Philosophical Glossary

[this is woefully incomplete, but I thought I would post it as is to see what kind of critical feedback I can garner]

PHILOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY: Where I try to clarify for others what remains murky to myself


Afference – Term referring to non-inferential, non-associative ‘truth-preserving’ transitions between claims, the ‘sense’ that binds philosophical implicatures according to content as well as form. A specific form of what Sellars (1953) terms ‘material inference,’ only dealing with concepts possessing particularly far-ranging implications.

Afferentialism – The ‘in-between’ philosophy. Afferentialism is formally in-between insofar as it is neither inferential in any deductive or inductive sense, nor associative in any poetic or narrative sense (see, afference). Afferentialism is substantively in-between to the extent that its subject matter is virtual as opposed to real or ideal (see Blind Brain Theory). The primary goal of afferentialism is heuristic, to provide quasi-cognitive ways of understanding human experience in the wake of cognitive neuroscience, either because cognitive neuroscience has nothing to say, or because what it does say is apocrustic.

BBT – see, Blind Brain Theory (of Conscious Structuration)

Blind Brain Theory (of Conscious Structuration) – Proposal that the central, most perplexing features of consciousness are the result of thalamocortical ‘information horizons,’ in effect, the ways the conscious portions of the brain are blind to the complexities of their immediate neural environment. BBT hypothesizes that various phenomenal structural peculiarities such as presence, self-identity, and intentionality, are simply a consequence of informatic asymmetry, the fact that the thalamocortical system can only access a small fraction of the greater brain’s overall processing load.

Bottleneck Thesis – That we are what we are in such a way that we cannot know what we are. BBT poses the empirical possibility that human cognition as experienced is fundamentally non-cognitive. Only a fraction of the neural apparatus of cognition is available to the TCS. This means, 1) given encapsulation, the TCS will confuse that fraction for the whole; 2) given the systematic relation between that fraction and the whole, the fraction will appear ‘to function’ as well as the whole; and 3) we will be ‘trapped’ between our experience of cognition and the neurophysiological facts of cognition. Thus, even though something like ‘epistemic normativity’ seems to be the very condition of cognition, we can say there is no such thing. Given the evolutionary youth of consciousness and various structural constraints on information integration, we can even argue that it is empirically probable there is no such thing, that we should expect the Bottleneck to obtain, not only for ourselves, but for any biologically evolved intelligence.

Cartoons – Edifying pejorative used to refer to any speculative (non-scientific) theoretical implicature, given Phenomenal Incompleteness and Theoretical Incompetency.

CGII – see, Consciousness Generating Information Integration.

Consciousness Generating Information Integration – Guilio Tononi’s Information Integration Theory of Consciousness (IITC) postulates that “consciousness corresponds to the capacity of a system to integrate information,” (2004). Consciousness is the product of a certain density of information integration, quantified as a “phi value,” which Tononi originally characterized as a capacity, then revised as a measure of dynamics, the information generated when a system transitions between states (2008). The BBT takes the IITC as a possible explanatory model for its claims, since there is reason to believe that dynamic information integration is not sufficient for consciousness. IITC remains, however, a leading candidate in therapeutically oriented research attempting to ascertain the levelof consciousness that can be attributed to various subjects.

According to Tononi, computer simulations indicate that information integration is maximized in systems where a plurality of dedicated information processing systems find themselves thoroughly interconnected, a structure that corresponds to the mammalian brain. This also corresponds to a possible interpretation of phenomenal awareness, where the content of experience seems to involve the integration of different modalities. So for instance, visual information becomes vision, a ‘window on the world,’ only when integrated with information from a variety of other sources, such as memory, attention, expectation, timing, and so on. [Channel or modal integration, where a variety of information sources are accessed and harmonized, provides a means of explaining the ‘modality blindness problem.’]

Declusion – Sometimes derivative corollary of occlusion. Most generally, any kind of figuration within a phenomenal field. See, occlusion.

Determinativity – Efficacy in its most abstract sense.

Emphasis/Emphatics – Term referring to the systematic way patterns of theoretical focus impact estimations of explanatory and ontological priority and the afferential implicatures that fall out of them. The attribution and distribution of determinativity is one of the salient consequences of emphasis. Emphasis on social conditions tends to assign determinativity to those conditions: individuals become ‘expressions’ of their social conditions. Whereas emphasis on individuals tend to assign determinativity to those individuals: society becomes an aggregation of individuals. ‘Reductionism’ is a paradigmatic example of emphasis, perhaps the only kind that can appeal to empirical warrant. But emphasis plays a far more pervasive role in theoretical discourse, particularly in critical recontextualizations of theoretical positions, where adducing and emphasizing originally marginal considerations has the effect of reconfiguring existing implicatures. The Levinasian critique of Heidegger provides a striking example.

Encapsulation – The way CGII is ‘all or nothing,’ which is to say, the way the neurofunctional fractions accessed by the TCS are experienced as wholes in consciousness.

