• Number2018
    245
    William James posed a question about the nature of consciousness: “Is consciousness really discontinuous, incessantly interrupted and recommencing (from the psychologist's point of view)? And does it only seem continuous to itself by an illusion? Or is it at most times as continuous outwardly as it inwardly seems?” In spite of his own confession “It must be confessed that we can give no rigorous answer to this question,” James himself developed a theory of continuous consciousness possessed by a mind of a single individual. However, isn’t it possible to assume that even during one day a person may experience different kinds of conciseness? For example, the trader in the trade room, looking at diagrams, curves, and various types of data, surrounded by computer’s screens, assisted by numerous machines, makes decisions about price-setting in real time – doesn’t she act entirely differently from reflecting on her life or contemplating on what is going wrong with her marriage? Or, when we attend a concert of symphonic music, don’t our minds share the same state of non-reflective collective experience, utterly different from an autonomic cartesian consciousness of an individual’s thinking mind?
  • Josh Alfred
    104
    I think it has to be continuous and discontinuous, both have to be aspects of consciousness. I am not really sure how to clarify the two or how to understand how both exist together. The mind permits for both, though.
  • Terrapin Station
    8.5k
    I don't see how this is even a question really. Consciousness is obviously a bunch of different things, different processes working in different ways, and it's obviously not always "on."
  • Number2018
    245

    I think it has to be continuous and discontinuous, both have to be aspects of consciousness. I am not really sure how to clarify the two or how to understand how both exist together. The mind permits for both, though.Josh Alfred


    I don't see how this is even a question really. Consciousness is obviously a bunch of different things, different processes working in different ways, and it's obviously not always "on."Terrapin Station

    The problem is that the whole concept of consciousness is related to the set of notions,
    supporting the unity, oneness, and substantiality of primordial "I," substantial cogito, and the transcendental Ego. So, it is not merely a question of the same mind that is able to experience
    different states of consciousness. Do these states have entirely various qualities?

    As Joshs noted: https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/4929/perception-of-time/p2
    “The impression we get of consciousness as the commander of decision, as unfolding meaning as a linear causal sequence of nows (one damn thing after another), is the result of the way linguistic grammar is constructed , Consciousness, far from being the self-knowing commander, is besieged from unconscious processes and bodily affects that interact with and shape consciousness outside of its awareness. So the notion of agent is a bit of an illusion, there is no ghost in the machine, it is more of a community.of interaffecting agents.”
  • Mww
    658


    Not being all that familiar with James, does he say what he thinks consciousness to be? Without that, how can it said whether or not it is discontinuous? Given the general conception of it, it is easy to say consciousness is continuously interrupted, merely from the mind being in a state of deep sleep, and by association, recommencing upon the attaining the state of awareness.

    But that in itself being sufficient reason with respect to a specific conception, says nothing about consciousness as a “multiplicity”, which implies various kinds of consciousness, rather than various conditions of a single consciousness.

    Would it be appropriate to suppose James doesn’t define consciousness, as the ground for not being able to answer his own question? If not, it remains the purview of the respondant to conceptualize consciousness in his own terms, theorize the possibility of it being capable of obtaining to a multiplicity, or simply being one initially, and finally, to justify one or the other.
  • Number2018
    245
    Not being all that familiar with James, does he say what he thinks consciousness to be? Without that, how can it said whether or not it is discontinuous? Given the general conception of it, it is easy to say consciousness is continuously interrupted, merely from the mind being in a state of deep sleep, and by association, recommencing upon the attaining the state of awareness.Mww
    I think that James did not define consciousness rigorously, but he brought a lot of clarifying examples, even of someone sleeping, or in the state of delirium. As far as I understood, he posed the problem of continuity, but not of a multiplicity of consciousness.
    But that in itself being sufficient reason with respect to a specific conception, says nothing about consciousness as a “multiplicity”,Mww
    James did not think
    of consciousness as a multiplicity.
    it remains the purview of the respondant to conceptualize consciousness in his own terms, theorize the possibility of it being capable of obtaining to a multiplicity,Mww

    It looks like when some thinkers assume a multiplicity of consciousness, they really break with traditional apprehensions
  • Mww
    658


    Agreed. The traditional apprehension with respect to the conception of consciousness is that it is a singular faculty, or functionality, or rational enterprise.....or this thing that does this something.

