Is Hypnosis Self-evident? A Concise Philosophical Inquiry

You know, the asterisks are footnotes; click on them at your own (aster-)risk.

I am conscious that this essay can be a bit dry at times, and for that I apologise; I promise to keep it as wet as possible, but that can be difficult with the kind of weather we’ve been having these days.  Anyway, here’s the essay:

A Framework

Psychology is a wonderful field but this post will be approaching the phenomenon of hypnosis from a philosophical perspective.  Therefore, while the empirical discoveries made by psychologist are relevant in their abilities to strengthen or weaken the postulates and theories we here formulate—helping us observe and understand the way these principles are realised in the empirical world—they will not be a part of the purely philosophical and normative core of this discussion, which they will serve merely as a guide.  Therefore, when we begin our argument with the most logical step—that of defining the term, ‘hypnosis’—we will make an appeal, strange as it may seem, to normative principle.  The aberrational feature of this proceeding is, of course, the nature of the term we are defining; it is perfectly customary to define a mere word from normative principle—we simply define it as we please and as is fitting to the argument—but we are here defining an empirical process, something that takes place in one particular manner and not another, and therefore, our definition must not be designed merely as to function in the argument, but as to be a proper description of a preexisting empirical and normative actuality.  Therefore, our process shall likewise be aberrational.  We must add an alternative initial step to proceed that of defining this essential term that is the very subject of our argument, a step from which the definition may be derived as a definitive description of a preexisting fact.

Notice that I have described the phenomenon of hypnosis as a ‘preexisting empirical and normative actuality’.  It should seem perfectly natural that hypnosis is something empirical, but perhaps what is less obvious is that it is normative.  To understand why this is, we must understand the nature of that which is normative, of a priori knowledge.  When I ask the question ‘Is hypnosis self-evident?’ I am asking, in more specific terms, whether it is an apriorism, something that may be known without empirical observation.  The quality to which such an inquiry is referring—that is, apriority—is clearly and fully described by the etymology of the language I have used: the latin a priori literally means, ‘from that which is previous’.  Hence when we classify knowledge as a priori, we are saying that it is known from that which precedes rather than that which follows; it is derived from the principle that causes, and therefore precedes, the phenomenon and not from the result of that principle, the phenomenon that follows.  That hypnosis may be of such a nature, that it may be, as it were, a normative principle deducible a priori, follows easily from empirical observation.

Turning to our guide, the field of psychology, we can observe that hypnosis is almost certainly a cognitive process—it is something made possible only by the inherent nature of the mind.  This is because psychologists tell us that people, hypnotised or not, act the way they do as a result of the functioning of their minds.  Therefore, that which precedes the empirical phenomenon of hypnosis, that which is a priori to the way hypnotised people act in the physical world, is something like any other normative reality; it is an actuality or principle that exists, just like math or logic or any other form of reason, purely in the nonphysical realm of the human mind—it is inherent in the nature of human thought, and therefore, can be demonstrated a priori, using only the fundamental axioms that are necessarily and universally self-evident to all of the sane, human populous.*  However, this is a psychologist’s answer to the question.  We shall use it as a guide, cordially thanking the field of psychology for the insight it offers us in defining our task, and then turning, philosophically, to the actual derivation of such a principle.  Because psychology evidences that there must exist a self-evident normative principle that explains hypnosis, it is necessarily self-evident that hypnosis is possible, but to demonstrate this philosophically, our only option is to provide such a principle.  Psychology has served merely to specify the object of our first philosophical inquiry: what is the principle of hypnosis?

The Principiative Metaphor of Time

Notice I have preferred the slightly more awkward wording, ‘what is the principle of hypnosis’ to ‘what is the principle responsible for hypnosis’.  This is because hypnosis is to be considered one and the same thing as the principle that causes it.  The psychologists arguments about whether or in what way hypnosis may be called ‘a state of consciousness’ fill more pages than even I care to read.  Instead, we must consider the significance of such an issue only as it relates to our argument at present.  Hypnosis, regardless of whether it involves altered consciousness, is a way people think.  So philosophically, it is something that happens in the nonphysical realm.  But whenever we describe something ‘happening’ in the nonphysical realm, we do so metaphorically.  For example, we may say that a math problem ‘is calculated’ in the nonphysical, and this implies that there is such a thing as a nonphysical action (what I have called ‘an act of reason’ in another essay), but such a concept is merely a metaphorical aid to help us understand what are actually stagnant principles.  The sum of two numbers might ‘be calculated’, in a sense, but in reality, that summation, that whole math problem, including the fact of its existence and of its answer, is a stagnant principle—that two plus two equals four is merely a normative principle, not an event.  In the same way, there is a sense in which ‘things happen’ in a nonphysical realm, a human mind, in such a way that, after the elapse of a few minutes, the person to whom that mind belongs may be described as ‘hypnotised’, but in truth, those ‘normative occurrences’ are really just components of a stagnant normative principle.  The reason this metaphor of time is convenient is that such normative principles may only be empirically realised with results that occur overtime, and therefore, it is easiest to understand the actual a priori principles as chronological.  For example, in order to realise the stagnant principle that two plus two equals four, we must, in the empirical world, have two of something at one point in time, and then add another two at a later point, at which later point in time, we will observe ourselves to have four.  Likewise, in the empirical world, the stagnant principle that is hypnosis takes time to realise—hypnotic induction is subject to chronology.  We will call this concept ‘the principiative metaphor of time’, for easy reference later—and also because it is important to always have cool names for stuff when writing philosophy.

