Robert Sharf, University of California, Berkeley

Robert Sharf, University of California, Berkeley

November 12, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


– So Bob Sharf is a D.H. Chen Distinguished
Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of East
Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley and the Chair of Berkeley
Center for Buddhist Studies. He works primarily on
Medieval Chinese Buddhism, but has also published in the
areas of Japanese Buddhism, Buddhist art and archeology,
modernism, Buddhist philosophy, and methodological issues
in the study of religion. He is the author of Coming to
Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure
Story Treatise 2002 and co-editor with his wife Elizabeth of Living Images: Japanese
Buddhist Icons in Context. Thank you Bob. – Thank you. I’m apologizing for reading,
but it’s the only way I’m going to be able to pack in what I would like to pack in. And I think if I go quickly I can do this in about 38 minutes. But, we’ll see. I celebrate the authors
of the blind spot essay for highlighting the
way that the blind spot threatens to undermine, if not cripples so much scientific research. Including, ironically enough,
research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. Be that as it may, there’s a worry I have. Namely, that despite one’s best efforts, there’s a tendency to turn
our experience of the world, or our first-personhood into a thing. Into an incontrovertible an in-illuminable fact about the world that can then be used as a hook on which to hang an argument. And the problem of course, is
that the minute you do that, the first-personhood disappears. Now the arguments typically precede with the scientists insisting
on the priority of the world where within which, our mind
or our subjectivity appears and the humanists, or
Buddhists, or phenomenologists insisting on the priority
of mind and consciousness in which the world appears. The underlying problem, I will argue, is the mutual constitution
of mind and world. The manner in which mind
is subsumed by world and the world is subsumed by mind. And this mutual enfolding
entails, I will argue, paradox. And it is this paradox,
I believe, that motivates and structures foundational
debates in philosophy of mind as well as debates in theoretical physics that go all the way back
to the famous debates between Bohr and Einstein. It has also been at the
heart of controversies among Buddhist philosophers
for some 2000 years. And those debates are
instructive, I believe, not because they offer
solutions to the problem, but because they illuminate the deep structure of the problem itself. And if I am correct, then any
attempt to deal effectively with the puzzle of mind and consciousness will entail the recognition
of and tolerance for paradox in our life world. Now, philosophers have been struggling with the mind world problem
since the dawn of history. My own studies focus on what we can learn from the Buddhists, but before going there let me say a few words about
something more familiar, which is contemporary
continental philosophy. Now, at the risk of simplification, Kant’s notion of
transcendental apperception posits a self or cogito as transcendental insofar as it is not
itself a cognitive object. It is not something to be
found in the phenomenal domain. For Kant, the self is given to us in the synthetic unity
of conscious experience, but only obliquely. It stands behind phenomenal
appearance, as it were, just as the physical eye
stands behind our visual field. And Wittgenstein calls
this the geometric eye. The eye which is itself never seen, but is disclosed in the geometry of our perspective on the world. Now, in Kant’s transcendental argument the synthetic unity of
consciousness is a priori. It is a precondition for
the manifest appearance of the world and thus is known like Wittgenstein’s geometric eye… Sorry, I lost myself here. Like Wittgenstein’s geometric eye through deduction. It is not, therefore,
part of the noetic domain and this is what the reflexive
ah is doing in apperception. I think there’s a little trick there. The reflective aspect
would come to be reworked in the phenomenological tradition of Husserl and his followers. Now, Husserl wants to turn
philosophy into something closer to an empirical science. His call to return to
the things themselves is meant in part as a way
to set aside or bracket the kind of abstruse transcendental
arguments and categories that the Kantian system was into. And in the process he
moves, I would argue, Kant’s transcendental cogito forward, rendering it phenomenologically available. And he does this by
borrowing Brentano’s notion that consciousness is
intentional, or object directed. And this renders each cognitive act as entailing a co-relative structure. A correlation between noesis and noema, or between the knowing and the known. So the cogito is now accessed
not through deduction, but through an empirical
analysis of the dual structure or self reflective nature
of consciousness itself. And phenomenologists will
argue that conscious awareness necessarily entails self appearance, or self manifestation, or
self given-ness and so on. And this notion that consciousness is intrinsically two sided or reflexive would become foundational in
the phenomenological tradition that follows. But there is an oft acknowledged
danger in this approach. Namely that the knowing, or the noesis, can now be objectified. It’s something that is located
within the manifest world. Rather than, for Kant,
