3 Consciousness: the phenomenal ability that consists of having a mind equipped with an owner, a protagonist for one's existence, a self inspecting the world inside and around, an agent seemingly ready for action.
Without consciousness - that is, a mind endowed with subjectivity - you would have no way of knowing that you exist, let alone know who you are and what you think. Had subjectivity not begun, even if very modestly at first, in living creatures far simpler than we are, memory and reasoning are not likely to have expanded in the prodigious way they did, and the evolutionary road for language and the elaborate human version of consciousness we now process would not have been paved.
Boe: my second attempt to understand this very important book!
3 Few things about our biology are their seemingly trivial as this commodity a known as consciousness, the phenomenal ability that consists of having a mind equipped with an owner, a protagonist for one's existence, a self inspecting the world inside and around, and age and seemingly ready for action.
8 I believe conscious minds arise when the self process is added onto a basic mind process…There is indeed a self, but it is a process, not the thing, and the process is present at all times when we are presumed to be conscious.
We can consider the self process from two advantage points. One is the vantage point of an observer appreciating a dynamic object - the dynamic object constituted by certain workings of minds, certain traits of behaviour, and a certain history of life.
The other vantage points is that of the self as a knower, the process that gives the focus to our experiences and eventually lets us reflect on those experiences.
Combining the two advantage points produces the dual notion of self used throughout this book.
The two notions correspond to two stages of evolutionary development of the self, the self-as-knower having had its origin in the self-as-object.
What allows the mind to know that such dominions exist and belong to their mental owners - body, mind, past and present, and all the rest - is that the perception of any of these items generates emotions and feelings, and, in turn, other feelings accomplish the separation between the contents that belong to the self and those that do not.
From my perspective, such feelings operate as markers. They are the emotion-based signals that I designate as somatic markers. When contents that pertain to the self occur in the mind stream, they provoke the appearance of a marker, which joins the mind stream as an image, juxtaposed to the image that prompted it.
These feelings accomplish the distinction between self and nonself. They are, in a nutshell, feelings of knowing. We shall see that the construction of a conscious mind depends, at several stages, on the generation of such feelings. My working definition of the material me, the self as object, it is as follows: a dynamic collection of integrated neural processes, centred on the representation of the living body, that finds expression in a dynamic collection of integrated mental processes.
The self-as-subject, as knower, as the I, is a more elusive presence, far less collected in mental or biological terms than the me, more dispersed, often dissolved in the stream of consciousness, at times so annoyingly subtle that it is there but almost not there. The self-as-knower is more difficult to capture than the plain me. We can imagine that the self-as-subject and knower is not only a very real presence but the turning point in biological evolution.
We can imagine the self-as-subject and knower is stacked, so to speak, on top of the self-as-object, as a new layer of neural processes giving rise to yet another layer of mental processing.
There is no dichotomy between self-as-object and self-as-knower; there is, rather, a continuity and progression. The self-as-knower is grounded on the self-as-object.
12 The self as witness: Countless creatures for millions of years have had active minds, but only in those who developed a self capable of operating as a witness to the mind was its existence acknowledged, and only after minds developed language and lived to tell did it become widely known that minds did exist. The self as witness is the something extra that reveals the presence, in each of us, of events recall mental. We need to understand how that something extra is created.
The self permits a view of the mind, but the view is clouded. The aspects of the self that permit us to formulate interpretations about our existence and about the world are still evolving, certainly at the cultural level and, in all likelihood, at the biological level as well. For instance, the upper reaches of self are still being modified by all manner of social and cultural interactions and by the accrual of scientific knowledge about the very workings of mind and brain.
Organisms make minds out of the activity of special cells known as neurons. Neurons are organised in small microscopic circuits, whose combination constitutes progressively larger circuits, which in turn form networks or systems.
Minds emerge when the activity of small circuits is organised across large networks so as to compose momentary patterns. The patterns represent things and events located outside the brain, either in the body or in the external world, but some patterns also represent the brain's own processing of other patterns. The term map applies to all these representational patterns, some of which are coarse, while others are very refined, some concrete, others abstract. In brief, the brain maps the world around it and maps its own doings. Those maps are experienced as images in our mind.
Damasio Self comes to Mind