Showing posts sorted by relevance for query conscious language II. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query conscious language II. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, April 25, 2011

Conscious Language II - Redux

Julian Jaynes The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind;
"I have endeavored to examine the record of a huge time span to reveal the plausibility that man and his early civilizations had a profoundly different mentality from our own, that in fact men and women were not conscious as are we, were not responsible for their actions, and therefore cannot be given the credit or blame for anything that was done over these vast millenia of time; that instead each person had a part of his nervous system that was divine, by which he was ordered about like any slave, a voice or voices which indeed were what we call volition and empowered what they commanded and were related to the hallucinated voices of others in a carefully established hierarchy"
Technology, agriculture, astronomy, engineering, the infrastructural systematization of human life as we experience it today was established prior to and in the absence of subjective speech. Essentially Jaynes makes a compelling case that archaic man was possessed of a hive mentality. The human hive mentality was mediated by an archaic and non-subjective form of speech (gods) emanating from the right cortical hemisphere (instead of our contemporary left hemispheric subjective speech function). When the human-hives controlled by the voices of the gods became large enough and/or when they encountered one another and began trading goods, (before money or writing - symbols of energy and language respectively) then conditions arose under which some of the control mechanisms of the archaic hive mind (voices of the gods) were weakened and modified (hieroglyphics are replaced by hieratic and cuneiform writing) and a proto-subjective speech construct instantiated in this writing became gradually established in the left cortical hemisphere.
"What is writing? Writing proceeds from pictures of visual events (hieroglyphics) to symbols of phonetic events. And that is an amazing transformation! Writing of the latter type, as on the present page, is meant to tell the reader something he does not know. But, the closer writing is to the former (hieroglyphics), the more it is primarily a mnemonic device to release information which the reader already has."
In Views From the Real World "God the Word" Gurdjieff is recorded as saying;
"At the beginning of every religion we find an affirmation of the existance of God the Word and the Word-God. One teaching says that when the world was still nothing, there were emanations, there was God the Word. God the Word is the world. God said "Let it be so," and sent the Father and the Son. He is always sending the Father and the Son, and once, he sent the Holy Ghost."
Ibid; New York, February 20, 1924 the following remarks;
"It is impossible to be impartial, even when nothing touches you on the raw. Such is the law, such is the human psyche. We shall speak later about the why and wherefore of it. In the meantime we shall formulate it thus:

1) the human machine has something that does not allow it to remain impartial, that is, to reason calmly and objectively, without being touched on the raw, and 2) at times it is possible to free oneself from this feature by special efforts.

Concerning this second point I am asking you now to wish to, and to make, this effort, in order that our conversation should not be like all other conversations in ordinary life, that is, mere pouring from the empty into the void, but should be productive both for yourselves and for me. I called usual conversations pouring from the empty into the void. And indeed, think seriously about the long time each of us has lived in the world and the many conversations we have had! Ask yourselves, look into yourselves - have all those conversations ever led to anything? Do you know anything as surely and indubitably as, for instance, that two and two make four? If you search sincerely in yourselves and give a sincere answer, you will say they have not led to anything.

So our common sense can conclude from past experience that, since this way of talking has so far led to nothing, it will lead to nothing in the future. Even if a man were to live a hundred years, the result would be the same. Consequently, we must look for the cause of this and if possible change it. Our purpose, then, is to find this cause; so, from the first steps, we shall try to alter our way of carrying on a conversation.

Last time we spoke a little about the Law of Three. I said that this law is everywhere and in everything. It is also found in conversation. For instance, if people talk, one person affirms, another denies. If they don't argue, nothing comes of those affirmations and negations. If they argue, a new result is produced, that is, a new conception unlike that of the man who affirmed or that of the one who denied.

This too is a law, for one cannot altogether say that your former conversations never brought any results. There has been a result, but this result has not been for you but for something or someone outside you.

But now we speak of results in us, or of those we wish to have in us. So, instead of this law acting through us, outside us, we wish to bring it within ourselves, for ourselves. And in order to achieve this we have merely to change the field of action of this law.

What you have done so far when you affirmed, denied and argued with others, I want you now to do with yourselves, so that the results you get may not be objective, as they have been so far, but subjective."
Since most important and complex behavior (technology and civilizing infrastructure) was done prior to modern subjective speech - and this behavior was mediated by the gods - could it be that the "higher influences" always working within us and toward which the work seeks a path and a method for our reintegration - could these "higher influences" be anything other than the "gods" of antiquity?

