Sunday, May 22, 2011

consciousness come after language!

OCBBM | The Features of Consciousness - I. Spatialization. The first and most primitive aspect of consciousness is what we already have had occasion to refer to, the paraphrand of almost every mental metaphor we can make, the mental space which we take over as the very habitat of it all. If I ask you to think of your head, then your feet, then the breakfast you had this morning, and then the Tower of London, and then the constellation of Orion, these things have the quality of being spatially separated; and it is this quality I am here referring to. When we introspect (a metaphor of seeing into something), it is upon this metaphorical mind-space which we are constantly renewing and 'enlarging' with each new thing or relation consciousized.

In Chapter 1, we spoke of how we invent mind-space inside our own heads as well as the heads of others. The word invent is perhaps too strong except in the ontological sense. We rather assume these 'spaces' without question. They are a part of what it is to be conscious and what it is to assume consciousness in others.

Moreover, things that in the physical-behavioral world do not have a spatial quality are made to have such in consciousness. Otherwise we cannot be conscious of them. This we shall call spatialization.

Time is an obvious example. If I ask you to think of the last hundred years, you may have a tendency to excerpt the matter in such a way that the succession of years is spread out, probably from left to right. But of course there is no left or right in time. There is only before and after, and these do not have any spatial properties whatever — except by analog. You cannot, absolutely cannot think of time except by spatializing it. Consciousness is always a spatialization in which the diachronic is turned into the synchronic, in which what has happened in time is excerpted and seen in side-by-sideness. (leading to other problems and limitations previously noted (Bearden's 4th Law of Logic))

This spatialization is characteristic of all conscious thought. If you are now thinking of where in all the theories of mind my particular theory fits, you are first habitually 'turning' to your mind-space where abstract things can be 'separated out' and 'put beside' each other to be 'looked at' — as could never happen physically or in actuality. You then make the metaphor of theories as concrete objects, then the metaphor of a temporal succession of such objects as a synchronic array, and thirdly, the metaphor of the characteristics of theories as physical characteristics, all of some degree so they can be 'arranged' in a kind of order. And you then make the further expressive metaphor of 'fit'. The actual behavior of fitting, of which 'fit' here is the analog in consciousness, may vary from person to person or from culture to culture, depending on personal experience of arranging things in some kind of order, or of fitting objects into their receptacles, etc. The metaphorical substrate of thought is thus sometimes very complicated, and difficult to unravel. But every conscious thought that you are having in reading this book can by such an analysis be traced back to concrete actions in a concrete world.

2. Excerption. In consciousness, we are never 'seeing' anything in its entirety. This is because such 'seeing' is an analog of actual behavior j and in actual behavior we can only see or pay attention to a part of a thing at any one moment. And so in consciousness. We excerpt from the collection of possible attentions to a thing which comprises our knowledge of it. And this is all that it is possible to do since consciousness is a metaphor of our actual behavior.

Thus, if I ask you to think of a circus, for example, you will first have a fleeting moment of slight fuzziness, followed perhaps by a picturing of trapeze artists or possibly a clown in the center ring. Or, if you think of the city which you are now in, you will excerpt some feature, such as a particular building or tower or crossroads. Or if I ask you to think of yourself, you will make some kind of excerpts from your recent past, believing you are then thinking of yourself. In all these instances, we find no difficulty or particular paradox in the fact that these excerpts are not the things themselves, although we talk as if they were. Actually we are never conscious of things in their true nature, only of the excerpts we make of them.

The variables controlling excerption are deserving of much more thought and study. For on them the person's whole consciousness of the world and the persons with whom he is interacting depend. Your excerptions of someone you know well are heavily associated with your affect toward him. If you like him, the excerpts will be the pleasant things; if not, the unpleasant. The causation may be in either direction.

How we excerpt other people largely determines the kind of world we feel we are living in. Take for example one's relatives when one was a child. If we excerpt them as their failures, their hidden conflicts, their delusions, well, that is one thing. But if we excerpt them at their happiest, in their idiosyncratic delights, it is quite another world. Writers and artists are doing in a controlled way what happens 'in' consciousness more haphazardly.

Excerption is distinct from memory. An excerpt of a thing is in consciousness the representative of the thing or event to which memories adhere, and by which we can retrieve memories. If I wish to remember what I was doing last summer, I first have an excerption of the time concerned, which may be a fleeting image of a couple of months on the calendar, until I rest in an excerption of a particular event, such as walking along a particular riverside. And from there I associate around it and retrieve mem-ories about last summer. This is what we mean by reminiscence, and it is a particular conscious process which no animal is capable of. Reminiscence is a succession of excerptions. Each so-called association in consciousness is an excerption, an aspect or image, if you will, something frozen in time, excerpted from the experience on the basis of personality and changing situational factors.

3. The Analog 'I'. A most important 'feature' of this metaphor 'world' is the metaphor we have of ourselves, the analog 'I', which can 'move about' vicarially in our 'imagination', 'doing'things that we are not actually doing. There are of course many uses for such an analog 'I'. We imagine 'ourselves' 'doing' this or that, and thus 'make' decisions on the basis of imagined 'outcomes' that would be impossible if we did not have an imagined 'self' behaving in an imagined 'world'. In the example in the section on spatialization, it was not your physical behavioral self that was trying to 'see' where my theory 'fits' into the array of alternative theories. It was your analog 'I'.

