Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

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Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby ashley72 » Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:47 am

Douglas Hofstadter: What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

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Douglas Hofstadter has a vivid recollection of a pig's head on a table in a market. As a teenager he could see the severed neck that once had lines of communication with the body, that had once connected all the outposts of information with the headquarters in consciousness. He asked, "Who once had been in that head? Who had lived there? Who had looked out through those eyes, heard through those ears? Who had this hunk of flesh really been? Was it a male or female?"

He had a mid-life loss. "In the month of December 1993, when we were just a quarter of the way into my sabbatical year in Trento, Italy, my wife Carol died very suddenly, essentially without warning, of a brain tumor. She was not yet 43, and our children, Danny and Monica, were but five and two. I was shattered in a way I could never have possibly imagined before our marriage. There had been a been a bright shining soul behind those eyes, and that soul had been suddenly eclipsed. The light had gone out."

So what does all this mean? He tries to understand. "Deep down, your brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles. On a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call 'symbols.' The most central and complex symbol is the one you call 'I.' An 'I' is a strange loop where the brain's symbolic and physical levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down so that symbols seem to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse.

To each human being, this 'I' is the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real? Is our 'I' merely a convenient fiction? Does an 'I' exert genuine power over the particles in our brains, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics?" From I Am A Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter.
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Re: Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby rachMiel » Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:58 pm

Interesting, thanks for posting, Ashley. :-)

> Is our 'I' merely a convenient fiction?

It depends on the frame of reference, doesn't it?

From the FoR of "rachMiel," I am thinking and typing. There's no fiction there.

From the FoR of a neuron in the rachMiel brain, there is no I, no thinking, no typing; there's just neurochemical flow.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...
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Re: Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby karmarider » Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:57 pm

Yes, it's interesting the way Hoffstadter puts it.

The false "I" which Hoffstadter talks about can be easily confirmed. It's merely an unexamined presumption that what happens in the mind/body happens to an "I." We can see simply that when a thought or feeling happens, it happens in the mind/body, and the presumption that it happens to "me" is just a presumption.

The soup of nueral activity he talks about, I find easier to undersand in terms of sensations. Sensations (perceptions) happen, the mind abstracts symbols and stories about these sensations, and so sensations are experienced as pleasant or unpleasant. And further, stories acquire the ability to influence the sensations in a strange loop.

And yet--there is a sense of existence, a you, which is not this presumption. Of that we are certain in a way which is different from the certainty we have about anything else.
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Re: Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby ashley72 » Wed Dec 26, 2012 11:23 pm

karmarider wrote:I find easier to undersand in terms of sensations. Sensations (perceptions) happen, the mind abstracts symbols and stories about these sensations, and so sensations are experienced as pleasant or unpleasant. And further, stories acquire the ability to influence the sensations in a strange loop.

And yet--there is a sense of existence, a you, which is not this presumption. Of that we are certain in a way which is different from the certainty we have about anything else.


Yes, there is a strange loop.....and the "feelings", "Sensations" you refer to is the source domain, our bare-bone existence, which Tolle wants you to attend to, he calls it the inner-body. This feeling is always there.... "What it feels like to be you".... Below the target or active symbols that are actively mapping our physical behaviours and physical interactions.

When our "attention" attends to the "active symbols" or storytelling (target domain).... a flipping around occurs and the story starts acting with causality back down on the physical "sensations". Identification with the symbolic-self has occurred and anxiety & fear just from attending to active symbols in the target domain....is your companion.

But attention is an "amphibian" which can switch between the two domain's physical or symbolic. When our attention is shited to the inner-body... the symbolic-self can be negated in that moment.

With continued practice one can learn to switch attentional focus away from active symbols (target domain). :wink:


Attention is like a "spotlight" or "filter"... it is an executive function or process that "shifts" between source & target domains. This is an integral part of how our complex biological system works in a strange loop. Without attention being an amphibian between integrated levels there would be no tangled hierarchy between our physical-self and symbolic-self. :wink:
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Re: Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby karmarider » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:35 am

ashley72 wrote:But attention is an "amphibian" which can switch between the two domain's physical or symbolic. When our attention is shited to the inner-body... the symbolic-self can be negated in that moment.


It is, but I find it easier to say "look at you" rather than say shift attention to the inner body.

Also, I haven't found it necessary to practice the movement of attention to "me"--in other words, it hasn't been necessary to practice so it becomes easier or sustained or abiding. It only takes a bit of looking, and the rest happens automatically, which makes sense as the mind has no volition.

And, you're dividing this up into physical-self and symbolic-self, and though that theory is consistent, it is not necessarily what reality is. It could be, but a biocentric view (the world appears in me) and the spiritual view (the world appears in consciousness) are also consistent. My view is that we don't know (I know I don't know) and it's possible that in human form we cannot know.
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Re: Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby ashley72 » Thu Feb 13, 2014 7:25 am

Here is link to a talk given by Douglas Hofstadter about his theory of "I am a strange loop".

http://www.infoq.com/presentations/strange-loop-keynote
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Re: Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby Sighclone » Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:19 am

Ramana repeatedly refers to the "I thought." Like a tree in Bishop Berkeley's forest..."Is the 'I' still there when we are not thinking about it?" Jac O'Keeffe says "no...the little me self comes and goes." Sure Douglas was deeply affected by his loss of "her." Viewed from the position of the "other" there was a person inside that brain/body. But from inside? When she was lying beside him in deep sleep, he could reach over and touch "her." And feel good. But from "her" side, was she "there?"

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: Douglas Hofstadter:What Do We Mean When We Say "I"?

Postby ashley72 » Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:30 pm

Sighclone wrote:Ramana repeatedly refers to the "I thought." Like a tree in Bishop Berkeley's forest..."Is the 'I' still there when we are not thinking about it?" Jac O'Keeffe says "no...the little me self comes and goes." Sure Douglas was deeply affected by his loss of "her." Viewed from the position of the "other" there was a person inside that brain/body. But from inside? When she was lying beside him in deep sleep, he could reach over and touch "her." And feel good. But from "her" side, was she "there?"

Andy


Yes she was there.... I think your equating existence or aliveness with the ability to be aware of surroundings.

Our nervous system is sustained 24/7, whilst parts of our self-awareness may momentarily tune out whilst in deep sleep. What's interesting is that most people can be roused, by loud noises or shaking even when in a deep sleep... So our nervous system is always operating whilst we are alive. Only in an anesthetized state, where by our sensory system is completely inhibited by drugs or trauma will a person not rouse or be aware of things.

But I don't want to confuse awareness, someone's attentive abilities or powers... with overall aliveness.... Being able to breath or pumping of their heart...brain activity..etc
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