Selfhood and Consciousness: A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Epistemology, Noemics, and Semiotics (and Other Important Things Besides)

 

Copyright Notice: This material was written and published in Wales by Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). It forms part of a multifile e-learning resource, and subject only to acknowledging Derek J. Smith's rights under international copyright law to be identified as author may be freely downloaded and printed off in single complete copies solely for the purposes of private study and/or review. Commercial exploitation rights are reserved. The remote hyperlinks have been selected for the academic appropriacy of their contents; they were free of offensive and litigious content when selected, and will be periodically checked to have remained so. Copyright 2006, Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer).

 

 

First instalment [v1.0] published 13:00 GMT 28th February 2006; this version [v2.3 new material added] published 09:00 BST 20th September 2006

 

BUT UNDER CONSTANT EXTENSION AND CORRECTION, SO CHECK AGAIN SOON

 

 

"SOCRATES: I can't get a proper grasp of what on earth knowledge really is"

(Plato, Theaetetus, 146a; Levett translation, p10).

 

How to Use this Glossary

This glossary deals in educated layperson's terms with the three philosophies named in the title, that is to say, with the philosophies of knowledge, understanding, and the transmission of same from person to person. However, because we are effectively dealing with three overlapping vocabularies all rolled into one, we have prefaced the main body of the glossary (G.3 below) with a pre-briefing on some philosophical Greek (G.1 below) and some pump-priming pre-definitions (G.2 below). We have also provided a short, and hopefully enlightening, closing summary (G.4 below). All entries are cross-indexed thus, such that if loaded into a semantic network (human or otherwise) they would produce a navigable "data dictionary" on the chosen subject areas.

 

G.1 - Some Classical Vocabulary

Key: Beare = Greek Theories of Elementary Cognition (Beare, 1906); C.G.D. = Cassell's German Dictionary; C.L.D. = Cassell's Latin Dictionary; O.C.G.D. = Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary; O.E.D. = Oxford English Dictionary; Peters = Greek Philosophical Terms (Peters, 1967); S.E.P. = Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [online].

 

Notes - General: As far as possible we have referenced editors' and translators' comments under their own names, to help distinguish secondary from primary content. The emphasis within quotations is always original, unless stated otherwise. Where it might facilitate web searches for the primary classical texts, the Cyrillic Greek has been parenthesized <ουτως> for readers to paste as keywords into their search engines [be warned, however, that Greek is a case-inflected language, and has different noun endings as well as the usual verb, adjectival, and adverbial variations]. Where a Greek word (aesthesis, say) has been fully adopted into English with no substantial change of meaning, we no longer show it italicised; where it has acquired a different connotation in English (idea - idea, say), we have italicised the ancestral item.

 

Notes - Referencing Classical and Semi-Classical Texts: It is not possible meaningfully to operate strict Harvard referencing when dealing with classical or semi-classical sources. Some of the oldest material, for example, no longer exists in primary source form, having long since been lost or destroyed, and we know of such material only from surviving secondary references to it, themselves deeply ancient. Many ancient manuscripts were carefully preserved by religious and other interest groups in their private archives, and can therefore lack impartiality. All material prior to the invention of the printing press was, to the extent that it was reproduced at all, reproduced by manual transcription, and we follow the established practice of identifying by the paragraph numbering of the museum text with the soundest provenance (e.g. Plato, Theaetetus, 189e). The field is also beset by casual inconsistencies of scholarly habit. For example, one of Aristotle's three major works of mental philosophy - The Categories - is still known by its original Greek title, another - De Anima - is known only by its later Latin translation, and a third - The Metaphysics - somehow came to be known by the mediaeval equivalent of its library shelving code! Even when the printed word did become commonplace, scholars often published their works as a succession of relatively small individual volumes, delivered over a number of years, so that many first edition philosophical works appear with a date range (e.g. Hegel, 1812-1816). Feedback and critical comment would then prompt a number of corrected volumes, and perhaps even posthumous collations (e.g. Cassirer, 1995).

