A&O 2021 meeting 8 – March 16




notes for meeting 8

TUESDAY March 21, 2023

including likely agenda & comments from previous meeting

IN OUR SEMINAR SO FAR, I have attempted to introduce you to an integrative way of describing and understanding the causes and consequences of behavior, emphasizing the constellations of cognitive phenomena represented by (1) ART, in its CONSTRUCTIVE and RECEPTIVE aspects, and (2) DEEP ETHOLOGY, viewing every behavioral act as point of convergence for DEVELOPMENT, ECOLOGY, EVOLUTION, AND PHYSIOLOGY.  Our PHENOMENOLOGICAL approach views the MEANING of every behavioral act in terms of the unique individual congenital and acquired disposition of each individual and how they are connected WITHIN and BETWEEN individuals.  In the process  we recognize that all the cognitive elements of SAPIENCE and SENTIENCE –thought and feeling– are each, always, more-or-less in play.

BTW: “ESCHEWING BIAS” you may recall was key to the ETHOLOGICAL ATTITUDE as well as the PHENOMENOLOGICAL ATTITUDE …but the eschewal of BIAS is of unusual interest when we adopt the ARTISTIC ATTITUDE

YOU WILL SURLY have noticed that in discussing the biology of art and aesthetic experience I often introduce and use unfamiliar—foreign or technical—language, even jargon.  I’ve told you that this is an attempt to divest some key terms we use of their baggage, but it has its hazards.

Recently, I found some comfort from reading about the  Indian American writer Jhumpa Lahiri’s journey away from the automatisms of her mother tongue, English.  Benjamin Moser, in reviewing Lahiri’s new book, observes that “…by providing a steady drip of prefabricated words and ideas, your only tool for thinking and feeling can just as easily become a tool for not thinking, for not feeling; and when forced to do without those words and ideas, you realize how many of your so-called thoughts are nothing more than clichés grafted onto you by the language with which you grew up.” 

“We are individuals to the extent that we can express ourselves within certain patterns, in accord with specific necessities and relations. Language, like biology or social circumstance, is one of these patterns; and as anyone who has ever tried to lose a foreign accent knows, escape from those patterns is impossible for almost everyone.

Yet that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Hidden in Lahiri’s “Translating Myself and Others” is a quasi-mystical project of self-creation: “To translate is to look into a mirror and see someone other than oneself,” Lahiri writes. What is left of us when we strip away the apparatus of inherited expression?”   [adapted from new addition to A&O notes on communication-translation/] 


A crystalized version of the problem with translation may be the Japanese term “MUSHIN”  applied to aesthetics– referrring to “The Power of the Empty Mind” or “Starting with a Clean Slate.” 

“Mushin is generally translated as “no mind” or “without mind”: that is, without the self. In other words, mushin refers to a mind that has been totally freed of all mental baggage.” (This is a Zen concept, and it refers to a state of mind in which the ego and all the other bits and pieces of memory that are perceived as “knowledge” have been eliminated from the mind. This state of mind is what Japanese artists, landscape designers, and samurai swordsmen traditionally attempted to achieve in order to prevent the ego and preconceived notions from interfering with their actions. Both consciously and subconsciously, Japanese designers and engineers approaching a new project attempt to empty their minds of all preconceived concepts and ideas. In this way they view the challenge with a mind that is perfectly free. This is a state of mind that is also referred to as muga.”

[notice how this is a version of the pursuit of TRANSPARENCY … like DREAMS: unencumbered by more-or-less implicit or explicit BIAS]  

This way of thinking reveals important relationships between the constructive behavior of ARTISTS, the OUTCOMES (“artifacts”) of that behavior, and the receptive behavior of individuals in their audience. 

Individuals often feel that the context of creation will inform them about how to feel about the artifacts they experience. “What was the artist thinking?” of “What are the social forces that engendered or enabled a particular work of art?”  “Should a work of art stand and be judged apart from the creator?” Often. the creators themselves are unaware of the multiple forces that converge on an act of creation; works of art are often efforts at self-awareness that the artist may then choose to share with an audience.

Our interest in the relationship between artists and their art is particularly piqued when the artist is unknown or unknowable such as in “outsider art” and paleolithic art. 

OUTSIDER ART” –this term has been applied to the creators of artifacts that range from “folk” artists, through clinically psychologically atypical (abnormal, dysfunctional, insane).   The attributes that dominate outsider art include its expression by “untrained” artists, anxiolytic effects, and spontaneity.   WE ASK, what were the states of mind of these creative people?  Why do we care?  does it influence the effect the work or art has on us?  … now consider are the unknown artists of cave paintings and sculptures “outsider artists?”   


