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Author Topic: Can I Think of Me?  (Read 2717 times)

Offline coberst

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Can I Think of Me?
« on: 01/05/2009 14:16:59 »
Can I Think of Me?

In his book “The Birth of Meaning” Ernest Becker informs me that Kant informed the world two centuries ago that an infant “becomes conscious of himself first as “me”, and then only as an “I”…It means, simply, that the child begins to establish himself as an object of others before he becomes an executive subject…He becomes, in a word, an object to himself; he discovers his body as something in the outside world, as an instrument that belongs to him.” 

Recently, while studying the works of Antonia Damasio, I have discovered that in his book The Feeling of what Happens Damasio explains in some detail how the individual discovers the self in the process of experiencing the world.

Core consciousness—“occurs when the brain’s representation devices generate an imaged, nonverbal account of how the organism’s own state is affected by the organism’s processing  of an object, and when this process enhances  the image of the causative object, thus placing it saliently  in a spatial and temporal context”

First, there is emotion, then comes feeling, then comes consciousness of feeling. There is no evidence that we are conscious of all our feelings, in fact evidence indicates that we are not conscious of all feelings.

Proto-self—“a coherent collection of neural patterns which map, moment by moment, the state of the physical structure of the organism in its many dimensions”

How can we begin to be conscious thereby having a sense of self while in the act of knowing?

We develop a nonverbal narrative in time that has a beginning, middle, and ending.  The beginning is the neural mapping of the proto-self, the middle is when an external object is perceived, and the ending is a series of reactions resulting from the modification of the proto-self caused by the external object.


In its simplest form, the sense of knowing emerges in the feeling of knowing.  The organism’s proto-self, mapped in the brain together with the neural mapping of the object, is modified by the object’s mapping.  These transient mental images resulting from the modified proto-self’s neural modification are feelings.

The organism is represented by the proto-self, which originates in the internal milieu, i.e. the viscera, vestibular system, and musculoskeletal frame of the organism.  The nonverbal narrative “describes the relationship between the changing proto-self and the sensorimotor maps of the object that causes those changes”.  In other words, the brain image of the toothache of which I am bothered affects the static state of the organism’s proto-self.

The organism knows itself in this ‘self relating to object milieu’; the proto-self is being created in the process of knowing.

This wordless narrative, which we identify as thought, is constantly repeated without stop for every object that the brain represents.  “It is not possible to run out of “actual” objects or “thought” object, and it is thus not possible to run out of the abundant commodity called core consciousness”.

Knowing is a process that results in a feeling of the proto-self in conjunction with the image of an external object, which causes an integration of the proto-self and the changes therein caused by the object.  “Attention is driven to focus on an object and the result is saliency of the images of that object in mind.  The object is set out from less-fortunate objects.”  This is the birth of meaning.

Knowing springs to life in the narrative of the self interacting with the object.  This is perhaps what T.S. Eliot means when he wrote in Four Quartets “music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all…you are the music while the music lasts”.


Quotes from “The Feeling of What Happens” by Antonio Damasio


 

Offline Don_1

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Can I Think of Me?
« Reply #1 on: 01/05/2009 15:09:20 »
"Can I Think of Me?"

If I were you, I'd think about going to a different library!

These books you read are really far too deep delving into the morose and woeful. Try reading a little Spike Milligan for a change, have a larf, old chap, init!

Life's a bowl of cherries, pick one, eat it & spit the stone at the vicar!!!
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #2 on: 01/05/2009 18:22:59 »
On a similar related subject, I remember that when I was learning to sail many years ago, the instructor said there were 4 stages people went through:

At the start they are (1) Unconciously Incompetent. They are not aware of what is involved and don't know how to do what is required. Then they become (2) Conciously Incompetent. They become aware of what is needed but can't do it. The next stage is they are (3) Conciously Competent. This is where they can do what is needed but have to think carefully about it. The final stage is to be (4) Unconciously Competent, where the person can act in the right way without having to think (at least conciously) about it.

