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  1. 3 points
    SL, Poetically said, I think the poetic manner is a singular way to condense and express this unbelievable totality of life and one's life's existence. There are wonders here, how this animal made of star-stuff could become consciously rational and aware of its consciousness which ~almost~ seem mythological or religious. "Lest we be mythologizing ourselves" - of the species and of the individual being, I don't know of how one cannot. Obviously, without the supernaturalism. That autonomous "I" unique to you was who could observe, will to think those things, question them and marvel. This recalls, I like that old "You are a child of the universe: no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here". We are "right" to be here and right for "here", without any intention of the Universe. And another, from that song: "I sing the Body Electric ... I toast to my own reunion, when I become one with the Sun".
  2. 2 points
    I'm not sure this was covered yet. I think of consciousness as specifically general awareness with mental states. A process, as was mentioned before. Self in this context would be the entire history of that conscious activity. Memories of your life, history of mental states, cognitive development, things like that. A self would be more complex, because it requires directed thinking. A relatively simple consciousness like a beetle can be vaguely aware of things like the presence of food, but it doesn't direct its thinking in terms of values or memories.
  3. 2 points
    Warning: The following is to be taken as poetic rather than literal... Religio - re connect or re-linking back Identifying the self with the universe, or the planet... is in the direction of mythical or religious thinking... because although you are in and of these things, you are not identical with them... being unseparated from them and indeed embedded in them.. it is a natural direction in which mystical thinking points... we are star stuff... made from elements formed in supernovae... in a literal "tree of life" billions of years old... each a node on an unbroken branch of ancestry and direct physical, chemical, biological causality ... the eyes, ears and minds of the Earth, the solar system... this is religion and myth... and so perhaps such is going too far. So too perhaps, identifying the self, the "I" with the whole person, an undivided individual, is mythical thinking. Those far flung parts of our physical bodies not under voluntary control even indirectly: secreting, pumping, and processing, just as the stars whirl, the planet spins, and the continents drift. So too, identifying the "I" and "self" with the body is going too far into myth and religion. So too even with identifying "I" with the whole of the brain and its doing, in identifying with the whole of its processes... where so much occurs autonomously, in the background, subconsciously, or in the depths of sleep. So much is unbidden and out of our conscious control that we should treat them as foreign as all the rest... lest we be mythologizing ourselves... and such would be going too far. Perhaps finally then we might hold onto the "I" as only that tiny portion of all that which is the first-person view of willed conscious experience... whose range of will is a feeble and fleeting "focus or not"... perhaps a rejection of anything mythical or anything religious is to identify only with that one little spark and its feeble range of direct causative power... And yet there is room for something more akin to mythologizing the self... perhaps... for that tiny spark can be the root cause of whole civilizations, and one day, cause continents or even planets to move ... and perhaps there also is room for a re-linking to those things with which any "I" participates and is enmeshed: in a complex relationship as literally as old as time and as wide as the universe... identifying the "I" and the "self" with the Objective experience of the nigh infinite whirling whole through but one of many of its utterly unique center points about which it all goes round and round and round.
  4. 2 points
    SR, There are concrete things that can only be identified by abstract thought. An example would be an electron or the magnetic field it generates if the electron is moving. An attribute such as the electron’s electric charge or it ability to produce a magnetic field are attributes. I suggest that faculties are just functional attributes. Functional items arise only in a biological setting. The mental is only within the biological. Those are positions of Rand (me too). As you know, in the ITOE, Rand called out a category of primary existents which she titled entities. Here other basic ontological categories called out there were actions, attributes, and relationships. In your quotation, she is saying that consciousness is an attribute, not an entity. By “certain sort of entity” she would mean certain animals. The attribute consciousness is a functional attribute, and such would seem reasonable to call faculties, continuous of a philosophic tradition of speaking of mental faculties. Faculties are powers, I’d say. If we spoke of the faculty of walking, we would not mean anything but the ability or power to walk. I imagine it’s just traditions of talking to typically say ability to walk or faculty of thought. It would be natural within Rand’s metaphysics, I’d say, to take primacy of existence to consciousness to be statement about a relationship. All of Rand’s fundamental categories—entity, action, attribute, and relationship—are existents. The latter three, as you know, are dependent on the first one, the primary form of existent. Rand took the solar system to be an entity. The biological consciousness-system could be an entity, and this is natural to call mind. It can be an entity set within a larger entity, just as the solar system. But mind is a functional system set within a larger array of functions of the animal. A self is that mind. Consciousness is sometimes not awareness of an awareness. It is just awareness of things not itself sometimes and most fundamentally. Some animals could have consciousness-selves without awareness of their consciousness-selves, I think. The question of how one identifies what constitutes one’s mind is something I’ll have to leave. For the answer, I’d look both to modern developmental cognitive psychology and to history of philosophy on the constitution of the mind: the Greeks, Arabs/Scholastics, early Moderns, right on through philosophers to now. Big project, that one! I think it is right to see consciousness as action, as attribute, or as to relationships. These fundamental categories do not have the exclusivity had by Aristotle’s categories. The can all be true characterizations of a thing, appropriate in different contexts of consideration.
