Mind and Performance

By David Oyler

Summary of effort up to Chapter 8 from the beginning of Chapter 8:


In this concluding chapter we will summarize the development of our thinking up to this point and apply the model we have developed to human living suggesting implications for the human sciences’ understanding of consciousness. Our initial concern was to lay out the fundamental characteristics of a science of consciousness as a science. It is explanatory, empirically verifiable and factual in intent. As explanatory, science regards relationships. These explain what something is or why it is. Explanation provides the “what” of reference. It is distinct from description in that the terms are related to one another while in description they may not be. We made the further argument that description as a scientific category should be replaced with data. In general, data regard what is understood and provide verification. In dealing with verification we needed to address the issue of verifying unobservables. How do you verify what you do not experience? Put simply, I can verify that a horse exists if I can see it. However, I cannot see an electron. The best I can do is view images and mathematical data that are claimed to be related to electrons. The question is “are they?” To answer that question we need to understand the theory within which the data is meaningful. What is verified primarily is the theory or set of relationships. The verification is achieved when the data is understood to meet the conditions for knowing the existence of what is to be affirmed. The clearest example is the role of crucial experiments which either prove or disprove a theory. So detecting the curvature of light during a solar eclipse verified Einstein’s theory of relativity. The key here is understanding that for science to be empirical does not mean that everything known through science needs to be experienced, but that the verification is empirical. This provides an alternative to Kant’s claim that we cannot know the thing in itself because we cannot have an intelligible intuition of it. A thing in itself is particular, but our understanding is universal. For him, we only know the particular via experiential intuition. However, we can know the thing in itself as particular without having it given as particular via intuition. We can understand it as particular via understanding and verify it via data we understand to be related to it. So the verification is empirical. At no time in this example is the thing in itself given, but it can be known. The implications for a science of consciousness is that there are relations that can be understood via an understanding of consciousness as experienced and others that require understanding what is not given for consciousness, such as individual neuronal activity or the patterning of cilia in the ear during hearing. This opens the possibility of linking consciousness explanatorily to what is not conscious as its conditions, enablers or “parts”. By including what cannot be experienced within the knowable we also can situate experience within an explanatory model which transcends it. Contrary to some schools of thought, a science of consciousness as experienced is publicly verifiable. This does not mean that everyone has access to the experiences of another, for all experience is private. We know that we have experiences in common when we have a common understanding of them. It is the understanding that is public since it is acknowledgeable as common. Whether that experience is of ourselves or something else is of no consequence in this context. For example, two people can be next to one another and experience a loud noise. They can confirm mutually that each heard the noise and was afraid. Lastly, the science of consciousness is factual in intent. Most scientific “knowledge” is verified theory that likely will change as explanatory understanding develops. However, if it were true, it would be factual. That is, it is not true necessarily, but just happens to be so. This contingency of knowledge happens to match the contingency of the known. Things are not as they must be, but as they happen to be. The account we gave of judgment as an assent given when the conditions for knowledge are met where the conditions are recognition of verifying instances or data illustrates the contingency of knowing. This view is in contrast to Phenomenology which claims to be a descriptive science of consciousness. We illustrated how Phenomenology is implicitly explanatory and how Husserl’s eidetic intuition and necessary assent is in fact illustrative of the grasp of the virtually unconditioned in judgment. By understanding the notion of truth we saw how Phenomenology and existentialism both approach an idealism where “to be” means to be related to consciousness in some sense. Our claim is that “to be” “for us” is to be related to consciousness, but that to be ‘in itself’ is not. Thus, something that is can be for us as it is in itself. Likewise, self knowledge implies that we are for ourselves as we are in ourselves. Since we can be ignorant or mistaken, self knowledge implies a self transformation in its emergence. The explanatory stance implies that self-knowledge can be situated with a broader explanatory context that is understood as conditioning it. This self transformation is meaningful. The emergence of meaning via signs and the learning of language initially is pre-conceptual. Linking meaning with signs we were able to distinguish the intelligible from the meaningful with meaning being a subset of intelligibility. To understand the embodiment of meaning we introduced the operational situation and outlined the development of its spontaneity via the learning of skillful operations. This learning is both implicit and explicit. Since consciousness is emergent, situational and conditioned by what is not conscious we turned to understanding emergence, the non-systematic and situations. From this came the understanding of the organism as a non-systematic whole with a potency to change and develop. This understanding is in contrast to hierarchy theory, systems theory and structuralism. None of these fully incorporates the non-systematic. In contrast, we found the non-systematic to be essential to evolution, development and a flexible life cycle. In fact, the non-systematic, as potency, assumed a larger role as evolution proceeded. This was illustrated in the previous chapter in the discussion of neural architecture and consciousness. We found that consciousness, as an unmediated immediacy, provides potency for simultaneity, distinctions, etc for the conscious organism which in turn provides for the emergence of conscious self control via conscious operations. Conscious states can be modeled as an embodied operational situation. Extroverted consciousness is a prime example. Having reached this point it is now time to reincorporate meaning into the discussion and understand how the operational situation for humans differs fundamentally from that of other animals.

Chapter Name
One Explanation   PDF    Word
Two From Phenomenoogy to Explanation   PDF    Word
Three Intelligibility, Meaning and Language   PDF    Word
Four Spontaneity and the Embodiment of Meaning   PDF    Word
Five Emergence and Explanation   PDF    Word
Six The Organism and the Operational Situation   PDF    Word
Seven Embodiment of Consciousness   PDF    Word
Eight Performance and Social Intelligibility   PDF    Word