Watching whatever the contents of consciousness happen to be at the
moment is what is being watched.
The basic problem with your entire analysis is that it describes a
scientific, i.e. cognitive model, of the process by which experiences
arise to consciousness. That is this whole model is in fact a
construct or content of the very consciousness it attempts to
analyze. I understand all those details of vision but they aren't
relevant to this question.
So the basic point is that it doesn't really matter how any
particular content of consciousness arises into consciousness. How
that happens in all its complex details are the so called 'Easy
Problems' of consciousness. These are irrelevant to the solution of
the 'Hard Problem' which is how consciousness itself arises from the
So how the contents of consciousness arise is irrelevant to the
infinite regress problem which has to do with the nature of
There is no homunculus, or rather there is a homunculus (the watcher
- the self) but it is just one more (even though a unique one) mental
construct and simply an experienced content of consciousness just as
every other discrete thing is a content of consciousness.
This is easily proven because everyone experiences times when they
are 'in the groove', say in the intensity of dance or sports or
music, and everything seems to happen quite naturally and just right
on its own without thought and without self reflection. At such times
the homunculus has vanished, the watcher has vanished, there is just
direct intense unmediated experience without any thought of self
directing it all. Of course one can always stop and choose to reflect
on the self watching what one is doing, but one wasn't doing that
when one was in the groove.
In fact if you really think about it you are only periodically aware
of your self watching you do things, most of the time you are just
engrossed in doing them with no or little thought of 'it is me that
is doing this and I'm watching myself do it'. That state of mind is
relatively rare and thus not fundamental.
What is fundamental is direct experience of whatever in the present
moment. That is consciousness, that is ever present (disregarding
sleep and death and anesthesia).
Finally your meditation example is not what I mean by meditation. My
meaning of meditation is stilling the mind and observing each arising
content of consciousness as a transient content of consciousness
rather than a thing in itself, i.e. not a book but a thought
representation of a book passing through consciousness, and not
following up any such content by others, just letting them flow by
and disappear. Gradually with practice the thoughts diminish greatly
and eventually only consciousness itself remains, bright, clear and
devoid of (almost) all content. At that point the mental model of the
self vanishes as well as all other thoughts. There is no homunculus
watching you watching, there is only watching. Then, with practice,
when one leaves meditation and the contents of consciousness begin to
arise again one clearly sees that whatever contents arise they are
all contents of the same fundamental consciousness that was present
in meditation and is always present (except when it isn't of course).
This enables one to understand there is no watcher, there is only
watching. The watcher is simply one more occasional mental content
that gets watched like all the others.
On Dec 1, 2008, at 6:35 PM, Robert Karl Stonjek wrote:
But the viewer and the thing viewed is precisely the problem of
self-consciousness because the infinite regress problem does not
arise unless the thing viewed is the viewer. The error is that
there is no viewer of consciousness, no self that stands outside of
and views consciousness, the notion of a viewer is just one of many
constructs and contents of consciousness. That is the whole point
of my post.
So the error of conflating consciousness with self consciousness is
in fact the root problem of the supposed infinite regress.
Consciousness of itself is not an infinite regress, because
consciousness can only view a cognitive model of consciousness as a
content of consciousness, never consciousness itself so no infinite
regress is possible.
Your problem may stem from the feeling that there is a watcher
which knows it is watching the contents of consciousness pass by.
The error is that that sense of a watcher is just another content
of consciousness. This sense of self is an evolutionary adaptation
which facilitates more efficient interaction with an environment.
However in deep meditation, when consciousness itself is most
evident due to the diminution of the passing contents of
consciousness, the feeling there is a watcher vanishes and only
direct experience, antecedent to the distinction of watcher and
watched, of experiencer and experienced, remains.
There is no watcher, there is only watching....
What we 'see' consciously is the end of a sensory information
Now let's consider your watcher. We assume that the watcher
processes visual input. So does the watcher see the pre or post
processed visual information?
Simply responding to visual information is unproblematic. But a
subjective experience of vision is a problem because the subjective
view is of the fully processed visual information, yet that
information must be somehow 'seen'.
If we consider the whole individual as a kind of homunculus, then
we can observe that visual information is processed through a
number of visual centres located in the parietal region of the
brain. We know what many of those processing stages do and have
graphic examples of their function when they are damaged or
destroyed by brain injury or stroke.
Now the question here is: does the individual 'see' the visual
sensory information before it is processed by the visual centres or
after it is processed? The answer is that we 'see' the results of
this processing. The evidence for this can be deduced from the
difference in visual information before and after processing.
If what we saw was the information as it entered the visual
processing system then any brain injury would result in a simple
loss of some part of vision and there would be no evidence that
what we actually see has been processed (it has only been
interpreted). But visual illusions amply demonstrate that what we
see comes after the processing stage. Thus at the end of the
visual processing that occurs in V1~9, there must be a further
interpretative stage that makes sense of what is seen.
That is the physically real homunculus.
If we assume that vision is further processed then we would expect
to see further areas specialising in vision alone. But there
aren't any. Further, our conscious visual field is effected by
unrelated senses eg your emotional state, sounds that you hear,
recognition of visual objects (memory), and so on. Descriptions
that people give when looking at images of people they think are
criminals are quite different to those described by people who are
told the same images are of religious leaders. These people
strongly believe that they can 'see' the difference even though, in
the reality of unprocessed imagery, there is none.
Thus the conventional view, which you haven't quite managed to
understand, is that there must be further processing of vision
after the point of subjective experience. But this can not be
without the problem of recursion.
My solution is to point out that at the conscious level, vision has
properties of all the other senses as well as other internal states
that have nothing to do with visual information as such. Thus the
final processing stage must be in a different form. For those who
arrive at an 'ahah' moment it appears to take the form of a
hologram or omnipotence or universality or everything in everything
else etc etc. But the reality is much simpler - blending is a
simpler process than one would suspect.
As for your meditation example, I have pointed out that the entire
purpose of human-like consciousness is for social interaction. If
I am right, then under the right conditions it can be extinguished
eg when one enters a state of complete individualism. But if you
can maintain that state after closed eye meditation the experience
of the experiencer is even more pronounced, except that you have
the feeling that you are experiencing the process ie you can see
the 'personality' interacting with others.