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A Second Scientific Revolution
The ‘Qualia Revolution’ in Science 


Content

 1. The First Scientific Revolution

2. The Second Scientific Revolution

3. Tertiary Qualities

4. Qualia Science and Semiotics

5. Qualia Science and ‘Synaesthesia’

6. The Failed Phenomenological Revolution in Science

 

1. The First Scientific Revolution

 Today our whole understanding of the universe is blinded by the dogma of modern brain science. According to this dogma we do not perceive reality directly. Instead our entire perception of the world consists of subjective representations or ‘pictures’ of objects generated by the brain. Yet if all perceptual objects are but mental representations generated by the brain, then that includes the brain itself — which is also a perceptual object. The idea that our perception of objects is a representation of reality generated by the brain collapses so soon as we recognise that the object we perceive of as ‘a brain’ must itself, paradoxically, be regarded as a mere representation of reality and nothing real in itself.

Modern brain science is but the latest form of ‘representational realism’, a revolutionary scientific worldview, which was first fully articulated by the English philosopher John Locke. Jeff Strayer summarises this worldview as follows:

John Locke thought that the ideas or perceptions which we have of objects in the external world partially represent the objects as they are in themselves, and so whether they are being perceived or not. This view of Locke’s is called representative realism. The term ‘realism’ here refers to the view that objects are real or exist apart from perception. And ‘representative’ means that some of our perceptions accurately represent an object as the thing which it is in itself apart from perception. (Think of how a well-painted portrait of someone is said to accurately represent that person.) But Locke thought that only some of our ideas or perceptions are accurate representations of the object itself, and that others are partially due to properties of the object and partially due to us as perceivers. The perceptions which accurately represent the object as the thing which it is in itself apart from awareness Locke called ‘primary qualities,’ and those qualities of an object which appear when we perceive it, such as its color, which are not taken to be intrinsic or mind-independent properties of the object are called 'secondary'. The distinction between primary and secondary qualities is old, and has been acknowledged by both philosophy and science. It goes back to Democritus, and was recognized by Galileo, Descartes and Newton.

Primary qualities. Those qualities of an object in the external world which are thought to be characteristic of the object as it is in itself, and thus whether anyone is aware of the object or not. Locke lists extension [an object’s occupying space or three-dimensionality, hence its size], shape, motion or rest, solidity or impenetrability, and number as primary qualities of an object. Primary qualities of an object are said to be those which are measurable. Thus, we can measure the length, width, and height, of a desk, and can also measure how much it weighs.

Secondary qualities.
All sensible qualities which are not primary, such as colors, sounds, tastes, odors, and felt textures. Secondary qualities are thought to be mind-dependent in that physics does not tell us that the object has a color, but says that it consists of atoms which lack color. Color is due to matter interacting with minds.
 

As Bo Dahlin reminds us, the historical emergence of this scientific world view was already anticipated by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Democritus: 

According to common speech, there are colours, sweets, bitters; in reality however only atoms and emptiness. – The senses speak to the understanding: “Poor understanding, from us you took the pieces of evidence and with them you want to throw us down? This down throwing will be your fall.

Fragment #125; quoted from Diels, 1992, p. 168; Dahlin’s translation

 

For here, as Dahlin points out:  

…Democritus was anticipating one of the fundamental difficulties involved in teaching natural science to children and young people today. This difficulty has to do with the “idealising” tendency of modern science, i.e. its reduction of our experience of the world to abstract representations and mathematical formulas in which the concreteness and contingencies of everyday life are annihilated, as it were – or at least set aside as belonging to the “not real”. This has lately come to be regarded as a major stumbling block for students’ learning in science
 

The standpoint still mythically attributed to Democritus himself — that everything is composed of atoms — is here treated sceptically. Democritus points instead to the paradox of using an abstract model of what lies ‘behind’ immediate sensory experience as ‘evidence’ to deny the primary reality of such experience. In this way he foresaw what was to become known as ‘the scientific revolution’ – literally a mythical turning upside-down of reality. This revolution first found its terminology in John Locke’s distinction of “primary” and “secondary” qualities – specifically in his relegation of sensory qualities such as colour, taste and texture to the status of mere “secondary” qualities — mere subjective ‘effects’ of “primary qualities”. Those “qualities” of objects that science had already began to take as “primary”, were increasingly reduced to measurable, mechanical and mathematisable quantities having to do with the relation of material bodies in space, or, more recently, the dynamics of energetic quanta (sic).

