(Conventions and abbreviations: TA Target Article;
C Commentary; R Response; N Short Note; numbers in brackets refer to paragraphs:
square brackets  in articles and responses, pointed brackets <1> in commentaries and notes. - Additionally, in the following text, 'C6' and 'C10' refer respectively to Henkel's Commentaries 6 and 10 to TA1,
'OE' to his outline for the Organism Experience discussion group, and `IS' to his paper on Invariance Symmetry, distributed by the editor of `Dialogues'.)
Henkel's `organism experience' hypothesis contains elements of both a transcendental mind-independent reality (MIR) view and an experience-centered responsive reality formation (RRF) view, but his main argument is unintentionally MIR-based, even though he posits the immanence of mind in scientific work. This situation leads to an examination of the properties of both views. Although objective studies, for instance of brain functions, greatly advance our understanding of the mechanisms which are needed for subjective experience to occur, MIR views tend to result in an erroneous expectation of an eventual objective access to (which is commonly derailed into `explanation of') subjective experience; this implies an assumption of a bi-directional or reciprocal relation between experience and science. Such an expectation may effectively obstruct studies of subjective experience, because experience is at the root of science but cannot follow from science's objective findings. My opinion, which is offered for discussion, is that the RRF view has to be used as the basis and cannot be added later on, in a second step, to an MIR-view foundation.
WHAT IS ORGANISM EXPERIENCE ?
Henkel's thesis is that 'organism experience bridges the gap between mind and matter' (OE part I). Let me begin by saying that I am entirely in agreement with the aim of Henkel's proposal. It is clearly a good idea to examine non-verbal (and non-conceptual) types of experience in efforts to understand the mind-brain relation. In this fashion, pre-human experience might be included in addition to human subjective experience. This is, among other things, of some practical importance because a large part of the present-day physiological knowledge about brain processes related to subjective experience is based on studies in animals, such as cats. Henkel also wants to bridge the theoretical gap between mind and matter.
In order to address the epistemological aspect of Henkel's proposal, one has to pose the question: what kind of concept is this 'organism experience' ? How does it relate to original (ongoing) experience (cf TA1[39,etc])? Is it objective, subjective, both, or neither? In Jaspers' terms: are we dealing with understanding or with explaining (verstehen oder erklaeren) ? For practical purposes I want to narrow this question down to a more specific criterion: does the term 'organism experience' pre-suppose an assumption of mind-independent reality (MIR), and thus of a primary subject/object split, or does it not ? This distinction will also replace the terms 'Cartesian' and 'non-Cartesian' in the following.
One might for instance understand 'organism experience' as an extension of 'empathy', subjective experience which extends to other persons, and to some extent to animals as well. By empathy, one can often immediately know how someone else feels, what he perceives, etc., and one can know how an animal must feel when it is hurt. If this type of experience is meant by 'organism experience' we talk about early-stage crystallizations inside ongoing experience, that is: before a subject/object split occurs, and certainly before the construction of theories which assume that this split is fundamental.
But in order to support his proposal, Henkel uses Bateson's description of the 'experiential feedback loop' which examines 'differences'. ('Every organism experiences through the process of a circular feedback loop with its particular environment', C10<1>). Since no one knew anything about feedback loops before the development of radio technology, this has nothing to do with primary experience. And even 'organism versus environment' is a fairly recent theoretical development. In both cases one talks in explanatory terms. Despite their prominent efforts to bridge the subject/object split, the views of both Bateson and Henkel thus start from a primary assumption of a mind-independent reality which they assume can be approached by 'explanations'. The proposed 'immanence of the mind' (C10<14>) is a (secondary) addition to this primary split. This then leads to some conceptual ambiguities. Let me support my opinion by quoting from Henkel's texts.
