In layman's terms, what is philosopher Gianni Vattimo's idea of "weak thought"?

LOL. Reducing complex philosophical concepts to “layman’s terms” is perhaps itself a byproduct of weak thought - as we can only frame such discourse in the concepts we have learned via the culture through which we swim. Be that as it may….

My understanding is that Vattimo is passionately invested in the idea that nothing a priori - and most certainly not our “being/essence/ousia” - is self-evident, extant, or a reliable basis for philosophical disclosure. Thus to engage in a priori speculation is to demonstrate “weak thought.” We can only know (in the sense of strong thought, i.e. a posteriori “deductive cogency”) from our experience and, more reliably, what Vattimo calls “scientific calculation and technological organization.” Thus “Being” per se is fluid - it has no definite or stable structure. From Vattimo’s Weak Thought (2012): “One has access to Being not through presence but only through recollection, for Being cannot be defined as that which is but only that which is passed on [si tramanda].”

First I would say that this idea isn’t particular new - Proust makes clear reference to the same observations about transience and recollection in his writing. Of course I wouldn’t dream of implying that Vattimo is reappropriating here. I’m just saying it’s not particularly original.

Secondly I would say that Vattimo’s argument narrowly holds true for a very thin slice of concrete sequential reasoning, and not for the many other cognitive input streams humans have available to us (see Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology). This is what I would call classic exclusionary bias. When Vattimo asserts that “we do not have pre-categorical or trans-categorical access to Being,” he is simply mistaken.

Lastly, where Vattimo seems to claim that the metaphysical tradition has no ”coherent unity,” IMHO he is evidencing his own incomplete understanding of that tradition - and his oversimplifying (or reducing) of its nuances - rather than any demonstrated continuity in his own logic.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post:

Do we have multiple self-states rather than a unified, consistent Self?

Thanks for the A2A Cara. Great question and there a few different ways to answer it.

1. Our awareness of self is only in this instant. The instant that just past is now a previous “self-state.” So any unitive consistency in our personal identity is one that we have constructed in this moment, as part of an ongoing (and constantly revised) narrative. But I would say the “selves” being chained together in this way are…well…infinite.

2. There are about as many different ways to describe separate elements that contribute to an amalgamated self as there are traditions of psychology, philosophy and spirituality. Experiential, autobiographical, soul, executive, witness, spirit, personas, ego, id, archetypes, and so on. About the only thing that these different perspectives or descriptions agree upon is the necessity of integration, coordination, harmony or the like among these distinct contributive elements in order to be “whole” (or at least psychologically stable). That integrated or individuated self then becomes the ideal, high-functioning self, that is indeed “unified and consistent” in its process of integration/individuation, seeking to self-actualize within its ongoing narrative. In this schema there are then both “multiple self-states” and unity. Of course, there may still be a contrast between the real and ideal levels of function…but that is more of a semantic glitch IMO, as we can easily embrace the dialectic (and even be energized by it).

3. At the same time, you used the capitalized “Self” in your question. If by this you mean some sort of foundational, essential, spiritual Self (as the term is often used), then I would say that this aspect of our being is more unified and consistent. That does not mean it is a calcified nugget without potential for growth, but that it retains certain fundamental characteristics, or “suchness,” that may be fluidly emergent but nevertheless unitive in nature. This ground-of-being Self may also inform our narrative self at times, but (perhaps ironically) that input stream tends to be momentary or fleeting for most people. So again - as a felt experience in the moment, the Self contributes to the “multiple self-states” that unfold over time.

4. There are mental, emotional and spiritual conditions that interrupt the consistency of the narrative self. As one example, we might apprehend the bare reality of our constructed self - or even the essential Self as inhabiting a construct - so that we arrive at an apprehension of No Self, and eventually an integrated condition of No Self. As another example a person might find themselves unable to emerge from a unitive peak experience of consciousness, so that they can no longer differentiate between self and Self. And as Proust famously opined, there is an erasure of self-referential identity during sleep, so that we must “reassemble” ourselves upon waking, which speaks to the tentative nature of all of this.

So to reiterate: an important difference is that our various “selves” are either constructed (generative perceptions) or derived from constructs, where the “Self” is not constructed or derived, but directly apprehended (in the sense of *gnosis*) - after which it may or may not contribute to generative perceptions of self. And yet, in either case, various stages of unitive acquiescence can negate all constructs and perceptions of a differentiated, unique self. So whether the contrast is between self and No Self, or id and ego, or soul and persona, or disparate self-states and unified self-concept, or the unitive Self and operative will from moment-to-moment…well, the definitive answer to your question is likely to always be “both,” and “neither.”