  • CHECK-IN: a few comments identifying yourself to the rest of us
  • 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 and week’s readings — 

  • Neurologist’s “out-of-body” experience
  • Adaptive Scope
  • human cerebral hemisphere’s “lateral processing” versus “Linear processing”
  • sensations to precepts to concepts



In your basic readings on DEVELOPMENT and EVOLUTION — and appreciating the power of the interactions of PLEIOTROPIC GENES and POLYGENIC TRAITS —  you are in a good position to appreciate the following comments on EDITING the GENOMEHumans have attempted to modify the genetic programming since domestication was discovered (e.g., the sheep of Laban in the Bible, Gen 30) –human, not natural, selection, determined the make-up of subsequent generations.  Human abilities to modify genomes is advancing rapidly.  Read this introduction to a book review in a recent issue of Science ( https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm9852 )

  • When interviewed in 1958 by The Paris Review, Ernest Hemingway confessed to having rewritten the ending of A Farewell to Arms a total of 39 times. The writer Raymond Chandler, on the other hand, adopted a different approach. He encouraged authors to “throw up” into their typewriters every morning and “clean up” at noon.
  • The strategy adopted by evolution by natural selection in authoring the genomes of living things has, by necessity, been more aligned with the latter approach than the former. While allowing individual letters in the genetic text to be edited, and facilitating the deletion, insertion, recombination, and duplication of more substantial genomic regions, evolution precludes throwing the entire folio away and starting again from scratch. Synthetic biology practitioners, however, are not necessarily bound by such constraints.
  • In their engaging and energetic new book, The Genesis Machine, Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel outline an optimistic manifesto for synthetic biology whereby “new biological circuits” and “programmable cells” will, if they are right, eventually upend traditional methods for building genomes. They assert that we are rapidly approaching a time when it will be possible to design and artificially synthesize the genomes of living things, including those of humans, from first principles.
  • The release of genomes from the constraints of evolution and the ability to prespecify genetic configurations are, the authors argue, likely to transform human nature and that of all living things.   More: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm9852
  • (copied from A&O page on DEVELOPMENT)



  • TRUTH & REALITY and their conceptual application to NUMBERS, AXIOMS, and other fundamentals
  • can something be real only in relation to something that is not necessarily provably true.  (these are issues of absolutes as opposed to relatives ... is absolute something like infinity? –unattainable but necessary to “organize” what does seem attainable? –again, we are dealing in levels of organization)
  • So stimuli lead to percepts which lead to concepts (arguably, no more than a way of organizing percepts)–BUT concepts then inform actions which in the world are what natural selection acts upon.  HOW MUCH ambiguity is tolerable (is this the engineer’s problem of how much flexibility is acceptable? — grass bends, twigs break (Aesop’s “The Oak and the Reed“) (is this related to “adaptive scope?”)



A&O – CREATIVITY:  From 2010 to 2012, filmmaker Kirby Ferguson released “Everything is a Remix,” a four-part series (watch here) that explored art and creativity, and particularly how artists inevitably borrow from one another, drawing on past ideas and conventions, and then turn these materials into something beautiful and new. In the initial series, Ferguson focused on musicians, filmmakers, writers and even video game makers. Now, a little more than a decade later, Ferguson has resurfaced and released a fifth and final chapter in his series, with this episode focusing on a different kind of artist: artificial intelligence. Responding to the rise of AI-generated art, Ferguson delves into the ethics of art generated by machines, particularly when they’re trained with human-created art. Is AI-generated art a form of piracy? Or is it another kind of creative remix? And what does AI mean for the future of art and creativity? These are just some of the weighty questions Ferguson tackles in his final installment. 

Watch Kirby Ferguson’s 

AI and Image Generation (Everything is a Remix Part 4) 

 https://youtu.be/rswxcDyotXA (https://www.openculture.com/2023/03/artificial-intelligence-art-the-future-of-creativity-everything-is-a-remix.html )

A&O – therapeutic:   https://www.yourbrainonart.com/

My Spring Break trip to the exhibit on DREAMS at the DALI MUSEUM in St Petersburg




  • SPIRITUAL concerns or interests were expressed in some check-outs, often in connection with thoughts about infinity.  To be one with the truth one seeks is the spiritual goal of the artist and scientist, and its hallmarks include wonder, love, beauty and the sublime.  (A&O noes on Science and Spirituality) (contains lost links)


  • MY check-in… while on spring break & chatting with nephew who seemed nostalgic… 

    We Listened to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s Over the Rainbow again & CONNECTED  it to HIRAETH: https://sites.psu.edu/kielarpassionblog2/2016/04/02/hiraeth/– and then to SAUDADE.

    • Haraeth is nicely covered by Petro in Paris Review: C:\Users\Neil Greenberg\Dropbox\NEW NOTES\WORD – Haraeth by Petro in Paris Rev 2012.docx [link] related to The Portuguese “saudade” ( “a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist,” or “the love that stays” after someone, or something … has gone away. And the Turkish expression “hüzün,”  “rises out of the pain [the Turks] feel for everything that has been lost…”   
    • WE WONDERED (while sipping a very “soft” burgandy wine) if we could we speak of the terroir of a word… topography, climate, soil, the entirety of the environment?  (Saved amongst A&O notes) & https://sites.psu.edu/kielarpassionblog2/2016/04/02/hiraeth/   hiraeth in the context of Welsh culture is a deep longing for something, especially one’s home. “I could not begin to put into words the hiraeth that the Welsh feel for the mountains and valleys of their homeland”  
    • ! CONNECT to NOTE on Mary’s “yearning ?  and Browning’s “reach exceeding grasp” (Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning | Poetry Foundation … https://www.poetryfoundation.org › Poems …  Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?…”)
    • pursuit of the transcendent…   is Mahler’s 2nd an expression of this?   (Listener’s Club
    • Probably best developed at https://neilgreenberg.com/loneliness-and-longing/    then complemented with a new site on ESSENTIAL TENSION




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