Archive for December, 2013

Do we think or are we automatons? Where in our heads does the cinema projection of our sight take place? What is conscious thought?

The argument appears to rage unabatted about all this and each peice of conflicting evidence appears to be just as compelling as the last. I can contribute very little to this – as ever – but I have observed something odd about my thoughts. well, lots of people probably have, but this is about how I have thoughts, rather than what I am thinking!

Often in conversation I will come out with witty and intelligent allusions to quotations and previous moments in the conversation, but I don’t realise I am doing it until someone else notices and acts impressed. I thought it was conincidence at first, but the more it happens the more of an intelligent design there appears to be (ahhh, I am indeed the god of my own thoughts). I now find my conscious mind monitoring what is coming out of my mouth to spot the intelligent references before others do – otherwise it can lead to embarassment and confusion all round!

It seems obvious that a lot of thought comes from the subconscious or some such: after all, if someone swings a baseball bat at your head you will duck before your internal voice has had its say. Either that or wake up with a headache! Is it possible that this obvious reactionary response is actually just the tip of the non-conscious iceburg? Is our conscious mind – that inner chatter that seems to run our analytic thought process – nothing more than a monitoring system for our real thoughts?

We can think without language and did do before we could talk, so perhaps we still do all our real thinking at a pre- or sub-language level. Perhaps what we think of our consciousness and personality is a chimera: the ‘panem et circenses’ with which the real masters of our minds satisfy our egos. It may be impossible to be aware of our real conscious thoughts, since they are the bits that are doing all the thinking – it’s a bit like the impossibility of seeing your own eyeball.

Personally I think that this all rather points to our self-observable thoughts – the inner monologue – being a monitoring and safety mechanism that became necessary as we evolved our complex language and social interactions. It would need someone far brighter than me to work out exactly how and why, though!

Oh, and I have no idea about the cinema-of-our-sight thing.


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