Heideggerian Anxiety as a Means of Exiting the System

“Readiness for anxiety is a Yes to assuming a stance that fulfills the highest claim, a claim that is made upon the human essence alone. Of all beings, only the human being, called upon by the voice of being, experiences the wonder of all wonders: that beings are.”

–Martin Heidegger, Postscript to What is Metaphysics (1929)

“No matter how a program twists and turns to get out of itself, it is still following the rules inherent in itself”

– Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel Escher Bach (1979)

The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, mostly remembered as a phenomenologist and to some extent, existentialist, made the concept of anxiety central to his thought. In his magnum opus, Being and Time, anxiety is a technical concept that stands for a fundamental mood or orientation toward the world. I’m interested in anxiety for many reasons, less of which have to do with Heidegger himself, and more of which concern further understanding and unpacking, in my view, a real yet hitherto mysterious and little understood psychological phenomenon. I do not mean to defer to Heidegger’s account as an authoritative explication of this phenomenon, especially since a Heideggerian conception of anxiety is tied to many peculiarities that concern its place in his greater system of thought. But Being and Time remains a force to be reckoned with, a work that endures as a lush and fecund tract of hypotheses concerning topics as varied as ontology, mind, consciousness, meaning, society, culture, aesthetics, and time – even if an empirical framing of its claims counteracts the vain in which they were made. On that basis, beginning with Heidegger’s insights should serve as a springboard to greater understanding with the hope of moving towards an interdisciplinary treatment and expansion of the concept. 

To understand anxiety, some preliminary and highly abridged remarks about its place in Being and Time are necessary. The work sets out to unearth the existential structures of the human being through hermeneutic phenomenological analysis as a proxy for investigating fundamental ontology, the nature of Being itself. Why start with the human being? Because, Heidegger argues, as the being which raises the very question of the meaning of Being, the human being must form a site of special insight. Throughout the work, Heidegger maintains a distinction between fundamental ontology, the formal study of Being and its structures, in this case the ontological structure of the human being, and ontic disciplines and discourse, which denote factual claims and empirical methods of investigation. The rationale for the distinction rests on the assumption that ontology is conceptually prior as well as a necessary condition for empirical investigation. The physicist or biologist, for example, encounter the world already carved-up into objects and thereby in some preliminary sense presuppose the entities of their investigation. When a physicist or biologist reassess these presuppositions, namely posits like force, energy, life, etc, they do so ontically, not ontologically. This is because even when they revisit their conceptual schemas, they bypass the fundamental question of being, namely what it is meant by being at all to begin with. They do not ask what grounds their activity, or under what purview their domain of entities become a meaningful object of study, which bears a clue as to the existential foundation of their being. While enticing, this idea that the ontological structure that Heidegger is going to lay bare is foundational and thereby presupposed by all human activity is flawed. The reason it is flawed is that, however way you slice it rationally, the ontic-ontological distinction is at heart ad-hoc.  It is ad-hoc because, even though Heidegger seeks to articulate the ground for any meaningful “disclosure”, which in lay terms translates into the constitutive structure that underlies any activity at all, it does not preclude the possibility that the structure cannot be investigated empirically, from a third-person point of view. (Note: this is a gambit for a much wider discussion that I will forego). While I find many aspects of Heidegger’s ontological characterization of the human being for the most part sound – and often profound – the privileging of his investigation does not withstand rational scrutiny, unless we cede to his rationale dogmatically. Yes, Heidegger is trying to flip the traditional epistemological framing of rational investigation in favor of a prior, more primordial “ground”, but in order to do so he must borrow currency from some form of positivism, given that the source of his “data” is experiential/sensory organized through analysis.

In rejecting or dissolving the ontic-ontological distinction, I want to open a space for bringing Heidegger’s claims into the sphere of empirical science. Even if one disagrees with this muddying of the waters, and even if the case can be made for retaining the distinction, Heidegger’s analytic of Dasein is first and foremost a descriptive project and not an explanatory one, which in my view renders it noncommittal, and thereby consistent with, the ontic sciences, among them inquiry into the causes of the ontological structure Heidegger has undertaken to draft. In other words, were it that Heidegger succeeded in articulating the ontological ground for any ontic activity, it does not by the same token imply that ontic activity cannot say anything meaningful about the (partially) physical constitution of that ground, e.g. the neurophysiological structures that host it. 

