A History Of The Mind
You’ll notice that the author of the following article uses the phrase ‘states of consciousness’ in the first paragraph. If you read the following excerpt from his book, you’ll realize he’s using the term essentially to ‘explain away’ ‘states of consciousness’ or, in his language, ‘how subjective feelings arise in human brains.’ If you also read my excerpts from ‘States of Consciousness’ by Charles Tart, you’ll realize Mr. Humphrey is, in Mr. Tart’s language, presenting the ‘conservative view’ of consciousness—that awareness is a product of brain functioning. And, from Bohm’s perspective (see Field Consciousness and Ethics) Mr. Humphrey is treating the explicate order (3D space/time) as if it were the only order, and therefore the ultimate determinative force, which would leave unexplained why, if this is true, the most elementary particles of space/time seem to transcend 3D space/time.
That said, as we emerge from the explicate order (3D space/time) and, I would add, as we emerge as the explicate order, Mr. Humphrey’s history helped me to understand the biosphere as an enfolding of the physiosphere. He also helped me to understand the false self as a virtual self using his ‘phantom limb’ metaphor.
I’m going to quote some excerpts from Mr. Tart’s ‘States of Consciousness’ first to try and tie in his ideas with Mr. Humphrey’s…
“Our ordinary state of consciousness is not something natural or given, but a highly complex construction, a specialized tool for coping with our environment and the people in it…As we look at consciousness closely, we see that it can be analyzed into many parts. Yet these parts function together in a pattern: they form a system. While the components of consciousness can be studied in isolation, they exist as parts of a complex system, consciousness, and can be fully understood only when we see this function in the overall system…
The terms state of consciousness and altered state of consciousness have come to be used too loosely, to mean whatever is on one’s mind at the moment. The new term discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC) is proposed for greater precision. A d-SoC is a unique, dynamic pattern or configuration of psychological structures, an active system of psychological subsystems…
Examples of D-SofCs are the ordinary waking state, nondreaming sleep, dreaming sleep, hypnosis, alcohol intoxication, marijuana intoxication, and meditative states.
A discrete altered state of consciousness (d-ASC) refers to a d-SoC that is different from some baseline state of consciousness (b-SoC). Usually the ordinary state is taken as the baseline state. A d-ASC is a new system with unique properties of its own, a restructuring of consciousness. Altered is intended as a purely descriptive term, carrying no values.
A d-SoC is stabilized by four processes: (1) loading stabilization—keeping attention/awareness and other psychological tendencies deployed in habitual, desired structures by loading the person’s system heavily with appropriated tasks; (2)negative feedback stabilization—correcting the functioning of erring structures/subsystems when they deviate too far from the normal range that ensures stability; (3) positive feedback stabilization—strengthening activity and/or providing rewarding experiences when structures/subsystems are functioning within desired limits; and (4) limiting stabilization—restricting the range of functioning of structures/subsystems whose intense operation would destabilize the system.
In terms of current psychological knowledge, ten major subsystems (collections of related structures) that show important variations over known d-ASCs need to be distinguished: (1) Exteroception—sensing the external environment; (2) Interoception, sensing what the body is feeling and doing; (3) Input-Processing—automated selecting and abstracting of sensory input so we perceive only what is “important” by personal and cultural (consensus reality) standards; (4) Memory; (5) Subconscious—the classical Freudian unconscious plus many other psychological processes that go on outside our ordinary d-SoC, but that may become directly conscious in various d-ASCs; (6) Emotions; (7) Evaluation and Decision-Making—our cognitive evaluating skills and habits; (8) Space/Time Sense—the construction of psychological space and time and the placing of events within it; (9) Sense of Identity—the quality added to experience that makes it a personal experience instead of just information; and (10) Motor Output—muscular and glandular outputs to the external world and the body. These subsystems are not ultimates, but convenient categories to organize current knowledge.”
