rene     Sat, Oct 23, 2010  Permanent link
Thanks, Spaceweaver, for this provocative post and the introduction to the work of Robert Seidel, who counts many of SpaceCollective’s friends among his contacts. One of them is Casey Reas, who in the past did a Project on this site, and just co-wrote an essential book on computational aesthetics with Chandler McWilliams, called Form + Code, which you might want to check out for further inspiration.

Spaceweaver     Sun, Oct 31, 2010  Permanent link
I got this comment on my FriedFeed from Gregory Lent:

to say consciousness is a product of natural selection is toooooo tooo too narrow of a view ... and if your goal is to create a new understanding of mind, just test out as a hypothesis that maybe consciousness is primary, that it exists prior to mind, is of n-dimensions ... you may find your work speeds up

Spaceweaver: Whether consciousness is universally primal,, or, an emergent phenomenon arising from the function of brains is of course an interesting metaphysical question which is hardly decidable at present especially because we do not have a clear definition of what consciousness is (obscurity is sometimes a merit). Moreover, since conscious experience stands at the basis of every knowledge that we can possibly have, it is really hard to properly formulate the problem. Once we try to make consciousness itself the object of observation we find ourselves in a recursive loop where the observer and observed are one and the same. Once in this loop, asking what comes first, the world of phenomena, or, consciousness (as a universalized observer) is a question that leads to infinite regress.

Even more strangely, it seems that both propositions are true and non contradictory. Here is why: from the standpoint of natural science, consciousness emerged from the brain in an evolutionary process. But once it emerged, it was already and always there; omnipresent! We can say that, because time itself is synthesized and conceived within consciousness and is inherent therefore in the shape of consciousness. Starting from the second standpoint that, metaphysically speaking, consciousness is primal, the reasoning can be rephrased as follows: the only reason why we can conceive of the idea of a primal consciousness at all is because consciousness has a localized expression (shape), or, a localized manner of knowing itself (here again the circular aspect becomes apparent). It is because the primal consciousness is immanent in all its particular expressions and not transcendent to them. Whichever is our initial assumption we can discover a deeper and irreducible picture of consciousness.

At any case, in writing this post, I preferred not to address this problem in developing the idea that consciousness, whether primal or emergent, has a shape. We can try to conceive of this shape indirectly and by that escape the circularity inherent in trying to observe consciousness directly. The shape of consciousness and the possibility of (re)shaping consciousness are both concepts that are consistent with either approach even without showing, as I tried here briefly, that the two approaches are only simplified facets of a more profound picture.