  5. 1 point
    The passage you quoted sounds like he was describing a bottom up process, where stimuli are gradually processed by afferent neurons in the nerve signals are sent to your spinal cord, up the brainstem, then spread out to the cerebellum and the rest of your brain. This isn't controversial, and very easy to observe by any neuroscientist when they look at neurons directly. By the sound of it, what he terms emotion is bottom up. As I recall, Damasio makes a distinction between feelings and emotions. It doesn't say anything about top-down processes, which undoubtedly exist, where signals are sent the opposite direction, through efferent neurons at the very end. Any cognitive psychologist like Damasio believes in top-down processes. You would be right if he was claiming that all brain processing is bottom up. That would be the thinking of a radical behaviorist probably, who effectively thinks everything is the result of bottom-up processing.
  6. 1 point
    They would be misinterpreting him. Damasio means that emotions precede reason in terms of neural development, and psychological development beginning as an infant. This isn't an epistemological claim about how one ought to think, as if we must depend upon emotions as a means to knowledge before we begin reasoning. Although a system of reasoning requires a system of emotions in terms of how the brain functions, it doesn't follow that emotions are of primary importance (and Damasio doesn't say that emotions are primary). The link you gave shows this basically. I don't think he's making any deeper claim than "emotions should not be ignored!". As a psychologist I disagree with some of his theory on the level of details, but his general idea is good.
  7. 1 point
    It's been many years since I read a few of Gerald Edelman's books, so my memory of their content has faded. Anyway, he made a similar distinction between primary consciousness and higher consciousness. An Amazon search on his name will give a longer list of the books he wrote.
  8. 1 point
    For anyone interested in these issues, I'd encourage getting in hand Damasio's layout of core/extended consciousness and core/extended self in The Feeling of What Happens. For introduction it is easy to view Antonio Damasio on his book Self Comes to Mind, especially 4, 5, 7.
  9. 1 point
    Those who study the works of Ayn Rand will sooner or later become familiar with the idea of unit-economy, that is, of concepts enabling man's mind to increase its awareness of the world far beyond what it would be able to juggle at the perceptual level. Regarding the latter, Rand spoke of the "crow epistemology," a limitation in our ability to function at the perceptual level. Her student, Leonard Peikoff, puts it this way: Image by Jesse van Vliet, via Unsplash, license. This experiment illustrates a principle applicable to man's mind as well. Man too can deal with only a limited number of units. On the perceptual level, human beings are better than crows; we can distinguish and retain six or eight objects at a time, say -- speaking perceptually, i.e., assuming we see or hear the objects but do not count them. But there is a limit for us, too. After a certain figure -- when the objects approach a dozen, to say nothing of hundreds or thousands -- we too are unable to keep track and collapse into the crow's indeterminate "many." Our mental screen, so to speak, is limited; it can contain at any one time only so many data. Consciousness, any consciousness, is finite. A is A. Only a limited number of units can be discriminated from one another and held in the focus of awareness at a given time. Beyond this number, the content becomes an unretainable, indeterminate blur or spread, like this: ///////////////////////// For a consciousness to extend its grasp beyond a mere handful of concretes, therefore -- for it to be able to deal with an enormous totality, like all tables, or all men, or the universe as a whole -- one capacity is indispensable. It must have the capacity to compress its content, i.e., to economize the units required to convey that content. This is the basic function of concepts. Their function, in Ayn Rand's words, is "to reduce a vast amount of information to a minimal number of units ...." [bold added] (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff, p. 106)The above is easy enough to grasp with low-level concepts, such as table or chair or human being, but we can (and do) also abstract further from concepts (correctly formed or not):You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions -- or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often than not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew... You might say, as many people do, that it is not easy always to act on abstract principles. No, it is not easy. But how much harder is it, to have to act on them without knowing what they are? [bold added]Having briefly thought about how we form and why we need abstract ideas, it is a worthwhile exercise to consider the ideas of government in general (and police in particular) in light of recent events. Let's start with Ayn Rand's pithy, principled summary of what we saw in Seattle, which she foresaw decades ago:Anarchy, as a political concept, is a naive floating abstraction: ... a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along and who would precipitate it into the chaos of gang warfare. But the possibility of human immorality is not the only objection to anarchy: even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government.