Consciousness and Cognizant Action Skype Discussion

Forums Member Forum Consciousness and Cognizant Action Skype Discussion

This topic contains 17 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  C.J. Stone 3 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #4146


    The Boston Study Group would like to gather DP resources and continue to discuss the place of consciousness in the Person Concept. Pete’s Out or Nowhere and “consciousness of and consciousness as”, Joe’s Consciousness = < Individual, Status, World >, Ned’s work on “embodiment providing for” and the Judgment Diagram are good places to start. And we’ve a DP literature on ASC’s. Any ideas? Want to join us on Skype? Next meeting will be Sunday, March 10, at 11 EDT (first day of daylight savings!)


  • #4302

    Erol Zeybekoglu

    SA < 'Consciousness'> would need to be described in terms of its object(s) (e.g. thoughts, sensations, etc.), process(es)(e.g. thinking, perceiving, focusing, etc..), event(s) (e.g person x stopped paying attention, or person y was aware that they wanted a drink of water), and other state(s) of affairs (e.g “water quenches thirst”). When we think of that last one, it seems like it should be included as semantic knowledge, which would be located somewhere in the K parameter, but it could also influence the performance of a deliberate action via the KH parameter process (the know-how of quenching one’s thirst, by drinking the water instead of licking the glass) in a way that one is not exactly conscious of at the time of deliberation or deliberate action. So conscious thought would have to involve a whole host of non-conscious processes of this sort, in that even thinking about something requires that we have some learned schema (cognizance) of thinking that is not itself something we are particularly aware of. In terms of ‘consciousness of’ v.s. ‘consciousness as’, the question “what is consciousness?” becomes “at what point does ‘consciousness of’ become ‘consciousness as’?” It seems to follow a linear progression: 1. person p is not ‘conscious of’ process x, 2. person p is ‘conscious of’ process x, 3. person p is ”conscious as’ person p+x of’ process x, 4. person p is ‘conscious as’ person p+x, but is not ‘conscious of’ process x.

  • #4328

    Joe Jeffrey

    Two thoughts.

    First, cognizant action and consciousness are entirely distinct phenomena. Cognizant action – knowing what you are doing – does not require consciousness.

    Second, I formulated consciousness as I did, i.e., <I, S, W>, because I could find no articulation of the concept of consciousness anywhere – no coherent statement of what consciousness is. Lots and lots of language in terms of feeling, internal processes, “feels”, etc. Most especially, I have sat through what seemed like innumerable lectures in which the lecturer talked about consciousness as though it were some kind of formless object, and then worried about how the physical thing that is the brain can support the non-physical “thing” of consciousness. That whole way of talking is incoherent nonsense.

    A final comment is that it seems clear that whether my formulation is complete or not, an inescapable aspect of the concept is that we don’t call something conscious if they do not have a world, in the Descriptive Psych sense (and as articulated at some length in my paper). The object, processes, events, and states of affairs a person is and can be aware of must form a world, i.e., something that is a connected whole (as articulated in What Actually Happens) and includes the person. That leads to the the solution to the “problem of consciousness”: the individual’s brain (protoplasmic, silicon, or whatever) must provide for the operations that articulate the concept of world, i.e., the transition rules of the state of affairs system.

  • #4329


    I’ve been slowly going through the proofs of DP and the Person Concept and I got distracted when I read the following. I suspect it is a key way in to discussing consciousness and cognizant action.

    “What are you doing?” “Why are you doing that?” “What is that?” and how they lead to “What are you thinking?” “What are you noticing?” “Why are you noticing that?” “What are you aware of?” and “It’s interesting that you think/see/wonder about it that way –– you’ve an interesting perspective”. The “meta” of awareness of awareness/thinking/deciding/viewing as the individual child becoming self and world conscious.

