030723 – Limits of consciousness

030723 – Limits of consciousness

Is important to note that we’re not conscious of absolutely everything that goes on in our bodies.  We’re not conscious of the normal functioning of our lymphatic system.  We’re not conscious of the normal functioning of the stomach, the liver, the pancreas, etc. We’re not conscious of changes in the iris of the eye.  With respect to these functions, we’re zombies.

We’re not ordinarily conscious of breathing, although we have the ability to take deep breaths or to hold our breaths.  Breathing is sometimes conscious, sometimes not.

I wouldn’t say we’re very good at imagining smells or tastes, but I can’t speak to the abilities of a skilled smeller or taster.  Still, we can recognize specific tastes and smells (new Coca-Cola didn’t taste like “Classic” Coca-Cola and people didn’t need a side-by-side comparison to know that).

I think I vote with Lakoff on the fact that our model of just about anything is ultimately based on our model of our self.  Or at least our models ultimately refer “metaphorically” to built-in [well, maybe not built-in, but acquired in the course of post-natal (and possibly some pre-natal) experience] “concepts” relating in some way to perceptual experience, often kinesthetic.  It is certainly the case that some of our knowledge is factual, e.g., the battle of Hastings was fought in 1066.  Other knowledge is procedural, I would say “model based”.  Model based knowledge is of necessity based on metaphor.  That is, the behavior of something is referenced mutatis mutandis to the behavior of something else already understood or at least already modeled.

An important model is our internal model of another person.  Is not clear to me whether the origin of this model is self-observation or observation of others.  Is there an internal model of the self and an internal model of another person?  Or are they one and the same, available to be applied equally to oneself or another?  Certainly, a key element of our model of another is projection of our own understanding onto the other.  Now comes the fun part.  By “introspection” it is clear that because I have a model of another person, my model of another person should include a model of that person’s model of yet another person.  So from these models, I now have available my own behavior (whether actual or under consideration), my anticipation of the behavior of another, and my anticipation of the other’s understanding of my behavior [and so on, but not infinitely because of (literally) memory limitations].

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