As you read on please keep in mind Mr. Tart’s four processes and ten subsystems, as it will help you to understand that what we take be a ‘self’ is in fact, what Mr. Tart calls a b-SoC, and this b-SoC is configured by a physiological and biological evolutionary force I call Attractor 1.
“…An attractor is a pattern that tends to arise in a dynamical system, from a wide variety of different preliminary conditions. A strict mathematical attractor must persist forever once entered into; but one may also speak of “probabilistic attractors” that are merely very likely to persist, or that may mutate slightly and gradually over time, etc. I think that part of “human nature” consists of peculiarities of the human mind/brain, whereas part of it consists of generic attractors that have appeared in the human psyche – or as emergents among human minds or between human minds and their environments — because they generally tend to pop up in a lot of complex systems in a lot of circumstances.
One reason why some meta-ethics appear more convincing than others, then, is that these meta-ethics appear to be attractors: they are “universal attractors,” i.e. principles that arise as patterns in many different complex systems in many different situations. This doesn’t mean that they’re logically correct in the sense of following from some a priori assumption regarding what is good. Rather it means that, in a sense, they follow from the universe…’
—Encouraging a Positive Transcension, Ben Goertzel
Until we deconstruct the false ‘I’ we remain under the influence of Attractor 1, or what Bertrand Russell called ‘chemical imperialism.
“Every living thing is a sort of imperialist, seeking to transform as much as possible of its environment into itself…. When we compare the (present) human population of the globe with … that of former times, we see that “chemical imperialism” has been … the main end to which human intelligence has been devoted.”
~ Bertrand Russell
So, as the injunction goes, ‘know thyself’ and to until we deconstruct our b-SofC that means understanding Attractor 1. ..
The Mind: A History
A History Of The Mind, Nicholas Humphrey
The mind-body problem is the problem of explaining how states of consciousness arise in human brains. More specifically, it is the problem of how subjective feelings arise in human brains. The approach to this problem will be a history of mental life, from the creation of the Earth to the emergence of modern human beings.
In the primeval soup, chance brought together the first molecules of life, with the capacity to generate copies of themselves. Time passed and Darwinian evolution got to work selecting packets with ever greater potential for maintaining their own integrity andreproducing; complex living molecules (like DNA), then single cells (bacteria or amoebae), then the multicelled (worms or fish, or us).
Living animals had their own form and their own substance. Whether at the level of an amoebae or an elephant, the animal was a self-integrating and self-individuating whole. Unlike other bounded objects-like a raindrop or a pebble-its boundaries were self-imposed and actively maintained. On one side of its boundary wall lay “me,” and on the other “not-me.”
So boundaries-and the physical structures that constituted them, membranes, skins-were crucial. First, they held the animal’s substance in, and the rest of the world out. Second, by virtue of being located at the animal’s surface they formed a frontier: The frontier at which the outside world impacted the animal, and across which exchanges of matter and energy and information could take place.
Light fell on an animal, objects bumped into it, pressure waves pressed against it, chemicals stuck to it…Some of these events were “a good thing” for the animal, others were neutral, others were bad. Any animal that had a means to sort out the good from the bad-approaching or letting in the good, avoiding or blocking the bad-would clearly have been at a biological advantage. Natural selection was therefore likely to select for “sensitivity.”
Being sensitive need have meant, to begin with, nothing more complicated than being locally reactive: In other words, responding selectively at the place where the surface stimuli occurred. The first types of sensitivity would have involved, for example, local retraction or swelling or engulfing by the skin.
Soon more sophisticated types of sensitivity evolved. Sense organs became more discriminatory between different kinds of stimuli, and the range of possible responses increased. Instead of or as well as a stimulus inducing a local reaction, information from one part of the skin got relayed to other parts and caused reactions there. And by the introduction of delays in transmission and the combination of facilitation and inhibition, the way was open for the animal’s responses to become better adapted to its needs: for example by swimming away, rather than just recoiling from a noxious stimulus.
