Sunday, August 2, 2020

Debating the Mindscape

One of my frustrations is the intellectual isolation, so it’s always refreshing getting a little serious pushback and challenges.  This past week at the Center For Inquiry's Forum, my virtual corner pub so to speak, my term “Mindscape” along with my contention of a fundamental divide between Mindscape and Physical Reality has received a thrashing.  In particular, D.R.Hansen thinks "Mindscape" is an awful term, though he bases that on some misconceptions that I'm happy to clarify.

Since I’ve been wanting to better enunciate those conceptions anyways, I'm taking the opportunity to share highlights from our discussion at “So, what the heck is Scientism?.”  A title meant to entice visits and discussion regarding "scientism", but that was detoured into a discussion about the validity of coining the term "Mindscape."   Enjoy.  Visit CFI to join the discussion.

July 27, 2020 at 10:14 pm



On the concept of “mindscape”:

I have serious issues with the concept of “mindscape” that are both linguistic and conceptual.

Some definitions describe it as referring to (if you will pardon my oversimplifying paraphrasing) “stuff that goes on in the mind.” 

Yes, the “stuff that goes on in the mind” please refer to appendix 1 for more technical descriptions.

I would regard such definitions as including this “stuff” as a elements of physical reality, products of the neurological structures and activity of the brain. 

They may feel like something different than physical reality since we can’t touch or see them, and since we have a very limited knowledge of how the brain manifests them, but it does not follow that because those feelings seem mysterious and because there are gaps in our understanding of them that they exist as things outside physical reality, … any more than our distant ancestors’ sense that meteorological phenomena or the presence of stars in the sky were the work of some being or force outside their physical reality.

Yes, I agreed.  *I can also see where my clumsy wording, and in particular employing “vs” was a counter-productive choice in my original essay. (also see TimB at the bottom of this page)

It was a mistake, I wanted to be provocative but instead was misleading.

I will point out that I’ve never written that the “Mindscape” is outside of reality or that it’s part of a separate metaphysical reality.  Though I can now see how others could have misunderstand. 

I have always spoken about recognizing the profound boundary between Physical Reality and our individual and collective Mindscapes.  This is about psychology, this is about us recognizing personal limitations and gaining a better perspective for the grand stage of reality that we exist within.

The concept of a “mindscape” might trouble me a little less if it limited itself to that “stuff that goes on in the mind.” But it doesn’t. 

One definition includes “a reification of the domain of imaginary entities“. Not part of physical reality and inconsistent with it …

Here Hansen strikes below the belt by reaching to the Urban Dictionary and finding an obscure definition penned by Jorge Marquez August 02, 2007 for his own purposes.  It reads:  

1. The landscape of thoughs, a reification of the domain of imaginary entities, memories, feelings, ideas, fears or any other object in the mind, seen together as making up metaphoric features: forests, jungles, deserts, rivers, valleys, cloudy mountains, etc

It has little to do with the Mindscape I have coined and “reification” has no place in my conceptions about what my term means.  

In fact, thinking on it now, what I’m trying to express is the opposite of “reification.”  

I’m about recognizing how our thoughts are something transient, separate from the physical world of things that keeps on going regardless.

And (what’s) this (supposed to mean)?

Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable.

Not sure what Hansen is expecting, that’s about as simple and straight forward as I can be.  

The affairs of the heart, egos in action, struggles with the self, etc.  As opposed to that part of our mind, where science happens and where we set ourselves deliberate rules to follow, intent on brutal honestly in striving to understand our physical world and baring the foibles of the affairs of our hearts and egos from Science’s arena. 

That’s what I mean when I say that religion and science exist within the same “Mindscape,” but they have their own magisteria, their own arena or domains if you like. Oh and let’s not forget all the other passions running around in our minds, the arts and sex, raising families, food and drink, having a good time, jealous and envy and all it brings, down to waking up in the morning and bit by bit reinhabiting your body everyday.  

That’s why Mindscape seems to me a perfectly splendid term summarizing that cornucopia of thoughts swimming around our minds.  And everyone of our Mindscapes is a bit different, and our ephemeral ‘me/myself/I' is here among many, but alone, passing through, gathering experiences, then its over, then returning to Earth, physical reality.

… I also mentioned my dislike of the term “mindscape” for linguistic or semantic reasons. Aside from the muddling of the word to encompass both natural and supernatural phenomena, I believe that meaning is at its clearest when it is kept simple and unambiguous. 

Nope!  Misunderstanding or deliberate, there is nothing about the Mindscape itself being supernatural!  

Thoughts of the supernatural are certainly a part of the mindscape - it is after all the arena of ALL our thoughts.

Instead of the made-up and ambiguous term “mindscape,” why not just refer to something like “the intangible but commonly-experienced phenomena of the mind, such as thought, feelings and emotions.” Perhaps someone can think of a more concise alternative, but you get by drift. Let’s just speak clearly and plainly, please?

Because it sounds sterile and does nothing to convey the complexity of our minds and all the worlds we’ve created within them.  Nor the fact of our own ego’s utter puniness against the majesty of physical reality. 


In another post:

If religion is part of the “mindscape,” and “mindscape” is some kind of mishmash of the neurological activity of the brain and an embrace of the supernatural, it makes the term all the more meaningless. 

Nope!!!  Nothing in there about any embrace of the supernatural!

“Religion” does not contain supernatural elements!  

Religious people believe in supernatural elements.  

Two very different things - a distinction worth remembering.

Regarding neurological activity as one means of perceiving reality and religious belief as perceiving from a “soul” — and lumping them together as “mindscape” does not seem to make it a useful construct. 

