It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


Help ATS via PayPal:
learn more

The Ambiguities of Mind

page: 1

log in


posted on Feb, 23 2015 @ 05:45 PM
Between consciousness - our felt self experience, the inherent knowledge we have that says "I know that I am" - and our physical existence - the actual medium required that supports the "software of mind" there lies some else, that is neither what we can call "mind", at least in its affective tones (how something feels within the body) and its cognitive content (the corresponding thought) that goes with it.

We only become implicitly aware of it during a course of psychological development, until, given the relevant development conditions, mind becomes aware of itself, and in doing so, touches upon the "ipseity" which somehow opens and closes the gates of intentional consciousness.

What is this gatekeeper, this thing which controls the motions and flows of mind?

For me, in reflecting on the situation of being human, I cannot help but take note of what makes human beings especially unique, cognitively speaking: our sense of tensed time. We can abstract from the present moment we find ourselves within, and think about something completely different. Its often an act of pure imagination - thinking about what you should have done in this situation (past) or what you would do to some potential other (future). No other creature does this. Nothing can even be culled from observation that would imply, in a logically rigorous way (with recourse to explanations with the fewest necessary assumptions) that animals possess a reflexive mind, a mind that reflects upon itself, oftentimes implicitly, and more obviously when we introspect.

Human beings are very much, in one sense, alien to the universe we find ourselves within.

Everything once existed, physics tells us, in a single particle. A single energy, or field, held all of the energy of the expressed (and widening) universe. And then it exploded, and time officially began. In the evolution from that first moment, subatomic particles jostled within one another, some relaxing into a thing called space and others forming bodies of different orders, as solids, gases, and liquids (plus plasma). Throughout this time, each particle exists in an ecological synchrony, governed by some higher order that maintains all things bounded in a particular motion (attractors). Why things become this way is a profound mystery in itself, but nevertheless, from the cold apparent outside of physical space, it could just seem like a random and meaningless act of wandering.

On one planet in one part of a galaxy with a particular apposite solar system, life formed. With life, we have chemicals coming together to form their own self-subsistent identity. According to the theory of autopoesis (Varela, Maturana), the fundamental properties of life are a membrane separating organism from environment, and an inner core capable of maintaining its structure by extracting relevant molecules from outside itself (in the environment).

Life kept evolving, and with it, the planet itself became molded by the structures which spontaneously emerged upon it. From bacteria onwards, cellular life has gone to cover seemingly every corner of the physical earth. It is absolutely rife with life - as grass, fungus, bacteria, and larger organisms, as if completing the imagery to become something super-imposed upon it.

In every installment of evolution, one can sense a progression in evolution from a simple state to a more complex state. From the abstract energy of the beginning universe came physical bodies, and upon these physical bodies (planets) there could exist a condition where life would emerge. In life's beginnings, creatures are small and simple. As it's relations grow, its abilities - and its physical structure - complexify. It grows larger, and, in the case of multi-cellular organisms, extends the conceptual governance of single cells (a self replicating core and an ability to engage with the environment) between itself, with some cells being the "nucleus" (brain) while others cells perform peripheral actions. Eventually, what appears static (grass) takes on dimensions (insect, animals). Animals on 4 feet assume a relationship to the world which involves their sense of smell. The body itself provides the logic and parameters of evolutionary processes. Function - what a creature does - builds its structure (physical parts).

Ultimately, evolution leads towards a creature which becomes bipedal, and in this particular form, its own hands facilitate a consciousness of selfhood, since, unlike animals who interface directly with their physical environment (that is, no part of themselves intervening so much as to be looked upon as "different" from the self) human beings assume a particular relationship with their physical hands that places a conceptual distance between its "having a hand": that is, even before tool use, the human hand was already being used as if it were a specialized tool.

What this all suggests, at least for me, is that in looking at the physical world we do not automatically perceive the illusory distance we place between ourselves as thinkers and perceivers and the physical world itself. Physical structure of ANY sort implies some 'extra' thing. Hidden. Not observable. But exerting an influence.