In time, different stimuli came to elicit very different action patterns. We might imagine that an animal living in a pond swam upward in response to red light, and downward in response to blue light. Since information about the particular stimulus was now being preserved and carried through into the particular action pattern, the action pattern came to represent-at least to replicate symbolically-the stimulus.
With this level of sensitivity and reactivity, however, it could hardly be said that environmental events had acquired much “meaning” for the animal. Still, even by this stage something about the status of the world was changing. Certain events were being responded to as good and bad, as edible or inedible, as of significance to “me”. And the reason for emphasizing the as here is to emphasize the essential difference between, on the one hand, something’s just being good and bad, and, on the other hand, the animal for whom it is good and bad reacting to it as such. Compare, for example, the effects of low humidity on two bounded objects: a wood louse and a puddle. The heat is “bad” for both of them because it dries them up. But whereas the puddle just sits there and shrinks in size, the wood louse runs away. Both react to low humidity: But while the puddle’s response is nonadaptive and carries no implication of being meaningful, the wood louse’s response potentially does: it implies “here is a situation not much to my liking.”
As animals became increasingly sophisticated at attuning their behavior to the environmental situation, the sensory side and the response side of the process must have been partially decoupled. Before long a central site evolved, where representations-in the form of action patterns-were held in abeyance before they were put into effect. Thus action patterns had become action plans, and representations had become relatively abstract. The place where they were held in store could be said to be the place where they were held in mind.
The material substrate of the mind was nervous tissue, which in higher organisms became centered in the ganglion or brain; and it is to be remarked that even in animals like human beings the neural tube which forms the brain during embryological development derives from an infolding of the skin.
By the time prototypical minds had evolved, it could be said that some events in the world had taken on the status of meaningful phenomena. For the first time in history-the first time in fact since the universe began-certain events, namely those occurring at the surfaces of living organisms, had begun to exist as something for someone.
So the phenomenology of sensory experiences came first. Before there were any other kinds of phenomena there were “raw sensations”-tastes, smells, tickles, pains, sensations of warmth, of light, of sound, and so on.
From early on there was another track to mental evolution. On the one hand animals benefited from having an ability to assess their own current state of being: to answer questions about “what is happening to me”-”What is it like to have red light arriving at my skin?” But on the other hand they would certainly have benefited further if they had an ability to assess the state of the external world: to answer questions about “what is happening out there”-for example, “Where is the red light coming from?” But the questions “What is happening to me?” And “What is happening out there?” were always different kinds of questions, which must always have required very different kinds of answers.
Consider a patch of sunlight falling on the skin of an amoeba-like animal. The light has immediate implications for the animal’s own state of bodily health, and for that reason it gets represented as a subjective sensation. But light also signifies an objective physical fact, namely the existence of the sun. And, although the existence of the sun might not matter much to an amoeba, there are other animals and other areas of the physical world where the ability to take account of what exists “out there beyond my body” could be of paramount survival value. Consider a shadow crossing the skin of an amoeba. Here an ability to represent the objective fact of an approaching predator would-if only it were achievable by an amoeba-clearly be of considerable more consequence to the animal’s survival than the ability to represent the body surface stimulus as such.
But how to do it? How to interpret a stimulus as a “sign” of something else? To move from a representation of the sign to a representation of the signified? By the end of the first stage of evolution sense organs existed with connections to a central processor, and most of the requisite information about potential signs was being received as “input”. But the subsequent processing of this information, leading to subjective sensory states, had to do with quality rather than quantity, the transient present rather than the permanent
identity, me-ness rather than otherness. In order for the same information to now represent the outside world, a whole new style of processing had to evolve, with an emphasis less on the subjective present and more on object permanence, less on immediate responsiveness and more on future possibilities, less on what it is like for me and more on how what “it” signifies fits into the larger picture of a stable external world.
There developed in consequence two distinct kinds of mental representation, involving very different styles of information processing. While one path led to the qualia of subjective feelings and first-person knowledge of the self, the other led to the intentional objects of cognition and objective knowledge of the external world.
