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Archive for the ‘cognitive liberty’ Category

In a scholarly article, I am permitted to quote another author. The visual cue of quotation marks, or, with a longer quote, an indented block of text, or the italics and right-justification of an epigram mark the change in identity. But what if the same author (could be me) makes an argument in several interwoven voices, distinguishing those voices with additional different visual cues (such as font, color, size, bold or italic, etc.). The conventional way to do this is with the footnote or endnote where a “marginal” comment may be made that is tangential, or supplementary to the main discourse.
Stephen Wolfram in A New Kind of Science elevates this principle to a fine art; a sizeable portion of the book are the endnotes of his comments.
When these comments in other voices are brought into the main text, the clarity, and appearance of certainty of a uni-linear argument may suffer. The author may even display a counterpoint of doubts to her assertions, contradictory viewpoints, ambivalences, or state-bound differences of perception and expression. Or she may choose to express the same idea in two different sensory modalities, or style of words. The author exercises noetic license to express herself in whatever discourse reflects her own multiplicity of thought, feeling, and means of expression at any given moment.
The politics of knowledge: the standards for production (granting of degrees and tenure, peer review); rules of ownership (IP and copyright issues); storage, retention, and retrieval, accessibility (security, power, all education); symbolic hygiene procedures (censorship, viral and theft protection; computer security) all militate against the granting of noetic licenses.
Fortunately, a noetic license can only be self-granted. The rules of evidence are preceded by the rules of self-evidence, the freedom of attention, and the right to remain silent. It is, in its political aspect, a matter of cognitive liberty. The rules of self-evidence apply and cannot be ignored in the study of consciousness, which must include the views from “inside” as well as “outside.” The 1st person and the 3rd person reports.

The term “atma vichara” is helpful here: “”Atma” means consciousness or awareness or the unfathomable intelligence. “Vichara” means inquiry into. So Atma Vichara means “inquiry into consciousness itself.”

Of course in the study of psychedelically transformed states of consciousness, the matter of “persons” (how does “1st person” apply in ego dissolution, for instance) goes up for grabs. These are methodological considerations, as well as matters of genre and style in scholarly writing. Working out how to include multiple voices and discourses in the dissertation is part of the challenge of the practice-based dissertation.
Noetic license in the province of the mind is the exercise of the freedom to know, and to explore one’s mind in whatever fashion works for the current pursuit. Epistemology becomes a personal matter.
John Lilly exercised his noetic license fully. His maxim:

“In the province of the mind what one believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits. These limits are to be found experimentally and experientially. When so found these limits turn out to be further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind there are no limits. However, in the province of the body there are definite limits not to be transcended.”

This opens up the science of belief structures, which is the topic of his book Simulations of God.

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Starting this blog for several reasons.

  • To soften the brittleness of the “high academic” discourse I’m involved in, working toward a Ph.D. on psychedelics and language.
  • To keep in touch with what I really think, and to the act of thinking it, so I can fold back into the academic thing with more integrity.
  • To sift the river of super-conducted thought where all the goodies are, make them communicable, at least to those who have traveled similar paths.
  • As an exercise in cognitive liberty and freedom of speech, two closely related fundamentals.
  • To invite conversation. I’ve been at this solo for some time; it’s time to break silence. This quote from John Perry Barlow motivates me:

Engaged in the politics necessary to wire the world, I encounter many people in positions of influence and visibility — politicians, corporate leaders, scientists, engineers, writers, academics – who are motivated by the same mystical drive that propels me. They are acidheads, but nearly all of them are afraid to admit it. Its as though the future were being created by a secret cult. And even though it’s my secret cult, I’m not crazy about secrecy or cults, and I’m certainly not keen on having them design the rest of society.   I think it’s time to be brave and honest. I know that if everybody who’d ever taken a major psychedelic stood up and said, “Yeah, I did that and this is how it changed my life,” the world would be a better place the next day.

So, there you have it. It’s a start.

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