History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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NK comment: Will, consciousness, and the hypernomic

May 24th, 2016 · 12 Comments

There are several issues here, first the issue of ‘will’ or ‘free will’ and beside that the issue of consciousness.

I would recommend looking at my Enigma of the Axial Age where I construct a version of Samkhya, with reference to J.G.Bennett. And Kant/Schopenhauer.
Before discussing that we might cite the Advaita tradition which via its Brahman/Atman perspective sees the problem of consciousness resolved by seeing that it is behind the ‘all’. This view is a potent viewpoint, but it doesn’t say anything about ‘will’. The Indian tradition is strange in this respect.

In any case, in Enigma of the Axial Age I consider the triple aspect of the hyponomic, autonomic, and hypernommic, i.e. the realm of the material, or physics, the life zone and a higher realm that is our constant preoccupation as a spiritual realm. The strict materiality of Samkhya, and Bennett is a reminder that the hypernomic is material also, but in a sense that is not clear to us. In Bennett the lowest cosmic energy in the hypernomic is consciousness! Whatever that means. Bennett is useful because he correlates Samkhya with modern thinking, but fails to consider the noumenal/phenomenal aspects, with ‘will’ either in the noumenal or somehow straddling both.

We have all the pieces, save that Advaita doesn’t quite gel with our updated Samkhya: Bennett rendered over to Schopenhauer.

Our best guess then is that the noumenal aspect of will stands beyond even the hypernomic which is a material superstrate: we can’t figure this out because consciousness, while material, is a cosmic energy and has a different character from the material studied by physics.
We should think then that consciousness emerges via developmental evolution (i.e. not darwinian) as a penetration of the autonomic in the levels of awareness of the ‘animal’ (or even plants?) coming to fruition in homo sapiens with its many dimensional consciousness (often discovered in meditation). Calling all these ‘consciousness’ is confusing, but basically the nature of consciousness (really what we call ‘self-consciousness’, what mindfulness seekers are looking for) is seen as ‘cosmic energy’ at the lowest level of the hypernomic. The ‘will’, which doesn’t appear in yoga or buddhism (but it must in some other form) gets a strong hint from Schopenhauer: it is the thing in itself, or the noumenal aspect of nature. And it is a realm of ‘freedom’ in some sense or senses, a statement requiring care. we see that man can be said to have will free or not as an aspect of this larger portrait, which isn’t explained by the discussion of consciousness, which we are considering is a ‘material’ aspect of the hypernomic, material by definition in some sense unknown to us. There could be another confusion: the execution of the will can create a state of changed consciousness (we assume as much when we use the term ‘pay attention’, i.e. activate consciousness via an act of will). There are many perplexities here, but seeing the noumenal aspect of the will can help here. Unfortunately both Bennett and Samkhya seem to miss this noumenal aspect of will, which would strictly speaking be beyond knowledge, and Bennett’s construct of Samkhya nonetheless expresses the classic gunas of that ancient spiritual discourse in terms of the will. I would have to assume that the gunas are confused by Indic yogas as between manifestation (the phenomenal) and the thing in itself, the noumenal.

In any case, even without solving all the problems here, we see at once why free will debates are so intractable: will is either noumenal or has a noumenal and phenomenal aspect. The phenomenal aspect will subject to causality, in Schopenhauer, and this is why so much confusion reigns.

Meanwhile Advaita-ists and Samkhya are traditionally at loggerheads (the famous attacks of Shakara on Samkhya) but I don’t buy it. Clearly both subjects have a common ancestry. Pace Bennett, we see that Samkhya has fallen into a muddle.

Let’s stop there for a moment, but noting that acting from the noumenal aspect of one’s will is not so easy! And yet, via Kant, we must suppose that man’s ethical behavior has a sort of hotline to that, yet this in the midst of considerable mechanized behavior. Further confusing is that a ‘true act of will’ would be timeless and yet activate the causally bound ‘phenomenal’ aspect of will.
We have all the pieces of the puzzle in one place, although Advaita and Samkhya show a divergence of perspectives, or so it seems.
Bennett almost got it right, and is fundamental in any case in see the ‘gunas’ as triads of the will. That breakdown gives us an inkling of the solution to the ‘free will’ question, but not to its absence in Advaita.
Small wonder debates here go around in circles.

