND his notion of energy as subjective form of experience (what I called ‘life’ and maybe shouldn’t have.

    I will get back later w/ this – David might answer for the Pirsig concerns.

  13. Avatar of Tom McDonald

    Tom McDonald

    July 1, 2011

    I would argue that to understand the persistent, ineliminable gulf between an empirical science like Churchland’s and philosophy proper we need to understand an insight established in Kant, and developed through German idealism to Nietzsche to Heidegger and up to contemporary thinkers like Gianni Vattimo: our capacity to think metaphysically is our capacity for freedom which is our ability to negate norms, i.e., our capacity for nihilism. Philosophy from Socrates on is the ability to question and therefore negate any normative notion we can come to know, including naturalistic normativity to which Hume and Churchland appeal, else how could human beings be capable of life-denying practices like hunger-strikes or suicide? Roger Scruton is an enlightened conservative atheist Hegelian who understands this, and this is why he is against naturalism: human beings cannot be reduced to purely ‘natural’ norms without thereby ceasing to be human. We can admit that culture is in part shaped by natural norms, but philosophy cannot grant the so obviously absurd contention of certain forms of scientism that it is wholly shaped by natural norms. And yet because naturalism rejects the ‘no-thing’ of metaphysical thinking a priori, it will stupidly persist and persist trying to prove vainly that human normativity can be reduced to a ‘nature’.

  14. burl

    July 6, 2011

    Elsewhere, I have written “What Hume considers as the ‘force and liveliness of character’ transmitted between separate but successive sense perceptions is de facto recognition of the immanence of the past in the future. This is the necessary continuity of transmission of energy/affective tone in Nature -– causality.”

    In an earlier comment, I mention how ANW’s taking seriously the specious present CLOSELY bounded by an immediate past and future. He often uses speech to exemplify this idea, as well as how the past is immanence in the present (future).

    Another example of this is common in song. For the listening pleasure of all PELers, especially the trio, and particularly Seth in Austin, crank it up and move – in the end you will see what I mean.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQoXnz3h_FE

  15. Pat Churchland

    July 7, 2011

    I am fascinated by the various comments and discussions. Burl very kindly brought to my attention his blog PEL, and I read his points about Whitehead. I am embarrassed to say that I read Whitehead as an undergraduate, could not make head nor tail of it, and I never had a chance to do systematic work on Whitehead. Such a pity. As I read Burl’s discussion, Whitehead’s ideas about prehension make very good 21st century sense. He was clearly far ahead of his time. His criticism of lifeless nature, as he describes Newton’s and Hume’s approach, is also very deep. Biology, as Panksepp rightly understands, is all about motivation and behavioral control. No values, no behavior, no genes passed on. ANW’s thoughts on the specious present have also surfaced in work on time, e.g. Rick Grush. That so much of mainstream philosophy in the 20th century completely ignored ANW — and Dewey — is one of those facts that makes me reflect sadly on the sociology of science and philosophy.

    I do also agree with Pirsig that for much of the 20th century, philosophers had a very pinched and unrealistic idea of rationality — it does of course include much beyond the capacity for pure logic. Although my discussions in Braintrust on reasoning are brief, I do opt for a constraint satisfaction hypothesis, which means that many factors are in the mix when a rational decision is made — including motivation, emotions, perceptions, analogies etc.

    A quickie on eliminative materialism. The name is all wrong. We should have called it something positive, like Butterscotch Revisionism. Just to indicate that our folk concepts are likely to change as neuroscience proceeds. If I were inclined toward conspiracies, I would say that many philosophers willfully misunderstood, claimed we said consciousness does not exist (wait….we said it was a product of the brain, just like Searle) and other odd things. Many philosophers totally hated the idea that neuroscience could tell us anything at all abut the mind, but as neuroscience has moved forward, the idea that neuroscience is needed to help us understand the mind has become less fearful.
    I think Ramachandran’s discovery about control of phantom limbs by using mirror box is a great philosophical AND scientific story. How the mind can change the brain that can change the mind.

    • Avatar of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      July 8, 2011

      Here’s Burl’s essay that Pat is talking about, which I’m not going to publish as a blog post, but by all means chime in here if you want to help him out and respond to his points. To repeat, even though I’m posting this, everything after this point is written by Burl:

      Whitehead, Causality, and Animal Emotion

      In the future, there may be a PEL podcast on Alfred North Whitehead http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_North_Whitehead

      The following is based on comments from http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2011/06/27/topic-for-41-pat-churchland-on-the-neurobiology-of-morality-plus-humes-ethics/ and a request for Pat Churchland’s thoughts on Whiteheadian prehension causality and animal and behavior..