With animals, although they seem "dead" in some sort of way - that is, they never seem to "see" us the way we feel we see them - actually do possess a very core state of consciousness. Antonio Damasio would call it a "core self". This type of consciousness - observable in all animals, from the lowest invertebrate to the next highest primate (chimpanzees), runs as if on automatic. Environmental inputs over time build cognitive and affective reactions. These reactions can be relatively simplistic (hunger motivates a search for food) to extraordinarily choreographed and spontaneous (animals at play). What occurs in these instances are adaptive responses to environmental stressors. The animal is not aware OF, of course, when it 'plays' with another of its kind. But over time these behaviors expand and attune, and are 'selected' by virtue of their adaptive value. The play of dogs can seem sophisticated in its spontaneity, and one can make out a larger "agent", at least enjoying itself while it 'plays', but there is a world of difference in doing something because the cue has been seen, to knowing that you are doing something because a cue has been seen (that is, the conceptual world which language enables).

In human beings, we too have a built in "motivational systems" crafted by our evolutionary environmental context. We have basic 1) physiological motivations 2) sexual motivations 3) attachment motivations 4) thus, caregiving motivations 5) affiliative motivations 6) aversive motivations (such as withdrawal behaviors) and probably some other stuff too. But in addition to all that, we have this ambiguously present "gatekeeper" function. How can I describe this? It ACTS upon mind, rather than being mind. In terms of the brain and its electro-magnetic fields, we know from neurofeedback that the mind can teach itself - by concentrating upon the feedback from an EEG hooked up to a computer, and keep itself functioning at a particular frequency at any particular location (so far across 30 possible zones) along the skull. Isn't that just bizarre?

posted on Feb, 23 2015 @ 06:10 PM
The brain is the repository of context-dependent object relations which the self has developed meanings towards. This is what we eventually experience as our "self". I'm not particularly amazed by this. What amazes me is the free-will one in relating with that knowledge. Meanings are not permanent, indissoluble structures. They form by default. Motivations and environmental inputs form a loop. Present in every and any loop in life is an implied agentic consciousness. From bacteria onwards, evolution doesn't work merely in the outside working in, but, rather, reflects something 'back' upon it.

Life CHOOSES. There is nothing fundamentally necessary about sugar and an organisms relationship to it. With insects, there is an agency, existing both singularly, inside any individual bug, as well as distributed throughout the colony, with brains that are fundamentally designed to RELATE WITH other bugs in a superordinate structure. In this something is being expressed, but is very implicit and hardly perceptible.

With a dog, you can see that there is an "agent" in there. When a loud voice is heard, a facial expression is made - one of fear and anxiety - and she cowers, paces, and trembles in trying to discharge the anxiety: if seeing this doesn't make you see the agent in them, I'd wonder what is wrong with you.

But the dog is totally defenseless against a harsh environment. There is no such thing as "resiliency" in a dog. There is just experiences which have produced certain biopsychological effects. Different configurations of these effects can give off the idea that this or that dog is "resilient", but that would be wrong: a dog cannot establish a relationship to an idea.

Human beings, conversely, existing reflexively, possess an "outside" perspective towards the things we experience. Even when we don't know it, there is a part of ourselves that implicitly "watches" ourselves as we act. The implicit "relationship" that develops, particularly between the self-as-speaker and the self-as-heard, and the emotional and cognitive experience of self during the process of speech, might as well be what we mean when we say "self". Self is the gestalt of what we do (in body or speech) and how we experience ourselves as we do it. We cannot help but build a relationship, this "sense of self", while simultaneously we develop relationships with the world outside ourselves.

But consciousness is not always "whole". The intensity of my reflectivity during a game of chess or during writing something of interest to you is fundamentally different from passive activities like laying down with your eyes closed or dissociating from a conversation when someone bores you.

However vague this might sound, "self growth" can be thought of as developing a more ecologically attuned relationship with the world around you. This relationship cannot occur or grow without some cognitive - object relational - input from a philosophical analysis of the world around you. Whether received or developed ad hoc, people 'organize' their realities for ulterior emotional reasons. The automatic mind of man is built to serve the passions: to give good feelings and to get rid of bad feelings. In the case of the latter, the experience of shame can redirect affective dynamics towards defensiveness, which can be expressed as a withdrawal, or an assertion of power over the other (as in a sadism/masochism complementarity).

When one pays attention to patterns, important and useful things - one could dare say objective things - are discerned. When we commit ourselves to self-exploration and self-honesty, we can make out the presence of an emotion in ourselves and find it in the dialogical relationship to some external influence. A mean look explains why I'm holding myself this way. The reverie I had between noticing the look and realizing I was holding myself a certain way went totally unnoticed. Who doesn't do this sometimes?

Ultimately, I wonder that, just as mind can 'recede' from matter (as in a dissociated state, or deep sleep) and seem not to possess the supposedly "emergent" properties of consciousness, that perhaps, all things being equal (in the non-linear sense) perhaps it might be an unjustified bias to exclude from possibility that mind can exist apart from the physical just as the physical can exist apart from mind.

