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Everything posted by Ragtime

  1. Maybe the basic equipment for making concepts is actually identical for both man and animals. What if concepts are formed automatically? A concepts represents something that has changed "in the back of the mind." The change then causes us to see the outside world in a different way. If this is true, what would distinguish men from animals? What allows humans to go beyond a certain level in their conceptual development is language. Language allows us to consider and build further on concepts built up in the minds of our predecessors, instead of having to start from scratch. If "reasoning" means mearely identifying (even "non-contradictorily identifying") what is in the conceptual structure "in the back of the mind," animals can obviously do this too because that seems to be the whole purpose of having a mind in the first place. Animals too can perceive (Identify) and act on new information in their minds. For a suggestion of how concepts are formed automatically, see www.shhtract.com.
  2. Cognition occurs unconsciously. However, it requires the use of a discreet neural input pathway. There are things that in humans interfere with this pathway, so that we have to make an effort to allow the pathway to be used at all (see www.shhtract.com). In this respect only, learning is difficult and not automatic. I have no doubt that science will discover exactly how cognition works ("electro-chemically"). It will probably also be able to somehow disable the interfering systems and show exactly how, physcially, they interfere. So science may be able to eliminate the effort required to use the "Shh" Tract. Rand said that for humans free will consists of the choice to think or not to think. Thinking consists of 1)allowing the "Shh" Tract to do its job, and 1)non-contradictory examination of the cognitive structure. What knowledge someone is able to actually use depends on how much effort he puts into the second part of the thought process, that is, on his knowledge of himself. Science will never be able to eliminate this problem. No matter how assiduously one attempts to "know himself," he can never grasip all he knows with pefect clarity. This is just the "nature of the beast." Therefore, his actions, based on his grasp of his knowledge, will always be unpredictable and could never be considered preordained. (A moderator gave me permission to mention the website www.shhtract.com).
  3. There exists in the mind a conceptual structue containing one's knowedge of the world. The way this structure can be allowed to change is as follows: The person allows himself to perceive something as if he had never perceived it before. The conceptual structure does not store knowledge by means of language. It may be basically the same for other creatures besides humans. The conceptual structure is "in the back of one's mind", in the form of a general awareness of knowledge of the world. It does not hinder the act of perceiving the world "with new eyes". Presumably, nature designed that the conceptual structure, in other words a creature's awareness of the world according to its already-acquired knowledge, would be able to change without difficulty. This is because the mind is the creature's tool of survival in changing conditions. The situation with human beings may be somewhat more complicated. Man can learn by means of language and communicate by means of language. To do these things he puts words on parts or aspects of his conceptual structure. Using words, man is able to hold parts of his conceptual structure in place and hinder them from changing. By means of words man can perform certain special types of thinking: One type of thinking consists simply of "non-contradictory identification" (Rand) of one's conceptual structure. This involves "perceiving" and identifying the conceptual common denominators (Rand) that have formed in one's mind. Also, man can focus on a particular concept (really, on it's conceptual common denominator"). He can store a concept or access a concept in the form it was in when he attached a word to it. His conceptual structure can change and his mind can identify a changed conceptual common denominator for a partiular thing, and yet he can remember the old conceptual common denominaot too! One type of thinking consists of comparing the old and the new knowledge and bringing the old knowledge up to date. However, these distinctly human types of thought present man with a special cognitive problem: he must consciously suppress the use of language in order to allow himself to perceive the world ANEW, as if he had never perceived it before. Or if he wants, using language, he can prevent himself from seeing things "with new eyes," and just continue to use the concepts he formed in the past. In physical terms, one might surmise that the act of suppressing language consists in using a more ancient pathway in the brain and cutting off distinctly human pathways which involve language. How could it be possible for man to consciously shut down certain pathways or certain areas of the brain? This is what he can do. The act may just consist in preventing himself from