If we are out walking, and two roads diverge in a wood, and we know that one of them comes back to our destination after a much more circuitous route, we can 'traverse' that longer route with our analog 'I' to see if its vistas and ponds are worth the longer time it will take. Without consciousness with its vicarial analog 'I', we could not do this.

4. The Metaphor 'Me'. The analog 'I' is, however, not simply that. It is also a metaphor 'me'. As we imagine ourselves strolling down the longer path we indeed catch 'glimpses' of 'ourselves', as we did in the exercises of Chapter 1, where we called them autoscopic images. We can both look out from within the imagined self at the imagined vistas, or we can step back a bit and see ourselves perhaps kneeling down for a drink of water at a particular brook. There are of course quite profound problems here, particularly in the relationship of the 'I' to the 'me'. But that is another treatise. And I am only indicating the nature of the problem.

5. Narratization. In consciousness, we are always seeing our vicarial selves as the main figures in the stories of our lives. In the above illustration, the narratization is obvious, namely, walk-ing along a wooded path. But it is not so obvious that we are constantly doing this whenever we are being conscious, and this I call narratization. Seated where I am, I am writing a book and this fact is imbedded more or less in the center of the story of my life, time being spatialized into a journey of my days and years.

New situations are selectively perceived as part of this ongoing story, perceptions that do not fit into it being unnoticed or at least unremembered. More important, situations are chosen which are congruent to this ongoing story, until the picture I have of myself in my life story determines how I am to act and choose in novel situations as they arise.

The assigning of causes to our behavior or saying why we did a particular thing is all a part of narratization. Such causes as reasons may be true or false, neutral or ideal. Consciousness is ever ready to explain anything we happen to find ourselves doing. The thief narratizes his act as due to poverty, the poet his as due to beauty, and the scientist his as due to truth, purpose and cause inextricably woven into the spatialization of behavior in consciousness.

But it is not just our own analog 'I' that we are narratizing; it is everything else in consciousness. A stray fact is narratized to fit with some other stray fact. A child cries in the street and we narratize the event into a mental picture of a lost child and a parent searching for it. A cat is up in a tree and we narratize the event into a picture of a dog chasing it there. Or the facts of mind as we can understand them into a theory of consciousness.

6. Conciliation. A final aspect of consciousness I wish to mention here is modeled upon a behavioral process common to most mammals. It really springs from simple recognition, where a slightly ambiguous perceived object is made to conform to some previously learned schema, an automatic process sometimes called assimilation. We assimilate a new stimulus into our conception, or schema about it, even though it is slightly different. Since we never from moment to moment see or hear or touch things in exactly the same way, this process of assimilation into previous experience is going on all the time as we perceive our world. We are putting things together into recognizable objects on the basis of the previously learned schemes we have of them.

Now assimilation consciousized is conciliation. A better term for it might be compatibilization, but that seems something too rococo. What I am designating by conciliation is essentially doing in mind-space what narratization does in mindtime or spatialized time. It brings things together as conscious objects just as narra-tization brings things together as a story. And this fitting together into a consistency or probability is done according to rules built up in experience.

In conciliation we are making excerpts or narratizations compatible with each other, just as in external perception the new stimulus and the internal conception are made to agree. If we are narratizing ourselves as walking along a wooded path, the succession of excerpts is automatically made compatible with such a journey. Or if in daydreaming two excerpts or narratizations happen to begin occurring at the same time, they are fused or conciliated.

If I ask you to think of a mountain meadow and a tower at the same time, you automatically conciliate them by having the tower rising from the meadow. But if I ask you to think of the mountain meadow and an ocean at the same time, conciliation tends not to occur and you are likely to think of one and then the other. You can only bring them together by a narratization. Thus there are principles of compatibility that govern this process, and such principles are learned and are based on the structure of the world.

Let me summarize as a way of 'seeing' where we are and the direction in which our discussion is going. We have said that consciousness is an operation rather than a thing, a repository, or a function. It operates by way of analogy, by way of constructing an analog space with an analog 'I' that can observe that space, and move metaphorically in it. It operates on any reactivity, excerpts relevant aspects, narratizes and conciliates them together in a metaphorical space where such meanings can be manipulated like things in space. Conscious mind is a spatial analog of the world and mental acts are analogs of bodily acts. Consciousness operates only on objectively observable things. Or, to say it another way with echoes of John Locke, there is nothing in consciousness that is not an analog of something that was in behavior first.

This has been a difficult chapter. But I hope I have sketched out with some plausibility that the notion of consciousness as a metaphor-generated model of the world leads to some quite definite deductions, and that these deductions are testable in our own everyday conscious experience. It is only, of course, a beginning, a somewhat rough-hewn beginning, which I hope to develop in a future work. But it is enough to return now to our major inquiry of the origin of it all, saving further amplification of the nature of consciousness itself for later chapters.

If consciousness is this invention of an analog world on the basis of language, paralleling the behavioral world even as the world of mathematics parallels the world of quantities of things, what then can we say about its origin?

We have arrived at a very interesting point in our discussion, and one that is completely contradictory to all of the alternative solutions to the problem of the origin of consciousness which we discussed in the introductory chapter. For if consciousness is based on language, then it follows that it is of a much more recent origin than has heretofore been supposed. Consciousness come after language! The implications of such a position are extremely serious.


John Kurman said...

Language is so overrated.