as something lying behind or beyond what is given. Now many in the
phenomenological tradition, most famously Heidegger, are
acutely aware of this problem. And they caution against reification. The problem is that
reification may be inevitable as soon as one attempts to
bring the blind spot into view. So we have notions like
pre-reflective self-awareness in Sartre, or dasein in Heidegger which may be last ditch attempts to speak about something
which cannot be spoken. At this point, some defenders of the phenomenological project will insist that I just don’t get it. They insist that the
phenomenological message, the ephoc e, or the
transcendental reduction is not third-personal analysis
so much as it’s a method of directed first-personal
attention and observation. It is intended not to
naturalize our subjectivity, but to denaturalize the world. To strip away its
thing-ness so as to reveal the nature of its given-ness. One can’t describe the blind spot, but one can reorient oneself
so as to disclose it. So my response is that’s fine, so long as that is all you try to do. The moment you open your mouth about it, the moment you try to hang
an argument, or a program, or an ethic, or a practice
on it, you lose it. The Buddhist philosopher
Nagarjuna would call this grabbing a snake by the wrong end. It comes around and bites you. Needless to say, the literature in continental philosophy on this is far more complex and contested than the glib version
that I just presented, but today my point of departure is the way the Buddhists
deal with this problem. Or rather, the many ways that the Buddhists deal with this problem is it turns out that the
mind world relationship is central to their metaphysical
and ethical thought. So I’m going to try to give
a ridiculously brief overview of the central issues that
perplexed Buddhist philosophers. Namely depend origination,
karma, causality, time and the two truths. It’s kind of crazy but we’re going to try. So dependent origination
is regarded, justifiably, as the very heart of Buddhist thought. Early Buddhist doctrine holds that the world in which we find ourselves arises in the very moment
that a cognitive apparatus, like a sense faculty, comes into contact with a cognitive object. And this gives rise to consciousness, and with it the phenomenal world. But note that in this construal, there is no free floating
cognitive apparatus. There’s no mind without
an object or world, and similarly there is
no world without mind. The notion that mind and world co-arise should not be confused
with double aspect monism that holds that consciousness is singular but two sided, or self reflective. And nor is it the same as intentionality in the phenomenological tradition. According to the early
Buddhists, the phenomenal world is composed of irreducible,
elemental things. These are atoms, or Dharmas. But these things have
no independent existence outside of a complex set of
corelative relationships. So mind creates world,
and world creates mind. But how can things be said to
constitute a relational nexus if the constitutive
elements have no existence outside of the relation? And the Buddhists would spend centuries trying to make this work. So the Buddhists present
a picture of the world in which everything arises or exists only in relation to other things, and mind or conscious experience is simply part of this
continually evolving matrix. The temporal evolution of
this matrix, or this manifold, is governed by laws of cause and effect that account for the
coherence and regularity of what appears. Each moment can be
analyzed as an aggregate, consisting minimally of a cognition coupled with a perceptual
object that arise in tandem. And the manner in which they arise is determined by prior
causes and conditions. As this process has been going on forever, there’s no big bang, the Buddhists are generally unconcerned
with a first cause. That’s not a problem, so far so good. But then they have to deal with the metaphysics of causation and time. The two being intimately connected. And in their analysis
of causation and time they come up with multiple
competing theories that anticipate in many ways, theories now being debated
in the philosophy of physics. To give you an idea of where I’m going, I’m trying to argue that
most of the arguments that are happening now have been going on for a few thousand years, and that itself is evidence of something. So among the various Buddhist
schools are the presentists. Of all flavors, they all share the belief that only the present
moment, the now, is real. And our experience of time is simply the experience of flux in the moment. And this position is
held by certain schools. The dar-shtahn-tika, the
Sautrantika or the Theravada. The Theravada is the only
ones that exist today. And they privilege like modern
phenomenologists, given-ness. To them it is simply
incoherent to speak about the real existence of
past and future things. Past is simply what once existed, and future is what will exist. Time is no more and no less than change experienced in the now. So the presentist approach to the doctrine of dependent origination, which is this mutual
constitution of mind and world, can be likened to Heisenberg’s version of the Copenhagen position. A discrete and determinative
particle comes to exist in relation to the act of
measurement or observation, and the wave function is
not some mind-independent noumenal reality, but
merely a way of predicting what will appear when we go looking. Even the notion of wave
