Consciousness is: Intending Inwards (with Benny Hendel)

Uploaded 7/23/2022, approx. 16 minute read

We should talk in English, I agree. But I always open my videos by saying, hello, Shoshanim!

Okay, so we go back probably 30 years ago or more, then we made programs about all kinds of things like, for instance, time and Alice in Wonderland. And now we meet again in Skopje.

And our first topic is whether consciousness is merely the subjective experience of introspection.

Go ahead. The problem of consciousness is by far the most widely debated problem in the history of philosophy. And it is intimately linked with another problem known as the psychophysical problem, which used to be known as the psychosomatic problem.

Look how words change. It is simply the linkage between the physical body and our consciousness and our awareness of ourselves. The perception of ourselves as individuals, as atoms, as separate units, as monads. As monads if you want to use light needs.

Different entities from the world.

Yes, and there is no way to connect. There is no straight line which leads from the hardware, which is the body, to this experience.

And yet, every human being attests to this experience, confirms it, describes it. So it must be real. We can't say that it's a common delusion. It must be real.

And so how to connect the dots?

So there have been numerous schools. There has been dualism and monism and numerous attempts to connect the dots.

What has been common to all these attempts, especially in the modern age, let's say with Husserl, with Brentano, what's been common was to say that mental states and physical states are somehow correlated. We know there's a correlation. Something happens in the mental arena. Something happens in the physical arena. So there is a correlation.

And that what does distinguish them is consciousness.

What distinguishes the body from the soul?

What distinguishes exactly the physical states from the mental states?

Consciousness and intentionality. In other words, physical objects are not directed at something. They're just there.

They're immovable. They are, yes.

They are just there. While mental states are always directed at something. You love someone. You want something. You hate something. You are attracted to. Yes. It's always directional. So we call this intentionality.

So these are the two distinguishing features.

Mental states have consciousness and they have intentionality.

Now that's my attempted contribution. I'm trying to establish something which I call intentionalism. I'm saying that consciousness is a secondary phenomenon, not a primary phenomenon. I'm saying that the primary phenomenon is intentionality.

And I'm saying that intentionality is not only common to mental states that have to do with introspection.

So let me summarize my thesis and then hand over it to you.

My thesis is that intentionality is a mode of relating to external physical objects and at the same time a mode of relating to internal objects.

When our intentionality is inverted, when our intentionality goes inwards, this is what we call consciousness.

And introspection. The introspection is the process of directing your intentionality inwards, internal objects.

When we say inwards, it's also only a figure of speech because you're not looking at your liver and your spleen. You're looking at other mental states actually. Past experiences, phases of development.

So intentionality is universal, not like in other schools where intentionality is unique to mental states and consciousness.

But I'm saying that intentionality is universal. You have intentionality towards this camera and you have intentionality towards your memory.

I want to understand.

Intentionality, when you say it's universal, you mean it's universal for humanity or is it universal for all living creatures?

Yes, I'm coming to that in a minute. It's an excellent point. It's actually an excellent point.

So we start with human beings.

But we will get further. We start with human beings.

And what is the novelty in what I'm saying?

Novelty is to say that intentionality is the organizing principle of mental life. You can direct your intentionality outwards towards physical objects and you can direct it inwards towards internal objects, which are essentially other mental states, memories, beliefs, etc.

Because it's the same principle of action, we confuse mental states and physical states because it's the same principle. It's a unifying principle.

And so when you direct your intentionality inwards, you call it consciousness. When you direct it outwards, you call it the physical world. Or observation? Observation of the physical world.

And later we will discuss the issue of reality and we will see that in modern science, reality is observer-defined.

So your intentionality towards the outer world also creates and defines the outer world. In other words, there's no distinction between physical objects and mental objects.

Now regarding a question, which is really an excellent question, which is the reason I want to talk to you and nobody else.

Yes, I think intentionality is an organizing principle of life, all life. When intentionality happens with non-humans, with dogs, with cats, with bees, with plants, with genes, when it happens with non-humans, we call it teleology.

