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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 versa).

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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