Discussion of chapter 5 from Hart's The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss

I’m not sure what people found so objectionable about his 2nd sentence.

But then again, I’m already in the margins of my mind just trying to follow a good bit of it.

It strikes me (to play off your eyeball in the microscope analogy) as the human mind straining to discern its own inner workings. I’ll confess I’m still (and perhaps always?) tethered to an agnosticism with regard to how or if our own consciousness can even be “a thing” that we can pin down and place under a microscope for examination. Perhaps it’s one of those things that like a photon, you aren’t going to ‘catch one’ and hold it still for examination. Because even if you could, it would have ceased to be a photon. So all the “did nature produce this, or did God produce this” tussles that engage and provoke so many don’t really disturb me much since nobody has even been able to pin down what “this” even is.

And for those who’ve satisfied themselves that they have, their “this” will no doubt be something entirely natural (how else will they have been able to pin it down?) - which of course tells us absolutely nothing about God’s involvement or alleged lack thereof.

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It was just the choice of “comestible” over “edible” that makes him seem to be putting on airs. 4 syllables and 10 letters vs 3 and 6 also makes you wonder. Since I like his writing and ideas so far, I prefer to chalk it up to his self depreciating sense of humor. He knows what his reputation is and finds himself funny in that way too.

Yup. McGilchrist’s theory provides another way to to understand why we can’t pin it down. He posits that one side of our brain (the left) has been given over to the re-presenting of the world in language, modeling and theorizing while the other side remains still engaged directly with the world as it presents itself to us in each moment. Pinning things down happens in the left hemisphere while the experience of ourselves as consciousness and of something more is only intuited directly by the part attuned directly to the world. You can’t pin that down and the part that could is otherwise engaged bringingthe world and ourselves into existence in our awareness.

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This probably could justify it’s own thread but this video gives a sense of who the writer is as a speaker. I thought what was said about Paul and the way Romans 5.12 has been translated has had enormous effect in east vs west Christianity in particular. Beginning at 10:40 for about five minutes struck me as interesting. And I have to wonder how @Christy and others who focus on translation might react to this.

At the end the interviewer goes on about politics and, this video being 4 years old, is openly a Trump guy. Always shocks me when the people who go on the most about morality line up behind the guy who seemingly has none. It was t just the evangelicals who gave us that presidency. At least some orthodox were into him to.

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@MarkD, thanks for sharing from Hart’s book. This is interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing more where he goes with this. I started pulling this reply together a few hours ago and had a few things to take care of. Ăch! In the meantime I see I am falling further behind. I’ll finish up what I had started earlier, and the rest of the thread will have to wait.

I’m curious how he supports this view, as I am interested in how variations and alterations in brain physiology, chemistry and function as well as psychology affect consciousness (as well as a great many other things). But that also depends on a clear concept and definition of consciousness.
Does Hart provide that?
In what little I’ve read of McGilchrist the nature of as well as source of consciousness is pretty fuzzy (but I can’t even claim the expertise that a lay person might feign from reading the abstract of a scientific article).
I wonder about this claim particularly in regard to intentionality and subjective consciousness. The claim that “subjective consciousness becomes actual only through intentionality” seems beyond the ability of some whose brain function is impaired or altered in some way. Does this mean, for example, that such a person experiences a different or limited consciousness particularly by not exercising intentionality?

Invertedly, I wonder at what point the mind turns to itself to even notice itself. This strikes me as the more natural process.

For similar reasons, I question this.
But also, because I think rather that the mind is naturally disposed toward things outside itself, particularly at the beginning of life. I am suggesting that this simply happens, whether one is actively disposed or passively so. Humans are inundated with stimuli even within the womb. We don’t need to seek it out. But once we are aware of those stimuli, then we start to associate our perceptions of those stimuli.

@Klax, I failed to notice an insistence on the unnatural. Could you point it out, please?
Yes, I read post 12 (and all your others here). It’s not helping me, because I am missing the thing in the quotes from Hart that insist on the unnatural or not natural.
How is your concept different from Hart’s?

Perhaps this is related to that difference:

This seems like only half the story. Without being able to filter and ignore most of the stimuli that come at us, we would always be overwhelmed. Our inclinations for what we filter out and what we allow to filter in are likely dependent on a number of things, including (more fuzzy, yet hard-wired topics) personality and our individual types of intelligence (see Howard Gardner and Project Zero). I think we each tend to go for what appears to us as low-hanging fruit, the kind of stimuli we most readily deal with that fit with hooks we’ve already established.

I’m curious what each of you has in mind with leeway, and what it governs. Is it all only desires that govern our intellectual development? And are those desires themselves so hard-wired that they cannot/ do not change? Or are we also talking about desires that are so basic to all humans, they are universal and thus provide no other type of desire.