    Here’s the quote from a rap session on language and verbal behavior.:

    Ossorio: You have to be careful when you say, “What’s the Descriptive
    approach?” to anything. There is no Descriptive approach to anything.
    Any one of you could use the Descriptive framework and develop a
    theory of language and language development and they would all be
    different. It is not that there is a set of answers built into Descriptive
    that all you have to do is read it off.
    Member of Audience: But my question was what would you do?
    Ossorio: The way that I would go is to say there is an age at which
    kids learn this [pointing to the formula for behavior]. And roughly
    speaking it is the age where they are going around asking “Why?”
    And when parents ask them “Why did you do that?” and start getting
    some kind of answer. And that to me is a very fundamental point in
    development. Once you acquire the notion of doing something, then
    there is a whole lot of things, in fact, almost everything else is simply
    an instance or a variation on that. Because one of the things that you
    can do is talk. You can say something. So, once you have the notion of
    doing something, the notion of saying something is simply a special
    case. So that would be how I would approach a developmental theory.
    Okay, any more on language?

    • #4622


      Joe, I’d like to hear more of what you think about “something that is a connected whole (as articulated in What Actually Happens) and includes the person.” since you seem to require this for a person to be “conscious”. How would this relate to an person who is in a dissociated state, aware but unable or unwilling to make Final-Order Appraisals? That is, a person who temporarily is unable or unwilling to place the OPESAs they are attending to in the context of the reality testing possibilities of noting sequence and duration and/or the recognition of anomalies as anomalies?

    • #4623


      To go back to the point I raised above with Joe. What are we to make of acting while deficit in the power or disposition to make FOAs (see Plotkin and Schwartz, 1982). What are we to make of trance, dissociation, non lucid dreams, etc? Are they not conscious states? I believe it makes more sense to recognize them as non-paradigmatic states of consciousness, that is, altered states of consciousness (ASCs). I think Joe’s Individual, Status, World formulation points to the paradigm and should allow for non paradigmatic states. In the case of trance, dissociation, non lucid dreams, and so on, the deficit is in having an available context of a whole connected world where anomalies have a special case such that they can be noted as such.

    • #4785

      Joe Jeffrey

      Responding to Wynn’s question about someone in a dissociated state: Well, I’m not sure, since I know very little about that state. But, that said, the phenomenon seems to be that the person has a thought or feeling but does not recognize it as theirs. That looks like a disorder in their relationship to their recognitions and behavior (considering thoughts to be behavior without performance). Normally, I recognize what I think as *my* thought/behavior; someone with this disorder is aware of the thought but not of the relationship between it and them, leaving them with the perception that it came from outside them. But, all that being said, I’m not sure I see much value in connecting this to consciousness. Looks like “ordinary” unthinkability: they have some thought, but recognizing it as theirs would leave them in an impossible position, so they don’t. So, what we can see as their relationship to that thought, and therefore part of their world, they cannot see, so they see it as something someone else introduced into their world. Looks straightforward. It can happen, I suppose, that the “alien” thought is so awful that it changes their state of consciousness. But, even then, I don’t see the payoff of using consciousness to talk about what’s going on.

  • #4362

    Charles Kantor

    Yesterday, I went over my highlights in Pete’s paper “Out of Nowhere” which discusses thoughts as “verbalized A-O-C activities”. He distinguishes making a distinction from knowing about the distinction by noting that having language allows that to happen. But he goes on to also note that knowing is not merely about being aware of a set of facts but about having a structure of facts which is equivalent to the world. As I read through all this a couple of sets of thoughts or experiences come to mind. One is the first time I took my kids to a professional baseball game and how astonished they were when in the bottom of the 7th inning with the scored tied, no outs and a runner on first I said that the next batter would bunt. They thought I must have some magical ability when he did bunt, but of course it was just my knowledge of baseball after playing for 20 years and watching the game my whole life. I know the social practice, the relationships, the structure of facts of that world and so thoughts occurred to me that would not occur to them and thus I was conscious “of” a different domain or world at the time. The second example is something I have experienced more lately then I would like and that is word finding issues. I always have struggled with word finding if I get fatigued. that is part of my “pc” make up, what my particular neurological embodiment provides for. But as i have gotten older that deficit has been enhanced somewhat. I still improve dramatically when I get sufficient sleep. But the point here is is that it’s language that has to be there for me to know what am I conscious of.But when I struggle to find the words or identify someone I know I know, I am not unconscious. I am conscious of frustration, dread, possible embarrassment because I can’t remember a name and so on. Hmmm, A-O-C activities as i try to regulate my behavior since things are going wrong. I find myself having thoughts and these thoughts have to do with what is missing in my world that needs to be there, that is, an identification for that guy I know I know sitting in the restaurant. So I guess, the obvious is that there are many states of consciousness “of” and I wonder if examining those gets us any closer to what consciousness is. Well, that’s a bit of a stream of consciousness! Just thought I’d take a crack at it.

