Copyright © 2011

Here is a synopsis of the next three chapters in my upcoming book, KNOW THYSELF: Adventures in Getting to Know My Own Mind. –Steve Perrin

Chapter 7, Loop of Engagement. I reach out to the fabulous world (which I know primarily through stories I have heard or tell myself) by making gestures meant to produce a desired result, and the world in turn responds by reaching in to me through my senses, both my actions and perceptions contributing to the vital exchange I known as personal experience. This ongoing loop of engagement binds me to my surroundings on levels depending on my reflexes, assumptions, habits, or full-fledged conscious awareness. The deeper into consciousness I plunge, the greater the effort I must expend to conduct my mind’s business. I propose that the end of consciousness is action in the world appropriate to the situation I am involved in at the time as best I can construe it. Being connected to the fabulous world through engagement in an ongoing loop between my active and receptive acts from birth unto death, I learn the results of my efforts soon enough, hopefully in time to ensure my efforts are appropriate to my current situation.

Chapter 8, Situations. Situations are the arenas or playing fields of consciousness. I can’t be aware of everything happening within or around me (much less in the fabulous world), so I deal with those aspects I judge to be germane to a particular matter I am involved with. As a result, my consciousness is situational by nature because my mind takes an active role in structuring what it judges to be of concern in order to propose an appropriate response. The greater the detail considered, the greater the effort I must devote to making such a response. If a tiger emerges from the undergrowth ahead of me, there isn’t much time for debating what to do. In such an emergency, survival requires maximum action, minimal thought. In routine situations, I park my mind in habitual mode, and do again what I have done countless times before (sharpen pencils, play solitaire, slice a banana, make the bed). Judgment whether I am in a novel or familiar situation is paramount when survival is the issue.

Chapter 9, Speech. Speech requires fine muscular control of jaw, tongue, lips, and breath, not gross control of torso, arms, or legs. It is a highly efficient means of consulting others without committing bodily resources prematurely. Speech allows a trial-and-error response before we commit ourselves to bold action. It is no accident that most education is conducted in the idiom of speech. Testing: one, two, three, four. But when decisive action is called for, essays or bold promises are apt to be wholly deficient. In daily life, written speech aids such as calendars, schedules, agendas, and to-do lists are often useful for organizing and planning future activities when we have the luxury of time before having to commit ourselves to a plan of action. Where do words come from? I feel them emerge from kernels of awareness deep inside my ongoing engagement with a particular situation, and specifically, from the feelings or tensions which govern my attention and loop of engagement.

Next post: synopses of chapters 10, Values; 11, Goals; 12, Projects.

 

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Copyright © 2011

Synopsis of Chapters 4-6 in my upcoming book, KNOW THYSELF: Adventures in Getting to Know My Own Mind.

Chapter 4, Understanding. When the various sensory elements of a given situation come together in my mind so that every phenomenon is coupled to a corresponding concept or interpretation in an aesthetic or coherent relationship, then my consciousness congratulates itself with a feeling of satisfaction that I have done my job and can claim to understand my experiential situation as I construe it in my mind. That situation as I understand it, then, is made up of an array of multiple concepts and multiple phenomena in coherent relationship at various levels of discernment as a basis for undertaking projects through action in the world. Understanding has different structural dimensions according to the phenomena, interpretations, feelings, emotions, levels of discernment, and organizing schemes which it encompasses.

Chapter 5, Being and Meaning. It is no accident that much of philosophy is given to considerations of ontology (study of that which exists or has being), epistemology (that which is known or has meaning), ethics (distinguishing right from wrong behavior), and aesthetics (distinguishing harmony from discord). These are intuitive aspects of everyday awareness, no matter how highly schooled a person may be, because their interplay largely determines the feel of mental events from a personal point of view. Sensory patterns in my mind provide evidence of existence. Abstract concepts are the currency of my knowing. The ethical feel (or valence) of a judgment tells me its merit in relation to my personal survival. And beauty is my mind’s gauge of coherence, unity, or perfection. I offer the example of a young girl learning the spelling word for tomorrow as an example of what happens when meaning and being become disconnected, causing some confusion until they are reunited.

