As you read this page
your eyes scan words and lines,
optical images move over your retina,
time-spaced blips move up your optical nerves
leading to a cascade of neural-molecular activity in your brain.
Or, so goes the story we believe.
Yet, you experience this page as unchanging;
and you assume that the objective page doesn’t change as you read.
Reading this page is an example of
The text on this page is an example of the result of
We hypothesize the text on this page as structure,
an exemplar of a sequence of identical
a snapshot of reality at a brief physical moment.
However, momentary states are never directly perceived,
in a moment; rather, in those instances
where all momentary states in a sequence are identical,
they are read, processed-over-time in
Meanwhile, the study of process
always results in creating structures
(data, records, reports);
for example, the text on this page,
a structure to be processed later.
Although processes are hypothesized to occur-over-time,
the study of a process begins
after it has been represented as structure;
all study of process results in STRUCTURING PROCESS.
This has sometimes been called the SPATIALIZATION of TIME.
STRUCTURE and PROCESS
are hypothetical constructs of mind.
Reality is better understood as
a dynamic complementarity between
The concepts of
structure and process
necessarily imply each other;
more primitive or more important.
Long, long ago, in freshman physics,
in lab, we observed & recorded
“time” & “place”
of an object descending under gravity.
We constructed a data-table of “time” and “place”.
We plotted the data points on a grid.
We drew a continuous curve connecting the data points.
We had created a structure (the graph)
representing our records of the falling object.
We then drew straight lines tangent to different places on the curve.
We measured/computed the slope of these tangent lines.
We plotted these computed slope values vs time.
We got a new curve, this time straight.
We measured/computed the slope of this straight line.
We had just measured the force of gravity.
WHAT I LEARNED, WAY BACK THEN, WAS THAT
WAS THE STUDY OF
PATTERNS IN DATA,
NOT THE STUDY OF OBSERVED PHENOMENA;
NOT THE STUDY OF “REALITY”.
After our initial observations, we could not repeat the run.
We could replicate it, but not repeat it.
But, with my data table and initial graph,
I could repeat my observations/measurement of the data.
In returning to my data,
I did enter the river-of-time,
functionally, at the same point.
Is the model of the brain
as a causal sequence of momentary states
adequate to represent the phenomenology
of the flow of
experiential moments and intuitive meaning
Sequences of Momentary States
Primary Metaphor: The Snapshot
The metaphor for a “momentary state” is the snapshot. A snapshot is data resulting from an interactive operation of an observing system on a to-be-observed system. In metaphor, the snapshot observation operation measures (captures, freezes) the observable variables of the system “during the moment” of interactive observation. In classical idealism, the act of taking snapshots doesn’t affect the system being observed, and all types of observation operations can be performed “simultaneously”. The scientific “state of the system” is represented by the values noted on the DATA RECORD. These values (from the data record) are then attributed – in metaphor – to be the values of “real” variables of the “objectively real” system “when” being observed – when the snapshot was taken.
Cameras have timers that date-time stamp each snapshot record. The discrete snapshots can then be observed in the order by which they were taken. This observation, that “takes-time”, can detect changes between patterns on adjacent snapshots. A “summary” of these data-observed differences represents the hypothesized “process” that was observed (and recorded) when taking the sequence of snapshots.
Our “to be observed” system is the brain. Our experience, to date, is with machines that we have created so that they might be observed according to our prescribed rules.
The “Momentary State” behind the Snapshot.
The result of observation is data (which, in turn, must be observed, resulting in further data – summary prose reports in ordinary language). In our metaphor, there was/is an objective reality which we observed. We believe that features observed in the snapshot represent features in the “thing observed”. We attribute “real” variables (properties, attributes) to the “objectively real thing”. The act of observation “detects the value of the variable” at “at the moment of observation” and “records it as data” for later observation and analysis (which can now be done by computer before perceived psychologically by humans — a new issue).
ALL scientific information arises by this process – according to the rules of human scientific establishments. Scientific methodology has no direct access to the “external” objective reality. The new ideas related to observer-observed interactivity and the indeterminacy of canonical variables that appear in so-called “quantum theories” greatly complexifies the issue; but doesn’t remove the deeper difficulties attended to in this discussion.
The Causal Sequence
Sequential snapshots have no cause-effect relation to each other. Causality is implied to the objective system that was observed. We are often sloppy and attribute cause-effect to the hypothetical momentary states of the objective system. Does the position of a pendulum bob at one moment in its swing “cause” it to be in a different position later in its swing? Can be apply the concept of “cause” to the internal workings of a system? Does the momentary state of the brain “at one moment” cause its momentary state in the “subsequent moment”? Do “action potentials” when reaching the synapse “cause” it to “fire”? Does the “firing of synapses” “cause” other events to occur later in the brain? Does a stimulus cause a response?