    Also, it might get us somewhere to talk about when kids start to develop consciousness. I think that accompanies the development of language which also accompanies the the development of imaginative play. That of course goes along with the notion that language and world must be taken into account when we talk about consciousness of. But recall how a major part of imaginative play is play at constructing a world, literally. Kids cast other kids, their dolls, and action figure and adults into they dramas.Kids also cast themselves into these dramas and that self assignment seems like it could also be described as “consciousness as”.The status that holds my world, the totality, together is my being me even though at times I can be the hero, or the dad, or the teacher, or the villain or the… in various specific domains.

    That’s my stream of consciousness for now.

  • #4407

    Erol Zeybekoglu

    RE Charlies question: Piaget wrote about three types of schemata that the child develops: behavioral schemata (organized patterns of behavior that are used to represent and respond to objects and experiences), symbolic schemata (internal mental symbols (such as images or verbal codes) that one uses to represent aspects of experience.), and operational schemata (internal mental activity that one performs on objects of thought). Ossorio wrote about use of the “three system system“, consisting of the IA diagram (a system for describing behavioral schemata), state of affairs system (a system for describing symbolic schemata), and the person concept (a system for describing the remaining factors impacting internal mental activity (i.e. dimensions of persons other than those expressed in IA) of human persons, or “h-objects“). According to Piaget, the earliest time that all three appear to generate any sort of meaningful self awareness way is during the pre-operational stage (ages 2-7 yrs) consisting in two parts 1. the “symbolic function sub-stage”(2-4 yrs), where children begin to demonstrate a capacity for symbolic thought and reasoning, and 2. the “intuitive thought sub-stage” (4-7 yrs), at which time children become curious about things they don’t yet know and become aware of the fact that hey already possess a vast amount of information without understanding exactly how they acquired it. So, if, we can take as a premise this developmental perspective of humans (h-objects) as a pcf for understanding the development of consciousness in persons, and, if Piaget is then a fair sort of developmental psychologist to start considering for this purpose, then we are faced with the following dilemma: either (a) consciousness does not require all three systems involved in the three-system-system described by Ossorio, or (b) we are not conscious until we are about 2 years old. I think Joe’s point about describing consciousness in terms of < I,S,W > might provide an answer in terms of (a).

  • #4748

    C.J. Stone

    1. I note Pete is sparing when it comes to anything to do with the word “conscious”, esp. “conscious-ness”. Similarly, he’s sparing with “aware-ness”, and a little less so with “aware”. I’m reading Positive Health and Trancendental Theories (PHTT) right now, so I’m sensitized.

    2. If I have a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, and I want to describe what’s in the cups, I should be careful about trying to create a superclass that’s a tea-coffee-combo; thus, I might talk about conscious OF and conscious AS, but I should be careful about trying to create a superclass that’s conscious-NESS.

    3. Recalling a discussion on the Yahoo board, I wonder if we couldn’t use “recognize” where we are saying “conscious”. “Recognition of” and “recognition as” seem to me to fit here without touching the “consciousness” Tar Baby. “Recognize” also leads into DP’s competence concepts, which is part of what we are talking about with the <I,S,W> formulation. “Because I have the status S, I should be sensitive to what’s an X and what’s not. I recognize x as an X; I recognize that as an S, I must treat it as an X—or I can’t be an S any more.” Joe, I’d welcome a critique about what this approach lacks, and I’ll re-read your paper this weekend.

