Our beagle, Rita, has a graded approach to the door. To solicit people to open the door first she may scratch at it, usually just once. Then she will murble at it, cooing like a dove. Then she will bark softly, "beuf". Then she may bark louder. However, when playing with a soccer ball she will bay at the ball as though it were prey (a loud unpleasant yowl). The other day our son, Matthew, was playing football with Rita for a long time. After the game Rita continued, as usual, to yowl importunately at the ball . So Johanna locked the ball in the tool shed. And Rita bayed at the door. The beagle wanted that the ball and appeared to "know" that it was behind the door. The dog would seem to have an internal representation of the world that includes things out of sight.
(Two weeks later she remembered the ball behind the door. This time she used her open the door repertoire of murbles, whimperings and barking.)
cat, Florian, used to watch from a window three stories up as I left the house
to see which way I went, and then he'd be waiting for me hours later up the road
one way or the other when I returned home. The cat seemed to have an internal
map and places me, out of sight, in one direction or the other (up or down the
The execution of behaviour comes to involve plans (schemes), plans with goals (aims, desired outcomes, "intentions"?). Consider, for instance, my cat Florian's deciding where to wait for me. And the planning can then come to involve comparison of action and outcome with goals and this leads to modification of behaviour.
Going down into the ravine this morning
with the dogs, down the stairs of a wooden walkway, a squirrel came down the trunk
of its tree to within inches of the causeway, just a couple of feet from the dogs.
Obviously the squirrel could compute, could predict that the dogs were no threat
to it. The dogs concurred. Though they are avid squirrel chasers, given a dogs
chance, they ignored this cheeky fellow.
Rita often thinks slowly about things. She seems to ponder. I will call her and she will mull it over: should she stay in my good graces, or just how interesting is that scent, how accessible that picnic. I thought I'd demonstrate how the beagle deliberates to another dog-walker. I called to the beagle, off in the distance, expecting her to mull the situation over. Quick as a flash she rushed over to us (a strange dog-walker might very well have treats). When the preponderance of factors is weighed in a particular direction, a beagle can think/decide very quickly indeed.
So is this one of our behavioural parameters/dimensions: from ponder to impulse, to wait or go, to do? This is in the domain of "will". If we have an animal that is deciding, do we not have "will"?
Where does the mind start? Mind being a mystery, what can we learn putting conscious thought aside and consider animals to be automata. We should look for the seeds of the mind back where organisms begin making decision.
Even the most primitive plants and animals show "tropisms" (orientations) footnote. Tropisms involve "decision": to approach or to avoid. Decision-making moves animals out of the mud and into (the rarefied) dimensions of information. This information may well be the seedbed of the mind.
We saw above
several examples of "internal representations of the world", hypothetical
representations: the ball behind the door ("I want to play"), the master
up the road ("I'll go and meet him.")
In my thoughts, my experience, I am an ongoing story that began in the dims of time (first memories) and continuous in the moment. The duration of the moment, the length of "now" is relative (to the minds perceiving). And the story is the thing. The author, Kenneth Patcham, has a neat concept in his fantasy worlds that in the world of the mind "narritium" (the weight of the narrative interest) is a powerful element. Our attention is with the narrative (the story we are telling ourselves).
humans, the mind (existence) is very much like a story.
Mind for a dog is a much much simpler story. My thoughts are like the unfolding
of a story. They have that sort of timing. The human 'I'
is happening with the tempo of my thoughts (experience, consciousness, mind),
which is sometimes quite quick, but more often closer to the pace of conversation.
(I am this interactive story that am experiencing.)
of this story encompasses words, verbal thoughts, as might be a voice. Here in
the garden, me and the dogs, in part I am a syntax, innate and cultured - thoughts,
things (symbols that stand for things and
) concepts, relationships, actions
and events, my thoughts, my doings, are shaped by, and shape,
my praxis. My praxis is a culturally determined process. It is what
I am doing. This may be a tautological statement, but it is a totaling determining
factor. The Buddha said that we are our thoughts. Our thoughts are one aspect,
one category of our doings, and beyond that, our thoughts, in large part, pertain
to our doings.