hearing words in his mind. (It certainly gives the impression of opening the eyes widely. Whether it really does so or not I don't know). Specifically for human beings, it seems to be true that cognition is a voluntary process, as Rand claims. Of course she defines the primal act of consciousness, by which man "chooses to think," as "focusing" the mind on a given concept. I don't think this is right, because "focusing" the mind on a previously-formed concept does not change that concept. It may help one to better identify a conceptual common denominator and so to "define one's terms. However, I don't believe "focusing" can cause the structure itself to change. The only way the structure itself can change is if one intentionally DOES NOT focus and see the world with new eyes. How one's concepts may change, if they change at all, as a result of this intentional act of consciousness, is not under one's control. This act consists precisely of allowing the mind to go OUT of control! This is in accord with man's obvious need to adjust his thoughts and actions to things strange and unanticipated. The pathways involved in all this might be identified. The interplay of language with concepts might help locate and determine the nature of physical concepts, including the physical nature of the "conceptual common denominators" which come to the fore of one's awareness during thought. READING It is striking that while other types of thinking are lightning-fast, reading often seems laborious. Reading involves a process of comparing written information with one's conceptual structure. It may be more or less laborious depending on the previous development of one's conceptual structure with reference to the particular subject matter. However, one remembers the material one has read by means of the words by which it has been read. And one has learned by reference to one's existing conceptual structure. It is also possible to "read" by direct application of the "primal act of consciousness" described above! One can learn to see the written word "with new eyes," as if one has never seen anything like it before! In this way, one can allow one's conceptual structure to change (or not) in response to the written information. It is likely, perhaps even certain, that one will not remember what one has read in this manner, becaue he has read without "sub-vocalization". It may be that one's conceptual common denominators will have changed. Then he can try to identify the new conceptual common denominators. All he can do is wait for his new knowledge, if any, to be revealed to him. "Reading" in this way is never laborious, always lightning-quick. Nature probably did not design learning to be difficult! If one has read something using sub-vocalization, one may or may not have made the effort to see the new material in the context of one's whole existing structure of knowledge, that is, one may or may not have "focused" on it. One can also allow the mind to RE-PROCESS knowledge learned with sub-vocalization so that it may become physically integrated into one's conceptual structure (how or whether it is integrated, again, is not under one's control). This re-processing may provide further clues to the physical nature and location of concepts. How can one open one's conceptual structure using the possibly older brain pathway and at the same time be aware of "knowledge" one has acquired from the written word, so that the verbal knowledge is actually then able to be integrated into one's conceptual structure? Is there a pathway from an area where knowledge is stored using words, to the conceptual structure, similar to the pathway from one's senses? Can one suppress the language with which the knowledge obtained from reading is held, and allow the conceptual structure to process that knowledge as if it were being directly perceived, "with new eyes," instead of having been learned by means of already-formed concepts? Of course Ayn Rand has a name for a person who has acquired "knowledge" from someone else and not allowed it to be reprocessed into his own conceptual structure: she calls him a "second hander". Even if the person has engaged in a process of "non-contradictory identification" of all his knowledge and compared the new material to it, and truly believes it, it is not yet really part of his world. He still remembers the information as knowledge received from someone else. "Psycho-Epistemologically" (Rand) he remains dependent on someone else. "Ptolemy"
