.

About the Author, About the Ideas.
(What has been said about my ideas .)

   The web is assuredly full of nonsense. It is full of vanity publishing and the work of questionable minds. You are right therefore to question your sources. 

If something is free, it must, we think, be of no value.  It must be solely the product of ego or self-aggrandizement.  I have spent too much time on this quest, and received too little  in return to have continued for that reason.  I would have stopped long ago as the pain of isolation has been acute.  Altruism?  I'm afraid that's it.  I think of it as a duty to the race.  I cannot do this thing for you, but I might be able to do it for your children, or your grandchildren -and mine.  I think it is the most important issue there is. 

I take it as fundamental and obvious that there can be no ethics divorced from science.  I believe that how we treat each other and how we treat ourselves is totally intertwined with our scientific worldview.  I believe in the "trickle down" theory -not in its economic guise, (which I think is a cruel joke) -but in its scientific manifestation.  Memes, imitation, models are just the forms through which science ultimately affects the common man.  It shapes and determines his ultimate self-image.  And that is how he will behave!

This writing is meant to give you some idea of who I am and where the ideas came from. Normally you will look for the credentials and the c.v., (curriculum vitae), of an author to establish credibility and determine whether the reading is worth the work.  Bluntly, I have no academic credentials –which does not automatically make me a lesser mind than yours –perhaps otherwise. I am a University of Chicago dropout, (the dogged pursuance of this specific investigation was the reason for leaving academia when my mother was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia).  I have, however, spent over 40 years sorting past the nonsense proposed in the explanation of the mind.  I do not feel the lack of credentials is a necessary impediment however, (quite the contrary, in fact), as academia has not done well with this subject.   It is so compartmentalized, and disjoint –lacking the broad perspective necessary to this particular problem.  There is still so much philosophical "noise" that much meaningful discussion is silenced. Worse, by and large, academia limits the debate to its own.  Harnad, for instance, has said as much in very pointed terms. For him the debate is limited to the "inner temple" only.  Some experts of considerable repute have considered my ideas as meaningful, however.  (I will detail these shortly.)

The mind-brain problem, (otherwise known as the problem of consciousness), is unique in that it is so large -it spreads across the whole of human knowledge. This is what is meant when it is described in the current dialogue as "multi-disciplinary". It is primarily a problem of integration rather than specialized knowledge. The diversity of opinions in the field -even on the basic statement of the problem -directly implies that there are no experts in this field! I have spent over 40 years in the pursuit of an answer beginning when my mother was felled by mental illness. At that time there was no science of "neuroscience".

I searched desperately in the available science of the time. The biopsychology, (Hebb, Lashley, et al) was certainly valid and important, but it was clearly too primitive and too new to deal with the actual problems of the mind.  I looked at Freudianism and soon saw it for the nonsense it was. I therefore began my own investigations, ignoring the ongoing scientific dialogue, (which I saw as misguided), -thinking it would more likely mislead me rather than help. I began framing what I saw as the essential problem in general analytic terms. My working biological prejudice, however, was always that the mind-brain relationship met what Paul Churchland has more recently termed the "Identity Theory" -i.e. that mind states and brain states correlate one to one. I had also concluded that meaning per se could have not significance for the brain except insofar as it reflected its own internal process. That is, it could not be observer dependent.  It took me 35 years before I was able to frame my conceptions comprehensively, (I have led a double life to support myself). Then, wondering if my solution had been anticipated in the interim, I began a survey of contemporary work.

Luckily, amongst the first pile of books I garnered, was Patricia Churchland's "Neurophilosophy" and it was a revelation. It was the first deeply meaningful work I had ever read on the subject. Its references opened a chain of reading across all the competing ideas moreover. The fascinating thing in all that subsequent reading was my discovery of how close the contemporary statement of the problem had come to where I had framed it for myself long ago. This is not to say that science had reached my particular solution, but that it had come to a position wherein my ideas were for the first time plausible and communicable. There still remain problems, but those are problems for all of us. These are deep problems of mathematics, logic and epistemology.

So, lacking a C.V., how are you to judge the credibility of my ideas -and why would you bother? How could something be free, and still valuable?  I'm sorry, but you must judge these ideas for yourself. You must judge them by what they say!   That is not the usual circumstance it is true, but I see no other way.

It will take more than the usual courage and intelligence I have found in academia -both to take them seriously and to acknowledge their source, but it will be the only way that we may together build towards a more hopeful future.  I believe that science will continue to move closer to the perspective I have worked in for these last forty years. Given a few years, (and a "date stamp" certifying their present form), I hope that will become apparent -and that it will constitute a proof of sorts for my credibility. If my ideas are true, (and I do not say dogmatically that they are), then pragmatic science must approach them as an asymptote. There are respectable theories very close to my ideas right now -Edelman's is a good example, or Walter Freeman's -or Maturana's -and all of these are good, reputable scientists working at the leading edge.  Raichle is a recent example.

