Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jaynes - What Consciousness Is

Subjective conscious mind is an analog of what we call the real world. It is built up with a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms are all metaphors or analogs of behavior in the physical world. Its reality is of the same order as mathematics. It allows us to short-cut behavioral processes and arrive at more adequate decisions. Like mathematics, it is an operator rather than a thing or a repository. And it is intimately bound with volition and decision. Consider the language we use to describe conscious processes. The most prominent group of words used to describe mental events are visual. We ‘see’ solutions to problems, the best of which may be ‘brilliant’ or ‘clear’ or possibly ‘dull,’ ‘fuzzy,’ ‘obscure.’ These words are all metaphors, CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE VOICES OF THE MIND and the mind-space to which they apply is generated by metaphors of actual space. In that space we can ‘approach’ a problem, perhaps from some ‘viewpoint,’ ‘grapple’ with its difficulties. Every word we use to refer to mental events is a metaphor or analog of something in the behavioral world. And the adjectives that we use to describe physical behavior in real space are analogically taken over to describe mental behavior in mind-space. We speak of the conscious mind as being ‘quick’ or ‘slow,’ or of somebody being ‘nimble-witted’ or ‘strong-minded’ or ‘weak-minded’ or‘broad-minded’ or ‘deep’ or ‘open’ or ‘narrow-minded.’ And so like a real space, something can be at the “back” of our mind, or in the ‘inner recesses’ or ‘beyond’ our minds. But, you will remind me, metaphor is a mere comparison and cannot make new entities like consciousness. A proper analysis of metaphor shows quite the opposite. In every metaphor there are at least two terms, the thing we are trying to express in words, the metaphrand, and the term produced by a struction to do so, the metaphier. These are similar to what Richards (1936) called the tenor and the vehicle, terms more suitable to poetry than to psychological analysis. I have chosen metaphrand and metaphier instead to have more of the connotation of an operator by echoing the arithmetic terms of multiplicand and multiplier. If I say the ship plows the sea, the metaphrand is the way the bow goes through the water and the metaphier is a plow. As a more relevant example, suppose a person, back in the time at the formation of our mental vocabulary, has been trying to solve some problem or to learn how to perform some task. To express his success, he might suddenly exclaim (in his own language), aha! I ‘see’ the solution. ‘See’ is the metaphier, drawn from the physical behavior from the physical world, that is applied to this otherwise inexpressible mental occurrence, the metaphrand. But metaphiers usually have associations called paraphiers that project back into the metaphrand as what are called paraphrands and, indeed, create new entities. The word ‘see’ has associations of seeing in the physical world and therefore of space, and this space then becomes a paraphrand as it is united with this inferred mental event called the metaphrand.

metaphrand → metaphier
⎜⎜ ↓
paraphrand ← paraphier

In this way the spatial quality of the world around us is being driven into the psychological fact of solving a problem (which as I indicated needs no consciousness). And it is this associated spatial quality that, as a result of the language used to describe such psychological events, becomes, with constant repetition, this spatial quality of our consciousness or mind-space. This mind-space I regard as the primary feature of consciousness. It is the space which you preoptively are introspecting on at this very moment. But who does the ‘seeing?’ Who does the introspecting? Here we introduce analogy, which differs from metaphor in that the similarity is between relationships rather than between things or actions. As the body with its sense organs (referred to as I) is to physical seeing, so there develops automatically an analog ‘I’ to relate to this mental kind of ‘seeing’ in mind-space. The analog ‘I’ is the second most important feature of consciousness. It is not to be confused with the self, which is an object of consciousness in later development. The analog ‘I’ is contentless, related I think to Kant’s (1781) transcendental ego. As the bodily ‘I’ can move about in its environment looking at this or that, so the analog ‘I’ learns to ‘move about’ in mind-space concentrating on one thing or another.
A third feature of consciousness is narratization, the analogic simulation of actual behavior. It is an obvious aspect of consciousness, which seems to have escaped previous synchronic discussions of consciousness. Consciousness is constantly fitting things into a story, putting a before and an after around any event. This feature is an analog of our physical selves moving about through the physical world with its spatial successiveness, which becomes the successiveness of time in
mind-space. And this results in the conscious conception of time, which is a spatialized time in which we locate events and indeed our lives. It is impossible to be conscious of time in any other way than as a space.

No comments:

Post a Comment