  4. As defined by Ayn Rand, "A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted." Galt's Speech contains many thousands of concepts of all levels of complexity. Galt's Speech is not itself a "concept". The works of Rand offer many insights into the physical nature of concepts. It is clear from her "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" that concepts viewed from an epistemological standpoint have a structure; more complicated concepts are built from less complicated concepts. There must be a corresponding physical structure of some kind. Viewed from either an epistemological or a physical standpoint, this must be a structure which allows the concept to always be retained in its original form and at the same time to be instantly incorporated into the structures of many other concepts. A concept may undergo instantaneous alteration or it may go unchanged for more than a century. It is amazing that science has not yet been able to indentify what it is in the brain cortex which corresponds to "thinking". Perhaps Ayn Rand's epistemology holds the key. However, I do believe the idea that the "conscious mind" as opposed to the "subconscious Univac" is the entity which forms and re-forms concepts is a misapprehension truly on a par with the ancient view that the world is flat. It is a shame that Objectivism, which is so helpful in so many ways on the general topic of using one's mind, is not in the forefront on this issue. One very interesting thing about the brain is that it can allow one to momentarily put all his knowledge out of consciousness SO THAT HE HAS THE ABILITY TO SEE A THING (OR A WORD) "WITH NEW EYES". Why would this ability have been built into or retained in the brain if it has no use? Of course the conscious mind CAN compare its concepts with new perceptions or information received from other people. Of course I am not denying that. But this type of thinking does not seem to result in any PHYSICAL CHANGE in one's conceptual structure. THIS TYPE OF THINKING DOES NOT NECESSARILY CHANGE YOU. The new information is understood by relation to your existing structure. It also certainly does seem obvious that the more one consciously thinks about some topic--TRIES to learn--the more readily the "Univac" will do its own thinking about the topic and possibly physically change its structure. The most effective method of facilitating physical change in one's conceptual structure is this: LOOK AT THE THING (OR THE WORD) AS IF YOU HAD NEVER SEEN IT OR ANYTHING LIKE IT EVER BEFORE. Play with this idea. Your mind does have the ability to do this. And remember, Ptolemy's views about the roundness of the earth were totally bizarre in their time! (Do you really have 5,000 posts??!!)
  5. Is it too late to change my moniker from "Ragtime" to "Bizarre"? On the other hand, I think you are way too sure of yourself, since concepts are physical structures the nature of which and the physical processes of which are unknown. I think Harry Binswanger draws his audiences' attention very effectively to the silent conceptual structure by asking them to describe his demeanor as he is lecturing--to look for the right words to describe it. Look where? If you have learned the waltz, tango, quickstep and two-step, can you not in the same manner look for and find in the very same place the right words to differentiate these dances from eachother? Not by replaying someone else's definitions, or somehow replaying memories of doing the dances or seeing someone else do them, but by actually "looking" in some way at some kind of mental structure?
  6. All thinking is done with words. The integration done by the Subconscious is not concept formation, but can be described as follows: If "A" is connected to "B" and "B" is connected to "C", then "A" will be to some extent connected with "C". There is no "other person" inside you. (See HB's lectures on "Psycho-Epistemology"). Do you REALLY think "Say's Law" (discussed by HB) popped into J.B. Say's head because of the Subconscious connecting "A" to "C" by way of "B"? Say's Law is so obviously NOT a mere association (such as pulling "quagga" out of your subconscious file when the issue of "extinct animals" comes up) but something of a TOTALLY DIFFERENT NATURE: A NEW CONCEPT. Where did it come from? It popped up because the "Subconscious" ITSELF conceptualized it. What about music? If your concepts of music come from thinking in words, then you must be a "second-hander"!! Do you think you have one conceptual faculty for conceptualizing economics and another, special faculty for conceptualizing music, and another for conceptualizing dancing (or standing, walking and running)? Isn't it more likely that the SAME faculty conceptualizes EVERYTHING that you conceptualize? HB states that standing, walking, and running are enabled by "automatized subconscious integration". In dancing, "the conscious mind has to select each subunit and with practice it can be integrated (by "subconscious integration") into a larger unit and then you just have to tell yourself, "Waltz!" O.K., here we apparently have the "Subconscious" doing a lot more than connecting "A" to "C" by way of "B". The truth is that the "subconscious" conceptual structure MAKES CONCEPTS FOR YOU. Your conscious mind CANNOT manufacture them. Sure, you can have someone explain how to do a waltz, but between that and having it "automatized" is a big step which is not under your conscious control! You just have to be open to it and wait for it. If you are learning to play a new piece of music, the only way you're going to improve is to put your previous knowledge of the piece out of conscious focus, so that your "automatic integration faculty" can add to what it already understands about the piece. Musicians have the knack of doing this. They do not make a practice of trying to hold on to what they already know about a piece. They listen to it "with new ears" each time they play it.
