Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dividing What Can't Be Divided, Separating What Isn't Separate and Rejecting What Is Clearly Not Representative

One of the problems I had with my high school biology class was our macho-guy teacher's obvious gratification had from killing frogs and other animals in front of his lab classes.  I'm not sure if it came to me that if you are engaged in the study of life sciences, it was kind of strange to kill the thing you were supposed to be studying.  But studying a living being isn't as easy as killing it and cutting it up, though, I couldn't see the point of finding the organs and bones and other things in a dead animal that wasn't obtainable from looking at the lab manual that showed exactly the same thing.  No one from my class ever became a surgeon who worked on frogs and fetal pigs and fruit flies.    But we never really studied frogs in nature or any kind of pigs and the fruit flies were only noted in numbers with red eyes as compared to pale eyes.  I let mine go instead of gassing them to death as he instructed.  I suspect they died in the cold of early spring*.

Yesterday's and today's posts talk about consciousness, thoughts and ideas, I hope, begin to show how those things, the most immediate things we can know, are far from discrete objects that can be divided into discrete parts.  We talk about an idea but that idea is the development of other ideas that were precursors of it, innumerable ones and indefinable ones that are inseparable from that thing we call our "experience," itself hardly liable to discovery by dissection in any neat form of discrete parts, much of it claimed to be "subconscious".   And an idea, once had, is not a set entity but is transformed by further thinking and further experience, though the previous forms of that idea obviously can remain in our minds in some form since we can recall them, though not always in a form reliably the same as it was before its modification.  Sometimes the act of recall is also the act of modification of an idea.  But we pretend that all of this is reducible into "things" mental objects that have some existence apart from the flowing currents of our experience in the continual NOW that we actually live in.

We can't really address consciousness, ideas, thoughts, by trying to divide it and to examine parts of it because it is all a continuous whole.   Perhaps we can address aspects of it, though the serial failures of psychology and its related attempts, leads me to suspect that conclusions drawn on that will be of spotty success and always bound to failure, if not ultimate rejection.

The role that articulation of ideas has in the self-deception that we can make those divisions in consciousness and what that consists of is worth considering. We can't pass on to another person the entirety of our conscious experience, the best we can do is to try to give some impression of parts of it.   Intellectual life, academic practice and, most of all science, elevates the generally vague impressions, concentrating on a few that seem to be generally accepted as valid-  physical law - and pretends that other and vaguer impressions have a transferable solidity and durability that is not really there.  We pretend that those fragments can stand in for the experience that we can't have when if there is one thing that is obvious, anything we know about that is fragmentary.   I can know that President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, I can't know everything about that, I can't even know what someone who was there witnessing it would have seen and known about it.  Nor can they know what it was like for a teenager in a small town high school in Maine to hear about it from a grim-faced English teacher and the way the chill went up my legs and spine that I am feeling as I type this sentence out.

If  someone wants to pretend that they are treating consciousness with science, cutting it into discrete parts,  asserting that those are really found in molecules that are the product of DNA as handed down through natural selection,  they may find something which they can pass off to others who are predisposed to pretend that they are doing what can't be done.  They will generally be materialists or scientists with a professional interest in the pretense, based on the training of other materialists who taught them to think that way or, at least, to pretend to not see the problems with it.   And, also, people who don't think much about the problem and who don't really understand what is being asserted can be sold the idea that they've nut-shelled consciousness once and for all.  Would the acceptance from ignorance of the assertions really be the same idea as the one that was passed off as science as formally expounded?

But anyone who thinks about the experience of their own consciousness, their own thinking, of the indivisible continuity of it, of the largely unknown or, at least, unarticulated detail of it is entirely within their rights to note that the choppy discontinuity of the claims of neuro-science or cognitive science are not what they experience as consciousness.

There is no way for science to make a claim on the consciousness that is ours, which is what comprises our existence as a person, the absolute ground of our perceptions and of any thinking we can do about ourselves and people, beings and things external to us.   Just as we own our bodies, we also own our consciousness and we are the only experts on what our experience of that is.  I totally reject any reductionist view or assertions about my conscious experience, it is continuous and there is no one who can legitimately claim to know more about that than I do. Perhaps you have the same experience of your consciousness, or, in light of what I said above, this is something that sounds similar.   That is your decision to make.

*  Least anyone suspect my motives, I had the highest average in his class, my perfect score on his final is the one and only test score I recall in two decades of formal education - no, I didn't stay back in any grade.   I don't remember my SAT score, I wasn't aware I was supposed to remember it at the time.  I don't remember anyone talking about that stuff back then.

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