    What do you think? How would you fill in the blanks?
  • Joshs
    565
    William James put it thusly:

    "Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as 'chain' or 'train' do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A 'river' or a 'stream' are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life. But now there appears, even
    within the limits of the same self, and between thoughts all of which alike have this same sense of
    belonging together, a kind of jointing and separateness among the parts, of which this
    statement seems to take no account. I refer to the breaks that are produced by sudden contrasts in the
    chain, making often explosive appearances and rending each other in twain. But their comings and
    goings and contrasts no more break the flow of the thought that thinks them than they break the time
    and the space in which they lie. A silence may be broken by a thunder-clap, and we may be so
    stunned and confused for a moment by the shock as to give no instant account to ourselves of what has happened. But that very confusion is a mental state, and a state that passes us straight over from the silence to the sound. The transition between the thought of one object and the thought of another is no more a break in the thought than a joint in a bamboo is a break in the wood. It is a part of the
    consciousness as much as the joint is a part of the bamboo.

    The superficial introspective view is the overlooking, even when the things are contrasted
    with each other most violently, of the large amount of affinity that may still remain between the
    thoughts by whose means they are cognized. Into the awareness of the thunder itself the awareness of
    the previous silence creeps and continues; for what we hear when the thunder crashes is not thunder
    pure, but thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it.[12] Our feeling of the same
    objective thunder, coming in this way, is quite different from what it would be were the thunder
    a continuation of previous thunder. The thunder itself we believe to abolish and exclude the silence;
    but the feeling of the thunder is also a feeling of the silence as just gone; and it would be difficult to find
    in the actual concrete consciousness of man a feeling so limited to the present as not to have an
    inkling of anything that went before. Here, again, language works against our perception of the truth.
    We name our thoughts simply, each after its thing, as if each knew its own thing and nothing else."
  • Joshs
    565
    on the other hand, Shaun Gallagher talks about socially distributed cognition:

    “Such institutions go beyond individual cognitive
    processes or habits: they include communicative practices, and more established institutions include rituals and traditions that generate actions, preserve memories, solve problems. These are distributed processes supported by artifacts, tools, technologies,
    environments, institutional structures, etc.”
    Such processes don’t originate in individual minds but are shared among a community of participants in an activity.
  • Terrapin Station
    8.5k
    The problem is that the whole concept of consciousness is related to the set of notions,
    supporting the unity, oneness, and substantiality of primordial "I," substantial cogito, and the transcendental Ego. So, it is not merely a question of the same mind that is able to experience
    different states of consciousness. Do these states have entirely various qualities?
    Number2018

    "unity" "oneness" etc. all seem rather "mysterian" and as if one is trying to make some sort of quasi-religious idea the trump card.
  • Joshs
    565
    The unity of the 'i' that Number2018 is talking about was a common presupposition in philosophy and psychology from Descartes and Kant to Sartre. It was assumed in cognitive science research and is implied in any notion of consciousness in which memory is assumed to be accessible as stored traces.
  • Terrapin Station
    8.5k


    What does "unity" refer to there, exactly?
  • Joshs
    565
    Some sense of meaning that can return to itself identically in relfection.
  • Josh Alfred
    104
    ""{IT} return(s)to itself identically in reflection." That is the unity of consciousness rather than the multiplicity of it, I would gather. There should be a single term for such an amazing summary of what you state here. Because there is some sense of similarity between self now and later there is "unity of consciousness" maybe even "coherence of consciousness"??? However, does it mean, "I" or "self-reference"? I think it does. I think Hume and James were both onto it. Its temporal bond, and "what bond" (see: "what" flow, brain streams)