An obscure psychologist named J.D. Starbuck wrote about these two types of representation in an article titled “The Intimate Senses as Sources of Wisdom,” published in the Journal of Religion in 1901.
Starbuck discussed the difference between “intimate” and “defining” sensory processes…
In so far as a receptor discriminates qualities in objects and perceives their kinships it may be called a defining sense. Since all the senses possess this power to a certain degree it is more fitting to speak of defining sensory processes…Some of the other senses are concerned with the interpretation of objects and of their qualities immediately without defining them or setting them into spatial and temporal orders.
Their qualities are directly regarded as agreeable or indifferent, as desirable or undesirable, or otherwise fitted to the well-being of the organism. In so far as a receptor reports to consciousness directly or immediately qualities of objects together with cues of right response, it may be designated an intimate sense. Or again, since all of the senses have in greater or less degree this propensity, it is better to speak of intimate sensory processes…There has been a double line of development and evolution equally important: the one moving fast and far in the direction of description, scientific analysis, practical manipulation, logical construction, and system- building. The other line has achieved equal success in interpreting its objects and their meanings in subtle and skillful ways and in hold-matching the individual in right relationship to his world of experience…Since there is more than one way of interpreting the outer world of experience, the ultimate reason for it may be that there is more thanone sort of objective reality.
The claim is that the two categories of experience—sensation and perception, subjective feelings and physical phenomena—are alternative and nonoverlapping way of interpreting the meaning of environmental stimulus arriving at the body. So that, when I smell a rose, sensation provides the answer to the question “What is happening to me?” and perception the answer to the question “What is happening out there?”
Assuming that sensation and perception are distinct, how are they related? There are two obvious possibilities. One would be that sensation and perception are independently processed by parallel channels of the mind:
(I tried to edit this part by was unable to get the correct configuration–basically the following should read ‘Rose–chemical odor at nose,’ with ‘sensation of…’ or ‘perception of…’ either following one another in sequence (serially) or ‘Rose–chemical odor at nose’ with ‘sensation of…’ and ‘perception of..’ above and below (parallel fashion).
–sensation of myself being sweetly stimulated
Rose—–chemical odor at nose—-
–perception of the rose as having a sweet scent
Or more generally:
—Sensation of what is happening to me
Object—–body surface stimulus—-
—–perception of what is happening out there
The other possibility would be that sensation and perception follow on serially one from the other:
object–body surface stimulus–sensation of –sensation of
what is happening what it happening
to me out there
The question is: Is there any conclusive way of deciding which scheme, the parallel or the serial, is right? The answer lies in examining the possibility of sensation and perception being “decoupled.” For it will be apparent that while the parallel scheme would allow for sensation and perception to go their own ways, the serial scheme would not.
A modern textbook of sensory psychology is unlikely to make more than a passing reference to the fact that people may like or dislike what they feel: that is, as Lord Byron wrote, “The great object of life is sensation—to feel that we exist,even though in pain.” This bias needs redressing. In fact, unless and until we bring sensory affect back into consideration, we shall be fishing for consciousness in an empty pool.
Vision is the dominant sense; the sense that has been most widely studied by psychologists and philosophers. The most primitive organisms did not have eyes. Like present-day amoebae they were probably sensitive to light all over their body surfaces. What is more, they did not have specialized “photoreceptors” that were sensitive to light alone: the same sensory receptors might have been responsive not only to light but also to high salt concentrations or mechanical vibration.
When photoreceptors did evolve they were not an entirely new kind of receptor. They were simply nonspecific receptors that had evolved to be relatively more sensitive to light than to other kinds of stimulation. In fact it seems likely they developed from ‘sensory cilia.” Cilia are hair-like structures that stick out from the surface of a cell and can serve either in a motor capacity to move the animal around, or in a sensory capacity to detect local disturbances in the environment. By packing a sensory cilium with photosensitive pigment, it could be made to be specifically excitable to light. Even the rods and cones in the retina of our own eyes show evidence of having started out this way in evolution–as cilia that were sensitive to touch.