These issues are important when we ask, does a momentary brain state “cause” an experiential moment? And how? What does it “mean” to say that an experiential moment “IS” a special pattern of brain states. We already touch on a serious issue: that an experiential moment maps in physical time onto a complex sequence of brain states – NOT a single brain state. Experiential moments map on specific brain processes! But, to go further here, we need to jump to the perspective of experiential moments THAT ARE NOT GROUNDED ON THE CONCEPT OF MOMENTARY STATES. Only then will we be able to properly examine the adequacy of using models of momentary states of the brain for “explaining reports of experiential moments”. This evaluation would not be valid if our concepts of experiential moments is subtly dependent on our concepts of momentary states.
Stream of Consciousness
Just as we are constrained in physical realities to study DATA, and not externally objective systems, in phenomenology we are constrained to study DATA — the reports of experience, not the “experiences in themselves” – as an external-internal-objectivity.
This has its positive aspects – the data of both the physical and mental realities are THE SAME TYPE. We can apply the same operations and analytical tools to these data. The unity of mind and brain lies in the sameness of the data which we study.
So long as we erroneously believe that physics and neurophysiology study objective systems and that we can also study “the mind” as something “in here” we will remain confused. We can, and do, compose stories of physically external realities and stories of mental realities – but these stories have their own media – languaging. We have not solved the dilemma, but only moved it to a new arena, where we may have a better shot at it. What is languaging?
Julian Jaynes, in his “Origins of Consciousness and..” argues well that concepts of consciousness require language, so the emergence of languaging preceded the emergence of consciousness (as we humans wish to define it). I mention this, not to present Jaynes’ hypothesis as foundational, but just to indicate historical precedence for this line of debate.
So, what is the “operation” that results in a report of “experiential moments”, from which – by an observation and analysis of many such reports, we can come to an idea of some general characteristics of “experiential moments”? I am sure that you have noted the essential circularity and paradoxes of this process – as what I am thinking and writing involve the very processes and ideas we are trying to comprehend.
Experiential moments, mapped onto physical time, have finite durations, they “take time”. This is sometimes called “temporal integration”. The “specious present” and the “here and now” are not reported to have experiential boundaries. There are no reports of experienced edges between “past” and “present” or between “present” and “future” (just as there is no edge to our visual field).
We tend to report qualia or phenomenological features in terminology involving metaphors of external worlds. We can communicate about “figures of explicit consciousness” that we disembed from ground (field), but we can never say anything about context or ground (as ground or context) without first attending to it — making it figure (Kegan’s “objectifying”).
We can experience that we “know” without, in that experiential moment, being aware of that which we say we “know”.
Consensus on what we can physically point to (you and I are both reading letters and words on a page or screen) is carelessly extended to utterances that are abstract (can’t be pointed to), as what we mutually mean by “democracy”, “to know” or “the mind” or “love”.
We need to explicate more on what we tend to report about our experiential moments, and how they relate to each other. Then, we need to consider the primary issue of this discussion: is the model of causal sequences of momentary brain state adequate to serve as representation for flowing experiential moments? I suggest that the momentary state model will be inadequate — and that to modify it by permitting “brain interactivity across the life-span”, “feedpast bootstrapping”, “temporal texture'” (non-linear and “multi-dimensional” time) to be considered.
The brain structures/processes
we will eventually discover
that correlate with experiencing qualia
will most likely also be present in other mammals.
ARE ASPECTS OF
For human minds,
there is more:
The awareness of the experience
languaging associated with the experience.
It will also be necessary to discover
brain structures/processes that correlate
with these, more subtle, experiences:
awareness of qualia
languaging about qualia.
These are only the
primitive beginnings of human consciousness:
can intuitively know,
and know that they know,
even when they can’t identify
that which they know.
When I hear the word, democracy
I experience that I
“know what democracy means”;
I never experience democracy.
Even when I experience an action taken in the context of democracy,
such as voting;
and I “know” that democracy was involved,
I never actually experienced anything other than:
the experience of voting
the experience of “knowing” that democracy was involved.
Abstractions are known,
What might be the nature of
the brain structures/processes
that correlate with
[Inclusion in Verbal Categories is Inadequate.]
we will not find brain
for meaning & knowing,
in the sequence of momentary states
observed in persons at-the-time they experience
meaning & knowing.