function collapses a misnomer as there is no mind-independent reality, no superposition prior to
the momentary appearance of the particle correlated
to a measuring device. There is, in the end, no
moon when nobody’s looking. So Bohr’s notion of complementarity then seems very much
akin in logical structure to the Buddhist notion
of dependent origination. And this is what makes the Bohr and the Buddhist position so confounding. Because it looks like you get a determinative something out of nothing. Now the Buddhist presentist position, much like Bohr’s position,
is not an easy one to defend. To some it seems
incoherent from the get go. And many of the critiques
within the Buddhist fold are analogous in a logical
structure, if not in substance, to the critiques that
Einstein and Bell and others leveled against the Copenhagen books. For one thing, Buddhists are
for the most part, causalists. Logic, not to mention scripture, demands that everything
that appears in the present must be the effect of some prior cause. And thus there is no place in either the material or the mental
domains for chance or randomness. Buddhist presentists are
thus compelled to explain how events from the past,
which no longer exist, can make their effects
felt in the present. Without causal determinism,
the Buddhist logic dies. And yet the presentists’ insistence that only the now exists
makes it difficult to provide a cogent account
for how causation works. So in response they come up
with a number of theories. The most popular and enduring is that the past leaves behind
seeds that continue, buried away as it were, into the present. And they remain there until they can discharge their causal potency. So the notion of seeds is revealing, because at least to me,
it’s a tacit admission that the presentist
metaphysics makes it difficult, if not impossible, to
account for causality. The Buddhists have run directly
into the Humean problem. If you privilege the phenomenological or first-personal vantage
point, you have only the now and thus you are left with
contiguity but not necessity. To get to necessity, the presentists have to appeal to an explanatory mechanism that sits outside the phenomenal flux. The causal seeds which are known
only through their effects, function rhetorically and logically, much as hidden variables
do in quantum mechanics. They are undetected, but their
existence must be posited in order to safeguard determinism. And ad-hoc pictures like
seeds or hidden variables, in my view don’t offer a
solution to the problem, but they just foregrounded structure. Now, in the popular imagination today, Buddhist thought is
associated with presentism. It sort of comes with the
fashionable but confused idea that Buddhism is about mindfulness, and mindfulness means being in the moment, and being in the moment is good, since the moment is where reality is. But in fact this was a minority
position in Buddhist India. The dominant school on
the Indian subcontinent was the Sarvastivada, a
term that literally means the doctrine that all exists. And by all, they meant
past things, present things and future things, they’re all real. This school believes the cause
irregularities we perceive are unintelligible without assuming the eternal existence of past and future for only if past and future actions exist can they serve as the
causes for present effects. And for them, future actions actually serve as causes
for present events. Moreover the Sarvastivada
argue that it is incoherent to postulate change and
flux, unless one grants some stable framework, some background, in relation to which flux or
change could be ascertained. And this leads them to a theory that bears some striking
resemblance, actually, to contemporary block universe theories, in which time is a dimension
spread out like space, and everything that
ever was or ever will be can be mapped within a fixed
position within the block. The Sarvastivada block
however, is not static. There is still a kind of wave-like ripple that moves through the
block, caused by the movement not of fixed events
that comprise the block, but rather of their
state, or mode, or aspect. There’s a huge argument about
exactly how this change works. And the ripple is created as the elements that comprise the block change their state and discharge their potency. And this discharge allows for the change from future to present
and then present to past. Right, the activity
lasts for just a moment, and it goes through another state change. And then that element which
doesn’t move its position in the block, but it is
now kind of marked as past. The discharge is precisely what creates the causal conditions for new
elements to alter their state from future to present. So everything stays the same, but the individual elements
undergo some phase change, in which they momentarily
enter into a complex network of relationships with
other elements in the block creating a known-known, or
noesis-noema kind of structure. And this is what gives the sense of now that ripples through the block, but the now is merely virtual. The elements remain forever
fixed and their causal actions are strictly deterministic. Now this is a very, very simplified view of the Sarvastivada
Vaibhasika block model. And in fact we have
four different theories that were offered by the
Vaibhasika for how the appearance, the phenomenal appearance of
time shows up in this block. But what is really key for
my purposes today is that where they were all somewhat
desperately trying to account for causal regularities, and