    4. This “recognize” formulation seems to be in line with Charlie’s report of the baseball game. He recognized a particular state of affairs (SoA), he weighted the circumstances the way he knew the coaches would (knew what they would recognize as important), etc. We could construct a reverse for his kids, that is, what they didn’t recognize.

    5. When talking about non-paradigmatic “consciousness”, I think it’s important to remember we are talking about non-paradigmatic brain states; that we are talking about systematic variations in abilities; and that we are talking about, in-principle, a reversible state. You get high, you come down. That’s normal. You don’t come down, that’s a failure and must be explained. It looks like any of the other non-paradigmatic brain states Wynn has named would follow this pattern.

    6. Dissociation does not seem to be one of these kinds of states, that is, a change in the function of the brain. If it is not, it follows we should treat it as a separate case. That is, dissociation is not a form of getting high and not coming down. Given that real is whatever you are prepared to act on; and your real world is your set of what’s real; it seems like the symptoms of dissociative disorder follow closely from an inability to act on various kinds of things from your real world (objects-processes-events, statuses, relationships, etc.) that one of us should be able to act on.

    7. In both cases, though, the results are similar for the observer: P does not recognize an X the way an S would and does not treat it as an S would. But P got to this state in one of the ways P could get to this state—bonk on the head, brown acid, break with the real world, etc. We observers must dig into it.

    8. When talking about non-paradigmatic states, remember “deficit” is a critique. Stay focused on the phenomenon proper, describe it, then decide about a critique. I doubt any one of us would describe a sleeping state as a deficit, even though a sleeper can’t treat an X as one of us would; and if you do without dreaming, you get into a different state that IS a deficit. But these apparent deficits are normal parts of life. If you can’t do either of them, it needs to be explained. Be careful with your critiques.

    9. We can argue about whether getting high and coming down are normal parts of life.

    10. If I understand what I’m reading in PHTT, Pete is firm THE real world is at least a person and that person’s world. As usual, things don’t interpret themselves. We persons do that. Without one of us, no world—not our real world, not THE real world. (See that we can give the physical universe the status “continues when we are not there” and treat it that way, but it’s not something we can observe. That, by the way, is in reality, the set of constraints on everyone’s behavior.)

    Hope that is useful.

  • #4776

    C.J. Stone

    “What does it mean to say that there is a human developmental pattern? What accounts for that?”

    Centuries of observing babies. We don’t switch from talking about babies’ age in months because it was all the rage, and now it’s not fashionable. (Helots!) It’s because we can observe changes in babies by month up to age two. Etc. We are well-acquainted with their developmental pattern.

    “What substitutions do we make to the paradigm case of Person to account for the deficiencies of infants…”

    None. We understand they are babies. They have the status “baby”, with all that entails.

    “…do we recognize them as “potential Persons”? What leads us to make such allowances?”

    Yes. We make that allowance because we understand their developmental pattern. If that pattern is a success, they will turn into persons. Everyone knows this—and we know it about other things, too: I don’t put an acorn in the ground today and expect to see an oak tree tomorrow; but I expect I will get one if things go right.

    In DP terms, given the normal, expected capacity and the appropriate intervening history, a baby will turn into a person. Nothing mysterious. We only need to explain it if it goes wrong.

    And there, by the way, is your “nature-nurture”: capacity, and the appropriate intervening history. There, also, is Piaget. “Assimilation” and “accomodation” are critiques; thus, they are critiques of some phenomenon. Which one? Capacity + some history = behavior repertoire. We observe someone’s behavior and decide which term we are willing to commit to; but the principle of some capacity + some history = behavior repertoire is the principle, no matter how we critique the results.

    “Does it simply answer the question to say that consciousness requires being a Person with a World, or to say that being a Person with a World requires consciousness, or to say that to be conscious is to be a Person with a World.”

    You’re just confusing yourself. Others (Putman, Jeffrey x2) have written about doing psychology without talking about “consciousness”. They’ve demonstrated we don’t need to do it. So let’s stop doing it.

