The other way it could be is that all that you call your actions, intentions, emotions and experiences are all the actions of a kind of performer. You are just watching the performer do its thing and this performer has tricked you into thinking you are it. Much like a good movie or theatre company can make the audience forget themselves for a bit.
This would account for why we don’t know what we are going to choose before we choose it; what we will think before we think it. It would account for the opaque nature of the black box out of which all our experiences (I include intentions and decisions within that category) come.
Though both these pictures could be the case I genuinely believe we are merely passive observers in our lifes.
We have become so caught up in the drama on the stage that we have forgotten that it isn’t us up there.
Just like a play has a beginning and an end; life has a beginning and an end. Maybe at the end we’ll get to take our masks off and discover we were the same entity playing or the parts.
Or we might just go into oblivion knowing nothing forever which ain’t that bad if you think about it.
I have a number of prongs in my attack on the traditional conception of free-will (the conception that states that if two worlds were identical in every way then it would be possible for a person x in one world to make a different decision to person x in the other world).
Recently I have thought of an analogy, or model, to show the problems in the phenomenological rebuttal of free-will.
If you try to distinguish between what you have control over and what you don’t have control over you will find that the closer you look the less you have control over; until it becomes apparent that you are nothing but a passive observer.
Your thoughts just pop spontaneously into your mind. Intentions I would say are thoughts to and like thoughts they just spring up out of no-where. But it is intentionality (that is the feeling of intending to do something) that we use to distinguish between what we have control over and what we don’t have control over.
The will to act upon an intention is no different. It’s not as if you will to will to will to act upon an intention. The will just appears magically.
Now this could be the result of a necessary bifurcation in our being brought about by our self-aware nature.
It is a bit like watching your reflection in the mirror. Whilst you are aware of yourself and your reflection you know that your reflection raising its arm is caused by you raising your arm.
If all you had available was the reflection then you could be forgiven for thinking it was moving itself and not being moved by your own actions and in a phenomenological analysis we may be just looking at the mirror and nothing else.
What are words but signs that point to concepts in the mind. Concepts not images for images are a sub-set of concepts. That is they can be reduced to each other.
What is language if not a set of pictures and do not these pictures come to express concepts.
There’s a problem here! Do concepts exist as words on a page or as mental content or forms?
If concepts are nothing but words on paper then concepts can be created by pictures. But if concepts are not words on paper. The words on the page being triggers for certain mental states.
But then they both comprise the same informational content.
Making sense of concepts requires a more holistic understanding that expresses the relationship between the Dasein, concepts and images.
So the other day I was talking about identity and how it isn’t a fixed thing. I think I was really talking about the ego, super-ego and id triad. The nature of which is protean.
The Id doesn’t always want the same thing. So the Ego has to constantly change its interactions with the super-ego. Out of this process arises the protean identity; which is the triads projection into the world.
The real you is just a passive awareness through which experience passes. You experience trees, roads, cars, shame, guilt, sadness, choices and so on. If you watch carefully you will see that there is no “I” experiencing any of this stuff; there is just the experience.
I’ve been suffering hiccups recently so I’ll use them as an analogy. A hiccup seems to pop up out of no-where. You don’t strive to hiccup it just happens. Watch your thoughts and you will see the same thing. You don’t strive to think a thought it just pops into your mind.
Watch your internal experiences and you will see they have the same character. Sure you may feel sad when someone dies. You see the death as the cause of the sadness; but there was no “you” there who acted as an agent to feel sad in response to death. It just happened.
In fact we are never aware of an “I” that is perceiving. Rather we just see stuff.
This “I” is an illusion created by language because language requires a subject to act upon an object.
Identity is a trap.
Identity is an illusion.
People are a lot like protean blobs. One moment they are a triangle, the next a square, and the next a dodecahedron.
Whenever you ask people “Who are you?” you get a range of replies. Some say they are what they like “I’m a music lover” or “I’m a fan of someone or other”. Some say they are activities “I’m a carpenter”, “I’m a philosopher”. Some say they are beliefs “I’m an atheist”, “I’m a Christian.”; others say they are morals “I’m good”, “I’m bad”.
