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Ken Barrows

If one were to draw a Venn diagram of fact and value, would it be two circles of the same size, the second on top of the first?


Absolutely fascinating post, Dave. The New Yorker piece on Lynch seemed a bit convoluted but the "money quotes," for me, were...

Their consequences, [Lynch] believes, are dire: “Without a common background of standards against which we measure what counts as a reliable source of information, or a reliable method of inquiry, and what doesn’t, we won’t be able to agree on the facts, let alone values. Indeed, this is precisely the situation we seem to be headed toward in the United States.”
When we Google-know, Lynch argues, we no longer take responsibility for our own beliefs, and we lack the capacity to see how bits of facts fit into a larger whole. Essentially, we forfeit our reason and, in a republic, our citizenship.

I'm looking forward to reading some of Lynch's papers at his UConn site and have downloaded his "Intellectual Humility in Public Discourse" PDF which I'll peruse over the next couple of days.

Many thanks, too, for the links to the New Yorker article on psychedelics used for therapy (though I've not finished reading it yet) and The Guardian review(?) of Huxley's "Doors..." (and the links contained therein). I'm also looking forward to exploring the Stanford epiphenomenalism treatise. Alas, where you write "Michael Gazzinga's interpreter," the link seems to be broken.

More importantly, though, I'm genuinely curious about how you "arrived" at your flow-chart/model of the brain as a "Reducing valve." (Note, I am, to a large extent, in agreement with that perspective.) How much was inferred by reflection and self-awareness and how much from observation of "our" fellow humans? How did you assess the connections between the inputs, memory, "Gatekeeper," etc. and decide to describe them in the manner shown? To what extent did inductive or deductive reasoning processes come into play? Do you perceive a difference between "belief" and the faculty of "reason?" Do you think empiricism is "valued" by "too many" or "too few" members of "our" species... or given too much or too little credence in general? Oh, I have so many more questions but, at the moment, they all seem to battling between my ears for primacy and will have to wait until that's sorted out! :)

I realize that answering such queries in a comment might be "difficult," so I'm anxiously awaiting what more you will say about this in the future. Again, kudos, this is wonderful food for thought!!

Dave Cohen


That Gazzaniga interpreter link is working now.

-- Dave

Jacob Horner

Really fabulous Dave. Thanks. For someone with my history - the last half of the sixties were an "overdose" on psychedelics, Huxley, etc - Pollan's article is a feast. Although, I think he left out MKUltra which included Ken Kesey and Robert Hunter.

Funny thought... Trump on Hyahuasca...unsupervised.

You posted Flatland Parts II and III while I was away. They are part of that "shitload of catching up to do." I'll get there...10 year old computer notwithstanding.

As Always..Muy Agradecido

Dave Cohen

I'm sorry to tell you guys this, but the only thing I took from Aldous Huxley (psychedelics, etc.) was the name reducing valve.

Otherwise, that stuff had nothing to do with the pictured model, which captures all the observations I made in the first three essays and much more.

-- Dave


Thanks Dave, this gives me a lot to think about.

It substantiates my poorly articulated intuition that the human brain, civilization and technology are all similar engines not of "intelligence" as complexity but of violent simplification (reduction; cartooning of reality?) I wish I knew more about physics because there's a clear thermodynamic tie-in here. Humans seem to be engines that process complex, chaotic reality and ecosystems to wastelands of simplicity, both metaphorically and literally, internally and externally.

Just look at the way Earth's diverse, complex, free-formed landscapes have gradually reduced to simple Cartesian grids under our management. We specialize in converting territory to maps. This doesn't bode well for our planet. Similarly, as your model describes, our brains specialize in converting information into social maps, which doesn't bode well for knowledge.

I like the way you've placed the "Flatland" filter before the Gatekeeper, so we know information is already distorted even before it makes it to the cognitive filtering stage. Human perception and thought "boils down" reality quite a few times before it reaches awareness. It's like homeopathy...once you've diluted it enough, what is left, the essence of the matter or nothing at all?

I do have a few questions about your placement of consciousness within the external self, and the definition of this "external self." I'll try to be as clear and brief as possible.

While I agree consciousness is epiphenomenal, is there any specific reason you link it only with the external self? If we interpret your "external self" as the social self, this could allow the conclusion that socially isolated people are not conscious. On a related note, are you suggesting that the internal representation of the self is unconscious? Where does the classic internal "sense of self" fit into this--would you consider it external? For me this model might work better if "internal" and "external" were replaced with pre- and post-, or something else. Not sure, just speculating.

As I'm sure you know well, for those of us who have experienced isolation and intense self-examination the external self is drastically reduced, filters may be damaged and the normal input/output ratio is thrown off. So we don't fit into society. Perhaps you're entirely correct to use the internal/external schematic because the default human isn't conscious outside of his social functioning. In this case I'd guess there's a continuum starting with the average person who rarely thinks beyond social identity, and the unfortunate few who've become marginally conscious of normally opaque processes.

I've noticed that there is a telling divide between neuroscience realists and ecological realists, with few exceptions (mainly you). Those who are able to face the truth about our brains can't face the truth about the limits to our growth, and vice-versa. Some of the most insightful neuroscientists are lost in dreams of singularity and silicon utopias. Carbon is the problem. Maybe they need to try Ayahuasca. Or lay off it. Does it matter when we're all hallucinating anyway?


What we know, comes from our subconcious, which decides what we take in, how we interpret things, and then what we 'know' controls how we act in front of others. Truth has nothing to do with it, unless it conforms to the will of the subconcious, in which case it has equal value with all our biases.
Thats how I understand it anyway.

Dave Cohen


Re: the self (internal and external)

I meant to distinguish between the "self" in the brain and "self" we present to the world.

Regarding the former, neuroscience tells us that bundle theory is the right way to think about it. So-called ego theory (there is a soul of some kind) is a story without foundation. The internal self is a narrative self, i.e., a story. That story gets updated over time.

Here's Paul Broks on the subject.


I'll post on this.


-- Dave


Thanks. Makes me wonder if the reducing valve model varies a little for a (good) scientist? And don't we gain real knowledge from their work (in general).

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