So to derive this normative principle, and in so doing, to both define hypnosis and confirm that hypnosis is self-evident, we will need to ask a more general question: how is a human mind, a nonphysical realm structured?  Recall this jargon from other random posts: The Nonphysical Realm is the conceptual realm that follows the laws of logic in the same way that the physical realm follows the laws of physics, and the latter term, a nonphysical realm, refers to any realisation of such, any realm in which nonphysical objects that obey the laws of logic may exist.  Hence, the most obvious example of a nonphysical realm is a human mind.

How is a nonphysical realm Structured?

In “The Axiomatic Law of Universal Congruity” (ALUC), it was demonstrated that The Nonphysical Realm consists of metaphorical levels or scopes that exist inside one another—these are the levels of recursion in the self-referential system of logic (‘self-referential’ because ‘logic’ is defined as ‘that which is noncontradictory with itself’).  In that post, I demonstrated that these levels are ‘congruent’ to one another.  This is because, as I explained in that post, each of the levels is defined as ‘that which is noncontradictory with the level in which it is contained’, and so if A is contained inside of B and B inside of C, then there is a congruity between the definitions of level A and level B—because both A and B are contained in C, they are each defined as ‘that which is noncontradictory with level C’, but A is still different from B because it is contained inside of C only through the transitive property as applied to its being inside B.  This is what is meant by ‘congruent’, and is best imagined, as the jargon implies, geometrically.

So The Nonphysical Realm can be thought of as a formal-logic proof.  It begins with a primal premise, or primal cause, which is its first level and is necessarily infinite.*  To this premise is applied the law of noncontradiction, and an infinite recursive system follows.  Liken it to holding two mirrors to face one another: the first mirror is the primal premise, the Absolute Truth; when the definition of reality—’that which is noncontradictory with the primal premise’—is applied, it is like holding another mirror up to the absolute truth to reflect it (because the only thing noncontradictory with an infinite nonphysical construct is the construct itself); what follows is an infinite recursive system, of which each level reflects its apriorism—the thing that precedes it and in which it is contained—according to the law of noncontradiction.

Hence, the answer to our question, ‘how is a nonphysical realm structured?’, is that it is composed of recursive levels that are each noncontradictory with their apriorism, and that there exists, at the root of it all, a primal premise upon which the whole system is based.  Of this structure we will make two relevant observations: (1) Each level has a successively lesser impact on the system than the last, and therefore, the closer a level is to the primal premise, the more it is ‘in the heart of the system’, so that if such a level were somehow altered, it would have a greater impact on the system as a whole than would the alteration of a following level.  This makes the realm a chaotic system by definition.  (2) Although the whole realm is required to follow the laws of logic which are, in summation, the law of noncontradiction, this does not necessitate that no two contradictory declaratives exist within (again, refer to the ALUC for this jargon, or click this footnote: *).  Contradictions may arise as long as they cancel out. Two contradictory declaratives may exist in a nonphysical realm if and only if they are premised by ‘the contradiction declarative’, the declarative which, in the simplest case, merely state that what follows is a contradiction.  So if level A is contained in, and therefore premised by, level B, then A may contain contradictory declaratives Y and Z only if level B contains the contradiction declarative, which states, ‘Y and Z are contradictory, and therefore, A is false’.  To this second observation, we must also add the fact that even if A is declared false by its apriorism, it still may have levels that follow it, even though all such levels will be declared false by B according to the transitive property.  Such levels are analogous, in some respects, to imaginary numbers.  The details of how this works with the recursive model will be more fully explicated in the section of this post titled, ‘Did you notice this is a fractal?’.  But it is prudent to, at this point, make clear at least one complexity:

There may have been some confusion hitherto about the seemingly interchangeable usage of the concepts of ‘declaratives’ and ‘levels’ as well as their respective concepts of ‘following one another’ and ‘being contained within one another’.  These concepts have been used interchangeable because they are merely different ways of describing the same thing.  A declarative follows from an apriorism when its opposite is in contradiction with the former.  For example, “this blog is silly” follows from “all blogs are silly” because its opposite would contradict its apriorism—”this blog is not silly” contradicts “all blogs are silly”.  But there is also a sense in which the declarative that follows is contained inside of its apriorism.  “All blogs are silly” contains the fact of this blog’s own silliness.  In fact, we could roughly conceive of the single declarative “all blogs are silly” as an entire fractal construct, a ‘level’ in a nonphysical system.  Inside of such a level are the facts that each individual blog is silly, and these declaratives together make up exactly what we mean by ‘silly’, they describe the manner in which “all blogs are silly”.  Hence, contained inside of the level “all blogs are silly” is the level “this blog is silly” in which level is contained all the facts about this blog that makes it silly, which together constitute the manner in which it is silly and make up the exact fact of its silliness.

The Consequence of the Principiative Metaphor of Time

I like the label ‘principiative metaphor of time‘, because it expresses the way the metaphor works.  Just as a principle principiates a consequence, the fact of the existence of the empirical realm principiates the metaphor of time when describing principles.  If that sentence was confusing and not helpful, then don’t worry about it.

Anyway.  As I have already alluded to, the human mind is necessarily a nonphysical realm.  This is because we derive the components of a nonphysical realm directly from it.  Again those components are two: (1) a nonphysical realm is conceptual, and (2) is governed by the laws of logic.  As we shall see in the following section, both of these things are descriptions of the human mind.

If we apply the principiative metaphor of time to a nonphysical realm of a human mind, we arrive at human action.  The principles of the mind are expressed overtime through the actions of a person.  And if we call the fundamental entity responsible for all of a persons actions ‘the will’, then the human will is the primal premise of the nonphysical system that is the human mind (of course, this so-called ‘primal premise’ is only really a primal premise of that particular nonphysical system; in the context of The Nonphysical Realm, it is actually a consequence of The Primal Premise).  In other words, a human will is a principle, from which follow an infinite number of congruent levels, all of which make up the human mind and are expressed in the empirical world through human action over time.

Is the mind a nonphysical realm?

It is likely already evident that the significance of our entire argument is determined by our answer to this question alone.  Indeed, for this reason we must be extremely attentive to the way in which we answer it, but we must also realise that the matter is not so simple as a plain yes or no.  Our argument describes the way in which a nonphysical realm necessarily behaves, and in this section, we will argue the extent to which or circumstances under which the human mind resembles a nonphysical realm.  For the sake of simplicity, we have, hitherto, supposed that the human mind were entirely and always a nonphysical realm, but it is now appropriate to discuss the matter.

Of course, we needn’t argue that a human mind is a conceptual realm, for that is merely a matter of definition: the word ‘conceive’ will, in our jargon, mean ‘that which the human mind does’.  The real question is whether the mind is logical—whether it is noncontradictory.  The answer to this question is to be found among the entailments of its identity as a conceptual realm—isn’t that cute.

Hitherto, we have claimed, in The ALUC, that a conceptual realm is not subject to the law of noncontradiction.  This is only partly true.  The problem with such an idea is that it conflicts with the fact that all of reality is noncontradictory.  Elsewhere, we have made an argument for this point: the reason that noncontradiction describes the law of logic is that we, as humans, consider it self-evident that reality itself is noncontradictory, such that if one were given a set of true premises, and were to manipulate them with logical methods in order to arrive at a conclusion whose opposite would contradict those premises, he or she would have arrived at something that is necessarily true.  Hence, in reality, contradiction is impossible.

This posits a problem to the notion of a ‘conceptual’ realm which is not subject to logic: if contradiction is universally impossible, then it must also be normatively impossible.  Certainly, two things that contradict can be conceived of independently, and the notion of their coexistence may also be conceived, but the actual details of how they would so exist, the finer fractal levels of a reality that includes their coexistence, cannot.  For example: one can conceive of a brown dog that is white, but only in a limited sense.  It is possible to conceive of a brown dog, and it is also possible to conceive of a white dog, and even the notion of both conflicting descriptions being applied to the same dog is conceivable.  But we cannot imagine the finer details of how such a dog would exist; we cannot picture it, we cannot describe it biologically, nor conceive of any finer detail to its existence than the mere fact that it exists.  Of course, we could make up further things about it, but we cannot conceive of anything that would follow from its existence.  One might suppose that this would be a mere matter of conceiving of the details of a brown dog’s existence, and then those of a white dog, and combining the sets; however, such a process merely delays the problem, as the two sets would contain contradictions that could not be reconciled any more than this first premise—further, none of the declaratives in those sets would literally follow from the contradictory premise; that is, they would not follow from the fact of the dog’s simultaneous brownness and whiteness.  (A side note for those of you who think it’s clever: we’re discussing a dog that is fully brown and also fully white; a spotted dog doesn’t bear relevance.)