 

Notes - Foreign Texts: The situation for non-English works was even more tortuous, as it took time for a foreign author's renown to command the expense of an English translation, and then further time to execute the translation itself. Thus Hegel (1807) was not available in English until 1910, and is shown as Hegel (1807/1910), whilst the by-then-already-famous Piaget (1970) was translated immediately and is shown as Piaget (1970/1970). As far as possible, we show the original publication date (in order to retain some measure of academic precedence), and the most readily available translation date. Readers should also understand that translation is a far from precise science, due in large part to the fact that there are more things to be explained in the world than words to do the explaining. Martin Heidegger's translators summarise the problem this way: "Anyone who has struggled with a philosophical work in translation [finds] himself asking how the author himself would have expressed the ideas which the translator has ascribed to him. In this respect, the 'ideal' translation would perhaps be one so constructed that a reader with reasonable linguistic competence [.....] should be able to retranslate the new version into the very words of the original" (Macquarrie and Robinson, 1962, p13). Ominously, retranslation has often been attempted but has always failed (often humorously) on material of any complexity [as to why this should be, see Bar-Hillel (1960)].

 

A significant proportion of the modern vocabulary of mental philosophy [not least the very word philosophy] derives directly from the classical Greek, that is to say, from the three centuries or thereabouts of pioneering analysis and criticism which began with the work of Thales <Θαλης> of Miletus (floruit ca. 560BCE) and which ended with the gradual collapse of Greek influence after Alexander the Great's death in 323BCE. We are interested here with the legacy of perhaps a dozen truly adventurous minds, whose work can be summed up in about the same number of equally adventurous notions, and in the lexicon of newly minted words by which those notions came to be more generally known. Unfortunately, that legacy is not always clearly visible, for today we regularly recognize the words but have little confidence that we really understand what their author had in mind. There are two distinct reasons for this uncertainty, namely (1) that the ideas themselves were grounded in a comparatively rudimentary understanding of the workings of the physical world, and (2) that the words which were invented to convey those ideas have evolved - sometimes markedly - over time. The most important of the new words are now previewed [many are then explored in greater detail in G.3]. To see the corresponding ideas (insofar as we ourselves understand them) either follow the onward pointers below, or else look the word up in G.3 and work from there.

aesthesis ["sensation, perception, etc."] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

aesthesis koine ["common sense"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

aestheta ["things sensed, perceived, etc."] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

aestheterion ["organ of sense"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

aletheia ["disclosure, unconcealment", hence "truth"] - see consciousness, Heidegger's theory of in G.3.

arachnion ["spider's web"] - see semantic network in G.3.

daemones ["spirits within" (as in the modern "demons")] - see soul in G.3.

dianoia ["reason"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and reasoning in G.3.

doxa ["opinion"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

eidolon ["image"] - see image in G.3.

eidos / eide / idea [various meanings] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

episteme ["knowledge"] - see epistemology in G.2.

epoche ["cessation, stoppage"] - see the dedicated entry in G.3.

gnwme ["mind, understanding, reason"] - see noemics, noesis, etc. in G.2.

historia ["inquiry, knowledge, inform"] - see the dedicated entry in G.3.

hyle ["that out of which something is made, material, matter"] - see substance in G.3.

kategoriew ["I accuse"] - see category in G.3.

kinesis ["movement, motion"] - see consciousness, Heidegger's theory of in G.3.

kubernetes ["steersman, pilot"] - see noemics, noesis, etc. in G.2.

kubernetikos ["skilled in steering"] - see noemics, noesis, etc. in G.2.

logismos ["computation, arithmetic; reasoning "] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

logistikon ["rationality"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

logos ["word, explanation"] - see experience and logos in G.3.

morphe ["form, shape"] - see the dedicated entry in G.3.

noema / noemata / noein / nous [various meanings] - see noemics, noesis, etc. in G.2.

