a theory of the evolutionary origin of the sense of a “non-physical self”
Posted: 05 May 2011 01:12 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I suspect we gained the ability to think about the minds of others before we ever applied that ability to becoming conscious of our own minds.

First, some animals gained the [unconscious] ability to think about the motives of others.

At some point, they gained a sort of proto-consciousness of others’ minds by hallucinating that the others had supernatural selves, which would appear to speak or demonstrate what the hallucinator “thought” was going on in the minds of the others.  This enabled communication within the mind of a thinker, without the thinker knowing it was thinking, or yet having “first-person theory of mind.”

The next step was hallucination of one’s own supernatural self, which could then be seen as the agent of one’s thoughts.  This sense of agency created the first psychological sense of “will”, and of “free will”.

Interestingly, a very large share of the population (at least here, in montana) seem to have still only applied this sense of agency to a very small percentage of their thoughts.  The conscience is still seen as “other”, the unconscious is still seen as “other”, and, of course, intuitions or internal “nudges” which they regard as coming from God or from angels or demons are still seen as coming from “others.”

But this whole process of gaining any sense of agency over thoughts and imagination may have required an hallucinatory supernatural sense of self to first “spontaneously” emerge from the unconscious—sort of the “key hallucination” that made conscious imagination possible.

[ Edited: 05 May 2011 03:20 PM by isaac ]
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Posted: 05 May 2011 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have deleted substantially the same post from another thread in this folder. Please do not make multiple, substantially identical postings as it is against the rules. Thanks.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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sorry… i posted as a response, and then thought that since it opened up a whole new area, i ought to post it on its own. 

then i thought about replacing my text in the other one with a link, but thought it would be easier for people to read if i left it there.

(then i thought about deleting this one, since i liked the other one better.)

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Posted: 05 May 2011 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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please feel especially encouraged to post other perspectives on “theory of mind” and the evolution of consciousness—especially from empirical studies with children, various cultures, and various sub-cultures.

and, of course, your own opinions.

and GdB:  i see you’re interested in Metzinger, whom i’ve only seen a BookTV hour of.  I’m curious how you feel this relates to his theories, if at all…

(the hour i saw was on “Being no one”, which, like the denial of free will or of consciousness, seemed more like a failure to redefine what it is “be someone” than a successful conclusion—but i enjoyed the slew of examples he gave from psychology to give perspective on the self.)

[ Edited: 05 May 2011 03:31 PM by isaac ]
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Posted: 05 May 2011 11:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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isaac - 05 May 2011 03:04 PM

and GdB:  i see you’re interested in Metzinger, whom i’ve only seen a BookTV hour of.  I’m curious how you feel this relates to his theories, if at all…

It relates… but of course Metzinger has a more scientific outlook. He also speculates, of course, but it is clear when he does this and also that he hopes these speculations can be investigated by science.

I think your order of the evolutionary arising of consciousness is not quite correct, according to Metzinger, and to me. To have a ‘folk’ theory of other minds, an animal must be able to recognise agency in other animals, and consciously react on this. I think this is only given in mammals and birds, and maybe not even all of them. But I do think all have a kind of self consciousness, in the meaning that they have a self image of their body in their environment. The ability to think about wishes, believes and thoughts exist in humans only.

You find a lot of this stuff in Metzinger’s ‘Ego tunnel’. It is a do-read for everybody who is not content with narrow-minded neurologists or free-wheeling philosophers.

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“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

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