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No one has directly observed consciousness unless it was their own though many of us might wonder what he criteria are supposed to be. For McGilchrist and I think Hart too consciousness is not the kind of thing one can regard as a ‘thing’ at all. You can’t hold it at arm’s length and get a good look at it and you certainly can’t measure it, though you can measure various thing which you can argue correlate with consciousness. As with gravity you measure and predict the effects, not the ‘thing’ itself and defining the either as a thing in itself is very problematic.

It would be absurd to provide you with a googled answer but this one is from Scientific American and might interest you.

Consciousness is everything you experience. It is the tune stuck in your head, the sweetness of chocolate mousse, the throbbing pain of a toothache, the fierce love for your child and the bitter knowledge that eventually all feelings will end.

The origin and nature of these experiences, sometimes referred to as qualia, have been a mystery from the earliest days of antiquity right up to the present. Many modern analytic philosophers of mind, most prominently perhaps Daniel Dennett of Tufts University, find the existence of consciousness such an intolerable affront to what they believe should be a meaningless universe of matter and the void that they declare it to be an illusion.

We’re about to go out for our walk (with more rain on the way to be sure we don’t dawdle - yippee). So I’ll send what I have at that point. (I kind of want to look over this article some more myself.)

I think intentionality is a good way to fill out a notion of what consciousness is about but I definitely don’t think it is a limiting condition of what should count as consciousness. Apart from our deliberate intentions there are …

Time to go/ to be continued

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Thanks Mark. I am also working on something else (F&T notes and thoughts) which keeps getting delayed and takes so much time!

Love the bit about Dennett. Interesting to see such a different view.

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More on the Scientific American article.

This sounds so reasonable but assumes way too much:

Francis Crick and I decided to set aside philosophical discussions on consciousness (which have engaged scholars since at least the time of Aristotle) and instead search for its physical footprints. What is it about a highly excitable piece of brain matter that gives rise to consciousness? Once we can understand that, we hope to get closer to solving the more fundamental problem.

Most of us accept common descent but that means that somewhere in our direct line of ancestors there was a creature who did not meet whatever are deemed to be the minimal correlates of consciousness. Somewhere along the way either matter gave rise to consciousness or consciousness gave rise to matter or else both are equally basic and unable and/or unnecessary for underwriting the other. Whatever we may choose to believe, it is highly likely that our assumptions will reflect our most basic dispositions - not any warrant of rationality. Rationality can only weigh in once we decide which assumptions to follow. A little birdie tells me @Klax and I will disagree on this but that is not to say anything is likely to change that.


Okay back to burying you in more reading. [Sorry, like DBH I find myself funny even though my wife repeatedly tells me the trouble with my humor is it isn’t funny - which always cracks me up. A sublime sense of humor she has while I’m simply not funny.]

I have an opinion about this part:

@Klax, I failed to notice an insistence on the unnatural. Could you point it out, please?
Yes, I read post 12 (and all your others here). It’s not helping me, because I am missing the thing in the quotes from Hart that insist on the unnatural or not natural.

From paragraph 2, this can at least seem as though entirely natural means are assumed to be insufficient without the injection of something intentional by someone or Someone:

And this part of the third paragraph does argue for something more than natural process which at least seems to rely on ridicule of the notion of nature alone being enough. There is nothing obvious about that for some of us.


I’ve noted Hart’s comments on the mistranslation of Romans 5:12 that Augustine used before on the forum. It’s not mistranslated in modern English translations, but a lot of theology is still shaped by Augustine’s understanding of original sin.


Just like … somewhere among all my younger life was a past version of me that could not meet the minimum criteria of being considered literate. …And I would defy anyone to identify any one day before which I couldn’t read and after which, I could.


Consciousness, self-awareness, personhood, and intentionality (and dare I throw in personal freedom) present a very broad area for discussion. I find the insights from the world of QM useful; from this we may see that we humans become the only bearers of consciousness in the Universe and present quantum phenomena as facts of existence. Thus, we are unable to speak of some objectively existing properties of quantum objects independently of the experimental setup and the intentional cognitive attitude of the human observer.

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Thanks, Mark. I’ll need to review all this in the morning; too many factors working against comprehension this late in the day, and Kierkegaard got nearly all the energy I had.
I missed this third paragraph that you had quoted later in the thread than I had read. That answers my question to @Klax , I think.
The second that you requoted here I read naturalistically and directed from the person exercising consciousness. Nothing there seemed unnatural to me.

Sadly, as I’m tuning up for a differently demanding read, processing and writing tomorrow, I may only have energy only to gloss over this thread (and others) that I wish I had more time and brain power to indulge in as well.

Okay, next paragraph, the 4th. This one to me feels like a simple link in an argument which I don’t think he has put much effort into supporting. (Anyone see something I’m missing here?) It doesn’t really seem to move the ball very far down the field.