Adjourning from the pursuit of this quandary, Being and Time offers a profound insight: the human being, designated by Heidegger as Da-Sein to bypass any metaphysical commitments whatever – translated as being-open or being-there – encounters the world first and foremost meaningfully within a matrix of purposive, task-directed contexts (we’re going to disregard the counteracting evidence of child development in the which the meaningful context is diachronically spun); everything that follows is scaffolded upon – or emerges from within – this meaningfulness, which can be more adequately characterized as a pre-reflective, pre-ontological horizon of intelligibility that regulates the contours of the world’s disclosure. Heidegger uses the phrase being-in-the-world  to denote the basic state of Dasein – the being for whom its own existence is an issue and the being under investigation – and which hints at Dasein’s unitary existential structure. The world is not foremost something that Dasein passively contemplates, but a stage for skillful coping permeated by a network of meanings that are equiprimordially revealed/presupposed in its average dealings – being-with others, engagement with a task at hand, contemplation. Dasein’s Being-in-the-world has a structure, and Heidegger is at pains to carve it at its joints – to borrow a phrase from Quine – at the service of capturing the essence of Dasein (though Quine would disagree that there are joints to be discovered at all in a phenomenological analysis of the essence of the human being). Heidegger analyzes this structure in terms of superpositions of tripartite complexes (whose connections to the history of philosophy and centrality within Christianity are interesting to note).  Dasein’s being-in-the world consists of an inherited public dwelling that regulates its fundamentally futural character, namely its understanding of its possibilities, captured by the three interrelated concepts of projection, thrownness and fallenness. This tripartite structure is anchored in the world through care, but since Heidegger is after the unitary ontological structure of Dasein, care must ultimately be interpreted temporally with respect to Dasein’s potential to be whole, accomplished only in death. Care as Dasein’s ontological structure of being-in-the-world involves the facet of disposedness which plays a role in the mode of the world’s disclosedness or disclosure (namely the pre-reflective significations of the purposeful dwelling). We’ve already hinted that the world is disclosed to Dasein within some horizon of intelligibility, but within that intelligibility Dasein’s comportment is regulated by certain fundamental dispositions or moods. Dasein is always in some such mood, whether it be boredom, absorption, or anxiety, each of which determines its attitude towards the environment and the beings in it. Most moods do not fundamentally disrupt Dasein’s involvement with the familiar signifiers of its world – the matrix of significance remains lit up. Heidegger, however, identifies anxiety as a distinctive mood that fundamentally disrupts Dasein’s envelopment in its environment – its constitutive coupling with its there. Whereas most moods reveal the world intelligibly, anxiety wipes out that a priori intelligibility – and, instead, reveals the world unintelligibly as uncanny; it estranges the da from sein – Dasein becomes unmoored from its familiar worldly footing.

Some remarks regarding authenticity here are necessary. Authenticity and inauthenticity are modes of Dasein’s potentiallity-for-Being, or
futural constitution, and Heidegger avers that Dasein in its average
dealings is anchored inauthentically in the world, in other words it
does not own up to its own possibilities and does not take proper
ownership of itself in the right way. The first division of Being and Time, while making headway in characterizing Dasein’s existential-ontological structure, maintains focus on Dasein’s average everydayness, which is characterized by fallenness in the They, and thereby inauthentic coping.  Division two, meanwhile, seeks the foreclosure of the existential-ontological structure by incorporating death into the formula – the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein – and in doing so, Heidegger lays out the state-of-mind required to achieve authentic coping: anticipatory resoluteness towards deathAnticipatory resoluteness towards death forms a murky part of Being and Time, but also that part of the text where Heidegger articulates the ontological basis for authentic comportment, which involves heeding the call of conscience through the mood of anxiety – which flicks off intelligibility – in order to own up to one’s own possibilities by anticipating one’s ownmost potentially-for-Being – death – resolutely. Heidegger’s tidy sewing of the authenticity-inauthenticity dichotomy into the existential-ontological tapestry of Dasein, and the later reinterpretation of these within the tripartite structure of temporality (which I will not go into), strikes me as contrived, and on the whole not compelling due, in part, to the ascription of starkly contrasting conditions of satisfaction to authentic and inauthentic temporality.  For Heidegger purists this might seem blasphemous, but in my investigation I divest anxiety from the network of ontological commitments (to authentic temporality, call of conscience as a manifestation of authentic care, etc.) Heidegger entangles the concept in Being and Time. I’m interested in anxiety from a more innocent perspective – one not colored by Heidegger’s concern with fundamental ontology – though kindred to Heidegger’s circumscription of the datum – I retain the phenomenological angle of approach within the methodological toolkit: anxiety cannot be mapped out neurophysiologically without also getting clear on its distinctness as a type of experience and the phenomenal contents it discloses.

