Reasons why metaphysics and philosophy of mind are needed to figure out human origins

In my book I present a number of arguments based on some inferential discoveries of mine (premises adopted by me; should you prefer to see it in that way) and I want to present here what I believe could be more interesting for you to consider (more incredible; should you prefer to see it in that way).

I claim: seeing or hearing anything in the external world is impossible, and by extension it is also impossible to smell, taste, or dermal feel by touch anything located in the external world.

I complete such claim by saying: the five human senses do a very good job at seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and dermal feeling by touch but what is cognized is not something located in the external world, only the appearance-less essence of what is cognized is located in the external world and it is mind what provides all cognized appearances and details.

In other words, the external world is constituted by force (different levels of force) and appearances or details do not exist there independently, it is only stimuli promoters what lead to appearances or details when mind does its job using the five human senses.

Your comments on what I have stated would be welcome, and if a question is needed for the topic to be valid: can you prove my claims wrong?

Sometimes when viewing a scene, or driving down the road, I consider that my eyes are little more than light detectors, converting the light biochemically to weak electrical impulses that are then interpreted and projected on a screen in my mind. Little more than a sophisticated security camera system. Our mind constructs that what we see is real. What then is ultimate reality? It does become a philosophical question, I suppose. But then, philosophy and metaphysics are only extensions of that mental construct, so the answer does not seem there.

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The external world results in the same sensory message for each human. What the mind does is assign meaning to those sensory messages. For example with smell there are some that are universally judged to be bad, such as a decaying body, and others that are judged to be good or bad depending on your experiences, such as your mother’s cooking. The judgements assigned by your brain don’t create reality. The uniform generation of sensory messages is an indication of reality.

Phil, what if we have no access to the external world, other than processing what is detected? We could imagine a reality standing in its own there but cannot prove it. Would you settle for a subjective reality that is agreed to by (some or all) observers mainly because they are educated under the same standards?

Bill, it is not the same sensory message, only the same sensory stimulus, with the resulting message depending totally on mind’s intervention, initially not as interpretation (interpretation comes last) but as attribution of meaning that comes from genetic make-up instructions since ‘meaning’ resides only in mind.

We are using different definitions.

When a particular molecule is presented to the olfactory sense it generates the same electrical response in each person. That is what I mean by the same sensory message. The brain then has to interpret what that message means. Sometimes that is a universal interpretation which means it is genetic and sometimes it is a learned interpretation. Yes this interpretation resides in the mind but that doesn’t make it “reality” as I use the term. To me reality is what causes the sensory message, not the interpretation. After all different people could have different interpretations but that wouldn’t mean they have different realities.

Bill, thanks for your explanation, I am a philosopher and I define reality as being different than what causes sensory messages (sensory stimuli). The source of stimuli (the external world) I call: the universe substratum, which do not amount to reality or even existence, only pre-existent states waiting for mind to actualize existence in the basis of them, but complementing them with features and details provided by a “genetic inventory” resident in the genetic make-up.

I’m not sure what you are finding surprising (or even alarming) about all this. What would be the alternative to the sensory cognitive processing by which we see (and touch and smell/taste and hear) the world? Seems somewhat miraculous to me that amoebas and other organisms develop sensitivity to their environments at all. Chemical and touch sensitivity are amazing enough but with sight, hearing and echo location we begin to develop a map of our surroundings and this strikes me as even more miraculous. I can certainly imagine a world in which life develops without sensory cognitive processing, but I can’t imagine it leading to creatures like ourselves who wonder about all this without it.

You seem worried about the cognitive component. How reliable are our mental maps and the sensory arrays that give rise to them? Certainly that is the hardest part to account for from our own perspective. Do you worry that the mental processing of the sense data creates a gulf between us and the world which we can’t ourselves vouchsafe? Seems to me just one more situation where faith is called for, but one in which it comes naturally. In fact it takes quite a bit of sophisticated cognitive activity to even call its reliability into question.


