Consciousness: the gap
Culture as imprint
That culture is functional
The sign/symbol pair
The "I" and the cultural imprint
The nature of the symbol
General consciousness again
From this, the following points are most important:
- First of all, there is a crucial distinction between consciousness as such -- aka "awareness" -- and language-based consciousness (which enables self-consciousness or self-awareness, reflection, etc.). That is, consciousness in general does not imply self-awareness, introspection, etc. -- it simply implies (or is identical with) awareness, or experience, or so-called "raw feels".
- Consciousness just as such, or just as awareness, is a general behavioral control system that has evolved in mobile organisms. The crucial feature of this control system is that it introduces a gap or "slippage" between environmental stimuli and behavioral response, and this gap allows for more complex and adaptive responses by providing an opening for other inputs such as memory, expectation, and system state.
- The gap of consciousness is a function of its two subcomponents -- a world-creating mechanism and a behavior-determining mechanism -- and, crucially, of the loose connection between those subcomponents. "Loose connection" just means that the world that consciousness creates is made up purely of information-bearing tokens -- i.e., irreducible, qualitatively distinct signals, or "qualia". Since it's only the information contained in their qualitative distinction that provides the input to the decision-making algorithm of consciousness, qualia are not just functional, they're required.
- The advent of language introduces a new order of complexity into this control system, by providing a way to separate experiential memory into "chunks", structure those chunks through abstractable features, and provide a handle for such structured fragments of experience by associating them with specific experiential signs, such as word-sounds. Among the most powerful of such sign/symbol combinations is that for the "self" or "I", which is something that only comes into being through language, and which provides the basis for a recursive self-awareness or introspection.
- Unlike general consciousness, however, this special or language-based consciousness is an inherently social phenomenon, and islearned through a developmental process that imprints an entire "memetic" structure on each individual's mental apparatus, a structure that can be called a cultural imprint. This structure undergoes constant change not just in every "communicative encounter" between individuals within a cultural group, but also as individuals use the structure to think and formulate plans on their own. And this change provides the basis for Darwinian-like selection pressures on the cultural imprint, and hence for cultural adaptation and evolution.
To summarize the recap, the key ideas here are:
- General consciousness or simple awareness is not the same as linguistic consciousness, and any discussion of consciousness should be aware of the distinction.
- The function of general consciousness is as a highly flexible behavioral control system.
- The qualia of consciousness are signals or bearers of information essential to its operation as a mechanism.
- The advent of language produces a new or special kind of consciousness characterized by a socially learned and maintained cultural imprint or "memotype", which in turn provides the basis for social/cultural change or evolution.