If the universe is as circular - and fundamentally irrational - as it looks, why not?

posted on Feb, 23 2015 @ 06:13 PM
Beautiful beautiful beautiful post Astro. .. we think very alike in terms of understanding the human, and the universal experience it's having. I love/live this stuff

I don't have time to read all of it and post this. So I'm being brief!

In regards to the creation from that single point of energy.. on the universe, there MUST be two "opposing" (or revolving) energies to meet and expand what we call universe/creation.

That single point prior to big bang, must of had a counterpart to implode (I belive the universe is implosion as opposed to explosion, it's birthed inside itself).

Now, this single point energy must of had a consciousness prior to implosion. It can explain creation/material, but how does it explain dreams, visions, thoughts, emotions, awareness/consciousness?

This is how the concept of god/creator began then?

I'll tune in after work! Thanks for posting, can't wait to finish


edit on 23-2-2015 by Elementalist because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 23 2015 @ 06:17 PM
IMO there is such a thing as sensory perception of Universal harmonies /frequencies /resonances and there are forces unseen that could be catalysts for many reactions, possibly including such ''gatekeeper'' reactions to which you refer.

There are neutrinos passing through matter, there is dark matter at 23% of the Universe and 73% of all mass being dark energy, these energies doubtlessly influence all existence.

Overall, dark energy is thought to contribute 73 percent of all the mass and energy in the universe. Another 23 percent is dark matter, which leaves only 4 percent of the universe composed of regular matter, such as stars, planets and people

edit on 23-2-2015 by theabsolutetruth because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 01:16 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

I want you to think of a very simple animal, its brain simply acts like a machine, and instincts are its programming. How can we observe our own programming and thus change our behaviour to the extent that we can subvert or replace autonomous actions (such as instinct)? We have a mind so that we can observe our own programming, technically the mind is "aware" however "awareness" does not constitute what we are in my mind. What we are is everything that we experience, not the awareness itself. Awareness is another program that allows certain things to be experienced via a facet of specific observation. One can use their mind to observe their emotions, and then one can choose to act upon them or act differently. The choice that you make is what constitutes "you" as you are an event in space and time, the "chooser" itself is another program that allows the future to be predicted and possibilities ascertained. Without the ability to predict the consequences of our actions, we would not know where "choice" leads us, and it is a part of the mind that performs this function.

In terms of evolution, we have obviously found that our instincts are not always the best option in terms of survival, and we have learnt this from our memories - we can see that we have acted upon certain instincts and suffered, and when we can think to change our behaviours and prosper, can we use our mind to alter the signals that the brain sends to the body.

There is indeed a "brain-mind" interface and when we use the mind to change the actions that our brain performs, we are using the mind as it is meant to be used.

What connects "us" to our minds? The answer is that the mind is a form of awareness, and we are able to interact with anything that is aware, our "self" uses "awareness" to act, and without awareness, technically we are asleep, but it does not mean that we cease to exist when we are not aware.

If you look at the fabric of existence, looking at infinite possibility, think of a matrix of time-space, each of us has our own "placement" in the grid, a "possibility" that is anchored in existence because it is totally unique.

posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 02:39 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte


posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 09:21 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte
A very well-considered and well-written post - thank you.

Mind has many functions - from the constant train of thinking and perceiving, to simply observing what appears apparently objective to it. Mind. along with all forms arise in consciousness. The function of attention gives consciousness a focus or point-of-view, a limit, in order to perceive and conceive as the apparently separate body-mind.

Mind does not ultimately disengage from the body - it is all one complex. Even the apparently separate observer function of mind is still dependent on the brain of the body-mind.

However, consciousness or awareness itself, neither inherently nor ultimately limited to any point-of-view mechanism of mind's attention, is the uncaused witness of all arising, and is already free of the body-mind.

Consciousness does not seek, nor look to abstract from, nor associate with, the body-mind inherently; but we find ourselves, as consciousness, apparently associated and identified with the body-mind, and all the paradoxes mind encounters when trying to reconcile its limited caused condition - with Reality or unlimited uncaused consciousness itself.

To realize consciousness one must transcend all the limits of the body-mind, including the observer function, and attention itself, and this is not done through any technique of the mind. It is only realized by and as Reality itself through a moment to moment ordeal of whole body-mind self-transcendence.

edit on 2/26/2015 by bb23108 because:

top topics


log in