to do so they felt compelled to posit a kind of block universe in which past things, present
things and future things are all mind-independently real. But unlike many of the block
theories proposed today, they are at pains to
account simultaneously for how things show up
to us first-personally. And this leads them to incorporate a kind of spotlight theory
into their block model. So in the Buddhist landscape, the Sarvastivada were the uber realists. They felt that the causal regularities we see in our life
world are comprehensible only if we grant existence to a reality that lies behind what shows up. They did not however, concede
that this mitigates free will, fatalism which is associated
with the heterodox teachings of the Ajivikas, who were a
threat to the Buddhist moral and Soteriological project. And for lack of time, I’m
not going to talk about how they deal with the free will problem. But in general, I think
it’s not very successfully. So the Sarvastivada theory that all exists addresses one problem, the Humean problem, only to generate others. And their opponents the
Sautrantika presentists, as well as the Vibhajyavadens
were quick to pounce. The Vibhajyavadens were
actually evolving block model. They were, they’re great. The past exists, the present exists, but the future’s kind of open ended. So you have all these positions there. In the first centuries of the common era, all of these early
systems, which we now call Hinayana Abidharma, came to be supplanted by competing Mahayana theories, of which there were two flavors. One anti-realist and one realist. So the anti-realists are the Madhyamika who use the presentist,
so Trantika arguments to critique the block theorists, and the block theorists to
critique the presentists. And the primary tool developed
with the reducto ad absurdim, a form of argumentation
designed to demonstrate that any claim made about the
world is un-logical analysis, ultimately incoherent and self-refuting. Their goal is to
demonstrate that in the end nothing whatsoever can
be predicated to reality. All concepts, including
those of time, causality, atoms, events, and indeed even notions of existence and in-existence are merely conceptual conventions that cannot pertain intelligibly to the mind-independent domain. And so they conclude
that everything is empty by which they mean that there is no way to step beyond the fines of one’s conceptually constructed view. So the Madhyamakins believe that this is precisely the ultimate meaning of dependent origination. Since everything exists relationally, it is meaningless to talk
about anything as real in and of itself. Even the claim that nothing
can be predicated to reality must be seen as
conventional and thus empty. But he would have to
chart to defend himself against the charge of
neolism, the accusation that his skepticism undermined
core Buddhist principles. His response was to invoke
the doctrine of two truths. There’s ultimate truth, which
is the truth of emptiness, and conventional truth, which pertains to the socially and linguistically
constructed life world in which we find ourselves. So the teachings of the Buddha belong to the domain of
the conventional truth, which is the proper domain in
which to talk about wisdom, compassion, salvation and other
eminently desirable goals. It’s a kind of, I’m not going to go there. While many modern Buddhists believe, or they view the Madhyamaka
school and its doctrine as emptiness as the very
pinnacle of Mahayana philosophy, again that was not the
case in medieval India. For many, they’re anti-realist,
if not neolist leanings, threatened foundational and
ineluctable Buddhist doctrines of causality, ethics and liberation. So most of the philosophical
energy at the time was associated with a rival
tradition known as Yogacara who are interested in
explaining the structured nature and etiology of the
constructed or virtual world in which we find ourselves. And they actually adopt many of the concepts and categories
from the Abidharma realists, including notions like Dharmas and their analysis of
perception, causality and so on. They do not, however, subscribe
to the block universe model that affirms the reality
of past and future. So in western textbook accounts, the Yogacara are often
presented as idealists, and it is true that
they deny the existence of a mind-independent
material or physical domain, and to analyze things in terms of the nature and functioning of mind. But in terms of the argument
I am presenting today, their theory of seeds, which is key to the understanding of Karma and causation, places them unambiguously
in the realist camp, which is to say that they
believe that the life world in which we find ourselves is
a virtual mental construct. And they feel obliged to apposite a reality that sits behind appearances and explains the causal
regularities we experience. This is their theory of the
store house consciousness in which the seeds or
potentialities of past actions accumulate until such
time that conditions arise for them to mature and
discharge their potency. While the storehouse
or cash is categorized for technical reasons, as
a kind of consciousness, it is transcendental in the Kantian sense, it is not empirically available, but it is deduced as logically necessary to account for the causally
deterministic fashion in which things appear. In short, and again talking
in terms of logical structure rather than content, their notion of a storehouse consciousness