The thing is that – besides the fact that they are all things that are either behaviours anybody could do or things that anybody could say of themselves – none of these fit the range of who you are in your concrete, daily life. They are like the shapes the protean blob takes.
It’s like you have this protean blob before you constantly changing shape. It says to you “I’m a triangle!” and you point at it and say “You were for a bit but now you’re a cube!” Well a human being claiming to have an identity is doing the exact same thing.
The thing is our actual nature is protean. The illusion of identity is an attempt to fix in one shape that which is unfixable.
When you are a child and your granny says “You’re a good boy!” she is trying (in most cases unwittingly) to give you an identity. To shape you into an image she finds acceptable. That of being a good person (whatever good may be; given your social milieu).
The thing is that the child rapidly realizes that it isn’t always good. That it doesn’t always have good urges.
This is because of the unchangeable changeable nature of our being.
In some cases the young man will suppress (that is hide away) the characteristics he has that don’t fit the identity he was given. He toes the line. The other case is the rebellious teenager we all hear so much about.
In order to make a way of seeing consciousness that would explain why it is unexplainable more comprehesable I’ll have recourse to the concept of a formal language. A formal language is a language that is made up of strings all of which are derived from axioms via rules. To bring this out I will use a simple formal language as an example. The language I will use I have borrowed from “Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas R. Hofstadter (which is a damn good read by the way! It doesn’t treat you like an idiot like a lot of “Popular” science/philosophy books do).
The “MIU-System” is made up of 3 letters: M, I, and U.
It has one axiom: MI
It has 4 rules (These I have quoted directly from the book):
1. If you possess a string whose last letter is I, you can add on a U at the end.
For example MI can become MIU. MIUI can become MIUIU. MIII can become MIIIU
2. Suppose you have Mx. Then you may add Mxx to your collection. For example MI can become MII. MIUI can become MIUIIUI. MIII can become MIIIIII.
3. If III occurs in one of the strings in your collection, you may make a new string with U in place of III. So MIII can become MU.
4. If UU occurs inside one of your strings, you can drop it. So MIUU can become MI.
The book offers a puzzle as a means of getting us to play with the system. The puzzle is can you make MU from MI in the system.
So an example of a try would be:
MII (via rule 2)
MIIII (via rule 2)
MUI (via rule 3 (note you could also make MIU with the same rule))
MUIU (via rule 1)
And so on….
Don’t worry this is going somewhere – it is leading to a formulation of why consciousness is inexplicable! Well I will just state why in a simple sentence now but continue to clarify over the next few blogs.
In any formal system any theorum (that is a string that is derived from an axiom (either immediately or mediately)) is explicable by referring to the strings that came before, the rules of derivation and the axioms. But the axioms, rules, and components of the strings are not explicable but have to be taken on faith… Basically given at the beginning. Now I think reality is somewhat like a formal system all be it incredibly complex. I think consciousness is a fundamental and irreducible component of that system. That it is like a component, axiom or law if you will.
I’ve recently been trying to think of ways of looking at consciousness that would explain why it is – or could be – something that is inexplicable. That is a definition of consciousness that would explain why consciousness cannot be explained by talking about the interaction of many discrete parts.
First I will try and communicate a distinction I have realized between what is consciousness and what is not consciousness as seen from the subjective viewpoint. That is I have been looking at my own experience – performing a phenomological analysis if you will – to distinguish between what is consciousness and what is that which consciousness is aware of. I have found that such things as decision making, emotions, character (or rather the illusory sense we have of there being a continuous character called me), thoughts, basically all phenomena which we designate as internal is not what consciousness is.
This of course rests on a basic assumption. That assumption is: Something cannot be what it sees. That for you to be aware of something that something must be outside of you. I don’t know how to proove this assumption but it seems intuitively right to me.
I believe that all these things of which we are aware will – one day – be explained satisfactorily and to a level where we will be able to construct a AI that will simulate… in fact do all those things (such as creativity, decision making (what some people inanely call free-will) and basically everything that most people would say makes a person a person). I don’t believe the same will ever be true of consciousness.
Now given this belief I have been trying to create a definition or description of consciousness that would explain why we will never be able to explain how consciousness comes about.
TO BE CONTINUES….