Modern brain science for example, effectively treats purely quantitative measurements of blood flow and electrical activity in different regions of the brain as more real than the actually experienced thoughts, feelings, movements or mental images that ‘accompany’ them – indeed are offered as ‘scientific’ explanations or ‘causes’ of the latter. Thus it is that ‘science’ as it is understood today, has become what Martin Heidegger called “the new religion”. For in essence it is a gigantic socially-constructed myth. The myth provided the basis for what I call ‘the first scientific revolution’. The myth was a revolution in the most literal sense, for it turned our whole understanding of reality upside down or on its head. It does so by taking scientific representations of reality – mathematical symbols and scientific ‘models’ — as more real than the consciously experienced phenomena they are used to explain. This new and extreme form of representational ‘realism’ is in fact a form of ‘idealism’ – taking ideas about reality as something more real than our living experience of reality.
 

When it is claimed that brain research is a scientific foundation for our understanding of human beings, the claim implies that the true and real relationship of one human being to another is an interaction of brain processes, and that in brain research itself, nothing else is happening but that one brain is in some way ‘informing’ another. Then, for example, the statue of a god in the Akropolis museum, viewed during the term break, that is to say outside the research work, is in reality and truth nothing but the meeting of a brain process in the observer with the product of a brain process, the statue exhibited. Reassuring us, during the holidays, that this is not what is really implied, means living with a certain double or triple accounting that clearly doesn’t rest easily with the much vaunted rigour of science.

 Martin Heidegger The Principal of Reason

Thus it is that Heidegger could also declare with confidence that “Phenomenology is more of a science than natural science is.” For it was Edmund Husserl who first suggested a reversal of what was and still is taken as the ‘scientific revolution’, using the term ‘Phenomenology’ to denote a philosophical refoundation of science on the basis of our lived, subjective experience of phenomena. It was also Husserl who first pointed to the “…surreptitious substitution of the mathematically substructed world of idealities for the only real world, the one that is actually given through perception, that is ever experienced and experienceable – our everyday lifeworld.”

What is misleadingly called ‘empirical science’ therefore, is the very opposite of a truly experiential science – a science based on our direct experience of phenomena and not one that seeks to explain away those phenomena using mathematical models abstracted from it.
 

As Dahlin puts it succinctly: 

“There is no experiential ground for the distinction between primary and secondary properties.”  

This was recognised by Locke’s major critic, Bishop George Berkeley, who argued that so-called ‘primary’ qualities such as shape or figure, size and extension, motion or rest were ultimately pure abstractions – for they are never actually separable in our immediate experience from so-called ‘secondary qualities’ such as colour, sound, light and darkness, heat and cold etc. We never actually experience a primary quality such as a shape or figure that does not also have secondary qualities such as colour or texture for example.  

For my own part, I see evidently that it is not in my power to frame an idea of a body extended and moved, but I must in addition give it some quality which is acknowledged to exist only in the mind. In short, extension, figure, and motion, abstracted from all other qualities, are inconceivable. Where, therefore, the other sensible qualities are, those must be also, namely, in the mind and nowhere else. 

Berkeley A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

Berkeley also argued, against Locke, that our perception of primary qualities was just as much relative to the standpoint of the perceiver as our perception of secondary qualities. In this way he introduced the first scientific theory of ‘general relativity’. 

great and small, swift and slow, are allowed to exist nowhere without the mind, being entirely relative, and changing as the frame or position of the organs of sense varies. The extension, therefore, which exists without the mind is neither great nor small, the motion neither swift nor slow –– that is, they are nothing at all.

That number is entirely the creature of the mind, even though the other qualities are allowed to exist without, will be evident to whoever considers that the same thing bears a different denomination of number as the mind views it with different respects. Thus, the same extension is one, or three, or thirty-six, according as the mind considers it with reference to a yard, a foot or an inch... We say one book, one page, one line; all these are equally units, though some contain several of the others. 

…it is said that heat and cold are affections only of the mind and not at all patterns of real beings...Now, why may we not as well argue that figure and extension are not patterns or resemblances of qualities existing in matter, because to the same eye at different stations, or eyes of a different texture at the same station, they appear various and cannot, therefore, be the images of anything settled and determinate without the mind?

