A Panexperientialist View of Fear

[Pooja offered this in Comments recently on the FM ning (Dec. 15/17), I have taken the liberty to post their comments in this Forum, so that others may join in the dialogue I wish to have with Pooja. I encourage all FM ning members to participate here in the Forum and Comment formats; note: Pooja's writing is in black and my own questions and comments are in brown font]


1. I am writing a book on my own model of consciousness which basically pertains to panexperientialist view about the world. A human is defined as a collection of selfs, each struggling to exist by way of interaction with the external entities. I will talk in detail about the process of fear in my book, but also in the near future (Jan 5) when I meet Mr. Desh Subba personally in Surat India.

1a. Tell us what is the "problem" to which you are investigating in your book and your work/life in general as obviously a serious thinker, researcher? 

1b. Could you tell us about who you are (a little autobiography), where you live and what cultural background and age you are to help us contextualize you as a researcher/writer? Is this book from a university thesis, dissertation, or what? What do you do for livelihood? Have you published other works we can read or watch you on video, etc.? 

1c. When you say this is your "own model of consciousness," what makes it your own? What other models of consciousness have you studied and why did you think it was necessary to develop your "own" model? Therefore, what critiques have you developed to and have you followed any other theorists, philosophers closely to guide you on your path and intellectual development to come to your own model? Tell us who they are and what you like about them. 

1d. Define more precisely "panexperientialist view" and why has it arisen as a 'better' way than other views of the world/reality. I think this is an important ontological issue for our postmodern times, and I would like to bring this view or perspective to the study of fear ... so, you may help us please to understand this and who we also may read to study it beyond only your interpretation of it. 

1e. Do you have any particular question you wish to ask me initially?

[OK, that is my first set of questions. I look forward to your answers.] 


I define emotion as the process of struggle between the selfs.

An emotion is how an entity is present in the vicinity of a particular stimulus or how it escapes from the vicinity of the stimulus.
Like other emotions, I see fear as one that enables the entity to flee or escape from the vicinity of the stimulus.

About fearlessness, I think one can be fearless only by understanding what fear is for, not by worrying about fear of what. I think once we understand the purpose of fear, all kinds of fears will be seen as the same.

I am also interested in how fear leads to anger especially.

Love is the empathetic relation between two persons. When one is in fear the other may also learn about the other's fear and is likely to be fearful too. I think to be fearless is an understanding which arises from within the person, whereas love can propagate such awareness to add to fear or fearlessness.

Hope to talk to you more,
Pooja Soni

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  • 1a. The "problem" I am trying to address in my book is the mind-body problem and the explanatory gap problem. In trying to do that I address questions such as,
    What is qualia?
    How language arises?
    How there is syntactical arrangement of memory?
    What is intent?
    What is the role of emotions?
    How emotions are of the nature of fight or flight?
    How there is an hierarchy in mental states such as sadness-stress-anxiety-depression-cry?
    How homo sapiens have evolved from body centric experiences to thought centric experiences?
    How addiction, freewill and the concept of God are relative.
    What is intent and how it is relative to quantum mechanics?
    What are dreams?

    So basically I try to present a process like arrangement of consciousness, by which (consciousness) I simply mean 'complexity in experience'.

    1b. Academically I studied chemical engineering.
    I live in Bangalore. I'm independently researching about consciousness. I am 24 years old.
    A few years ago I published a paper in an Indian journal.
    More recently I recorded a video in a discussion with a friend about consciousness whose link is here.

    1c. I have read roughly models of consciousness such as IIT, Freud's theory, Global workspace, Neural synchrony, Self model of consciousness, Consciousness vis feedback loops, Orch-Or, etc.
    I felt the need to develop me own model because most existing models do not cater to
    the "What mind is for?" question, these define mind, body, self differently but do not seem to answer this simple question.
    I have followed Freud's theory about dreams, Dean radin's studies on intent and it's relation to qm, Wittgenstein Chomsky on language, Jesse Prinz theory of emotions, David Chalmer's ideas of subjective experience, Orch-Or, Daniel Wolport's idea of brain being just for movement, etc.

    1d. Panexperientialist view I have pertains to an hierarchical arrangement of selfs, meaning everything has a certain degree of experience or self.

    1e. What do you think fear is 'for' as opposed to fear of what? What is the purpose of fear?
    Do you think fear is to protect the physical form, thought, etc?

