A&O 2023 – meeting 10 – April 4




notes for meeting 10

TUESDAY April 4, 2023

including likely agenda & comments from previous meeting


A&O is always about making connections



We clasp the hands of those that go before us,

And the hands of those who come after us.

We enter the little circle of each other’s arms

And the larger circle of lovers,

Whose hands are joined in a dance

And the larger circle of all creatures

Passing in and out of life

Who move also in a dance

To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it

Except in fragments.


Wendell Berry                                                                                                                                  




    • CHECK-IN:  be prepared to comment on how some key ideas from CORE CONTENT in ART or DEEP ethology– bear on your experiences of the week and/or project.  
      • You will recall that we will start showing each other practice presentations tomorrow (April 4).  Recalling also that we opened A&O with the idea of connecting “canonical” knowledge in ART & SCIENCE to the deepest personal interests with which we could be comfortable (remember https://neilgreenberg.com/greenberg-2021-presentation-iacep/ ?).  

        This is why recent weeks were emphasizing a particular skill worth cultivating:  that is, creating connections of the kind identified by Stent ( https://neilgreenberg.com/ao-reading-prematurity-and-uniqueness-gunther-stent-in-sci-amer-1972/ ) & a critical line at that site:  “Never forget what I believe was observed to you by Coleridge,” said William Wordsworth, “every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.” 

        This CONTEXTUALIZES our work … creates the connections that make it relevant and therefore interesting… but also points to a world of unappreciated symbioses…


        • For Example:   “Having so mastered the art of unselfing, lichens emerge as living testaments to the visionary evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis’s insistence that “we abide in a symbiotic world.” In their biology lies a poignant metaphor for how we think of the relationships that surround us, lacing our human lives [together with all others]”

          Some of this is on our A&O website on “BEAUTY”

    • Then, as time allows:
    • REVIEW all you can about ENTOPIC EXPERIENCE and see how it can work with processes akin to  PAREIDOLIA and  SYNESTHESIA to evoke HALLUCINATIONS and DREAMS
      • SENSORY: Synesthesia   

“… a minor second is sour. A major second is bitter. A perfect fourth is mown grass. A minor sixth is cream. An octave has no taste at all….”

 (RC Cowen discusses a music-taster)


 Now, Read about SYNESTHESIA  & example: https://aeon.co/videos/as-a-pianist-strikes-a-chord-visualisations-of-his-notes-appear-in-real-time = https://youtu.be/ucO-8s7gkyQ CONNECTING TO:

    •  CHECK-OUT: personal intense experience of “beauty” … as well as what stood out for you (from notes taken during seminar) if there are doodles and/or a mind-map, attach to e-mail after class [these are helpful to (1) help you get in better touch with your own subconscious needs and motives and (2) help others understand you.]  



SOME IDEAS THAT STOOD OUT FOR YOU LAST WEEK (A&O(9))  from your check-out postings after last week’s discussions — items in bold type had multiple mentions

  • How to think and feel about art created by artists with toxic beliefs or actions.  
  • sapience and sentience converging on the meaning of symbols
  • self knowledge
  • theory of mind
  • normality
  • dreaming & its boundaries



  • Thinking about the implications connectedness between artists and their artifacts began with “what was their state of mind?” and then asked does it matter?  Should art stand on its own without connections to it creator?  but one path leads to questioning authenticity when there is an obvious dissonance between the artifact and its creator.  Can a bad person (or one with harmful views) create good art.   Last week The New Yorker asked “Can Peter Handke’s fiction [he won a Nobel Prize] be separated from his notorious politics?” [he defended a country engaged in a genocidal war] (READ “Offensive Play” by Ruth Franklin)
  • Jill Bolte Taylor used some rhetorical overgeneralizations (brain right/left laterality) but what about “The WE inside of ME” ?   … We speak often of connections WITHIN and BETWEEN each other:  this is important and in some respects close to the meaning of life: so read now,  INDIVIDUATION and SOCIALIZATION  and about how humans connect to each other. check out “intersubjectivity” and “empathy.”     (There is a transcript of Jill’s comments at https://zenmoments.org/stroke-of-insight/ )

EVOLUTIONARY CONNECTIONS to SOCIALIZATION: as DEEP ethologists you now know to always ask about the evolutionary background to your behavior of interest:  How has this behavior or some aspect of it helped an organism or population of organisms meet a basic biological NEED… from self-knowledge to knowledge of others (“theories of mind”) to social transmission of acquired information over the generations.  READ DEEP ETHOLOGY of EVOLUTION notes paying special attention to the table summarising NATURAL SELECTION  and the paragraphs on CUTURAL EVOLUTION.  (remember, real or perceived challenge to being able to meet a need (selection pressure) evokes STRESS and energizes physiology)    Another connection: when the selection pressure is to obtain a reproductive partner, we speak of SEXUAL SELECTION, and the behavior emitted to cope with this need is closely related to our thinking about ART (why is something found “beautiful?” –see TRUTH and BEAUTY)