[bold added]And now, let's hear an update on the very predictable results of our most recent experiment with anarchy, as told by a couple of journalists:[O]nce they created a police-free zone, they immediately had to deal with all those issues and more -- with only the donated time and supplies of fellow protesters, who still had day jobs. With police absent from the 6-square-block area, the experiment spun out of control, with accusations that it ended up causing exactly what it had aimed to stop: more violence against Black people. [bold added]If anarchism -- like socialism -- fails every time it is tried, why do people keep trying it? Because neither their proponents nor, frequently their would-be opponents -- who should have an advantage in any debate -- really know what government is or what it is for. And that is because they have failed to form valid principles for understanding how a society must be organized to be successful. (In addition, opponents who are absolutely correct may fail at persuasion for a variety of reasons.) It is worthwhile to consider this in light of something else Rand said about concepts:The formation of a concept provides man with the means of identifying, not only the concretes he has observed, but all the concretes of that kind which he may encounter in the future. Thus, when he has formed or grasped the concept "man," he does not have to regard every man he meets thereafter as a new phenomenon to be studied from scratch: he identifies him as "man" and applies to him the knowledge he has acquired about man (which leaves him free to study the particular, individual characteristics of the newcomer, i.e., the individual measurements within the categories established by the concept "man"). [italics in original, bold added](Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, by Ayn Rand, pp. 27-28)It is the same with concepts like society and government: Many people do not have these things properly conceptualized, and so do "study" such phenomena from scratch, essentially by trial-and-error. And so, where concepts would save an individual's mental capacity, they could also save an individual or a whole society time. (And, in this case, unnecessary bloodshed.) Rather than go straight to "tear down the system" (or "defund the police," whatever that's supposed to mean), a proper approach would be to consider what "the system" actually is, what part(s) of it we need and why, and how to reach what we need. Even in a case where a system needs tearing down, doing so is worthless without already having a positive alternative in mind. "History repeats itself," need not be a pronouncement of doom. It is only a description of what happens when, out of ignorance or poor thinking, individuals attempt to solve universal problems without recourse to universals. Our society needn't reinvent or rediscover the police or government. The knowledge is already there and there is a correct and productive way to think about the problems it addresses. And, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, there are people out there who would be selfishly and gratefully receptive to learning more about both. -- CAVLink to Original
  10. 1 point
    Just to confirm, isn't "I" self? If so, I is a power, or "the power". Based on that definition. "I", implies "the power". (in me (but that may be redundant)) It has interesting psychological effects. Also, to be selfless is to be powerless. I was just entertained by it, not making any assertions here.
  11. 1 point
    One thing I would like more understanding and discussion about is applying Objectivist frames of thinking to more social issues where the government is not involved in any way, distinct from the usual discussion about what the government is doing but should not do. Related to that is that I am growing more interested in actively persuading people to think about various issues differently, talking about how to establish meaningful change for individual lives (mental health is a big topic to me). I'm not sure where to find other people with a similar activist frame of mind. Other than to create something myself, of course. If I don't find anything helpful for my goals, I will create something. Another interest is wanting a lot more about building on Oist epistemology and thinking about that, but my academic pursuits in psychology and philosophy fulfill that pretty well. The meaningful discussion I want about this involves the application of epistemology to psychological theory.
  12. 1 point
    Adrian, I'm re-reading Atlas Shrugged for the third time, 10 years since my previous reading. I found that she repeats the same point a lot upon my first reading, and perhaps the second reading, but I don't find it anymore. The repeating is necessary, to make it more convincing and dramatic. To stress the importance of the point. You know, the principle that altruism is evil can be summarized in one sentence, but it's the role of fiction to put the principle in as many concrete terms as possible, making the reader to discover it for himself. It's the principle of "show, don't tell." By the way, do you find "War and Peace" as repeating the same point many times? Rereading Atlas Shrugged for the third time, I'm dumbfounded by this book. It's remarkable on so many levels. For one, it is cross genre, it defines categorization. Is it a science fiction, a romance novel, a detective story, a self-help book, a philosophical treatise, a political satire, a prophecy, an action adventure, a poetic hymn (like the Greek myths)? Second, many books are spoiled if you know the ending, or if you know the hidden secret. But, this book reveals a secondary meaning and depth only if you know what's coming at the end. You say that the dialog is not as developed: the dialog is ingenious because every sentence is first understood as metaphorical, while on a repeated reading (once you know the secret), it's read as literal! She hid things in plain sight.
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