That what we take as scientific ‘realism’ is in essence a form of idealism was reflected in the very language, not only of Locke but of Berkeley too, both of whom referred even to secondary qualities as ‘ideas’. Locke defined secondary qualities as ‘idea’ and primary qualities as powers of bodies to produce such ‘ideas’ in the mind. Berkely rejected this distinction, arguing that both primary and secondary qualities were essentially ideas in the mind, and that therefore neither of them could be seen as having their source in unthinking matter.

Those who assert that figure, motion, and the rest of the primary or original qualities do exist without the mind in unthinking substances do at the same time acknowledge that colours, sounds, heat, cold, and secondary qualities of a similar kind do not -- which they tell us are sensations existing in the mind alone that depend on and are occasioned by the different size, texture, and motion of the minute particles of matter... Now if it is certain that those original sensible qualities are inseparably united with the other sensible qualities and not, even in thought, capable of being abstracted from them, it plainly follows that they exist only in the mind. 

Ibid.

 

Common to the thinking of both Locke and Berkeley are four basic assumptions: 

  1. Perceived qualities are the product of a perceiving subject (“mind”) and/or the property of a perceived object (“matter”).
     

  2. Perceived qualities are essentially sensory impressions or “ideas” in the mind — whether resembling innate qualities of material bodies or not.
     

  3. Subjectivity or consciousness itself has no innate sensual or bodily qualities of its own but takes the form of a disembodied “mind” that is merely conscious of such qualities as perceptual ‘contents’ of consciousness.
     

  4. Bodies are composed of “unthinking matter”, lacking in innate subjectivity or consciousness.
     

 The modern scientific world-view has taken these assumptions further and at the same time amended them to generate a new set of assumptions.  

  1. That the capacity for subjective or conscious perception is the product of perceived bodily objects such as the brain and the body’s sense organs i.e., that “mind” is mysteriously generated by “unthinking matter” in the form of the brain’s “grey matter”.
     

  2. That behind the world of perceived sensory qualities lies a world of abstract quantities and quantitative relationships.
     

  3. That the mentally constructed models of quantitative science represent the true nature of the reality behind sensory experiencing, and are in this sense more ‘real’ than the qualitative dimensions of experience they are used to explain.
     

  4. That ideas in the mind of the scientist therefore represent the true nature of material reality more accurately than their own direct bodily experiencing – even whilst being nothing more than an emergent property of their body’s own biological matter.

 

These assumptions – the entire world-view resulting from First Scientific Revolution — left open a huge hiatus in our understanding of the universe. This hiatus found expression in the unanswered question of qualia. For notwithstanding all the advances of quantitative science and quantum physics, it remains inherently incapable of ‘explaining’ even the most elementary qualitative dimensions of experience – our experience of colour for example. For no conceptual leap can ever lead us from a purely quantitative understanding of colour in terms of measurable wavelengths of light to our subjective experience of colour as a distinct quality or quale. Not even brain science can make that leap, since all the ‘explanations’ of qualia it offers us are based on measurable quantities such as electrical activity in sensory nerves and regions of the brain.
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2. The Second Scientific Revolution
 

What I call The Qualia Revolution is a fundamentally new phenomenological account of the distinction between “primary” and “secondary” qualities, and with a revolutionary reversal of the ‘first scientific revolution’ that it supported. In this new account “secondary” qualities are understood as embracing all sensory qualities of a phenomenon in its outer physical form — its bounded and localised manifestation as a body in extensional space (physical space-time). “Primary” qualities on the other hand, are understood as the felt psychical inwardness of such sensory qualities — experienced as innately sensual but non-local qualities of awareness as such in intensional space (psychical time-space).

