regi

No Subconscious

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There Is Only Consciousness
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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.

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You do realize that Rand, Peikoff, Nathaniel Branden, and Barbara Branden rejected all non-objective forms of the subconscious, but they acknowledged there was a subconscious, right?  (One of them was a psychologist, btw.)

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18 hours ago, KorbenDallas said:

You do realize that Rand, Peikoff, Nathaniel Branden, and Barbara Branden rejected all non-objective forms of the subconscious, but they acknowledged there was a subconscious, right?  (One of them was a psychologist, btw.)

They were wrong.

Randy

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Randy, "a very dangerous one" - I wholeheartedly agree with - when a mind allows itself to be split into contrived divisions by philosophers, the religious or quack sociologists. But I think there have to be and are - 'a million' - sensory experiences dating from infancy (sound, sight, tactile) which were never and don't need to be recovered, integrated and evaluated -- within and deep in one's consciousness. Even now, I'm always aware that when I'm focussing closely on one thing, I am receiving and - consciously - ignoring many sense experiences from many other sources. A single conscious mind, definitely, but levels of it in a continuum into the "sub"-consciousness-- as it seems to me. "There is nothing in the subconsciousness besides what you acquired by conscious means" - has often appealed to me as self-evidently true. (By LP). This closely answers to your "magic thinking" - a 'mystical' consciousness many wishfully choose to put faith in - if not much else you raised now. Nathaniel Branden? He is one whose literature in his field is eminently superior and often life-enhancing, and that's only my opinion.

 

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57 minutes ago, regi said:

Rand and Peikoff were mistaken. As for the psychologist, you aren't, by any chance, referring to that (now deceased) gerriatric pseudo-therapist who helped young girls uncover their repressed desire to go to bed with him, are you?

Randy

You seem to be referring to Nathaniel Branden, to which I don't refer to him like that.  His productive work has helped many people, including myself.

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4 hours ago, KorbenDallas said:

You seem to be referring to Nathaniel Branden, to which I don't refer to him like that.  His productive work has helped many people, including myself.

If you have personally benefitted, or even think you have, from anything Nathaniel Branden wrote I'm delighted.

I refer to Nathaniel Branden the way I do, because I knew him, (and his nasty wife, when she was his wife). I know what he taught, and some of it is worse then wrong, it's harmful to anyone taken in by it. I certainly do not mind if you admire him. I cannot,

Some of the things he wrote were good, but every quack has to say some things that are true or no one will believe him.

I'm not trying to change your mind, by the way, just telling you what my experience has been. I also didn't mean to offend you, if I did.

Thanks for the comment,

Randy

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8 minutes ago, regi said:

If you have personally benefitted, or even think you have, from anything Nathaniel Branden wrote I'm delighted.

I refer to Nathaniel Branden the way I do, because I knew him, (and his nasty wife, when she was his wife). I know what he taught, and some of it is worse then wrong, it's harmful to anyone taken in by it. I certainly do not mind if you admire him. I cannot,

Some of the things he wrote were good, but every quack has to say some things that are true or no one will believe him.

I'm not trying to change your mind, by the way, just telling you what my experience has been. I also didn't mean to offend you, if I did.

Thanks for the comment,

Randy

You are in violation of the posing guidelines. There is no Branden bashing on OL. You can bash the ideas. That's all.

--Brant

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5 hours ago, regi said:

Rand and Peikoff were mistaken. As for the psychologist, you aren't, by any chance, referring to that (now deceased) gerriatric pseudo-therapist who helped young girls uncover their repressed desire to go to bed with him, are you?

Randy

Posting guidelines violation.

--Brant

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4 hours ago, anthony said:

Randy, "a very dangerous one" - I wholeheartedly agree with - when a mind allows itself to be split into contrived divisions by philosophers, the religious or quack sociologists. But I think there have to be and are - 'a million' - sensory experiences dating from infancy (sound, sight, tactile) which were never and don't need to be recovered, integrated and evaluated -- within and deep in one's consciousness. Even now, I'm always aware that when I'm focussing closely on one thing, I am receiving and - consciously - ignoring many sense experiences from many other sources. A single conscious mind, definitely, but levels of it in a continuum into the "sub"-consciousness-- as it seems to me. "There is nothing in the subconsciousness besides what you acquired by conscious means" - has often appealed to me as self-evidently true. (By LP). This closely answers to your "magic thinking" - a 'mystical' consciousness many wishfully choose to put faith in - if not much else you raised now. Nathaniel Branden? He is one whose literature in his field is eminently superior and often life-enhancing, and that's only my opinion.