    Thank you.
    • And thanks for your careful articulation, that is your "fighting" as you would perhaps use the term (as I watched your video above). No doubt you are a very competent philosophical initiate with important and creative thoughts. I appreciated the sit down on the grass quality of the question and answers which felt very inviting to the exchange... an encounter of "fighting." I have more to learn how you make a strong ontological and evolutionary positioning regarding "fight and flight." I can sense why this would work logically to explain things as a process. I am not so convinced, as yet, that it is adequate to the task of a grand ontological and evolutionary summary, and that it is binary (a kind of dualism) at its base. Yet, it also has certain appeals to my way of thinking as well, which comes not only from me but from many wisdom texts throughout history that seem to articulate a pattern of "Love-based" vs. "Fear-based" meta-motivational forces or directions in a current of predicting the way form, patterns, agency, and living processes unfold. That is a topic you and I may have some common ground as your "Fighting-based" and "Flight-based" conceptualization seems to resonate with this. My own writing is found in many places around this notion of meta-motivations, if you want I can send you.

      From a Western (postmodern) person's perspective (I am Canadian), I can see a lot of problems with people accepting that the world is divided up into "fight and flight" dynamics (I note, you use "fleeing" not "flight" per se). I don't know if you have seen W. psychology literature, but it is brimming full with the notion that there are only two basic fear reactions to all stimuli, and they are "fight and flight." Did you know this? So, in some sense, from this W. psychological perspective, your philosophy just follows from the findings of empirical research about fear. Your whole philosophy is about fear. That of course is only one way to interpret your work. That's perhaps a linguistic and semantic bias that I think you will encounter in bringing your work to a modern Western (at least, North American) audience. Not that that should be a distraction overly important to your thoughtful philosophy work. 

       That said, much of the philosophy and models of consciousness you are reading are only a small part of my education and inquiry (and most I do not know), so I cannot really say much about them, other than you are doing a great job gathering diverse thought together... and your book should be very interesting. I would ask you to look at (if you haven't already), a great book in the transpersonal philosophy and psychology literature in the West ("Spectrum of Consciousness" by Ken Wilber, 1977). I am a Wilberian basically when it comes to evolutionary hierarchical-based consciousness theory (theories) of which undergirds all my work on fear and fearlessness and on educational philosophy as well. I think a panexperientialist view (that you are articulating) fits nicely with Wilber's integral philosophy and integral theory in general (perhaps, it does, for I am reluctant to be confident I know enough about your work).

      Anyways, so, let me now turn more to my own expertise and your question:    

      1e. What do you think fear is 'for' as opposed to fear of what? What is the purpose of fear?
      Do you think fear is to protect the physical form, thought, etc?

      Pooja, I think this question requires a lot of contextualizing, and for me to build first an architectural frame for my fearwork. It would take too long to write all this out. You would better be served by reading my years of writing on how I approach the topic of "fear" (and 'fear')--and, some of this is in the book I co-wrote with Desh Subba (2016), Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue. Hopefully you can find a copy of this. I know Desh also has extra copies and you are meeting with him it sounds like in early January 2018, so that is great. 

      The problem I have with 1e. question is ontological and epistemologically complicated with always a returning to the question of "what fear" are we talking about when we use that term in common discourse, and do we need more subtle and nuanced complications and new terms or additive terms to discuss "fear" in any way that might be more fruitful than the current ways that dominant the landscape of most cultures. 

      I will say I like the question you direct here as more about "what fear is for" rather than fears of this or that. I am definitely more interested in your question than the latter. I suppose, because like you I am searching for the relationship of "fear" as a process in the evolution of consciousness itself (and, thus, am interested in the dynamic of fear). In much of my writing I explore dialectics and dynamics/process philosophy approaches, as well as integral (holistic) approaches to understanding living systems (and non-living too)... and then, looking a fear within those complex systems or as you say events and relationships. I never assume fear is any one thing and then it can be applied statically as if it is already all understood and completely described. So, this is my postmodern sensibility I bring to the study of fear, and the understanding of fear --often, which is more something that is a "pattern" (dynamic) than a feeling or emotion, or simple physiological event--and, equally, I see fear as more than "fight or flight" reactions ... If pushed to over-simplify, "fear" is a process of Defense Intelligence built in to everything in the universe (to stretch it into the typically non-living non-biological world as W. science may distinguish these)--I see Pooja you are more aligned not to make any distinction (apparently) between living and non-living beings--and, I can also agree with that if the term "living" or "life" is taken to a higher philosophical or metaphysical level of interpretation as "consciousness" itself ... then, the binary of living and non-living is rather arbitrary if not false. 

