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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where IS thought? What MAKES thought?

Turn over an anthill, and you will not find a piece of consciousness anywhere. You won't find the central cortex of thought, or with a crude implement like a spade be able to determine what the critical size of the anthill is for maintaining itself as an organism.

Subjective thought doesn't exhibit substance, or quantity. It is not weigh-able, or measurable in any material way. The self-reflection of intelligence raises thorny issues the very moment we associate self-awareness and consciousness, with matter.

Forget all you know or think you know about consciousness - it's a topic that may never fully be understood by earth organisms such as ourselves. We believe it 'exists', but as I shall show the converse of that is not knowable, therefor such 'knowledge' of a 'state' of self-awareness may only be an illusion.

Reductio ad absurdio, we live, think, and dream through consciousness.

I may stub my toe and see evidence of physical damage. Knock me on the head - if I black out one might argue that consciousness is a 'product' of that part of the body. Maybe so. Does this mean consciousness is 'in' the brain. Or that consciousness was 'made' by the brain?

This is difficult.

Proving the in-existence of Consciousness may near impossible. 'Prove to me that a pebble is NOT self-aware!' . . . Now this IS a problem.

So where does consciousness reside? What makes consciousness happen?

Surely self-awareness is more than a badge earned when one's computational power achieves critical size. Whatever the mass, of a Chihuahua . . (very intelligent) or a Great Dane (not so intelligent), a meerkat, or a swimming ball of herring in the sea . . . consciousness is not a quantity that one can locate, covet or keep. It cannot be hoarded, guarded, or labeled. Some worms may be divided in two pieces and completely regenerate, and insofar as a worm is conscious, one may argue that by dividing a worm in two pieces one has produced two 'pieces' of consciousness, where one existed previously. As soon as one relates the consciousness to the mass one is in trouble. Does such an act obey a law of Conservation of Consciousness . . . two bits where one existed previously, does each bit have half as much consciousness? Surely I am not thinking that a worm is conscious in the same way that a human is. . . but it has nerves, that function in much the same way.

Remove a worm-sized bit of brain from a human being and there will be little change. Surprisingly, data from accident victims who have lost large portions of their brain suggest a bizarre kind of resilience to consciousness itself. . . while psychological trauma may do far greater damage.

All of this seems to suggest that consciousness is in some way a by-product of the physical and electro-chemical activities of the human body, a fragile, and ethereal quantity that has little direct connection to any specific locus in the body, but seems, on the whole, to be associated with the brain.

While consciousness may seem to obey laws similar to that of holography - two identical holograms with half the resolution result when one is cut in two with a pair of scissors. Consciousness is hardly so simple. Studies of psychiatric patients whose Corpus callosum (the nervous tissue separating the two hemispheres of the brain) was severed, hardly put the issue to rest. Such patients could converse, walk, talk. Specific behaviors however were affected negatively. Consciousness was present, in two places - the patient had in essence two 'brains'. Whereas the operations may have been indicated to relieve schizophrenia, aspects of a 'split' personality persisted.

Networking science may provide analogies most useful for understanding consciousness and self-awareness as shared systems. The human beings behind a PC at each 'node' of the Internet, are at least from a human perspective, the only conscious or self-aware components of the internet that we know of.. Humans are in charge. As of yet, no massive computer system has conspired for ideological reasons, against it's owner or creator. Massive amounts of computational power dominate the the internet, far from the remove of individual minds. . . . yet so far as we can tell the Internet is an extension of the human nervous system, and that is all that it is.

With biological death we note that consciousness seems to disappear once and for all.
Yet few traditional cultures would even admit this. All mythologies point to the immortality of the soul. Rituals of death worldwide are remarkably similar in this respect - procedures designed to provide a safe journey of the 'conscious remains' to another world. Paranormal experiences, ghosts, contact with previous 'lives' further leaven the notion that consciousness, the soul, the Self, all are part of a quantity that flows, body to body, mind to mind, animating matter, without being material at all.

