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consciousness

I'm going to post this as an experiment... because I don't know if anyone cares to read it. Here's something I wrote the day after I returned from my sister's wedding. It's written only for myself which is why it might make little to no sense. If you do bother reading it please realize a lot of things are intended fairly loosely... or in my own personal way of defining things. Usually if I write something on livejournal I make a concerted effort to say it in terms that others should understand, but that's why this is an experiment.

Anyway, if I get any comments saying it was entertaining or enlightening to read then I might post more of my ramblings (I have quite a bit saved up, and it continuously grows.)



7/16/03
Often I think about the idea that now is the only real moment. There's not really even any supporting "evidence" (whatever that means) that any other moments have existed. I guess to assume something like evidence you have to assume belief. And belief is really a tricky thing, somewhat of a human thing. Not really having to do with experience in its raw form. Or does it? At any rate, today I realized that what is meant by "now" is a little different from what we usually think of as "now" in the outside world. Now means the sum total of the conscious mind, including the fringes of all unconcious, subconscious and perceptual influences. Somewhere back there in your head, everything is stored. But most of it is nowhere near active, nowhere near the conscious level. So that doesn't exist in the now. But what can exist is various snipets of memories and abstractions that float around in there and dally near the conscious level without breaking through the surface. This whole thing brings up a tough issue, because it presupposes the perspective of a "self". But what I really mean is the conscious self. During a dream there may be plenty of processes going on in the unconscious, who monitors them? Is it me? Or is there some other pseudo-consciousness you could give a name to (my subconscious) and that thing whatever it is feels as rightfully(*) alive as I do, but in a more hazy way? Might I have flashbacks of them later? I certainly do when it comes to dreams. It's interesting to realize that much of my life I don't consciously remember. I don't remember lots of the details, even though they may be back there somewhere. Hell, I don't even remember before I was 5 years old or so. But the influence of those events is still there. Just ever slightly present in the "now". Am I more real than my unconscious because I can type words? Leave physical effects on the real world? Or are these words just the sum total of a colony of ants all doing their proper function to bring things out into the open mind and explore them? Is it right to ask where an idea starts? Or is that just me after the fact focusing on the effect of the idea after it's out and forgetting the short term fleeting presense of myself in some other unconscious form pulling the idea out of nothing? Talking about any of this is extremely tricky because our language lacks the necessary recursive properties.

(*) what do I mean by "rightfully alive?" Is that the way I feel? Why is it that it seems part of me is just repeating what I remember? I remember that I feel alive... if I think about it... so therefore I say I do. Is that what belief is? You store things temporarily, and then repeat them later? The weird thing about this particular belief is that it concerns being there at the front of the train, experiencing and looking and being conscious of the self. But in order to write the words or think them I've got to shift my focus to something other than the self. So I am not conscious of the self while I am repeating that I am. Or am I saying that I'm sometimes conscious of the self? Merely that I can be? Who is this I and how do I know it's the same I as me? If now is the only real moment, then I can't rigorously connect the I repeating with the other I who knows he is I. But as I said, we are a colony and we get things done. Like ants working on a larger project. One does the observing and the other does the translating. And yet it comes out as a fluid whole. In a very important sense, induction, learning, belief, and truth lose meaning when you cut off one part of the brain from another. The "self" itself loses meaning. And yet... I still feel a need to separate out my conscious self from the rest. Perhaps I merely give orders to my lingual brain to type these words? That's a better way of talking about it. But still something bothers me. The problem is how the I shifts with the focus which shifts with time.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
smirkingjustice
Jul. 27th, 2003 01:01 pm (UTC)
I think to say that the 'I' differs with time is not entirely true... you are an input/output system, and not only to the outside world, but also within yourself. Over significant periods of time, yes, that whole system can change, but in between two instants, the now and the then, it is not the 'I' that is changing, it is what the source of input is. Sometimes I feel as if I am speaking from my subconcious, from a gut reaction born of a past experience, but that does not change who I am in that instant. There is only one 'real' mind to me, my heart cannot move my lips, but it can signal my brain to. Looking back on an entire lifespan, obviously the sources of input are endless, and perhaps that is where you feel you lose focus on what is you and what isn't. Just a thought...
spoonless
Jul. 27th, 2003 03:31 pm (UTC)
That's how I used to view the mind a few years ago. With one part being the master and the rest of it serving as the slaves... in other words, you receive input from the lesser portions of the brain (less conscious, less in control) and you evaluate that and respond to it. Thus, I believed, there was some kernel which remained invariant throughout time; I used to call this kernel "the judger" because its only function is to sit atop and make judgements about what's going on.

I still think that is close... it's certainly a big piece of the puzzle, but what I've been thinking recently is that it's a bit over-simplified. There seem to be a lot of ways in which different parts of the brain coexist on a sort of equal level, not working in a master-slave relationship. Now my belief (or suspicion, I guess) is that it's a bit more complicated and that sometimes different part of the mind can temporarily serve as what I used to think of as this invariant judger. In other words, it's more like a roomful of people arguing than one guy sitting up on a throne. One time I actually had a transcendant experience where I felt like two of us were briefly staring at each other, examining each other, simultaneously. I can't really explain it more than that; it sounds a lot like either schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder, but in my case I don't think it's that unhealthy--since it's in a very controlled way. And it would explain a bit more if that's how everyone works under the surface to some degree.

Have you ever heard about split-brain surgery? Supposedly, if they cut the connection at the corpus callosum between the left and right halves, they both go on thinking independantly and can control their half of the body; but when they need to work together like do visual processing followed by language processing (or pick something up with the wrong arm) they fail. Of course, then there's a question of why the two arms don't try to fight each other or anything, but perhaps they just both automatically recognize the attached body as a part of the self and therefore end up acting in a somewhat coordinated way. (?)

Anyway, I appreciate the input. I am really just throwing stuff out there, it could be that it turns out to work very differently than either of us realize.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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