A&O 2023 – Meeting 6 – February 28




notes for meeting 6

TUESDAY February 28, 2023

including likely agenda

& Outcomes from previous meeting



    • CHECK-IN: a few comments identifying yourself to the rest of us: what stood out from personal experiences of this past week? are you considering a new topic? 
    • COMMENTS: Today’s key ideas from CORE CONTENT–our scaffold, always mindful of PERSONAL CONNECTIONS to the content and FREE ASSOCIATIONS (mind-maps) about it.
    • CHECK-OUT: 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



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

  • mindless doodling
  • social anxiety
  • music & sleep
  • dreaming
  • play and imagination
  • Frisson: enormous diversity of experiences, but generally either positive or negative in recollection: 
    • Music (opening theme of Phantom of the Opera, “Stromae” concert, Joni Mitchel song, a duet heard on “The Voice”); Scenes from  movies (“Fellowship of the Ring,” “It’s a Wonderful Life”); preparing for a competition;  art-work; aversive sounds (mechanical pencil on paper, fork scraping a plate)

THIS WEEK we will continue to review some aspects of the ideas I “planted” in last weeks:  in particular, EMERGENCE, Exceptionalism, and FRISSON.  “Emergence” will help you move between levels of organization and to be more confident in thinking beyond the information you have available–for example, the causes and consequences of “higher” levels of consciousnessTranscendence . Frisson is best understood for our purposes as the bridge from basic autonomic reflexes essential for maintaining homeostasis all the way to social signals that profoundlay affect fitness.  FRISSON also leads to our consideration of STRESS –it is one of a multitude of specific mechanisms that helps organisms cope with stress.  Like the Japanese concept of do, mentioned last week: (enabling one to “to grasp the universal through the particular”). 


NEXT we need to get a grip on RITUALIZATION as a key phenomenon in EVOLUTIONARY theory.  (did ART begin as an AUTONOMIC REFLEX?)

Exceptionalism leads to considering two of our major conflicting needs as an organism: INDIVIDUATION and SOCIALIZATION.   


To those, keep in mind “NORMAL (within a reasonable range of tolerance, are YOU normal? how do you know?) Related to your TOPIC: does your description of it represent its “normal” expression?  Look at the Stress-response-curve as a “normal curve,”  then consider what we think about expressions of a pattern of behavior at one end or another of the curve:  As a heuristic & metaphor consider the “tails” of such a curve:  These “boundaries” of the expression of an experience are rarely seen as normal– they may (or may not) be “clinically actionable”– that is, of medical interest as disease or dysfunction–something to be remediated.  Can anything be “medicalized”?  


These are not isolated ideas that it is nice to know about: they should apply to your TOPIC–how causes and consequences can be woven into a coherent, satisfying story 


The tension between reasonable–possible–alternatives creates COGNITIVE DISSONANCE, one of the most familiar sources of  STRESS)

The real or perceived dissonance between process of reality-testing (corroboration and coherence) and between the evidence of one’s senses with previously formed concepts are perticularly troubling.


(what do you think of the quote: “Separation is an illusion that we have made real by agreement.  The fundamental nature of the universe is one of harmony and unity in relationship.  There is no separation. . . . We have no way of knowing that when we are born, our feeling of separation  flows from an illusion that is built upon our lack of experience in the reality in which we find ourselves.  We simply can’t see that our feeling of being separate is a result of our limited perception of the true nature of the universe. . . . Being born is like waking up inside a dream and not knowing it.”  – Stewart Emery (“Actualizations”))



A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. (Einstein 1950)[i]  (Jon Kabat-Zinn tells a similar story: in “No Separation” in Coming to our Senses 2005 publ by Hyperion, NY. pp 338-339)

clinical: in the balance between the multiple elements of the sense of individual uniqueness and that of social integration, any combination of specific elements can get out of balance in ways that are dysfunctional if not at least troubling: for example, the profound sense of loneliness many people experience sometimes, and some people all the time:

We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies — all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.” (Aldous HuxleyDoors of Perception)

They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness // But it’s better than drinking alone.”(Billy Joel, Piano Man (1973).

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” (Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections, 1963:356.)



[i] Sourced In Wikiquotes as in a  Condolence letter to Norman Salit, (4 March 1950); also quoted in “The Einstein Papers. A Man of Many Parts” in The New York Times (29 March 1972)



We have often contrasted SAPIENCE and SENTIENCE

Look in on the A&O website on sapience and sentience — Read about “the two philosophers

the essence of sentience is our experience of FEELINGS — But are we ever ambivalent about how we feel?  Can there be a time when you are uncertain about whether you are really “feeling” or whether you are expressing behavior you have learned is appropriate? 

take a look at efforts to identify sentience in artificially intelligent machines:  

(can we SONDER with a machine? how about an octopus?)

