Always good to hear from you, Maarten van Doorn — thanks for reading.
If forced to summarize that essay in bullet points, I’d probably do it like this:
- Philosophy concerns itself with the question: how to live?
- Any individual’s life is the experience of their own consciousness.
- Therefore, the study of philosophy is the study of consciousness.
Certainly not foolproof logic, I find my writing to be geared more towards provocation than airtight arguments. I expanded on point (2) in another essay:
Solipsism's Younger Brother: Schopenhauer's Prism of Consciousness - Musing Mind
Artwork by © Cynthia Decker ...every man is pent up within the limits of his own consciousness, and cannot directly get…
You asked a really good question:
“The problem, I think, is that it’s not clear that studying consciousness is going to reveal what a ‘good’ state of consciousness is.”
You’re right that it’s incredibly rocky territory to declare any particular state of consciousness ‘better’ than another. That kind of thing is really vulnerable to dogmas, oppression, etc. And upon what grounds could we possibly dictate the hierarchy of other people’s conscious experience?
That being said, you mention that studying consciousness may yield more “facts or information”, that don’t help build an ethical framework. Well, the kind of study I’m talking about would yield more experience. True, I find the neuroscience important, it can tell us all kinds of useful things about the neural correlates of consciousness — Thomas Metzinger excels in this. But Metzinger is also a 40-year meditation practitioner and a psychedelic-veteran.
Point being, there can be no earnest study of consciousness without first-person experience. We probably can’t answer ethical questions with facts and information, but we might be able to through aggregated experience. This is corroborated by contemplatives through the ages. A remarkably high majority of serious meditation practitioners, psychedelic-users, mystics, etc., all advocate strikingly similar ethical rules (which can boil down to Buddha’s message: realize wisdom — no-self/impermanence — & compassion — interdependence/unity).
I was just reading Anaïs Nin’s diary, where she makes a relevant comment:
“it is this development [individual development] which I believe will influence history from within, rather than systems. If enough individuals had worked at their own development, history would be formed as natural things are formed, organically, from the impulse of quality and maturity.”
So, basically, that consensus upon ethical questions may emerge naturally from a collective focus on individual development, which I consider a synonym for the study of consciousness, or the path of philosophy.
Sorry, didn’t mean to write so much.
I’m curious to hear what you think might contribute to the ‘good’ question, deciphering good states of consciousness, other than the “study of consciousness” — whatever that entails? My feeling is that it’s a combination of: adequate sleep & exercise, nutrition, meditation, therapy (all kinds, including psychedelic), art (some kind of craft for creativity), a degree of economic liberty, and friendship (in Aristotle’s sense).
Would love to hear your thoughts!