MarkD, it could take some time for you (or another forum member) to get an answer to what you wonder about my frame of mind, we could get there if we keep discussing. At this point consider: the question of why sensory cognitive processing is needed at all, and the possibility of the gulf you have mentioned between the mental processing of data (of stimulus promoters) and “the world”; is owed to “the world” having no features of its own, being just a “bundle of forces” as George Berkeley would say.

Well when you define reality as something different than what most people think then you are free to go where you want. Just don’t expect many people to be willing to follow you there and it is a journey that is meaningless to me.


Bill, thanks for your opinion, mind is more than just an observer and you are right in that this view of mine is so far an elitist claim, how many people will accept it will be seen in the future.

Your OP opens with the words: “In my book”. Has it has been published somewhere, in print or on-line?

Terry, I self-publish it, you are invited to visit my book website and your comments on it would be welcomed. I also offer a free e-book copy to professors or graduate students willing to review it.

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I note that your book’s Chapter 5 is entitled “Consciousness”. Coincidentally, I’ve just finished reading a Time magazine article: “Why You’re Pretty Much Unconscious All the Time” [Consciousness], from which I’ve taken the following quotes:

  • In a new paper published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences , a group of researchers led by associate professor of psychology Ezequiel Morsella of San Francisco State University, took on the somewhat narrower question of exactly what consciousness is—and came up with a decidedly bleaker view: It’s pretty much nothing at all. Never mind the five characters controlling your thoughts, you barely control them. It’s the unconscious that’s really in charge."
  • … Morsella and his colleagues came up with is something they call “Passive Frame Theory,” and their provocative idea goes like this: nearly all of your brain’s work is conducted in different lobes and regions at the unconscious level, completely without your knowledge. When the processing is done and there is a decision to make or a physical act to perform, that very small job is served up to the conscious mind, which executes the work and then flatters itself that it was in charge all the time."
  • “The conscious you, in effect, is like a not terribly bright CEO, whose subordinates do all of the research, draft all of the documents, then lay them out and say, “Sign here, sir.” The CEO does—and takes the credit.”
  • “The information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious thought,” Morsella said in a statement accompanying the release of the paper. “Nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man and it doesn’t do as much work as you think.”
  • “There are deep evolutionary reasons for things to work that way. Humans, like all animals, operate as parsimoniously as possible; if we could be run entirely by our reflexes and instincts with no conscious thought at all, we would. There’s a reason you don’t stop to contemplate whether you should pull your hand off a hot stove, and instead simply do it. Consciousness in that case would just slow things down.”
  • “But as we became complex, social organisms, capable of speech and emotion and tool-making and more, we needed a bit of the brain that could step in not so much to run things, but to guide the body or choose between two or three very simple options. Take the experience of holding your breath underwater or carrying a hot dish. Your musculoskeletal system wants you to take a breath in the first case and drop the dish in the second. However, the part of your unconscious brain that is aware of consequences knows why both of those choices are bad ideas. So the conflict is served up to the conscious mind that keeps you in control until you’ve reached the surface of the water or put the dish on the table.”
  • “But the unconscious mind is far more powerful and creative than that. The authors cite language in particular—a human faculty that is considered perhaps our highest and most complex gift—as one more area in which consciousness is just a bit player.”

[My sidebar note for “Free will” fans: A bit much, IMO, to expect “Free Will” to bail you out of dilemmas, when your conscious mind does so little.]

IMO, language talents are among the most crucial in human evolution. If that’s true, how far do you think those talents would have brought us without all of the stimulants and stimuli promoters. My mind reels at the thought of existing in a reality without externally-imposed stimulation. The thought of evolving in a non-stimulating environment strikes me as a “not happening anytime soon” kind of idea. No language: No Mind; No Stimulation: No Language.

