Δευτέρα, 10 Οκτωβρίου 2011


* Από το βιβλίο Psychology του William James.
How could anyone more forcefully express his conviction that consciousness is at all times primarily a selecting agency?


·         a human being will do something and talk about it; his speech is a reaction to his own earlier behaviour, and one usually accepts what he says as evidence that he was conscious of what he was doing.

·         another property that a conscious system should probably have is an ability to profit from experience, to learn and to remember.

·         We could continue in this way to accumulate recognizable properties to use in testing for the presence of consciousness

According to the objective evidence everyone is a dreamer but not everyone can recall his dreams.

(William James)

Looking back, then, over this review, we see that the mind is at every stage a theatre of simultaneous possibilities. CONSCIOUSNESS consists in the comparison of these with each other, the selection of some, and the suppression of the rest by the reinforcing and inhibiting agency of attention. The highest and most elaborated mental products are filtered from the data chosen by the faculty (isxys) next beneath, out of the mass offered by the faculty below that, which mass in turn was sifted (ksexorizw) from a still larger amount of yet simpler material, and so on.

The mind in short works on the data it receives very much as a sculptor works on his block of stone. In a sense the statue stood there from eternity. But there were a thousand different ones beside it, and the sculptor alone is to thank for having extricated this one from the rest. Just so the world of each of us, howsoever (oposdipote) different our several views of it may be, all lay embedded in the primordial (arxegono) chaos of sensations, which gave the mere (agno apoluto olokliro) matter (periexomeno) to the thought of all of us indifferently.

We may, if we like, by our reasonings unwind (ksetyligo) things back to that black and jointless continuity of space moving clouds  of swarming atoms which science calls the only real world. But all the while the world we feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors by simply rejecting certain portions of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone! Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpressive chaos! My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them. How different must be the worlds in the consciousness of ant, cuttle-fish or crab.    

Suppresion is accomplished more subtly, as a necessary consequence of the fact that attention is limited and selective. When repressive demons seem to be at work, we have passed beyond the normal processes of preconscious thought into the darker regions of the unconscious mind. Processes of preconscious organization and selection are critically important in creative – thinking. Somehow, by free association or by the confluence of many simultaneous streams of thought, preconscious p enable us to leap to intuitive conclusions that we are able to verify or disprove consciously only after slow, tedious argument and deduction.

What determines how the preconscious will work, what contents and patterns it will present to consciousness, how much freedom or constraint it will enjoy? Rigorous answers cannot be given. One supposes that what we pay attention to – the middle-sized things that populate the centre of our minds – are in large measure determined by the way we are built, both genetically and habitually. We pay attention to sudden noises or unexpected flashes of light because we are born with reflex reactions to such stimuli; we group the sounds of speech in certain ways because we have learned to speak and understand the language we represent. But over and beyond those relatively stable patterns of selection and organization there still remains, even in the sophisticated adult, an area of freedom where personal needs, interests, motivations are allowed to act.

An advertising man, after spending more than a million pounds of his client’s money to find out what makes people notice something, concluded that we allocate our attention to different categories of information according to how important we judge them to be. There is a limit to what we are willing to notice and remember about tyres, tobacco or toothpaste; … an effective advertisement may increase and advertiser’s share of the box, but it will not increase the size of the box itself. The size of each box is a basic parameter of the preconscious system, one not likely to be much affected by bright colours and catchy tunes.

It is probably worth making a distinction between preconscious contents – symbols and feelings that could be conscious but momentarily are not – and preconscious processes – operations and transformations that seem to be necessarily unconscious. Thinking is a good example of a preconscious process. The fact that the process of thinking has no possible access into consciousness may seem surprising at first, but it can be verified quite simply. At this moment, as you are now reading, try to think of your mother’s maiden name. … c gives no clue as to where the answer comes from; the processes that produce it are unconscious. It is result of thinking, not the process of thinking, that appears spontaneously in c.

The fact that the perceptual object was so immediately present in c implies that the many operations you had to perform upon the visual information were all unc. H noticed this more than a century ago when he spoke of the unc inferences or unc conclusions that are always involved in perception. Of course, the average person ordinarily remains ignorant of all the work he does when he recognizes a chair. In order to convince him, we must ask him to describe a machine… then he begins to appreciate what a complicated process must be operating.

What is true of thinking and of perceiving is true in general. We can state it as a general rule: No activity of mind is ever conscious. In particular the mental activities involved our desires and emotions are never conscious. Only the end products of these motivational processes ever become known to us directly. The impulses behind our actions can only be inferred from their conscious and behavioural consequences.


·         Simplifies the movement required to achieve a given result, makes them more accurate and diminishes fatigue.

·         Habit is the enormous flywheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.

·         In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.

·         The great thing, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can.

·         In the acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible. Never suffer an exception to occur until the new habit is securely rooted in your life.

·         Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain.

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