serves the same function as the pilot wave in Bohmian Mechanics. It’s a undetectable and
perhaps non-local background that ultimately determines how and when things show up for us. So the arguments between the
anti-realists and the realists among the Buddhists went on for centuries. And there were several attempts to synthesize the insights from both. But putting aside the
details, my contention is that we may be able to learn more from the structure of the problem than we can from the ungainly
attempts to solve it. The realist and anti-realist
positions are both attempts to tame the paradoxical nature
of our embodied experience. We find ourselves straddling
two diametrically opposed and indeed incommensurable perspectives. The first-person or subject point of view, and the third-person or
object point of view. The first-person perspective privileges my immediate personal experience and places me at the
center of the universe. I’m the still point of the
turning world, peering outwards. Now phenomenologists
are going to insist that all philosophical inquiry must begin here with one’s immediate experience, since the world does not show up at all unless and until it shows up for somebody. Without mind, without conscious awareness, there is no science, no physics,
no biology, no evolution, and indeed no external world to speak of. If my construal of the universe fails to recognize and
incorporate the fact that it is indeed my construal, then there is something
amiss in my philosophy. Or my science for that matter, I think that’s the blind spot argument. The problem is that insofar as the phenomenological perspective takes the immediacy of subjective experience as a proper starting point,
it threatens to result in an incoherent and
self-refuting idealism. The third-personal perspective begins with the premise
that the very point of critical scientific
and philosophical inquiry is to escape the epistemic
limitations, inherent biases and parochialism, not to
mention the lurking idealism that bedevil the first-person perspective. And the resources available
to us, empirical science, experimental psychology, logic
and philosophical reflection, offer a means to escape the
limitations of subjectivism. Nagel has dubbed this
third-personal point of view the view from nowhere, a
detached account of the world that floats above
individual vantage points. But the nagging worry underscored
in the blind spot essay is how this view from nowhere… (laughs) I’m just wondering if I’m
about to be kicked out of here. I think I am. – [Audience Member] Can you
wrap it up in like, 2 minutes? I’m so sorry. – Yeah. How this view from
nowhere can accommodate, without reduction, the
multifarious views from somewhere. To give a quick recap,
the Buddhists have… The kind of core insight in Buddhism, insight or theory or doctrine, is this notion of dependent
origination or co-arising. Which, one shape that it takes is that the subject and the object co-arise. In other words, there’s some sense that there is no mind without
world or world without mind. They understand this in a kind of, initially in a kind of
atomic elemental way, where there are various different
configurations of things and they’re coming together
gives us the life world. What is peculiar about this claim is that they talk about
relations without relato, or at least those relato have no existence outside of the relationship,
and this is very weird. And in order to tame this, or
to figure out what it meant and they spent centuries
trying to figure it out, they reproduce many of the
same positions I’ve argued that you find in the
theoretical, you know, people who are working
on the various different theoretical approaches to
quantum-mechanics today. So they have anti-realist positions, they have realist positions, and they have many flavors of both including block theories
that are block like, and block theories that are open-ended, kind of evolving blocks. So the argument is that
they are struggling with, or at least there’s an
underlying structure to the way they understand the problem, which is also an underlying structure that you find in the debates, certainly going back to the
debates in 20s and 30s and 40s among the founders of quantum science. So that is sort of where I left off. So I’m just going to read the paragraph that I kind of ended with. The realist and anti-realist
positions are both attempts to tame the paradoxical nature
of our embodied existence. We find ourselves straddling
two diametrically opposed and in my view, incommensurable
perspectives on the world. The first-person or
subjective point of view, and the third-personal or
objective point of view. Sometimes people refer to these as the imminent and transcendental or transcendent perspectives. The first-person perspective privileges my experience in the world, it places me at the center, as the still part of the
turning world peering outwards. And phenomenologists will insist that all philosophical
inquiry must begin here with one’s immediate experience since the world doesn’t show up at all unless and until it shows up for someone. Without mind, without conscious awareness, there is no science,
no physics, no biology, no evolution, and indeed
no mind-independent external world to speak of. So if my construal of the universe fails to recognize and
incorporate the fact that it is my construal,
then there is something wrong with my philosophy or my
science for that matter, and I believe this is the argument behind the blind spot essay. The problem is that insofar as the phenomenological perspective takes the immediacy of