THINGS TO DO:  READ and THINK ABOUT BEFORE MEETING 10  (be prepared to comment on this during check-in or discussion):   

  • Review the cognitive complexities of connectedness and socialization and then pay particular attention to connections between individuals such as “intersubjectivity” at https://neilgreenberg.com/ao-connections-between-individuals/ (With respect to socialization and connectedness, remember ideas identified earlier: the experience of SOCIAL REFERENCING and the biological programming of the emergence of a THEORY OF MIND) 
  • LAST WEEK (A&O(9) we spoke of “filling-in” –this is not the first time the idea was mentioned: remember “filling in of the retina’s “blind spot?” Or even the possibilities of filling in a scotoma with imagery (read: filling-in note)
    • Neurons are typically “on” (that is active and occasionally conveying a neural impulse) but cumulatively “on the edge of chaos.”  Anything useful is done by coordinating their activity… chaos is incredibly sensitive to slight perturbations (such as the proverbial butterfly’s wing or sensory input) and these can begin the cascade that result in PERCEPTS and CONCEPTS that REPRESENT the perturbation: a sensory input (representing the world outside of consciousness) or a chance constellation of random or accidental internal perturbations (hallucination).  Look in on Charles Bonnet Syndrome (link) and connected ideas. 
  • So, after reading the short note about “filling-in” in the brain, realize this is at one level of organization: cognition seeks to fill in all kinds of gaps. Our pursuit of “meaning,” with respect to the richest possible set of connections might lead us might lead artists to appreciate pareidolia and how to exploit it to communicate more precisely with their audience? This really connects to “sensory exploitation.”  MAYBE dreams are the pareidolia that seems to unify the random flickers of activity in the cerebral cortex.  Read about pareidolia in concert with ambiguity  Mind-bending: pareidolia and bias: FULL CIRCLE or MÖBIUS STRIP
  • The Deep Symbolism of the Mobius Strip – Tao Math
  • we had some wonderful long check-ins from A&O(9) with lots of cross-fertilization; so key elements (below) still need to be explored.    PowerPoint slides about STRESS   PowerPoint slides about DREAMING  READ ABOUT BIAS: a critical question for ethologists: Are you biased?  How do you know?  (more about BIAS)
  • Recall your most extraordinary experience (what happened to Jill)
  • What is Normal? Typical? How do you know? Read about it. What does “neurotypical? mean?



  • SENTIENCE and SAPIENCE (“thinking and feeling”) have emerged in our discussions as slightly different constellations of cognitive competencies that actually co-constitute our perceptions and conceptions.   Last week, the journal Science had a brief article on “The Question of Animal Emotions”  READ and consider. 
  • .
  • IN MEDIAS RES.  A literary trope that resonates with how we think in DEEP ETHOLOGY:  in medias res refers to the common narrative technique of starting the story in the middle and enriching it by flashbacks and flashforwards.   WE are at the ORGANISM level of organization and while we experience what we are highly confident is real at the moment, we have a past and future–like the epigraph for today’s notes,  We clasp the hands of those that go before us, And the hands of those who come after us.” We–WE IN PARTICUAR–are the outcome of thousands of generations of ancestors, and hopefully thousands of generations of descendants.  We may have a sense of what was and what will be because of all we have ever perceived–we are like a note in the midst of a symphony playing (again, as in the poem), music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it / Except in fragments.”  READ snip from Thomas Wolfe                
  • PRESENTATIONS:   We have spent time with specific ideas and phenomena that open out onto DEEP perspectives of ethology … we know a little bit about the power of pure description, motives and priorities … I have given you enough time to to do a bit of creative problem solving (unhampred by strict directives from me) and now I want to be more explicit:   


