First, Second, Third

Viewing the world as a system of patterns yields copious insights -- but patterns aren't the whole story.

Patterns are relationships of a particular sort: a pattern is a relationship between one entity and a set of others, where the first is judged to represent and simplify the others.

The American philosopher Charles Peirce placed the "universe as a web of patternment relationships" perspective in a broader context by introducing the basic philosophical categories called First, Second and Third.

First = pure, unprocessed Being

Second = reaction ... the raw feeling of one thing having impact on another

Third = relationship (the raw material for pattern: patternment is a particular, critical kind of relationship)

One can also push further than Peirce did, following other thinkers like Jung and Buckminster Fuller, and posit categories like

Fourth = synergy ... networks of relationships spawning new relationships

In this perspective the view of Cosmos as pattern-space is the perspective of Thirdness.

Isn't This Just a Bunch of Abstract Nonsense?

This sort of abstract categorization of Cosmos doesn't do much in itself ... but it provides a general perspective that can be useful for addressing concrete issues.

We will use this categorial perspective to approach the topics of awareness and consciousness ... which are critical to various issues that will confront us as technology develops, such as immortality, AI and uploading.

Philosophy pursued in the absence of practical issues tends to become verbal or intellectual gamesmanship.

Practical issues pursued in the absence of appropriate philosophy tend to lead to various sorts of confusion -- which can be fine; but given the sensitivity of the point in human history we're approaching, serious attempts at confusion-minimization seem indicated!

1 comment:

  1. In an article on personhood theory, I referred to Neo-Kantian interpretations of mind (described by some as an "abstract-level functionalism"). At an abstract level, reflective consciousness would require what Kant called "acts of judgment" on "sensory appearances." Kant claims that, "Without sensibility no object would be given to us, and without understanding none would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind." (Critique of Pure Reason, A 51 = B 75). However, such functions may be carried out via the same representational AND interpretive neural network activity (e.g. in transiently stable oscillations).

    On such interpretations, it seems that Peirce's "secondness" or "reaction" might be thought of as mere unpatterned interaction that also is implicitly non-reflective, while "thirdness" or "relationship" could include non-reflective patterned interaction as well as reflective patterns of interaction, including cognition.

    I think it is important to note that even deep meditative trances are only experienced as "firstness" or "pure being" via reflective patterned relationships in the realm of "thirdness" (cognitive and non-cognitive models of reality including the self and its environment, such as the act of breathing or the act of concentrating on nothing). Non-thirdness experiences of firstness would be the absence of patterned mental relationship "experienced" (or rather "lacking experience") in deep sleep or other forms of complete unconsciousness.