    Now that we can deduce that much, it must be possible to reference the "multiplicity of consciousness" more thoroughly. Do you have a elaborating words on that subject, anyone?
  • emancipate
    102
    Consciousness is continuous but attention is discontinous. It is the discontinuity of attention that gives the effect of different states and it is the piecing together of these state snapshots that gives an impression of multiplicity
  • Josh Alfred
    104
    That sounds intuitively sound. I notice that my inner voice is nuanced yet the awareness behind it has not changed. Its like painting a canvas. The canvas remains the same (a canvas) no matter what you paint on it. I think E.Tolle did a stint on consciousness using that metaphor.
  • Joshs
    565
    James argued that, Hume couldnt find any unity in consciousness so he cheated by imposing a metaphysical unifying factor externally.
    There are different ways of understanding the notion of unity in relation to consciousness. The metaphysical option that prevailed in different ways from Descartes to Sartre to Husserl made some aspect of the 'I' able to return to itself and reflect on itself as itself identically. Hume,as I mentioned, accomplished this through a metaphysical unifier. Husserl said that although the contents of consciousness, the objects that I intend, are always different, there is an 'empty' 'I' that is mere sense of self as that which always accompanies my intending acts. This 'empty I' is self-identical over time.
    It is what gives all our actions a sense of 'mineness' even though its is always something different that I am involved with.
    For James the 'I' is not self-identical but self-consistent in time, due to the fact that intended meanings refer back to previous intentions as part of their own sense.
  • emancipate
    102
    my influence here is Bergson
  • Josh Alfred
    104
    A long time ago I read a book called "The Fourth Way." It was recommend to me. In this book the Author illustrates that there are various different "I" functioning within the "collective self". I don't remember much more, but I think that may be a book that could get one started on better understanding the multiplicity of self.
  • Joshs
    565
    Yes, but if the meaning of what is experienced in conscious is always different. then what exactly is continuous? Or does continuous here just mean self-similar?
  • Josh Alfred
    104
    "The empty I" ____ yes, it does seem like an open set : {_}. The subject kind of falls into the emptiness of the cup.

    What is self-consistency? Does self-consistency exist without identical identification? So say, I identify myself now as a person sitting, can I identify myself later as a person laying? Seemingly, yes I can. The states change but the "reference point" is identical.
  • Mww
    658
    However, does it mean, "I" or "self-reference"? I think it does.Josh Alfred

    As do I. “I” is the pure representation of the unity of consciousness, such that it becomes possible to think all contents of consciousness, whatever their names, belong to me, or, as was said, such unity is self-consistent over time. It is from this unity that understanding works, in the construction of its conceptions a priori, or the conjoining of intuitions to phenomena from which empirical representations follow, each the precursor to knowledge.
  • Joshs
    565
    You're trying to understand self-consistency via a conception of time imported from the natural sciences,i.e. self as an object in motion.
    But organisms are self-organizing. Their way of changing themselves is non-linear, self-reflexive, they feedback into themselves as their way of being themselves, The same is true of consciousness.
    To be a meaning (an "i" this instant) is to borrow from and transform a previous meaning. So the present meaning is framed by the immediately previous one. The past is changed and defined by the present. Consciousness is also anticipative. In experiencing the 'now' of the present it is meaning ahead of itself. So past , present and future belng simultaneously to the now . The now is multiple.
  • Joshs
    565
    This sounds like Kant, but not very much like current thinking in psychology(or philosophy)
  • Mww
    658


    Yeah, probably. Simple case of I don’t know any better.
  • Joshs
    565
    I would give anything to hear an academic philosopher say that just once.
  • Mww
    658


    LOL. I don’t have to worry about keeping my job. Or keeping my publisher off my back.

    Plus the best part....everybody can say I’m hopelessly outdated, but nobody can say I’m hopelessly wrong.
  • Number2018
    245
    The traditional apprehension with respect to the conception of consciousness is that it is a singular faculty, or functionality, or rational enterprise.....or this thing that does this something.