 

Hi Anthony,

Please let me ask you a couple of questions. First about this claim: "But I think there have to be and are - 'a million' - sensory experiences dating from infancy (sound, sight, tactile) which were never and don't need to be recovered, integrated and evaluated -- within and deep in one's consciousness."

My question is, "integrated and evaluated," by what mechanism. You have made the same mistake Rand made, assuming some process for which there is neither evidence or explanation. If something is automatically, "integrating and evaluating," something, that mechanism must be identified and explained. How would one ever know if the results of that mysterious unidentified process was reliable or not?

My next question is, what do you mean by the, "subconscious?" Where is it, what is it like, how does it work? Are you sure what you think of as the subconscious is not simply your emotions, your memory, your desires, and your habituated patterns of thinking and behavior--none of which have any affect accept as your are conscious of them?

If  you understanding of the nature of perception comes from Rand, please read Perception, which explains the true nature of perception.

Think whatever you like of Nathaniel Branden. I'm not interested in personalities. I knew the Brandens and have no use for them. I don't mind if you do.

Randy

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15 minutes ago, Brant Gaede said:

Posting guidelines violation.

I'm sorry you think so. It was certainly not my intention. I'd appreciate it if you would specify which guideline you believe I violated so I can avoid it in the future.

Thanks!

Randy

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57 minutes ago, regi said:

I'm sorry you think so. It was certainly not my intention. I'd appreciate it if you would specify which guideline you believe I violated so I can avoid it in the future.

Thanks!

Randy

Read the posting guidelines.

I'm not an enforcer of them. The site owner is.

--Brant

it's the first listed--see "Forums"

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9 hours ago, regi said:

 

9 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

Posting guidelines violation.

I'm sorry you think so. It was certainly not my intention. I'd appreciate it if you would specify which guideline you believe I violated so I can avoid it in the future.

Thanks!

Randy

 

Randy (Regi),

Brant is right.

William posted the link above. But there is a better link in the same "purpose and legal stuff" section of the site: Basic Objectivist Living stuff.

Quote

For the detractors of the Brandens, please be advised that Objectivist Living is a haven for them. People can get a positive image of them here. They can learn about the Brandens and learn from them. The Brandens were fundamental to the creation of Objectivism and we feel lucky to be able to interact with them. Disagreements with them on specific issues are OK, but Branden bashing is not tolerated. Instead, we wish to honor them.

You may also note there is a section of OL devoted to debunking that piece of trash by James Valliant: PARC. A lot of people chimed in back when this was an issue of interest in O-Land. (Fortunately, it has only remained relevant at the fringe.)

For the record, I loved and still love Barbara Branden. Here is what she wrote about me in 2006:

Who is Michael Stuart Kelly?

I was not as close to Nathaniel, but I admire him enormously.

I am currently contemplating and gathering material for a work based on Barbara's life. The working title is "The Apostate."

I don't mind if you hate the Brandens. But the Internet is large and I would appreciate it if you did not express your hatred of them on OL. Instead, express it elsewhere. 

Thanks.

Michael

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As to the topic of this thread, I find it weird.

:)

I've read way too much neuroscience and modern psychology based on testing with repeatable results... 

The opening post is mostly generalities and affirmations and does not present any kind of source or depth in knowledge of the issue other than, maybe, personal introspection and opinions of the author. I just read it and, like I said, it's a weird read. Frankly, I find discussing this issue as presented akin to discussing the flat earth theory with one who believes in that.

Michael

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For any reader who is interested in pursuing this issue, if you are interested in, say, emotions, there is an excellent book published last March: How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett. I disagree with Barrett on her insistence on delimiting all of consciousness to automatic bottom-up processes, but at least she has some great data to look at. I wish people who probe and discover aspects of these things did not try to encompass the entire universe (especially the unexamined part) under their particular processes and theories, but that seems to be a strong craving in a lot of them. It mars their otherwise excellent work. I mention this because Barrett is both genius and irritatingly biased against volition.

As for memory and how it works, please look into anything you can about the hippocampus. It is one of the few parts of the brain that actually creates brand new neurons. The hippocampus is strongly hooked into the limbic system (which mostly regulates emotions) and is where long-term memories are made. But there are other parts of the brain, too. :) And there are several forms of memory (short term, long term, episodic, semantic, etc.).