What has been said about my ideas:

The first credible positive response to my ideas was from Dr. Arnold Leiman , (U.C. Berkeley, a highly respected Professor of Psychology and Cognitive science and co-author of “Biological Psychology: An Introduction to Behavioral, Cognitive, and Clinical Neuroscience”). He was kind enough to read an early sketch of my ideas and referred me to a half-dozen sources at his University stating that he thought I had proposed "an original theory of cognition".

He gave me an introduction to Hubert Dreyfus , (U.C. Berkeley, Philosophy: "What Computers Still Can't Do"), Steven Palmer , (Director, Institute of Cognitive Sciences, U.C. Berkeley), and several others including a mathematician specializing in the "foundations" of Mathematics, (read this as the "principles" of mathematics). The latter said he was "too old" to go into issues of "Platonism", et al., (this was highly regrettable as these are key issues in my theory).  Dreyfus read an early sketch of my first thesis, and his comments were that it "seems plausible and important", but he thought I had been anticipated in the work of Maturana and Varela. This gave me a few bad months until I was able to secure a copy of "The Tree of Knowledge" by those authors. This was a very important lead for me, as Maturana gave me the conceptual context within which to frame a large part of my third thesis, and a background to distinguish my implications from his. My thesis is in some ways very similar to Maturana's, (as, indeed, it is to Edelman's), but quite distinct - see chapter 6 of my third edition of “Virtual Reality: Consciousness Really Explained”, (Maturana), and the "Lakoff-Edelman Appendix, (Edelman). Dreyfus was unwilling to pursue the matter with me, though it seemed that one day he might examine my now considerably refined conception. This has never happened.

An early enthusiastic response to my ideas, and which I have been reticent to mention, (it makes me blush!), came from Dr. Blaise Lara, a respected expert in statistics and control theory at HEC University at Lausanne, Switzerland.  His personal circumstances, regrettably, caused it never to come to fruition:

You are not under misapprehension. I am VERY sympathetic with your scientific and philosophical viewpoints. And after reading this morning your last message I feel sincerely concerned by your personal situation. Unfortunately I also under heavy constraints of another kind (my wife health) and that explain(s) my lasting silence.

 As a matter of fact, I was preparing an answer containing detailed comments on the border of almost every two pages of your manuscript. Please believe Mr Iglowitz on my deep sympathy with your ideas. I even suspect a kind of spiritual brotherhood among us. This spontaneous manifestation does not sound like a very academic statement or manifestation. But the hell with the academy in front of the personal and intimate adventure of the few real men we have the fortune of meeting from time to time.

 

The warm tone of this letter reminds me of a very recent letter, (2006), from another correspondent:

 

"I have been studying Maturana's biology of cognition and reached the same opinion with you:  "Maturana and Varela's profound heuristic principle reduces their premise to absurdity -i.e. the metaphysical certitude of the ordinary Naturalist world-view from which they started (p. 107, Chapter 3).  Although I read only your homepage and précis, abstract, and Chapter 3 of your book, I think they can sufficiently convince me that your solutions to the problems related to the external world and the mind-body relation are almost the same with me. I felt, "Oh, here's my friend!"

 (Incidentally, this correspondent was able to publish an article with the "Journal of Consciousness Studies" - which has totally shut me out!)


 I have corresponded with Dr. Walter J. Freeman , an original-thinking and highly respected neuroscientist and biologist of international repute at U.C. Berkeley and author of “Societies of Brains: A Study in the Neuroscience of Love and Hate amongst numerous others.  (He held the Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam, amongst other things and is highly published.)  His response to a sketch of my first thesis was: 

"Your arguments are indeed compelling and should persuade some of the proponents of representational AI of the feasibility of alternatively based models.... I think it is remarkable how our separate programs have converged to shared conclusions regarding nonrepresentational operations of brains....I wish you good fortune in getting a responsive audience.  Your ideas certainly deserve that."

He was very helpful and allowed me to use his remarks for promoting my ideas. He was unwilling to pursue the very strong philosophical implications of the problem however, preferring to "return to his rabbits". His own ideas produce implications very similar to mine, though he has turned to "chaos theory" as a preferred medium. I don't agree with him there, but I can see the "attraction". :-)

He has been encouraging over the years, but could not break me into publication.  His most recent comments, (2005), were:  "I've received and enjoyed  your up-dated manuscript, including the new appendix on 'automorphism'...  You continue to strike pay dirt in searching for alternatives to representationalism."  "I wish you good fortune, Jerry "

I attempted an article sketching my rather huge conception for the Journal of Consciousness Studies a couple of years ago, and was accepted into the refereeing process, (based partly, I suspect, on Dr. Freeman's substantial reputation).   Their, ("mathematical"), reviewer gave me a fairly detailed negative response, mostly on the larger, purely philosophical issues of the problem.  It is too lengthy to include here, but was quite interesting but I think, unsophisticated.

The remarks of their other anonymous referee were:

"I actually like Iglowitz's ideas, but not his style and method of presentation.  He thinks the reader knows (or should know) what he is talking about and so leaves a whole lot unsaid.  In consequence much of his argument is left undone, with apparent non sequitors etc.  If he will re-write it with proper deference to his readers, I will gladly look at it again, but in its present form it is not publishable."

