Hyponoetics - Philosophy of Mind

This blog discusses ideas and concepts that I am currently thinking about for my book on Hyponoetics as an integral philosophy of mind and matter.

Hyponoetics and Jainism

Jan 09, 2024 - Category: Epistemology  Metaphysics - Tag: Knowledge  Paranoesis  Perspectivism  Reality  Relativism

In this blog, I will elaborate on the similarities between my philosophy of Hyponoetics and the Indian philosophy of Jainism.

Hyponoetics is a philosophy based on the assumption that the ultimate reality, or the universe as a whole, manifests itself in a number of different aspects, the two most known to us human beings are mind and matter. The underlying reality is not a determinate system of physical and/or mental entities but may be considered as pure potentiality out of which the entities of our world, including consciousness and self, are manifested or objectified. Because reality is panmorphic, there is no deterministic process how entities become manifest, but it is determined by the interaction between individual minds and reality itself, in a constitutive and interpretative manner. This means that no philosophical system contains the absolute truth about reality, and as a matter of fact, neither does science. They are all different and partial views. Hyponoetics , therefore, provides a meta-philosophical framework rather than another system of thought, an adaptive framework, which allows every view to be integrated and assimilated into a whole. It may be objected that this will lead to skepticism or relativism if not nihilism, but I will show below why this is not the case with Hyponoetics . I also propose a new faculty of thinking, called Paranoesis or Transrational Thinking, which is capable of comprehending the whole of reality in all its aspects.

Jainism is a relativistic type of realism that states that reality has manifold aspects or infinite characters (अनेकान्तवाद = anekāntavāda). Manifoldness in this context is understood to include mutually contradictory properties. Reality is manifold and each entity has a manifold nature, consisting of diverse forms and modes of innumerable aspects.

The existence of an entity such as a pot, depends upon its being a particular substance (an earth-substance), upon its being located in a particular space, upon its being in a particular time and also upon its having some particular (say, dark) feature.
[Nagin J. Shah (ed.): Jaina Theory of Multiple Facets of Reality and Truth, Motilal Banarsidass Publisher Private Limited, Delhi 2000, p. 7]
Multiplicity and unity, definability and non-definability etc. which apparently seem to be contradictory characteristics of reality are interpreted to co-exist in the same object from different points of view without any offence to logic.
[Nagin J. Shah (ed.): Jaina Theory of Multiple Facets of Reality and Truth, Motilal Banarsidass Publisher Private Limited, Delhi 2000, p. 134]

Since reality has infinite aspects and cannot be summarily described under any of these aspects, the Jaina philosophers developed a method of describing reality from different points of view (नय =naya) and eventually of synthesizing seemingly inconsistent attributions. The logical aspect of this theory is known as स्याद्-वाद (syādvāda). Since reality has infinite characters, it possesses even opposite characters. It is both existent and non-existent, permanent and transient, one and many, describable and indescribable.

From an epistemological standpoint, knowledge which comprehends reality in its entirety with all its infinite aspects or characters is the perfect knowledge embodying the whole truth, and such knowledge is possible only for an omniscient being. Jainism denies this knowledge for ordinary human beings, because we can attend to and know only one aspect at a time, so our knowledge is always partial and relative to that aspect and therefore embodies only partial truth.

A point of view or a standpoint contains only the predicates that are relative to that point of view or standpoint. No predicates can be absolutely true of a thing or an object in the sense that it can be applied unconditionally at all times under any circumstances. Every judgment or statement is therefore qualified by a particular term (स्यात् = syāt = may be), meaning 'relative to a certain aspect', 'from a certain standpoint', 'in a certain sense' etc.

I share the perspectivism of Jainism but disagree that humans have no way of transcending their partial limited views. A higher form of thinking, which I call Paranoesis or Transrational Thinking, is a logical conclusion from the premises of my philosophy. If we accept the postulate that our mind is a manifestation of the ultimate reality and that we are intrinsically and essentially connected and one with reality as a whole, then there must be a way for us to re-connect and re-unite with reality by transcending the limits of our finite minds. These limits keep us separated and as distinct individuals, but this limitation is not real, but only an appearance, or how entities are objectified and related to each other in our world (reality-for-us).

We already know some of the ways of transcending our limited mind, for example in intuitions, psychic phenomena, such as telepathy, precognition, etc., mystic experiences and other transpersonal or altered states of mind. I just take this a step further to the realm of thinking itself. More on Paranoesis can be found here (section 'Transrational Thinking (Paranoesis)' and here.

Here are a few philosophers that hold a similar view of perspectivism:

The Greek sophist Protagoras is well known for his subjectivist and relativist philosophy. The relation between man and reality is subjective because man only knows about reality through his experience, and it is relative, in so far as each individual man has a different view of reality and therefore no absolute or purely objective truth can be advocated.

Πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἐστῖν ἄνθρωπος, τῶν μὲν ὄντων ὡς ἔστιν, τῶν δὲ οὐκ ὄντων ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν.

(Of all things a measure is man – of the things that are, that they are; of the things that are not, that they are not.)

