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December 14, 2010


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This question doesn't puzzle me so much. Consciousness is complex and compartmentalized; on the one hand there's the id, ego, and superego; there's the left and right brain; etc. Just like in a modern computer, there will rarely be a condition of unison activity throughout the system. There are all sorts of positive and negative feedbacks and inter-subsystem communications going on. So it doesn't seem odd at all that I would "question myself" or "contemplate myself," these being merely forms of self-observation, a core feature of consciousness. But maybe I'm oversimplifying.

On another front, have you heard of the bicameral mind hypothesis? It is an interesting proposal, especially in light of your reference to the role of metaphor.

Karl, my dentist is a big fan of Jaynes' book about the breakdown of the bicameral mind and recommended it to me, so I started reading it a few years ago. It was interesting, but I didn't finish it. Doesn't Jaynes say that humans didn't have self-consciousness until after the Iliad was written, or something like that?

That seems far-fetched, though possible. This notion should appeal to Zen types, since supposedly humans were able to do all kinds of complicated stuff for hundreds of thousands of years without having a sense of "I'm doing this."

(I might be screwing up the meaning of Jaynes' book, so correct me if I'm wrong.)

As to the obviousness of feeling like we have, or are, a "self." Yes, that's exactly the point made in Lakoff's book. It's an entirely natural feeling. HIs message, however, is that now we have neuroscientific findings which show how this feeling comes about, and that it is an illusion of sorts.

Probably we can never get rid of the illusion (Buddhists and Vedantists would disagree). We can, though, understand that the feeling of selfhood isn't supported by brain science.

Brian you might find this interesting:

"It is surprising to find that awareness of a seemingly voluntary action might actually occur after unconscious preparation. Kornhuber and Deecke's demonstration provides evidence that voluntary actions are preceded and perhaps initiated by unconscious neural activity."



Who'z on first? TaDaaaaaaa! The ghost.

The para "Consider the common experience of struggling...." reminds me of J.Krishnamurti's statement "The Observer is the Observed"

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