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Re: [xmca] Consciousness

Another cent (it's in my pocket, I swear!) on Cs. I've been taking another look at the section in Crisis where LSV is getting to the pinnacle of his argument against mind/matter dualism in psychology. One of my frustrations with Lenin is the way he throws around the word "reflection." I've grumbled about this here before, and he does it a lot in the passage in MEC that Andy linked us to recently.


This passage is full of phrases such as the claim that matter is "copied, photographed and reflected by our sensations, while existing independently of them"; that we should consider "sensations as a true copy of this objective reality," and so on. (True copy? This is a judgment that requires adopting what Andy is calling a God's eye position, isn't it?)

LSV uses the term "reflection" at times as well (driving me to distraction). But towards the end of Crisis he writes a very interesting analysis of this metaphor, one that grants it both a positive and a negative side. I've copied the passage below (my PDF of Crisis doesn't have page numbers, but this section is not hard to find).

LSV's argument, on my reading, is that we can think of Cs as being like reflection in a mirror - but only if we think about this in the correct way. We should think of Cs as a real (material) process, analogous to the rays of light which bounce of the mirror. A real object is reflected in a mirror when light rays (also real) bounce off its surface. There appears to be an image 'in' the mirror, but this is merely an illusion. Science does not study appearances, it studies realities, though it can then use these to *explain* appearances. In the mirror-reflection metaphor for Cs, what is analogous to the image 'in' the mirror is "the subjective" - the (illusory) sense one has that consciousness is mine alone, subjective, personal, internal and mental. This subjectivity, LSV proposes, is merely an appearance. Cs, in contrast, is a real process that encounters real objects. Just as the light rays bounce of the mirror to create the illusion of a second table 'in the mirror', Cs engages objects and in doing so gives rise to the illusion of a subjective experience: that there is a second table 'in the mind.' If Cs 'reflects' real objects in the world, it is as a real process itself. In doing so, it produces a phantom, a 'subjective object' that seems to be in some 'inner' space.

Pittsburgh is in virtual lock-down today for the G-20 meetings, and Duquesne, located at the edge of downtown, has cancelled classes, sent the faculty home and for all I know locked the students in their dorm rooms. It seems an over reaction to me, but we shall see. Deprived of my classes I'm at home, catching up on reading, including Merlin Donald's 'Origins of the Modern Mind.' I just want to steal two phrases from this book, because I think they help in the context of this discussion. Donald writes of modern humans as having "a hybrid mind," that is part person, part social, part mechanical. And he writes of the "cognitive architecture" we have today, which "is a hybrid structure of great internal and external complexity." Andy has said that "What is given to you is consciousness." I think this is untrue in two respects. First, Cs is not *all* that each of us is given. We are also given a body, honed over eons of evolutions, and we are given a culture, honed over thousands of years. But, second, Cs is *not* given to each of, at least individually. Cs is hybrid, in Donald's phrase; it is, to use Marx's phrase, "the general or common imagination" of humans together in a form of life. Each of us has the *illusion* that Cs is something subjective and personal, 'inside' us in some way (though as soon as we start to think about this it becomes completely mysterious), but this is only how it *appears.* Cs is in reality a collective material, human, and mechanical, activity.


"Let us compare consciousness, as is often done, with a mirror image. Let the object A be reflected in the mirror as a. Naturally, it would be false to say that a in itself is as real as A. It is real *in another way*. A table and its reflection in the mirror are not equally real, but real in a different way. The reflection as reflection, as an image of the table, as a second table in the mirror is not real, it is a phantom. But the reflection of the table as the refraction of light beams on the mirror surface ? isn?t that a thing which is equally material and real as the table? Everything else would be a miracle. Then we might say: there exist things (a table) and their phantoms (the reflection). But only things exist ? (the table) and the reflection of light upon the surface. The phantoms are just *apparent* relations between the things. That is why no science of mirror phantoms is possible. But this does not mean that we will never be able to explain the reflection, the phantom. When we know the *thing* and the *laws of reflection of light*, we can always explain, predict, elicit, and change the
phantom. And this is what persons with mirrors do. They study not mirror
reflections but the movement of light beams, and explain the reflection. A science about mirror phantoms is impossible, but the theory of light and the
things which cast and reflect it fully explain these ?phantoms.?

It is the same in psychology: the subjective itself, as a phantom, must be
understood as a consequence, as a result, as a godsend of two objective
processes. Like the enigma of the mirror, the enigma of the mind is not solved by studying phantoms, but by studying the two series of objective processes from the cooperation of which the phantoms as apparent reflections of one
thing in the other arise. In itself the appearance does not exist."

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