In a scholarly article, I am permitted to quote another author. The visual cue of quotation marks, or, with a longer quote, an indented block of text, or the italics and right-justification of an epigram mark the change in identity. But what if the same author (could be me) makes an argument in several interwoven voices, distinguishing those voices with additional different visual cues (such as font, color, size, bold or italic, etc.). The conventional way to do this is with the footnote or endnote where a “marginal” comment may be made that is tangential, or supplementary to the main discourse.
Stephen Wolfram in A New Kind of Science elevates this principle to a fine art; a sizeable portion of the book are the endnotes of his comments.
When these comments in other voices are brought into the main text, the clarity, and appearance of certainty of a uni-linear argument may suffer. The author may even display a counterpoint of doubts to her assertions, contradictory viewpoints, ambivalences, or state-bound differences of perception and expression. Or she may choose to express the same idea in two different sensory modalities, or style of words. The author exercises noetic license to express herself in whatever discourse reflects her own multiplicity of thought, feeling, and means of expression at any given moment.
The politics of knowledge: the standards for production (granting of degrees and tenure, peer review); rules of ownership (IP and copyright issues); storage, retention, and retrieval, accessibility (security, power, all education); symbolic hygiene procedures (censorship, viral and theft protection; computer security) all militate against the granting of noetic licenses.
Fortunately, a noetic license can only be self-granted.1 The rules of evidence are preceded by the rules of self-evidence, the freedom of attention, and the right to remain silent. It is, in its political aspect, a matter of cognitive liberty. The rules of self-evidence apply and cannot be ignored in the study of consciousness, which must include the views from “inside” as well as “outside.” The 1st person and the 3rd person reports.
The term “atma vichara” is helpful here: “”Atma” means consciousness or awareness or the unfathomable intelligence. “Vichara” means inquiry into. So Atma Vichara means “inquiry into consciousness itself.”
Of course in the study of psychedelically transformed states of consciousness, the matter of “persons” (how does “1st person” apply in ego dissolution, for instance?) goes up for grabs. These are methodological considerations, as well as matters of genre and style in scholarly writing.
Noetic license in the province of the mind is the exercise of the freedom to know, and to explore one’s mind in whatever fashion works for the current pursuit. Epistemology becomes a personal matter. John Lilly exercised his noetic license fully. His maxim:
“In the province of the mind what one believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits. These limits are to be found experimentally and experientially. When so found these limits turn out to be further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind there are no limits. However, in the province of the body there are definite limits not to be transcended.”
This opens up the science of belief structures, which is the topic of his book Simulations of God.
- Noetic Licenses may also be obtained, for a reasonable fee, from the Institute for the Encouragement of Outrageous Ideas [↩]