subjective experience as a proper starting point,
it threatens to result in an incoherent, if not
self-refuting idealism. And there’s a lot to unpack there, but I’ll just put it out there. The third-person perspective
begins with the premise that the very point of critical scientific and philosophical inquiry is to escape the epistemic limitations
and biases and parochialism not to mention the lurking idealism that bedevil the
first-personal perspective. And the resources available
to us, empirical science, experimental psychology, logic,
philosophical reflection, offer a means to escape the
limitations of subjectivism. Nagel dubbed this
third-person point of view the view from nowhere. We’ve done that. So, the nagging worry underscored
in the blind spot essay is how this view from
nowhere can accommodate without reduction, the
multifarious views from somewhere. The phenomena of mind and
subjective experience. And what I found so exciting
about this particular workshop is that it is bringing
representatives of both sides together to kind of hash it out. Now the contrast and disjunction between these two perspectives
cannot be overstated. From the first-personal perspective, the material work appears to be begotten
by and show up in mind and thus is epistemically prior. From the third-personal perspective mind is begotten by and shows
up in the material universe and hence epistemic priority
is accorded to the world of the physical sciences. Each position is warranted by Kojin, philosophical argument as well as by compelling metaphysical intuitions. And yet taken on their own terms, each seems somehow
deficient or incomplete. More to the point, each
position is antithetical to the other and yet at the same time is inextricably bound to
or dependent on the other. So my argument is that the subject of an object of perspectives comprise two poles of an antinomy that are not merely interdependent, but subsumed and enfold one another. The very thought that I am
the subject of experience is possible only through
concepts, ideas and language that are extrinsic to me. They must precede my being and presuppose an external world. And yet these extrinsic factors are dependent on my existence. In a very real way, the world is within me and I am within the world. And it is impossible to specify where one perspective
ends and the other begins. They fold back on each other seamlessly, like the two sides of a Mobius strip. Our world emerges
precisely in the interplay between these two complementary but also contradictory perspectives. This overlaps nicely with the number of papers that
have been given so far. So this argument may
seem impossibly abstract, but there’s a way, I believe,
to bring it down to Earth. The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky was interested in the
acquisition of speech and the process by which
childhood soliloquizing came to be internalized as thought. Vygotsky believed that Piaget’s theory of childhood development was fundamentally flawed
in that it presupposes precisely what is in
need of an explanation. Namely the inner self, or the cogito. Rather than treating the cogito as a mysterious presence or force that is preformed in the infant, Vygotsky saw it arising developmentally as the infant interacts
with its environment. Vygotsky argued that the cogito or first-personal perspective emerges through the internalization
of early soliloquizing or ego-centric speech,
a dialectical process in which the child becomes
an object to itself. Self objectification entails mediated or symbolic representation, and the infant acquires
this communicative capacity by appropriating the responses of others to their own initially
involuntary behavior. Take, for example, the
gesture of pointing, which is one of the
earliest communicative acts mastered by the child. An infant extends its hands
toward a captivating object in an attempt to grasp or touch it. Vygotsky argues that this is not initially an intentional act, but a
spontaneous or hardwired reflex. Should the object be
beyond the infants reach, it’s hands remained poised
in the air in its direction. The parent responds to the child’s action by placing the object into its hand. It is only later, as the
infant comes to associate its own involuntary reaching movement with the effect it has on the world that it registers the gesture as pointing. It is through such feedback loops that the child comes to apprehend its own unintended and unmediated behavior as a meaningful signal,
directed not at an object, but at another human being. The acquisition of speech can
be understood in the same way, through the response of the environment, the child comes to regard its
own spontaneous vocalizations as meaningful. In the early stages of speech acquisition one learns through rote conditioning to associate a name with a thing, but initially the name is
treated as intrinsic to or identical with the object. That is to say, the perceptual field and its subjective meaning or sense are inextricably bound together. Vygotsky argues that it is through play that the child learns to
distinguish self from world. This explains why play is universal and so crucial to socialization. I would note on the side that play is not restricted to homo-sapiens alone. Gregory Bateson has this famous essay on the significance of play in monkeys for the emergence of symbolic action. So play is the arena in which names are first disaggregated
from their reference. Through play a child