      With your question, "yes" I would say (on a first superficial but important way) it is likely a good move to situate "fear" in a processual and dynamic sense as something to do with "protection" (Freud called these "defense mechanisms"--which, I think are all about fear mechanisms)... 

      So, I'll leave this here. Feel free to comment and ask more questions if you like (or anyone else on this FM ning)... I also recognize there are more things in Pooja's original post and questions that I can address later. But I want to see if there is something in the panexperientialist perspective on fear that may be unique and worth elaborating, that is why I am engaging with Pooja to such a degree here. 

    • I would like to read your work. Please send them here or at pooja2015soni@gmail.com
      However I don't think fight as a 'love-based' event because I think it might be more 'knowledge-based'. Also by fight I only mean 'to remain in the vicinity of a stimulus' and by flight I mean 'to choose to not remain in the vicinity of the stimulus'.
      All our interactions with the world are either in the presence or absence of the stimulus.
      I think the concept of fight in the sense it is used in W.Literature needs to be redefined because I think fight is not negative just like fear. How I think so will be explained in my book. So by fight I only mean to gain knowledge, nothing negative, not to harm, etc.

      So my idea of an entity's interaction with the physical world is based on whether to acquire knowledge or choose not to.
      I use the word fight and flee because I want to change how the word fight is used in the negative sense. I think to harm a person which is considered 'to fight' is in fact what a person does when he 'flees' from another person he is trying to harm. He is fleeing because he wants to stop being exposed to the person he is causing harm to.

      Since I define fear, anger, fight, etc in more positive way, I don't think my philosophy is based on fear in the convectional wait is defined as a concept.

      Yes, I have read the book "Spectrum of Consciousness" by Ken Wilber and I gather that he classifies human identity into different kinds as different levels of consciousness.
      My idea of consciousness resonates with the idea of emergent levels, where I divide entities into levels of fight-flee which is presence-absence or knowledge-no-knowledge or persistence of self-nonpersistence of self, etc.
      I define a self as an entity capable of fight-flee.
      So my model divides entities (Living and non-living) into different levels of self based on their ability to cheat death or loss of ability to interact.

      Yes, I think every experience is a process in consciousness, where consciousness is also the relation between processes. I believe in a process like arrangement of consciousness because of the causal effect each experience has on another. A simple example is the relation between perception and memory. It is memory which source of knowledge which in turn affects the way we perceive the world. Also as Desh Subba says without knowledge of fear there is no fear. So memory affects how we experience the world and whether a stimulus leads to one kind of emotion or another.

      I think fear as an experience has nothing to do with defense mechanism. I think fear is an emotion which is of the nature of fleeing whee fleeing only means you are just away from the vicinity of the stimulus. However how the fleeing is applied may be a defense mechanism, but not necessarily.

      I only see levels of self in both what are called living and non-living entities. So the distinction I make is not pertinent to how the distinction is made on the basis of growth or reproduction.

      Yes, I think every experience is to protect something, that something is the self necessarily. I think the word continuity of self is more apt to describe the purpose of any experience, not only fear.

      The panexperientialist view of fear I'm advocating here is based on the idea that fear is how the mechanism of absence from the vicinity of harming or unsuitable stimulus works. Since fight and fleeing nature is present in all emotions and in fact all kinds of change, fear is also experienced by a rock and every entity above the rock on the level of complexity in sensitivity.

    • Pooja,

      thanks. I read this over and it is slowly becoming evident to me how you have put together your unique view. Until I take time to read your book, I'll not likely have the whole view to be able to assess it. Based on my shortage of time to respond fully in the moment, I will say this seems a worthy project and foundation to build and that bringing a panexperientialist view like you are to the study of fear is great--eventually, I think your conceptualization of "fear" will fall short until it can integrate to some degree culturally-modified forms ('fear') and an epistemology of unknowing re: 'fear' that I posit in my work. Anyways, besides that, a couple thoughts came to me while reading this last response of yours, all part of our mutual interest to inquire into "the purpose of fear": 

      a) there seems an equating by your view (perhaps justifiable) that the nature of the most basic self/agency (level) of consciousness is organizationally and operatively a field or ecology of fear (as a primary motivational paradigm and/or template) for existence; meaning that ecology of fear is what carries as a "mechanism" the basic protection functioning you speak of that revolves around your language/conception of the fighting-fleeing dynamic (dialectic?)... that's interesting to me if such is where you are going, and even I thought your view is examining negentropy-entropy dynamic (dialectic?) but you have chosen another register to label this? just some thoughts... 

      b) I think the way you are defining fear above is fine as long as you stay within the confines (or territory) of talking about proto-emotional dynamics of which fighting-fleeing are operative and functional for survival (and development beyond)... I'm not sure if you have engaged the literature on proto-emotions but it may be useful ... 