The nature of psychical space as a non-extensional or ‘intensional’ space is exemplified in the process of listening to the sounds of music or speech. For the space of our inwardly felt understanding or ‘resonance’ with the spoken word or a piece of music is not itself anything that we can localise ‘in’ outer, extensional space – it has nothing whatsoever do to with the physical space in which the sound waves of speech or music travel as mechanical vibrations of air molecules from one extensional body to another. And though the written word is composed of outwardly visible sensory shapes and colours that have extension and are localisable in physical space – on the page or on a computer screen — the felt meaning or sense of the word is nothing localisable in this way. Experienced purely as sound vibration, a musical or vocal tone is something whose source we are aware of and can localise in physical space-time. The essential feeling it expresses is not, for this is essentially not a sound tone but a soundless feeling tone – a mood or tonality of feeling as such. Feeling tones are neither just emotion we feel in our bodies nor sound tones emanating from other bodies. They are non-local tonalities or ‘mood colours’ of feeling as such – completing permeating, toning and colouring our feeling awareness of ourselves and the world. Similarly, the felt warmth or coldness, brightness or darkness, lightness or heaviness of a musical or voice tone is not simply a secondary, sensory quality or ‘quale’ that we are aware of. Instead it is a ‘quale’ in a far more primordial sense — an innately sensual quality of awareness. Such innately sensual qualities of awareness can be considered as ‘primary’ because they are what find expression in all sensory qualities that we are aware of. Thus a localised feeling of warmth in a part of our body is fundamentally distinct from a generalised or non-local warmth of feeling towards another person, and yet both warmth and coldness of feeling can find expression as sensations of physical warmth or coldness. Similarly, a feeling of inner psychical closeness or distance to another person can find expression in bodily movements towards or away from that person. Understood as psychical qualities of awareness, qualia are quite distinct from sensory qualities, and yet they are the stuff of which we are made, constantly toning and texturing our awareness of ourselves and the world in a way we take so for granted that science and philosophy have hitherto ignored them completely. If, as Shakespeare wrote “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” then qualia are this very ‘stuff’ – the innate substantiality of awareness itself. Quite simply, the Second Scientific Revolution is one which understands secondary qualities as sensory qualities and primary qualities as psychical qualia – as soul qualities. At the same time it understands the ‘soul’ itself in a new way – not as a localised subject of perception but as the non-local or field dimension of awareness. Not as something lacking substantiality or sensual qualities but as a patterned composite or gestalt of field-qualities of awareness – of qualia. Just as physical phenomena are patterned composites or gestalts of sensory or ‘secondary’ qualities, so are they also the expression of patterned composites or gestalts of primary soul qualities – innately sensual field-qualities of awareness as such. Such sensual qualities of awareness are what imbue all sensory experiencing with intrinsic meaning or sense. They are what allow us to feel that intrinsic meaning or sense in both words and things, objects and people — in a poem, painting or piece or music, in a sky, sea or landscape, in a person’s physical facial expression and tone of voice and in their own physical posture and comportment.

Instead of a world of invisible mathematical and quantum-mechanical relationships, the Second Scientific Revolution – The QUALIA Revolution – reawakens us to an invisible but nevertheless immediate sensible and richly sensual world of directly sensed meaning, understanding sensory experiencing not as an abstract philosophical relation or as a physiological mechanism but as a richly meaningful language. The First Scientific Revolution has brought about a state of spiritual illiteracy – an inability to recognise that behind the visible world of our sensory experience lies an invisible world of meaning or sense. It has turned ‘scientists’ into spiritual illiterates, for not having learned to read the qualitative language of the senses the only invisible world they believe in is a world of quantitative relations devoid of all intrinsic meaning. Modern science has become ‘occult science’ in the most literal sense, positing a hidden or ‘occult’ world totally inaccessible through immediate qualitative experiencing and accessible only through instrumentation and quantitative measurements. The modern scientist is like someone, who, not having learnt to read, seeks meaning in a book by chemical analysis of its ink and paper. Except in this case the book is the book of nature — and the book of the body. But instead of taking the body as a living biological language of the soul, rich in expressive meaning, it crassly reduces that language to its molecular alphabet, the human genome.

For the soul, physical objects are just as much symbols as words are. The modern scientist however, takes the symbol as the reality. Indeed it goes so far as to imagine that inner meaning or sense is a product or property of its own material symbols, rather than finding expression in them. The Second Scientific Revolution replaces the philosophy of representational realism with symbolic or metaphorical realism – understanding that just as ink marks on a page do not produce their own meanings, nor does matter. Instead matter is metaphor – its qualities, like those of a poem, painting or piece of music, being the sensory materialisation of intrinsically meaningful qualities of soul. The QUALIA Revolution is no mere return to a sentimental and aesthetic ‘romanticism’ of nature and its beautiful ‘soul’. It is the transformation of aesthetic romanticism into a revolutionary science of soul, a science that can be pursued through direct experiential experimentation with our own sensory awareness of the world. For the most fundamental scientific fact is not the existence of a world of extensional bodies in space and time but our own subjective and feeling awareness of that world. The methods of Qualia-Scientific Research are meditational methods – methods that allow us to pass from awareness of the sensory qualities of objects to a direct sense of the primary and primordial soul qualities that find symbolic expression in them — qualities that constitute the very ‘stuff’ of which the soul is made, and the imminent meaning in all matter.