    • TWO STAGES:  (1) a powerpoint presentation to share with classmates; [EXAMPLE] (2) a document representing your scholarship and thinking (and/or  creative artistry) to share with me–and with your permission to be posted on-line so other people will have access.
    • Your powerpoint presentation should outline your final presentation–usually (1) a paper or (2) an art work with an extended “artist’s statement”  –in all cases, showing how DEEP ethology can contribute connections important to your topic.
    • A mere 15 weeks doesn’t allow time to teach all the traditioanl ways of thinking … the rules (so you can break them).   I’ve provided all the free, safe time playing with ideas to encourage creativity about this problem of a semester project: Many of you know that frustration (in moderation) brings out your creative impulses.   BUT, at this point, here is a specific assignment you need to accomplish:   creating and presenting a Powerpoint presentation to your classmates –and then using feedback from them to improve your final presentation    
    • DEFINING YOUR TERMS: Definitions should help bind all participants in a community of understanding: AS YOU DEFINE your phenomenon, treat your definitions (like all definitions and in the best traditions of science) as tentative, preliminary, provisional, and open to revision.  You need to start somewhere, more-or-less shared understanding is essential to intersubjective communication, but everyone should understand that ambiguity enables flexibility necessary for continuing dialogue, necessary to enlarging and deepening shared understanding.  This understanding is not—can never be—perfect. We cannot even be expected to agree with ourselves as our experience and understanding grows and our provisional definitions are commensurately adjusted.   
  • Nick Sousanis in his graphc PhD dissertation (published as “Unfalttening”) has pages available as a preview (HERE) that resonate with DEEP:  another way of thinking about alternate perspectives (“unflattening”) that may be very effective as a complement to our usual way of looking at things.  He makes many points that you will recognize, but the graphic presentation somehow facilitates their penetrance (their ability to speak to “deeper” levels of consciousness) (I recommend the entre book) 



  • CONNECTING DEEP and ART:  I hope we are more comfortable thinking about ART and its projective and receptive aspects, along with DEEP Ethology as a way of understanding behavior.   So, we think of artists–by disposition or training–as particularly skilled in gaining access to their own states of mind, and communicating that to their audienceHOW do artists and their works of art do this?  (for example, you may want to learn how Leonardo applied the ethologist’s approach to how eyes provide us with information to his painting of the Mona Lisa) The ethological attitude here is crystalized in the ideas of identifying and coping with BIAS, and the application of the processes of reality testing (correspondence and coherence).  REMEMBER that as organisms, we are all more-or-less endowed with congenital and acquired biases –and bringing these under control so they do not distort or impair the validity of your perceptions and any actions based on them is a key part of the ETHOGICAL ATTITUDE. 

So by now you have at least some sense of the ETHOLOGICAL ATTITUDE (emphasizing being free of bias and looking from multiple perspectives simultaneously).   Most of you are already exercising that attitude in the service of a subject that has meaning for you—that is, it has personal connections because of interest in, or experience of, or feelings about it.   

If you feel disoriented remember to first, describe the crap out of the phenomenon you are focusing on.  That almost always leads to unexpected bits of energizing inspiration)

… and then examine the phenomenon from the multiple perspectives of D,E,E, & P (one of which might dominate)  and ART (projective &/or receptive –that is “creative” &/or “appreciative”) (this will touch on all of the possible connections even though one of them may be the main one for you personally. )


CONNECTIONS (it should be clear now that there are connections within and between levels of organization):

here are e-mails to enable connections with each other

Anthony Huang  (INK MOTION”) thuang6@vols.utk.edu
Brittany Okweye (“THE GAME OF LIFE”) bokweye@vols.utk.edu
Brooke N Stillson (“INNER WORKINGS”) bstillso@vols.utk.edu
Delaney Reilly (“DEEP Sleep”)  dreilly2@vols.utk.edu
Eliza Frensley efrensle@vols.utk.edu
Emily Paige Brock (“CREATE UTILITY”) ebrock10@vols.utk.edu
Gino Castellanos (“KILLING URIZEN”)  gcastell@vols.utk.edu
Grace Cochran (“The Beauty of Being Anonmous”) gcochra6@vols.utk.edu
Haleigh Ann Eicher (“Transcendence and the Sublime in Nature”) heicher@vols.utk.edu
Hayley J Eliz Simpson (“Pain & Pleasure”)  hayjsimp@vols.utk.edu
Hannah Langer (“Walking Among Skeletons”) hlanger@vols.utk.edu
Hayden Morris cmk468@vols.utk.edu
Kaitlyn Anderson (“Interdependent Interactions”)  kande113@vols.utk.edu
Keller Alexander (The DEE Ethology of Flying Ants”)  walexan9@vols.utk.edu
Kyle Michael Cottier (“A Gesture of SURRENDER”)  kcottier@vols.utk.edu
Sophie Greenwell (“Deriving Art frfom the Senses”) sgreenw4@utk.edu
Zoie Lambert (“Beauty in Breaking: Self-Sabatage”) tlambe12@vols.utk.edu

with each other