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The Battery Theory of Self

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posted on Jan, 19 2016 @ 10:31 PM
I wish I had my photoshop to visually represent what I mean, but I will ask you to use your imagination instead. Picture a battery; a tube of medium with a positive end and a negative end. Human consciousness is this. The Self pole and the Other pole. The other is the interacted with object, and the self, of course, is our status of being an "observer".

The fluid of course is consciousness, but more specifically, it is "bodily"; it is whats called in scientific language "affects". Affects are the feeling states in our viscera (chest, stomach), limbs, neck, and face. It has an "oppressive" force on consciousness by biasing the form or orientation it takes towards the object (or, in batter theory terms, the "other"). It's also reflexive. We move into our experiences with a celerity that strongly bespeaks a biological imperative. The neuroscientist and philosopher Antonio Damasio has spearheaded the idea that our feeling states are "constructions" of a 'proto-self' that integrates and translates the various needs of the cells throughout the organism. Hunger, for instance, will impel the perception of "feeling hungry" and the concomitant bodily states. The organism, our body, in other words, is an object to our observing consciousness. This representation of "duality" within our very organism, with our head "up here", floating, as it were, and our body (particularly the viscera) "down there", is a legitimate phenomenological percept that could not be denied by any truly self-aware human being. The question of course is not whether the perception exists, but whether it is a legitimate representation of ontological, or veridical, reality.

Across the divide of self and body (which are, of course, truly unitary) is a space we call the outside world. On the other end is a person just like us, with presumably, the very same sorts of states, perceptions, and existential curiousness that we experience. On the other end, just like us, the other person has the same internal divide between his perceiving self (observer) and the objects he interfaces with (such as his body). The divide between people, however, is not neutral, but a medium for the real communication: the energies and affects that generate the human mind.

Before we go further, I will state clearly, in bold script: The Human Being Is a FUNCTION of the Human Group. What this means, especially in light of complexity theory and dynamical systems theory, is that the structure of an organism reflects something about it's situatedness in the external environment. The organism (it's internal, self-sustaining nature) "extracts" a particular need from it's immediate informational environment. This means, as a first principle, that every evolving species is a function of it's particular arrangement with the outside world. In order to maintain itself, a certain continuity and stability of place and position is needed. Organisms can be adaptive, but there are limits, scales, and degrees which constrain its particular existence in space and time. So it's existence isn't arbitrary: there are "sweet spots" that every system inclines toward.

A cell is interested in it's chemical environment, whereas a human being is interested in its meaning environment. In both situations, a "feedback" forms which maintains a particular rhythmic movement in time, giving shape to a particular "structure". Our brain is literally the embodiment of a mental structure. But what is that mental structure - and what laws does it obey?

Affects are the ground which the observer self obeys. To realize this, you need to remember what I wrote earlier: The Human Being is a Function of the Human Group. And why? Because we are social, evolved as social beings, and so are subject to those laws which permit the continued existence of our proclivity to "think together", act together, and develop meaning systems together. What are the affects which enable this? Philosophers and others have given way to much weight to external activities (such as tool use) and abstract ideas that have nothing to do with immediate phenomenology, and because of this, we have been kept far away from recognizing the medium in which we swim. The affects which matter, it seems, have to do with "feeling good" and "feeling bad". Pleasure and pain, are two affects which have nothing really to do with socializing. They are there before socializing, and could be related to any action that is good for the organism, such as the desire to eat (want, displeasure) and the fulfillment of it (pleasure). Satisfaction also may be reflective of an intrinsic biochemical potency in stability. Dissatisfaction would be the opposite, and thus compelling the mind of the organism to relate to the world in terms of the body's dispositions. It could be need (dissatisfaction) or thriving (Pleasure).

So, the question is, how does basic pleasure and pain relate to what matters to us humans, meaning? Meaning is operating on the same level as the more basic pleasure-pain distinction, but now in terms of a particular "product", that is not physical, but entirely mental. In a truly ontological evolutionary development, the SELF, or this deep, intrinsic sense of wholeness, and beingness, is sought not merely as a good, but as a "thing" that needs to be filled. The currency of a human beings meaning is positive or negative affect. But the goal is being known - which is to say, to be known by the other in a good way. Recognition, and being recognized, not badly, but positively, is what each of us deeply, deeply needs. And it is like this because this is how evolution has built us: this was the "natural selection", the thing that worked and works to keep us both perceiving as we do (with this self-object ontology) and being structured as we are (our bodily structure, brain, face etc).