You could say, therefore, that all versions of self are a choice, along with the choice to incorporate unitive consistency (or trajectory). You might even say that our efforts around these choices (to inform, deliberate, idealize, aspire, operationalize, etc.) are a unique feature of our consciousness, and one that is, IMO, pretty darn cool. That is what my book *Memory:Self *seeks to demonstrate in the context of multidimensional self-healing, addressing the contributive elements to self-conception and actualization as “semantic containers,” with many different input streams, which we can actively reshape and reinforce.

BTW you might also enjoy this post:

You might also be interested in this paper, which elaborates a principle embedded this answer (scroll down link to view paper online):

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question:

What is mental force? Is it needed physical force to understand or is the mental pronunciation of words which evokes mental energy?

Thanks for the A2A. I expect you are referring to Jeffrey Schwartz’s work on “self-directed neuroplasticity,” along with its broader implications a la quantum mind.

I don’t think anyone knows the answer to your question for certain, though there are a lot of opinions out there. Even as Schwartz acknowledges, this has been a topic of spiritual philosophical traditions for millennia - so there is a lot of material to choose from. Here are some recent books you might consider reading that offer different perspectives as they have percolated up into the present day:

Trance: From Magic to Technology by Dennis R. Wier.

Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything by Ervin Laszlo

Morphic Resonance, by Rupert Sheldrake

Meditations on the Tarot, A Journey into Christian Hermeticism

Personally, I believe we must be very careful and disciplined with our thoughts, as the conjunction of will, spirit and conception can - with or without a deliberate focus - result in manifestations that operate independently (and even in spite of) of our conscious ideation. In other words, whatever the mechanism may be, our thoughts can spawn seemingly independent actors that influence what occurs inside us and around us. This is, I suspect, why so many spiritual traditions encourage a maturing emphasis on ordering thoughts and emotions according to a constructive values hierarchy - and in particular a relinquishment of personal ego - rather than encouraging those thoughts and emotions to run amok in response to mere whim, self-aggrandizement or animalistic impulses. As above, so below; as within, so without.

At the same time, there is always the danger of apophenia and magical thinking when navigating these particular waters, as well as an unconstrained enlargement of ego that often occurs when the heart, mind and spirit are not properly conditioned and prepared.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question:

Is there a relation between human brain's ability to switch to Default Mode and the development of ego stages?

Thanks for the A2A.

I had to laugh when I saw your question because…well this is an extremely complex topic and there seems to be very little agreement among neuroscientists regarding these kinds of correlations. You could, in effect, say “Sure! DMN activation has a direct impact on ego development and stages. Why not?” And you could probably find some research to at least marginally support your view. But in reality…we just don’t know - in fact we don’t even know (for certain) if the DMN actually exists, or just captures a current picture of a certain combination/distribution of brain functions. In other words, it may only be a placeholder for a more complex understanding still waiting in the wings.

That said, here’s my take using what I believe to be a relatively current inclusion of relevant placeholders….

I suspect that ego formation and development relies on equal involvement from several systems and regions of the brain. These probably include the Default Mode Network, the Salience Network, the Central Executive Network, various avenues of inter-hemispheric exchange, MTL structures and their communication with higher level cortical regions/functions, and many more contributive regions, structures and functions. In fact I would further assert that without all of these components interacting smoothly and in healthy harmony with each other, ego formation and development would be difficult - and perhaps not occur predictably, or at all. This balance is so orchestral in nature that emotional trauma or physiological disruption to any of these components could sabotage the expected course of how narrative self relates to ego, how ego relates to the perceived world around it, how egoic impulses are managed and so on. And then there are the more conscious or deliberate modes of ego-transformation, which likely depend on additional variables and involvements.

So I suppose the moral of this answer is: we should be wary of overzealous reductionism.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Prasanth Chandrahasan: There is a background to this question. Unfortunately, when trying to add this as a question detail, I am exceeding Quora’s word limit. Please don’t downvote and collapse because this is important.

Ken Wilber has argued, citing the work of developmental psychologist late Skip Alexander that only meditation can bring about a change in ego development between the ages of 25 to 55. Specifically, any one who meditates regularly for at least five years is shown to jump two levels in an ego development cycle. Wilber refers to Loevinger's stages of ego development and also to several other models as well.