I could list a lot of books dealing with memory and maybe I will if there is interest. One of the huge gaps in Rand's works is that she did not cover memory very much. She just made claims like sensory input is not recorded in memory until it becomes percepts (see ITOE). How? Her answer is integration. Boom. Done. And that's about all. :) 

Also, look into neurochemicals and their results on thinking and behavior. Dopamine is the biggie for addictive behavior. Oddly enough, excessive serotonin plus testosterone can turn a normal rational person into a conceited irrational asshole. :) Seriously.

The way scientists start studying this stuff is to extract neurons from animals, flood them with hormones and other neurochemicals, and watch them go bonkers--this cute description is from a book I am reading right now on the dopamine-serotonin mixes and conncections: The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains by Robert H. Lustig. btw - Lustig is a little too leftie for my taste, but he tries to keep a lid on it. If you want a great overview of the science in layman's language, this is a wonderful start.

For practical use in forming new neural pathways and network based on a few neurochemicals (mostly dopamine, serotonin, cortisol and oxytocin), and how to myelinate new neural networks you can create that use them, I highly recommend the work of Loretta Graziano Breuning. She even posted on OL under a pseudonym (I don't think she knows I know :) ) and I sometimes interact with her on Facebook. Some of the people who hang around her are independent thinkers who openly reference Ayn Rand in their thinking. There's one guy, Roy Barzilai,  who has written a couple of very interesting books who fits this mold. (As an aside, in one of his books, The Testosterone Hypothesis, he discusses how there are indications of high levels of testosterone in civilizations throughout history that have been high achieving and high culture civilizations.)

For oxytocin, I cannot recommend more highly The Moral Molecule by Paul Zak. This dude is heavyweight. Even the Pentagon has used him to help devise ways to weaponize storytelling (through DARPA).

As for the emergence of conscious awareness from an evolutionary standpoint, and reframing everything from the stories in the Bible to Freud and Jung in scientific terms, and even the crap that is postmodernism, I cannot recommend more highly Jordan Peterson. You can find his lectures on YouTube here. If you have time, try to go through one of his "Maps of Meaning" lecture series. It will blow your mind.

And on and on and on...

I'm doing a bit of name-dropping and big-word dropping right now just to make the point that the human mind is a topic of great interest to me. But everyone of the works I referred to, and the respective authors, use layman's language in their explanations. And when they use big words, they tend to make their meanings clear in unboring ways and in layman's language.

Michael

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3 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

For any reader

Thanks Michael,

Just for the record, I do not hate anyone. Hate is a useless self-destructive emotion I rid myself of years ago.

Randy

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On 10/12/2017 at 2:23 AM, regi said:

Hi Anthony,

 

If  you understanding of the nature of perception comes from Rand, please read Perception, which explains the true nature of perception.

 

Randy

2

Randy - "The only consciousness humans or any other creatures have is perception". What's at stake here is not so much perception, but concept formation. My question: What next? When you have gathered all those percepts, what do you ~do~ with them (simply)? Do they remain disarrayed and un-organized? Or do you (and does one) arrange, differentiate, integrate each into its conceptual package?

What you have argued for - as far as I can tell - is empiricism, (or a 'hyper-realism', I venture to name it).

"Empiricists - [as contrasted to Rationalists]: "...those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge from experience, which was held to mean: by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts". [AR]

I am puzzled by your 'perception-ism'. I've read some of your essays and have been in not the slightest doubt that you write articulately and logically about ideas and abstractions, isolating, connecting and differentiating them -- and attributing value to them -- which only an organized, conceptual mind can do. There's a self-contradiction here, in my view. Is it possible that you don't know that you conceptualize as a matter of course? For such an "active" and deliberate process, that's hard to accept.   

"Conceptualization is a method of expanding man's consciousness by reducing the number of its content's units--a systematic means to an unlimited integration of cognitive data". [The Cognitive Role of Concepts, ItOE]

A mind ~can~ in this way have ~some~ degree of knowledge of everything in existence. The empirical approach has to be, by definition, extremely limiting for an individual's knowledge - to a plethora of facts or objects and entities which no single mind can encompass.

btw, I'll mention that I was introspectively aware of possessing "a conceptual faculty", and using it - if very poorly - long before reading Rand. Of course I could not identify it as such, then.

