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There Is Only Consciousness In my previous article, "Magic Thinking," one supposed explanation for, "sudden insights," and other events in consciousness for which there is no explanation is attributed to something called the, "subconscious." It is very important to understand that there is nothing injecting thoughts into our minds, especially not some absurd idea of some consciousness we are not conscious of. The Subconscious, The Invention Of Bad Psychology The false concept of a subconscious (or unconscious) was originated by the psychology charlatan's, Anna and Sigmund Freud. It has plagued all thinking about the nature of the human mind since. The term, "subconscious," was invented by the Freuds as an explanation of, "repression," the idea that one can simply "hide" in some sub-basement of the mind, feelings and desires (or the cause of them) one does not like, and yet those hidden things still somehow affect one's feelings or thinking. The meaning of the term in psychology today has many different and conflicting variations, but retains the idea of something we are not conscious of that, somehow, affects our conscious experience. There is no subconscious. What we are conscious of, we are conscious of, and all that we can know, identify, think about, experience or have feelings about is what we are conscious of. Nothing "affects" our consciousness we are not conscious of. The only way anything can "affect" out consciousness is by our being consciously aware of it. There are many things we are not conscious of, both physical and psychological but so long as we are not conscious of them they have no relationship to consciousness at all. One example of the so-called "subconscious" is the pseudo-concept, "repressed memory." We can certainly have memories that we have difficulty recalling because we have intentionally ignored them for a long time, or had no interest in remembering them. A memory we cannot recall cannot have any effect on consciousness, and cannot affect our emotions or thinking because only things we are conscious of affect our emotions or can be thought about. If memory affects consciousness it is because one is conscious of that memory, otherwise it has no effect whatsoever. It may be in memory to be recalled, but if we do not recall it, we cannot be conscious of it, and it has no affect on our consciousness, our thoughts, or our feelings. Things Mistaken For The Subconscious There are four things which are mistaken for the subconscious: memory, emotions, desires, and learned patterns of behavior (habits), both physical and psychological. None of these are some kind of paraconsciousness lurking just under the surface of real consciousness just waiting to burst onto the scene or subtly influence our thinking and feelings without our being aware of them, like the man behind the curtain. They are mistakenly called subconscious because they are real aspects of the human organism, whether or not we are conscious of them, and, under the right circumstances, we can be and frequently are clearly conscious of them. Memory is all that we have stored and can recall to consciousness. Exactly how memory works is not known, but it is known it is a function of the brain under the control of consciousness, and we know we can recall almost anything we have remembered (learned), with varying degrees of difficulty, but what we remember (become conscious of from memory) is always related in some way with what we are currently conscious of. Memory does not spontaneously push "memories" into consciousness. The reason memory is mistakenly included in the pseudo-concept "subconscious" is because everything that can be recalled is in memory but we are not conscious of it until it is recalled and otherwise it has no effect on consciousness. What we are not conscious of has no effect on our thinking or feelings. If subconscious only means what we can be conscious of but are not presently conscious of, it must include the entire perceivable existence. It does not matter if they are things external, internal, or from memory, what we can be conscious of has no effect on consciousness unless and until we are actually conscious of them. The other aspect of human nature which are mistakenly included in the pseudo-concept "subconscious:" emotions, desires, and habituation, do not exist at all unless we are conscious of them. We already know that emotions are our consciousness of our physiological reactions to the content of consciousness. There is nothing mysterious or "subconscious" about them. Except for the most basic biological desires, all other human desires are developed and learned (See the article, "Desires.") and do not exist except as we are conscious of them. The reason habituated actions are included in the idea of the subconscious is because they sometimes seem to proceed without our being conscious of them, such, as when we are typing, or driving a car, or even reading. Nevertheless we are conscious of those actions, and when necessary can take immediate conscious control of any of those behaviors. The idea of the, "subconscious," is a very dangerous one that has enabled psychologists and sociologists to put over no end of deceptions. There is only consciousness and that which we can be conscious of. What we are conscious of is all that we can have any feelings about or can think about, and what we are not conscious of, if it exists, is only what we can "potentially" be conscious of. There is nothing else. There is no subconscious pushing (brain generated) thoughts and feelings into our consciousness.
