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Re: [psychiatry-research] Essay: A Mosaic of Consciousness

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  • Robert Karl Stonjek
    ... From: Roger Lass To: psychiatry-research@yahoogroups.com Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2013 7:12 PM Subject: RE: [psychiatry-research] Essay: A Mosaic of
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      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2013 7:12 PM
      Subject: RE: [psychiatry-research] Essay: A Mosaic of Consciousness

      Interesting. But I do have some problems with the metaphor. But first note that I am using the words consciousness, perception etc. in their ordinary-language, non-technical senses, because I want to avoid any argument about definitions or what the brain does, etc. So: how would you argue against the  less metaphorical view that consciousness is only in brains, but certain of its products (like language) can be externalised, like spit, and its products be perceived by others. If you spit at somebody the air serves as the medium of transmission, but there is no sense in which the air is related to the spit. If a cat sprays on a tree to mark territory, and another cat comes along and sniffs it and picks up information about sex, age, length of time since spray was deposited, etc., does the tree have sex, age, etc.? My suggestion is that if something is transmitted from one conscious being to another, the medium is only a medium and possesses no features that belong to the conscious beings. While the metaphor is not mystical and silly (like just about all of Jung’s), I wonder what mileage it gives us, and in particular, how you could defend it against my much cruder and more philistine notion. If my characterisation is more ontologically parsimonious, it would seem difficult to defend the addition of another object, a kind of reification of the complexity of the transmission of information.

      I’m feeling polemical this morning.


      Your point is not unlike the point I was making ~ that although consciousness can be extended, it still has the same source in the brain.  When we consider, say, a telephone, it is not the telephone that is conscious but the person at the other end of it.  If we keep going along these lines we note that consciousness can reach across time as well as space.  That is more or less what we are doing when we use text forums, like this one.  You are having a discussion with a conscious being, me.  But you will read the output of my consciousness some minutes or hours after they are actually written.  Would my words be any less of a reflection of my consciousness if I died between the time I hit 'send' and the time you read these words?
      But what if my words are relayed by you to someone else? At what point does my response to a particular question that you or someone else asks become a non-conscious representation of my consciousness?
      Let's put it another way.  What if, instead of talking to you via a phone I talk to you via an intermediary who memorises the question you ask and my corresponding answer?  My consciousness reaches you via this person or, put another way, you access my consciousness via this person.  Now what if there are many intermediaries?  What if the interval for the transmission runs to hundreds or thousands of years and I am long dead before it reaches the correct ears?
      If you stand in front of someone and ask them a question to which they respond, aren't you accessing their consciousness and aren't they extending the reach of their consciousness to you?  If so then we can extend the distance between us by any amount and the original observation about consciousness remains true.  And anyone along the way that also accesses this exchange is likewise privy to the access of my consciousness.  The originator need not remain alive for this to remain true, ad infinitum...
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