For this reason, there is no such thing as a realm that literally fits the description we have applied to the conceptual realm.  However, a conceptual realm can be ‘created’ within a normative one simply by premising it with a contradiction declarative.  Such a realm exists in the same way that imaginary numbers exist in higher mathematics: the number i represents an impossibility, and therefore, is not a real number, but it allows us to perform operations with real numbers that could otherwise not be achieved.  Hence, real conclusions follow from an imaginary premise.  In the same way, if we discuss it in terms of the mathematical field of formal logic, ‘the conceptual’ is not a real realm, but nonetheless may result in real conclusions, namely, the same union set previously alluded to: the union of all that follows from a brown dog and all that follows from a white dog.  Again the analogue of imaginary numbers is convenient in that in both fields–algebra and formal logic–imaginary concepts are responsible for one problem having multiple answers.

What about when weird stuff happens?

So we have a primal premise, a stagnant principle, the human will, governing all sorts of other stagnant principles, which are noncontradictory all the time except for when they aren’t.  That all seems fine.  But what about when weird stuff happens?  What if a declarative ‘entered’ the mind* that presented a contradiction?  Suppose it were a declarative that stated, “all of what follows needn’t be noncontradictory with the will”.  Such a declarative would be a species of contradiction declarative, and even as such it would still exhibit a whole branch of consequences, resulting levels.

In order for such a ‘normative phenomenon’ to occur, the will would have to ‘agree to’, i.e. be in noncontradiction with, the existence of such a declarative.  But then what would happen?  Would the actions follow from the principles in accordance with the principiative metaphor of time?  In what sense does the declarative ‘cancel out’ what follows?  Every declarative inside the nonphysical system of the mind is paired with an unwritten declarative that states that it is in noncontradiction with the primal premise (this is much like the unwritten coefficient of ‘one’ that is in front of all mathematical expressions).  It is this unwritten declarative that ‘relates’ the declarative to which it refers to the primal premise.  We might think of these unwritten declaratives as creating a kind of ‘table of contents’ for the nonphysical system.  But when a declarative is added that allows that which follows it to contradict the primal premise, it effectively removes from the table of contents all that follows and cancels out the respective unwritten declaratives, but not the corresponding ones to which they were referring.

The table of contents is what must be noncontradictory with itself; it’s the metaphor by which we imagine the law of noncontradiction being applied.  Even this step—of applying the rule of noncontradiction—must occur independently and ‘chronologically’ according to the principiative metaphor of time.  Hence, there is, metaphorically, a list of all the declaratives contained in the system (or really, of all those which need to be noncontradictory with each other), and at every ‘CPU tick’, every tick of logic or step in the proof, the list is checked to ensure that every possible combination is noncontradictory.  In theory, the removed items would together form a whole other table of contents dissociated from the one containing the primal premise, because they still exist in a nonphysical realm and must therefore be noncontradictory with each other.  In a sense, they are still even linked to the primal premise via the contradiction declarative.  The contradiction declarative (the declarative that states, “all that follows needn’t be in noncontradiction with the primal premise”) itself retains the unwritten declarative, remains on the table of contents, and must, therefore, be noncontradictory with the primal premise; so in this sense, the whole alternative table of contents is still, indirectly, governed by the primal premise.  The contradiction declarative is effectively an alternative primal premise, but one which follows from, and therefore must, in some way, resemble, the original primal premise.  To what extent that alternative must resemble the original depends on to what extent the original necessitates its own semblance.

Because the whole system is recursive, self-similar, even the primal premise alone can be thought of as an entire system of levels, with a table of contents and what have you.  And in such a system, certain things are necessarily the way they are, and others are flexible.  Each declarative has a series of others that follow it, but often, that series could potentially be an entirely different one.  For example, there might be a declarative A from which B follows (and a whole system of others follow B) or C follows (and, likewise, a whole system follows C), but either B or C are logically permissible, as neither is contradictory with A.  In the realisation of this system that is the primal premise, only one or the other will follow A, but this means that in the ‘alternative primal premise’, the contradiction declarative, the alternative option may be allowed to follow.  So, both the primal premise and the contradiction declarative will give rise to similar constructs, but not identical ones.  The commonality between the two will be, at a minimum, the declarative called the ‘primal premise’ when viewed from the infinitesimal degree of intricacy, as this is, itself, only a declarative, an infinitesimal assertion, and not also a whole self-similar system, a whole normative level.