noeta ["things known"] - see noemics, noesis, etc. in G.2.

oida ["I know"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

oiesis [in some usages only "human mind"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

on[ta] ["being(s)"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

orexis ["appetite, desire" (as in the modern "anorexia")] - see conation in G.3.

ousia ["essence, existence"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and category in G.3.

paschein ["to undergo, be burned"] - see category in G.3.

pathos ["experience"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2 and experience in G.3.

phainw ["I make visible"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

phantasia ["imagination"] - see imagination in G.3.

phantasma ["mental image"] - see image in G.3.

phenomenon ["appearing"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and subjectivity in G.3.

phronesis ["thought"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and reasoning in G.3.

phusica ["natural things" (as in the modern "physics", "physiology", etc.)] - see metaphysics in G.3.

pneuma ["air, breath, spirit"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and soul in G.3.

poiein ["to do, make"] - see category in G.3.

poios / poiotes ["of what sort" / "what sort-ness" (Plato's term for "qualities")] - see category in G.3.

poros ["channel, strait, seaway"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2.

pragma ["deed, action"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and pragmatics in G.3.

prassw ["I do, practise"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and pragmatics in G.3.

praxis ["deed, action"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and pragmatics in G.3.

proairesis ["choice"] - see the dedicated entry in G.3.

pros ti ["with-respect-to-what"] - see category in G.3.

psuche ["soul, spirit, life"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and soul in G.3.

semainw ["I signify, mark, etc.".] - see semiotics in G.2.

sophia ["knowledge, wisdom"] - see philosophy in G.3.

techne ["craft, skill"] - see aesthesis, phenomenal awareness, and ideation in G.2, and knowledge types in G.3.

thymos ["spirit"] - see soul in G.3.

ti esti ["the 'what-it-is', essence"] - see category in G.3.

 

G.2 - Some Pump-Priming Definitions

 

Note: We shall be starting to see some philosophical German soon, and readers unfamiliar with that language should note that all nouns get a capital letter, not just proper names and those at the beginning of sentences [see, for example, Inhalt and Gegenstand in the entry for act vs content debate]. And remember that Greek words which can be readily guessed at in Cyrillic script have been left in Cyrillic script.

 

Aesthesis, Phenomenal Awareness, and Ideation: One of the oldest and most intractable problems of mental philosophy arises from the fact that the information processing activity we know in everyday English as "perception" seems to rely on a number of modular sub-processes strung together sequentially. Here is an initial inspection of the main building blocks of that system, in the order they would naturally be encountered during a typical act of perception.

 

(1) Forms and Ideas: [Eidos <ειδος> = "that which is seen", hence "shape", hence "kind", etc. (plural eide <ειδε>); idea <ιδεα> = "appearance, form; way, manner, nature; opinion, notion, idea" (O.C.G.D.). Since ειδος, ειδε, and ιδεα are visually close to the English, we shall continue to use them in their Cyrillic form.] Ειδος and ιδεα both come from the classical Greek verb idein, "to see", and are accordingly amongst the first words needed in any analysis of a sighted species' interaction with the natural world. Although often used interchangeably (Novak, 2004), ειδος seems to be the preferred word for something to be seen, that is to say, the physical object, whilst ιδεα seems more to imply that which arises within us as a result of that act of seeing. Originally, the word seems to have derived from the ancient Proto-Indo-European root weid- [= "to see"], by dropping the initial phoneme. Later derivations of weid- are (albeit heavily mutated) all around us. They include the Latin videre [= "to see"] (and thus modern derivatives such as "video" and "vision"), and the Sanskrit veda [= "knowing, wisdom"] (and thus modern derivatives such as "wit" and "wisdom"). Plato <Πλατον> (floruit ca. 380BCE) was the first heavy user of ειδος and its variations in a philosophical sense, using it (or its plural ειδε) to represent "any of those primary realities which have come to be known as the Forms" (Novak, 2004, p2). This, however, is an area where scholars have been guessing at what Plato was actually proposing ever since he first proposed it, and even his own student, Aristotle, is often far from clear what his mentor had been on about. The conventional modern wisdom is that Plato saw forms as idealized external entities, and things as the less-than-ideal instantiations thereof which are actually out there on a given occasion to be perceived, and ideas are one of the possible end results of that process. The ειδε are thus objects of perception, as well as specific inputs to the first sub-stage of that process, namely transduction (see next); they are "the pure essence" of things (Husserl, 1913/1931, p50). Fine (2003) adds .....

