Volume 6, Issue 2, 2008

Affective States and Indian Aesthetics
Niels Hammer, Center of Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, Sweden

The self evolved out of a sense of somatic motor orientation and body boundary awareness; and affective states as motivators furthered in conjunction with a sense of self evolutionary speciation. Affective states form to a greater extent than cognition the sense of experiential reality that is taken for granted. Neurophysiological and experiential culture-invariant evidence indicate the existence of eight (and possibly ten) basic affective states in mammals. These affective states have in humans found expression in mythic terms as well as in the basic themes of world literature.
According to classical Indian introspective analysis of aesthetics the basic emotions determine human activity and are the well-spring of literature and art, especially if the emotions become dissociated from a sense of egocentricity, i.e. if they become detached from a sense of self so that they no longer are influenced by existential fear. The comparatively close similarity between Indian aesthetics and the neurophysiology of the different affective states suggests the possibility that such aesthetic value judgments may be based on widespread evolutionary determinants.

Spirituality, Suffering, and the Self
James Giordano and Nikola Boris Kohls, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington DC, USA and Psychology Division, University of Northampton, United Kingdom

With the rise of modern medicine, spiritual approaches to coping with pain and understanding distress have been largely abandoned. However, there is meanwhile sufficient empirical evidence available that shows the importance of spiritual experiences, beliefs and practices for self- and pain perception as well as coping. Hence, this paper argues that the assessment of patients' spirituality, acknowledgment of the effects of and effects upon pain, and utilization of pluralist resources to accommodate patients' spiritual needs reflect our most current understanding of the physiological, psychological and socio-cultural aspects of spirituality and spiritual experiences (regardless of religious or secular expression).

Unconscious Mental Factors in HIV Infection
Peter B. Todd, Sydney, Australia

Multiple drug resistant strains of HIV and continuing difficulties with vaccine development highlight the importance of psychological interventions which aim to influence the psychosocial and emotional factors empirically demonstrated to be significant predictors of immunity, illness progression and AIDS mortality in seropositive persons. Such data have profound implications for psychological interventions designed to modify psychosocial factors predictive of enhanced risk of exposure to HIV as well as the neuroendocrine and immune mechanisms mediating the impact of such factors on disease progression. Many of these factors can be construed as unconscious mental ones, and psychoanalytic self-psychology may be a useful framework for conceptualizing psychic and immune defence as well as bodily and self-integration in HIV infection. Although further prospective studies and cross-cultural validation of research are necessary, existing data suggest that psychoanalytic insights may be useful both in therapeutic interventions and evaluative research which would require an underlying epistemology of the complementarity of mind and matter.

Nonlinear Brain Dynamics and Intention According to Aquinas
Walter J. Freeman, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley, USA

We humans and other animals continuously construct and maintain our grasp of the world by using astonishingly small snippets of sensory information. Recent studies in nonlinear brain dynamics have shown how this occurs: brains imagine possible futures and seek and use sensory stimulation to select among them as guides for chosen actions. On the one hand the scientific explanation of the dynamics is inaccessible to most of us. On the other hand the philosophical foundation from which the sciences grew is accessible through the work of one of its originators, Thomas Aquinas. The core concept of intention in Aquinas is the inviolable unity of mind, brain and body.
All that we know we have constructed within ourselves from the unintelligible fragments of energy impacting our senses as we move our bodies through the world. This process of intention is transitive in the outward thrust of the body in search of desired future states; it is intransitive in the dynamic construction of predictions of the states in the sensory cortices by which we recognize success or failure in achievement. The process is phenomenologically experienced in the action-perception cycle. Enactment is through the serial creation of neurodynamic activity patterns in brains, by which the self of mind-brain-body comes to know the world first by shaping the self to an approximation of the sought-for input, and then by assimilating those shapes into knowledge and meaning.
This conception of the self as closed, autonomous, and self-organizing, devised over 700 years ago and shelved by Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza 300 years ago, is now re-emerging in philosophy and re-establishes the meaning of intention in its original sense. The core Aquinian concept of the unity of brain, body and soul/mind, which had been abandoned by mechanists and replaced by Brentano and Husserl using the duality inherent in representationalism, has been revived by Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, but in phenomenological terms that are opaque to neurscientists. In my experience there is no extant philosophical system than that of Aquinas that better fits with the new findings in nonlinear brain dynamics. Therefore, a detailed reading and transcription of basic terms is warranted, comparing in both directions the significance of key words across 700 years from medieval metaphysics to 21st century brain dynamics.

The Hollow of Being: What can we Learn from Merleau-Ponty's Ontology for a Science of Consciousness
Carsten Allefeld, Department of Empirical and Analytical Psychophysics, Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany

Representative for contemporary attempts to establish a science of consciousness we examine Chalmers' statement and resolution of the "hard problem of consciousness". Agreeing with him that in order to account for subjectivity it is necessary to expand the ontology of the natural sciences, we argue that it is not sufficient to just add conscious experience to the list of fundamental features of the world. Instead, we turn to phenomenology as the philosophy of conscious experience and give an outline of Merleau-Ponty's critique of the objectivist ontology underlying science which excludes subjectivity from the world. We reconstruct his proposal for a revised ontology in The Visible and the Invisible aiming at an extended understanding of Being including subjectivity, which takes on the form of a constellation of new ontological terms centered around the concept of the "flesh of the world". Trying to spell out the consequences of Merleau-Ponty's ontological considerations for scientific practice and especially the science of consciousness, we notice that his philosophy of subjectivity-in-the-world on its part is unable to connect to the insights of the natural sciences. The phenomenological critique of the "hard problem" reveals a deeper disparity which, at present, limits its practical implications.

Last revision: 09 January 2009