As I have already remarked, Heidegger privileges anxiety as that mood or attunement toward the world that, so to speak, uncouples Dasein from its thereness. During its average comportment toward the world, the human being accepts the intelligibility of the world, namely the provincial web of significations in which it is thrown; it swims freely in them. It carries the provincial web wherever it goes and interprets new experiences under the constraints of this provincialism. Piaget describes the cognitive mechanisms whereby the human being expands its modes of environmental fit and conceptual schemas by both assimilating new experience into old schemas, and differentiating those schemas when assimilation proves unsuccessful. In Heideggerian speak, Dasein expands the worldhood of its world in a similar way, by bringing new regions of the world within purview of purposeful intelligibility or readiness-to-hand. Dasein’s comportment of care, its being involved in the objects of its concern, occasionally gets interrupted not just in the ordinary sense of taking a break, moving on to something else or things breaking down, but also in a global sense: Dasein feels boredom; the totality of the world fails to stimulate it. Yet boredom does not disrupt Dasein’s overall tether to its environment and the goal-directed behaviours it imposes (it merely itches for its expansion, e.g. exploratory behaviour). Anxiety, on the other hand, fundamentally alienates it – anxiety wipes away the intelligibility of the world in a global sense, and brings one into relief against one’s world, the web of significations one normally swims in with relative competence. What gets disclosed in the fundamental mood of anxiety, asks Heidegger? That one is. Somehow by standing in relief against its normal, sustained coping, the human being catches sight of itself as such. This newly attained vantage point has consequences for the human being’s concern with itself, which ought to resolve in a reconsideration of its relationship to its future – since the human being fundamentally is thrown projection. What then, is anxiety? On the surface, anxiety is a feeling of estrangement from the sense of familiarity and meaningful anchorage that our purposeful dwelling oozes. It is the kind of mood that, if seized upon, can redefine ones’s sense of meaning by disclosing the wider range of possibilities the world presents. Yes one is provincial, but anxiety presents a way whereby one can escape some of that provincialism by reconsidering the horizon of possibilities it has been thrust in. But that is not all that Heidegger says.

The phenomenon of anxiety is not some fictitious creation, but a real experience that enables the human being, or those human beings that are more prone to experiencing it, to jump outside the system, or rather to become a level removed from their envelopment in the world. Anxiety distances the human being from the familiar signifiers and attendant commitments of everyday life. In this respect, anxiety bears some resemblance to the Eastern notion of detachment. Detachment is articulated in Eastern doctrines as a voluntary phenomenon, whereas anxiety in Heidegger is characterized as largely involuntary, though deeply bound up with a primordial sense of identity inherent in Dasein that is normally enshrouded by its culture and provincial obligations. Both Heidegger and Eastern detachment recognize that human beings relate to the world through some relation of care or desire. Both care and desire are forms of investment in the world. Both views are right to observe that this sense of investment can foster a kind of single-mindedness that deprives the human being of a more cosmic perspective, the act of “removing” themselves from their normal involvement to acquire an external, “third-person view” of itself and the world. But can the human being truly achieve this? Can it truly obtain a third-person view of itself or jump outside of itself? 