MIR AND RRF IN HENKEL'S WORK
(C10<3>): 'the independent external world is a perfect symmetry', and 'experience clothes the world with properties identified by the organism'. Or (OE part II): 'The unobserved bare universe as a perfect symmetry'. The terms 'perfect sphere' or (C10<14>) 'The perfect symmetric universe' suggest a Platonic characteristic (i.e., they transcend experience - are unobservable-in-principle - and thus permanently-metaphysical). 'Breaking a symmetry in the world' (C10<2>) also implies such a pre-existing outside reality ('unobserved symmetrical world'); and the symmetry-breaking procedure then would presumably correspond to Plato's seeing the shadows of the true but forever inaccessible (i.e., MIR) forms on the wall of the cave. Bateson's citation of Kant (C10<5>) mentions 'selection of facts' (which are evidently understood as pre-existing), and <6> 'differences' (that is, between entities) also pre-suppose already established units. 'A difference is an abstract matter' (C10<6>): this is a further (in this case indirect) indication that 'concrete' matters are here viewed as more immediate (pre-formed and 'given' as such) entities rather than as intra-experience creations.
Perhaps the clearest indication of his implication of MIR is Henkel's statement (OE part III) that 'Organism experience is a link between subjective conceptualization and the objective world': the (pre-existing and fundamentally separated) subject and object need to be linked, whereas in zero-reference view (or RRF view, see  below) both structures only secondarily arise (are created) and differentiate from each other within a common unstructured matrix. And similarly (IS,5) `When an organism perceives differences in its environment and generates properties on a map for them, it is breaking the symmetry of the unobserved universe.' The subject is separate from the environment (IS,6): `Consider physicists as a collective or cultural mind' which harbors an `idea space'. And (IS,8): `Physics as the Process of Reconstructing the Perfect Symmetry of the Territory Using Invariance Symmetries to Form a Map. Scientific culture can be considered as the process of concerting the cosmos (the universe as conceived as an orderly and harmoneous system) to the logos (the rational principle of the universe).' The last is an ambiguous statement which could be understood to mean that physicists want to reach (the unobservable) mind-independent reality, if not by observing, then by constructing it - this is alright provided that it is done in an as-if fashion, but Henkel does not say that.
'Difference', I would suggest, is what distinguishes one crystallized (created and accepted) entity from another, it is a primordial (and fairly concrete) aspect of the gestalt formation itself. Differences between gestalten are consequences of their 'essences', that is to say of the 'operational acceptance' of gestalt formations (creations) as independent entities (which may naively be believed to be fundamental or absolute). The point here is that one starts from unstructured experience, and that the world and its properties are not 'identified' (in something which exists before this process of identification), but rather constructed ex nihilo inside ongoing experience. Henkel suggests (C10<1,7>) that representations do not 'represent' but 'embody' elements or features ('differences') of the world. The term 'embody' may become helpful, in case it prevents the use of the notion of 're-presentation' of something (the so-called 'referent') which itself is inaccessible - although it will have to be seen how successfully it can do that in practice. However, the term 'representation' per se is not compatible with RRF, and in my opinion automatically implies MIR (or Cartesianism in Henkel's terms).
In C10<9> Henkel again quotes Bateson: 'what do I mean by my mind ? ... if we want to explain ... phenomena ... we shall be concerned with ... differences in ... the retina ... central nervous system ... neural messages ... etc.' And (OE part II): 'Bateson describes the mind as an ecology between man and the world as a feedback loop circulating basic ideas'. - In my opinion, 'my mind' refers to 'my experience', and not to explanations thereof. Explanations mean reductions of experiences to other (in this case objectified scientific) experiences (see N13) and thus they are secondary to original experience (and different from it, chiefly because they usually do not include an unstructured center). Explanations are objective, and empirical, implying acceptance and use of pre-established entities (which tend to be understood as being not-modifiable-in-principle). We are faced here with a central difficulty of present-day 'scientific studies' of personal experience (or rather 'science of consciousness', or of 'the mind', as they are mostly referred to). In recent years this has been named the 'hard problem of consciousness research' (Chalmers), but more accurately it ought to be called 'the impossible proposition of the objective study of subjectivity'. Explanations usually imply exclusive objectivism or empiricism. In my opinion, objective explanations of subjective experience are and will continue to be self-defeating. They tend to evade this question (of MIR), which must be expressly addressed (see TA1[5ff]).