This Second Scientific Revolution is not the invention of ‘old-fashioned’ romantics or mystics. Indeed it was anticipated in the words of one of the founding fathers of modern astrophysics, Sir Arthur Eddington:  

Briefly the position is this. We have learnt that the exploration of the external world by the methods of physical science leads not to a concrete reality, but to a shadow world of symbols, beneath which those methods are unadapted for penetrating. Feeling that there must be more behind, we return to our starting point in human consciousness — the one centre where more might become known. There we find other stirrings, other revelations, than those conditioned by the world of symbols. . . Physics most strongly insists that its methods do not penetrate behind the symbolism. Surely then, that mental and spiritual nature of ourselves, known in our minds by an intimate contact transcending the methods of physics, supplies just that. . . which science is admittedly unable to give.

 Science and the Unseen World

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3. Tertiary Qualities

 In The New Science of psychical qualia inaugurated by The Second Scientific Revolution, general words for qualities such as ‘redness’ and ‘roundness’ are understood as referring neither as really-existing Platonic ‘ideas’ or universals — nor merely as purely nominal concepts or ‘universals’ abstracted from our sensory experience of particular reds or particular round objects. Instead they are understood as tertiary qualities. Tertiary qualities are neither qualities of sense-perception nor abstract concepts or ‘universals’. They are sense-conceptions. Conceptions such as ‘redness’ or ‘blueness’, ‘softness’ or ‘hardness’, ‘roundness’ or ‘angularity’ however, can only arise because there is indeed something uniting one particular example of a sensory quality (for example one particular tone of red) with another. A sense-conception that unites such particulars however, is not a ‘universal’ (whether taken as a purely nominal abstraction or as a reality), but instead the expression of “family resemblance” (Wittgenstein) or “simference” (Wilberg). Simference is the similarity-in-difference and difference-in-similarity between one particular and another. The notion of simference expresses the understanding that, like family resemblances among people, sensory phenomena in general are not similar in some respects ‘and’ different in others. Instead they are different in the very respects in which they are similar and vice versa. Thus when we speak of John having his father’s nose, we imply it has features similar to it. At the same time we might also acknowledge features that are different. Understanding the relation between John’s nose and his father’s as one of “family resemblance” or “simference” however, means recognising that the very features of their noses that are similar will at the same time bear the mark of difference.

Sense-conceptions and with them the whole idea of ‘universals’ are only made possible by simference. At the same time, they serve to break up simferences into sets of similarities ‘and’ differences. And by ignoring difference in similarity they tend to focus our perception on similarity rather than difference – tending to make us see something as ‘red’ per se rather than ‘this red’ in particular. In doing so they serve a pragmatic function. For in patterning our perception in such a way that we perceive a sensory phenomenon as ‘a table’, for example, we can use it as a table — entirely irrespective of its particular sensory qualities and its differences from those of other tables. Similarly, in allowing us to perceive an object as a ‘traffic light’, we know we must apply the brakes – irrespective of the particular sensory qualities of ‘redness’ that that light has, and its difference from that of other lights. Instead of simply perceiving a particular quality of luminosity and redness we perceive a ‘traffic light’ turned red. Instead of perceiving particular sensory qualities of roundness and woodenness, we perceive a round wooden table. Instead of perceiving patterns or gestalts of sensory qualities – for example particular qualities of ‘rectangularity’ or ‘silver-greyness’ we perceive a rectangular, silver-grey laptop. Instead of perceiving a face with a particular physiognomy, look and expression we perceive ‘John’s face’. Only as tertiary qualities are particular sensory or ‘secondary’ qualities perceived both as ‘universals’ and as qualities ‘belonging’ to pre-given objects or persons.

Tertiary qualities or sense-conceptions, whilst not merely verbal abstractions from sensory particulars, are inseparable from language. That is because language itself patterns sensory perception according to the given senses of words and its pragmatic syntax. We perceive a particular pattern of sensory qualities only as a ‘kettle’ because its significance lies only in the potential pattern of action by which we might pick it up and fill it in order to make a cup of tea. Seeing something as a kettle, its particular sensory qualities (being a particular green for example) become entirely secondary to its pragmatic significance as an object. This is not so in a work of art, which may aim precisely to release our perception from the grip of pragmatic significance and reveal innate meaning or sense (‘aesthetic’ meaning) in sensory patterns and qualities. Sense-conceptions overlay the language of the senses (the felt qualities of a particular red) with the simplified given senses of language (being ‘red’). Similarly, they overlay the directly sensed significance of particular patterns of sensory qualities with their verbally signified sense – being ‘a kettle’ etc. It is commonly thought that the sign function of words is at least in part objective, referential or literal. We think we speak of ‘kettles’ because kettles exist as perceptual ‘objects’. In fact however, we only perceive something as a kettle because of its place in an already established pattern of signification to do with the potential action of making cups of tea or coffee. That is why someone who had never seen or used a kettle before would be able to neither make sense of the word ‘kettle’ as the name of an object nor even perceive the ‘object’ we call a kettle as a kettle.

