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 physical world.

So how the contents of consciousness arise is irrelevant to the infinite regress problem which has to do with the nature of consciousness itself.

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....

Watching what??

What we 'see' consciously is the end of a sensory information processing chain.

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.


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