      There are many other challenges and questions I have. I think ultimately we'd do better in a conversation than on blogs and emails, as this all takes excess time to write out and truly share what we are meaning ... understanding comes from such alive dialogues I find... anyways, we can keep doing some exchanges in text digitally as well if this is useful... if you ever want to come to Canada, you are welcome to stay with my wife and I and we could have some further conversations in person.

    • Sorry for replying late (Holidays...)
      a) Fear is to protect something only when it leads to anger because when you are angry you tend to try to remove the stimulus which causes fear from your vicinity. Fear originates when you are exposed to the stimulus, when you actually feel the stimulus because only when you 'know' the effect of the stimulus on you, that you can consider the effect of the stimulus as undesirable. So fear is the predictable effect from the stimulus post experience of the stimulus to form an opinion about the stimulus. So fear is knowledge about the stimulus.

      I don't believe in the idea of proto emotions because I don't think fear or love can cause other emotions simply because these emotions have their own purpose or effect on the memory, psyche or personality in general. Also I believe that love causes or is telepathic experience between two persons. However I think experience of emotions can be influenced by other emotions. But not necessarily a causal power to one or more emotions.

      Thank you for inviting me. I would like to converse with you in person too. I hope it happens in the near future.

      I am also reading your works, I'm a slow reader so it will take some time for me to get a handle on your idea of fear or fearlessness.
      I think the purpose of fear is similar to the nature of a precognitive thought. You know something is undesirable before you are exposed to it.
    • Pooja wrote,

      "Fear is to protect something only when it leads to anger because when you are angry you tend to try to remove the stimulus which causes fear from your vicinity." 

      I agree with this observation generally, although I would want to qualify "anger" with more nuance and look at at least two forms of anger (one that is fear-based and would fit your description of attempting to obliterate the stimulus and one other form I observe that is healthier and engages one with the stimulus). That is a longer conversation, if you are interested. I begin my own thinking about anger/defense (mechanisms) related to fear within biology and evolutionary theories of proto emotions (but it seems you don't wish to "believe" in the idea of proto emotion so we don't seem to have common ground to go further in inquiry).

      You also say, "fear is knowledge about the stimulus [that invokes repulsion]." I think this valuable to assert because I tend to think and theorize about fear as more than an emotion or feeling as is typically defined in psychology and most philosopy but as "fear intelligence" from a systems perspective and discourse.

    • My conversation with Desh Subba

      (Copying my new blog here just for the sake of continuity of content)

      I will not try to elaborately explain his ideas about fear because his ideas about fear are clearly explained in his much celebrated book Philosophy of Fearism. After about an hour's exchange of views I have an impression that he regards fear as 'causative agent' to actions of all kinds. He uses the word 'fear' as a force guiding us to all our actions. Though I agree with his idea, I do not necessarily share his idea simply because he uses fear in place of 'lack of something'. For instance, he believes that a rich man fears being poor thus doesn't want to be poor. In this example you can replace fear with 'lack of richness' and it would mean the same. That is, a person who doesn't want to be poor knows how it is to not be rich. The absence of something or knowledge about something he says is fear.I pointed out to him that I believe that fear originates from knowledge from the past and projects itself as a plan of action to be pursued in the future. So in order for the person to fear he has to think in the future, he necessarily has to 'expect' something to happen, whose outcome being uncertain leads to fear, where fear is the uncertainty of the future itself. Desh Subba to this replies that he doesn't think in all cases 'expectation' leads to or is itself fear. He simply believes fear 'causes' a person to pursue a certain task or action. As I said before I would let Desh Subba's book do the talking when it comes to explaining in detail his views. I am interested in the process of fear thus I write only a few points pertaining to my interest. I also continue with the idea that fear is fleeing mechanism with regard to the stimulus phenomenologically speaking. I hope Desh can clarify any misunderstanding if there are any...Thank you -Pooja Soni
    • Pooja, 

      I'll take time to read your points above later. For now, I'll suggest you can get a quick feel for my basic work using an evolutionary hierarchical spectrum (and postmodern) approach to studying "fear" and 'fear' : go to my blog for some core foundational articles to download https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/fearology-training-insti...

      Also, I'll send you are more recent paper to your email. 

      Fearology Training Institute: Cornerstone Publications by RMF
      I have had a few very enthusiastic people of late, especially young people in undergrad studies of philosophy and psychology, for example, who want a…
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