      Most of what I write here centers on 2 of ANWs works: Modes of Thought, 1938, Ch 7&8 http://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Whitehead/Whitehead_1938/1938_toc.html, and Adventures of Ideas, 1933, Ch 11 http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Ideas-Alfred-North-Whitehead/dp/0029351707

      ANW’a most infamous and important coined term is prehension. Prehensions are how antecedant factors or objects in the environment are presently taken-in, grasped, or felt by an acting subject. A subject prehends an object when it experiences the object — when it perceives, feels or otherwise takes it into account. The ‘stuff’ of a prehension is affective tone — energy for non-mental entities, feelings/emotion for mental subjects. Their role in the Universe is to facilitate the immanence among things.

      But prehensions need not be conscious activity, and they are the main stuff of what our animal unconscious psychology is about. They also occur at lower levels of nature, as when cells feel and take account of their environment of other cells and inorganic particles, and also when sub-atomic events ‘feel’ and react to the just-goings-on of similar energetic entities.

      Another catchy phrase of Alfie’s is ‘perception in the mode of causal efficacy,’ which is non-sensory perception, as compared to the sense perceptions – sight, sound, taste/smell, and touch. Non-sensory perception is by far the more ubiquitous mode of perception in nature: atoms, cells, trees, and many lower animals have no eyes, ears, or noses, yet they take-in their umvelt. And we humans are only infrequently consciously using our external sense awareness.

      Perception and memory are the primary types of creature prehension, both of which Charles Hartshorne, a follower of ANW, says are “intuitions of the past.” For ANW. the present occasion is brief and CLOSELY bounded by an immediate past and future. He often uses speech to exemplify this idea, as well as how the past is immanent in the present (future w/r just past). Before we finish a sentence, the first words are already in the past and grasped as consciously present via prehension. ANW says ‘we finish sentences because of our past urge to start them’ – this urge retains its causal grip, its immanence into its future.

      Examples of non-sensory bodily perception are our short and long term memories; interioceptive sensation of organs such as toothaches, strained muscles, indigestion, flutters of the heart; and the proprioceptive feelings of movement and balance, like the flow as we dance.

      Anthropocentric tendencies in science and philosophy have largely ignored non-sensory perception preferring the more clearly illuminated conscious awareness and reasoning associated with our external data as perceived via the 5 senses known as exterioception.

      ANW holds that the characteristics of life are absolute self-enjoyment, creative activity, and aim – things of which science remains silent because science only deals with half the evidence given to human experience – that of rational mentality – largely ignoring the emotional affects of our animal embodiment.

      ANW criticizes the Newtonian-Humean legacy to modernity as what he calls ‘nature lifeless.’ The excessive abstractions, such as instantaneous (durationless) time and simple point location of vacuous, billard ball particle matter gave us Newton’s laws – like that of gravity as force between masses – but gave no explanatory reason as to what, how, or why. Likewise, Hume locks us in a Nature with only the bare sensa of sense perception which do not provide the data necessary for their own interpretetion.

      The agency of non-sensory perception for causing past events to become immanent in the present is the very causality Hume did not see: What Hume considers as the ‘force and liveliness’ of character transmitted between separate but successive sense perceptions is de facto recognition of the immanence of the past in the future. This is the necessary continuity of transmission of energy/affective tone in Nature -– causality.

      Pat Churchland’s neuroethics is a realistic accounting of non-anthropocentric man in the wake of Darwin. Listen to her speak of our embodiedness in this short video.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpJSeLY8cWs&feature=youtu.be

      Jaak Panksepp is a neuroscientist who offers affective neurophysiology to explain our common mammalian emotional behaviors and who has discovered a stunning affective state called SEEKING, wherein we are alive aimless and appetitively poised for novelty, for enjoyment. Jaak sees emotions as the number one causal agent of organisms, as did ANW.
      http://www.viddler.com/explore/npsa/videos/26/

      Neuroscientists like Churchland and Panksepp know the importance of emotion in our mental experience, unlike the unfeeling non-rational creatures of DesCartes With both Hume and Whitehead, all would now agree that as we observe similarities in behaviors among animals, we can assume the creatures have subjective experiences much like ours, all SEEKING absolute self-enjoyment, creative activity, and aim while sharing in a ‘nature alive.’

    • Avatar of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      July 8, 2011

      Hi, Pat,

      Thanks for weighing in! Hopefully we can tempt you back after the episode actually posts (editing has been on the slow side what with the holiday and all…) to respond to people’s questions. Best, -Mark

  16. burl

    July 9, 2011

    Thanks, Mark, for posting my condensed original that I sent to Pat.

    And thanks Pat for your assessment of prehension and ANW. I have watched ALL the vids of you guys at UCSD on TSN. Your mentioning Rama’s phantom limbs and mirrors experiment is, I think, an example of immanence: my mind is in my body, but it takes account of all the body presents, so my body is likewise in my mind.

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