Cosmos Café [8/6]- Mind-Body Problems with John Horgan and Stuart Kauffman

Recorded 6 August 2019

From @johnnydavis54: Here is another possibility that could fit the Cafe in a possible future. Since the Cafe is for those in the fast lane, I would invite us to check out, John Horgan’s on line book, Mind-Body Problems. Each chapter includes a manageable profile of a deep thinker and a recorded interview with the deep thinker. Chapter Four of Mind-Body Problems “The Complexologist -Tragedy and Telepathy” has John Horgan interviewing Stuart Kauffman.

Reading / Watching / Listening

Here is a video, and not easy to follow but it is fun to watch experts at the edge of their maps trying to find a way to cut through their own jargon. Kauffman, I much admire, certainly has a difficult time chunking down and chunking slow but I greatly enjoy this back and forth between these two long term critics of each other’s work. Decoherence and re-coherence, entanglement and non-locality. Very weird.

An audible quantum object? Listen with your third ear.

Seed Questions

  • Q1
  • Q2

Context, Backstory, and Related topics

  • Other relevant links or topics, e.g., leading up to this talk
  • Links to additional reading, viewing, listening

Agenda items

-Topic introduction with Johnny Davis leading out with a Clean Start
-Check in at the end of program


I’ve read about half of the John Horgan chapter and am really enjoying it. For some reason, what I read reminded me of a quote from Wiliam James that I used to be obsessed with for whatever reason - I love WJ’s emphasis on “feels” in the second sentence, and how, implicitly, he seems to be saying that there is a connection between our deeper intuitions and feelings and the larger, wider cosmos. Here’s the quote, from a great essay called “Is Life Worth Living,” from Will to Believe and Other Essays:

“If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight – as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem.”


In Kabbalah (well, at least in the “school” I attended for a while), “distance” in the spiritual world (for lack of a better description at the moment), is not measured out in “space” (what we normally think of when we think of “distance”), rather it is feeling that is the “measure”. If you feel closer to another, then you are closer to another, regardless of where you are and how you may be positioned physically in space in relation to one another. Think Bell’s theorem, for a mundane analogy.





@ccafe: wondering if we can all agree, for next week’s Café (8/6), to hone our quantum tools and already sharp wits with what this proposal has to offer. I feel it would also be a great segue into the following week’s Café on August 13th that @Geoffrey_Edwards and @MarcoM have curated for us on all things quantum. Like others around the Cosmos…I too have been experiencing some stranger things around the body, mind and soul…telepathic dreams and other phenomena… that, in the words of @patanswer,"require exploration (but maybe no explanation?)…:thinking:


I am reading Dumpert’s book Liminal Dreaming, due to your suggestion. I have also seen an interview with her and Mishlove. There are a lot of practical exercises for developing the Imaginal capacities available.

I would post the interview with Kauffman and Horgan on Youtube and read the interview from Horgan’s book. It would take about two hours. Unless there is an objection could we make this an agreed action plan and do it so those who are interested can get prepared?

I would like it, Doug, if you could set up the page quickly just as you have been posting the videos quickly ( thank you). That creates momentum. And I agree Horgan/Kauffman could really be a good set up for the Quantum Cafe.


Me four! Or whatever the number may be… :slight_smile:
Cannot even keep up, literally, (so, not trying!) with all of the marvelous strange things, especially last few weeks and increasing this week…
Feels so good to hear you say this, thank you.


Won’t be on this call… am travelling this afternoon to Toronto for a few days.


The temporary link to the recording is available above. Enjoyed this conversation and excited about next week!


Wonderful to witness the with-ness of Vibe U Gentle-Persons performed today!
John bringing forth Touch & Imagination playing with how Touch knows Differences & Connective Tissues with Issues of Entanglement.
When Psyche-that Psyche is like What?

On a Invisible Thread One Evening

Spider first appeared in the space between
hanging tree branch and the ground.
I sitting on the front porch,evening light of street lights
flowing through the night air.
Attention Flirting with the spider moving up into the tree branch,
never seeing the thread of life
until spider moved higher into the tree.
The night air touching spider,thread,tree branch,ground
and Myself ,
Invisible Tissue of Thread Touch.

This took place last night,Thank U for Your Life Threads!


Timothy Morton explains his view of whole/parts. The Whole is not greater…


Thank you for this, John. I now have a much better idea of what you were getting at.

Morton is an interesting character, to be sure. Almost what you might expect of a renegade English professor: a lot of playing with notions and ideas and concepts and audience expectations and, well, a lot more.

His notion of “subscenence” is an attractive one, that’s for sure, and one that I believe has a lot of descriptive, explanatory, and even systasic potential, but there’s a whole lot of wordplay going on to make it happen. It makes for a somewhat entertaining presentation, even if the audience doesn’t get most of his jokes, but over time he may be obfuscating what he’s trying to reveal. I wouldn’t like to see that happen.

Holistically speaking, there is just one Whole, at least to my mind. In his talk, he talks about a variety of different wholes. These are very akin to what Gebser describes as “totalities”: perspective gives us a part which we turn into a whole, and we treat it as if it were a whole, but it’s not the whole or the Whole, it’s just part of the Whole.

