Re: The Game of Life

From: Marchal <>
Date: Thu Dec 23 04:13:54 1999

Hal Finney wrote:

>George Levy writes:
>> I think that consciousness requires:
>> 1) A model of the self (This condition opens the pandora's box of
>> recursion and self-referentiality)
>> 2) A Turing Machine or the equivalent, which would attempt to simulate
>> the self using the available model.
>> These two conditions lead to an explanation of free will and the feeling of
>> the "I", "Le Moi" in French. (The English expression "to be reflexive", to
>> think, is a clue that we are looking at the mental model of our selves in
>> certain thinking situations.)
>I think this is too strong a definition for consciousness, in that
>it focuses on just one form of consciousness but does not get at the
>essential mystery of the phenomenon.
>It describes what George calls "reflexive consciousness", or awareness of
>the self as an actor. It is intimately tied in with the concept of free
>will, which again is fundamentally based on actions taken.

I am willing to agree until here.
>But consciousness need not be active. It can be passive, and it can be
>composed of awareness of the outside world, not necessarily awareness
>of the self.

How could we be aware of the outside world, or even of *an* outside
To point toward the "outside" (a very instinctive pulsion) is still
an indirect way to refer to the self inside. But because we are
doing this automatically we are almost unaware that we are "dreaming"
or just "infering", "imagining" and still just hoping or betting
we are correct relatively to a "putative" "intellectual,
outside world.

I mean the outside world you touch hear or see is still the border of
Even if most of our inference beyond that border are correct.

Like you I would distinguish self consciousness and passive
But (and this is a kind of return to George Levy) I take passive
consciousness as consciousness of the border of the self. The busy
planning self-consciousness is much more at the center of the self, or

>People sometimes experience such conscious states. While meditating,
>or sometimes while viewing something of great beauty, or maybe simply
>watching a movie, television, or reading a book, we are drawn into a
>passive and observing state. We do not make decisions, we do not think
>about ourselves. We simply and calmly observe what is before us.

>Imagine sitting and watching a beautiful sunset. There is no particular
>awareness of the self, no free will in this state. One is entranced by
>the sight, the slow changes in the magnificent colors. This takes up all
>of the conscious awareness.

This happens in dream. Have you notice? I would even say that in most
dreams (with the exception of lucide or hyper-realiste dream) we are
in general less aware of the center-self and more involved in the direct
happenings, which in a dream is clearly not "outside". Some dreams can
make you totaly passive too. As you say, music
can do that too. As can a good novel or a good movie.

>Surely we will agree that this is a fully conscious state. But there
>is no need for a self model or an internal TM to run that model.

There is no need for a self model but there is a need for a model, which
one is a (deep) inferential construct of the self from its looking at
his border and infering beyond.
Like in the dreams, there is no need for awakening the self centered hero.

Even when you are completely active in something that can happens.

If by meditation or by dance you are able to "pacify" completely
the self, the distinction between inside and outside will dissolve
too, it seems to me.

>Of course, with people such states are only temporary, and it could
>perhaps be argued that consciousness *inherently* requires the ability to
>move beyond this state and be in our normal, busy, self-thinking, planning
>state. While this may be biologically true for us (at least for most
>people), it does not seem inherently true to me, not true enough to let
>us begin a philosophical exporation of consciousness with the assumption
>that it requires this "busy" self-reflexive state that George describes.

I attribute consciousness to the animals, and that is why I agree with
the importance of your distinction. (Animals does not seem to have the
reflexive thought).
But the animal will not insist on the distinction inside/outside.
(Though it can be very self-centered; like a dog jealous of a baby.)
Even the animal makes unconscious, automatic, inferences of his
self-concistency but the animal is quite unaware of that inference
and its relation with itself.
Consciousness is always self-consciousness but can be center or border
focusing. I think.
>From the little mammifere to the primate there is a change of focus
going from the border to the center.

It is not solipsism because I have never say that the inference are
necessarily wrong or illusory. I have no doubt there is some sort of
"outside realm" whatever it is.

Received on Thu Dec 23 1999 - 04:13:54 PST

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