Reply To: Metaphysics and the Matter With Things: Thinking With Iain McGilchrist

  • Gary

    May 10, 2024 at 10:58 pm

    The presentation by Canadian cognitive psychologist, John Vervaeke, was really extraordinary, I thought. He went through a great of material in a short period of time, but it eventually came down to the idea that ‘relationality is the ground of ontology’ which is an idea that is being explored by philosopher, James Filler, who traces this idea back to Anaximander and Heraclitus. And, in terms of phenomenology, to Martin Heidegger. For me, personally, this is a question about the reality of time and the distinction between relational time as a continuous flowing movement that mediates action, and physical time which is a discontinuous counting of the oscillations of a physically defined oscillator. I associate the former with ‘Kairos’ and the latter with ‘Chronos’, using the ancient Greek distinction between fundamentally different forms of time. The importance of relational time is that it is fundamentally intersubjective and mediates trans-action or informational exchange, which we call communication. This relates to the ‘Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Physics’ whose relativistic version has been brought forward by Ruth Kastner who was one of the discussants on Saturday morning of the conference. Her talk was followed by the talk given by Timothy Eastman, author of the book described at this webpage of the publisher: which is a deeply fascinating and important book, in my opinion. The emphasis on process as the unfolding of a relational reality connects directly to the idea that relationality is the ‘leading edge’ of our shared reality, as distinct from our physical ‘actuality’ which modernity mistakenly tells us is our ‘reality’ and that there is nothing more which goes along with the idea that organisms are nothing more than elaborate material mechanisms, and that a living organism can be properly viewed and understood as a complex machine–an advanced computer. Which is what nominalistic materialism maintains–there is stuff and nothing more. And that relations are ‘fluff’ and pure fiction–because relations are not detectable through the physical senses. So, if we cannot ‘see’ it on our ‘radar’ or our sensorium-based ‘instrument panel’ of the human specific ‘interface’, then it ‘does not exist’. If we restrict the term ‘existence’ to physical actuality, then, yes, then relations do not ‘exist’–but the real question, and the most important question is: Are relations REAL? Are relations part of a hidden reality that is not available to us through our evolved ‘interface’ but which can be ‘felt’ and ‘inferred’ based on what we ‘see on our radar screen’, that is what we can register on our human-specific ‘interface’ with reality? And this ‘interface’ effectively ‘hides’ the underlying relational reality from us. This is all derived from the work of Donald Hoffman, who is also a contributing author at the Essentia Foundation which you can explore at: