Julian Jaynes Society Discussion Forum: Exploring Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind Theory since 1997

I Have A Strong Desire to Comprehend Stuff [Comprehension]
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Author:  coberst [ Mon Oct 15, 2007 3:27 am ]
Post subject:  I Have A Strong Desire to Comprehend Stuff [Comprehension]

I have a strong desire to comprehend stuff

I claim that comprehending is a hierarchy and can usefully be thought of as a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is awareness that is followed by consciousness, which is awareness plus attention. Knowing follows consciousness and understanding is at the pinnacle of the pyramid.

Two aspects of this comprehension idea deserve elaboration: consciousness and understanding.

When I was a youngster, probably seven or eight, my father took me with him when he drove to a local farm to pick corn for use in the cafe the family managed. We drove for a significant amount of time down local dirt roads to a farm with a field of growing corn.

We went into the fields with our bushel baskets and filled them with corn-on-the-cob. Dad showed me how to choose the corn to pick and how to snatch the cob from the stalk.

On the drive home I was amazed to observe the numerous fields of corn we passed on the way back to town. I can distinctly remember thinking to myself, why did I not see these fields of corn while we were driving to the farm earlier?

Today I have an answer to that question. I now say that on the way to the farm I was aware of corn-on-the-cob but on the way back home I was conscious of corn-on-the-cob. There was a very significant difference in my perceptions regarding corn-on-the-cob before and after the experience.

We are aware of many things but conscious of only a small number of things. We were aware of Iraq before the war but now we are conscious of Iraq. There is a very important distinction between awareness and consciousness and it is important for us to recognize this difference.

To be conscious of a matter signifies a focus of the intellect. Consciousness of a matter is the first step, which may lead to an understanding of the matter. Consciousness of a matter is a necessary condition for knowing and for understanding of that matter. Consciousness is a necessary but not sufficient condition for knowing and understanding to take place.

When discussing a topic about which I am knowledgeable most people will, because they recognize the words I am using, treat the matter as old stuff. They recognize the words therefore they consider the matter as something they already know and do not consider as important. Because they are aware of the subject it is difficult to gain their attention when I attempt to go beyond the shallowness of their perception. The communication problem seems to be initially overcoming their awareness and reaching consciousness.

Understanding is a long step beyond knowing. Understanding is the creation of meaning. Understanding represents a rare instance when intellection and emotion join hands and places me in an empathetic position with a domain of knowledge. When I understand I have connected the dots and have created a unity that includes myself. I have created something that is meaningful, which means that I have placed that domain of knowledge within my domain that I call my self. I understand because I have a very intimate connection with a model of reality that I have created. It is that eureka moment that happens rarely but is a moment of ecstasy. As Carl Sagan says “understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.

When I read I almost always read non fiction. I have tried to read fiction and to learn from reading what is considered to be good literature. However, my effort to read good literature fails because I thing that learning by reading good literature is a very inefficient means for gaining knowledge and understanding.

I claim that I can acquire more knowledge in one hour by reading non fiction than I can while reading good literature for ten hours. That is, I claim that learning by reading non fiction is ten times more efficient than learning by reading fiction, i.e. good literature.

Do you agree that acquiring knowledge by reading non fiction is ten times as efficient as from reading fiction?

Author:  pigeonsailor [ Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:49 pm ]
Post subject: 

Only if you strictly equate knowledge with facts.

Author:  coberst [ Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:37 am ]
Post subject: 

Two generations ago CP Snow authored the book “The Two Cultures”, which identified the two cultures to be ‘literary intellectuals’ (humanities) and natural scientists. He constructed the problem in this way:

"I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?"

This is considered to be the equivalent of asking: “can you read?” My point is that the gap between the two cultures today is as wide as it was when Snow drew attention to it two generations ago. At one time in the past this divide might have been considered to be bridgeable by the two cultures; I suspect that is not a possibility. I think it is not a possibility because both cultures have been co-opted by industry.

Our intellectual cities are filled with skyscrapers of narrowly specialized knowledge; all owned by corporations. We have only highly specialized intellectuals focusing ever more narrowly on a specialty that will gain high pay with bonus or life-long tenure with high paying grants.

Corporations will never allow this specialization to cease and so we must find another way if we hope to retake our lives from the grasp of corporations.

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider?
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give, yes or no, or maybe
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
-William Stafford

I have for some time been interested in trying to understand what ‘understand’ means. I have reached the conclusion that ‘curiosity then caring’ is the first steps toward understanding. Without curiosity we care for nothing. Once curiosity is in place then caring becomes necessary for understanding.

Often I discover that the person involved in organizing some action is a person who has had a personal experience leading her to this action. Some person who has a family member afflicted by a disease becomes very active in helping support research in that disease, for example.

I suspect our first experience with ‘understanding’ may be our first friendship. I think that this first friendship may be an example of what Carl Sagan meant by “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.

I also suspect that the boy who falls in love with automobiles and learns everything he can about repairing the junk car he bought has discovered ‘understanding’.

I suspect many people go their complete life and never have an intellectual experience that culminates in the “ecstasy of understanding”. How can this be true? I think that our educational system is designed primarily for filling heads with knowledge and hasn’t time to waste on ‘understanding’.

Understanding an intellectual matter must come in the adult years if it is to ever come to many of us. I think that it is very important for an adult to find something intellectual that will excite his or her curiosity and concern sufficiently so as to motivate the effort necessary to understand.

Understanding does not come easily but it can be “a kind of ecstasy”.

I think of understanding as being a creation of meaning by the thinker. As one attempts to understand something that person will construct through imagination a model--like a papier-mâché--of the meaning. Like an artist painting her understanding of something. As time goes by the model takes on what the person understands about that which is studied. The model is very subjective and you and I may study something for some time and we both have learned to understand it but if it were possible to project an image of our model they would be unidentifiable perhaps by the other. Knowledge has a universal quality but not understanding.

Understanding is a tipping point, when water becomes ice, it is like a gestalt perception it may never happen no matter how hard we try. The unconscious is a major worker for understanding.

Author:  randal47 [ Tue Jun 24, 2008 2:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: I Have A Strong Desire to Comprehend Stuff [Comprehensio

Do you agree that acquiring knowledge by reading non fiction is ten times as efficient as from reading fiction?

No. 2 reasons:

1) By eliminating non-fiction from your "learning", you are missing out on valuable social and interpersonal lessons.

2) Non-fiction is only one of two classifications of books. Just because it is non-fiction does not make it true.

Author:  coberst [ Sun Jun 29, 2008 10:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: I Have A Strong Desire to Comprehend Stuff [Comprehensio

randal47 wrote:
Do you agree that acquiring knowledge by reading non fiction is ten times as efficient as from reading fiction?

No. 2 reasons:

1) By eliminating non-fiction from your "learning", you are missing out on valuable social and interpersonal lessons.

2) Non-fiction is only one of two classifications of books. Just because it is non-fiction does not make it true.

Welcome randal. You are correct. I suspect that there may be a great deal of fiction in non ficton books.

You are also correct about missing out on certain social and interpersonal lessons.

However, I would argue that much of these social and interpersonal things can be learned through social osmosis. But I do not think many people can acquire much psychological knowledge through social osmosis, and such knowledge, in my opinion, is vital if one wishes to comprehend why humans do the things they do.

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