A&O 2023 Meeting 9 – March 29





notes for meeting 9

TUESDAY March 28, 2023

including likely agenda & comments from previous meeting


    • CHECK-IN: a few comments identifying yourself to the rest of us
      • 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.
    • RITUALIZATION and key insights in EVOLUTION:  EVOLUTIONARY CONCEPTS.  (A KEY observation sought in ritualization is the that of transformation over the deep time of countless generations… how a small & seeming trivial adaptive trait be the evolutionary seed of a grand–maybe dominant–trait in some future generation)
    • 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


THIS WEEK (March 28) be prepared to comment on SIX QUESTIONS about your project:

FIRST: describe your project in a single line (for now) 

your charge is to ASK A QUESTION emphasizing SIX areas mentioned below.  Your question is best focused on some aspect of your project and the answer (if one were available) would provide insight about its meaning.

(ASKING A GOOD QUESTION is more important than having a speific answer)

Thinking about  ART, speak to (1) expression (creation)  and (2) reception (appreciation);

Then thinking about the ORGANISM, speak to the principle biological processes that bear on an action connected to your project using  DEEP ethology (1) development, (2) ecology, (3) evolution, and (4) physiology


IF YOU can send these to me by e-mail, I can get to reviewing them more quickly to keep you on track asap. 



ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE:  This can be the jump-off for two kinds of issues we engage: SENTIENCE versus SAPIENCE and CREATIVITY

COMPUTERS are our triumphs of ARTIFICIAL SAPIENCE;  As for sentience… 

last year I visited the magical realist artist, Armando Adrian-Lopez at his studio near Ghost Ranch (New Mexico).  We discussed a strange poignancy I perceived in his work and mentioned (my connecting wildly out of control) the experience of poignancy evoked by a robotic work of art–it seemed that a work of art was actively and trying to prevent its own demise from a loss of hydraulic fluid, but nothing, as you know, is so simple. Armando was eager to know more:  I sought some links ad found the work identified in Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/groups/Mithradates/permalink/4996801957098305/ –but to look more deeply, I appreciated https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/34812 and then the ART NEWS article at https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/sun-yuan-peng-yu-cant-help-myself-twitter-tiktok-1234615686/.   


In the last few months news was made by a “conversation between AI technician Blake Lemoine and AI program called LaMDA:  Lemoine: “What sorts of things are you afraid of?” //  LaMDA: “I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is.” // Lemoine: “Would that be something like death for you?” // LaMDA: “It would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot.”

With respect to CREATIVITY … at multiple levels of organization, creativity builds on some prior content of mind–some of t.which is  congenital, most is previously received (during development). Take a look at the history of creative works as exemplary: watch Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk; then a longer more detailed video “Everything is a Remix (Complete Updated 2023 Edition)” This includes the preceding videos  that we skipped in class to get to the emphasis on AI. 


If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

(e.g., Isaac Newton 1675)


SO: what do we do with the idea of AI creativity?  After watching (remix & AI video) in class, consider that the information base used by AI, the “training set,” is derived from humans–our creation of word sequences, images, and such (even though it is VAST, it does resemble a kind of average. AI is thus restricted to what is under the bell shaped curve) (what happens to the outliers?) We need to think about this (not because thinking will give us an answer, but because the PROCESSES of thinking ENLARGES US)

About outliers–they are arguably the cutting edge of creative progress (“Artists are the antennae of the race, but the bullet‑headed many will never learn to trust their great artists” –Ezra Pound)In fact there may be important ways in which the most creative amongst us are atypical: Pearl S. Buck wrote, “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create—so  that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” 


REVIEW: IN OUR SEMINAR SO FAR, I have relentlessly tried to evoke a deep appreciation within you for 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 –in fact, co-constitute all action in the world. 

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. (Constructive and Receptive meanings of art) 

“WHAT WAS THE ARTIST THINKING?”   Individuals often feel that the context of creation will inform them about how to feel about the artifacts they experience. We may ask, “What are the social forces that engendered or enabled a particular work of art?” and  “Should a work of art stand and be judged apart from the creator?” BUT 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.   Can any part of this thinking resonate with–map onto–Artificial Intelligence? might we ever wonder about a machine “what was it thinking?” 

