Consciousness and Cognizant Action Skype Discussion

Forums Member Forum Consciousness and Cognizant Action Skype Discussion

This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Erol Zeybekoglu 2 days, 8 hours 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.

  • #4321


    Erol, I think your sentence “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” is really critical. It raises the issue of the conceptual necessity of having a world.

    I suspect the group discussion (Boston people and others) so far has included several DP papers about Worlds, and some that directly discuss worlds and consciousness. I’m citing them here for anyone else who later joins the discussion (some of which have full text links that can be accessed through the “Sample Topics” sidebar):

    Jeffrey, H.J. (1998). Consciousness, experience, and a Person’s world. In H.J. Jeffrey and R.M. Bergner, (Eds.), Advances in Descriptive Psychology: Vol. 7, (pp. 67-106). Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

    Ossorio, P.G. (2006). Out of nowhere. In K. E. Davis, & R. M Bergner (Eds.), Advances in Descriptive Psychology: Vol. 8 (pp. 108-143>. Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

    Plotkin, W. (1981). Consciousness. In K. Davis (Ed.), Advances in Descriptive Psychology: Vol. 1 (pp. 211-237). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

    Roberts, M. (1985). Worlds and world reconstruction. In K. Davis and T. Mitchell (Eds.), Advances in Descriptive Psychology: Vol. 4 (pp. 17-52). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

    …and probably many others.

    There is also a very large cognitive neuroscience literature on consciousness. That literature typically addresses the question of “how” neurological embodiment “provides for” consciousness. Joe’s paper has some critical sections that actually “presage” this literature, e.g., in discussing some directions for a neuroscience agenda he wrote, “In a little more detail, what capabilities must a brain have in order for it to be the brain of an individual that has the capabilities with the real world concepts of object, process, event, and state of affairs that are codified in the State of Affairs Transition Rules? More informally, we are asking, “What has to go on in the brain for a person to have a world?””

    From a DP perspective it seems to me that there are some related interesting exercises: a) as Erol’s comment suggests, translating current findings from that literature into language that helps to place them into the broader conceptual framework of Persons, including having a world; and b) citing (or perhaps in some cases building on) the above papers to provide conceptual guidance about questions that cognitive neuroscientists can ask (e.g., like the embodied provision for having a world or for acting as a member of a set of social practices) that are clearly not new to DP, but may be new to them.

    In my reading of the neuroscience literature I have found many papers that address the provision for “conscious of,” but I haven’t been able to find any yet that explicitly address, as in the above cited papers, a provision for Persons having worlds – although there are papers that recognize, as Erol notes, that to see something as an orange requires some set of more general concepts that are “components of” and contribute to having a world (e.g., fruit, trees, warm weather, color orange, juicy, five dollars for two pounds, etc.), without which “an orange” wouldn’t make any sense.

    If people are interested, I can post citations for some of those papers, mostly reviews, that might add to the discussion.

  • #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?

  • #4353


    There are a couple of conceptual lines that have been raised so far that strike me as related and important, so here’s my two cents.

    Based on Joe’s work, as well as the broader DP framework (e.g., papers by Mary Roberts), and as noted by Erol, it does seem to me to make sense to say that to be conscious is to be a Person (and to be a Person having a World is to be conscious). I suppose a less emphatic way to say this might be that “consciousness requires being a Person with a World”, or something along those lines.

    This conceptual take on consciousness is hard to study from a cognitive neuroscience perspective but there are some interesting lines of research. For example, one line (that I’m picking because I just read a couple of papers in this area) suggests, almost in a Whorfian sense, that the neurological systems that support perception incorporate knowledge of SoA’s in one’s world at a very early stage of processing (e.g., relevant SoAs influence what people report having observed, at the time of observation, not as a later interpretation). Given methodological and conceptual constraints on what can be studied in a lab, these studies may seem reductionistic, or at best conceptually restricted from a DP perspective, but a generous reading seems to me to suggest that cognitive neuroscientists are trying to address issues like Persons and Worlds without yet having these formal concepts.

    My take on Wynn’s point is that there is also another important complimentary way of talking about consciousness that I think was captured in Plotkin’s paper (which seems not to get much attention). That is, the recursive nature of the IA formula, in particular, the recursiveness of the K parameter, and the association of that recursiveness with AOC and the significance parameter. It may be that the potentially endless recursive ability to treat observations and thoughts as the content of observations and thoughts, contributes to the compelling phenomenological “sense” of being conscious, including the ability to know what one was doing “by doing that”.

    However, as usual, my take on all of this is from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience. There are still philosophers, or philosophy of science types who claim that consciousness is an illusion (which is just as nonsensical as what Joe pointed out), but my take is that at this point in the cognitive neuroscience world there’s pretty much universal agreement that brain provides for consciousness, and that concerns about how the physical and “mental” worlds can interact, how “mind and body” can interact, are far less often, if ever, current preoccupations. For them, the issue isn’t whether consciousness is “real” but how is it that neurological embodiment provides for consciousness (which, I think, is still very far from being empirically clear). There are still debates about whether or not consciousness has evolutionary adaptive value, or even behavioral adaptive value (which also doesn’t make sense), but even those concerns may be fading.

    There are also neuroscientists and “neuro-philosophers” who are trying very hard to find ways to talk about Worlds as an important consideration (again, without yet having that explicit concept, or a formal conceptualization of related concepts like social practices, communities, cultures), like Dennett (Dennett, D. [2018]. Facing up to the hard question of consciousness. Phil.Trans. R. Soc. B, 373, 1-6) who in a recent paper appears to have moved in that direction:

    “The key to a unified account lies, I now think, in the recognition…that the open-endedness of the human brain’s representational power is, like the unlimited heredity… of evolution, both the problem and the solution to both mysteries. Free will, and consciousness, matter because we—and only we—must live in a world of our own creating that is orders of magnitude more complex and replete with opportunities (the degrees of freedom) than the life world of any other living thing, and, with the help of evolution, both genetic and cultural, we have designed a system of higher-level cooperation that opens up modes of negotiation and mutually enforceable constraints, the civilization that makes life so worth living {p. 6).”

  • #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).

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