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[Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance

I'll try to explain it my way, why "consciousness is a material process" despite the fact that "matter is what exists outside of and independently of consciousness" as you say, Martin.

In https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm#A Marx said "My relation to my environment is my consciousness" although he crossed it out in the manuscript. But why did he suddenly introduce the first person pronoun here?

Everything I know of the world, in any sense of the word "know," I know through my consciousness, but my consciousness is an illusion, a phantom, and fundamentally different from that which is outside my consciousness and reflected in it. Nonetheless it is what I use to determine my actions in the world. I do not act exclusively through conditional reflexes like a simple organism as an immediate material process, but on the contrary, mediate my relation to my environment through my consciousness, which I learn, is not 100% reliable, because it is just an illusion, but is reliable enough and in any case is more effective thanks to socially constructed mediation, than nervous reflexes.

But *your* consciousness is also outside my consciousness, and therefore I must regard it as material, and if I am to get to know it, I rely on the fact that it is a material process, arising from your behaviour and your physiology, and although *like anything* I cannot have unmediated access to it, I can learn about it only through material interactions, the same way in that sense that I learnt your name and age.

But you are of course in the same position. A world of phantoms and illusions is all you have to guide your activity in the material world, too. Vygotsky says that the confusion arises "When one mixes up the epistemological problem with the ontological one". That is the relation between consciousness (an illusion) and matter (interconnected with all other processes in the universe) is actually an epistemological one, that is, of the sources and validity of knowledge, and not an ontological one, that is a claim that consciousness is something existing side by side so to speak with matter. So it is important that while I recognise that for any person the distinction for them between consciousness and matter is absolutely fundamental, I must regard their consciousness as a material process, explainable from their physiology and behaviour. This is not a trivial point. Consciousness is not neuronal activity. Neuronal activity is the material basis, alongside behaviour, of consciousness, but the world is not reflected for me in neuronal activity, which I know about only thanks to watching science programs on TV. Consciousness is given to me immediately, however, and I am not aware of any neuronal activity there.

So yes, what you said was right, "consciousness is a material process," but I think it unhelpful to leave it as a paradox like that. And I admit it is unhelpful to be rude. Perhaps we both ought to exercise more restraint?


*Andy Blunden*

Martin John Packer wrote:
Don't get your point, Huw. A rectangle is generally defined as having unequal sides, in contrast to a square, so that's not helping me. Obviously (I would think) I am not saying that consciousness is the entirely of matter.
Perhaps you can help me in my struggle...



I don't see that being rude advances the conversation.  When I assert a
position here in this discussion I try to base it on an argument, and/or in
sources that we all have access to. I'm certainly not trying to cloud any
issues, and I don't think that arguing from authority (one's own assumed)
dispels the clouds.  I guess I simply don't have access to "a whole
tradition of science."  :(

To respond to your other message, yes, I am arguing that consciousness
(and thinking) are material processes. They are consequences of (certain
kinds of) matter in (certain kinds of) motion.

Against whom am I arguing? I am arguing against all those psychologists
who argue that consciousness (and thinking) are mental processes -
processes which they believe take place in some mysterious realm called
"the mind" that is populated by "mental representations" of the "world
outside." I deal with people who make this argument on a daily basis. They
believe that the proper object of investigation for psychology is "mind,"
and so they have no interest in setting, or culture, or practical

Yes, Haydi's message is the portion of Crisis that I pointed to in my last