Here in the downtown of this city I have found a secluded spot, a small ravine with stream, a moment from the path, where I can sit by the gurgling water without a sound from the town. And here I sit with the dogs and write, "Once we see how complex the world of a dog can be and how conscious and aware he, it, is in its responses, we have to start thinking back to it from a human perspective. From the canine perspective we are just sitting around by this stream with these insects. Better is walking and seeing the sights."
like to eat cat pooh. People don't appreciate this and try to correct this behaviour.
(No! I got this quite wrong! The cat pooh was much prized. I "won" the stare down. Lucky submitted and brought me a valued present!)
Christmas rouse may have unfolded rather then been planned - she barked from the
bedroom "come get this ball from under the furniture for me" and as
soon as I came she bolted to the table and snuffled some of my dinner - this may
have unfolded rather than been planned, but her "suckers to the garden"
seems to have been a scheme.
So where is the mind? We have this creature experiencing, what? the world, as a dog or a man. I see the world and give it meaning. With my eyes open there is the world surrounding me, a room, a garden, and I also think, I tell a story, or listen to a story. And my "mind", my consciousness is (all) this experience.
The mind is that which watches and decides.
Where is the mind? Deists might say "In God." God created the mind of man in His image, His pattern, His substance. And where is that? Well, I am here. How do I connect to an ubermind? If we could look at this from God on down that would answer our questions. But we must look at the problem from the mud on up. The organism with its tropisms makes decisions. Soon it is hurtling through the landscape (if it is a mammal, or flying through if it is a bird) and making plans.
animal starts to make plans. These "plans" are
ideas. These schema are the bricks (one of the bricks) that are the units
of consciousness. These plans, when executed, feed forward to entwine with our
doings. Somewhere between the planning and the doing might be will. Between the
planning and the doing is intention (decisions!) and impulse (voluntary action).
So we have an internal representation of the world, we have prospective actions in this world (plans), and judgment.
thought have a linearity in them.
in the world, the external and the animals internal representation of them, take
on a "meaning" for animals in terms of relationship and action: something
to eat, to chase, to flee.
In the internal representation of the world we might/must imagine that there is something that functions akin to symbolism. For a dog, a "cat" in any aspect (close and large or far and small, face on or sideways, crouching, running, arched and spitting), a cat is a "cat" and the dog responds to the category. Not to the particular image, though context is important. A running cat we will (probably) chase.
this morning's walk Rita watched a crouched cat we had passed. Lucky missed it.
"Cat," I said. "You missed the cat," and the dog turned and
searched a moment till he spotted it. When on a lead, a cat is something the dogs
simply observe. As we drive along, at other times, I may tell Lucky that there
is a "dog", and he will look for it with some excitement.
short while ago I was looking at the dog book, at
the Blue Heelers, Queensland Heelers, Australian Cattle Dogs. Lucky was sitting
on the sofa by my side. I showed him the book. "Dog," I said. Lucky
darted his nose to the picture on the right, then the left one, sniffing,
I was imagining a quick evolutionary progression from amoeba with its tropism, through flatworms with their elementary learning, to frogs which I can still almost conceive of in terms of computer-like-response, to dogs with their incredible agility and their social essence. So much feeling/affect would seem to germinate in this social context (socialization lends such sophistication to the mix). And from this flowed the thought that much of mind is in the unfolding of behaviours - in the experience of them: the animal does something in a "manner" (playfully, for instance) and its experience is textured by this behaviour, this manner.
we experience social interaction, items of cultural repetition, common events
to which we might give cliché responses, and so we live, experience, scenes in
a life, bits of a story. These are our thought, in part, descriptions of events
and their abstractions.
comes quality? Start with sensations and feelings. Hotness-coldness. Touch, pressure,
pinch, pains, aching, stabbing, Qualities, perception of qualities, in their multiplicity,
may provide much of the qualitive "space" of experience. And this diversity
of sensory categories/parameters creates a multidimensional "space"
is red sensed as "redness"? What is redness, blueness? I was just reading,
in Edmonds and Eidinow's "Wittgenstein's Poker" p. 47, "In
Principia Ethica, Moore argues that the 'good' in ethics is essentially
indefinable - rather like the colour yellow. 'Good is good,' he wrote, 'and that
is the end of the matter.'