    What do you think? How would you fill in the blanks?
    Mww

    I think that we definitely need to think of consciousness as a multiplicity. But, this is just a first step. Next, it is necessary to conceive the nature of this multiplicity, each distinct “state of consciousness” should be identified as a working part in an appropriate assemblage – technological, scientific, social, cultural, etc.
  • Number2018
    245
    Shaun Gallagher talks about socially distributed cognition:

    “Such institutions go beyond individual cognitive
    processes or habits: they include communicative practices, and more established institutions include rituals and traditions that generate actions, preserve memories, solve problems. These are distributed processes supported by artifacts, tools, technologies,
    environments, institutional structures, etc.”
    Such processes don’t originate in individual minds but are shared among a community of participants in an activity.
    Joshs
    I agree with this. I just want to question the nature of “community of participants in an activity.” Who are these participants? For some thinkers, they are machines or some automatic processes. As Felix Guattari wrote: “When we drive, we activate subjectivity and a multiplicity of partial consciousness connected to the car ‘s technological mechanisms. There is no “individuated subject” that is in control of the driving. If one knows how to drive, one acts without thinking about it, without engaging reflexive consciousness…We are guided by the car’s machinic assemblage. Our actions and subjective components (memory, attention, perception, etc.) are “automatized,” they are a part of the machinic, hydraulic, electronic, etc. apparatuses, constituting non-human parts of the assemblage. Driving mobilizes different processes of conscientization, one succeeding the next, superimposing one onto the other, connecting or disconnecting according to the current events of driving.”
    One could argue that any way we face here a version of “Shaun Gallagher socially distributed cognition.” Yet, in favor of a more radical Guattari’s comprehension of consciousness one could say, that our practice of driving a car, in spite of being a subject of the intervention of many institutions, in fact, has become entirely autonomous, self-driving collective activity, where machines and automatized
    processes are substituted for intentional, conscious individual acts.
  • Number2018
    245
    For James the 'I' is not self-identical but self-consistent in time, due to the fact that intended meanings refer back to previous intentions as part of their own sense.Joshs

    Don't you think that "self-consistent in time" presupposes a kind of self-identity?
  • Joshs
    565
    Derrida has been known for deconstructing discourses that assume self-identical structures, forms, objects, meanings, the presence-to itself of intention.The metaphysics of presence, as he calls it, is auto-affection itself . It would seem that Derrida is attempting to see sense and symbol as Deleuze does, as always multiple, differentiated. But htere's an important difference between them. Deleuze begins from objects, paired down and relational, as polarities, as fundamentally arbitrary. I am alienated from myself every moment because the 'I' is nothing but arbitrary, polarized and polarizing vectors, gestures, signs. Derrida beings with signs also, but digs beneath signs to show that a sing sign is already divided with itself as other than itself. So there is no simple sign, but an already hinged or bifurcated presencing -absencing gesture. Heidegger's notion of temporalty does something similar. IT splits up a sign before it can simply be itself as sign. The effect of where Heidegger and Derrida situate the site of difference(unlike Deleuze they split difference before it can simply be itself as a difference) si that signs, objects, forms no longer have the power of polarization and arbitrariness that they do for Deleuze. Not because the are assimilated to a subject, but the opposite. It is only when you give too much power to the elements of the world(whether you dub them affective, material, political, linguistic, that you are assigning them presence, not breaking away fully enough from Cartesianism. Derrida's notion of the trace begins before language as human speech, before any notion of consciousness or humanity or animality or the biological.
    BUt notice that the effect of deconstruction is that any text shows itself to already be dissimulating itself at every moment, not gathering together as a unitary structure. But the same radical otherness within itself as repetition of the sign prevents one from simply saying that it's unfolding is arbitrary in the way that it appears for Deleuze. Rather, as Derrida says, there is a way of being the same differently.
    This allows him to see certain threads of continuity through difference in a text. Not to recognize this in being with others prevents one from really seeing them. In all the varied activities you mentioned earlier that we can involve ourselves with, we move through all those activities in a way that is the same time differing with respect to itself every moment, and maintaining a thread of continuity. To say otherwise is to uphold a claim of difference that needs to be deconstructed. What gives something the power to differ purely? So neither the Cartesian unity nor the Deleuzian difference, but a gesture more primordial, already divided within itself before it can simply be the same or different,
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