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[Wittrs] The gulf between consciousness and brain processes [message #611] Sun, 30 August 2009 12:42 Go to next message
Cayuse is currently offline  Cayuse
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Philosophical Investigations, Part 1:

412. The feeling of an unbridgeable gulf between consciousness and brain-process: how does it come about that this does not come into the considerations of our ordinary life? This idea of a difference in kind is accompanied by slight giddiness, - which occurs when we are performing a piece of logical sleight-of-hand. (The same giddiness attacks us when we think of certain theorems in set theory.) When does this feeling occur in the present case? It is when I, for example, turn my attention in a particular way on to my own consciousness, and, astonished, say to myself: THIS is supposed to be produced by a process in the brain! - as it were clutching my forehead. - But what can it mean to speak of "turning my attention on to my own consciousness"? This is surely the queerest thing there could be! It was a particular act of gazing that I called doing this. I stared fixedly in front of me - but not at any particular point or object. My eyes were wide open, the brows not contracted (as they mostly are when I am interested in a particular object). No such interest preceded this gazing. My glance was vacant; or again like that of someone admiring the illumination of the sky and drinking in the light.
Now bear in mind that the proposition which I uttered as a paradox (THIS is produced by a brain-process!) has nothing paradoxical about it. I could have said it in the course of an experiment whose purpose was to shew that an effect of light which I see is produced by stimulation of a particular part of the brain. - But I did not utter the sentence in the surroundings in which it would have had an everyday and unparadoxical sense. And my attention was not such as would have accorded with making an experiment. (If it had been, my look would have been intent, not vacant.)

413. Here we have a case of introspection, not unlike that from which William James got the idea that the 'self' consisted mainly of 'peculiar motions in the head and between the head and throat'. And James' introspection shewed, not the meaning of the word "self" (so far as it means something like "person", "human being", "he himself", "I myself"), nor any analysis of such a thing, but the state of a philosopher's attention when he says the world "self" to himself and tries to analyse its meaning. (And a good deal could be learned from this).

414. You think that after all you must be weaving a piece of cloth: because you are sitting at a loom - even if it is empty - and going through the motions of weaving.

415. What we are supplying are really remarks on the natural history of human beings; we are not contributing curiosities, however, but observations which no one has doubted, but which have escaped remark only because they are always before our eyes.

416. "Human beings agree in saying that they see, hear, feel, and so on (even though some are blind and some are deaf). So they are their own witnesses that they have consciousness." - But how strange is this! Whom do I really inform, if I say "I have consciousness"? What is the purpose of saying this to myself, and how can another person understand me? - Now, expressions like "I see", "I hear", "I am conscious" really have their uses. I tell a doctor "Now I am hearing with this ear again", or I tell someone who believes I am in a faint "I am conscious again", and so on.

417. Do I observe myself, then, and perceive that I am seeing or conscious? And why talk about observation at all? Why not simply say "I perceive I am conscious"? - But what are the words "I perceive" for here? - why not say "I am conscious"? - But don't the words "I perceive" here shew that I am attending to my consciousness? - which is ordinarily not the case. - If so, then the sentence "I perceive I am conscious" does not say that I am conscious, but that my attention is disposed in such-and-such a way.
But isn't it a particular experience that occasions me saying "I am conscious again"? What experience? In what situation do we say it?

418. Is my having consciousness a fact of experience? -
But doesn't one say that a man has consciousness, and that a tree or a stone does not? - What would it be like if it were otherwise? - Would human beings all be unconscious? - No; not in the ordinary sense of the word. But I, for instance, should not have consciousness -- as I now in fact have it.

419. In what circumstances shall I say that a tribe has a chief? And the chief must surely have consciousness. Surely we can't have a chief without consciousness!

420. But can't I imagine that the people around me are automata, lack consciousness, even though they behave in the same way as usual? - If I imagine it now - alone in my room - I see people with fixed looks (as in a trance) going about their business - the idea is perhaps a little uncanny. But just try to keep hold of this idea in the midst of your ordinary intercourse with others, in the street, say! Say to yourself, for example: "The children over there are mere automata; all their liveliness is mere automatism." And you will either find these words becoming quite meaningless; or you will produce in yourself some kind of uncanny feeling, or something of the sort.
Seeing a living human being as an automaton is analogous to seeing one figure as a limiting case or variant of another; the cross-pieces of a window as a swastika, for example.

421. It seems paradoxical to us that we should make such a medley, mixing physical states and states of consciousness up together in a single report: "He suffered great torments and tossed about restlessly". It is quite usual; so why do we find it paradoxical? Because we want to say that the sentence deals with both tangibles and intangibles at once. - But does it worry you if I say: "These three struts give the building stability"? Are three and stability tangible? -- Look at the sentence as an instrument, and at its sense as its employment.

422. What am I believing in when I believe that men have souls? What am I believing in, when I believe that this substance contains two carbon rings? In both cases there is a picture in the foreground, but the sense lies far in the background; that is, the application of the picture is not easy to survey.

423. Certainly all these things happen in you. - And now all I ask is to understand the expression we use. - The picture is there. And I am not disputing its validity in any particular case. - Only I also want to understand the application of the picture.

424. The picture is there; and I do not dispute its correctness. But what is its application? Think of the picture of blindness as a darkness in the soul or in the head of the blind man.

425. In numberless cases we exert ourselves to find a picture and once it is found the application as it were comes about of itself. In this case we already have a picture which forces itself on us at every turn, - but does not help us out of the difficulty, which only begins there.
If I ask, for example: "How am I to imagine this mechanism going into this box?" - perhaps a drawing reduced in scale may serve to answer me. Then I can be told: "You see, it goes in like this"; or perhaps even: "Why are you surprised? See how it goes here; it is the same there". Of course the latter does not explain anything more: it simply invites me to apply the picture I am given.

426. A picture is conjured up which seems to fix the sense unambiguously. The actual use, compared with that suggested by the picture, seems like something muddied. Here again we get the same thing as in set theory: the form of the expression we use seems to have been designed for a god, who knows what we cannot know; he sees the whole of each of those infinite series and he sees into human consciousness. For us, of course, these forms of expression are like pontificals which we may put on, but cannot do much with, since we lack the effective power that would give these vestments meaning and purpose.
In the actual use of expressions we make detours, we go by side roads. We see the straight highway before us, but of course we cannot use it, because it is permanently closed.

[Wittrs] Re: The gulf between consciousness and brain processes [message #613 is a reply to message #611] Sun, 30 August 2009 13:46 Go to previous message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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... nicely done, Cayuse. I enjoyed that.

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From: Cayuse <z.z7@ntlworld.com>
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Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2009 12:42:36 PM
Subject: [Wittrs] The gulf between consciousness and brain processes

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