There are, very broadly speaking, two ways of desiring a thing; as an end in itself or for an end beyond itself. This seems quite obvious. But, if one thinks about it, there appears to be no actual object among finite things that we can truly desire - if we desire it at all - except either in both ways at once or in the second way only. [The argumentation is obvious and easy to anticipate. Unfortunately the example chosen involves “a particularly beautiful object”, ugh.] … I cannot regard that object as its own index of beauty. Rather, I am moved by a more constant and general desire for beauty as such, as an absolute value of which I have some sort of intentional grasp … The object itself pleases me, perhaps, but only because the appetite it appeases, without wholly satisfying, is a more original and expansive longing for the beautiful. … one desires the things money can purchase not simply as ends in themselves but because they correspond to more general and abstract longings for comfort, prestige, power, diversion, or what have you; and one desires such things out of a still deeper and more general desire for happiness itself, whatever that may be, and for a greater share of the goodness of being. … All concretely limited aspirations of the will are sustained within formerly limitless aspirations of the will.

Sorry to disappoint but I find it hard to transpose what is little more than an endorsement of Plato’s ideal forms. Do our desires really depend on a successful categorization? Are our desires really so rationally regimented? I’ll have to leave it there. Honestly it is the next paragraph that motivates me to get past this one. I may have to bail on sharing so much of a book if I can’t even do so in a positive light.

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I understand. I fear I may have to put a book mark in Hart’s book at least for now and probably I should just leave this chapter with a more summary reaction at a later date.

I beg everyone’s pardon but I have to abandon this thread for now. Besides having misgivings about sharing so much of the book in quotes, I feel even worse now that I am growing impatient with Mr Hart. He deserves better. When I have completed reading Fear and Trembling with friends, if I have managed to hang on to the Hart book long enough, I shall attempt to write something in summary with a more acceptably brief quote.

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I think it’s the best we could possibly do. The EU tends to that. Its member states are way more different than the US’, most with their own language or two shared with others, so no demagogue could arise unless they had Anglo-Franco-Austro-Italian grandparents, Spanish and Polish parents, and had studied Hungarian at a Swedish university. So does China…


Like what?

I, too, was sceptical, and the final sentence seemed absurdly grandiose, but the article delivered. Zeroing in on the anatomy (and elsewhere even the genetics) of consciousness. We’ll never get there of course.

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  • [content removed by moderator],
  • Question:
    • If the Kosmos is cosmically conscious, does it have a sense of obligation to its constituent and contingent parts yet?
      • Note: My question was 'inspired by Stephen Crane’s “poem”.

A man said to the universe: “Sir, I exist!” “However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation."

  • My own experience and limited familiarity with bliss and consciousness leads me to believe that “bliss” is an overrated emotional response to an event or person and that “consciousness” is a pre-requisite to hypnotism and hypnotherapy. Consequently, IMO, DBH won’t interest me in wading through his all-inclusive Universal Restoration and cosmic consciousness until he can explain how he would go about hypnotizing the kosmos or a substantial part thereof.

It assumes that consciousness is a thing which arises from biological processes for one thing. That is a perfectly good hypothesis but a lousy conclusion without further linkage.

Obviously my consciousness is greatly diminished or at least altered when asleep or given ether or when suffering a stroke and most especially post mortem - as far as anyone can tell by whatever correlates are chosen. But is that because changes of state, damage and death cause the production of consciousness to cease or is it simply a fact that consciousness which we don’t really understand can’t be present for some other reason under those conditions. In other words, we don’t know that the body does or can produce it, it may simply provide the necessary conditions for something entirely separate to manifest under the right conditions. It isn’t the most convenient hypothesis but it upsetting other assumptions doesn’t logically rule it out.


I admit politics is an area of vast regions of ignorance for me. I don’t have a clear picture of what that phrase “utilitarian technocracy” is supposed to mean. But I dissed it since it brings together two terms which separately I have a negative reaction to.


No linkage is required. It’s not a hypothesis. It’s a fact.

To suggest that we’re an antenna for some signal is unwarranted fantasy of meaningless orders of magnitude of sigmas.

“utilitarian technocracy”: the greatest good for the greatest number obtainable by infrastructure. The closest approximation to public luxury and private sufficiency we’re ever going to get.

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Not the only alternative to the body manufactures consciousness hypothesis, but one I reject. If consciousness was an entirely basic, independent constituent of the cosmos then how it interacts with matter and life might be along the lines of how water manifests according to local conditions.

That life gives rise to consciousness is a fact only if facts are hypotheses lacking any support which strike one as inescapably self evident.

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Why would consciousness be an entirely basic, independent constituent of the cosmos? Independent of what? The cosmos being the multiversal sempiternal infinite self grounding all I infer? And consciousness therefore is an essential field intrinsic to existence, like the Higgs? Existence is awash with consciousness passively looking for loci to manifest itself? Or the undetectable, rationally unnecessary field gives rise to consciousness in complex enough matter?

What is the warrant for this force? Beyond idiosyncratic incredulity?

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