T. Philosophy and survival
T1. The state of the world.
T1.1. Climate change. From the evolutionary perspective species come and go; Homo sapiens is still a work-in-progress. Climate change exemplifies the fact that long-term global consequences of technology are generally toxic, irreversible this century, and raises concerns about the challenge of surviving convergent natural disasters.
T1.2. Demographic trends. Some other long-term trends suggest that Western philosophy may be the implicit cause of self-destructive policies. For example, there is a question Western culture can survive having the white population of Europe and the United States become the minority this century (e.g. non-Hispanic whites in the US would become the minority among the newborn within a year).
T1.3. The prospect of controlling our future evolution. Biotechnology now makes possible to introduce heritable enhancements in the human genome. If any national entity undertakes to do that then, whether or not others follow, the last millennium would prove Homos sapiens last.
T2.1. Updating the foundation of philosophy is a priority. Philosophy is the only part of knowledge that could have served as a survival manual in confronting the looming upheavals. But philosophy is not only the most fundamental part of knowledge but also the most troubled. This makes bringing the foundation of knowledge up to date a priority.
T2.2. A single factual issue. Neuroscience has recently established the fact that sensations are innate. For the last 300 years, the most basic assumption at the foundation of knowledge was the direct opposite – that no sensation is innate. John Locke (1689) introduced that assumption, concluded that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa).
T2.3. The challenge. It is now necessary to make explicit the epistemological implications of replacing the tabula rasa by its direct opposite. This would be the most basic change in the foundation of knowledge since Locke introduced his factually false assumption.
T2.4. The philosophic community. Updating the foundations of knowledge would establish the central role of philosophy in guiding social policy. But it would take time before the philosophic community is ready to set aside the 300-years of epistemological legacy. In the interim, the most pressing philosophical issue confronting humanity now is virtually terra incognita.
T2.5. The forthcoming revision of my 2017 book. The forthcoming revision of The New Foundation of Knowledge (2017) reviews the evidence for the innateness of sensations and provides an initial glimpse of the new epistemological landscape.
T3. Sensations are innate.
T3.1. The sensation of sound. The electrical stimulation of the cochlea elicits sensations of sound in the normal hearing and in the deaf. The heard pitch is determined by the cochlear locus stimulated. It proves that heard sound is not a property of air vibration. Some children are born with a dysfunctional auditory nerve. They can be made to hear by an implant that electrically stimulates hearing-related brain loci (e.g. brainstem, thalamus, or cortex). This proves that heard sound is innate and elicited by the brain: it is neither a property of air vibration nor originates in the ears.
T3.2. Any sensation. In every sensory modality (e.g. vision, hearing, touch, taste or smell), the same type of electrical stimulus elicits the modality-specific sensation as determined by the modality-specific area stimulated. This proves that said electrical stimuli do not contribute to the resulting qualitative sensation; it is the stimulated brain loci that determine the qualitative aspect of the sensation. Thus, sensations are innate and are elicited by the brain.
T4. The first empirical proof that consciousness exists. Innateness of sensations and consciousness. Evolution stumbled on consciousness, and natural selection let it be. From an evolutionary perspective, the role of conscious knowledge is to improve survival. Yet, to date all attempts to account for what consciousness is and what it does have failed. The reason for this failure is the denial of the fact that sensations are innate.
The physical is publicly observable. Innate sensations are private or alternatively termed subjective, phenomenal, or mental. Thus, our knowledge of the physical is an inference from the phenomenal. This conclusion confers epistemological priority on the phenomenal relative to the physical. The hope that Physicalism could account for consciousness is not realizable.
T5. Spatiality and Ubiquity. Physical objects, such as triangular tiles, are locatable in space. The concept of triangularity is not. The phenomenal cannot be said to be located in space. It is ubiquitous.
T6. Some top-down implications
T6.1. Pain. The tabula rasa assumption presumes that pain originates in the body and is imported into the brain by afferent C-fibers. Pain, like all sensations, is innate and is elicited by the brain. Based on the tabula rasa misconceptions, neurosurgeons performed numerous operations to disconnect the presumed source of pain from the brain, hoping to stop painful stimuli. In many of those cases, the pain returns with a vengeance. The continued failure of medicine to effectively address chronic pain is based on the philosophical error.
T6.2. Light. Like all sensations, the sensation of light is innate. The electric stimulation of visual cortex elicits the visual sensation of spots of light, called phosphenes both in normally seeing subjects and in the blind. On the basis of this fact, visual cortical prostheses were developed. Such prostheses are about to be available for the born blind. As in the case of auditory prostheses, it is best to implant prostheses in the subject during childhood. I expect visual prostheses for the born blind would be demonstrated within five years.