discovers that an object sign can be displaced onto something else, onto a broomstick for example. Or a broomstick can become a horse. Or a piece of wood can become a doll. So a child’s play, this isn’t clear yet, this is an interesting one. A child’s play can and often does involve playing at reality. Two children, for
example, might make a game in which one plays the role of the mother and the other plays the role of the child. The second child is playing
at what is in fact the case. And yet we recognize that
there is a difference since the child normally behaves without thinking of herself as a child, yet now she consciously,
one might say intentionally seeks to display herself as a child constituting herself as an
instance of what she already is. It is here that we begin
to see the beginnings in a very palpable way, of the
objectification of the self. An objectification necessary
to navigate the social terrain. The third-person objectification
is accompanied by and indeed predicated on
the simultaneous emergence of a first-person interior self. So interiority in this view, emerges as the child’s egocentric
speech is turned inward. Instead of appealing to others, the child begins to address herself, intending and guiding her own actions. So the manipulation of signs and symbols, first mastered in play, is what allows us to disaggregate signifier from signified, or map from territory, inner
from outer, mind and world. The first-personal
perspective, our subjectivity is not some pre-existing,
independent, irreducible or elemental something in the universe, but is rather the by-product
of this dialectical process in which world and mind co-arise. Of course Vygotsky’s developmental theory, as intriguing as it is, raises many of the same
metaphysical puzzles as does Buddhist dependent origination or Bohr’s notion of complementarity. Here too, insofar as mind engenders world and world engenders mind, you seem to get something from nothing. And the tendency is to want
to negotiate or resolve or even to eliminate
the structural tension by throwing in your lot with either the realist or the anti-realist position. You face a choice between
a position that starts from and privileges third-personal perspectives versus one that starts from and privileges first-person perspectives. The realists position is the one that sees mind as subsumed by world. The mind emerges within the world and thus our phenomenology
must ultimately be explained if not explained away through reference to extrinsic material domain. The anti-realist position is one that sees the world emerging within mind. The particle comes into being
in the act of measurement. And thus there is no
stepping outside appearances as there is simply no toe-hold out there. From each position the
other looks deficient and ultimately untenable. The evidence of several thousand years of struggles with these issues suggests that neither
standpoint can yield on its own an internally coherent or
consistent account of the world. So it may be time to take
seriously other approaches including Dialetheic approaches
that countenance paradox not merely as an unavoidable problem caused by the limitations of our reasoning or of our conceptual schemes
or of our evolutionary and biological makeup, but
rather as revealing something inescapable and deep about
the nature of the life world. Thank you. (applause) (audience mumbling) (laughs) – Or maybe I should use
Janan’s representation. So we can ask as many questions as you want right now, it’s fine. Anybody, yes. – Okay Robert, I catch on
the last part of your talk. You say that according to Vygotsky the development of the
child is one of co-emergence of a subjective pole
and an objective pole. And there is no priority
of one over the other. But what is the first element out of which the two poles arise, the
subjective and the objective, what is this, how can you name it? What word would you use to do that? – Exactly, right. That’s what I meant by you seem to get something out of nothing. That’s what the logic leads you to and that’s precisely why many people find that position to be maddening, incoherent and one would reject it. – It’s not nothing, it’s experience. It’s not personal, it’s just. – I understand, I understand. That’s one way to solve the puzzle. I’m just pointing out that
if you solve that puzzle you create, we were talking
at lunch, it’s whack-a-mole. It becomes very difficult to explain causal relations, determinism,
the kind of coherence in integrity of the world that we believe if you start from experience. Because the moment your mouth is open you’ve left experience behind. – Just another remark. Saying that causal relations
are difficult to explain if you start from experience,
is demonstrably wrong because Kant did perfectly
well with causality. But for him, causality was
not something given outside, it was a prescription of our understanding in order to get to organize
the set of experiences into coherent– – So, I don’t want to
take a position here, but I would point out that Schopenhauer does not believe that
Kant can get away with it. Because Schopenhauer
says you need causality to connect the noumenal to the phenomenal. And you can’t have causality, because causality is not
part of the noumenal. So there is a loop in Kant that
Schopenhauer I think nails. And Schopenhauer actually at that point, I think you would agree goes Dialetheic. Okay. – Good. Anybody else has a pressing
comment or question? No, good. Okay let’s thank Bob again and apologies for the interruption. (applause)