Herein we arrive at a potentially profound parallel with the most sophisticated objects humans have hitherto engineered: computers. The development of computers relied on emulating aspects of the human mind, in particular natural language and higher-order thought that have intentional contents like beliefs. Some strands of philosophy have traditionally privileged the capability of natural language to map onto the world, namely to represent states of affairs through binary evaluation into truth or falsity. Other strands, and more recently certain schools in the philosophy of language, equilibrize this representational character with language’s performative capabilities (e.g. facts begotten in virtue of utterances within the right conditions),  explored in speech act theory. Focus on its representational character, meanwhile, led to increasingly more powerful formalizations of natural language into the propositional calculus and later, first-order logic, both of which meet the criteria for soundness and completeness, which is to say that all statable theorems are provable within each system. The propositional calculus, for example, while not a high-resolution language (e.g. it cannot represent logical quantities like all and some), relies wholly on a small set of definitions and rules of inference. A computer is an implementation of one such formal system in an electronic circuit, wherein the logical computations correspond in 1-1 fashion (i.e. are isomorphic) to machine code operations on incoming bits. These machine code operations can be translated or abstracted into higher-level languages, which are more readily understood and manipulated by humans. A computer, thereby, forms a case in point as to how simple causal processes of fluctuating electrical signals can be scaled up into complex computations and functions. It forms the basis for a subset of theories of mind that view the mind just in this way, namely as something that the brain does, just like the heart pumps blood. The process of abstraction of the “computer source code”, that is to say the machine language of zeros and ones, to “higher levels” is nothing mysterious but an additional mechanical process of representing the operations and the data in a way more intelligible to a human, such as replacing a set of zeros and ones standing, say, for an operation by a mnemonic name. Similarly, the mental contents you have access to in your conscious states, such as beliefs, desires, and even pains, could be thought of as abstractions/simplifications of more fundamental neural patterns. You hear people speak of software and hardware, and by the same token, analogize the mind to the former and the brain to the latter. But the line between the two is not altogether clear because, after all, the code/software is a pattern of hardware. Yet that pattern is independent of the hardware in the sense that it can be implemented in a different machine with different architecture, which presents the distinction between software and hardware in starker terms. A question to keep in mind is, can this relationship be analogized to broader reality itself, as in are lower levels of organization at the fundament (quarks and leptons, fields of force) to higher levels of organization at scales of biomes, ecologies and social reality just as the hardware is to the software? This question is beyond the scope of our present purposes, but a topic I shall return to at one point. 

The crux of the self-similarity between computers and humans lies in the way both humans and computer programs organize procedures. A computer program employs recursive procedures, which are procedures within procedures, any number of levels deep, in the completion of a greater procedure. The way the computer achieves this is through nesting procedures within precisely defined function scopes, and executes them according to some conditions obtaining. In other words the program unfolds conditionally within a predefined sample space. The way the computer avoids circularity is that recursive sequences are defined in terms of its type, not self-identity, thereby creating a nested structure of self-similar but not identical procedures that terminate on the termination condition specified at the highest level or scope. In order for a computer to manage such subroutines at the service of the global routine it must maintain a call stack of active subroutines and the conditions under which they should resume relative to other subroutines. A computer can manage several (many more than several) parallel global procedures with attendant subroutines much like a human being can keep in mind several goals with attendant auxiliary procedures to complete within the temporal scope of a day or longer. Now the difference between a computer and a human is that the human seems to be able to completely rewrite the code of these procedures at will, whereas a computer is beholden to the script. Yet, there is a way that this is both correct and incorrect. A computer can be programmed to modify itself; more relevantly, it can be programmed to learn much like a human does and therefore make decisions in light of information it does not have but is contingent on environmental input. Although it may seem like a human can wholly rewrite the script, the human is also beholden to certain strong compulsions (besides, of course, bodily functions), “hard-wired” dispositions with a high probability of occurring in the span of a day such as eating. Not only that, but the human clearly has no control over the hardware that implements its “software” or behaviour (i.e. its neural circuitry), with some parts of the code exhibiting greater flexibility than other parts (e.g. instincts and basic drives). On the whole, however, there appears to be a qualitative difference between the two: the human is aware of itself in a global sense in a way the computer isn’t. Therefore, even though we can engineer computers that can modify themselves, we cannot engineer computers that can choose how to engineer themselves. Precisely why this is, remains a matter of debate, but in short, something to do with consciousness. I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole here, but the features of consciousness will figure peripherally in the points I want to make about anxiety as a phenomenon, and what mechanisms are responsible for inducing it. The crux will lie in the distinction between what philosophers call phenomenal awareness/consciousness (along with gestalt properties) and functionally-defined consciousness, which resembles recursive-procedures and can potentially be explained by them. For example, some higher-order theories of consciousness posit that to be conscious of something amounts to realizing a representation of the thought that you are conscious of that thing. Foregoing the many knots involved in this, this view aspires to explain consciousness through recourse to functionally-definable representations unlike proponents of phenomenal consciousness that view first-person experience as difficult to assimilate within a functional account. The question to be answered is the following: is anxiety a feature of higher-order thought (propositional contents) or something closer to raw experience, gestalt perception, and/or affect /emotion regulation. I do not preclude the possibility that it involves a combination of these domains, but I hypothesize that emotion-regulation is a necessary component in light of the fact that our motivational structures are regulated by the limbic system and anxiety permits an affectual and/or conceptual egress from those motivational structures. Potentially the limbic system has effects on the global informational network that realizes consciousness/self-consciousness.  

We have said that the phenomenon of anxiety involves stepping back from – or losing our involvement with – the string or matryonshka doll of goal-oriented behaviours – indeed with the ground that endows such goal-oriented beahviours with relevance. In our engagement with the world tasks seem to sequentially follow one another, but within our mental stack a hierarchy of “weights” has been assigned, with some taking auxiliary roles in the fulfillment of tasks with greater weights, and other ones falling outside that scope altogether. Taking out the garbage might fall in the maintenance stack, but finishing the short story or computer program might fall within the week’s principal goal, which might be at the service of the greater goal of writing a short story collection, creating a piece of software, getting a promotion etc. Whether one’s organization of goals can be formalized is a matter of debate ( I doubt they can), but they appear to resemble a nested structure, much like computer programs. Different from a computer program, the human being can reflect back on their “hierarchy” of tasks and rearrange and modify them, but also ponder their “purpose” in the overall project of being a human being. Following Nietzsche, it would appear that the stack bottoms out on the overriding scope of the human being as “interested/invested” in the world, which in the Darwinian perspective is a function of survival or reproductive success. Now the reader might agree that the human being can eject itself from its auxiliary tasks, but it cannot eject itself from the overarching scope of its “being-hood”, which is survival. Now matters get tricky. Let us first establish that, for the most part, people are loath to ejects themselves at all, even if they are aware of the relative character of their concerns. By relative, I mean that their concerns are provincial within the specificity of their culture, but also provincial in the overall human sense that they are survival-enhancing undertakings. Mere awareness of this framing should not paralyze one from their tasks ahead, though awareness of this relative character can have the effect of letting the genie out of the bottle, so to speak, by conferring a kind of perspective that haunts or informs all further activity. Which is why, in my view, Heidegger associates seizing onto “anxiety” with an expansion of one’s awareness of realizable possibilities. I could just as well be doing something else than what I am doing: a broad array of activities are consistent with my survival/realization of self. Some Buddhist monks, it would appear, have pressed the eject button really hard, and given up on “striving”, though they go through the motions of daily duties. One imagines, even though I do not know much about Buddhist monks, that they also fall prey to “prolonged” undertakings within their monastery context, and so despite ejecting themselves from a certain set of projects, presumably the culturally dominant ones, they ultimately fall prey to a rarer subset, thereby ultimately yielding to the cycle of the nested hierarchy of involvements. 

Concerning jumping out of the system, Douglas Hofstadter says the following in Gödel, Escher Bach

“It is still of great interest to ponder whether we humans ever can jump out of ourselves–or whether computer programs can jump out of themselves. Certainly it is possible for a program to modify itself–but such modifiability has to be inherent in the program to start with, so that cannot be counted as an example of ‘jumping out of the system’. No matter how a program twists and turns to get out of itself, it is still following the rules inherent in itself. It is no more possible for it to escape that it is for a human being to decide to voluntarily not obey the laws of physics. Physics is an overriding system, from which there can be no escape. However, there is a lesser ambition which it is possible to achieve: that is, one can certainly jump from a subsystem of one’s brain into a wider subsystem. One can step out of ruts on occasion. This is still due to the interaction of various subsystems of one’s brain, but it can feel very much like stepping entirely out of oneself. Similarly, it is entirely conceivable that a partial ability to ‘step outside of itself’ could be embodied in a computer program. However, it is important to see the distinction between perceiving oneself, and transcending oneself. You can gain visions of yourself in all sorts of ways–in a mirror, in photos or movies, on tape, through the descriptions of others, by getting psychoanalyzed and so on. But you cannot quite break out of your own skin and be on the outside of yourself (modern occult movements, pop psychology fads, etc. notwithstanding). TNT can talk about itself, but it cannot jump out of itself. A computer program can modify itself but it cannot violate its own instructions–it can at best change some parts of itself by obeying its own instructions. This is reminiscent of the humorous paradoxical question, ‘Can God make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it?’” 

