The physical-physiological model of vision would like to have us believe that 'seeing' is a result of light waves striking the retina and producing signals transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. But if seeing is something that takes place in our heads, and visual images are something produced by the brain and 'projected' outwards as apparent objects in space then where exactly is 'space'. Is it in our heads? Surely not, for our heads are also objects in space. And where are the objects from which light waves are supposedly radiated or reflected in the first place, if all we know about them comes from perceptions or sensations generated by the brain? And if what we know about the brain comes from examining it as an object of perception in a space that is itself a figment of our brains then where and what exactly is the brain, if not a visual image or effigy produced by the brain?
The many paradoxes and contradictions in the physical-physiological model of vision apply to other modes of sensory perception also. We hear a car passing by on the street. But where do we hear the car? What is the space of our hearing as such? When we are listening to a piece of music there is a sense in which we are separated from a sound source in space, and there is another sense in which there is no spatial separation at all - we are within the music and it is within us. Our appreciation of the music is not a result of sound waves striking the eardrum and producing nerve signals in our brain that then trigger physiological changes which we experience as subjective emotions. For were we not already attuned to the music - within its tones and chords - its physical expression as sound would have no effect on us at all, no matter how high its volume and how tangible the bodily vibrations it produced in us. The space of our inner resonance with a piece of music, just like the space of our understanding of a person's words, or the space of our seeing - is nothing spatial in the ordinary sense - it has no measurable extension.
At the centre of Fundamental Science is the concept of non-extensional spaces and non-local fields of awareness. The idea of a non-extensional or 'intensional' space seems like a contradiction in terms for is not space as such defined by extension? And yet what appears, at first sight, as an affront to common sense is the most fundamental dimension of our common human experience. Seeing is not something that occurs in space but the configuration of a spatial field of visual awareness.
The so-called 'subjective' dimension of our human experience is not limited to our own idiosyncratic mental and emotional responses to perceived outer reality. It constitutes a fundamental dimension of that outwardly perceived reality, one not less but more real than what we currently understand as the 'objective' dimension of experience. Fields of awareness are the very condition for the perception of any localized object by any localized centre or subject of awareness. But even though our field of visual awareness may stretch to the heavens, our field of auditory perception to events taking place miles away, these fields of awareness, though giving extensional spatial form to our perception, are themselves nothing extensional - nothing localizable in space. We would be quite wrong therefore to consider the physical-scientific notion of energetic fields as something essentially to do with extensional space. For energy fields reveal themselves only through their local effects in space. And what does Einstein's theory of General Relativity tell us if not that extensional space itself is nothing absolute? It is not a pre-given space within which bodies move but the field-pattern of their movement, one whose shape or configuration is altered by that movement at every point in time.
The concept of fields of awareness is a Fundamental Concept, a foundational concept of Fundamental Science. So too is the concept of non-extensional or intensional space. Extensional space opens up within fields of awareness that are not themselves localizable in extensional space. What appears as the extensional spatial field of our sensory awareness has itself fundamentally non-extensional reality and opens up within a non-extensional or intensional space. But what sort of character can such a non-extensional space possible have?
Once again, is this not an offence to both science and common sense? Here we come up against one of the most stubborn prejudices of human thought and language, a prejudice that itself constitutes the greatest offence to common human sensibility. This is the prejudice that when, for example, we talk of being 'close' to someone or sense that they are 'far away' we are merely employing spatial metaphors. The proposition at the heart of this prejudice is a simple one: that the distance we feel to another human being is less 'real' than the extensional, spatial distance separating us from them. Authors such as Lakoff and Johnson have pointed out how full language is of spatial metaphors - feeling 'close' or 'distant', 'uplifted' or 'weighed down', 'holding' something in one's mind, being 'in touch' with someone or something etc. Their conclusion restates the old prejudice that such metaphors are second hand verbal borrowings - derived from our primary 'objective' reality as physical bodies in extensional space and applied to a secondary, 'subjective' dimension of reality - our reality as feeling beings.
This linguistic misconception immediately forecloses the possibility of a genuinely scientific understanding of human subjectivity itself - not as a mere by-product of bodies in extensional space and time but as the human expression and experience of fundamental reality. It prevents us from grasping scientifically that fundamental reality is intensional reality consisting of intensional space, intensional time, intensional field-patterns and intensional energy. That the type of inner closeness or distance we feel to other human beings is therefore not less but more real and fundamental than extensional closeness and distance - our directly felt experience of intensional space. That the inner warmth we feel radiating from another human being is not less but more real and fundamental than the measurable temperature of their body. That the inner light radiated by their gaze is not less but more real and fundamental than the measurable light energy reflected off or focused by their eyes in extensional space. That talk of a person's felt inner qualities of 'light' or 'darkness', 'warmth' or 'coolness', 'lightness' or 'heaviness', 'levity' or 'gravity', 'magnetism' or 'electricity' is not indirect metaphorical thinking but a direct felt sense of fundamental reality - fundamental reality in the form of intensional energy or 'inergy'. The foundation stone of Fundamental Science - its 'philosopher's stone' - is the acknowledgement of intensional reality as fundamental reality, a reality composed not of localized material objects or localized subjects or egos but of fields and field-patterns of awareness of subjectivity.
Descartes posited only one type of reality besides extensional reality (res extensa) and that was the reality of the knowing subject, ego or 'I' (res cogitans). Hence his famous maxim cogito ergo sum. Extensional reality constitutes an object of cognition for the cognizant subject or "I". What he did not recognize was the field character of subjectivity itself, and with it, the nature of extensional bodies, not as objects for a subject but as phenomena manifesting within fields of subjectivity of awareness. Field-dynamic phenomenology puts us in a position to consider the nature of a body - any body - as a boundary state between outwardness and inwardness, extensional and intensional space. The nature of an extensional body in other words, is nothing essentially extensional. It consists of a surface envelope, one which is at the same time a dynamic interface between two fields - a bounded spacetime field of extensional reality and an unbounded inner field of intensional reality. Since all physical bodies emerge (phuein) from a primordial field of awareness, they are essentially figurations of awareness. The surface envelope or boundary is thus essentially an envelope or capsule of awareness - not human ego awareness as we know it, but a type of fundamental awareness - a form of natural pre-egoic awareness from which all other, more sophisticated forms of animal and human awareness arise. The 'size' of an awareness envelope, by its very nature is something impossible to measure in purely extensional terms. Our own outer field of awareness itself extends beyond our own body to include and embrace all other bodies in our spatial environment. From the point of view of others however, its boundary is marked by the boundaries of our body. Our physical body is our own envelope of awareness as this is perceived within the outer field of awareness of other beings or 'awareness units' within their own envelopes of awareness.
© Peter Wilberg 2002