Intentionality that happens in the physical world or the animate world, which is not human, non-human animate world, is called teleology and is forbidden by science. Science prescribes, not prescribes, but prescribes teleology. You're not allowed to say the bee is flying to the flower in order to collect pollen.

To collect pollen and to create.

In order to make money. You're not allowed to say this.

In science.

In science.

And I think that's the mistake of science.

You think that you can say that.

Of course. I think intentionality is an organizing principle of the world. Absolutely. Even to some extent of physical objects, because they are observer- defined, it leads to animism in effect. There is a spirit in every object in a way.


In a way, but it's not a spirit. It's the mind. The mind determines.

It imbues in stones and sticks.


Exactly. The mind is directional. It intends the outside world. And it intends the inside world.

But when it intends the inside world, we call it consciousness. We just give it two names.

And when it intends the outside world, what do you mean by intends?

Intentionality. Direct itself at.

So you find a word.

Think of the mind as a laser beam.

Okay. A laser beam. If you direct the laser beam inwards, you call it consciousness.


If you direct it outwards, you call it reality.

Simple. There is no psychophysical problem. It's just how we direct the intentionality.

There was the belief until more or less 100 years ago, there was a belief that the outside world is independent of the observer and the mind.

Until Heisenberg.

Until the Copenhagen interpretation of the Heisenberg and Schrodinger more.

Schrodinger equation.

But today, increasingly, the overwhelming perception in physics and science is that the mind is a major determinant, if not the only determinant of the physical reality.

The individual mind?

The individual. I don't know. The individual mind in collaboration with other minds.

Yes. We come to this reality discussion.


So this is my thesis.

Okay. That we are all intentional. We intend ourselves towards.

And actually intentionality, as I said, was first described by Husserl and Buentano.

It's not my invention, but they stopped.

Husserl and Buentano said intentionality is a mental thing. That's where they stopped because they were not exposed to quantum mechanics. They didn't have the physics of today.

So they still maintain the Cartesian distinction between the observed world and the observing mind. These are two totally unrelated things, which is not true.

The question is, what do you gain by your hypothesis?

A lot in my view.

If you come to accept that everything is a mental state, including what hitherto was called reality, is actually a mental state caused by the act of intending, wrought on by intentionality.

Then, first of all, you get rid of the psychosocial physical problem or psychosomatic problem. You get rid of it.


Because there's no distinction. There are mental states inside your head.

If you want to get better, if you have a disease, then you will because you...

No. No. No.

This is magical thinking.

Okay. No. It's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is the distinction between mental states inside your skull and mental states outside your skull is ridiculous. It's all mental states.

Even what we call reality is a mental state in the sense that minds create reality.

Now, of course, you can see this in daily life. You and I can design a building. It's a mental state. It involves imagination. It involves cognition. It involves memory. It involves this...


Yes, it's totally mental. Common norms, common aesthetic value.

All of this is mental.

You would agree.

All of this is mental.

But then we can build a building and suddenly the building becomes the reification of our mental state.

Yes. The embodiment of our mental state.

Yes, it does.

The transition from mental to real is an illusion. It's wrong. It's a delusion.

There is no distinction between reality and mental states or consciousness. It's simply that when we direct intentionality inwards, we have a different experience than when we direct it outwards.

And in order to survive, evolution created in us the delusion that physical objects are independent of us because it would be very confusing if you were to think that you are creating reality. It would hamper your survival chances. It would confuse you a lot.

But if you believe that objects are totally independent of you, then as much as to manipulate, for example, to create a map of the world where objects are fixed.

Are fixed.

Are there. Exactly. You're a good interlocutor.

The problem is that if reality is determined by your mind, then reality is fuzzy. It is fuzzy.

And that is very detrimental to survival because you need, for example, to make predictions.

The huge shock was quantum mechanics.

May I interject?