If the facet of a human being that is aware of and forms opinions about all of his or her actions is called the ‘human consciousness’, than such is, in our metaphor, the ‘table of contents’.  The table of contents checks everything for noncontradiction—this is, on an infinitesimal level, what we mean when we say, ‘forms opinions’ (recall from other posts that emotions are fractal constructs of logic—with logic being noncontradiction).  So this alternative table of contents that is associated with the alternative primal premise is a dissociated consciousness.  The person is conscious of everything that follows the alternative primal premise, but only to the extent that such information, and its associated table of contents (its ‘consciousness’) is similar to what precedes it, which need only be as far as the infinitesimal link, the true primal premise, dictates.

In other words, to whatever extent the dissociated table of contents is the same as the original, i.e. possesses the same items, it is, to that extent, being check by the original.  If a person is aware of certain facts, and then he or she has a dissociated consciousness, which is also aware of certain facts, then the person will be aware of his or her dissociated consciousness to whatever extent the facts known by the two are common.

Did you notice that this is a fractal?

An easy thing to over look in these arguments—and such oversight often may cause a lot of confusion—is the fact that the nonphysical constructs we are dealing with have fractal structures.  This affects our understanding of what precedes in two ways: (1) It helps us describe exactly what we mean by ‘dissociated consciousness’.  The contradiction declarative, as we have already said, can be expressed as, “all that follows needn’t be in noncontradiction with the primal premise”, but there are also certain implications in the way the declarative is formed such that a more full expression of the same might read, “all that follows [from this declarative] needn’t be in noncontradiction with the primal premise, [but must instead be evaluated against this declarative]”.  Such implications are made simply by using the word ‘follows’.  The fact that other declaratives follow from the contradiction declarative implies that they are premised by it, and therefore, observe certain demands it sets.  The way we have initially expressed the contradiction declarative is analogous to expressing the primal premise as, “this nonphysical system exists”.  Such is the essence of the primal premise, and from it follows everything else; however, contained within that single larger statement is a whole fractal construct which explicates the manner in which the system exists, and therefore, the exact manner in which the premise is intended.  Likewise, the contradiction declarative allows things to be dissociated from the primal premise only in a particular manner.  Contained within the single declarative is a whole system formed similarly to the primal premise—a system designed in such a way that the original primal premise allows for declaratives to follow from this alternative system just as if from itself.  In this way, what follows the contradiction declarative is—when we observe it from this finer scope—still in noncontradiction with the original primal premise, but only indirectly so.  The original premise allows for an alternative system to usurp its former sovereignty over the whole construct, but this is only made possible by that alternative system’s adherence to the demands of the original—if this were not so, we could not describe the mind as a rational realm.  Of course, the two tables of contents relate to each other in the same way, and this is what is meant by ‘dissociated consciousness’: the alternative consciousness is designed consciously.

(2)  It allows for a continuum to exist between this state of dissociated consciousness and normal consciousness.  What we have just described in the previous paragraph is really, in essence, no different from normal functioning.  We define ‘normal functioning’ as the relating of each declarative to its apriorism through noncontradiction.  (Normal functioning corresponds to ‘normal consciousness’ as does ‘dissociated functioning’ to dissociated consciousness—the former of each refers to the structure of declaratives and the latter to that of the table of contents.)  Hence, this ‘dissociated functioning’ we have described, is just a more complicated instance of normal functioning.  Each declarative is noncontradictory to its apriorism, but one of those declaratives is of such a peculiar kind that the system begins to converge around it in much the same way that it ordinarily did around the primal premise.  As we have acknowledged earlier, the entire nonphysical system is chaotic, each level bears a lesser influence on the whole system than what precedes it, and in this way, the primal premise bears the greatest gravity in determining the overall structure of the system.  However, each declarative bears a certain amount of such gravity, but in normal functioning, the exact magnitude of such is determined by how early the declarative occurs in the following of the primal premise, where as in dissociated functioning, a late declarative begins to develop a gravity disproportionate to its placement.  In this way, a continuum exist between the two states.  A declarative is only called a noncontradiction declarative when it passes a certain threshold, at which point its fractal structure is just so that it bears greater gravity than ought, but because the construct that a declarative represents is fractal, each point along the continuum, each magnitude of gravity, is possible.

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