  7. Yes, Dragon Lady, that's it! But instead of a book that you can read easily when fully awake, why not one on Romanian language, Thermodynamics, or even "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money"?! Right, you only "hear" the words sporadically. However, the next time you look at the book--after a lengthy interval--you will "hear" more of them and larger groups of them! By the way, when you do "hear" one, doesn't something seem to light up in your mind??! I first started watching this phenomenon when I was taking a speed-reading class. I noticed that the faster I "read", the more brightly (and wonderfully clearly) ideas from the book popped into my mind. But of course I couldn't "retain" anything--I could't remember things that had been so very clear to me just moments before. I was fascinated by this, and it finally led me to the realization that the conceptual structure is indeed a "mind of its own"! According to Mr. Binswanger's theory, if you don't intentionally "focus" on a concept, it will be retained in your mind only by some random associations (as an example from HB's lectures, you might remember "quagga" only as a"funny word I heard at a lecture in San Francisco" instead of "an extinct mammal related to the zebra). Dragon Lady, you say you afterwards find yourself "familiar" in some way with what you've read. Maybe you think that's only through random associations. And I promise you that if you explore this a little further you will find that what you have gotten from your "unfocused" "reading" are VERY focused ideas, albeit probably very general in nature, relating to the subject matter, and that as you "read" the book again and again--after substantial intervals of time-- you will realize that you ARE indeed learning about very difficult things that you perhaps thought you could never get into your mind. And again I ask, since you merely passively "heard" the words you "read", and did not do any work to focus your mind on the words or the ideas that popped into your mind, HOW COULD THIS BE POSSIBLE?
  8. Do you really think ALL thinking is done in words? "'Length must exist in SOME quantity, but may exist in ANY quantity. I shall identify 'length' as that attribute of any existent possessing it which can be quantitatively related to a unit of length, without specifying the quantity.' The child does not think in such words, but THAT is the nature of the process which his mind performs wordlessly." (Ch. 2, ITOE). Knowledge is a built-up, wordless physical structure of some kind that does not automatically change with intentional thought. Whether and how it changes is not under conscious control.If you are someone who has taken the Philosophy of Ayn Rand to heart, and decided not to be a "second-hander," do you remember the moment when you first asked yourself, on some subject, "Do I really believe this, I myself, separate from everyone else?" Do you remember shedding some kind of protective overlayer of words? Do remember that you felt all alone? Until the conceptual structure integrates new "knowledge" you remain conscious of it as something received from someone else.For example, you may know that Mises claimed to have proven that socialism is not viable as an efficient economic system. You remember his arguments and his illustrations. If called upon to discuss socialism, you think of Mises and his arguments, despite the fact that you have thought a lot about his arguments and believe they are totally cogent. Or you may be at a point where what you immediately think of is not Mises and his arguments but YOUR OWN KNOWLEDGE that socialism is not an efficient economic system. You may not even remember Mises or 'Socialism' or 'Human Action'. You may not be able to immediately come up with a clear explanation of your beliefs, but if given a few minutes you would probably be able to put your wordless knowledge into words and give a reasonable explanation. What you know is THE THING ITSELF. Howard Roark is someone whose knowledge is independent of others. He is not a "second-hander". How ist that possible? Thinking about knowledge received from others doesn't automatically make you independent. Only when your own, private conceptual structure changes to accomodate the new knowledge, perhaps in totally unanticipated ways, do you cease to be a "second-hander". You are alone with your knowledge. Contrary to Mr. Binswanger, this conceptual structure really doesn't seem to be "subconscious" or even "peripherally conscious". You are always aware of all your knowledge--not in words, but by seeing the world by means of this silent structure. It is always there. Mr. Binswanger states that the "conscious mind controls what is filed and how it is filed". Actually, the only control the conscious mind has over WHAT is incorporated in the structure (as opposed to simple memory of things understood by means of one's existing concepts) is to offer the mind more or less valuable information. One person reads the new biography of Ludwig von Mises. Another person offers his mind the biography of the doorman at the Ritz (or of Britney Spears). I can prove to you that you are