Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Illusion of Immediacy and it's Implications Regarding Free Will and the Higher Cognitive Function

Mental processes take time. All of them.

The effect of this can be called the illusion of immediacy.

You see someone walking toward you, or rather a car heading toward you. You would like to assume and naturally do assume that what you are seeing is happening at the very instant that you are seeing it.

The reality is that you can only ever see something after it happens.

The most crucial reason for this is because everything mental takes time. Not only is this due to the fact that impulses travel along the neuron at no faster than 120 meters per second, but the formation of a stable thought is not instantaneous and takes time to resonate (albeit on a scale of microseconds).

Due to some thoughts having cross-modal patterns the "higher" thoughts literally take more time to resonate and become a noticeable thought.

My proposition:

Due to the fact that these higher functions take longer, we are more aware of the formation of that thought. This is opposed to lower leveled functions such as sight, hunger, and pattern recognition. The difference between higher and lower functions is that the higher ones have more modalities which many times include some lower functions. It is this reason why higher functions take longer; they can only form after the lower ones.

This all leads one to say things like: I can not control whether or not I perceive that block as a block, but I can control how I act toward it. Sentiments of this type are merely due to the fact that the higher functions take more time and we are then more aware of its formation.

This leads to the highest level which is the sense of self. This sense of self is not a part of the brain/mind because it is the brain/mind. This is why we can not see it or at least not aware of its formation as we are with other cognitive functions.

Francisco Varela wrote on page 41 in his book Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom and Cognition:

In other words, the cognitivist challenge does not consist simply in asserting that we can not find the self; it consists, rather, in the further implication that the self is not even needed for cognition.

You have no more control over your behavior than you do over your sense of sight. Or, to put it another way, you feel that your sense of self is in control of the other cognitive processes on another level than those processes simply because your sense of self is the control. I know this may sound kookie, but one's sense of self, and therefore free will, is the system itself instead of in it.

This is why cognitive science does not see the sense of self. It is looking for a part of the cognition. The study of this cognition (cognitive science) therefore exists on the same level as the sense of self. I know this sounds antithetical to what was presented above, but the main point is that just because science is a study of the world does not mean that it can control it.

Charlie's Disclaimer:

I must add that living your life under this pretense will most inevitably lead to nihilism. Let me say that I do not mean for this to be seen as an advocation for a nihilistic lifestyle. We would be in a poor state indeed if responsibility were not expected of each individual. My point is that due to cognitive science's tackling of subjective experiences; it is objectively blind to the most fundamental subjective experience. This should not quelch the validity of a sense of self. Perhaps I have not thought thouroughly enough about this issue, but it seems to me that a scientific understanding of subjective experience is different from a subjective understanding of subjective experience.