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
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?