Sunday, October 9, 2005

Consciousness: the Gap

An hypothesis: consciousness evolved in mobile life forms as a particularly efficient and effective kind of behavioral control system -- and its effectiveness derives from its defining feature: the introduction of a space or gap between perception and behavior, or between stimulus and response, or, we might say, between world and act. Compare it with a reflex arc, which "hard wires", in a sense, behavior to perception -- by contrast, in consciousness a perception is first rendered to an internal, created "world", and then becomes available as an "experience" (as opposed to "perception") to an an internal "actor", which determines behavior on the basis of that input along with many other features of the current state of the organism. Thus, the crucial and defining structure of a consciousness-type of control system is this two-part design -- on the one hand, a world-creating subsystem, and on the other, a behavior-controlling one -- the two components of which are only loosely coupled to one another, through the phenomenon of experience.

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