Having realized our chattering nothingness, doesn't it become glaringly evident that the "gods" continue to work through, and one is inclined to say, despite "us"? Doesn't it lend a certain overwhelming magicalness to our world to understand it as the machination of an intelligence in us but not us? Taken as such, the manifold artifacts of "higher influence" are ubiquitous and hidden in plain sight all around us. You need only reflect on the vast "unconscious" machinery of the city in which "you" live to appreciate this fact.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

understanding as metaphor

OCBBM | We are trying to understand consciousness, but what are we really trying to do when we try to understand anything? Like children trying to describe nonsense objects, so in trying to understand a thing we are trying to find a metaphor for that thing. Not just any metaphor, but one with something more familiar and easy to our attention. Understanding a thing is to arrive at a metaphor for that thing by substituting something more familiar to us. And the feeling of familiarity is the feeling of understanding.

Generations ago we would understand thunderstorms perhaps as the roaring and rumbling about in battle of superhuman gods. We would have reduced the racket that follows the streak of lightning to familiar battle sounds, for example. Similarly today, we reduce the storm to various supposed experiences with friction, sparks, vacuums, and the imagination of bulgeous banks of burly air smashing together to make the noise. None of these really exist as we picture them. Our images of these events of physics are as far from the actuality as fighting gods. Yet they act as the metaphor and they feel familiar and so we say we understand the thunderstorm.

So, in other areas of science, we say we understand an aspect of nature when we can say it is similar to some familiar theoretical model. The terms theory and model, incidentally, are sometimes used interchangeably. But really they should not be. A theory is a relationship of the model to the things the model is supposed to represent. The Bohr model of the atom is that of a proton surrounded by orbiting electrons. It is something like the pattern of the solar system, and that is indeed one of its meta-phoric sources. Bohr’s theory was that all atoms were similar to his model. The theory, with the more recent discovery of new particles and complicated interatomic relationships, has turned out not to be true. But the model remains. A model is neither true nor false; only the theory of its similarity to what it represents.

A theory is thus a metaphor between a model and data. And understanding in science is the feeling of similarity between complicated data and a familiar model.

If understanding a thing is arriving at a familiarizing metaphor for it, then we can see that there always will be a difficulty in understanding consciousness. For it should be immediately apparent that there is not and cannot be anything in our immediate experience that is like immediate experience itself. There is therefore a sense in which we shall never be able to understand consciousness in the same way that we can understand things that we are conscious of.

Most of the errors about consciousness that we have been studying have been errors of attempted metaphors. We spoke of the notion of consciousness being a copy of experience coming out of the explicit metaphor of a schoolboy’s slate. But of course no one really meant consciousness copies experience; it was as if it did. And we found on analysis, of course, that it did no such thing.

And even the idea behind that last phrase, that consciousness does anything at all, even that is a metaphor. It is saying that consciousness is a person behaving in physical space who does things, and this is true only if ‘does’ is a metaphor as well. For to do things is some kind of behavior in a physical world by a living body. And also in what Space' is the metaphorical 'doing' being done? (Some of the dust is beginning to settle.) This 'space* too must be a metaphor of real space. All of which is reminiscent of our discussion of the location of consciousness, also a metaphor.

Consciousness is being thought of as a thing, and so like other things must have a location, which, as we saw earlier, it does not actually have in the physical sense.

I realize that my argument here is becoming fairly dense. But before coming out into the clearing, I wish to describe what I shall mean by the term analog. An analog is a model, but a model of a special kind. It is not like a scientific model, whose source may be anything at all and whose purpose is to act as an hypothesis of explanation or understanding. Instead, an analog is at every point generated by the thing it is an analog of. A map is a good example. It is not a model in the scientific sense, not a hypothetical model like the Bohr atom to explain something unknown. Instead, it is constructed from something well known, if not completely known. Each region of a district of land is allotted a corresponding region on the map, though the materials of land and map are absolutely different and a large proportion of the features of the land have to be left out. And the relation between an analog map and its land is a metaphor. If I point to a location on a map and say, "There is Mont Blanc and from Chamonix we can reach the east face this way," that is really a shorthand way of saying, "The relations between the point labeled 'Mont Blanc' and other points is similar to the actual Mont Blanc and its neighboring regions."

The Metaphor Language of Mind
I think it is apparent now, at least dimly, what is emerging from the debris of the previous chapter. I do not now feel myself proving my thesis to you step by step, so much as arranging in your mind certain notions so that, at the very least, you will not be immediately estranged from the point I am about to make. My procedure here in what I realize is a difficult and overtly diffuse part of this book is to simply state in general terms my conclusion and then clarify what it implies.