I was inept or inconsistent in conceptualization, lacking confidence in its effectiveness, until I began to grasp from Rand the magnitude of the 'process' and its criticality for the individual, and started engaging it extensively. As with so much from Rand, it looks to me, there is not only the simply~learning~ from her, but also one's instant ~recognition~ of her methodologies from one's self-reflection.

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Conceptual awareness is the only type of awareness capable of integrating past, present and future. Sensations are merely an awareness of the present and cannot be retained beyond the immediate moment; percepts are retained and, through automatic memory, provide a certain rudimentary link to the past, but cannot project the future. It is only conceptual awareness that can grasp and hold the total of its experience—extrospectively, the continuity of existence; introspectively, the continuity of consciousness—and thus enable its possessor to project his course long-range.

“Axiomatic Concepts,”

(Another insightful excerpt to emphasise the necessity of conceptualism).

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3 minutes ago, anthony said:

Conceptual awareness is the only type of awareness capable of integrating past, present and future. Sensations are merely an awareness of the present and cannot be retained beyond the immediate moment; percepts are retained and, through automatic memory, provide a certain rudimentary link to the past, but cannot project the future. It is only conceptual awareness that can grasp and hold the total of its experience—extrospectively, the continuity of existence; introspectively, the continuity of consciousness—and thus enable its possessor to project his course long-range.

“Axiomatic Concepts,”

(Another excerpt to emphasise the necessity of conceptualism).

All of these integrations and projections take place somewhere.  Where?   My guess is that they take place in our heads and we are not aware of all the details.  This collection of brain events of which we are not aware  constitute, at least in part, "the subconscious".   By the way, no one to this date has ever found a "mind" in any other body but there own.  If  "minds" exist we can't we detect them in bodies other than our own?

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regi wrote: My question is, "integrated and evaluated," by what mechanism. end quote

And Michael wrote: For oxytocin, I cannot recommend more highly The Moral Molecule by Paul Zak. This dude is heavyweight. Even the Pentagon has used him to help devise ways to weaponize storytelling (through DARPA). end quote

Subconscious pathways lead me to interesting places, which reminds me of those Hollywood clichés where the four or so teenagers and Scooby Doo walk into the abandoned house and experience continually upgraded “fear” of haunted spirits, which they have never seen and don’t exist. Eventually they discover their sensory input has been manipulated by a bad person who can travel through secret passages behind the walls.     

Something else I have noticed in myself is a curiosity about who that person is or was on an old TV show I am watching. Currently I am watching the original Star Trek and I quickly discerned the over made up female is played by Lee Meriwether. Sometimes I check out different web sites about the actors other credits too.

Peter  

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8 hours ago, anthony said:

Randy - "The only consciousness humans or any other creatures have is perception". What's at stake here is not so much perception, but concept formation.

How are we conscious of concepts? If you know what concepts are, the way we are conscious of them is by means of words, written, spoken, heard, or "signed." All things we can be conscious of by perceiving them, directly or from memory.

A word is not a concept however, it is only the symbol for a concept, the concept is an identification of something, an existent or class of existents, attributes, behaviors, relationships, concrete or abstract, actual or imaginary. But, without words there would be no way to be conscious of concepts.

Remember this article is only about the nature of perception. Before we can have any concepts we must be consious of something to identify and discover the nature of.

You must know by now that I do not believe any knowledge is possible without concepts which is the basis of my emphasis on language.

This article which is part of an online book about episemology should relieve any doubts about my view of conceptual knowledge: Concepts. [Note there is a criticism of Rand''s mistaken view of concepts in this article.]

Hope this explains my position, Anthony.

Randy

 

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8 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

 By the way, no one to this date has ever found a "mind" in any other body but there own.  If  "minds" exist we can't we detect them in bodies other than our own?

Nor will they every be found by physical examination, because they are an attribute of life, and neither life, or consciousness, or the human mind are physical or produced by the physical or have any physical attributes, though they are all perfectly natural with nothing mystical or supernatural about them and cannot exist independently of the physical entities (organism) they are the life, and consciousness of.

Randy

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9 hours ago, anthony said:

through automatic memory

Anthony, are you sure you meant this. What is "automatic memory?" How does it work. How do you know there is such a thing?

Just teasing a little, actually.

Randy

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