I rather liked this description of a learning process. It applies widely to motor skills, like driving for example, but I suspect it comes into play in lots of areas.
 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #3 on: 01/05/2009 20:29:36 »
On a similar related subject, I remember that when I was learning to sail many years ago, the instructor said there were 4 stages people went through:

At the start they are (1) Unconciously Incompetent. They are not aware of what is involved and don't know how to do what is required. Then they become (2) Conciously Incompetent. They become aware of what is needed but can't do it. The next stage is they are (3) Conciously Competent. This is where they can do what is needed but have to think carefully about it. The final stage is to be (4) Unconciously Competent, where the person can act in the right way without having to think (at least conciously) about it.

I rather liked this description of a learning process. It applies widely to motor skills, like driving for example, but I suspect it comes into play in lots of areas.

Well said.  It applies, I guess, to all human actions.  In matters of knowledge we can comprehend only what we are prepared to comprehend.

Comprehension is a hierarchy, resembling a pyramid, with awareness at the base followed by consciousness, succeeded by knowing, with understanding at the pinnacle.

I have concocted a metaphor set that might relay my comprehension of the difference between knowing and understanding.

Awareness--faces in a crowd.

Consciousness—smile, a handshake, and curiosity.

Knowledge—long talks sharing desires and ambitions.

Understanding—a best friend bringing constant April.


I am a retired engineer and my experience in the natural sciences leads me to conclude that these natural sciences are far more concerned with knowing than with understanding.

Understanding is a long step beyond knowing and most often knowing provides the results that technology demands.  Technology, I think, does not want understanding because understanding is inefficient and generally not required.  The natural scientists, with their paradigms, are puzzle solvers.  Puzzles require ingenuity but seldom understanding.
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #4 on: 02/05/2009 10:52:27 »

I am a retired engineer and my experience in the natural sciences leads me to conclude that these natural sciences are far more concerned with knowing than with understanding.


Hmm, not so sure about this. I have a degree in Physics and try (though fail) to keep up to date on new developments. But have worked as an engineer and in engineering management all my life. Modern Physics is very difficult to fully understand in the sense you mean. It may even be beyond human understanding in any deep sense because the brain may not be able to use its "reasoning by association" because the underlying concepts have no analogies with anything that the human brain has ever needed to have mechanisms to cope with. This does lead to relying on looking for patterns in the maths and relying on the maths to make predictions. People do get good at this and maybe this is indeed a form of understanding or maybe it is just as close as we are ever going to get.

Engineers, at least good engineers, do get an understanding in the sense you mean - well at least it is possible - because the concepts are more limited. On the other hand, there are often pragmatic short-cuts used. In both fields some aspects are accepted and used because time does not allow proof of everything from first principles.
 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #5 on: 02/05/2009 13:26:00 »
graham

Students of the natural sciences learn the algorithms, patterns, and paradigms of their particular specialty.  They learn to do math; they are seldom bothered with trying to understand math.  It is all a matter of memorizing “how to do”, seldom is understanding a necessary function.  Understanding takes time that could be used to memorize more algorithms and paradigms.
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #6 on: 02/05/2009 14:42:16 »
I find what you say hard to accept because it is not my experience at all. My reason for doing physics was entirely driven by my desire to understand nature at as fundamental level as possible. I don't think I am unusual in that. I worked in engineering because it paid the bills but did develop skills and, ultimately, had enjoyment from the work. In the work I am involved in (semiconductor design) I find that good engineers may have a degree in electronic engineering or physics and can perform equally well. Good engineers and good physicists usually have a better understanding at all levels. I think it is hard to be judgemental about this.

In electronic engineering, many people learn to use mathematical techniques (Complex number representations of AC signals for example or matching network design with Smith Charts) without any fundamental understanding of why they work. I would say that such methods are not acceptable to the mind of the natural scientist without he/she gaining understanding of how and why they work. I know I felt this way when first encountering such things. It is like doing differentiation without ever doing it the long way (by letting delta-x tend to zero (dx). I think the proper natural scientist would like to be convinced before using a trite formulaic method.
 

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« Reply #6 on: 02/05/2009 14:42:16 »

 

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