Friday, September 2, 2016

Inhuman Rationality and Cosmos as the Space of Reasons

The below had me thinking about how the space of reasons in any form of true universality must be cosmos itself, that is nature understood in the most just, capacious sense as possible. This includes the possible admission of intelligences other than that of human intelligence whether terrestrial or extra-terrestrial. In what sense might we say that rationality - i.e. "reason" - is something inhuman in the sense that not just humans are capable of it in a larger cosmic space of reason's practice?

From the blog Three Pound Brain in THIS post, called "Alien Philosophy":
Are there alien philosophers orbiting some faraway star, opining in bursts of symbolically articulated smells, or parsing distinctions-without-differences via the clasp of neural genitalia? What would an alien philosophy look like? Do we have any reason to think we might find some of them recognizable? Do the Greys have their own version of Plato? Is there a little green Nietzsche describing little green armies of little green metaphors?
The post then continues to quote Kant, as follows:
The highest species concept may be that of a terrestrial rational being; however, we shall not be able to name its character because we have no knowledge of non-terrestrial rational beings that would enable us to indicate their characteristic property and so to characterize this terrestrial being among rational beings in general. It seems, therefore, that the problem of indicating the character of the human species is absolutely insoluble, because the solution would have to be made through experience by means of the comparison of two species of rational being, but experience does not offer us this. (Kant: Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, 225)
I am intrigued by Kant's query, which is a query in the 18th century mind you, into the starry heavens above so as to think, how might we garner a characteristic property of rational beings in general.  That's amazing because, really, he is considering nonhuman forms of life whose rational being could divulge truly universal principles of knowledge that transcend our own terrestriality.  In short, he recognizes the inhuman nature, or "extra-human" nature of reason.

Further on, this piece from the post:
Of course, the plausibility of humanoid aliens possessing any kind of philosophy requires the plausibility of humanoid aliens. In popular media, aliens are almost always exotic versions of ourselves, possessing their own exotic versions of the capacities and institutions we happen to have. This is no accident. Science fiction is always about the here and now—about recontextualizations of what we know. As a result, the aliens you tend to meet tend to seem suspiciously humanoid, psychologically if not physically. Spock always has some ‘mind’ with which to ‘meld’. To ask the question of alien philosophy, one might complain, is to buy into this conceit, which although flattering, is almost certainly not true. 
And yet the environmental filtration of mutations on earth has produced innumerable examples of convergent evolution, different species evolving similar morphologies and functions, the same solutions to the same problems, using entirely different DNA. As you might imagine, however, the notion of interstellar convergence is a controversial one. [2] Supposing the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is one thing—cognition is almost certainly integral to complex life elsewhere in the universe—but we know nothing about the kinds of possible biological intelligences nature permits. Short of actual contact with intelligent aliens, we have no way of gauging how far we can extrapolate from our case. [3] All too often, ignorance of alternatives dupes us into making ‘only game in town assumptions,’ so confusing mere possibility with necessity. But this debate need not worry us here. Perhaps the cluster of characteristics we identify with ‘humanoid’ expresses a high-probability recipe for evolving intelligence—perhaps not. Either way, our existence proves that our particular recipe is on file, that aliens we might describe as ‘humanoid’ are entirely possible.
Evolution assures that cognitive expenditures, the ability to intuit this or that, will always be bound in some manner to some set of ancestral environments. Evolution means that information that makes no reproductive difference makes no biological difference. 
An ecological view, in other words, allows us to naturalistically motivate something we might have been tempted to assume outright: original naivete. The possession of sensory and cognitive apparatuses comparable to our own means Thespians will possess a humanoid neglect structure, a pattern of ignorances they cannot even begin to question, that is, pending the development of philosophy. The Thespians would not simply be ignorant of the microscopic and macroscopic constituents and machinations explaining their environments, they would be oblivious to them. Like our own ancestors, they wouldn’t even know they didn’t know.

Here are some excerpts from posts from After Nature where I've picked up on some of this before.

From "Thoughts on a 'NeoPresocratic Manifesto'"
The other side of the coin is to divulge the rational conceptual space that is extra-human by identifying the interplay between emotive, subjective, or felt intensive-qualitative experience and the conceptual apparatus that assists in propelling the life of qualitative intensive experience. In a sense, this larger intensive but conceptual space is even non-human in its "naturalness"; so it includes human beings but transcends human beings (thus it is "non-human"). 
By recognizing the larger-than-human space of rationality we see that a.) aesthetic contrasts of value create normative dimensions of experience that humans are subject to, and b.) these dimensions of experience transcend human-to-human ecologies of knowledge and therefore guarantee a truly rational but also normative aspect to reality itself. Indeed, reality or nature is rife with "experience" that is both conceptual and of an aesthetic value yet which is, also, not human.

From a quote of the day:
Reason liberates its own spaces and its own demands, and in the process fundamentally revises not only what we understand as thinking, but also what we recognize as “us.”    
- Reza Negarestani
And on "Octopus Intelligence," where essentially the point is that intelligence is ubiquitous.

My next question would be, "How ingrained within the world - cosmos - nature - is intelligence but also information in terms of conceptuality (e,g, a "natural semiotic")?  I find myself continually going back to the likes of Hegel, Fichte, and Schelling to sort out the question of mind within nature.  From there biosemiotics builds upon the notion of ubiquitous intelligence that the German idealists had in the 18th and 19th centuries.

From "The Pain of Rocks"
I don't think that it is anthropomorphic to speculatively explore non-human consciousness supposing that non-human worlds of experience overlap or may be like our experience in some respects, as much as they may be unlike our experience in other respects.  
In the tradition of Jakob von Uexkull or even to some degree William James and Alfred North Whitehead, it isn't about multiplying different world pictures nor even rendering them common to ours, even though the diversity of world pictures has its place. I think it is about speculatively and phenomenologically allowing non-human worlds to exhibitively self-display their experiential features where these features are attended to for what they are. 
Removing human beings from nature and stating, "Ok, the experience of others may not be like our subjective experience" doesn't mean that others aren't capable of experiencing emotion, pain, etc. etc. The fact is, it isn't our experience to begin with. If human beings didn't exist, elephants would still grieve the loss of a matriarch, dolphins would still express joy, crabs would still feel pain, and so on. Further still, all things - taking a panexperiential viewpoint - would struggle to persist and would undergo self-relations. We do not need to appeal to analogies involving human-centered experience to make that case. No one is saying the world is like us. I (for one) am simply saying that we are part of the world, naturally, like everything else.
After having watched Pete Wolfendale's talk from the "Inhuman Symposium" I am inclined to think that rationality is *not* merely an invention or category created by the moderns.  Actually, rationality in the fact that it encompasses the human - any human regardless of specific socio-political contexts (what Braidotti was grilling him about, prompting his response that he grew up in an environment that critiques postmodernism) - is something which is a universal horror, at first.

The security of what humans thought gave them the "one up" over everything else turns out to be precisely what motivates forms of life to project critically noumenal realities outside of it.  And so, what is reason then in these universal instantiations, or more specifically and precisely, what can we say of its activity?