 

"In the Categories some entities called 'eide' - substance species - are allowed to be secondary substances and essences. When Aristotle, in the Metaphysics, argues that eide - forms - are primary substances, is he arguing that the Categories' secondary substances (or their universal forms or essences) are primary substances after all [.....]? So it is sometimes thought [example given]. But I believe that the eide that now count as primary substances are not species, or universals of any sort, but individual forms; it is, for example, Socrates' individual form or essence, his soul, that now counts as a primary substance" (p400).

 

All things considered, therefore, we find it hard to disagree with Novak (2004) when he argues that "along with its associated linguistic derivatives, the term 'eidos' contains a nexus of concepts that are probably the most important to philosophising as such" (p1). It may or may not prove one day to be relevant that the distinction made by mental philosophers between form and thing is much the same as that made by data analysts between entity type and entity occurrence. Heidegger (clearly no mean data analyst himself) puts it this way: "..... any [aesthesis] aims at its ιδεα (those entities which are genuinely accessible only through it and for it)" (1927/1962, p57).

 

(2) Transduction: [poros = "channel, strait, seaway"; rheo ="flow through".] The beauty of the senses as we document them today is that they all have a common basic logic to them - they detect something happening in the physical world, encode that information in some way, and then pass that encoded information into the nervous system so that decisions can be made as to what behavioural changes - if any - are appropriate as a result. The process begins distally with an aestheterion [= "organ of sense"] (that is to say, with what we would today term a "receptor apparatus"), in which are located arrays of "receptor cells", specialized sensory cells capable of generating an electrical potential when subjected to external physical energy. A receptor apparatus is usually a specialized organ such as an ear, an eyeball, a tongue, etc., and it exists to keep the receptor cells proper protected and oriented towards the stimulus. Receptor cells work by generating a "receptor potential" when stimulated. This is an electrostatic voltage change, which in turn induces a "generator potential" in the first neuron of the sensory pathway. The process of transforming external physical stimuli into nerve impulses in this way is known as "transduction" (thus touch is "transduced" into neural activity in the pathway for touch, retinal excitation into neural activity in the visual pathway, and so on). It has to be presumed that transductive encoding somehow reflects the discernible properties of the external stimulus, that is to say, the intensity of a touch, the brightness of a light source, the saltiness of a taste, the loudness of a noise, and so on. The ancients lacked both microscopy and chemistry, of course, and so had no way of investigating the physiology which underlies transduction, nevertheless the physician-philosopher Alcmeon <Αλκμαιον> (floruit ca. 480BCE) was able to induce (a) that sensory information was conducted along sensory nerves [he referred to them as poroi, or "channels"] to the brain, and (b) that the process of perception then made sense of what arrived there on behalf of some higher mental faculty which resided there. As to the nature of retinal transduction, he proposed some sort of "fire in the eye". There is something close to an account of transduction in Theaetetus <Θεαιτητος>, as follows (Socrates <Σωκρατης> speaking): "Thus the eye and some other thing [.....] which has come into its neighbourhood generate both whiteness and the perception which is by nature united with it [.....]. In this event, motions arise in the intervening space [.....], and then it is that there comes into being, not indeed sight, but a seeing eye [.....]. This account of course may be generally applied [to] all that we perceive, hard or hot or anything else [.....]. None of them is anything in itself; all things, of all kinds whatsoever, are coming to be through association with one another, as the result of motion" (Plato, Theaetetus, 156d; Levett translation, pp30-31). There are further hints in Timaeus <Τιμαιος>, thus: "And the first organs [the gods] fashioned were those that gave us light [.....]. The pure fire within us that is akin to this they caused to flow through the eyes, making the whole eyeball, and particularly its central part, smooth and close-textured so that it would keep in anything of coarser nature, and filter through only this pure fire. So when there is daylight round the visual stream, it falls on its like and coalesces with it, forming a single uniform body in the line of sight, along which the stream from within strikes the external object. Because the stream and daylight are similar, the whole so formed is homogenous, and the motions caused by the stream coming into contact with an object [or vice versa] produce in the soul the sensation which we call sight" (Plato, Timaeus, 45; Lee translation, pp61-62). There are limits to what philosophical conjecture can achieve, of course, and it fell to Herophilus and Erasistratus, working out of Alexandria, to carry out the first empirical investigations (Solmsen, 1961). Their ideas were then brought down into modern anatomy via the works of Hippocrates.