I'll first provide a short post as context. Then I'll provide an elaboration of my reasoning. I started this discussion elsewhere, so there may be some strange references, but nothing significant. Context: My thesis for free will: Free will is deterministic. I acknowledge that free will is our ability of choice, but choices are caused by mental contents. Introspection reveals that we make choices on the basis of mental contents. Example: If I possess the mental contents that the Blackjack dealer has 21 and that my well-being is a value, it will cause me to decide to fold; another person who doesn't have either of these mental contents will not make the decision of folding. Determinism states that human actions are necessarily caused by prior events. Traditionally, these events are physical, but I contend that in human actions, they are mental. The kicker though is that we immediately begin stocking our minds with beliefs since birth, and as children, we are not in full control of ourselves—we are like lower animals until we more fully develop the faculty of reason. **So if choices are caused by antecedent mental contents, do we ever escape the path set by childhood?** Even my awareness that I have choice is caused by the mental content of a correct conception of choice, the mental contents that constitute the skill of introspection, etc. People who lack these mental contents would not arrive at the same awareness I have. Elaboration: I'm starting a thread because my there isn't enough space here. I'd like to focus now on the implications of free will being deterministic. And the more I think about it, the more confident I am that free will is deterministic: I cannot think of choosing (whether it's between options or whether to focus) that is not predicated on antecedent mental contents. Firstly, I think the term, "free will," has too much baggage; I prefer to just acknowledge that we have choice. However, choice is determined by mental contents. This doesn't mean that we cannot have control of our lives. I posit that self-control is not a binary case of whether one has it or not; rather, one possesses self-control in degrees. The degree of self-control is a function of how well a certain belief is integrated; that belief is that one *can* choose. Specifically, if someone believes he can choose, but only in certain circumstances, he only has self-control in those circumstances. For example, if one believes that he is a product of society or mob mentality, he will by default not choose to evaluate (more specifically, choose not focus on) majority beliefs. Because he is not consciously guarding his mind from the beliefs of others, this leaves him susceptible to absorbing them. This absorption is a metaphor for consciously accepting beliefs on the basis of appealing to the majority, not identifying fallacies, etc. or subconsciously integrating them because of the automatic association with mental contents. This susceptibility is a function of the rational integrity of his mental contents. However, this same person may still choose to examine an aspect of a majority belief if that aspect conflicts (conceptually or associatively) with a personal belief that falls within the range of circumstances in which he believes he can choose. This may start a chain of thinking that eventually leads to the thinking about the majority belief itself; in other words, thinking about a part may eventually lead to thinking about the whole. For example, if this same person is at a party and everyone agrees that marijuana improves thinking so now would be a good time to smoke, he will initially be inclined to agree because examining a majority vote never enters his radar of choice. But he has learned from experience that marijuana impairs highly abstract thinking for many hours, and examining whether he needs highly abstract thinking for the next eight hours immediately enters his radar of choice. Since he has a test to study for afterwards, he chooses to decline smoking. If his mind has already subsumed abstract thinking as a species of thinking, as opposed to abstract thinking and thinking as two distinct genera, he will realize the connection and start the ball rolling towards examining the majority belief that marijuana improves thinking. So the belief that one can choose is contextual. An example of an incorrect context is emotions; the correct context is the beliefs responsible for emotions. Whatever the context, the belief that one can choose causes one to focus on circumstances if they are relevant to the context.So choice (free will for those who are attached to the term) is contingent on how well this belief of choice is integrated. Prior to integrating this belief, one is void of choice. Now, something else I've been chewing is whether our conceptual ability necessitates the belief that we have choice. After all, to conceptualize is to choose what symbol to represent the concept, and what characteristics are essential. Can one conceptualize without being aware of his choosing? Does being aware of his choosing necessarily mean he is aware he can choose at least in certain contexts? If so, how does he learn under what contexts he can choose? I would say the answer to the first two questions is "yes" and "no" respectively. My answer to the third is that the very first beliefs are introduced by the environment and that one's innate predisposition, if such things exist, dictate what formative beliefs are absorbed; if predispositions do not exist, then the formative beliefs are directly absorbed from the environment until one has enough beliefs to serve as a "postdisposition." This is also why philosophy is so powerful—it serves as a postdispositional, self-reinforcing view of the world—and why it is so difficult to get others to see the errors in their own philosophies. If choice is determined by mental contents, it will mean that there ought to be a resolved focus to persuade individuals and society by correcting their mental contents—their beliefs.
Steve Omohundro, my former master's thesis advisor, discusses the future of technology. I love his optimism and enthusiasm and he always seems to have his finger on the pulse of new technology. The discussion does raise a lot of interesting questions about where the technology is going and where we want it to go. I don't necessarily agree with all of his political views --- he tends to be a bit left of center --- but the talk is interesting nonetheless. It also touches on other topics that have been discussed recently such as the nature of consciousness. Darrell