[Diels and Kranz, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 80 B1]

This statement can be interpreted in regard to our beliefs and opinions. Our beliefs are true because we, as human beings, hold them. We are the measure of truth, and ultimately, of reality. Our beliefs "measure" reality. When we measure something, we account for an object's quantitative properties related to space, and an object's existence related to time. We apply standards in measuring the objects of our world. The standards are considered objective, but technically, they are subjective, because our mind invented those standards and methods of measure. Thus, in superimposing our mind’s metrics on reality, what we perceive, and experience is essentially formed according to our mind’s measuring activity.

Protagoras gave us also an application of his homo mensura ("man is the measure of all things") statement in his treatise "On the Gods":

Περὶ μὲν θεῶν οὐκ ἔχω εἰδέναι, οὔθ’ ὡς εἰσὶν οὔθ’ οὐκ εἰσὶν οὔθ’ ὁποῖοὶ τινες ἰδέαν.

(Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether that they exist or that they do not exist nor what sort of form they have.)

[Diels and Kranz, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 80 B4]

Although this statement about the existence of God is agnostic, it reflects the underlying assumption of the relativistic homo mensura idea that our ideas and beliefs are the measure of our knowledge, that knowledge is not absolute or given, but inferred from the mind's metric ability.

Nietzsche espoused a similar view of perspectivism:

"There are only facts" - I would say: No, facts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations. We cannot establish any fact "in itself"...
"Everything is subjective," you say; but even this is interpretation. The "subject" is not something given, it is something added and invented and projected behind what there is.
In so far as the word "knowledge" has any meaning, the world is knowable; but it is interpretable otherwise, it has no meaning behind it, but countless meanings. - "Perspectivism."
[Will To Power, Vintage Books, 1968, p. 267]
"Interpretation," the introduction of meaning - not "explanation" (in most cases a new interpretation over an old interpretation that has become incomprehensible, that is now itself only a sign). There are no facts, everything is in flux, incomprehensible, elusive; what is relatively most enduring is - our opinions. It is our needs that interpret the world; our drives and their For and Against.
[Will To Power, Vintage Books, 1968, p. 327]

The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset believes that perspective is a constituent ingredient or a component of reality, that reality can be looked at only from the vantage point which each and every human being occupies. Every life is a viewpoint on the universe.

...therefore, there is no such thing as a changeless and unique reality with which to compare the contents of artistic works: there are as many realities as there are viewpoints. The point of view creates the panorama. There is an everyday reality formed by a system of loose, approximate, vague relationships which is sufficient for the purpose of daily living. There is a scientific reality formed by a system of exact relationships, a system which the need for exactness imposes.
[Meditations on Quixote, University of Illinois Press, 2000, p. 169]

And even in science, there is perspectivism, as Ludwig von Bertalanffy mentions in his book on General System Theory:

All scientific constructs are models representing certain aspects or perspectives of reality. This even applies to theoretical physics: far from being a metaphysical presentation of ultimate reality (as the materialism of the past proclaimed and modern positivism still implies), it is but one of these models and, as recent developments show, neither exhaustive nor unique.
[General System Theory, Georg Braziller, New York 1969, p. 94]

And finally, Hillary Putnam adopts an “internalist” perspective, maintaining that truth is

some sort of ideal coherence of our beliefs with each other and with our experiences... [rather than] correspondence with mind-independent or discourse-independent 'states of affairs.' There is no God's eye point of view that we can know or usefully imagine; there are only the various points of view of actual persons reflecting various interests and purposes that their descriptions and theories subserve.
[Reason, Truth and History, Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 49 f]

Now, I want to address the claim that perspectivism inexorably leads to skepticism, nihilism and/or relativism. Skepticism is the doubt that we cannot know something with absolute certainty, and truth is as much on one side as on the other side. If there is no absolute truth and validity of our knowledge, for example about the world, but only a multitude of different points of view, so the argument goes, then this must lead to skepticism and nihilism in the extreme.

If, with Ortega, we consider perspectives as constituents or components of our world, then these partial views contribute to a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of the totality of all the phenomena we experience. Partial views, when taken out of the context of the role they play within the whole of reality, can be considered false or invalid. But because every viewpoint is relative to the whole, we cannot determine the truth or validity solely by analyzing it into or reducing it to smaller (constitutive) elements, usually semantic or linguistic elements as preferred by analytical philosophy.

A perspective is always bound to a particular space and time and other context-related conditions. We cannot judge the truth or validity of such a perspective solely on these features, but only within the scope of the whole of reality. So, although perspectivism is relativistic, this does not mean that every view is equally true, but that each view represents only a partial truth of the whole and is therefore limited in its scope and applicability to the world. The Ptolemian view of earth as the center of the universe made sense at the time he wrote about it (2nd century ACE) and represented the perspective of the Roman and Greek cultures. This view fits into their overall world view. But when it was overturned by Copernicus 1400 years later, this new perspective was the more appropriate view based on the discoveries of modern science. But even the Copernican view was replaced in the 20th century with a more cosmic perspective which even further diminished the significance of our solar system in relation to our galaxy and the rest of the universe. Perspectives change when the underlying factors (space, time, etc.) are modified or further developed through new discoveries in both science and philosophy.

Ultimately, this means that also perspectivism, relativism and my own philosophy of Hyponoetics are only partial views relative to our current state of knowledge in science and philosophy. This is not really a problem unless you are an advocate of absolute truth, which thanks to quantum physics and postmodern philosophy, is now being considered an obsolete view metaphysics. But then again, under perspectivism, also the belief in absolute truth has its place.

see also the blog 'The View From Everywhere'.