To return to this subjects main theme "The battery theory of Self", we can say that the "positive" end of the battery is being recognized by the other. When this happens, energy flows between the two poles, just as in a real battery when electrons flow from the positive to the negative end. The "positive" and "negative" only refers to the self (observer) and the object. The object is "negative" in the sense of being foreign, and other, and bamboozling the mind into energetic engagements in ways the observer struggles to understand.

Whats interesting about this process is that it isn't a conscious one. As far as I know, this idea has never been formalized in a system-like way. Humans, in fact, are far more propositional in their thought, and tend towards the very abstract when it comes to meaning-making. Another major stumbling block was the absence of that incredibly powerful thinking tool known as evolution. From the big bang till now, and how we understand physical matter formed, consolidated itself, and evolved to produce consciousness, and the way thermodynamic laws kept things in a state of constant adaptation, against absence, the negative, as the organism (a positive) struggled to become and MAINTAIN itself.

Being recognized is process that involves two psychological poles, and two faces, body's and voices. The face and voice "cues" the unconscious part of our brain into a state of coherence with the other, which creates a state of "co-regulation", whereby the meaning-structures flowing across never lose contact with the affective dynamics in facial expressions, voices and body's.

posted on Jan, 19 2016 @ 11:04 PM
Humans think in signs, or symbols, or what is otherwise called language. And language, of course, is a shorthand for a particular perceptual knowledge about a self-world relationship. So when we think in words, we are establishing a cognitive, or knowing, coherence with the interacted with “object” of our internal minds. Meaning is the currency of consciousness. But consciousness is subject to the affective energies which shape and coordinate our individual selves.

To get to my main point: shame and pride are the two affective states which govern human affective life, as shame and pride drive different selves into common agreement. Those who agree, agree affectively, as well as cognitively. While those who disagree, are experienced by the majority who agree as “distasteful”. A disapproval from the majority (a genetically controlled unconscious affective response, which finds expression in a particular cultural form) then generates a negative state in the other, the minority, or individual, who because he does not agree (affectively or cognitively) is now experiencing a very strong affect (a state of organismic displeasure) which we would label “shame”. Also, because of the natural polarity of the process, shame is “induced”, as it were, from the pride of knowledge, position, or status, of the other. The others pride induces a negative state in the other, indicating that the other better agree cognitively, otherwise it will continue to feel this horrible state (shame). This is an example of the “group homeostasis” that sustains human sociality.

Evolution has therefore used pride and shame as background contours to shape shared-intentionality, which is what we can call the “attractor” of human phenomenology. Shame will incline negative self-percepts, and will generally enforce defensive and adaptive actions that will help the self. The self accomplishes this by generating percepts unconsciously collected from interactions with the social world, so that particular ways of being conducive to positive reception (positive feedback) will enter the perceptual frame and so lead to the formation of a “self” that provide coherence and affect stability, at least in the particular situation the self finds itself in.

Time for photoshop:

These two pictures attempt to adumbrate the continuity of evolutionary processes (the first picture) and the way it operates in human phenomenology (second picture). Shame and pride is not just human, but seems to exists in all social-mammals. Whales, Dolphins, Wolves, Dogs, Elephants, Primates and Apes (to just choose a few) also exhibit behaviors that demonstrate pleasure in being vis a vis others, as, for example, when a dog sits, erect, snout pointing upward. Such a pose signifies a pleasure in being vis a vis a social partner (such as its owner). It's important to remember that because these creatures are significantly less complex than we are, the way these affects manifest themselves will be different. But the ultimate point remains: its a coordination of affective and behavioral processes that maintains group cognitive coherence.

Human thought, particularly via language, can create dissociative processes, particularly when a pride in knowledge leads to an exaggerated consideration of self vis-a-vis the other. This is why language, the great gift that gave us civilization, necessitates a "searching" process. Pride of Knowledge is something almost everyone in today's world is guilty of. And even less, more superficial prides, such as in money, power, looks, or skills, dominate the culture. Because the excess isn't noticed - obscured by cultural processes, meanings, and defenses cloaked in cliches, and other stereotypes - it maintains itself, and finds itself most strongly expressed in those minds dominated by "pride of knowledge" - the academics, scientists, philosophers, political scientists, etc.

Pride is not wrong, and neither is shame. But that doesn't mean that pride or shame cant exceed what's healthy in terms of social-dynamics. In fact, a very robust feedback can form between shame and pride when the latter is challenged. Because the self-system is fundamentally dynamic, being told something negative about your way of being can pique the "threat system" of your amygdala. So pride can occur as a defense against shame! The good of feeling can efface the bad that otherwise stands to enforce social group dynamics! These sorts of affective-feedback loops are well described by Jared Diamond in his book "The World Until Yesterday", whereby pride and an intolerance for softer emotions (such as empathy and, actions such as forgiveness) leads to a feedback loop where one group kills another group in an interminable revenge cycle. Something like this is happening today in our culture. In different ways and to different degrees, shame-phobia and pride-philia leads to excess behaviors, and this is nowhere better shown then in the Republican party and figures such Donald Trump, or John Mccain.

posted on Jan, 20 2016 @ 03:22 AM

originally posted by: Astrocyte
... Human consciousness...

Perhaps you might wish to revise your theory in light that there is no 'human consciousness', here is One Universal Consciousness, within which, all exists!

posted on Jan, 20 2016 @ 04:26 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

Another bar raising piece!

And, many thanks,in doing so, for introducing me to Damasio's work, I am mightily impressed...

Developed in his (1999) book, 'The Feeling of What Happens', Antonio Damasio's three layered theory of consciousness is based on a hierarchy of stages, with each stage building upon the last. The most basic representation of the organism is referred to as the Protoself, next is Core Consciousness, and finally, Extended Consciousness. Damasio, who is an internationally recognized leader in neuroscience, was educated at the University of Lisbon and currently directs the University of Southern California Brain and Creativity Institute.[1] Damasio's approach to explaining the development of consciousness relies on three notions: emotion, feeling, and feeling a feeling. Emotions are a collection of unconscious neural responses to qualia.[citation needed] These complex reactions to stimuli cause observable external changes in the organism. A feeling arises when the organism becomes aware of the changes it is experiencing as a result of external or internal stimuli.[2]'s_theory_of_consciousness

As bolded, reminded me of Pavlov's "investigatory reflex", or the "what-is-it?" reaction. Extrapolated and pathologically identified, but still, from identification to understanding, bringing us closer to comprehension and the realisation of conscious conscience, perhaps?

"It is this reflex which brings about the immediate response in man and animals to the slightest change in the world around them, so that they immediately orientate their appropriate receptor organ in accordance with the perceptible quality in the agent bringing about the change, making full investigation of it. The biological significance of this reflex is obvious...In man this reflex has been greatly developed with far-reaching results, being represented in it's highest form by inquisitiveness - the parent of that scientific method through which we may hope one day to come to a true orientation in knowledge with the world around us." (I P Pavlov, Conditioned Reflexes, 1924.)

posted on Jan, 22 2016 @ 01:39 AM
a reply to: Anaana


The paradox of Damasio's approach is it's implicit denial that consciousness is causative. If the existential feel of consciousness isn't "veradical" (i.e real) than it's an "epiphenomenon". But the whole idea that the existential feel isn't causative is complete incoherence. If something is existential, it is necessarily describing things at a level that only pertains to the "gestalt" of a stream in perceptions. Existential qualia, such as pride, shame, anger - each revealing an orientation of an implicitly self-conscious self, projecting itself into its actions and interfacing with the results in a way that seems spurred on by the existential thrill of feeling proud.

But this is a "little" existential problem. A bigger one are states of awe and compassion. These two states unleash energy in the mind, and so, being accessible only via consciousness (as well as the lived narrative as a self) must necessarily assemble the neural processes in whatever way that life ensues.