Many primary feelings may elaborate around the continuum/parameter
animal's activity has a social dimension and these are, or these embrace, these
colour, many of the animal's affects. Approach pairs with liking, feeling affection,
though approach can be cautious, suspicious, hostile or defensive. As primitive,
as basic, is fear (and, of course, this is pre-social - it goes right back to
our first approach/avoid). Fear links to escape, an intense avoidance. Approach
peaks in love, so when the New Agers say there is fear and there is love,
they may indeed be pointing to the basic
behavioural dichotomy, approach/avoid, pleasure/pain, love/fear.
Approach (a behaviour) we may imagine is motivated by "feelings" (internal experiences) of interest and desire. Now, these are postulates that we observe in ourselves. So we observe in ourselves that approach is linked with affection, niceness, joy, love.) Affection, an emotion, or mode or mood, can set off a style of relating, and its manifestation/actualization - the puppy tumbling - its unfolding is coloured, flavoured, by that mode, unfolds in that flavour, contributes to the "quality" of the experience and is, in part, its flavour and "meaning".
One of the things that we do with our nervous systems is to bring separate things together and on the other hand, to differentiate, and to contrast. Contrast-surround fields that we alludes to earlier are a basic organizational tool of the nervous system. The ganglion cells of the retina is turned 'on' by stimulation of the sensory cells in the middle of its receptive field (increases its rate of firing) and is turned off (decreases impulse rate) by stimulation of the periphery of its field. The ganglion cell is analysing what is happening in an extended area.
this does not exist in space-time. It is a function of information
processors, and a function of mind.
I recall, in 1966, looking through young acid eyes across Palmeria Square at the Regency Terrace and noting that the walls were not "cream", but rather a quilt-work of pastel shades - greens, blues, pinks, yellows - which to my sober "eyes" were a quasi-homogeneous cream wall. So now I look at the desk before me and, in a sense, I don't really see the different colours. I see the "grain". I see "wood". We integrate. Make symbols to stand between our experience and the world. I see a "table" and "chairs" along with the geometrical construct. In seeing the construct "table", or "chair", I am lumping those bits of the visual field into a "construct", and I differentiate that construct from its surround. My experience is afloat in all these levels.
over space (time) bringing things together to create "constructs". This
bringing things together is an interesting thing
Again, these constructs
exists in the realms of information processing and not in the physicist's material
world we experience is not the outer natural world, the actual world, "reality".
Indeed my experience is not even the original information of perception, but a
refined interpretive representation. Where is this world that we experience? In
the brain? Perhaps in part, and there, in the brain it exists as process, as process
stretch out over time (see neural nets).
animals become sophisticated enough to plan deceptions. A
television program on Chimps showed a mother and her juvenile son in the clearing
cracking nuts. The juvenile had the best hammer. The mother chimp interrupted
her nut cracking and started to solicit grooming from her son, but as soon as
he responded to her signals and came over to groom her, she ran over and grabbed
the temporarily abandoned hammer.
of the striking things, watching Alex on television, is how fast he is with his
answers. When asked a question like "how many red triangles", he can
see and answer quicker than I (mind you, he's had practice). Another neat thing,
when he would make a mistake (perhaps intentionally) he would say, "Sorry".
here to see the quotation from which this is gleaned.)
When left at the veterinarian's office, Alex shrieked, "Come here! I love you. I'm sorry. I want to go back."
I've walked around the question several times. What is mind? Tielhard de Chardin said that experience is the relationship between things. The cup's relationship to the tea is its experience of it. Relationship: like the lumping together or differentiation, relationship is a "description" of the material world; a quality.
We have all this information processing modeling the world, making plans, decisions, and somehow the animus comes to dwell in the drivers seat. The charioteer holds the reins; sees the world; feels, decides, experiences.
experiences? "Mind" posits an "I", a perceiver..
I've circled this subject somewhat like a dog looking for somewhere to settle. I could really use your help, your insights to see if we can advance our understanding. Where, and what, is the mind? Please click here to comment, answer, or query.