Perception patterned by language has an intrinsically metaphorical character. For just as we may metaphorically describe certain people as ‘giants’, so do we also metaphorically perceive certain things as ‘traffic lights’, ‘kettles’ or ‘tables’. Metaphorical perception is perception of sensory phenomena as this or as that — the ‘this’ or ‘that’ being a sense-conception shaped by the senses of words. The fact that we have such sense-conceptions as ‘giants’ however — conceptions which do not seem to fit any actual sense perceptions, belies the fact that the very nature of human sense-perception has altered along with language itself. Such sense-conceptions as ‘giant’ may exist only as words or verbal metaphors today. But that they exist as words at all is only possible because there were once sense-conceptions that actually shaped sense-perception – allowing certain beings to be actually perceived as giants in the same everyday way that certain things were perceived as tables.

 

4. Qualia Science and Semiotics

In The New Science ‘primary qualities’ are understood as soul qualities — as psychical qualia or innately sensual qualities of awareness. These form part of an entire alphabet and language of the soul which finds expression in ‘secondary qualities’ – in the alphabets and languages of the senses. Thus the true meaning or ‘sense’ of the look in a person’s eyes (in itself a secondary sensory phenomenon) has to do with the particular quality of awareness that can be sensed through it – the way of looking out on the world it reveals. This quality of awareness is the primary quality or soul quality manifest in the secondary or sensory quality of their look. Similarly, the audible tones and chords of music are secondary, sensory qualities giving expression to – and emerging from – tones and chords of feeling. The latter are primary qualities because they are essentially qualities of awareness – moods or tonalities of awareness. What I term ‘tertiary qualities’ on the other hand, have less to do with the language and syntax of the senses than with the senses and syntax of language — less to do with the directly felt or sensed significance of phenomena than with their signified sense – their place in a consensually-established pattern of referential and pragmatic significance. Yet words too, have an inwardly sensed significance that transcends their function as referential signifiers. Like the very objects they refer to, they are just as much ‘symbols’ as ‘signs’. Like objects, what they essentially symbolise are those sensual qualities of awareness that constitute their deepest inner sense – ‘the meaning of meaning’.

Sensory objects, as patterned or ‘syntactic’ gestalts of sensory qualities are materialised symbols of the very same ‘inner’ senses as those of the words used to name them. The poet does not simply use words to speak their own personal experience of things (whether physical or psychical objects) but rather expresses the different ways in which they find themselves addressed by the world – the ways in which things themselves speak to them. The inner senses of both words and things have to do with soul qualities that they both give expression to. Indeed, the same soul qualities manifest in things are sounded into material expression in the same way that words themselves are. Things address or ‘speak’ to us in the same way that words do. For the very sounds of language express a language of sound. Words of a different language, even if they denote the ‘same’ object, not only have a given sense but a distinct and indefinable inner sense having to do with their inner resonance as sounds. It is the sounds of words – their sensed inner resonance — that link their given or ‘denotative’ meaning with their suggestive inner sense or ‘connotative’ meaning. That is because, like dream images, the very sounds of language wordlessly attract, condense and unite senses that words themselves divide – splitting them into sets of consensually-established verbal senses or definitions.
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5. Qualia Science and ‘Synaesthesia’

 In a classic experiment on ‘synaesthesia’, participants were asked to decide which of two ‘sound words’ (KAKA and BUBU) best fitted each of the shapes below. Before reading on you can try this experiment for yourself.

  

 

 

 
 

The overwhelming majority of people associate BUBU with the more rounded, cloud-like shape and KAKA with the pointed and angular star-like shape. In explaining these ‘results’ reference is made to the relative softness and roundedness of the sound BUBU in contrast to the angularity and hardness of KAKA. The common denominator or ‘synaesthetic’ link between shape and sound therefore, appears simply to consist of common sensory qualities such as angularity and hardness on the one hand, and softness or roundedness on the other. The question arises however, as to how and where we perceive qualities of angularity and hardness, roundedness and softness as such – rather than in the specific sensory form of shapes or sounds. Put in other terms, what sort of quality or quale is it that constitutes the ‘idea’ or ‘feeling’ of something like angularity or roundedness, independently of its expression as either a shape or sound?