Damasio however has the strange biologists enchantment with biological theories of automatic physical causation, with no "need" for an actually existing agent beyond the body. But this is just so radically inconsistent with the qualia of experience - our "unity", despite an internal inconsistency, is just so obviously causative; the fear, the shame, the past, the memories, the meanings. How else can the process be as effective as it is without the honest-to-truth engagement of the organism with it's internal percepts?

There is obviously very something different with us - who live in an imaginative realm in our head, wildly flamoyant, spontaneous, yet rigid, fearful, and most of all, prideful. We can't help but talk, talk, because of an internal anxiety against idleness, so we move - and justify our movement to ourselves - and sometimes we just talk to release this anxiety, without any meritorious concern for anything but your needs. The world we live in has produced a culture of needy people who need stupid and worthless things, cultivate bad habits, fail to emphasize impulse regulation, self-discipline, knowledge of the mind, and most of all, knowledge of its dissociative, defensive ways. Damasios understanding of and use of neural hierarchy theory provides the most accurate theory mankind has ever developed of human cognition (that is, how the mind is genetically programmed to function). By mind, I am just describing the "roads" consciousness follows, is pulled by, so long as the mind doesn't become aware of itself, the mind will remained entrained to the things that pull it.

For example, we seem to have genetically regulated processes that organizes perceptual states in terms of their "goodness' or 'badness'. Within this scheme, the brain guides consciousness towards some previously tagged "cognit" that is useful in the present state of self-environment relation. The "cognit", is a meaningful piece of "gestalt" knowledge an organism can have towards the world. So, for instance, I can think about going on an expensive vacation and saving up, or I can buy a lottery ticket, or 20 of them, in hopes of winning something I am desperately unlikely to win. These cases describe a type of wishful thinking, that, in being "pleasurable" to think about, diverts consciousness from negative streams of thought. The organism - or brain - thus "regulates" consciousness by dissociating it from a particularly disturbing negative affect. This is pretty incredible if you really think about it: the existential qualias of consciousness, such as the moment one perceives fear, or senses anxiety deep in his heart; these things are in the process, and may in fact be causative in the process, but nevertheless the direction and functioning of consciousness is regulated by biology.

People can also deny things are happening. This process seems dependent on a larger social-schema that defines two individual human actors as "sub-individuals" within a larger "supraindividual". The "we" is not just in our brains, but it is the literal structure of our perceptual awareness. Self-other equivalence, the non-stop, unconscious fine-tuning of perceptual states between public body's. Our evolution is insanely ecological.

Right now, humans are really getting a deeper understanding of the conditions that led to our consciousness. Whats called a "second person morality", has become the only sensible approach one can take to the way human consciousness is constituted. This "second person morality" is the basic structure of our brains, recording the mental behaviors that sustained our social homeostasis as moral beings. Internalized in our brain is a reflexive response to the intersubjective dynamics - affective, cognitive and social - such that guilt will occur when one sees that one didn't act as one was expected to. The self feels it; lives it. It lives it as a function of being a 'part' within a larger whole - the group. The self is thus regulated by a higher dynamic, the "we", as Tomasello likes to put it.

posted on Jan, 22 2016 @ 03:44 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

That is a linguistically challenging post to digest, I will give it a go, but it could take a while.

Many thanks for taking the time to reply though.


posted on Jan, 23 2016 @ 11:17 PM
a reply to: Anaana

Yeah, sorry. I could have taken the time to edit myself better. But the subject matter is fundamentally complex!

I both love Damasios thinking, in that he has united biological processes with human phenomenology. Yet he likes to think (no doubt, due to his relationship with thinkers like the Churchlands) that he has some "superior position" in matters of metaphysical significance. In "The Feeling of What Happens" Damasio literally believes his own horse$hit that the subject of consciousness is a relatively new problem. That is, previous thinkers never "had the problem" with consciousness that we moderns do. Of course, this is obscenely ignorant. In two ways. One, atheists have existed and written in not just the west (Greece) but also India; but even more importantly, the "problem of consciousness" is really predicated on the recognition that consciousness seems dependent on a brain. Therefore, any person exposed to a dead human body, without recourse to a spiritual-interpretation, is likely going to infer that with death comes the cessation of consciousness; or at the very least, will be compelled into such a thought by the fear that naturally arises in a conceptually self-aware mind.