Chapter 6, Feeling and Emotion. I use feeling to refer to the positive or negative attitude (or valence) that colors a great deal of awareness either good or bad from my given perspective, and emotion to refer to the effect specialized neurotransmitters and hormones have in interacting with my personal conscious-ness. To me, feelings accentuate the difference between go and no go, good and bad, right and wrong, do it and don’t even think of doing it. Visceral emotions such as fear anger, awe, yearning, joy, or attachment reveal the influence of hormones on mental activities during highly charged situations I am personally invested in.

In my next post, I give a synopsis of the next three chapters: 7, Loop of Engagement; 8, Situations; 9, Speech.

 

Copyright © 2011

This post summarizes the first three chapters in my soon-to-be-published book, KNOW THYSELF: Adventures in Getting to Know My Own Mind.

Chapter 1, A MIND AT WORK. I give eighteen examples of everyday incidents in which I either do not notice, or misinterpret, a variety of sensory phenomena, with the result that I form an inaccurate impression of my situation, and am on the verge of making an inappropriate response. The incidents include mistaking a wind-driven trash bag on the edge of the road for a dying crow, a cedar tree on an icy day as a man scraping house paint, a buried turtle shell for a human skull, and not seeing a bouquet of sunflowers or a mustard jar directly in front of my eyes. The rest of the book flows from my trying to understand how I could make such mistakes, leading to a gradual understanding of the dynamic process by which I engage my surroundings. Leading to a clearer grasp of the stages by which I reach out to my world through personal actions or gestures, and ambient energy in those surroundings impinges on my senses, where it is converted (transduced) into neural language, to subsequently pose the sensory aspects of my mental awareness.

Chapter 2, Sensory Phenomena. Paying attention is how I reach toward the mysterious world in order to form a clear sensory image from the flow of raw energy around me. Attention is something I give, the price I pay to bring a phenomenon into focal awareness. It is my way of editing the ambient energy flow, often doing violence to my surroundings by distorting or even suppressing a large portion of what is there to be seen in order to entertain (see, hear, touch, etc.) some small detail clearly and distinctly. Too, sensory phenomena are summoned by expectancy, so when they arrive, they are shaped by concepts derived from similar encounters in the past. When I go to a place I am unfamiliar with—into nature, say, or a foreign culture—I can easily be overwhelmed by perceptual patterns that are new to me, so I may feel out of place, anxious, or unsure of myself. Conversely, by savoring the internal sensory qualities and relationships in such patterns, I become intimately acquainted with the structure of phenomena in themselves, so raise my eyes (ears, palate, etc.) to appreciation of sensory phenomena, opening myself to enjoyment of clouds, birds, butterflies, as well as art, music, dance, architecture, poetry, clothing, in addition to patterns I can ascribe to the everyday world.

Chapter 3, Interpretation. Phenomena don’t generally come to us bearing self-identifying labels, so categorization is how we supply identity to phenomena in awareness in order to know what they are and how we might deal with them. Perceptual categorization—the recognition or identification of perceptual patterns as something we know about or have encountered before—is the fundamental process by which consciousness meaningfully interprets sensory phenomena in our understanding. I usually categorize so automatically that I’m not even aware I am doing anything remarkable. Categorization not only ties present sensory phenomena to similar patterns in the past, but also brings two aspects of consciousness—concrete sensory perception and abstract conceptual recall—together as one, bestowing meaning on the pattern as if it inhered in the pattern itself and were not overlaid upon it according to personal preferences. We do this in only a few milliseconds as a matter of course. With the result that we have an immediate sense of what (or who) a person, place, or thing is, and what its relevance to our current situation might be. It seldom occurs to me that my first interpretation might be wrong or inappropriate because my mind makes it seem that the categories I propose capture the essence of things as they are, no mean feat under the best of conditions. The issue in this chapter is how concepts in memory and sensory phenomena reciprocally reach out and attach to one another.

Next three chapters coming up: Understanding, Being and Meaning, Feeling and Emotion.

(Copyright © 2011)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

INTROSPECTION:

ADVENTURES IN

GETTING TO KNOW

MY OWN MIND

The blog was basically a scratch pad for generating ideas about consciousness to compile into a book. The book is nearly done, under the working title above. I’m in the final stages, getting ready to do an index. Here’s a visual summary of the contents in schematic form. Think of it as a picture of my mind. To understand the diagram, all you need to do is read the book. It’s that simple. All I’ve go to do is finish it, which will take me another month or so. In future posts, I’ll provide a rundown of the contents.  –Steve Perrin

Introspection Diagram_1-21-2011_sharpened