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An old post: matter, life, consciousness

December 18th, 2009 · 3 Comments

With respect to the Biocentrism question, and also of the Goswami/Chopra idea of consciousness as fundamental, I wrote a post last spring when the book Biocentrism first came to our attention here: Matter, life, consciousness
This post was too harsh, when in fact I was actually expressing interest in the Biocentrism thesis.

But as the recent posts show the critics of idealism will descend on you, as I realized at the time last spring.
Idealism as such isn’t the problem, rather the question arises as to how we could apply a vague term like ‘consciousness’ to holistic entities like the ‘universe’.
I had laid out a defense using a different approach based on the work of J. G. Bennett in The Dramatic Universe, where he bases his systematics, not on a duality of matter and consciousness, but on a triad of what he calls Being, Function, Will.
It is a very clever way to divide the pie and ends up making a distinction between things/stuff/entities that are material, are alive, are conscious. These are not the same thing, as with the last two predicates.
Schopenhauer produced the breakthrough here, for Bennett, with his understanding of will. But Bennett brings in the question of Being where it is absent in his idealism. Whatever.
The point is that with Bennett’s formulation (which claims to follow Indian Samkhya) all entities stand in relation to ‘being, function, will’, and their material, vital, and cosmic aspects are triadically variable. The degrees of the manifestation of the ‘wil’ allow us to pass seamlessly from the realm of ‘willing agent’ to ‘mechanical law’, with degrees of consciousness an aspect of being. Matter actually disappears (as a fundamental), and becomes a relationship of function, being and will, like everything else.

Will this really work? Hard to say, since it is quite a complex set of questions. But the simple antithesis of the material and the conscious can create problems of interpretation.

I think that the simplified version in Schopenhauer has great merit (if only because more comprehensible).

The point in any case is to see the descending transition from triads of the will to mechanical laws. Seeing the issue then in terms of will rather than consciousness can be helpful.
The point in general is that ‘consciousness’ and ‘matter’ don’t even enter as fundamental categories, but emerge from the triad of Being, Function, Will.
Bennett’s system is too complicated, I fear, and requires long study, but the gist is there in Schopenhauer, as you puzzle over his use of the term ‘will’.
Schopenhauer’s insight, out of the blue, offers a possible way to reconstruct Samkhya, as Bennett sensed, before he made a hash of the whole business, of this obscure Indian system, now apparently lost to all parties, Indian or not.

Tags: Evolution · physics · Schopenhauer

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 The Gurdjieff Con » More on Bennett/biocentrism // Dec 18, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    […] More on Bennett, and the biocentrism issue […]

  • 2 Stephen P. Smith // Dec 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Landon asks, “Will this really work?”

    Yes, the realization is that even space-time emerges from a necessary awareness that sources the Triad, while pointing to an infinite ladder-like dimensionality that we are called to climb. Any law of nature is by a space-time equation that represents an action upon a symmetry. But the right-hand side is held together with the left-hand side, and what holds the two together is a middle-term that points again to the beyond and a ladder to climb. The conservation of energy implies that reverse-causation is to be prohibited, but this prohibition only applies to the finite dimensional manifold. To self identify with the middle-term and we necessarily find ourselves climbing the ladder again, lest we give our affections to mere caricatures that make up the mechanistic dictates coming from the natural laws and be stuck like puppets on a manifold. The second law of thermodynamics is equally two-sided, but it is only the puppets that fall to the heat death.

  • 3 nemo // Dec 18, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Interesting, but I am not sure if you are explaining Bennett. The question of triads there is right up your alley, as is the legacy of Samkhya were this thinking first came into existence.

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