(3) Aesthesis: [Aesthesis <αισθησις> = "sensation, perception, feeling; sense; knowledge; consciousness" (O.C.G.D.).] Aesthesis is the Greek word not just for the end-to-end process of turning sensations received from the ειδε into perceptions of those ειδε [it survives in this respect in the modern terms "somaesthesis", "kinaesthesis", and "anaesthesia"], but also, more specifically, for the state of conscious awareness which arises from that process. Alcmaeon seems to have started this particular theoretical ball rolling (see above), and Plato says a little on the subject in the Theaetetus (whence the quotation above), but for the detail we have to look to Aristotle's De Anima, and one recent translation of this (Lawson-Tancred, 1986) renders aesthesis as consciousness, perception, and sensation rolled into one, because it is a word of wide meaning in Greek. By definition, the momentary end product of aesthesis-as-process is "phenomenal awareness" (although we shall have to reserve judgment on whether that itself is content, process, or a little bit of both), and by implication the early stages of the end-to-end process have not therefore reached that level of experience (and probably never can reach it). On another occasion, he uses oiesis <οιησις>, a derivative of oida, "I know", and a close relative of ειδος. The O.C.G.D. gives oiesis as meaning "opinion", but a recent translation has rendered it as "human mind" (Plato, Phaedrus, 244c; Waterfield translation, p26). The term pathos <παθος> is also occasionally used to indicate the ability to have an experience.

(4) Phenomenal Awareness: [Phenomenon <φαινομενον> = "appearing"; "that which shows itself, the manifest" (Heidegger, 1927, p51).] As conventionally considered, the process of aesthesis culminates in a fleeting moment of phenomenal awareness, that is to say, in our becoming aware in some way of the forms - the external ειδε - which have somehow commanded an act of perception on our part. The ειδε, in other words, become aestheta, things "aesthetized", or felt. This is the phenomenon of which we are all individually aware, but which nobody has ever been able to explain and for which a number of alternative terms are used more or less synonymously, including "appreciation", "apprehension", "awareness", and "comprehension" [compare properties (1) and (2) of Smyth's (2005) hypothetical smart thing]. The word "phenomenon" derives from phainw, "I bring to light, make visible" (O.C.G.D.), and refers to the external thing now made internally visible as the thing experienced. This notion is straightforward enough, but only until you ask to whom did the thing in question appear and by whom was it experienced, whereupon all the problems associated with subjectivity [much more on which later] suddenly burst forth.