Henkel proposes (OE part III) two modes of organism experience: Pythagorean holistic versus Aristotelian conceptual. Without going into the details of this distinction, I would agree that gestalt formation, and even simpler structures, are fundamental processes which take place before word-fortified concepts are used. However, to call the former 'representations-in-kind' is of doubtful help, because once again this uses the notion of 're-presentation', namely of again-presenting something which cannot be presented in the first place because it is unavailable to (it 'transcends') experience, and thus it is a MIR notion, just as MIR is usually implied in the discussion about abstract categories. The chief difference between the two modes I would think is the role of words, which combined with gestalt memories can be handled as relatively separate acoustic-visual units; this results in the creation of a new realm of concepts (including numbers) which are more easily detachable ('abstractable') from original experience than the earlier simple and concrete gestalt formations can be. Mind-independent reality is the sum of concepts which were first created inside experience, and in a second step have been assigned a sort of life of their own, detached from the ongoing experience, like books stored on library shelves. They are readily available on a communal basis, and because of their standardization ('everybody knows that this is so') have been suggested to be more real than ongoing experience itself (`in the beginning was the word'). - The idea of vibrational frequency as the basis of representations-in-kind also clearly involves an objective explanatory (MIR) view.
A term like 'experiential aura' (C10<11>) may be useful to describe the precursors and early stages of gestalt or concept formation. Concerning the extra-Cartesian (or RRF) interpretation of quantum theory (C10<13-15>), I assume that something like this is needed, but this is too far outside my field of competence for me to make further comments. The philosophical basis of physics presumably has to account for quantum mechanics in a prominent fashion, and it would also be expected to be in agreement with the philosophical foundations in other fields, and that in turn would, so far as I can see, require an RRF basis. That the various physical instruments (as well as theories) etc., are a part (an extension) of the 'immanent mind' (that is, in my terms, of `ongoing experience') is clearly an important point, and also that a 'new paradigm' must emerge. - But the wish to solve the mind-brain puzzle with the help of quantum physics (OE part IV, IS,12) is in my opinion a result of Henkel's objectivist (MIR) point of view. I have discussed some points concerning this topic elsewhere (TA1,R3[17-44]).
SIDE EFFECTS OF MIR VIEWS
In my opinion, views which include an assumption of mind-independent reality (MIR) will inevitably lead into a dead-end situation when the question of the relation of mind to brain is addressed. The remedy is, I suggest, a view of zero-reference (TA1[5-7]) or (to use a less 'nihilistic'-sounding term) responsive reality formation (RRF) (TA1,R1[7-8]), according to which structures are created, from no structure, inside undivided mind-nature experience.
Experience is always mind-nature experience. There can therefore be no such thing as an unobserved world; the notion is self-contradictory and therefore impossible. If it is employed, for instance in physical theory, it will have to be used (like metaphysics generally) on a 'working' or 'as-if' basis. However, this point has commonly not been taken into account; Einstein (1905) for instance does not appear to have stipulated the as-if qualification when he replaced the subject (the 'observer') by the zero-point of a coordinate system and a clock, and also in general he seems to have thought of nature as being mind-independent. The conceptual problems became inescapable for physicists only with the advent of particle physics. By introducing the theoretical structures related to organism experience, Henkel goes beyond this classical physical theory position, but for the mentioned reasons his theoretical basis remains ambiguous.
The impossibility of an unobserved world is an example of the more general point that positive assertions about reality or truth (cf. OE, introduction) are inherently paradoxical or self-contradictory, and thus impossible other than in a naïve sense. They can pass scrutiny only with an 'ad-hoc', or 'working', or 'as-if', or 'make-shift', meaning: 'reality' and 'truth' are used by belief as stabilizers of the created and employed structures (TA1[31ff,47-49]). In my opinion, terms of this type are preferable to calling views of the world and its structures 'illusions' or 'irony', which have a connotation of unreality. Consider for instance the concept of 'airplane security': no airline will advertise absolute safety for their flights; on the other hand, if I thought of the security as illusory or ironical, I would not want to risk taking an airplane. But a 'working' (or 'best possible', or 'reasonable') degree of operational safety could inspire some confidence.
This impossible or paradoxical nature of positive assertions precludes intellectual consensus on a positive content of a theory of subjective experience, but it may become possible to agree on a negative one, and on procedures to pursue.