Alexander’s research focused on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which is known to activate the Default Mode in the brain (I am aware of the ambiguity of this term but herein it is referred as per the research papers). So putting these together, one could argue that the brain’s ability to wander around (or be in Default Mode) is actually helpful in ego development.

Sure enough, there is a lot of research in the field all of which are coming from the TM organization (Alexander too). Not that I don’t trust it, just wondering if this is an area of active research and if so, is there any definitive results.

I have read your post Prasanth. I appreciate Ken’s work but he is mistaken in this regard - I think he is probably referencing his own experience, but there are many different ways to encourage development along any trajectory (that is, whether one agrees with Loevinger’s stages or not). Consider, for example, the different non-meditative paths of yoga, any of which could enhance the maturation of ego state. As for research to support this assertion, that is sparse. Additionally, some forms of meditation activate the DMN, but others do not, so that is not a reliable touchstone for comparison. In fact I would return you to my original answer, in that even with meditation, unless there is integration and harmony via all of the components referenced, ego development will not occur. Incidentally, I would offer a slightly different take on ego development that I think exceeds Loevinger’s schema and is inclusive of moral development. You can view that here (just scroll down page to view document): Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations


Is super intelligence artificial or real?

In answer to Quora question "Is super intelligence artificial or real?"

Thanks for the A2A Carl.
Discussions of superintelligence as an outgrowth of strong AI often restrict themselves to a reductionist, mechanical view of human intelligence, and to replicating and amplifying a narrow set of cognitive processes from this perspective. Confined to this line of thinking, "superintelligence" is a predictable development IMO - I just wouldn't call it that. Why? Because, as with many monodimensional views of intelligence, that development emphasizes quantitative, objective metrics that sidestep important qualitative and subjective and intersubjective issues - or even the full spectrum of objective ones. To appreciate what I'm getting at, take a look at my paper Functional Intelligence ( It is easy to lose sight of the full breadth of intelligence and its evolutionary implications when employing reductionist perspectives and methods. In a way it is easy to understand why this happens when the fields of science and technology themselves disproportionately attract people who exhibit Asperger's or other Autism Spectrum Disorder, and who are often high achievers in these systematizing fields. Among this population, the objective narrowing of "intelligence" is a comfortable way to systematize its functions. Add to this the fact that science and technology themselves have undergone increasing specialization, where the relationship with other fields or a broader, more inclusive understanding has been either crippled or abstracted. In my view, until the vastly more multidimensional spectrum of human experience (perception, insight, complex and nuanced ideation, intuition, emotional sophistication, somatic felt sense, etc.) becomes part of the generative synthesis of superintelligence, that synthesis will remain monodimensional, incomplete, and not representative of the evolutionary trajectory already established in homo sapiens. In other words, it will fall short. To fully expand what I believe to be a more appropriate (and ultimately more useful) avenue of heightened intelligence, we would need to answer Chalmer's hard problem - the whys of consciousness itself. This is what would allow us achieve something truly superintelligent in the most inclusive, multidimensional and holistic sense. Otherwise, we are just creating systems and tools, expanding on mechanization, and not really on intelligence at all. Thus the development of strong AI may indeed lead to supertools, but not to a superintelligence that represents the complexity and integrations of consciousness itself.

My 2 cents.

On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?

In answer to Quora question: "On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?"

You asked about a basis. For a mystic that basis is the personal experience of a unitive condition inclusive of subject and object - and indeed all objects -as the result of disciplined mental, emotional and physical practices. Direct experience of this felt reality is profoundly persuasive. However, how we react to or interpret such unitive apperceptions tends to reflect the structural sophistication and moral development within which our own consciousness currently operates. Wilber examines this idea in his discussion of a "pre/trans fallacy." Panpsychism is one response or explanation in a spectrum of responses and explanations to unitive apperception, but is really an abstraction of the core experience. Another response was Gutei raising a single finger. Another is immersion in profound love-consciousness. Another is worshipful gratitude toward the Divine. Thought-without-thought, action-without-action, no-self, Atman Brahman, supramentalisation...this list is varied and endless, but the core experience that inspired these reactions or conditions is the same; it has undifferentiated unity. So to appreciate the "mechanism of consciousness" in seemingly inanimate objects, you would need to commit to a mystical practice that could eventually offer you a directly apprehended answer. Then again, you might interpret your experience differently. But if you constrain your answers to rational arguments, you will tend to become mired in endless loops that can't resolve themselves. It would be equivalent, say, to trying to explain the relationship between manifest and unmanifest, or characteristics of the Ayn Soph, or what Buddhist "emptiness" is, etc. without experiencing these directly.