(5) Ideation: The slightly less fleeting end products of the process of aesthesis are what we today variously call the "aestheta", "percepts", "concepts", "ideas of", or "images of", something [compare property (3) of Smyth's (2005) hypothetical smart thing]. However named, they constitute what the mind makes of the raw content of each moment of awareness, duly submitted for further analysis. They are our understanding of what is "out there", rather than our immediate awareness of it. The Greek word ιδεα survives into modern English as "idea", but even in everyday usage, ideas are more than just "things seen" - rather they are what the mind does with its things seen. Thus an idea can be "an intention or plan" or a "mental image, conception, notion" or "a picture or notion of anything conceived by the mind" (O.E.D.). The word can also be used to indicate the novel end-product of reasoning, as in the phrase "I've got a good idea", making it "the formation of ideas or mental images of things not present to the senses" (O.E.D.). For ideation as the having of thoughts, the earliest Greek coining was phronesis <φρονησις> (Peters, 1967). Phronesis is thinking in the sense of an ongoing contemplation of the ειδε once it has been perceived. For ideation as logical sequential reasoning, however, one would more properly use logismos [= "arithmetic, etc."]. As in modern English, this was not the only way of referring to the various nuances of mentation. Peters also mentions aesthesis koine [= "common sense"], noesis [= "thinking")], dianoia [= "understanding"], nous [= "intelligence, mind"], and logistikon [= "rationality"] for the qualities of the intellect, and ιδεα [= "thoughts"], phantasma [= "images"], onta [= "realities"], and doxa [= "beliefs"] for the contents of those processes. Rohde (1893/1925) summarizes Empedocles' <Εμπεδοκλης> (floruit ca. 450BCE) view of thought as "a capacity of bringing together and unifying the individual sense-activities" (p380), and Plato has his character Socrates express it like this when discussing why knowledge was different to perception: "We shall not now look for knowledge in sense-perception at all, but in whatever we call that activity of the soul when it is busy by itself about the things which are" (Plato, Theaetetus, 187a; Levett translation, p86). Plato then identifies a major component within ideation as the power to judge true or false, and describes thinking as "a talk which the soul has with itself about the objects under its consideration" (Op. cit., 189e, p92). Plato refers to the process of predictive deduction as giving "the human mind [oiesis] insight [nous] and information [historia] in a rational way" (Plato, Phaedrus, 244c; Waterfield translation, p26).

(6) Praxis: In that it is ultimately responsible for overt willed behaviour, ideation is where the afferent and efferent domains of cognition meet in the middle. We perceive, we understand, and we respond, and the key words on the response side of things are pragma <πραγμα> and praxis <πραξις>, both of which derive from the root prassw <πρασσω> [= "I do, practise"], and refer to activities initiated as acts of will. However, being motor concepts rather than perceptual, they have no real place in this section on sensory aesthesis, and we therefore defer their discussion for the body of the glossary.

(7) Mind and Soul: This brings us to the problem of what might be doing the becoming aware (or the "appreciating", "apprehending", or whatever you choose to call it), and here we shall adopt (if only for the time being) the conventional view that it is (a) "the mind" of the individual concerned which becomes aware as the result of aesthesis, on behalf of (b) "the soul" of said individual. Empedocles was one of the formative writers on the nature of the soul, and his basic scheme of things was that perception and thought were between them the essence of a mortal soul, whose role in life was "bringing together and unifying the individual sense activities" (Rohde, 1893/1925, p380). It is, however, important to distinguish carefully between the driving force of bodily life itself, namely pneuma <πνευμα> [= "air, breath, spirit"], and the driving force of the soul within the body, namely psuche <ψυχη> [= "soul, spirit, life"].

(8) Knowledge: To complete this initial inspection, it is conventionally argued that the adaptive value of perceptual experience (which, when all is said and done, is in evolutionary terms a very expensive system to have on board, and thus needs to earn its keep) may be magnified many times when its products can be turned into knowledge of a more permanent sort. Here the Greeks would have us distinguish carefully between techne <τεχνη> [= "craft, skill" (i.e. know-how as opposed to know-that)] and episteme <επιστημη> [= factual knowledge (i.e. know-that as opposed to know-how)], whilst modern cognitive scientists would have us choose between propositional memory and procedural, episodic memory and semantic, and implicit memory and explicit.