(what do you think of “artificial empathy“?)


RECURSION:  how this process structures class–almost a model of a key brain process.  Everyone has noticed the recursion as I utilize it: Continually dipping back into earlier ideas–each time in a different context and with added connections.  Each time gathers momentum and  enlarges meaning.    [Some neurons do this: they stimulate themselves for more repeats until they’re exhausted–then “rest” (recover) enough to be active again when called upon] — SO, you’ve heard about STRESS–perhaps the supreme physiological process by which challenges to meeting needs are recognized and coping responses evoked.     THE NEXT times it will connect more directly to ENERGIZING specific cell or tissue or organ systems to meet a specific (real or perceived) biological NEED.  The ABILITY TO MEET NEEDS determines how well SELECTION PRESSURES are met to enable expressions of BIOLOGICAL FITNESS.  AND then we’ll explore the connections to a key evolutionary process (“ritualization“) that enables progressively more effective coping and (arguably) is responsible for Art and Science as we know it.            



  • you are always being asked to look above and below a level of organization (such as your self as an organism) into the multiplicity of factors responsible for that (remember, we are polygenic) and the phenomena in the world of which we are one of many influences. A Goethe aphorism that might tempt you to take comfort in keeping everything simple, is “The desire to explain what is simple by what is complex, what is easy by what is difficult, is a calamity affecting the whole body of science, known, it is true, to men of insight, but not generally admitted.” This resembles a phrase I discovered when in college in Dr. Kimple’s philosophy course: I got a few cheap smiles by referring to his lectures as ignotum per ignotius (“the unknown by the more unknown” or “the obscure by the more obscure”) But it is not that simple.  can you think of why? Is your own bias to first look up to higher levels of complexity, or down?  Are we epiphenomena?  



  • We need to review kinds of issues intrinsic to DEVELOPENT and EVOLUTION at multiple levels of organization.
  • REVIEW:  keep alert for bases related to “real versus ideal” (in phenomenology and ethology, or “real people (or animals) in their real world (or environment”) I feel resonates with an idea in philosophy championed by Jean-Paul Sartre: L’existence précède et commande l’essence. = Existence precedes and rules essence. “Existence” was the root of existentialism.   (art majors: you have probably heard about the resistance to realism in the age of romanticism).   I try to develop this more clearly in parts of the chapter you are asked to read before next week: (GETTING DEEP).
  • CLARITY on RESONANCE: harmonic & stochastic reonance have important real-world applications — but it is often a metaphor based on a the idea that an event in one place can (if on the same “wave length”) evoke an event elsewhere (harmonic resonance). With stochastic resonance, an optimal level of noise is added to a weak signal to clarify the weak signal (see for example, a popular article from 2019 that has a nice explanation & references technical work: “The Conversation” )


LOOKING AHEAD: our up-coming discussion of dreams and their biology can take off from SURREALISM There is a good summary of dream biology opening an article on “The Role of Dreams in the Evolution of the Human Mind” (Franklin & Zyphur 2005) (and see the A&O notes about DREAMS)

THINGS TO DO or THINK ABOUT BEFORE MEETING 6  (be prepared to comment on this during check-in or discussion):


preparing for more physiology:  Before meeting 7 ! watch “My Stroke of Insight”



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 thuang6@vols.utk.edu
Brittany Okweye bokweye@vols.utk.edu
Brooke Amara Talley btalley5@vols.utk.edu
Brooke N Stillson bstillso@vols.utk.edu
Delaney Reilly dreilly2@vols.utk.edu
Eliza Frensley efrensle@vols.utk.edu
Emily Paige Brock ebrock10@vols.utk.edu
Gino Castellanos gcastell@vols.utk.edu
Grace Cochran gcochra6@vols.utk.edu
Haleigh Ann Eicher heicher@vols.utk.edu
Hayley J Eliz Simpson hayjsimp@vols.utk.edu
Hannah Langer hlanger@vols.utk.edu
Hayden Morris cmk468@vols.utk.edu
Kaitlyn Anderson kande113@vols.utk.edu
Keller Alexander walexan9@vols.utk.edu
Kyle Michael Cottier kcottier@vols.utk.edu
Sophie Greenwell sgreenw4@utk.edu
Zoie Lambert tlambe12@vols.utk.edu