The function of photoreceptors in the earliest organisms must have been to detect the general level of illumination. If the light level was “good” the animal could stay where it was, and if it was “bad” it could move about until things improved. But, without any way of telling where the light was coming from, it would have taken a long time to achieve the desired state. And it would not have been until animals developed the ability to compare the local illumination falling on different parts of their body surfaces that they would have been able to move purposively in the right direction.
An earthworm, like an amoeba, has photoreceptors all over its body surface. Earthworms do not like illumination (being at risk from daytime hazards in the open). If a flashlight is shone on a worm on the lawn at night, it rapidly runs away. The worm is comparing what is happening on the bright side of its body with what is happening on the dark side, and on the basis of this comparison it is able to direct its escape.
But is it too soon in evolution to ask “What does an earthworm see?” While the way the earthworm is representing the light would not be counted as visual perception, it should be counted as visual sensation. For it surely makes sense to say that the worm’s nervous system is representing the light as “something happening to me,” and as something “disagreeable.”
What happened in evolution was that photoreceptors at the body surface clustered together as “eyespots.” Even singled-celled animals sometimes have a specialized light-sensitive patch where the threshold for light stimulation is much lower; and most multicelled animals, that do not have proper eyes, have one or more such patches strategically located at their boundaries. The reason for developing these eyespots was that it is more efficient to compare the illumination at several specific locations than to compare the illumination over wide areas of the body.
There proved however to be a better way still of finding out about the direction of a source of light: and this was to transform a single eyespot into a genuine “eye” with an image-forming mechanism. When light from one direction falls on a flat patch of photoreceptors, the patch is evenly illuminated and there is not way of telling which direction the light is coming from; but when the patch is transformed into a cup, light from one direction produces a gradient of illumination; and when the cup is further transformed into a spherical cavity with a narrow aperture at the surface, the arrangement becomes a kind of “pinhole camera,” where the direction of the light is precisely correlated with the position of the image. It is only a small step further to fill in the pinhole with a translucent droplet, to produce a full-blown camera with lens.
Camera-like eyes appeared early on in evolution, and have been reinvented several times. But despite their image-forming properties, originally their only important function remained that of assessing the level and direction of illumination arriving at the body surface. So, even after the eyes had evolved, the sense of vision at first had only a single province, not a double one. When, for example, the image of a bright object move across the retina, the only experience the animal wold have had would have been that of being, as it were, “stroked” by the visual stimulus.
But this is not where evolution rested. Once the image-forming eye had been invented, a whole new world was potentially opened up for perceptual analysis. Different-shaped objects, for example, cast different-shaped images on the retina; objects at different distances cast different-shaped images; different-colored objects cast different colored images. Thus light stimulation had become in principle a source of information about the outside world.
By developing a different channel for visual perception, alongside the existing channel for visual sensation, animals could take advantage of the defining properties of light, while retaining their primary interest in light as an intimate event affecting their own bodies.
The Double Province Of The Senses
On one level, just like the primitive amoeba, I am interpreting stimuli as events that directly affect my bodily state: I like some and I dislike some, and the quality of my liking and disliking varies hugely. At this level, I am at the center of my private world of immediate and direct sensations. On another level, I am interpreting the same surface stimuli as signs, signifying the state of the external world. At this second level, I am the spectator of a public world of independent physical phenomena.
The 18th century Scottish philosopher, Thomas Reid, wrote “The external senses have a double province–to make us feel and to make us perceive. They furnish us with a variety of sensations, some pleasurable, others painful, and others+6 indifferent; at the same time they give us a conception of and an invincible belief in the existence of external objects. This conception of external objects is the work of nature; likewise is the sensation that accompanies it. This conception and belief which nature produces by means of the senses, we call perception. The feeling which goes along with perception, we call sensation.”
