- What is consciousness, and how is it made?
The other questions I have have mostly to do with poetry:
- What’s happening, neurophysiologically, when I read a poem and the hair on the back of my neck stands up? Or, as Emily Dicksinson said, I feel as though the top of my head has been taken off?
- Or, if not neurophysiologically, then at least what’s happening in my “mind”, “thinkodynamically” (Douglas Hofstadter)—and who pushes whom around in there (Roger Sperry)? Does the neurophysiology push the thinking, or does the thinking push the neurophysiology? Or is that a bad question?
- What makes some poems extremely memorable and other poems extremely forgettable?
- But why take so much pleasure in some learning and not in other learning? Is it the poem's music that makes the learning pleasurable?
- What does it mean to “take pleasure” in learning?
I have other questions about language, too:
- “I experience my consciousness”—isn’t that at least a double if not a triple or a quadruple redundancy?
- Is consciousness quite simply redundancy and repetition? The song you can’t get out of your mind because it is your mind?
- Or, in other words, as Daniel Dennett argues, isn’t consciousness just the process of the human brain being itself rather than some product that sits on top of the brain’s processes?
- Wouldn't such a product sound suspiciously close to a “soul”?
- Why does Douglas Hofstadter insist upon using the word “soul” despite its cloudy religious applications?
- If consciousness is NOT a product that sits on top of the brain’s processes, but is rather the typical human brain’s processes themselves, then how is it that we can talk about consciousness by talking about thinking, ideas, abstractions; how is it that, as Dennett says, function is as function does? Am I the only person who finds this truly astounding? As though the top of my head had been taken off?
On the other hand, it’s not the slightest bit astounding that we can discuss how to fly an airplane without discussing jet engine mechanics.
And more questions about poems:
- Why is it that really, really short poems like this one translated by W. S. Merwin:
his hands fondle in secret
the large breasts of Laksme
as though looking there
for his own lost heart.
When I asked to click a picture of him with the Patagonias in the background he refused. From that perspective he was invisible.
On Growing Old in San Francisco
Two girls barefoot walking in the rain
Both girls lovely, one of them is sane
Hurting me softly
Hurting me though
Two girls barefoot walking in the snow
Walking in the white snow
Walking in the black
Two girls barefoot never coming back.
seem to produce that hair-on-back-of-neck, or head-removed, or noticeable shift in internal vision, or aha moment, or wow factor, or “fame” (Dennett--but I'm using his word in a different context and in a different way than he uses it) more frequently or more readily than longer poems?
- And why is it that those poems might do it for me, but not for you?
- Is there something other than mere "taste" (whatever that is) in my reading history (or in my “self”) that primes me to be moved by those poems? What could that possibly be or mean?
- What does it mean to be moved by a poem? Who is pushing whom around in there?
Since that’s unlikely to happen, I started a blog. It’s called mirror mirror. Maybe someone (you) will read it on occasion and will have an article, or a theory, or an experiment, or a thought experiment, or a study, or a link, or an idea that will shed some light or contribute to a conversation.
I’m no expert. I’m just interested.
And, by the way:
- What is an expert?
- What’s better—an expert or a network? Networks of experts?
- Once I dump a bunch of questions here, will I have more questions in a few weeks or a few months or will this blog, like a poem, exhaust itself only to be abandoned after such intense thinkodynamics? How much do we ever really abandon?
- Is language the pure product of consciousness? And, therefore, are we in our words?