Language, or the energy within food, or sunlight are similar. . . energy released from matter .. . cannot be seen. But without it life would stop. Ditto language. Ditto thoughts, dreams, daydreams, hopes, desires.

There seems to be individual consciousness and group consciousness without clear distinctions. A group may easily become 'aware' of something whilst an individual cannot. Yet understanding the boundary between group and individual awareness is as futile as a search for the water in yesterday's cup of tea.

However these last statements presuppose that your consciousness and my consciousness are to some degree separate. And I defy anyone to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are in fact separate, and not the same to begin with.

I breathe air, you breathe air. . is the air we breathe the same? . . . Yes and no .. . the consciousness identity issue is something like that . . . we have a 'lease' so to speak on consciousness, a lease granted when we took occupancy of our bodies. . ..

Yet it exists. So where does it exist? The question where assumes a material dimension when consciousness is not to begin with a material quantity. The body you say. If so, does it have a locus? Leonardo thought so. If it does or doesn't, whose is it? Is the consciousness that lives in you yours even to begin with? Where did it come from?

While there exists a system of thought that enables one to turn ANY other system of thought upside down or inside out, I'm not for a moment arguing that any of this could in any way be considered true by us. . . but I AM saying that systems of thought are compelling to their users. If I provide you with a system for measuring shoe sizes, and if everyone is using it you will to, even though it may have it's faults. It may for example not cover the range of foot widths, or the huge variety of foot shapes between the sizes of 7 and 10. Yet you will use the system that has been provided, but you will only buy shoes that you can return, if they don't fit.

So, what you are learning now is not so much something that will be debunked, or proven wrong, or dismissed as primitive. Rather it is the egg of a system of thought that gives rise to another such system. We cannot properly understand Darwin unless we properly understand Creationism, and without that we need an understanding of religion and all the changes that it went through.

I am not a Creationist, but for the same reasons that I am not a believer in God creating the earth in seven days, how can I properly consider myself a Darwinist? Perhaps a temporary Darwinist, but a skeptical Darwinist at that, as I'm certain that in due time, Darwin will be de-throned.

This is the evolution of thought within a historical perspective.

But what of beings that might be able to see time much in the same way we look at a landscape? As earthlings, possessed of three dimensions of visual measurement, and a fourth, time, which is not visible, surely there must exist life forms that easily perceive four dimensions with a kind of sight, and perceive some other fifth dimensionality, as a kind of fiction, much in the same way as we view time.

So what is that fifth dimension? Is that consciousness itself?

We see space (1,2,3 dimensions), we think time (a 4th), but we feel conscious (our 5th).

Asking the question then 'where is consciousness' is like looking for time in a bowl of soup. A 5th dimensional quantity cannot be placed into a 4 dimensional space. Have we been looking for self-awareness in all the wrong places? Is consciousness, rather than being a quantity which we can't see, is instead a quantity which in turn sees us?

Cause and effect? . . . Throw it away. . . .That's a vestigial necessity for thinking about time, whilst being unable to see time, or consciousness. The study of Consciousness lacks an Aristotelian innovation such as cause and effect, first cause, final cause and all that. The subject of Awareness has no such material bedrock.

So I say this. . . All of the "I" that is' thinking. . . . it's all real, and it's the only thing that is really real. The tag 'conscious' or 'self-aware or 'intelligent' may be thought of more as a endorsement by a lower collective that seeks consistency and reassurance in it's system of the moment.

Suppose I were to postulate that language is a banking card. Useful for getting cash but little else. That we evolve languages, learn them, and then throw them away when they prove inadequate at providing an income and that dead languages are the non-profitable languages which no longer provide for their users.

Here's another - suppose you were a being that didn't believe anything unless it was completely and wholly inconsistent with everything else that you already believed!

I'll leave this one for you to work out.

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