 I actually went through a series of three revisions of the article with JCS, and specifically requested that this reviewer give me a few pointed examples of his difficulties.  Those requests went unanswered, however.  He assumed that I would know what he was talking about -exactly that for which he had berated me!  (This was exactly the same text that Freeman termed "compelling".)  I would have tremendously appreciated a dialogue like that.  Why the reticence?

The problem, as Anthony Freeman, (JCS's editor), concluded, was that of trying to condense a book into a free-standing, (short), paper.  The objections raised by the "math" reviewer have been addressed at length in my book, and the lack of clarity mentioned by the other reviewer might have been answered as well.  That manuscript was not available to them in the article they reviewed however, (by editorial fiat).  Mine is a complex thesis, not amenable to a "Cliff Notes" condensation.  It is admittedly a lot of work, but I think that work is a mirror of the actual problem itself.

Dr. Palmer was very kind to me. He even waded through an earlier version of my (admittedly) "baroque" style, and gave me his comments which were interesting. Though he agreed in principle with both my first and second hypotheses, (which are my key scientific hypotheses), he strongly urged that it needed to be written differently. (It was interesting to me that he has utilized one of my key precepts: "implicit definition" in his own work.) I understand his objections and agree with his comments on my style, (which will probably be yours also). I sympathize completely and have worked mightily towards these ends, but in my own defense let me say that my problem is exactly the opposite from what you might expect. My thesis is the result of many years of independent work -it is not derived from the sources I cite. They are illustrative and supportive only.  My problem has been the "crystallization" and synthesis of my own ideas and they have been extremely difficult to linearize. It is always "chicken and egg"!  I think this reflects the nature of the mind-brain problem itself. I have gone through multiple large-scale reformulations of my overall concept. The problems I continually encounter, however, are the presuppositions I find in my readers at every stage and upon every aspect. In short, my conclusion is that the whole perspective within which you, (and he), approach the problem is wrong! I do not mean this meanly. My solution involves a profound "Copernican revolution", (in Kant's exact sense of the term), and it is in the nature of such solutions that it takes a heroic effort by both author and the reader to make such a move. Kant stated the problem very clearly:

"If in a new science which is wholly isolated and unique in its kind, we started with the prejudice that we can judge of things by means of alleged knowledge previously acquired -though this is precisely what has first to be called in question -we should only fancy we saw everywhere what we had already known, because the expressions have a similar sound. But everything would appear utterly metamorphosed, senseless, and unintelligible, because we should have as a foundation our own thoughts, made by long habit a second nature, instead of the author's." (Kant, Prolegomena, p.10)

 

My style is awkward, admittedly, but it is awkward in large part because of a necessary attempt to guard against misinterpretation and to inform at every stage. Footnotes, parenthetical expressions, and long sentences, (contrary to our "Hemingway" ideal), are the natural "spawn" of such a situation..

At this point in time I am somewhat depressed. My book is, in fact, an answer to a problem, it is not a statement of the problem. I had hoped that minds bright enough would be able to recognize it for what it is and create a dialogue with me. Personal and financial difficulties have called a temporary halt to my writing, (and age has added to it), but I hope to resume my researches in a few years. It is also difficult to write and to live in the midst of beautiful ideas when there seems no hope of sharing them. Beauty and love of ideas are an important part of the creative process, and sharing them is pivotal.  Note:  I have just finished a substantially revised with a hopefully improved clarity the 3rd edition of my book.  I figured if it was so difficult to understand, I had better go back to the sources of my ideas.  Hopefully I have mad my conceptions considerably clearer.

Take a look at these ideas. They might surprise you. I would suggest you start with the "Introduction for Beginners".  Though you may not fit the description, I have managed to clarify certain of my ideas in there and it will lay a general foundation for the rest.  From there you should probably go to "Mind: the View from Evolutionary Biology" as it presents the most direct route into my ideas and which is essentially a simplification of the book's Chapter One.  (It gives the core of my biological conception.)  Then I suggest that you follow the links to "Consciousness, a Simpler Approach..." which corresponds to and enlarges the book's Chapter Two -which supplies the needed logical foundation to overcome the serious conceptual difficulty of how it is possible for a model to be both useful and non-representational at the same time. This is the key difficulty in the mind-brain problem.  The newly revised Precis, can then supply a general overview and from there, it is probably best to do the (hard) work to get through the new 3rd edition of the book itself which supplies my finished answer.   This is a difficult analytical problem. I think it is the most difficult and important our species has ever faced.  I think its answer will be the "Philosopher's  Stone" to the future humankind. 

I think its answer is the one hope that this species will survive in the coming critical centuries!  Given the current state of knowledge and belief plus technology, I think our odds are tiny.  Craziness is loose in the world.  This has always been true, I suppose, but now they have the means!

Good Luck.

Jerry Iglowitz
                                                                       A recent family photo with Chen.

(A short autobiography, link above, that I composed for my girls in very difficult times.)

Monday, October 02, 2000
  

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