More recently, the psychiatrist Ernest Schachtel distinguished between the autocentric and the allocentric modes of experiencing the world. “…In the autocentric mode there is little or no objectification; the emphasis is on how and what the person feels; there is a close relation, amounting to a fusion, between sensory quality and pleasure or unpleasure feelings, and the perceiver reacts primarily to something impinging on him…In the allocentric mode there is objectification; the emphasis is on what the object is like.”
The claim is that the two categories of experience are alternative and essentially nonoverlapping ways of interpreting the meaning of environment. The distinction, however, is not one that is always apparent in ordinary language. This point was underscored by Reid: Sensation, taken by itself, implies neither the conception nor belief of any external object. It supposes a sentient being, and a certain manner in which that being in affected; but it supposes no more. Perception implies an immediate conviction and belief of something external-something different from the mind that perceives, and the act of perception…[But] perception and its corresponding sensation are produced at the same time…it becomes very difficult to separate them in thought, to attend to each by itself.”
The next question then is the question of how sensation and perception, assuming they are distinct, are causally related. There are two obvious possibilities. One would be that sensation and perception are independently processed by parallel channels of the mind:
what is happening to me
object–body surface stimulus—
what is happening out there
The other (in some ways more plausible) theory would be that sensation and perception follow on serially one from the other.
object–body surface stimulus–sensation of –sensation of
what is happening what is happening
to me out there
The question is: is there any conclusive way of deciding which scheme, the parallel or the serial, is right? And the answer lies in examining the possibility of sensation and perception being “decoupled.” For while it will be apparent that while the parallel scheme would allow for sensation and perception to go their own ways, the serial scheme would not. A complete disruption of sensation would wipe out perception altogether.
The claim here is that there is evidence that sensation and perception can go their own way, and that perception can occur in the total absence of sensation. But before discussing such evidence, we shall explore some other issues first.
In the history of psychology, the controversy about whether there is one channel or two raged throughout the nineteenth century. And it had an unfortunate effect. As doubts arose about whether perception in serially dependent on sensation, many psychologists concerned with sensory processes took to concentrating entirely on perception and stopped being interested sensation as such at all.
A modern textbook of sensory psychology is unlikely to make more than a passing reference to the fact that people may like or dislike what they feel. This bias needs redressing. Unless we bring sensory affect back into consideration, we shall be fishing for consciousness in an empty pool
Vision is the most dominant human sense, and it is the sense for which the role of sensation and perception is the most difficult to draw. In the case of smell, no one needs convincing that sensations can be pleasing or displeasing. And, with smell, it is relatively easy to recognize that sensation is in a different category to perception. Given that the odor of a rose enters my nostrils, my sensation of sweetness is related to “what is happening to me”: while, given that the odor emanates from the rose, my perception of the rose as sweet is related to “what is happening out there.”
With vision, the situation is never so straightforworward. The affective role of visual sensations is not nearly so striking as with smells. And neither is it so intuitively obvious that visual sensation and visual perception are different categories of experience. While you could say that, given that the light from rose’s petals is falling on my retina, my sensation of redness is related to what is happening to me; and, given that the light is coming from the rose, my perception of the petals as red is related to the external object, these distinctions are not nearly as clear as with our sense of smell.
In order to see more clearly how vision also has this double province, providing us with information about what is happening at our own boundaries and information about what is happening in the external world, we must consider how, in evolutionary history, the visual sense began as a surface sense whose first role was to provide intimate information about what might also be called the “smell”– or “taste” or “touch”–of light arriving at the skin.
The most primitive organisms did not, of course, have eyes. Like present-day amoebae they were probably sensitive to light all over their body surfaces. What is more, the did not have specialized “photoreceptors” that were sensitive to light alone: the same sensory receptors might have been responsive not only to light but also to high salt concentrations or mechanical vibration.
When photoreceptors did evolve they were not an entirely new kind of receptor. They were simply nonspecific receptors that had evolved to be relatively more sensitive to light than to other kinds of stimulation.