    Now, you might take that as a degradation, so think about this: if I want to do physics, and I start talking about phlogiston, what do you think the other doers-of-physics will say to me? Not a rhetorical question. Think about it. What are they going to say? Now, should we doers-of-psychology be saying similar things to anyone trying to do psychology who wants to talk about “consciousness”? Not only do I swear never to reveal the crisp, crunchy secret of Arthur Treacher’s Original Fish and Chips (so help me, Arthur), I also swear never to do psychology and use the word “consciousness”.

    “…would we want to say that “consciousness is” or “requires” the recursive ability for any thought or observation to be in turn the “objects” of thought and observation…”

    No. It is Deliberate Action that makes us persons, and knowing your behavior the same way you know someone else’s behavior is enough. The achievements (differences made) from your behavior and theirs are in the world to be known. If you couldn’t see your own behavior, you couldn’t pick up a cup, take a drink, and spit it out because it’s nasty. Remember, persons’ behavior is a generative calculational system. The outputs are the inputs to the next behavior; no inputs, no outputs. No “consciousness” necessary.

    We do fine talking about behavior as a feedback loop, and I’m not sure that loop is “recursive”. That’s not how generative calculational systems are usually discussed. Feedback loops seem to be central to organisms (even an amoeba will move away from something “bad”). I don’t think any of us would try to make the case that an amoeba is recursive; but the amoeba does move away. Maybe recursiveness isn’t all its cracked up to be.

    As for embodiment, it provides; makes possible; bestows capacities; gives whatever it takes to participate, such as a feedback loop. If you are saying there is “consciousness”, and if you are saying it’s a function of the brain (rather than something we DO with our brains), those are claims. The burden of proof is on you. Even if you say it is something we do with our brains, the burden of proof is still on you. We’ve had a pretty good run doing psychology without “consciousness”, so I’ll keep being conservative, parsimonious, Occam’s Razorly, etc.

    “Would we want to say that that that “ability” is a conceptual component of what we mean when we say that a Person with a World, including language, is conscious?”

    We don’t say “a Person with a World, including language, is conscious”, so I’m not sure what the question is.

  • #4778


    Now we’re having some fun.

    Two thoughts:

    1) Psychology as a subject matter has not done well negating consciousness. A very brief history: The early and radical behaviorists wanted a strictly positivistic approach based on manipulating and measuring Performance as the only relevant parameter for establishing a “scientific psychology”. They were reacting to the psychodynamic and existential understanding of the behavior of persons as involving intentional actions predicated on the state of a person’s consciousness of themselves, their actions, and their world. Those radical behaviorists have now morphed into cognitive behaviorists.

    2) Descriptive Psychology’s Person Concept has, as paradigmatic, a person’s Deliberate and Cognizant Action. No one is happy with the word construction: “Consciousness Action”. Here’s my question. Can Cognizant Action be understood as an act without conscious awareness of the distinctions a person is acting on? If you want to drop the word “conscious”, fine, but then you’ll likely fall back on “awareness” and “altered states of awareness”. I’m not sure what is gained by a resistance to consciousness as a useful concept. But maybe I’m just not woke.

  • #4784

    Charles Kantor

    Does it make sense to get back to a discussion of variations in awareness or levels of awareness, or awareness of, consciousness of, consciousness as, and so on? And in the context of variations of consciousness which Joe’s parameters seem to give us a handle on, can’t we then ask the question “how does our human embodiment provide for or help make possible” such parameters and variations in the parameters?” That does not negate my understanding the variations in my awareness without understanding brain physiology but it does add to our understanding or persons. If that is a useless activity then we might as well jettison embodiment as a parameter of the Person Concept. But of course that would be contradicted by all we know an observe about deficits in embodiment that become constraints on behavior potential via developmental delay, injury, illness, and so on.

  • #4786


    Re Joe’s 3/8/ comments:

    What’s the downside of the locution “dissociated state” as special state of consciousness? My dissertation work and some studies I did afterward identified trance phenomena as states of diminished Final-Order Appraisals (FOAs), where, characteristically, people did not identify anomalies as anomalies –– a state of affairs that corresponded to a disrupted episodic memory. People could recall content, all of which was treated as matter-of-fact, but demonstrated deficits in the accurate recall of the sequence of the actions they reported, along with a very poor estimation of the duration things took. We concluded that sequence and duration are fundamental aspect of reality testing, i.e., the ability or disposition to make a FOA. (Content, Sequence, and Duration as ordinary parameters of a behavioral episode.)

