Altered consciousness and the truth of the world

A few days ago I argued that we don’t have the sort of experience that determinism requires. This morning I wondered if I had found an objection to this during an experience of déjà vu. I experienced my self going down some vein of experience marked out in advance, and in having my choices flow down a causal channel already seen. During the experience I thought that determinism could feel like this.

But if this is right then the proper intuition of physics is a matter of altered and even paranormal consciousness. This raises the question whether our evolved, everyday consciousness is adequately attuned to the reality of the world, or at least whether it is attuned to it beyond the first orders of approximation.

On the one hand, we recognize that the truth of things is there to find; on the other hand, we recognize that the tools we use to discover truth were adapted from organs that were not ordered to this purpose. Contrary to Aristotle’s claim in II De anima, the five senses do not exhaust all possible modes of physical information, and the axioms we use to understand the physical (like the primacy of mechanical interaction) are at least conditioned by modes of consciousness that were adapted to surviving in an environment and not necessarily to seeing the inner nature of objects.

But these altered modes of consciousness seem to only have value for a single vision of things and not for making a science. The most they promise is insight, not discourse. But this is a claim at odds with itself, since no one can doubt that many of our deepest insights came from discourse, and science itself is essentially discourse. And so there seems to be a contradiction in a science of altered consciousness. All this would amount to is a denial of the value of science.

This would be possible if there were some insight that could entirely do away with the need for discourse, and the search for an altered consciousness is an attempt to anticipate this. But so long as this new consciousness is an altered one, it is altered precisely away from the everyday consciousness in which discourse is an invaluable mode of insight. And so altered consciousness could only have a value in a new life or another life where all could be given in pure insight.  It cannot have any value as another consciousness in the context of the consciousness we have now.

But then, if this argument works, it is a justification of the value of the everyday consciousness we have now, even as it is conditioned by elements that were not of themselves ordered to truth. These elements must be understood as underwritten by something outside of this adaptive process that is capable or ordering things to truth.

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