Terry, I am not sure I follow your reasoning, let me explain a few concepts I present as my metaphysical persuasion. I make a distinction between basic awareness and a more sophisticated consciousness. Also I make a distinction between basic reception and a more sophisticated perception. Receptors operate within awareness and reception. Perceptors operate within consciousness and perception. Language is a key element not only to perceive but to actualize existence proper and the foundations of it stand stored (as programmed instructions) in the genetic make-up. What the external world’s stimuli promoters do is to activate genetic instructions. Having made those claims I doubt very much you could compare what scientists are discussing about scientific characteristics of consciousness with my new metaphysical concepts on the nature of awareness, consciousness, reception, and perception.

Terry, one key element I must state at this point, what I present is an explanation of Intelligent Design, not evolution, I do not recognize evolution; only a biological development directed by genetic instructions which were programmed at the moment of indirect creation of the chain of species.

Not uncommon, I’m sorry to say.

If so, then I reject your binary position. The reality of what happens inside skulls, IMO, is vastly more and other than “basic awareness” and “a more sophisticated consciousness”. From my perspective, your binary position is too simplistic. The current state of “consciousness” research and study is still struggling to clarify and identify what “consciousness” is and, at best, is still trying to figure out how much of that iceberg is most commonly underwater. I’ve read professional hypnotherapists and Guided Imagery professionals who claim that as much as 90-95% of a lucid and rational person’s consciousness is below the person’s immediate and voluntarily accessible level.

Indeed, I see that. And I also see that as a hurdle that you’re going to have figure out: i.e. how to overcome it. Sorry, my biases don’t readily allow me to offer you a helping hand.

Ahhh! That explains the “disconnect” that I experienced when reading your OP.
Not to worry; you’ll be better off ignoring me.
Take care on Biologos’ “bumper-car” court. Keep your helmet on and your seat belt strapped. :grinning:

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And this is an improvement on Kant how?

All good points. But I for one don’t think the unconscious disqualifies the free/constrained status of our will. Our consciousness is made up of both with the conscious bit having a far narrower band width. If anyone thought we were disembodied, simplistic beings, they might be dissatisfied with the actual nature of consciousness. But that doesn’t make us unfree, it just makes us more complex.

Made up of both??? How’s that work? From where I sit, consciousness without free will is a possibility, but free will without consciousness is impossible. And if the portion of the far narrower bandwidth of consciousness that is above water is not completely involved in free will, I’m seeing an even narrower bit of consciousness available to Free Will. And that’s assuming that we can keep emotions bound, gagged, and in the closet while exercising it.

I read a PNAS article this last year: Self-report captures 27 distinct categories of emotion bridged by continuous gradients [Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America, dated September 2017], which–as its title indicates–reports:

  • “Emotions are centered in subjective experiences that people represent, in part, with hundreds, if not thousands, of semantic terms. Claims about the distribution of reported emotional states
    and the boundaries between emotion categories—that is, the geometric organization of the semantic space of emotion—have sparked intense debate. Here we introduce a conceptual framework to analyze reported emotional states elicited by 2,185 short videos, examining the richest array of reported emotional experiences studied to date and the extent to which reported experiences of emotion are structured by discrete and dimensional geometries. Across self-report methods, we find that the videos reliably elicit 27 distinct varieties of reported emotional experience. Further analyses revealed that categorical labels such as amusement better capture reports of subjective experience than commonly measured affective dimensions (e.g., valence and arousal). Although reported emotional experiences are represented within a semantic space best captured by categorical labels, the boundaries between categories of emotion are fuzzy rather than discrete. By analyzing the distribution of reported emotional states we uncover gradients of emotion—from anxiety to fear to horror to disgust, calmness to aesthetic appreciation to awe, and others—that correspond to smooth variation in affective dimensions such as valence and dominance. Reported emotional states occupy a complex, high-dimensional categorical space. In addition, our library of videos and an interactive map of the emotional states they elicit ( emogifs/map.html) are made available to advance the science of emotion.”

27 emotions, and I can’t remember my Free Will ever picking one and expressing it. How about you?

I am certainly not naive enough to think that we humans are disembodied, simplistic beings. Are we complex creatures? Hell yeah!!!

As the Psalmist wrote: [Ps. 139:14] “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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