There’s also a certain amount of intellectual sleight-of-hand going on here. His first portrayal of “the whole” is a mechanical one: the idea that thinking that the whole is greater (whereby he means “bigger”) than the sum of its parts, then any of the parts can be replaced and you have still have the whole. It’s a static and mechanical-like image. I’m sure that some people see the Whole just this way, but it’s just how they see it. A lot of people are coming to the realization that we can’t continue thinking that way, but deconstructing one interpretation of a saying as if it were the meaning of that saying almost borders on disingenuousness. That’s certainly not his intent, I’m sure. As I noted in our discussion yesterday, the statement “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is the “classic” definition of synergy, and synergy, as Buckminster Fuller quite expansively pointed out is anything but a mere mechanistic idea.

There are times when it is to our advantage to draw a boundary and declare something a whole, such as the ecology or the like. And we always need to remenber that our boundary-drawing with a mental construct simply to help us deal with whatever it is we want to deal with it. (If we don’t we fall into the “totality” trap of which Gebser spoke.) But even in his example, the polar bear is not a replaceable part, it is an intimate aspect or element or feature (or …) of whatever it is we bounded (temporarily intellectually) to try to deal with. But there are processes in that whole and interactions and interconnections and still unrecognized associations and influencings that are also “parts”, if you will, but hardly replaceable. Change one thing and you change everything. That’s also what I hear him saying – especially in regard to “subscendence”, but that’s another story.

The other thing about the talk that made me stumble was his liberal use of spatial metaphors where they are not really all that appropriate. There is a huge difference between “greater and lesser” compared to, say, “bigger and smaller”. Wanting to put sizes and shapes on a lot of those things we can’t see and apprehend as we might like to – as he himself aptly points out – may not be the best way to go. Granted, we have certain limits with our current language, but that’s no reason to simply give into it. What does it mean that something is “ontologically larger” than something else? The phrase makes no sense to me. The phrase – at least as I see it – is spatializing something that cannot-- and perhaps should not – be spatialized. This is a very good example of what I mean when I say that maybe we need to find ways past the language’s limitations.

Now, I would hate for you – or anyone – to think that this is a sloughing off or dismissing or rejection of what he has to say. Like I said at the onset, I think “subscendence” is a notion that has a lot to offer. I have no idea about hyperobjects and all that other stuff he throws out in rapid-fire succession, but I suspect they could also be useful notions if they aren’t obscured along the way.


This is a very thoughtful and fair-minded “critique” of a temptation we writer’s are subject to: a kind of unaware temptation to play a bit too much with the words, and get a touch lost in that, rather than staying deep and balanced. It’s not that wordplay is a problem in itself, definitely not! But like everything else, it can go too far and end up alienating rather than open things up. I really like Tim Mortan’s wild way of thinking, of organizing thoughts about difficult subjects, but I believe you are right, Achronon, and he sometimes goes too far with displaying his pyrolinguistics.
Thanks for this reminder for me and all of us to resist temptation into indulgences in excessive abstraction…ungrounded and/or to hear/see ourselves doing this AS we’re doing it, and stopping there. Starting over, from a grounded center from which we might speak/write to more bodyminds trying to tune in to “dark ecology”, or any other subject.

In indigenous ways of knowing, we say that a thing cannot be understood until it is known by all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion and spirit.

Robin Kimmerer, Anishinable, Environmental & Forest Biology, New York. from Gathering Moss


I have read three of his books and listened to his 16 hour course on Romanticism. I posted this video as a response to what was being discussed on the Zoom call, as we had collected “warm data” in our exercise. Since I had quoted him, briefly, I would not intend this short clip to be anything more than an appetizer to a much larger and elaborate performance in prose and in Youtube presentations. I recognize we all have limited time and many different loyalties. That he is playful and serious at the same time is an aspect of his personality and his strategy. I am not in agreement with him all the time but consider him a very creative thinker.

As a heat dome gathers above the Ice Cap, and the New York Times reported yesterday that a fourth of the human population is at high risk of running out of water, we are forced to seek out some imaginative responses to this crisis. Avoiding panic is a high priority and I try not to print some bad news ( there is plenty of it) without also acknowledging thinkers who can appreciate the twist in the Mobius strip.Luckily, there are a lot of creative thinkers among us.


We’re on the same page, Johnny. I love Tim Morton. But he does go a bit far at times and people get lost. I personally don’t feel lost, I feel exhilarated by him, but I have to be in very good shape to stay with him every second of the way! It’s a workout! A very educated and intelligent friend of mine (to whom I recommended the book) stopped reading partway through because of the dense world-play/ neologisms and just the “speed” of throwing out ideas.
So I guess just saying I see “both sides” of his writing style, while his essence-content is often fabulous. Does that make sense?


I agree, Ariadne, he can be weird. Morton is well worth the effort in my opinion. I have put him down and then picked him up again and again. I am more inclined to accept some of his more outrageous flights of fancy, especially after listening to him lecture on Keats and Shelley. He has a strong style, not for everyone.


A message from the crickets: