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 Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

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jasonk



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PostSubject: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Tue Apr 28, 2015 10:22 pm

Hi everyone. I was cordially invited by Capable to participate in the discussions on this forum.

Recently I've been reading a book called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.

I think it is a very interesting book for two reasons. The first is that it has introduced me to a couple of interesting ideas concerning what consciousness is not. Before reading this book, I, like many others, assumed that tasks such as problem-solving were in the realm of consciousness. After having heard the reasoning however, I am persuaded that consciousness is actually not involved in these processes. Rather consciousness is the initial instruction to perform a task.

I also was fascinated by the idea Jaynes proposes in the book regarding the origin of our modern consciousness. Essentially ancient peoples were not conscious like we are conscious today. They did not have a concept of their own consciousness. This leads Jaynes to some interesting conclusions. It is rather fascinating to think about, and I'd encourage anyone who hasn't read this book to read it.
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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Wed Apr 29, 2015 11:50 am

Hi jasonk, glad to see you decided to join.

I read a book a while ago called The Ancestral Mind, I think it was, also talking about the bicameral structure of consciousness. I do remember it was a convincing view, but I'll need to review it againto say anything about the theory.

Consiousness cannot be boiled down to simple mechanical interactions (with neurons or whatever), I view consciousness as rooted in perspective-making and in the assumption or loss of more or less individualized vantages upon the "objects" of consciousness; whatever becomes salient to consciousness forces a response and resulting orientation, a new organizing of stuctures of response (cognitions, actions, instinctive pressures, feelings, the recall of memories, abstraction from a given set of conditions of some isolated aspect of those conditions into derived futures) and what is realt interesting is how all of these, and more, are going on almost all the time. These are not "material" processes in the common scientific idea of materialism but are more like ideal processes, forms of relations between process-response logics variously cohered in space and time, and in and through each other. 'Difference' is given to such a setup and produces what we might call perspectives, or one aspect interpreting incoming stimuli in terms of itself, generating tertiary and more abstract fields of causality upon which more far-removed, subtle and derivaive orders of abstraction and response occur.

Gotta go now but just some quick thoughts. Will check out this book you mention and give more in depth response later. Again, nice to see you on here.

 

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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Wed Apr 29, 2015 2:37 pm

Ah, I pulled out that book, The Ancestral Mind by Gregg Jacobs and he actually talks about The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, which is how I encountered the idea too. Ancestral Mind is more focused on meditation and 'non-cognitive' approaches although he does make an effort to develop some concepts regarding an understanding of consciousness, sort of balance one thing against another.

Some initial thoughts: This view is basically saying that thought, because it is linguistic and abstractive, is essentially divorcing us from more "fundamental experience" as would be found in meditation for example, or pure emotion; the kind of "vibrancies of living" that make life meaningful, he would probably say, rather than ending up as distracted, distant actors in our own unreality separate from the natural world, from each other and from out more "true selves".

Breaking down consciousness in terms of essentially different spheres, sending-generating and receiving-responding spheres, is interesting and certainly can explain our inner monologue experience: language was internalized as a symbolic order actively prescribing interpreting-patterns and forms of experience, Categories, which broke down "authentic experience" (pre-human consciousness, pre-linguistic and pre-representational) into discrete units and developed a means of organizing these units or 'concepts' secondarily, according to new rules. Those new rules were basically what ended up becoming reason, something partially formed out of objective logical rules and partially formed out of subjective judgments and inherited values.

When early humans would see a tree, and for the first time had a symbol to represent that tree in writing, and an associated vocalization with that symbol, what was really going on was the birth of a symbolic order, a secondary kind of reality in the mind that was mapping external experiences upon itself. Required of such an order would be a way of actually organizing the contents that are being created and stored within the system; the rules and patterns by which such an organization developed would be entirely unconscious (non-intended and unknown) at first, and only later would an understanding and direct involvement in this organizing slowly develop, breaking free progressively from the unconsciousness as gripped the mind. Consciousness would have first been simply another kind of animal responsiveness, producing responses in the organism based not only on outward stimuli and recalled stimuli from memory but also by virtue of an actively dynamic 'inner world', the mind, which was an ocean of totally inward contents and symbols, and the means of relating symbols to each other based on associations (closeness of one symbol, one "idea" to another in space or in time (two things encountered quickly in succession), or similarity in form or impression, or similarity in the kind of response evoked). By these sort of rules the mind began to form its own entity unto itself, and began to engender more and more of the organism's total responses and drives from itself rather than simply reacting to what was going on outside the body.

Back to what you wrote, " Before reading this book, I, like many others, assumed that tasks such as problem-solving were in the realm of consciousness. After having heard the reasoning however, I am persuaded that consciousness is actually not involved in these processes. Rather consciousness is the initial instruction to perform a task." I would agree that problem solving per se is not what it means to be conscious, or to have a conscious experience. Consciousness is responsiveness as such, I would say, which structure is one of perspective-making. Problem solving abilities would be examples of emergent properties of a conscious system, and could occur for any number of reasons. But it would be strange to associate consciousness itself with some subset of those properties it engenders. In fact it should be possible to just do away with reifying the concept of consciousness as is commonly done and simply talk about the system itself, onto-epistemologically as well as in a "philosophical" (psychological-existental) sense; we can talk about properties of that system, its generative history, how it functions this or that way, its deeper structures. What is the basic "unit" of consciousness? Parodites, another user here, would probably say responsiveness or reaction, the ability to engender a response or affect; I would agree with that, and add that the basic unit is also the engendering of a perspective (subjectivity-vantage or "self-valuing" (another term you will see here on our site) which represents that basic affect-production's own being.

The problem I have found in philosophy and psychology today is there does not exist an adequate language and conception with which to even begin framing the question/s of consciousness; what it is, where it comes from and why, of what is it made, of what is it not made, etc. Part of the work we have been interested in at this site is to begin developing just such a language-conception, just such a philosophy.

 

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"Since the old God has abdicated, I shall rule the world from now on." --Nietzsche

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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Sun May 03, 2015 11:05 pm

That seems like a really interesting book. I never quite considered reverting ourselves occasionally back into more ancient states of consciousness. I can see how it would be enjoyable and relaxing. I find myself constantly talking in my head about this or that haha. I think hypnosis might be form of this state. Essentially while hypnotized, one doesn't think in any language. Rather the subject allows the hypnotist to be one's instruction.

This also makes me wonder, do birds think in chirps? Do chimps think in grunts? Do mice think in squeaks? All of these animals have a pre-frontal cortex which is necessary for the internal monologue experience, but how well developed does this cortex need to be? I once read how the ancient scribes used to always read out loud. They never read a book silently. Forgive me for I don't have any sources. I think I read this about St. Augustine.

When you mention the new rules, you point out the difference between objective logical rules and subjective judgments. Would you be in agreement with Kant concerning his two dichotomies: analytic/synthetic judgments and a priori/a posteriori knowledge, and the objective logical rules would be synthetic a priori?

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When early humans would see a tree, and for the first time had a symbol to represent that tree in writing, and an associated vocalization with that symbol, what was really going on was the birth of a symbolic order, a secondary kind of reality in the mind that was mapping external experiences upon itself.

Mhm, but the trick is that this mapping of external experience isn't actually consciousness. Conscious memory is not a storing up of sensory images. Whenever we want to bring forth a sensory image, we don't begin with the image and look at what is there. Instead we begin by asking what must be there? We start with reasoning and build an image, not the other way around.

Consciousness is not necessary for concepts either. Think of the tree. We are never conscious of the concept of the tree. We are only ever conscious of a particular tree, of
the fir or the oak or the elm that grew beside our house, or of the painting or sculpture of a tree. The process of recognizing a tree to be a tree is entirely unconscious.

When I said that consciousness isn't necessary for problem-solving, I had a specific experiment in mind which Jaynes mentions in the book. The experiment is basically this. Take two similar objects which are noticeably different in weight. Hold both items in each hand and then lift them up. There is no introspection necessary in order to figure out which one is heavier. The answer is just given to you by your nervous system.

Quote :
Consciousness is responsiveness as such, I would say, which structure is one of perspective-making.

Here is an interesting critique of this. In order for you to know that I am conscious, you need to see some sort of response to an external stimuli. However, I don't need to respond to stimuli in order to be conscious. I can sit in an isolation tank with absolutely no noticeable external stimuli and be conscious. The experience of consciousness itself doesn't appear to need to respond to anything.

 

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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Wed May 06, 2015 12:10 pm

jasonk wrote:
That seems like a really interesting book. I never quite considered reverting ourselves occasionally back into more ancient states of consciousness. I can see how it would be enjoyable and relaxing. I find myself constantly talking in my head about this or that haha. I think hypnosis might be form of this state. Essentially while hypnotized, one doesn't think in any language. Rather the subject allows the hypnotist to be one's instruction.

This also makes me wonder, do birds think in chirps? Do chimps think in grunts? Do mice think in squeaks? All of these animals have a pre-frontal cortex which is necessary for the internal monologue experience, but how well developed does this cortex need to be? I once read how the ancient scribes used to always read out loud. They never read a book silently. Forgive me for I don't have any sources. I think I read this about St. Augustine.

That's interesting, yes in my view "thinking" is as a concept we have which exists to demarcate certain kinds of inner experiences from others, and I do not see "thinking" as some kind of hard category or absolute entity in itself; "thought and feeling are relatively abstracted quantities of consciousness, not absolute categories of it". We hold certain object-forms in mind which I see as perspective-making constructs composed of all sort of image, sensory, linguistic, or feeling-based contents; these larger constructs I see as productive of qualities in consciousness, and what we call thinking is breaking off quantities from those larger qualities. Quantities can be broken off by the use of various methods, reason being one. We break these apart because it gets inside the larger perspective-quality and produces smaller groups of experiences, which we compare and contrast with each other implicitly because this is simply the form as such of "thinking", this kind of differentiating-comparing-contrasting. Usually this is done "unconsciously" which is to say we don't know this is what we are doing... the inner experiences produced reflect these deconstructive/reconstructive machinations going on deeper in consciousness.  

I am sure other animals have "thoughts" too, but realize they do not possess reason because they do not have a symbolic language and logic with which to abstract experiences from each other along objectifying chains; humans can progressively isolate and objectify contents of the mind, and that breaking-apart I mentioned is done in part because we have what is called reason, our inner experience and activity of consciousness is rooted partially in this kind of symbolic-abstracting linguistic system. We don't need to be thinking in terms of language to still have that non-linguistic thinking be shaped to a huge extent by the fact that we nonetheless possess language.

For other animals, language is based in the immediacy of associations between inner states of feeling/affective impulsion and perceptions. Language is a kind of transitional medium that flows between other structures, such as between the inner experiences of feeling or action-impulsion and the sensory impressions encountered by the body and reproduced in the mind. Animals are not aware they will ever die, they are not aware they are even "alive" because such an awareness requires the kind of factual objectifying-abstracting platform which our human language of conception and logical intuition allows us. It is interesting that non-human animals can still at times perform deduction, but this is rare; it shows that logic is structural and can produce larger-scale effects upon the flows in the organism which most direct-cause behavior, but generally speaking logic (derivative, which is based in a process of "false" abstraction from given conditions) requires the kind of language we humans possess, something based in symbols and with distinction between grammar and vocabulary elements working together to create a "third reality" between self and world.  

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When you mention the new rules, you point out the difference between objective logical rules and subjective judgments. Would you be in agreement with Kant concerning his two dichotomies: analytic/synthetic judgments and a priori/a posteriori knowledge, and the objective logical rules would be synthetic a priori?

Kant got the general structure right, I would say, but I also think he systematized it in a crude or unforgiving manner that does not really allow enough plasticity and subtlety, or enough "openness" in a phenomenological sense, to be truly adequate to what is going on in what we call thinking (not really his fault, he was a true pioneer here). Certainly there are clear differences between judgments rooted in feelings or personal perspective and judgments rooted in objective rationality, logic or more impersonal perspectives, and also I would agree that some of these structures are more inherent while others are more acquired (gained by experience "a posteriori"). What I think is lacking is a general theory of mind, a rational-conceptual approach to what consciousness is, what it is in terms of structure, as both an ontic and epistemic being and how these relate to one another.

Parodites has laid down such a theory of mind, the only real theory of mind I have seen. His idea is based on how consciousness is composed of varying degrees of intensity of metonymic affect-relations which over time become patterns cohered within the organism's neurology as "instinct", or as drives:


    "" The great pregnancy.-- Primitive life which could only respond in an immediate way to stimuli would have remained on the earth for only a short while, for a more refined life endowed with what we call "consciousness" had to arise. These new forms of life gained the capacity to react, not immediately to an external stimulus, but mediately, to an internal world, by engendering a mental affect, a "thought" which, in this context, is only a kind of reflex. "Thinking" is only this mediation carried to further and further extents [emphasis mine]. With this consciousness, behavior was rigidified into instinctual organizations of mental affect, what we call impulses or drives. What we call a behavior, a reaction, is only the reconstitution of certain mental affects, by means of a reflex- namely, that reflex or fundamental schema of consciousness introduced by the development of primitive sensation in response to primitive stimuli: it is the induction of a certain chain of mental causes and effects which nature, experience, and memory have rigidified into hierarchy and organization. This reconstitution is the basis of all consciousness, which is to say, of all stimulation. Egoic consciousness, however, that self-consciousness peculiar to man, has emerged out of this reflexive organism, as its highest power, in accordance to which a new means of organizing the affects has been realized.


    The qualia of an experience is directly analogous to a quanta of consciousness, that is, of reflexivity. The instincts, or "drives," to use the language of modern psychology, are not really singular affects, affects with an immediate character. They are organizations of a kind of primordial sensation, a character-less affect, which have been produced by the reflexive coordination of this primitive sensation. In the lower forms of life this reflexivity endows the affect with character, in the form of pleasure and pain, attraction and repulsion, and the character of the affect becomes more nuanced in higher life, and in relation to the development of a more complex sensory apparatus. In man, the reflexive organization of mental affect led to his awareness of enduring states of emotion, of sense, and eventually of enduring things, and of himself as an enduring entity. Language and self-consciousness here emerges, as the highest degree of reflexivity. In accordance to this new self-consciousness and language, which eventually became reason, man has begun to organize the affect in a different way, a non-reflexive way. He is organizing it in accordance with his reason. This marks the beginning of modern consciousness, an active organization of the affects, in accordance no longer to the primeval schema of consciousness, but in accordance to conceptions, ideas. Two different modes of consciousness are, as it were, existing side by side in man: the left-over of the older, reflexive consciousness, and this new, active one. To enlarge itself, the active consciousness must decompose the reflexive one. Reason introduced into that structure of man's drives which nature, over the thousands of years, had produced, a disharmony, a breakdown. This turmoil and war among the drives is what we have called our "unconscious." The completely active consciousness has yet to emerge.... An applicable metaphor to describe the reflexive consciousness is memory. Memory relies on the capacity to perceive similiarity among objects; an animal, after eating a fruit that has a particular smell and falling ill, realizes in another fruit that also possesses this smell a danger. The sensuous element, the smell, is endowed reflexively with a qualia, in accordance to the organization of characterless affect or sensation. Once a suffienct store of this affect has been organized, an instinct is produced ... Consciousness itself possesses a metonymic structure informed by this principle of similarity. It produces similarities to establish the contiguity of experience through the reflexive organization of affect until it reaches, in man, the abstract and linguistic, the archetypal. In accordance to these types, the new consciousness, the active consciousness, then decomposes similarity, realizing differences in objects, collapsing the contiguous or metonymic structure of temporal and spatial relationships. Further, it's affects are no longer organized reflexively, but with relation to the various producible types. The human capacity to regard futurity, to plan, and to reason, is essentially a differentiating, a distortion and reintegration of the contents of the metonymic consciousness, its work being essentially the reverse operation of memory. It involves, ultimately, discoordinating the structure of the drives established by the older consciousness. It has not yet gained sufficient power to endow the characterless affect with quality; this new, active consciousness, is incapable of producing passions and drives in accordance to its own principle, that of differentiation. Man does not "feel" through this active consciousness, all of his passions still belong to the reflexive or metonymic consciousness. The structure of reflexive consciousness, of the metonymic consciousness, along with the instincts and various passions which it produced that continue to live through man, are of course erroneous, are of course constituent of a false consciousness, however beneficial they were for animal existence- for the concept of similarity is erroneous. Language, reason, and the active consciousness function on a very different principle, and that human in total possession of this later consciousness has not emerged yet. The passions and drives which live through and exercise themselves upon me, are only so many memories passed down from animal life, which are structured in accordance to a principle, namely that of the similar, which is contradictory to the principle which informs the very language and reason with which I regard the work of these passions and drives.


    “... "Our consciousness is essentially a metonymic structure... intended to grasp temporal and spatial relations through contiguous impressions. To do this there had to arise a primordial, pre-reflective affect in the conscious animal. This is "sensation." The first sensation was the first moment of consciousness. In the terms I have been setting forth, they are describing one faculty, that faculty which organizes, reflexively, the affects into contiguous impressions. This reflexive organization is essentially the creation of an internal conception of the world by qualifying, endowing with qualia, this primal affect of sensation. Through the metonymic relations carved out by an animal's personal experiences, it learns to associate the raw information of a sense like a peculiar smell- say a poisonous fruit it ate once, with the ill feelings imposed by its poisoned state. This "bad" character of the primal affect, the sense, then, is the qualia. Over time these reflexive organizations play off one another, generating a richer inner conception of the world, and more intense qualia- qualified affects that no longer need an external stimulus to be invoked, are created. These would be analogous to what humans call fears, but in any case as they grow more complex they become recognizable as "passions," as the beginning of a psychology. Eventually this process produced the human consciousness, which is so refined in its inner conception of the world that it is capable of using words, and of reasoning, and has been endowed with the sense of self. In accordance with these things a shift in the structuring of the consciousness began. No longer are our affects being organized reflexively, but rather in accordance to reason, to our thoughts. This has introduced turmoil into our passions, which are no longer held together in the coordinated organizations nature produced, and their war with one another has been deceptively called our "unconscious."

    Thus:


    "Reason, fundamentally, disqualifies the affects, it disrupts the structure of the affects which qualifies them as drives, as passions, which gives them quality, be this quality pleasant or unpleasant. Spinoza accomplished the most systematic disqualification, reducing the affects to one basic quality, passion, and emotional state, namely joy, and considering all the "bad passions" merely corrupted qualifications of joy. He is an example of what I called the active consciousness. An imperfect example, but an example. Not to disqualify the affects through the hypothesis of a fundamental quality, (for Spinoza, joy; for Nietzsche, power) but by their complete reduction to quantities of consciousness.... (consciousness is only the metonymic structure which qualifies them, which endows them with quality by configuring them as single passions and drives, more consciousness equals more sharply defined affects.) Who has done that? I've elected it as one of my tasks. A truly active consciousness could arise only after this total reduction was accomplished."This is what I mean by the disintegration of the reflexive consciousness within us, the remnants that it has left behind and through which we feel. Our active consciousness, as Spinoza and Nietzsche's case prove, has never been capable of producing its own passions, of qualifying the affects on its own. The most the former two were able to do is reduce all the affects to one fundamental quality, joy and power, respectively. To grasp all the affects, all the passions, as only quantities of consciousness, as only different degrees of reflexive organization, would allow the active consciousness to finally begin qualifying the primal affect of sensation on its own, producing its own qualities, qualifications of this affect- its own passions.”



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When early humans would see a tree, and for the first time had a symbol to represent that tree in writing, and an associated vocalization with that symbol, what was really going on was the birth of a symbolic order, a secondary kind of reality in the mind that was mapping external experiences upon itself.

Mhm, but the trick is that this mapping of external experience isn't actually consciousness. Conscious memory is not a storing up of sensory images. Whenever we want to bring forth a sensory image, we don't begin with the image and look at what is there. Instead we begin by asking what must be there? We start with reasoning and build an image, not the other way around.

Right, I agree. The mapping upon a secondary order as such is not consciousness, rather this mapping is a kind of structural requirement for what we call consciousness to appear. This capacity to possess inner reality deep and wide enough that it can be impressed in these ways, converted symbolically and then these object be tied directly to affective or instinctive flows which prompt the causal necessity to recall those objects at the other end of the association... without that kind of setup in place, what humans experience as consciousness or self-consciousness cannot really occur. Language is not consciousness but it ultimately changes the rules of the game so as to later allow for this consciousness to occur. Then we are left with non-human consciousness and its difference from our own kind of consciousness: non-human consciousness would be more or less a continuous stream of inner experiences that more or less relate simply and directly to what is going on outside of the organism, and to a chain of secondary qualities which would be generalized or propriocentive-based affects or feeling-states, meant to cohere and codify the general state of the organism as "good or bad" (pleasurable or painful, or not-painful vs. in pain). For example, what we call fear would be a specifically drive-cohered autonomous response pattern able to become attached to certain perceptible image-objects falling within a range of possibility for identification; when such an image-object is apprehended it triggers the fear-response which involves a whole biochemical cascade across the body ramping it up for fight or flight (we subjectively experience the release of adrenaline in the stomach as "butterflies in the stomach", as one example).

In humans this system still exists, but is augmented to a huge degree by how complex our own subjectivity and our own linguistic-abstracting conscious structure have become. One apprehended image-object can trigger the fear system, which can then trigger hosts of other additional objects in memory or related feelings, all of which changes impact how the abstracting-predicting centers will anticipate new conditions and expectations; these latter changes also therefore secondarily impact what kinds of objects are being recalled to active memory, how the biochemical, hormonal or neurotransmitter functioning is going to occur in response to recalled images (more or less sensitive, for example), etc. It is very difficult and almost impossible to exhaustively trace even a single such moment philosophically speaking, in terms of a true understanding. This is what I would call the eventual great project of producing a true psychology, a real "psycho-phenomenology of consciousness". We aren't really anywhere near that yet, though.

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Consciousness is not necessary for concepts either. Think of the tree. We are never conscious of the concept of the tree. We are only ever conscious of a particular tree, of
the fir or the oak or the elm that grew beside our house, or of the painting or sculpture of a tree. The process of recognizing a tree to be a tree is entirely unconscious.

Yes, I agree. Again these sort of recognition processes that are "unconscious" are, just as language which we were talking about before, a kind of structural requirement for consciousness to appear as emergent above and from within the sum of these kinds of processes; consciousness itself is not reductive to these more individual processes, but is instead what emerges as a consequence and sum from the totality of all such processes within the organism, and more importantly as a consequence and sum of all the inter-relations of each process with others, and of each process with itself (along varying temporal and spatial points within any given process-chain).

A concept is just a mental impression condensed or symbolized with appeal to a wider logical-linguistic order capable of producing a symbol by which that concept can now be recognized, recalled and used. There is the form of a concept and then there is the content of a concept, these are different things entirely.


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When I said that consciousness isn't necessary for problem-solving, I had a specific experiment in mind which Jaynes mentions in the book. The experiment is basically this. Take two similar objects which are noticeably different in weight. Hold both items in each hand and then lift them up. There is no introspection necessary in order to figure out which one is heavier. The answer is just given to you by your nervous system.

Yes, this would be an example of a comparative-contrastive differentiation requiring no "thinking" because the difference is perceptible immediately in the varying neurological differences between the musculature in one arm vs. in another. Of course the entire concept of weight is separate from that immediacy of awareness of difference in heaviness; a person without any conception or language at all, say an infant, is still able to respond to the fact that one arm has more weight in it than the other arm does, and this responsiveness will manifest "unconsciously" as changes to the infant's behavior, position, choice of which object to throw at you, etc., but will not be any kind of "conscious understanding". Similarly a dog can tell which side of its backpack is heavier simply because there is a difference in the effort required to hold up one end vs. the other end, and while the dog will certainly react differently as a result of this difference in energy requirement that is not to say that the dog "understands each side has a different weight" or that the dog is "conscious of the fact that one side weighs more than another". The difference is simply manifested immanently in a non-cognitive, non-conscious manner of immediate changes to the organization of the body and resulting actions done "automatically", at the level of basic neurological cause and effect... in other words, no amount of passing through a separate, rational or cognitive or "self-aware" or concept-based system is needed in order for a behavior and response to manifest as a consequence of the dog or the infant encountering the different weights. The dog or the infant will react to this difference in weight without needing or being able to pass anything of this difference through any other kind of secondary system we might associate with cognition, thought, understanding or conception.

This is really getting at the heart of the difference between human and non-human consciousness: as humans we still possess those more immediate-basic kinds of responsiveness and automatic reorganizations of behavior, but in addition to that the experiential parameters and data are also passed through other systems secondary and separate from the basic responsiveness-automata, in order words our experiences also give cause for what we call thoughts, feelings, understanding to appear, whole new thresholds of reorganization and cause-effect. These other systems, now that they exist and are also being triggered, in turn go back and change how the more basic-automatic systems are going to unfold. There is a feedback loop of sorts or a middle-space engendered between the basic-automatic and the complex-conscious kinds of responsiveness taking place; I would say that the actual things we end up doing, saying, thinking and feeling are a product of a mediation between both kinds of systems each working upon the other. Our extant or salient consciousness is a kind of very complex and emergent compromise between more automatic and less automatic elements or 'planes of responsiveness'.

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Consciousness is responsiveness as such, I would say, which structure is one of perspective-making.

Here is an interesting critique of this. In order for you to know that I am conscious, you need to see some sort of response to an external stimuli. However, I don't need to respond to stimuli in order to be conscious. I can sit in an isolation tank with absolutely no noticeable external stimuli and be conscious. The experience of consciousness itself doesn't appear to need to respond to anything.

In that case, I would say your experience of consciousness is an experience of an entirely inward-generated consciousness, in the isolation tank you are without external sensory input and instead your consciousness is consciousness of internal sensory input only. One cannot be conscious unless one is conscious of something; consciousness "itself" is a misnomer and a misuse of language. Although we can certainly speak of consciousness itself such as we are doing in this discussion, at the ontological level, at the level of being and existence itself there is no such thing as just "consciousness" separate from that of which it is conscious, and this is true because "to be conscious" means by definition and quite literally by necessity that one is conscious of something. This can be verified logically by assuming the opposite and trying to state that "There is nothing of which I am conscious, no objects or experiences or stimuli or inner content is present whatsoever", and once we truly allow that to sink in we also see immediately that there can be no "consciousness" there whatsoever. What would a consciousness look, feel or be like that had literally NO contents whatsoever? It would be an equal nothing. It would simply not even exist.

 

___________
"Since the old God has abdicated, I shall rule the world from now on." --Nietzsche

"It would be wise to exercise caution with one's wishes." --Penny Royal AI

Odinwar <---[truth]---> Jeraz

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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Wed May 06, 2015 12:45 pm

Continuing, and on this specifically that you said,

Quote :
The experience of consciousness itself doesn't appear to need to respond to anything.

In terms of this specifically, what you say about not needing to respond, yes I see what you mean. Consciousness can exist in an entirely passive state and simply be "filled with contents" without needing or requiring to do any "activity" or "responding" to those contents which are filling it -- I would agree with this.

However, there is another sense in which this cannot be true, and that is in the sense of time itself or the temporal requirement of consciousness; for when you speak of a consciousness that is not responding to anything (to any of its contents; and remember that a consciousness without any content cannot actually exist) what you are really saying, as I see it, is a consciousness in possession of a spatial dimension but not in possession of a temporal dimension. Why is this? Because if any time were admitted into this "passively filled consciousness" its contents would immediately begin to change. "Time" is simply a rate of change of rates of change, a comparative changing-causality being imprinted from one thing upon another, and as such for this consciousness to be totally spatial and non-temporal it would basically be conscious of one single, eternal thing, not experiencing any changes at all in what it is experiencing or how it is experiencing it, and also not being subject to any changes in incoming stimuli (incoming either from external or internal to itself).

In this above sense or elaboration I would say it is not possible for a consciousness to be totally passive or to be entirely unchanging in its apprehension of its contents. It would however be possible for consciousness to be imbued with alternating moments of change and then changelessness, kinds of "small eternities" between the changes it is aware of in its contents. To me this demonstrates two things: 1) that it is possible for there to be unchanging moments of consciousness in so far as "consciousness" is taken to be the self-consciousness or what is being experienced at the salient level of awareness and active responsiveness, and these moments would only exist between other moments of activity and change, and 2) that we need to deepen our understanding of consciousness to include all of the "unconscious" changing and responding going on at the level of processes or more automatic aspects of the system which are nonetheless always moving and changing, always reconfiguring and responding in order to allow a higher experience to respond (our "conscious experience") and regardless whether or not that higher experience is, in itself, one of experiencing change or of experiencing changelessness.

Effectively I am positing change as a necessary condition for there to be any contents of consciousness at all, even for there to be contents which we might otherwise call "wholly passive in nature" or contents which themselves do not admit of perceptible change -- and that "responding to" simply boils down necessarily to "changing" in a cause-effect deterministic sense. "To respond to" here would at its most simple mean only that some change (somewhere in the structures upon which consciousness depends or arises from) gave rise to an effect or a corresponding change in consciousness or in the contents of that consciousness. Responding would thus simply mean "being affected by"... and at the very least there is always a ton of molecular-level and organ-level work, in the brain and in the body generally, going on ceaselessly in order to sustain even the possibility for something like a content of consciousness or a conscious experience to continue to exist, even if, as far as we can tell, that content or experience itself is not actually changing.

 

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"Since the old God has abdicated, I shall rule the world from now on." --Nietzsche

"It would be wise to exercise caution with one's wishes." --Penny Royal AI

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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Fri May 08, 2015 11:42 pm

Quite a lot to digest here so I hope you will forgive me for taking a while to respond.

 

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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Tue May 12, 2015 5:31 pm

No problem, it's definitely a lot to take in.

I find that live chat works better initially.. once a common ground of understanding is developed then this forum format of back and forth, slower conversation is very useful. Let me know if you ever want to try getting on Omegle again.

 

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PostSubject: Re: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind   Wed May 13, 2015 1:55 am

Quote :

I am sure other animals have "thoughts" too, but realize they do not possess reason because they do not have a symbolic language and logic with which to abstract experiences from each other along objectifying chains; humans can progressively isolate and objectify contents of the mind, and that breaking-apart I mentioned is done in part because we have what is called reason, our inner experience and activity of consciousness is rooted partially in this kind of symbolic-abstracting linguistic system. We don't need to be thinking in terms of language to still have that non-linguistic thinking be shaped to a huge extent by the fact that we nonetheless possess language.

For other animals, language is based in the immediacy of associations between inner states of feeling/affective impulsion and perceptions. Language is a kind of transitional medium that flows between other structures, such as between the inner experiences of feeling or action-impulsion and the sensory impressions encountered by the body and reproduced in the mind. Animals are not aware they will ever die, they are not aware they are even "alive" because such an awareness requires the kind of factual objectifying-abstracting platform which our human language of conception and logical intuition allows us. It is interesting that non-human animals can still at times perform deduction, but this is rare; it shows that logic is structural and can produce larger-scale effects upon the flows in the organism which most direct-cause behavior, but generally speaking logic (derivative, which is based in a process of "false" abstraction from given conditions) requires the kind of language we humans possess, something based in symbols and with distinction between grammar and vocabulary elements working together to create a "third reality" between self and world.

Hmm, I don't think I would be so quick to write animals off as so impulsive and irrational. Take for instance crows. Not only can they perform complex tasks in order to earn a snack, there is evidence a large murder of crows can communicate simple ideas to other crows in the murder as well as their offspring.



Certainly I am not supposing that crows are as intelligent as us, but I think its undeniable that crows have the ability to communicate ideas to each other using noises.

I'll give you the fact that animals do not have the capacity to realize that they themselves are conscious, that they will die, they don't possess moral autonomy, and they aren't able to perform complex intuitive actions such as just knowing what the best move is in chess when the calculations are too great. Such levels of pattern seeking are just beyond them. However some are very intelligent and can likely express abstract concepts.

Quote :

Kant got the general structure right, I would say, but I also think he systematized it in a crude or unforgiving manner that does not really allow enough plasticity and subtlety, or enough "openness" in a phenomenological sense, to be truly adequate to what is going on in what we call thinking (not really his fault, he was a true pioneer here). Certainly there are clear differences between judgments rooted in feelings or personal perspective and judgments rooted in objective rationality, logic or more impersonal perspectives, and also I would agree that some of these structures are more inherent while others are more acquired (gained by experience "a posteriori"). What I think is lacking is a general theory of mind, a rational-conceptual approach to what consciousness is, what it is in terms of structure, as both an ontic and epistemic being and how these relate to one another.

I suppose I can see how you would think Kant's epistemological dichotomies (analytic/synthetic, a priori/a posteriori) are not the whole story. They seem to be the framework or foundation, but the house is definitely not fit to live in. What we are looking for is just a compelling argument concerning consciousness based in Kant's epistemology.

I'm still working through that big block of text btw. haha

My skype is jason.k904  We can do live chat there.

 

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