Subjective conscious mind is an analog of what is called the real world. It is built up with a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms are all metaphors or analogs of behavior in the physical world. Its reality is of the same order as mathematics. It allows us to shortcut behavioral processes and arrive at more adequate decisions. Like mathematics, it is an operator rather than a thing or repository. And it is intimately bound up with volition and decision.

Consider the language we use to describe conscious processes. The most prominent group of words used to describe mental events are visual. We ‘see’ solutions to problems, the best of which may be ‘brilliant’, and the person ‘brighter’ and ’clearheaded’ as opposed to 'dull', 'fuzzy-minded', or 'obscure' solutions. These words are all metaphors and the mind-space to which they apply is a metaphor of actual space. In it we can 'approach' a problem, perhaps from some 'viewpoint', and 'grapple' with its difficulties, or seize together or 'comprehend' parts of a problem, and so on, using metaphors of behavior to invent things to do in this metaphored mind-space.

And the adjectives to describe physical behavior in real space are analogically taken over to describe mental behavior in mind-space when we speak of our minds as being 'quick,' 'slow', 'agi-tated' (as when we cogitate or co-agitate), 'nimble-witted', 'strong-' or 'weak-minded.' The mind-space in which these metaphorical activities go on has its own group of adjectives; we can be 'broad-minded', 'deep', 'open', or 'narrow-minded'; we can be 'occupied'; we can 'get something off our minds', 'put something out of mind', or we can 'get it', let something 'penetrate', or 'bear', 'have', 'keep', or 'hold' it in mind.

As with a real space, something can be at the 'back' of our mind, in its 'inner recesses', or 'beyond' our mind, or 'out' of our mind. In argument we try to 'get things through' to someone, to 'reach' their 'understanding' or find a 'common ground', or 'point out', etc., all actions in real space taken over analogically into the space of the mind.

But what is it we are making a metaphor of? We have seen that the usual function of metaphor is a wish to designate a particular aspect of a thing or to describe something for which words are not available. That thing to be designated, described, expressed, or lexically widened is what we have called the metaphrand. We operate upon this by some similar, more familiar thing, called a metaphier. Originally, of course, the purpose was intensely practical, to designate an arm of the sea as a better place for shellfish, or to put a head on a nail that it might better hold a board to a stanchion. The metaphiers here were arm and head, and the metaphrands a particular part of the sea and particular end of the nail that already existed. Now when we say mind-space is a metaphor of real space, it is the real 'external' world that is the metaphier. But if metaphor generates consciousness rather than simply describes it, what is the metaphrand?

Paraphiers and Paraphrands
If we look more carefully at the nature of metaphor (noticing all the while the metaphorical nature of almost everything we are saying), we find (even the verb “find”!) that it is composed of more than a metaphier and a metaphrand. There are also at the bottom of most complex metaphors various associations or attributes of the metaphier which I am going to call paraphiers. And these paraphiers project back into the metaphrand as what I shall call the paraphrands of the metaphrand. Jargon, yes, but absolutely necessary if we are to be crystal clear about our referents.

Some examples will show that the unraveling of metaphor into these four parts is really quite simple, as well as clarifying what otherwise we could not speak about.

Consider the metaphor that the snow blankets the ground. The metaphrand is something about the completeness and even thickness with which the ground is covered by snow. The metaphier is a blanket on a bed. But the pleasing nuances of this metaphor are in the paraphiers of the metaphier, blanket. These are something about warmth, protection, and slumber until some period of awakening. These associations of blanket then auto-matically become the associations or paraphrands of the original metaphrand, the way the snow covers the ground. And we thus have created by this metaphor the idea of the earth sleeping and protected by the snow cover until its awakening in spring. All this is packed into the simple use of the word ‘blanket’ to pertain to the way snow covers the ground.

Not all metaphors, of course, have such generative potential. In that often-cited one that a ship plows the sea, the metaphrand is the particular action of the bow of the ship through the water, and the metaphier is plowing action. The correspondence is exact. And that is the end of it.

But if I say the brook sings through the woods, the similarity of the metaphrand of the brook's bubbling and gurgling and the metaphier of (presumably) a child singing is not at all exact. It is the paraphiers of joy and dancingness becoming the para-phrands of the brook that are of interest.