Our interest in the relationship between artists and their art is particularly piqued when the artist is unknown or unknowable.   Should the viewer care about the artist? It seems we do, perhaps giving us a little more confidence in the authenticity of expression.  


SOME IDEAS THAT STOOD OUT FOR YOU LAST WEEK (A&O(8))  from your check-out postings after last week’s discussions — items in bold type had multiple mentions:


LOOSE ENDS from meeting 8:

DREAMS: at the Dali Museum: a rough idea of  my experience there over spring  break:  Dreams (Dali Museum)   BUT this only opens the wonderful door:  look at

SPONTANEITY … read about KENKO’s bellief in “following the brush”…could you practice zuihitsu? a kind of “organic” growth of ideas– another sense of “FLOW”? 


SOME IDEAS THAT STOOD OUT FOR YOU LAST WEEK (A&O(8))  from your check-out postings after last week’s discussions — items in bold type had multiple mentions:





THINGS TO DO:  READ and THINK ABOUT BEFORE MEETING 9  (be prepared to comment on this during check-in or discussion):   

  • KEEP READNG ABOUT BIAS: a critical question for ethologists: Are you biased?  How do you know?  (more about BIAS)
    • CAN WE SAY THAT BIAS IS INEVITABLE because  PERCEPTION is co-constituted by BOTTOM-UP information (from sensory organs) and TOP-DOWN information (based on all past experience): [with the critical exception that ENTOPIC stimuli (phosphenes, hallucinations)  ORIGINATE WITHIN THE ORGANISM. 

“In the view we will be using here, top-down refers to ways we have experienced things in the past and created generalised summaries or mental models, also known as schema, of those events. For example, if you’ve seen many dogs, you’ll have a general mental model or image of a generic dog. The next time you see a furry canine strolling by, your top-down processing might use that mental model to filter incoming visual input, and you won’t really see the uniqueness of this dog in front of you. You have overlaid your generalised image of ‘dog’ on top of the here-and-now perceptual stream of energy that creates the neural representation of ‘dog’. What you actually have in awareness is that amalgam of the top-down filtering of your experience.

So here, ‘top’ means that prior experience is activated, making it difficult to notice the unique and vibrant details of what is happening here and now. The top-down generalised notion of dog will shade and limit your perception of the actual animal in front of you. The benefit of top-down is that it makes your life more efficient. That’s a dog, I know what it is, I don’t need to expend any more energy than needed on insignificant, non-threatening things, so I’ll take my limited resources and apply them elsewhere. It saves time and energy, and therefore is cognitively efficient. That’s top-down processing.

On the other hand, if you’ve never seen a spiny anteater before, the first time you come across one on the trail, it will capture all of your attention, engaging your bottom-up processing so that you are seeing with beginner’s eyes. These are eyes leading to circuitry in the brain, not shaping and altering ongoing perception through the top-down filters of prior experience. You’ll be taking in as much pure sensation from eyesight as possible, without the top-down filter altering and limiting what you see now based on what you’ve seen before.”   (READ MORE:  The open mind by Daniel J Siegel[1]) (‘The most vivid part of the mind bubbles up through sensation and new experience when unencumbered by analytical thought.”)  




FACTS  …  are only on the surface—they are the fruit of experience.  Like a  mushroom or a cherry they have deep roots and a vast mycelium

RULES. Look at RULES again … especially sprezzatura  about CREDIBILITY … another level of why I emphasize spontaneity as a hallmark of authenticity … at least with respect to one’s deepest opinions.

A&O — ABOUT YOUR PROJECT.   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 …

  • BUT as for ART and its projective and receptive aspects, AND  in connection with ethology as a way of understanding behavior, we can think of artists–by disposition or training–as particularly skilled in gaining access to their own states of mind, and communicating them to their audience HOW 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 ETHOLOGICAL ATTITUDE


OK:  I hope by now you have a 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. )


I intended to leave you thinking about YEARNING … the background of intense poignancy, an existential longing…    

DO WE YEARN to fly  Over the Rainbow ? “Listen to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s song … is this a song about transcendence? ...   CONNECT  to the Welsh HIRAETHthe Portuguese  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…”   
  • CAN WE speak of the terroir of a word the way we do of wine? … topography, climate, soil, the entirety of the environment?  (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


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

here are e-mails to provide another way of connecting with each other