Subjective experience can be described, as in poetry, or in phenomenology. Science crystallizes within subjective experience, as a specialization. For Henkel's proposition (C6) that the 'organism experience' is equal to the origin (namely, to the indefinable encompassing matrix) this means that: YES this can be so if organism experience is understood as a direct extension of ongoing subjective experience, but NO this will not work if it refers to a feedback loop or other scientific explanations (implying MIR-related empirical concepts, which are understood as having been pre-fabricated before the original experience occurs).
The MIR meaning is clearly not intended by Henkel (see for instance his C6, abstract; indeed the whole thrust of his effort is away from MIR), but it nevertheless comes into the picture as an inescapable - because built-in - complication of concepts like 'linkage', or 'symmetry breaking', etc, and particularly 'representation'. Similar difficulties arise in propositions by other authors who deal with the mind-brain question, if their methods imply the MIR view. This is such a common phenomenon (it happens either intentionally, or inadvertently as a default position, to everyone including me) that it raises a more general methodological question: how to deal with it. What can be done about such complications and ambiguities ? It may be useful to consider it a 'technical' problem: one should scrutinize assumptions and propositions for implied MIR.
MIR VERSUS RRF
Having said all this, I will be expected to produce formulations which would take the place of those presented by Henkel and Bateson. I will answer to this by translating some MIR statements (see [5-9] above) into RRF statements.
(MIR) 'The unobserved bare universe is a perfect symmetry' and 'experience clothes the world with properties identified by the organism', 'perception is a symmetry breaking process', 'the most elementary esthetic act is the selection of a fact' and 'idea is synonymous with difference', `An intervening non-logical, non-conceptual stage must be used to plug [the] gap in the passage from mind to matter' (IS,10)
(RRF) 'Mind-nature experience becomes structured, as needed, and as possible, starting from within ongoing unstructured experience'. 'Unstructured experience is the origin which includes both mind and nature before their structuration and before their split (differentiation) from each other'. 'Facts are: created and believed-in structures'. 'Differences are implied in (are a constitutive aspect of) the formation of structures and concepts (ideas)'. `There is, to start with, no gap between mind and matter, such a gap is either an artifact resulting from implying MIR, or else if it is used in an as-if fashion, it is a technical device'.
EXPERIENCE IS THE BASIS, NOT THE RESULT OF SCIENCE
Subjective experience has to be the starting point and cannot be the end point of investigation. The study of physiological or informational aspects of brain functions results in insights about the objective mechanisms which are needed for subjective experience to occur. It is on the other hand not possible to get away from the primacy of subjective experience by this or by any other means, and specifically not from its primacy with respect to science.
Naively, one might understand the relation between experience and science as being reciprocal or circular, that is that
(a) objective science originates in experience (this point is not often challenged in theory, but in practice it tends to be neglected in positivistic views),
and simultaneously that
(b) experience can be reproduced by objective science (this second part appears to be mistakenly assumed to be valid in some current attempts at a scientific study of consciousness, but what actually happens are attempts to `explain' experience by studying the mechanisms which are needed for it).
Assuming such a reciprocal relation between experience and science can create an obstacle in studies of subjectivity, because experience cannot be derived from the objective (empirical) knowledge of science which deals with standardized (parceled and in principle immutable) items.
If this is granted, the next question will concern the practical consequences. The acceptance of the impossibility of objectively studying subjectivity may appear to eliminate the basis for any scientific approach to it. However, it may be noted that at the same time this step clarifies the nature of science itself. The overall result would then be a more appropriate view of the objective method: at all times one handles structures which have been created ad-hoc by humans for dealing with human mind-nature experience. Experience is the basis, it is at the beginning, it cannot be at the end of enquiry, even though its (explanatory) physiological and informational mechanisms, and its behavioral manifestations, can.
Einstein A (1905), Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Koerper. Annalen der Physik, 17, 891-921.
Henkel JE (Texts which are not available from this Forum can be obtained from the author at <email@example.com> )
Jaspers K (1923-46), Allgemeine Psychopathologie. Springer, p.251 ff.
[Author: Herbert FJ Muller,