In the philosophy of The New Science, such qualia are understood in a quite new sense. For it is recognised that the ‘idea’ of angularity cannot itself be identified with any particular object that is perceived as angular – such as a shape or sound. Nor can the essential ‘feeling’ of angularity as such be identified with any particular object that is felt as angular, such as a shape or sound. Instead the ‘feeling’ of angularity is in essence an angular quality of feeling as such. Similarly, the ‘idea’ of angularity is not a sensory quality belonging to some shape we are aware of. Instead it is itself a sensed shape or figuration of our awareness. The ‘synaesthetic’ link that unites and finds expression in different sensory qualities such as shape and sound therefore, is not in itself a sensory quality or quale, and yet it is something intrinsically sensual – a shape and quality of feeling itself such as angularity or roundedness, hardness or softness. This is how The New Science offers us a new, more primordial understanding of qualia as ‘primary qualities’– not sensory shapes or qualities we are aware of but sensual shapes and qualities of awareness as such.

A quality of awareness such as the felt ‘colour’ of a mood is essentially the expression of a feeling tone or felt tonality of awareness – it is essentially a tone colour. Similarly a shape of awareness not only finds expression in sounds but is a sound, a shaping of feeling tone. Like the qualities of musical and voice tones, all sensual qualities of awareness or soul qualities are essentially tonal qualities – but qualities of feeling tone rather than audible tones. Similarly, all shapings of awareness are essentially tonal shapes and in this sense sounds – but inner sounds rather than audible sounds.

One might object that in the experiment described the link between shape and sound does not require deeper explanation, for it finds a degree of expression in the very shapes of the letters used to signify those sounds. Thus the letters K and A in KAKA are already more pointed and angular as shapes than the rounded B and U letters in BUBU. Thus the common denominator appearing to synaesthetically link sounds and shapes could be explained on the basis of a simple non-synaesthetic link between two shapes sharing a common quality. This in itself however, does not explain the nature of that common quality – for example the quality of ‘pointed angularity’ linking the star-shape with the letters K and A. The same things can be said of colour qualities. No two red or hard objects are identical in the quality of their redness or hardness and yet we call them both ‘red’ or ‘hard’. What exactly constitutes ‘redness’ or ‘hardness’ as such, therefore? Is it a pure ‘Idea’ in the Platonic sense? If so, we are hard put to explain how such an abstract idea can manifest as a visible or tangible sensory quality, just as modern science is hard put to explain how our awareness of tangible sensory qualities such as colour or tone can arise from mere quantitative wavelengths of light and sound.

The Second Scientific Revolution and its outcome – The New Science – is a science of qualia understood as sensual qualities of awareness, one which also understands these soul qualities as inner sounds or shaped tonal qualities. For the essence of sound is a shaping of tone, one which lends it specific qualities such as tone ‘colour’ and ‘texture’. Inner sounds, as shapings of feeling tone, are what first give rise to psychical qualia or soul qualities — finding expression both in soul qualities of softness and hardness, warmth or coolness, closeness and distance etc., and in the sensory qualities of shape, texture and colour that are their expression. Thus we come full circle, for Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities can now be seen in an entirely new light — as a distorted intuition of a fundamental distinction between the essence of sound, as a shaping or patterning of tone(s), and sensory qualities of tone (whether audible tones or feeling tones) such as ‘warmth’ and ‘colour’. Not only is sound essentially a shaping of tone. Conversely, shape, pattern, density and texture are also innate qualities of tone. For as Hans Jenny’s well-documented research into the science he called ‘cymatics’ shows, not only do phonic shapes such as sounded vowels have the capacity to create two-dimensional patterns in a material medium, but even pure sound tones have the capacity to create both two-dimensional patterns and three-dimensional shapes in such a medium — as well as altering their qualities of movement and flow, texture and material density.

