On 8/10/2012 5:04 AM, Russell Standish wrote:
On Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 12:10:43PM +0200, Bruno Marchal wrote:
On 10 Aug 2012, at 00:23, Russell Standish wrote:
It is plain to me that thoughts can be either conscious or
unconscious, and the conscious component is a strict minority of the
This is not obvious for me, and I have to say that it is a point
which is put in doubt by the salvia divinorum reports (including
mine). When you dissociate the brain in parts, perhaps many parts,
you realise that they might all be conscious. In fact the very idea
of non-consciousness might be a construct of consciousness, and be
realized by partial amnesia. I dunno. For the same reason I have
stopped to believe that we can be unconscious during sleep. I think
that we can only be amnesic-of-'previous-consciousness'.
With due respect to your salvia experiences, which I dare not follow,
I'm still more presuaded by the likes of Daniel Dennett, and his
"pandemonia" theory of the mind. In that idea, many subconscious
process, working disparately, solve different aspects of the problems
at hand, or provide different courses of action. The purpose of
consciousness is to select from among the course of action
presented by the pandemonium of subconscious processes - admittedly
consciousness per se may not be necessary for this role - any unifying
(aka reductive) process may be sufficient.
But a course of action could be 'selected', i.e. acted upon, without consciousness (in
fact I often do so). I think what constitutes consciousness is making up a narrative
about what is 'selected'. The evolutionary reason for making up this narrative is to
enter it into memory so it can be explained to others and to yourself when you face a
similar choice in the future. That the memory of these past decisions took the form of a
narrative derives from the fact that we are a social species, as explained by Julian
Jaynes. This explains why the narrative is sometimes false, and when the part of the
brain creating the narrative doesn't have access to the part deciding, as in some split
brain experiments, the narrative is just confabulated. I find Dennett's modular brain
idea very plausible and it's consistent with the idea that consciousness is the function
of a module that produces a narrative for memory. If were designing a robot which I
intended to be conscious, that's how I would design it: With a module whose function was
to produce a narrative of choices and their supporting reasons for a memory that would be
accessed in support of future decisions. This then requires a certain coherence and
consistency in robots decisions - what we call 'character' in a person. I don't think
that would make the robot necessarily conscious according to Bruno's critereon. But if it
had to function as a social being, it would need a concept of 'self' and the ability for
self-reflective reasoning. Then it would be conscious according to Bruno.
The reason I like this, is that it echoes an essentially Darwinian
process of random variation that is selected upon. Dawinian evolution
is the key to any form of creative process.
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