Of course you may interject. I was thinking, you know, I don't know if I read it somewhere or heard it from somebody that the simile of the difference or the distance between the nucleus of an atom and its surroundings, that is the electrons, is like the distance between a grain of salt and the walls of a cathedral.

Now, were I to see around me atoms the size of cathedrals having nuclei the size of a grain of salt, then really I wouldn't be able to survive. I wouldn't be able to talk to you and I wouldn't be able to drink a cup of water.

And had reality been determined by the coalescence of minds, the coalition of minds or the consensus of minds, which is beginning to be the current view, then reality would have been a stochastic process, a probabilistic process.

Quantum mechanics describes reality, not relativity theory. Quantum mechanics describes reality. And quantum mechanics tells you that everything you think you know about reality is a fake.

It's false.

It's a model intended to help you to survive, but it's not reality. It's not real.

In other words, our models of reality are not real.

What does physics describe? It describes our models of survival.

Physics does not deal with reality. It deals with our perception of reality.

Do the physicists know that?

If they are sufficiently advanced in physics, yes, of course.

So you have Bohm, you have Feynman, you have the old Feynman. I met Feynman. I spent many, many, many, many hours talking to him. And Feynman used to tell me that, yes, in his mind, ultimately physics is the ultimate form of mysticism. And we'll come to it when we talk about physics. Everything is covered in one order.

But it's good to start with consciousness.

So how do we conclude our session?

Well, we still have 10 minutes.

We have 10 minutes.

10 minutes and people like us will like to talk. So we have another 10 minutes.

But you ask me, what is it good for? How is it beneficial to see the world my way, let's say, rather than yours? And I think it's about responsibility and about reconciling yourself with the universe.

So you see what happened with the cult, mainly with the cult. And later with the cult, René Descartes. And later, much later, the idealists and so on.

What happened? A divorce. A divorce between the world and the mind.

Yes, I am a cogito ergo sum.

Yes, I am. I am. It's a solipsistic stance.

It is and it even has a problem there because he wouldn't be able to say the sentence, didn't he have a language and the language is the creation of a multitude of people.

So yeah, and there are many other issues with this law. Yes, many other flaws.

But the most worrisome part was that when the Enlightenment started, it was informed essentially by idealists. And the end result was a divorce between men and nature.

When you say idealist, do you mean do-gooders?

No, no, no, no. School of idealism and philosophy.

The most notable Kant and the last one is Hegel. Between Kant and Hegel.

And so this created a divorce between men and nature.

Now, men had divorced nature twice. And we're going to discuss this with a topic about nature.

But men had divorced nature twice. Once with religion, where religion told men, you are the crown of creation. Yes. You can do anything you want. Whatever you want.

As long as you don't eat from the...

Yeah, pollute, steal, rob, kill. I mean, it's yours. It's all yours. That was the first time men divorced nature.

The second time men divorced nature is when men was told you are an impartial observer, disinterested. You're standing aside.

You're calling things names. You're naming.

Exactly. You are just observing and classifying and understanding.

So like there's nature and there's you as an observer.

This schism was destructive, utterly destructive. And led us where we are today.

So my thesis reunites. It's a thesis of reunification because it says the mind can be directed inwards and then you have consciousness. The mind can be directed outwards and then you create reality.

But there is no distinction between the mind and reality. And that's the idea of idealism. It's an idealism, form of idealism.

But idealism merged with physics, let's say. Idealism plus physics. So that you begin to accept responsibility. You begin to understand that the distinction between you and nature is artificial and that you have some kind of role as a creator. As a creator.

It's about creation.

So we are taking on the role, the mythical role of God.

That's a very interesting topic in itself because I think the same way we divided ourselves from nature, we divided ourselves from God.

And we can cure what we made wrong, what we destroyed by recombining or reuniting.

That's by understanding that we are. We are.

That we are part of nature.

Yes, we are. Not part. We are nature.

We create nature and nature creates us in return and it's all through the process of intentionality. That's more or less the main benefit.

Okay. Thank you.

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