Tags: General

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 NK // May 26, 2016 at 7:13 am

    The huge basic flaw in Kant/Schopenhauer (disregarding their differences for the sake of argument) is this notion that the noumenal isn’t differentiated along spatiotemporal lines. Schopenhauer simply takes it as given that Kant proved that space and time don’t apply to the noumenal (or thing in itself). The problem is that Kant proved no such thing. The noumenal may not be differentiated in the way our minds categorize experience, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t differentiated in any sense whatsoever. It is a massive gap in logic in the entire system.

  • 2 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Your point isn’t clear. Nothing in metaphysics is ever proven, Kant at some points at least tried. And I think we are going to get Kant etc trashed because buddhism got it right, and that I doubt. The issue of proof in Kant studies is highly complex, given the issues around, say, the transcendental deduction. But it is possible to adopt Schopenhauer’s stylized version of transcendental idealism on the basis of its overall coherence, elegance, and more to the point the way it explains many things. It is also a very good upgrade for ‘Upanishadic’ psychology.
    My macro effect is also clarified by this framework. My discussion of this in the post is not necessarily faithful to either of the two, and is a fuzzy attempt to sort out Samkhya via Bennett and Schopenhauer. For that matter nothing in samkhya is even coherent, let alone proved. Transcendental idealism, with some hints from Schopenhauer can actual make us realize that Samkhya was once a real subject. The same for buddhism. Over and over spiritual subjects suddenly cohere with the TI framework. The issues in Kant are too complex. Best to start with the antinomies in the section called Dialectic, and see how TI is derived from those contradictions

  • 3 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 9:08 am

    My take on the ‘will’ as a noumenal factor in human psychology is not quite Schopenhauer. But it makes sense to create this overall discussion of three/four things: Advaita, Schopenhauer, Bennett, samkhya. They are all revolving around this mystery

  • 4 NK // May 26, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I think you’re a little confused here. Samkhya and Advaita aren’t remotely compatible even though they may use the same terminology at many points. Buddhism, in its original form. only offers enough ontology to get the job done…nothing more, nothing less. Schopenhauer is compatible with Advaita (i.e. the obsession with oneness, etc.), but definitely not Samkhya.

  • 5 NK // May 26, 2016 at 10:15 am

    I’m a fan of Kant/Schophenhauer, but only up to a certain point

  • 6 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I have discussed this several times over at The Gurdjieff Con. I t hink that pace Danielou, yoga, tantra, samkhya all come from the same source in primordial Shaivism. It that is t rue we must suspect what is obvious actually that Samkhya has lost its marbles on the way. Samkhya was attacked by Shankara, but that quarrel seems pointless to me. Samkhya and advaita both find the final issue to be consciousness, so the debate is a confusion of the debaters. Samkhya makes no sense in the form we find it in classical samkhya, so your point is well taken. More on this later.

  • 7 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 11:18 am

    When I use the term samkhya I am thinking of the brand in bennett’s the dramatic universe, with its stunning version of the gunas as triads of the will. It is a different subject…

  • 8 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 11:23 am

    I got those two books on early buddhism we discussed, by Gombrich. It would be nice to link this with advaita, samkhya, schopenhauer

  • 9 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 11:30 am

    but you are right, it is confusing to link advaita and samkhya. best to keep that on the sidelines for a moment.

  • 10 NK // May 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    I actually think Samkhya got it right and Advaita got it wrong. Some of the details of Samkhya are wrong and illogical, but the entire system in general, IMO, is far superior.

  • 11 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I can’t take sides on this, but the version of samkhya in bennett is dynamite, but with some new distortions. The issue I am dealing with is the factor of will
    in a bennett style distinction of being function will. the yogas are sadhanas of being, while there is another tradition of the will. My post was trying to see the two in context.
    Meanwhile it would help for me to start over on buddhism, and the two texts you recommend (did I get the right ones) can be a start. Make you case about buddhism here, but be wary of easy dismissals of Advaita.

    However, consider my study of the axial age: buddhism has a hidden hand dealt from some mysterious spiritual power. If we look closely we will probably find as you suggest something like a solution to many perplexities. But in the end of the zen path shows how advaita resurfaced in buddhism, perhaps…

    More on early buddhism, please…

  • 12 nemo // May 26, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I have also made some harsh comments on the later buddhism. So I am not indulging in buddhist fan club here.

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