    I’m still not clear about the problem of employing “consciousness”. I realize we have other locutions that have no, subtle, or significantly different conceptual commitments, but I am not at all clear if something fundamental to the Person Concept is violated by employing consciousness as an ordinary meaning of how we understand Cognizant Action. Is “Cognizance” any different?

    By the way, I’m troubled by saying thoughts are behaviors devoid of “Performance”. But perhaps I misunderstand. I perform my thoughts all sorts of ways including whether I reveal them to you or not.

    • #4803

      Joe Jeffrey

      Replies to a couple of comments by Wynn:

      1) In regard to your earlier post about non-paradigm states of consciousness: entirely agree.

      2) I didn’t mean to suggest there’s a problem, exactly, with talking about consciousness when talking about dissociated states. Only that I’m not sure I see the value of it. What is added by saying, “He’s in a dssociated state of consciousness” instead of “He’s in a dissociated state?”

      3) The formulation of thoughts as behaviors without any performance is straight from Pete, and seems on target. His paradigm case: doing mental arithmetic. But when you say you are performing your thoughts, you’re torturing the language. We routinely have thoughts that we may also act on — such as, per your example, revealing them. Acting on them is a second behavior.

      One last comment, another response to “Keymaster”: i didn’t call consciousness a state, and it’s not. The term “consciousness” is an infelicitous grammatical form that is talking as though consciousness were some sort of object. Remember Wittgenstein’s comment about the bewitchment of language? This is one. The word “consciousness” is a way of talking about a range of states of affairs, one paradigm case of which is, “He is conscious.” The notion of state is useful the same way it’s useful in other cases: a systematic alteration of one’s consciousness, i.e., of the states of affairs one can be conscious of and/or what one is conscious as. Simple everyday example: it’s routine for one’s consciousness to be different at work than at home. (And in fact if it doesn’t, that’s pathology – the demon businessman.)

  • #4915

    C.J. Stone

    I’d like to suggest two things.

    1. That we recognize “consciousness” as a critique. There’s something about a behavior or a set of behaviors that lets one of us decide “P is conscious”. What is that something? What is that phenomenon? What other critiques are available for that phenomenon?
    2. We didn’t want to reify Wynn’s “through-line” concept, so we came up with the “through-line description”; and it centered on a significance component common to a series of behaviors. Now let’s come up with a “consciousness description” of similar provenance. What should it center on? If it’s an ability, then this discussion should be about competence with something. If it’s a trait, then it’s about bringing one behavior to many circumstances (and see #1 about how that behavior might be sorted out from all other behaviors).

    I’ll end with this quote from Positive Health and Transcendental Theories:

    Terry: It’s sort of a methodological reformulation of the noumenon—
    Peter: No, it isn’t. It’s again just somebody’s way of talking. It’s not our way of talking. And since it’s not ours, remember that here, we’re presupposing us, not them. That’s why I keep insisting on talking our ways and not their ways.

  • #4801

    Joe Jeffrey

    In response to “Keymaster” (?): A corrction: I did not say awareness has nothing to to with consciousness. Quite the contrary: awareness is central to the concept — what you can be aware of, what you are aware as. My earlier post says that cognizant action is entirely distinct from consciousnes: knowing what you are doing is not really related to consciousness, except that ordinarily what you are doing is something you can be conscious of.

  • #4802

    Joe Jeffrey

    In response to “Keymaster” (?): A corrction: I did not say awareness has nothing to to with consciousness. Quite the contrary: awareness is central to the concept — what you can be aware of, what you are aware as. My earlier post says that cognizant action is entirely distinct from consciousnes: knowing what you are doing is not really related to consciousness, except that ordinarily what you are doing is something you can be conscious of.

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