Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How about consciousness instead?

Instead of free will how about consciousness? As in, conscious control of lower brain and body functions, as in rational thought and decision making, etc. This could accept the likes of embodied mind, constrained by the body and brain but not fully determined by them. There is some "freedom from" them while far from absolute. So does consciousness exist?

Apparently not to the material reductionists. I've encountered them and they are convinced the consciousness is an illusion, or at best a useful epiphenomenon. But it simply cannot be a real, dynamic, emergent force that has any top-down causation. It seems that generally this is a reaction to the notion that consciousness is that ghost in the machine from the Cartesian theater, or worse, some kind of metaphysical presence imbued with divinity. It's ironic that the reductionists that deny not only free will but consciousness per se are the ones stuck in creating a straw entity that embodied realists, some of which are neuroscientists, never claimed to support in the first place.

As to Andy's comments in a previous post, asserting some form of conscious control does not in any way support a conservative political view of complete individual responsibility. But it is most certainly consistent with a progressive view of consciousness evolution that sees a balance between brain/body/cultural constraint and individual initiative and choice. Yes, it is more like a centaur, an infamous image used by the kennilinguists to depict a stage of development that isn't either/or individual/social. What I'm promoting is taking responsibility for what we can and making sound, conscious choices that affect not only ourselves but social policy. Progressive individual choice and responsibility is geared simply toward not one's self or one's own limited circles of shared interest, but humanity and the environment as a whole. That's the point of consciousness evolution, at least in my embodied yet (trans)rational view.

I'm pretty sure Andy supports the notion of consciousness, so perhaps he can elucidate that some so that we might find some common ground from this latest round of discussion? See for example his latest book: The Dimensions of Experience: A Natural History of Consciousness. Also recall this previous post on meditation and consciousness,  the referenced article of which was ultimately published in The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, Cambridge UP, 2007.

I think we can get some idea of Andy's response from this article, "Are physicists conscious?" David Lane's response is here. Andy's response to that is here. Lane's further responses is here.

Update: I do not intend to rehash the arguments about consciousness without an object that Andy makes in the referenced articles. Perhaps another time. But for the purposes of this thread, and my original comments above, my point is that consciousness with an object does indeed evolve to have more inclusive perspectives that can handle the type of 'self' control which manifests is a lessened focus on individual self and a wider embrace of the social and environmental matrix from which it arises. I.e., such freedom from lower egoic functions, the conservative or regressive view, evolves into the progressive political view via greater top-down self (egoic) control.*

*Well, to qualify that some, top-down control is necessary but not sufficient, since I think part of that process is indeed balancing that with integration of bottom-up nonconscious processes. See this IPS thread on states as but one example. I'm also starting to incorporate Damasio into this hypothesis.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.