Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Turing instabilities in biology, culture,and consciousness? On the enactive origins of symbolic material culture

"Turing instabilities in biology, culture,and consciousness? On the enactive origins of symbolic material culture"          

Tom Froese, Alexander Woodward, and Takashi Ikegami

Adaptive Behavior 21(3) 199–214   The Author(s) 2013  Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1059712313483145

It has been argued that the worldwide prevalence of certain types of geometric visual patterns found in prehistoric art can be best explained by the common experience of these patterns as geometric hallucinations during altered states of consciousness induced by shamanic ritual practices. And in turn the worldwide prevalence of these types of hallucinations has been explained by appealing to humanity’s shared neurobiological embodiment. Moreover, it has been proposed that neural network activity can exhibit similar types of spatiotemporal patterns, especially those caused by Turing
instabilities under disinhibited, non-ordinary conditions. Altered states of consciousness thus provide a suitable pivot point from which to investigate the complex relationships between symbolic material culture, first-person experience,and neurobiology. We critique prominent theories of these relationships. Drawing inspiration from neurophenomenology, we sketch the beginnings of an alternative, enactive approach centered on the concepts of sense-making, value, and sensorimotor decoupling.


"The prevalence of certain geometric patterns in the symbolic material culture of many prehistoric cultures, starting shortly after the emergence of our biological species and continuing in some indigenous cultures until today, is explained in terms of the characteristic contents of biologically determined hallucinatory experiences. However, we argue that the correlation between the first artistic motifs and typical hallucinatory experiences is not sufficient to serve as a full explanation. In particular, there is a lack of consideration of the value associated with altered states of consciousness, both in terms of phenomenology and function. What is it about these nonordinary visual patterns that made them more attractive for artistic expression than most others of an almost infinite set of possible patterns, both physical and imaginary?1 Given that humans appear to be in principle capable of arbitrarily associating any kind of stimulus with any kind of meaning, as epitomized by language as an open-ended symbol system, there is a need to explain the shared selective biases that are in evidence across prehistoric cultures. In other words, we need to account for the cross-culturally shared value of these specific kinds of geometric patterns."

Enaction, sense-making, representation, hallucination, Turing patterns, human cognition...

1 comment:

  1. An inherent set of repeating patterns and geometric progressions throughout the space and time we can see and absorb... all point to certain consistencies that are fundamental. from the repetitive patterns of fractal geometry to an understanding of Benford's equation as to the relationship numbers have to each other, it points to an order to things beyond what we can clearly state. The proclivity some artists have for images and sounds arising from psychotropic experiences might be tapping into this larger understanding of whatever order or larger context, the majority of which we can only imagine we understand. How do we ponder the universe being able to expand not into something else, but continually into itself? That's hard!