 

OPENING SUMMARY: The classical view of cognition proposes a number of structures and recognises a number of processes, but offers only a loose and sometimes circular or contradictory set of definitions to go with them. A reasonably safe working synthesis seems to be .....

 

(1) Something (perhaps God) invented forms, that is to say, the idealized entities which populate the outside world and which are the ultimate reality, (2) instances of the forms appear before us as things, organised into perceptual scenes, (3) the process of aesthesis begins with the organs of sense, and progressively detects, encodes, and then conducts information through channels rostrally towards the intellect, culminating in an act of aesthesis, by which a state of simple phenomenal awareness is created, (4) this state of awareness is of the external things made mental things, that is to say, ideas, (5) ideas can subsequently be used in propositional reasoning (phronesis and logismos) as part of problem solving, (6) ideas may or may not result in voluntary physical activity, (7) the mind is assisted in its propositional reasoning by knowledge of various types, such as know-how and know-that, and (8) the mind carries out its various duties on behalf of a more rarified individual essence known as the psyche, or soul.

 

OPENING PROBLEMS: Without wishing to pre-empt the often quite detailed discussions yet to come, it is already possible to identify three major problems of consciousness within the classical view of cognition. The first of these is that the moment of phenomenal awareness comes quite late in the process of aesthesis [see in due course Husserl's complaint that he sees the thing but not the sensations which produced that seeing], the second has to do with the very essence of the act of aesthesis itself, and challenges us to explain who or what is doing the experiencing, and the third has to do with the placing of self, soul, individuality, will, etc. in whatever comes next.

 

WHERE TO NEXT: Where you go next largely depends on which of entries (1) to (8) above most interests you. If following up on the ειδε then see start with forms and ideas in G.3 below, if following up on transduction then the main glossary has little to add to the material above, if following up on aesthesis then start with perception, qualia, and subjectivity in G.3, if following up on phenomenal awareness and subjectivity then start with experience, phenomenal consciousness and the hard problem in G.3, if following up on mind and soul then start with noemics, noesis, etc. immediately below, if following up on ideation then start with intellect or reasoning in G.3, if following up on praxis then start with pragmatics in G.3, and if following up on knowledge then start with epistemology immediately below. Alternatively, readers may cut straight to the chase and turn to the closing summary in G.4.

Epistemology: [Episteme = "knowledge".] [See firstly knowledge immediately above.] Epistemology is "the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity" (The Free Dictionary). In common with most other "-ologies", an epistemology is therefore also the product of that study, that is to say, an organized and internally coherent body of proposition and explanation which presents a particular theoretical framework, and which may be distinguished from competing theoretical frameworks by differences in one or more core proposition. To find out more about epistemology and epistemologies, browse the glossary proper. Begin with the entry on knowledge types and gradually follow the onward links provided. Note, however, that anything approaching an exhaustive search may take some time and will eventually start to cross over into one or other of the two overlapping philosophies.

