Consciousness from a Marxist perspective


I wrote this today. My friend, Carrol Cox, encouraged me to rejoin this list which I lurked upon last summer in silence for a short before I left because I couldn't keep up with the volume of e-mail involved in my various subscriptions. I am mainly here to learn. Especially with the U.S. creating a crisis in Europe (Kosovo) I want to advance what I think are the grounds for understanding consciousness. I hope that what I have to say is welcome. I will paste in something I wrote today.

Hello Moderator and everyone,

I want to write upon the issue of consciousness from a Marxist perspective. However, I want what I have to say to be of use to everyone participating, or at least thought provoking. I reproduce an outline below of areas which seem to me worth writing about. Let me know if I am not welcome. I will move on to some place where I can put these ideas forward. I will write observations about specific areas I have outlined below in short concise formats.

High Performance Computing ­ a look at the limitations of pc computing, and where culture is shaped by image making. The motion picture and construction of motion. Modern movie techniques.

Biology of the Brain Modularity of the mind, connectionist versus socio-biology thinking. ­ Primarily derived from "Rethinking Innateness, A Connectionist Perpsective on Development", essays by various persons, a Bradford Book, MIT Press, 1996.

Postmodernism, specifically so-called Queer Theory. A look at name calling and what that does in the brain. Applying the concept of "knowing anothers mind" with regard to autism, and evolution. A critical look at various Postmodernist, Butler, Kristeva, Zizek.

Disability rights Access methods about human consciousness and the world wide web, Looking at recommendations for electronic access to the internet for blind people, dyslexics, cognitive dysfunctions etc. A look at the guidelines provided by the W3 foundation and who writes those rules. Interviews with persons familiar with universal design. The shaping of communications and the workers role in a world wide grid of thought.

Workers organization in a high performance computing regime. … Habermas like communication, High speed transfer of graphical images, satellite based tracking, mapped social systems. … Evolution of language

Ideology and Religion … How religion emerges from modular structures of the brain. How modules of the brain produce religion. ­ "The Prehistory of the Mind", Steven Mithen, Thames and Hudson, 1996. … How Marxism itself is suitable to brain structures. Another look at how Lenin looked at ideology, sectarianism, the departmental structure of communist organizations, the role of leadership in party affairs. Using high performance computing as a tool to structure social organization ideologically.

Anyone familiar with my recent role on Left Business Observer, please feel free to be critical. I welcome any feedback. To repeat if I am not welcome I will leave immediately.

Yours, Doyle Saylor

Comrades, In responding to Chris Burford, Sam Pawlett writes this:

I don't really like Pinker's work, but if you are interested in evolutionary psychology he is one of the most knowledgable and convincing in a field that is usually neither. Evolutionary psychology that I've read like Robert Wright and Matt Ridley contains some interesting ideas but is very speculative and quite woolly philosophically. Pinker isn't a type-type reductionist because he is a realist about folk psychology i.e. he thinks beliefs and desires exist. One of the problems, and Pinker knows it well, is that evolution works very slowly. Pinker even argues that the human mind is evolved and adapted to the conditions of the Stone Age ( he's not joking here). Culture and economy change much more rapidly than evolution by natural selection. So, many concepts like "internet" or even "marxism" are just too recent to have been the product of natural selection. People today have very little in common with Stone Age man. Thus, to get evolutionary psych. off the ground, Pinker must rely heavily on innateness and characteristics of the mind that are universal and timeless. Pinker is forced into a kind of Kantianism or even Platonism. Pinker is no Marxist. There is too much cognitive psychology and not enough philosophy in his books for me.

Doyle I agree with this up to the point that Sam says,

"There is too much cognitive psychology and not enough philosophy in his books for me.".

In order to create a context that helps to make my position clearer with regard to my reaction to Sam I will now quote Chris;

Chris: Steven Mithen's argument in the Prehistory of Mind is very much a social one, rather than a story of atomised individuals. One of his core ideas is that there was a cultural revolution around the mid point of the existence of Homo sapiens sapiens (Cro-Magnon Man) on this planet - ie around 50,000 years ago - which developed religion and art with anthropomorphic representations of the natural world as the precursor of scientific knowledge.

He suggests no external precipitant for this. One can only imagine that is was a potentiality of which this sub-species was capable, and it occurred, and once it occurred it was self-perpetuating.

Doyle Actually Mithen proposes that modular structures arose in the earliest homids, primarily, a tool making module, and a language module, and possibly a landscape module. The external precipitant for the period about 90 to 60 thousand years ago would have been niche evolution of the modules possibly according to Mithen due to female language use driving a need to merge all three modules. To understand the three modules not being merged is a bit hard. I mean grasping that making a tool was not conscious to the language module is hard to conceive of. I wonšt go into detail about that. What I am driving at is that such things were embodied in human evolution still affecting us genetically. After this point culture according to Mithen primarily expressed as a religious thought process emerged and carried us forward beyond what evolution in the genes could have produced. This argument is not really an innateness argument by the way. But the way to grasp that requires citing considerable evidence about how genetic evolution happens. My response here is not directed to Chris, and I will present a different set of responses to Chris.

Samšs remark as I wrote is something I mainly agree with except that Sam seems to miss the point that philosophy must be "embodied". So I will give two examples that come to my mind this way. First on the concept of modules.

When I first encountered the concept in the mid-seventies it was primarily through trying to understand how the eye works. And for various reasons most understanding of the modular nature of the brain is through the visual system in the cortex. However, I will make this point; I recognized early on there must be a motion seeing module of the brain. A good guess on my part because it took almost twenty years of research in neuro-science to establish that module. So I got a philosophical concept of the mind being modular, but I had not embodied the concept. Actually I couldnšt have embodied the concept of visual modules that see motion apart from stillness in visual fields even though I did think about the issue for quite awhile. I simply didnšt have the resources to find out the answer to my guess in a material embodied way. Someone else found the module, Semir Zeki, to be specific in London. Furthermore, just having an idea that vision is modular doesn't mean anything much particularly.

Another example would be the Marxist concept of the dialectic. This philosophical tool is quite useful in helping to get some broad understanding of how Marxist might think about social organization. It emerged in the last century, yet, it is primarily a philosophical concept. When Marx had it there was no way for them to know what the brain did. In our times such concepts must be embodied. There cannot be philosophy without cognitive science. In other words no philosophical concept about how we really think can any longer be made without reference to how the concept is embodied in human material physiognomy. It is of course quite human to use what tools we have to understand, or to speculate to advance understanding, but it is now necessary to embody philosophy in the body. Philosophy as a separate activity pursued by thinkers apart from the rest of science is no longer possible. That is so because a concept such as the dialectic must be shown in how it works in the mind. Mithenšs speculations or mine can be good directions to approach the material understanding of the mind, but they must be substantiated in how the minds works.

In solidarity, Doyle Saylor