I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Why don't philosophers speak normal understandable language? You probably said something interesting and meaningful, but I only understood a few words"

Dimage I apologize. Sometimes trying to be precise with words can result in less easy-to-understand language. If I try to simplify what I'm saying, it may also be misunderstood, but I'll give it a try: If I meditate, and have a sudden "aha" moment in which I perceive everything as one - completely the same in its essence or in its relationship to everything else - I may conclude that "everything is conscious," because I cannot separate my own consciousness from my mind's penetration of (or entanglement with?) everything that I perceive. In fact, I may discover that what I believe to be "real consciousness" is actually something very different than my own "monkey mind," and that aspects of this "real consciousness" are in fact present in everything around me. But this experience is extremely personal and is challenging to explain it in rational terms. However, as a basis for "universal consciousness," it feels very convincing to the person experiencing it.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Yep, but if you think about the experience of other people who feel quite the same, you know that they have very different experience from yours. Their consciousness actually doesn't get included with yours while you feel as one with the universe. Isn't that a contradiction to what you are saying?"

From my discussions with others who have shared their mystical experiences with me, and from my readings of those mystics who have tried to write down their experiences, compared them with the experiences of mystics from other traditions, and so on...I would say that we all have encountered some pretty profoundly similar felt realities, and indeed "shared in the same consciousness." Sometimes our sensations and insights seem almost identical, but, I think more importantly, these mystical "ahas" share powerful central characteristics, such as feeling deep compassion for all human beings that endures into our daily lives, and never fades away entirely. Then again, their are many doors to the palace of wisdom, many paths up the mountain, and even if they at first may seem contradictory, they are ultimately reconciled in mystical union. I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Martin Silvertant: "A really excellent answer, and beautifully worded. I don't at all share Sapelkin's sentiment. I understood everything and didn't feel you were being pretentious in your choice of words.

One question though. What are you referring to exactly when you say one can't explain the relationship between the characteristics of the Ayn Soph? Are you implying it's inherently spiritual rather than rational?"

We can discuss or frame this rationally after encountering it in peak experiences, but I would say the experience itself is "transrational;" it integrates many different input streams, and rationality (or more accurately a "hyperrationality" that excludes felt sense, intuition, spiritual cognition, etc. from the mix) can actually get in the way - or at least cause us to stumble. My 2 cents.

What is the relationship between intelligence and consciousness?

In answer to Quora question "What is the relationship between intelligence and consciousness?"

Hi Jeff and thanks for the A2A. Interesting question.

For me it boils don't to qualitative factors: that is, what qualities of intelligence relate to what qualities of consciousness, and vice versa. That begins to plot some interesting correlations, and also excludes some of the more mundane metrics IMO. For example, I have a saying: "Because the Universe has conspired in favor of my consciousness, my consciousness conspires in favor of the Universe." This implies a certain quality of consciousness that engages with an intent that can only be governed by certain qualities of intelligence, and where both consciousness and intelligence have multiple vectors. In particular, it calls upon me to develop a highly functional intelligence that operationalizes a specific values hierarchy. Consider the differentiation between such a clearly conceptualized, clearly felt, and clearly actualized values system, and, say, the qualities of intelligence and consciousness that allow a leopard to stalk its prey, or a human to solve a math equation, or a chimpanzee to use a stick as a tool. There is an indication of orders of magnitude in that difference, or? So that realm of correlation, relationship and calculus that appreciates the complex, nuanced interdependence of an integral (holistic, multidimensional) conception of both intelligence and consciousness does indeed, I think, begin to narrow the field so that "both questions are answered at once." At the opposite end of the spectrum, one could speculate about a more linear correlation, and simply say that "levels of consciousness = evolution of intelligence," but that seems like a shortcut that sidesteps some really intriguing considerations.

On another, related thread, I often wonder about various kinds of curiosity (intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical) and their impact on functional intelligence, qualities of consciousness, and the evolution of both. Is curiosity central to this nexus? I dunno...but it seems like an interesting line of inquiry.

My 2 cents.