Noemics, Noesis, etc.: [See firstly mind, soul, and ideation immediately above.] This is a very important word group in both classical and modern mental philosophy, and derives from the root verb noew <νοεω>, "I perceive, think, intend". The Greek word noema <νοεμα> corresponds to the modern English "thought", so that "noematical" becomes "originating, or existing, in thought, or in the mind alone" (O.E.D.), and "noematics" indicates the study thereof. The term noein is the related verbal form, that is to say, "to have mental perception or intelligence" (O.E.D.), and the noeta <νοετα> are the things thus perceived. The term gnwme <γνωμη> is shown as "mind, understanding, reason" etc. in O.C.G.D., but in Lightfoot as the "judgment" which results from due application of the nous <νους> [= "mind/intellect"; νους is another word which is visually close enough to English to be used in its Cyrillic form]. Because it is invariably impossible to separate a thought from the more general capacity for thought, the focus then shifts from noema, the individual thought, to the νους, the power which begot the individual thought in the first place. As to what νους might consist of, Gomperz (1901) regards the word as so complex a derivation that he refuses to translate it. Instead he quotes Anaxagoras <Αναξαγορας> (floruit ca. 450BCE), one of the word's early proponents, to the effect that νους was many fine and pure things all rolled into one, including "all knowledge about everything, past, present, and future" (pp215-216), on a par, almost, with the notion of "supreme power", or "godhead". Plato accordingly had no difficulty incorporating νους into his notion of man as the perfect living creature, seeing it along the lines of what we glossarize today as the "the mind in all its richness", and describing it at one point as "the pilot of the soul" (Plato, Phaedrus <Φάιδρος>, 247c, Jowett translation), and at another as "insight" (Plato, Phaedrus, 244c; Waterfield translation, p26). On behalf of Aristotle <Αριστοτελης> (who wrote a generation or so after Plato), Lawson-Tancred translates the νους of De Anima as "intellect", because in his judgment Aristotle saw νους not as "a general abode for the entire content of experience", but rather more narrowly as "the intellective capacity" (Lawson-Tancred, 1986, p120) [and it is in this sense, indeed, that the word has been modernized into everyday UK English slang as "nouse" = common sense]. Nevertheless, there are occasions when he suspects that "'intuition', the capacity for unreasoned grasp of the first principles of science" might actually be closer to what Aristotle intended (Lawson-Tancred, 1986, p120). Be that as it may, "noemics" is [but arguably should not be] now "the science of the understanding" (O.E.D.), "noesis" is "the sum total of the mental action of a rational animal" (O.E.D.), and "noetic" is the corresponding adjectival form. To find out more about noemics and the psyche, browse the glossary proper. Begin with the entries on "charioteer of the soul" and "pilot of the soul" and gradually follow the onward links provided. Note, however, that anything approaching an exhaustive search may take some time and will eventually start to cross over into one or other of the two overlapping philosophies.

Semiotics: [Sema <σεμα> = "mark" or "sign"; semainw <σεμαινω> = "I signify, mark, etc.".] Semiotics is the science of meaning (whatever that eventually turns out to be) in transit between minds [or, to put some of our new vocabulary immediately to work, it is the -ology of one person's νους, at the behest of that person's psuche, transmitting a fragment of its episteme into the νους, and thence the psuche and episteme of another person]. Alternatively, it is "the scientific study of the properties of signalling systems, whether natural or artificial" (Crystal, 2003, p412), or "the study of signs and sign systems" (Wikipedia). The word was coined by John Locke (1690) as "semiotica", in his Chapter XXI discussion of "the division of the sciences". Locke identified three sorts of understanding, namely (1) "physica", the knowledge of things as they are" (p607), (2) "practica", "the skill of right applying our own powers and actions for the attainment of things good and useful" (p608), and (3) "semiotica", "the 'doctrine of signs'" (p608). By this last term Locke recognized what was to him the fundamental truth that the mind contains only a mental model of the world, and that when we wanted to act upon that mental model in any way we were acting upon internal symbols. The word then fell into disuse until revived by the Pragmatist philosopher Charles Peirce (floruit 1879-1905) and the philologists Ferdinand de Saussure (e.g. Saussure, 1916) and Charles W. Morris (e.g. Morris, 1927a,b, 1932). It was then brought into modern psycholinguistic theory by Thomas A. Sebeok (e.g. Sebeok and Ramsay, 1969; Sebeok (1976, 1979), and into everyday language thanks to the writer Umberto Eco, who based his plot for his 1980 novel (1986 movie) "The Name of the Rose" upon it. To find out more about semiotics, browse the glossary proper. Begin with the entry on sememe and gradually follow the onward links provided. Note, however, that anything approaching an exhaustive search may take some time and will eventually start to cross over into one or other of the two overlapping subject areas.

 

G.3 - The Glossary Proper

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