Or in the many-poemed comparison of love to a rose, it is not the tenuous correspondence of metaphrand and metaphier but the paraphrands that engage us, that love lives in the sun, smells sweet, has thorns when grasped, and blooms for a season only. Or suppose I say less visually and so more profoundly something quite opposite, that my love is like a tinsmith's scoop, sunk past its gleam in the meal-bin.5 The immediate correspondence here of metaphrand and metaphier, of being out of casual sight, is trivial. Instead, it is the paraphrands of this metaphor which create what could not possibly be there, the enduring careful shape and hidden shiningness and holdingness of a lasting love deep in the heavy manipulable softnesses of mounding time, the whole simulating (and so paraphranding) sexual intercourse from a male point of view. Love has not such properties except as we generate them by metaphor.

Of such poetry is consciousness made. This can be seen if we return to some of the metaphors of mind we have earlier looked at. Suppose we are trying to solve some simple problem such as the circle-triangle series in the previous chapter. And suppose we express the fact that we have obtained the solution by exclaiming that at last we 'see' what the answer is, namely, a triangle.

This metaphor may be analyzed just as the blanket of snow or the singing brook. The metaphrand is obtaining the solution, the metaphier is sight with the eyes, and the paraphiers are all those things associated with vision that then create paraphrands, such as the mind's 'eye', 'seeing the solution clearly’ etc., and, most important, the paraphrand of a 'space' in which the 'seeing' is going on, or what I am calling mind-space, and 'objects' to 'see.'

I do not mean this brief sketch to stand in for a real theory of how consciousness was generated in the first place. That problem we shall come to in Book II. Rather I intend only to suggest the possibility that I hope to make plausible later, that consciousness is the work of lexical metaphor. It is spun out of the concrete metaphiers of expression and their paraphiers, projecting paraphrands that exist only in the functional sense. Moreover, it goes on generating itself, each new paraphrand capable of being a metaphrand on its own, resulting in new metaphiers with their paraphiers, and so on.

Of course this process is not and cannot be as haphazard as I am making it sound. The world is organized, highly organized, and the concrete metaphiers that are generating consciousness thus generate consciousness in an organized way. Hence the similarity of consciousness and the physical-behavioral world we are conscious of. And hence the structure of that world is echoed — though with certain differences — in the structure of consciousness.

One last complication before going on. A cardinal property of an analog is that the way it is generated is not the way it is used — obviously. The map-maker and map-user are doing two different things. For the map-maker, the metaphrand is the blank piece of paper on which he operates with the metaphier of the land he knows and has surveyed. But for the map-user, it is just the other way around. The land is unknown; it is the land that is the metaphrand, while the metaphier is the map which he is using, by which he understands the land.

And so with consciousness. Consciousness is the metaphrand when it is being generated by the paraphrands of our verbal expressions. But the functioning of consciousness is, as it were, the return journey. Consciousness becomes the metaphier full of our past experience, constantly and selectively operating on such unknowns as future actions, decisions, and partly remembered pasts, on what we are and yet may be. And it is by the generated structure of consciousness that we then understand the world.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

We Know A Little About What Matter Does, But Nothing About What It Is....,


qz |  Interest in panpsychism has grown in part thanks to the increased academic focus on consciousness itself following on from Chalmers’ “hard problem” paper. Philosophers at NYU, home to one of the leading philosophy-of-mind departments, have made panpsychism a feature of serious study. There have been several credible academic books on the subject in recent years, and popular articles taking panpsychism seriously.

One of the most popular and credible contemporary neuroscience theories on consciousness, Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory, further lends credence to panpsychism. Tononi argues that something will have a form of “consciousness” if the information contained within the structure is sufficiently “integrated,” or unified, and so the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Because it applies to all structures—not just the human brain—Integrated Information Theory shares the panpsychist view that physical matter has innate conscious experience.

Goff, who has written an academic book on consciousness and is working on another that approaches the subject from a more popular-science perspective, notes that there were credible theories on the subject dating back to the 1920s. Thinkers including philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Arthur Eddington made a serious case for panpsychism, but the field lost momentum after World War II, when philosophy became largely focused on analytic philosophical questions of language and logic. Interest picked up again in the 2000s, thanks both to recognition of the “hard problem” and to increased adoption of the structural-realist approach in physics, explains Chalmers. This approach views physics as describing structure, and not the underlying nonstructural elements.

“Physical science tells us a lot less about the nature of matter than we tend to assume,” says Goff. “Eddington”—the English scientist who experimentally confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity in the early 20th century—“argued there’s a gap in our picture of the universe. We know what matter does but not what it is. We can put consciousness into this gap.”  Fist tap Dale.