Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Gist

Here are some key assertions (and negations) that form the basis for this blog experiment:

That consciousness is not an inherently mysterious phenomenon, not an aspect of some parallel or ideal or non-physical realm, not some inexplicable by-product of neuronal activity, not likely a bizarre effect of quantum mechanics, and not solely confined to homo sapiens. Instead, it is as physical a phenomenon as the replication of a DNA molecule, say, or the working of a diesel engine, and is a feature of virtually all mobile organisms more complex than planaria.

That linguistic consciousness is something significantly more complex than simple or general consciousness, and is likely something so far only found to have evolved in one species -- human beings. This special form of consciousness might also be called conceptual or, in a broad sense, symbolic consciousness, since those are structures that are simply aspects of language. One of the more important or central concepts or symbols that appear for such consciousness is that of the self, or the "I", this being an aspect of the capacity for self-consciousness, or internal reflection, that the advent of language allows.

That culture is not a decorative by-product of human activity, but rather is a structure within the consciousness of language-using individuals, and is the means by which their activity is organized into social formations of varying complexity. Culture, in other words, is functional, and as such is subject to the same sorts of selection pressures that govern biological or genetic evolution. Culture is manifested through a large number of created signs and artifacts, but it exists as a constantly adapting pattern within the consciousness of each individual within a cultural social formation. (Not all of this pattern -- perhaps not even most of it -- is available to the self-consciousness of such individuals however.)

Some of these propositions -- I hope -- are at least arguable, and making those arguments will be one purpose of the entries to come. Another purpose, however, will be to develop and extend the propositions in various directions, including pointing to others working along similar lines wherever I can.

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