The function of photoreceptors in the earliest organisms must have been to detect the general level of illumination. If the light level was “good” the animal would remain where it was, if it was “bad” it could move about until things improved. But, without any way of telling where the light was coming from, it would have taken a long time to achieve the desired state. It would not have been until animals developed the ability to compare the local illumination falling on different parts of their body surfaces that they would have been able to move purposively in the right direction.
What happened in evolution was that photoreceptors at the body surface became clustered together as “eyespots.” Even single-celled animals sometimes have a specialized light-sensitive patch where the threshold for light stimulation is much lower; and most multicelled animals, that do not have proper eyes, have one or more such patches strategically located at their boundaries.
There proved however to be a better way of finding out about the direction of light: and this was to transform a singly eyespot into a genuine “eye” with an image-forming mechanism. When light from one direction falls on a flat patch of photoreceptors, the patch is evenly illuminated and there is no way of telling which direction the light is coming from; but when the patch is transformed into a cup, light from one direction produces a gradient of illumination; and when the cup is further transformed into a spherical cavity with a narrow aperture at the surface, the arrangement becomes a kind of “pinhole camera,” where the direction of the light is precisely correlated with the position of the image. It is only a small step further to fill in the pinhole with a translucent droplet, to produce a full-blown camera with lens.
Camera-like eyes appeared early-on in evolution, and have been reinvented several times. Even after eyes had evolved, the sense of vision at first had only a single province, not a double one. When, for example, the image of a bright object moved across the retina, the animal would have had, simply, the experience of being “stroked” by the visual stimulus.
Once this image-forming eye had been invented, however, a whole new world was potentially opened up for perceptual analysis. Different shaped objects, for example, cast different-shaped images on the retina; objects at different distances cast different-shaped images; different-colored objects cast different-colored images. Thus light stimulation had become a source of information about the outside world.
By developing a separate channel for visual perception, alongside the already existing channel for visual sensation, animals could take advantage of the defining properties of light, while retaining their primary interest in light as an intimate event affecting their own bodies.
It could be argued that in our own case the chief function of vision is now perception, and that the affective role of visual sensation has become relatively less important. But there is another general rule in evolution, and this is that as biological structures or capacities become less important in their original role, new roles get found for them.
It would be a mistake, nevertheless, to pass too quickly to thinking about what else, other than affect, the sensation of vision is giving human beings. For, while visual sensations have less power to move us than do sensations of smell, taste or touch, it is hardly the case that we have evolved to a point where we have ceased to care at all about the light that enters our eyes.
John Locke wrote in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding: “Let any one examine his own thoughts, and thoroughly search into his understanding, and then let him tell me, whether all the original ideas he has there, are any more than of the objects of his senses, or of the operations of his mind considered as objects of his reflection.”
The senses, as Locke recognized, are almost literally the gates and windows to the mind, through which all new information passes; so that there can be no thoughts, ideas, conceptions in our head that do not derive originally from our experience of surface stimuli impinging on our bodies. But the question of how exactly people or animals interpret surface stimuli–how they deal with information at the boundary between “me” and “not-me” –has been contentious…
I’m going to stop here, as this gives a very good sketch of Attractor 1. Mr. Humphrey’s goes on to sketch out how the evolutionary force continues to create an ever more complex feedback system until there is a brain and central nervous system—that is, us. He argues this feedback system is a neural network that comprises a virtual self so real that it results in phenomenon like the phantom limb syndrome, where the virtual self is slow to adjust to changes in the physical world.
He argues that as ‘consciousness’ is ‘action across a boundary’ anything like pantheism is impossible—or a soul, or spirit.
‘The senses, as Locke recognized, are almost literally the gates and windows to the mind, through which all new information passes; so that there can be no thoughts, ideas, conceptions in our head that do not derive originally from our experience of surface stimuli impinging on our bodies.’
Until the advent of quantum mechanics, this position would be leaving out only all of perennial philosophy and any type of mystical or poetic sensibility. But now, after QM, it totally ignores what has become the most central scientific question: if the brain is ‘nothing but’ a product of the world in which it is configured (3D space/time), then where does 3D space/time originate?