Existential Equivocation – A possible afference of medializing a decluded relationship: the way ‘to take the perspective of’ can also mean ‘to become.’

Frame – Human consciousness in its most general sense.

Gaming – Gerrymandering.

Greater Human, the BBT stipulates a distinction between the human we experience versus the human that we are. Since the former subtends upon the latter, it is referred to as the ‘greater human.’

Informatic Asymmetry – A central premise of BBT. A principle referring to the relative information paucity of experience compared to the neural processing that makes it possible.

Information Horizons – Boundaries demarcating consciousness generating information integration, and which are the key to naturalizing certain fundamental, yet hitherto perplexing, structural features of consciousness, such as presence, self-identity, and intentionality.

Interpretative Asymmetry – The tendency, given theoretical incompetence, for philosophers to think their interpretations capture ‘more’ of a given problematic that the interpretations of their social competitors.

Interpretative Underdetermination – A consequence of theoretical incompetence: our inability (outside the prosthetic ambit of the natural sciences) to make our interpretations stick, and so end the regress of interpretation.

Lateral – The ‘across’ relation orthogonal to medial relations.

Limit with one side – The primary phenomenological expression of thalamocortical information horizons, and in different guises, a recurring fetish of philosophical speculation.

LWOS – see, Limit with one side.

Medial – The ‘through’ relation orthogonal to lateral relations.

Mereological Confusion – An effect of encapsulation.***

Metonymic Inflation/Incorporation – An effect of medialization. When discrete entities are medially interpreted they can

Medialization – The transformation of decluded, lateral relations into occluded, medial relations. The paradigmatic instance of this is simply ‘taking the perspective of…’ where the theorist moves from exterior, third person considerations of something to interior, first person considerations of that same something. This swapping of ‘subject positions’ is so common and so natural that it remains implicit even in much philosophical discourse. Medialization thematizes this operation as one possessing its own tendencies and characteristics ***

Now – The margin of out temporal field.

Null Frame – see, occluded frame.

Occluded Frame – In the strictest sense, this very moment now, which is to say, the appearance of these very words as they are read. The reason I don’t refer to you in the above statement is simply because ‘you’ possesses a bolus of implicit and explicit associations possessing their own implicatures (theoretical consequences). To say, ‘these very words as they appear now for you,’ is to ‘erode the occlusion’ of the frame. This is one reason so many philosophers–Heidegger perhaps most notoriously–actually sought out the ‘naivete’ of the ancient Greeks, the thought being that their intuitions were somehow more trustworthy for not having been sullied by the overlay of multiple philosophical declusions of the occluded frame. Thus the conceptual dilemma of the ‘occluded frame’: simply referring to it in this manner decludes it (within a subsequent occluded frame, which in turn…). The term ‘occluded frame’ refers to something that cannot be, in a sense, termed without erasing what seems to be its primary structural feature: the edgeless enclosure (see, LWOS) of the world as decluded. So, for instance



presents the occluded field as occluded. Whereas

[                              O                             ]


Occlusion (as decluded)                    Occlusion (as decluded)

presents the occluded field as decluded within another occluded frame. To simply name the occluded frame is to embed it in a semantic context whose implicature is likely skewed. Heidegger’s famous ‘turn’ is the result of a similar realization, as is his subsequent retreat into linguistic atavism: an attempt to find the mode of declusion most appropriate to the occluded frame.

In afferentialism, this is simply the cost of doing interpretative business. It is also a primary reason why afferentialism is experimental, why it focusses on mapping out various interpretative possibilities for the sake of evaluating their comparative theoretical liabilities and advantages, paramount among them, applications to scientific research.

Occlusion – Sometimes constitutive corollary of declusion. Structuring absence.

A decluded relation is any relation that takes the following form

D ———- O

Subject            Object

where each element is both discrete and externally related to the other. Decluded relations are lateral.

An occluded relation, on the other hand, is the relation you have with

D ———- O

Subject            Object

at the moment you regard the figure. You are the ‘occluded frame’ of the declusion of D and O. Occluded relations are medial. The fact that both of these figures are identical underscores at least three things: 1) the correlation of the medial and lateral, the occluded and the decluded; 2) the transparency of the medial, and the corresponding ease with which it can be misconstrued or simply overlooked; and 3) the emphatic opportunities this provides afferential interpretation.

As occluded relations, which is to say relations with one discrete term, medial relations are also occult, both in the pejorative sense of being refractory to cognition and in the ontological sense of being nothing in particular (prior to interpretation). One need only consider the myriad ways that you can be characterized, as a brain, a transcendental ego, Dasein, Spirit, It, a political or historical or psychological subject. (One of the things my theory of vantages tries to do is provide a framework wherein all these variants can be theoretically accommodated as ‘positions’). In addition to these global characterizations, there are additional local ways to ‘spin’ medial relations. If you imbue them with determinativity they become constitutive of decluded relations. If you drain them of determinativity they become ontologically transparent, and they vanish in the presentation of the lateral. Given that the ‘logic’ involved is afferential (a bringing together) as opposed to inferential (a bringing in), there are innumerable ways the ambiguities involved can be gamed. Given the structure of vantages, it actually follows that interpreters will succumb to interpretative asymmetry and think their interpretations canonical.