Thus, Damasio is profound in some ways, and arrogant in others. He fancies himself, I'm sure, as a spokesman for modern neuroscience (and has been described in such ways by people like David Brooks) and like other neuroscientists writing today, they really do believe - wholeheartedly - in the metaphysics which underlies their presumptions. Also, since my research is largely epistemologically focused (metaphysics, another interest of mine, seems far too undeveloped to be useful in getting people to understand how fundamentally ecologically constituted their brains/minds are) I can't help but wonder why people don't check their pride when they write; as if they believe (and they do!!!!!!!!!) that "pride" isn't an important thing to consider. If it happens, its infrequent; as opposed to being, in fact, a private exercise we engage in whenever we write, since our writing, of course, is not for no one - but for the imagined "other" we seek to persuade.

The very structure of our awareness - observer/object, or self-other - is a recapitulation of the social processes that built our brains. The very presence of an "object" that can be seen, allows us to know ourselves as an object, and thus to "be a self". If you accept this premise (and I consider it to be woefully unscientific to deny it) than how amusing it is, truly, that people make metaphysical claims one way or another, to a degree and in a way that is absolute in it's assertiveness. Who is this statement for? For the "people they seek to persuade" as they claim? Or, more deeply, is it for themselves, for their own coherency, as well as the pleasure concomitant to the exercise of making controversial - or antagonizing - assertions?

posted on Jan, 24 2016 @ 04:48 AM

originally posted by: Astrocyte

The very structure of our awareness - observer/object, or self-other - is a recapitulation of the social processes that built our brains. The very presence of an "object" that can be seen, allows us to know ourselves as an object, and thus to "be a self". If you accept this premise (and I consider it to be woefully unscientific to deny it) than how amusing it is, truly, that people make metaphysical claims one way or another, to a degree and in a way that is absolute in it's assertiveness. Who is this statement for? For the "people they seek to persuade" as they claim? Or, more deeply, is it for themselves, for their own coherency, as well as the pleasure concomitant to the exercise of making controversial - or antagonizing - assertions?

Awareness is not 'yours'. Awareness has no structure - it the the space in which everything appears. The body you think you are appears in awareness. The thoughts that arise arise within awareness.
The misconception is that you think you are an object that sees objects. Language (symbols and words) have turned you (not an object of perception) into an assumed object.
You never appear - ever.

Do you know what you are? Do you have words to describe what you are? What do those words/symbols arise in? Where do those words arise?
Right here and right now what are you - with no words what are you? Prior to any word or symbol you are.
You are the seeing of the words!!

There is the witness consciousness and there is the witnessed consciousness - they are not separate. You are the witness of what is arising. The witness can do nothing about what is arising because they arise as one.

The symbols and words assume things - this is the mis-conception - the original sin.
There are no things - there is simply what is happening (being).

posted on Jan, 28 2016 @ 01:32 AM
a reply to: Itisnowagain

I'm speaking about the generally agreed upon idea of our awareness. I am discussing phenomenology. Not philosophy.

posted on Jan, 28 2016 @ 04:35 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

I am still digesting, or rather attempting to integrate or apply your phenomenological approach experientially in order to find "understanding". I am not, entirely, comfortable with the inherent clinicism, not because it isn't useful, but because I also feel that it can cloud the ability for wider understanding of just how disparate some emotional experiencing can be related to the environment. Which is, of course, where social-psychology, and environmental psychology can come into their own. Pride, and shame, I am concerned, are more related to social and familial norms and values, and as such, I am kind of struggling to see the functionality beyond the socially imposed conformism that such responses inflict. I may be looking at things a little askew, as I said, still digesting.

posted on Jan, 28 2016 @ 04:59 AM
Awesome thread! Astrocyte, would love to hear your opinion on this thread as well...
Tryptamines and God
It's been edited to the point of being almost unreadable, but I think you would enjoy what is left of it.
There's also an unscrewed copy of it on the wayback machine
edit on 28-1-2016 by twitchy because: (no reason given)

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