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Re: [xmca] Consciousness "only a part of the material quality of the man-sign"
I've now had the time to read the last chapter of Donald's book, which
takes up the issue of Cs directly. The basic point of Donald's
analysis is that humans have evolved to use an ordered series of
"representational systems." The sequence is as follows: the episodic,
mimetic, mythic, and theoretic. I won't go into the details, but
crucially important, I think, is that these systems are material.
Mimetic representations, for example, are gestures, facial
expressions, and so on. At each stage of hominid evolution the brain
has changed to handle (recognize and produce) these different kinds of
representations. At times Donald writes of "representational systems"
in the brain, but I don't think he really means this. He argues
against representational models of brain function (as most
computational models are. He's not so dismissive of connectionist
models, but he is skeptical that they will get far in the near
future). His principal argument is that as the brain changed, hominids
were able to handle new kinds of *external* representation (and vice
I've read Piaget's "Play, Dreams, and Imitation" several times, but it
has never made sense to me. This is the book where Piaget tries to
explain how the infant's sensorimotor intelligence culminates in the
"semiotic capacity," and they make the great transition to mental
representation and internal, mental action. The preoperational child
has made the great leap to Kantianism: that have constructed the
Kantian categories of space, time, causality, and object, and now
their schemas are no longer merely practical but mental. I just can't
follow Piaget's argument. Perhaps the problem is mine, but I really
think that he can't get the rabbit out of the hat. Much of his
evidence shows that the child now recognizes and uses 'external'
representations: material representations such as pictures, models,
and so on. Piaget seems to equate this with the formation of
*internal* representations. Donald understand the difference.
I haven't even got to the point I started with, that Donald writes of
Cs as shifting, as our engagement moves among different systems of
representation - and the way a good movie, for example, works
simultaneously with each of the different kinds. Interesting analysis.
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