Occlusion refers to the ‘medialization’ of decluded or lateral relations. In other words, it refers to any ‘taking the position or view or perspective of…’ anything you happen to have a perspective on. So, to reconceive the relation of D and O from the standpoint of D would be to consider the relation like this



where, in a strange sense, you have become D, which is to say, the occluded frame for the appearance of O.

There are several crucial things to note, here. The first is that what was discrete, D, has become encompassing. To ‘take the perspective of D’ is to, in some strange sense, become D. The matrix of lateral relational possibilities (however it is defined) is wiped clean, allowing for the interpretation (afferential gaming) of different relational possibilities, such as those epitomized by Kant and Heidegger. So, Care, to give a notorious example, can be something discrete like a ‘capacity’ that belongs to you. Or it can be defined as something that you simply are, either momentarily, as a kind of ‘event,’ or as something which is constitutive of what you are and so coextensive with you, a ‘mode of existence,’ such that every instance of being is always an instance of caring. Care-as-capacity is care as thoroughly decluded, which is to say, something existentially discrete. Care-as-event, on the other hand, you could say is care decluded as occluded, which is to say, as something existentially encompassing but temporally discrete. Care-as-mode-of-existence, however, you could say is care as occluded, which is to say, both existentially and temporally encompassing. It remains decluded in some sense, insofar as it can be referred to at all, but as something possessing a drastically different interpretative implicature than the previous two declusions.

This example clearly shows the kinds of frame hybridization that one finds throughout philosophy, the way thinkers rely on implicit conceptualizations that have a profound impact on the kinds of things that do or do not ‘follow.’ The present act of thematizing these kinds of moves is itself a declusion, and as such bound to warp or skew implicative consequences.

Open Superindexical – The term referring to thiswhich to say, this very moment now. It is ‘indexical’ because this… is always this… and it is ‘super’ because it ‘reflexively’ refers to the performance of its reference.

Paradox – An experiential side-effect of encapsulation.

Parastruction – A form of philosophical interpretation that self-consciously games the ambiguities involved in afferential reasoning with an eye for deflating the cognitive pretensions (as opposed to the conceptual utilities) of various philosophical discourses.

Phenomenal Adequacy/Inadequacy – The question whether a phenomenal experience, given informatic asymmetry and encapsulation, can be said to be ‘synoptic,’ or ‘myopic’–which is to say, adequate or inadequate.

Phenomenal Incompleteness – Thesis that directly follows from informatic asymmetry, namely, that the TCS, and therefore phenomenal awareness, only accesses a fraction of the information processed by the greater brain. The question of phenomenal adequacy, therefore, is something that only a mature neuroscience can definitively answer. Given the kinds of structural and developmental constraints faced by CGII, however, one can hypothesize that phenomenal incompleteness entails radical phenomenal inadequacy.

Priority Agnosticism – The principled refusal to assign ontological and/or epistemological priority to philosophical interpretations, to assume that, all things being equal, any given philosophical interpretation is a product of gerrymandering, and to so avoid the priority illusion.

Priority Illusion – The way afferential interpretation typically convinces philosophers to assign ontological and/or epistemology priority to the objects of interpretation. A consequence of theoretical incompetence and interpretative asymmetry. The only known cure, falsification, remains a daring and elusive foe.

POA – see, Problematic Ontological Assumption.

Problematic Ontological Assumption

Process Asymmetry



TCS – Thalamocortical System. The posited locus for consciousness in the brain for the purposes theoretical speculation, not unlike the way ‘C-fibres’ are used in the philosophical literature on pain and qualia more generally.

This… – The open superindexical, which is to say, a way to refer to the occluded frame in the most deflationary sense, as this very moment now.

TI – see, Theoretical Incompetence

Theoretical Incompetence

Vantages – An afferentially (psychologically and neuroscientifically) informed interpretation of perspectives. Given the BBT, consciousness (as it appears) is a misapprehension. Given that consciousness is a misapprehension that we are, the issue literally becomes one of ‘making the best out of a bad situation.’ Like most all previous philosophical considerations of the ‘human,’ vantages constitute an attempt to extract as much sense as possible out of the ‘human conundrum,’ to provide ‘a way to see ourselves,’ that maximizes our intelligibility while maintaining meaningful contact with the world as it is described by science.

Vicarity, Principle of

Virtuality – Informally, a word used to flatten the abject mystery of being a misapprehension into something that can be easily slung around in theoretical discourse. Formally, the ontological status attributed to any experiential frame of reference that is also a misapprehension.