not in control of what is filed and how it is filed! Pick up a book about some subject that your mind has seemed impervious to in the past. Read it while HEARING the words in your mind, but do not intentionally PRONOUNCE the words in your mind. DO NOT FOCUS!! After six months, look at the book again and see if the subject does not seem much easier and more accessible. But HOW COULD THIS BE? "If you have the wrong psycho-epistemology, your data base may have the wrong information." Actually, it is more likely that the conceptual structure does not make any mistakes (at least in the absence of pathology). It doesn't take wrong turns--it simply stops developing. A child's concepts are not wrong, they are simply primitive. Objectivism is right that man is a being of volitional consciousness. But the real choice is whether to let the conceptual structure change and re-invent itself, 'let the chilps fall where they may': to step into the unknown. The truth is that PRONOUNCING words in the mind actually STOPS integration from occurring. If one can refrain from doing this (which is not easy!) one can become aware of his concepts combining and reconfiguring. The world will change a little bit every day. Of course, this is undoubtedly what Nature intended. The mind needs to adapt. So can it be that someone is too smart to articulate himself--that he has knowledge which is unable to immediately express or even grasp? Absolutely! Someone like Einstein seems habitually bemused and never quite sure of things. He expects the world to change on him at any moment. He is waiting for answers. (This post is in reply to Thomas Miovas (Post #15, above)! Especially his statement "Keep in mind that even the intellectual innovators must think in SOME language, so for an idea to be clear to them it must already be put into words.")
  9. Of course concepts must have a biological structure in addition to an "epistemological" structure. Suppose this: that what human beings know as deliberate reasoning actually doesn't change this physical structure, although one obviously can inter-relate parts of it while deliberately thinking, and remember those relationships. That because of that, humans can grasp concepts they learn from other people without really becoming any different than they were before--without coming to "really" believe a new idea (perhaps this is why there are people who 'believe' in reincarnation and virgin birth). Assume that the animal mind developed in an evolutionary process which favored beings whose concepts could really alter in response to new conditions--who are capable of PHYSICALLY CHANGING, and actually SEEING the world anew and therefore acting unhesitatingly on their new knowldge; and that humans have this ability. Tht the mind can use our existing concepts, plus whatever "knowledge" we glean from other people, as well as our own observations of the world, to create new or altered concepts by physically changing its very structure. That, at least for human beings, this conceptual structure can change only if we allow it to; in other words we can easily hold onto our existing ideas (for most people (I wonder about Helen Keller!) this ability probably comes from our ability to "hear" words in our mind. But that if we DO allow our conceptual structure to change, there is no way of predicting or controlling what changes will result; and that after it changes we have to make an effort to try to find out or grasp whatever new "conceptual common denominators" are now present in the structure. That in some small way we really become--to ourselves!--someone a little strange and different. That allowing our conceptual structure to change entails freeing our minds at least momentarily from everything we know now, everything we have learned in the past, everything we are. Se just have to go off by ourselves and let it happen . (Nature wants us to adapt to situations we don't yet understand!). Wouldn't that be exceedingly frightening? Who would dare to do it? Why would this supposed evolutionary scheme ever succeed in actually getting us to adapt in this way? If our "free will" actually consists in the decision to "think", who would ever dare to exercise this "free will"? Isn't it possible that certain so-called religious feelings were built into the brain just to get people to do this very frightening thing? In particular, a sense of AWE or WONDER that leads us to "open our minds"? (An aside!) Could it be that in a similar thrust to allay fear in the human mind, evolution has led to the phenomenon of HUMOR? when we come across something thqt seems COMPLETELY CONTRARY to our knowledge, wouldn't that also be terribly frightening? Wouldn't it be to an animal's advantag4e if instead of being paralyzed by fear, it felt. . . . . .JOY! . . .until it had time to work the new things into its conceptual structure? The world's happiest music (ragtime/jazz) consists of a staid march tempo combined with a voice which acts "crazy" in that it persistently throws the accent off onto the wrong beat. The more contrary it is, the more (involuntary!) joy we feel!)
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