Here Hansen has gone off on his own tangents that makes no sense to me.   I’ve never enlisted the soul to explain mind or anything else.  Soul is a term religious people use to represent what I’d call our life’s force, spirit, that spark of energy invigorating our body, until it doesn’t anymore because we died.

Certainly, religious perceptions are the product of neurological activity — provided that the religious perceiver (in the sense of someone who truly believes in the reality of the “soul”) is not someone defining “mindscape” in that way. A religious perceiver considering the source of his or her faith as part of a realm separate and distinct from physical reality would almost certainly reject, out of hand,  religious perceptions as the product of neurological activity. 

So accepting the “mindscape” construct requires that we either 

  1. accept a definition regarding religious experience as having a neurological basis but having it rejected by the religious, 
  2. that we accept a definition that regards religious experience as numinous — with its rejection by the non-religious or 
  3. that we permit two definitions of the term, one for the religious and another for the reason-based. So why not avoid twisting our minds up into pretzels this way and instead just dispense with the term altogether? 


I’d have to say those points are about Hansen’s own misunderstanding - I can’t respond because none of them have a place within my essays or what I’m trying to get across.

I do know from other comments at CFI that he has rather passionate anti-religious feelings and I imagine he’s too distracted by those to do my words justice.

Instead of sitting back and rereading and pondering my actual words and trying to imagine what it was that I meant, he got busy building a straw man so he could vent.

  1. Why not just state what we mean in plain English? Doing so would require a few more words, but at least there would be less ambiguity about what we mean.

Because they sound sterile and do nothing to convey the complexity of our minds and all the worlds we’ve created within them.  

Nor do they help get people to reflect on the fact of our own ego’s utter puniness against the majesty of physical reality and the march of time.  Recognizing our amazing separateness. 

To deeply think about this ultimate of Evolutionary wonders the Human Mind which can remember and reflect and learn to comprehend and always wants more.  The wonder of our Mindscape.  Why not?  Appreciate it for something unique, wonder at it, become mindful of its limits.




There was going to be another section highlighting a number of other comments, that coalesced around TimB's more fine tuned critique, but while wrestling with his challenges and typing out the rest of this post, I had a breakthrough that made the effort superfluous.  Since I really should get back to other chores, I can now fast forward and call it good.  Then move on to the next item on my list, scientism, as time permits.


July 29, 2020 at 11:17 pm

–  “Mind” is just a convenient umbrella term for all of the covert mental activities aka cognitive behaviors that we have, that have been shown to each have a neurological correlate.

Beyond that, the description of each of the individual cognitive behaviors that comprise “the mind” are difficult to observe directly and objectively, but we all can describe, to some degree, (from subjective self-observation of our thoughts), certain cognitive behaviors that we have.

So what is left to describe about what the term “mind” refers to?

CC – A more descriptive term, might I suggest Mindscape

Okay Tim, seems to me perhaps my biggest problem is that I’ve approached this from a physics, science direction, when actually, it’s a psychological matter more than anything.

I understand why I fell into it since it’s all based on what I’ve learned through scientific writings, reports and such, along with my own unique relationship with the physical Earth I inhabit, but I can recognize how it's screws me when it comes to conveying the notion to others.  Though, I have always made a big deal that in the end, this is about recognizing boundaries, about perspectives and how we look at things.  I shouldn’t have let that get lost.

Mindscape – (the movie Big Fish just flashed into my mind – watch it, if you’ve never seen it.  It’s wonderful vision of one man’s mindscape v. the real world.)

Mindscape is about the singular unique universe each of us inhabits, that world within our little heads, the “reality” that our thoughts construct for ourselves and that we are always dreaming away within, …  as (all the while) our body engages (yet another region of our mindscape) in their daily interactions with the world, as “our” day to days play out.*    Follow what I’m saying there?   Does it make any sense? 

It’s all those ego driven impulses, memories and all the rest that resides within our minds, opposed to the Physical World that follows certain rules regardless of human desires and expectations.

*(of course it also includes the collective homo sapiens Mindscape, the collective result of all those individuals and generations and all that, but we can skip that for now.)


Decoding the neuroscience of consciousness - July 24, 2019

… But even as research progresses, and ideas from science and philosophy continue to meld, essential questions remain unanswered. “It’s still just fundamentally mysterious how consciousness happens,” says Anil Seth, a cognitive and computational neuroscientist and co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. …

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Understanding Brain, Mind and Soul: Contributions from Neurology and Neurosurgery

Sunil K. Pandya | Mens Sana Monogr. 2011 Jan-Dec; 9(1): 129–149.

Mind has been variously defined as that which is responsible for one’s thoughts and feelings, the seat of the faculty of reason or the aspect of intellect and consciousness experienced as combinations of thought, perception, memory, emotion, will and imagination, including all unconscious cognitive processes. The term is often used to refer, by implication, to the thought processes of reason. …

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

William B. Salt II., MD | Health Share

“Brain and mind are not the same. Your brain is part of the visible, tangible world of the body. Your mind is part of the invisible, transcendent world of thought, feeling, attitude, belief and imagination. The brain is the physical organ most associated with mind and consciousness, but the mind is not confined to the brain. The intelligence of your mind permeates every cell of your body, not just brain cells. Your mind has tremendous power over all bodily systems.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

mind (mīnd),

1. The organ or seat of consciousness and higher functions of the human brain, such as cognition, reasoning, willing, and emotion.

2. The organized totality of all mental processes and psychic activities, with emphasis on the relatedness of the phenomena.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Consciousness at its simplest is "sentience or awareness of internal or external existence".[1] Despite centuries of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial,[2] being "at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives".[3] 

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