–p. 477-8

Here I suspect that the Heideggerian concept of anxiety and the notion of “perceiving oneself” and “stepping outside of oneself” as identified by Hofstadter, even though interrelated, diverge. In Hoftstadter’s characterization, stepping out of oneself is a feat of the mind’s representational character. Namely, it can represent itself as an entity in the world among other entities, and in light of this abstraction, it acquires a global perspective of itself. On the surface, what Heidegger is describing is not representational but presentational – that is, occurring at the gestalt level. But gestalt is also the wrong trope – as the gestalt appearance of the world does not change in the face of Heideggerian anxiety. I concur here with Heidegger on account that my experience of the phenomenon attests to this aspect of Heidegger’s characterization. The world is not perceptually altered in anyway, what it is robbed of is the overlay of endowment with relevance – the value-ladenness that normally engulfs it has slipped away; it no longer presents itself as an opening upon which Dasein casts its projections, the horizon has shrunk , and Dasein recoils from its contours which no longer circumscribe a landscape of collectible rewards. Is Heiddeger describing depression? Surely the type of opening anxiety offers is kindred to the opening that depression presents – though perhaps they differ in degree or altogether in inducement conditions – the latter being a more complex and sustained psycho-chemical withdrawal, whereas the former a kind of withdrawal that is cyclical, symptomatic of the system, perhaps induced by engagement-informational fatigue. The observation that anxiety reveals the world as it is, while problematic on Kantian transcendental grounds – if one gives credence to those – captures something true, namely that anxiety proffers a glimpse into a world devoid of meaning, thereby tendering the intellectual insight that meaning or lack-thereof perhaps are not intrinsic properties of the world, but are a psycho-chemical emulsion very much symptomatic of a survival machine running on limited reward neurotransmitters like dopamine. This might prompt the response that anxiety is merely a crash of the reward system, which might very well be the case, except that I suspect that anxiety can occur without the usual conditions that cause such a crash. I’m more of the view that it constitutes a cyclical or system-symptomatic phenomenon, though support for such a claim would require a representative sample of the population. I’m not sure as to the extent of the prevalence of anxiety across human populations. If rare, then we cannot discount the possibility that anxiety is a species of mood disorder characteristic of certain individuals or personalities. But where I am interested in pursuing the discussion is toward understanding the interactions between different informational loops occurring in the brain. Reward structures are predominantly located in the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical loop, which affect information-processing at higher levels, like the neo-cortex. To be sure, talk of neurochemistry and lateralized brain functions concretizes what Heidegger means by disclosure or disclosedness. The world-dwelling-opening is akin to a cocktail of parallel structures (and chemical juices) that mobilize aroused engagement and occasionally dismobilize engagement or withdrawal from the care-structures to which one has pledged commitment. In part, the merit of the notion of anxiety lies in the observation that it permits a global change of the mode of disclosure or mood, which hints at the temporal structure of the throbbing-cycling present being some form of global workspace that integrates or gives spotlight to diverse structures in the brain by making them present in awareness.

It is worth pursuing the structural similarities between anxiety and gestalt perceptual shifts having the phenomenal character of a spontaneous change/interpretation of percept, with gestalt psychology affecting particular intentional objects/stimuli, whereas anxiety affecting all percepts – the cast of the conscious workspace – globally. The phenomenal character of anxiety in Heidegger is similar to aspect-shift, a perceptual phenomenon of shifting between two different interpretations of an identical image. Wittgenstein famously used the duck-rabbit image to demonstrate aspect perception. The significance of this phenomenon may do a lot of work in vindicating Heidegger’s characterization of the world as a web of significance with objects showing up first and foremost as tools ready-to-hand. In this characterization, higher-order thought, namely a description at the level of purpose, makes the world of perceptions amenable to manipulation. Haphazardly we call it context, but cognitively speaking a lot must go on in generating this context. I haste to say that Heidegger’s characterization awards primacy to top-down perception in the generation of the meaningful context. The library is a place for reading and information, and labeling a building as such reorders a whole slew of expectations before we walk inside, reducing the uncertainty of our future actions. Similarly, with aspect perception, the viewer cannot sometimes perform the shift unless they understand the instructions, which strongly suggests that the description – or label or category (which could be a composite of analog and amodal symbols)– and higher-order thought more generally, have a hand in shaping the percept.  Since higher-order thought contributes to the generation of context, and anxiety describes the hollowing out of that context, then anxiety could be caused from the bottom-up, a psycho-chemical disruption of the meaningful projection-horizon. 

Does anxiety interact with higher-order, propositional methods of conceiving oneself from an external perspective?  To be continued: the connection with self-reference – and the Epimenides Paradox.

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