 

 Pattern produced by the vowel ‘Ah’ in sand

 

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6. The Failed Phenomenological Revolution in Science

 The nature of language can only be understood scientifically by recognising nature itself as a language, and understanding that sensory qualities and natural phenomena are expressions of the very same qualities of awareness that constitute the source and soul of language — and its deepest ‘sense’. That natural phenomena, like words and music, can affect the soul or psyche is not due to them inducing some emotion or ‘affect’ in us through a cause-effect chain or neuro-psychological mechanism. Such ‘explanations’ only become necessary if we deny that secondary sensory qualities such as colour tone are already the expression of primary soul qualities – felt colourations and tonalities of awareness. This was what led Goethe on the false path of a ‘colour psychology’, which reduced the soul dimension of different sensory colours to their differing emotional ‘effect’ (mechanically mediated by the sense organs and brain) on the human soul. The new qualia science, by contrast, understands emotional ‘affects’ that not as the subjective effect of  external sensory colours, but rather as the expression of innate mood-colours or colour-tones of awareness or subjectivity as such – soul colours.

Through his experimental work on colour prismatics, Goethe rejected Newton’s conclusion that the prism splits light up into its component colours. Adopting a more rigorously phenomenological and therefore ‘scientific’ approach to his experiments than Newton himself, Goethe observed that in reality the phenomenon of colour spectra only appear at the edges of a objects or of darker object or surface i.e. at an interface of light and darkness. Anyone who actually looks through a prism with their own eyes will see a spectrum of violet-blue to cyan on one edge or side of a object and another spectrum of red-orange to yellow on the other. In the case of light projected through a prism, only if the aperture of the beam of light projected in a darkened room is small enough will the cyan and yellow merge to create the full Newtonian ‘spectrum’ with green in the middle. Rather than positing ‘invisible’ colour components ‘behind’ the appearance or ‘colourless’ light therefore, Goethe saw no need to create a scientific model depending on anything other that the primary experiential phenomena of light and darkness - arguing that any refractive medium such as a prism, since it serves also to dim the light passed through it, creates two distinct colour spectra – one the result of a lightening of darkness (red-orange-yellow) and the other a result of a darkening of light (violent-indigo-cyan). By rejecting Newton’s idealising projection of a spectrum of colours invisibly present in colourless light however, Goethe was led on what was to become the false path of a future Husserlian ‘phenomenology’ – a supposedly ‘pure’ phenomenological science that refused to posit anything in the nature of ‘primary qualities’ laying ‘behind’ natural experienced sensory phenomena. This was an understandable reaction to the First Scientific Revolution, but one which failed to offer a new understanding of the nature of such ‘primary qualities’ – not as scientific abstractions from sensory experience but as innately sensual qualities of awareness - not least the very light of our awareness as such – which, if intensified or dimmed, actually makes an ‘objectively’ sunny day or given colour seem brighter or duller.

Neither Newton nor Goethe ever considered the most primary scientific and ‘phenomenological’ given – namely that phenomena such as light and colour only become visible in the light of our own subjective awareness of them. In contrast, Indian philosophy and science had - millennia before Locke and Berkeley, Newton, and Goethe, Husserl and Heidegger - recognised the primordial reality of akasha and prakasha - primordial space and light of awareness which is the field-condition for our awareness of any phenomena whatsoever. It was this that Heidegger, unaware of its ancient antecedent in Indian science and philosophy, was to name the ‘fielding’ (Feldung) or ‘clearing’ (Lichtung).

One fundamental question surrounding the concept of ‘qualia’ has always been whether bodies actually possess sensory qualities such as colour or warmth at all, or whether the latter are merely ‘secondary’ subjective ‘effects’ of these objects produced by our sense organs and brain, as is subjective awareness as such. Arguing for the latter position requires that we ignore its inherent circularity — the fact that our very knowledge of the brain and sense organs comes from our perception of their (supposedly subjective) sensory qualities. More fundamentally, it ignores the most basic scientific fact of all – which is not the objective existence of a universe of objects or bodies in space and time, but awareness of that universe. Awareness is the field-condition not only for our perception of phenomena but for their quantitative measurement. Therefore such quantities cannot possibly ‘explain’ subjective awareness of phenomena and their qualities. Arguing that any particular object or objects that we are aware of can causally ‘explain’ our very awareness of them – or indeed explain our very capacity for subjective awareness as such - is like arguing that some object or objects we dream of could somehow ‘cause’ us to dream them, or indeed explain our very capacity for dreaming. The First Scientific Revolution has blinded us to such simple logic and to a fundamental truth recognised for millennia – the truth that the awareness as such is the most fundamental reality of all and the source and foundation of all realities. It is the task of The New Science initiated by The Second Scientific Revolution – The QUALIA Revolution – to once again open our eyes to this truth. 

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