William James speaks of a “stream of consciousness,” but when I talk about consciousness, or “reflective awareness,” I am talking about something that is more than the stream. The stream is not “you,” but a huge part of you; a part that “you” are influenced by and can influence in turn. Sam Harris claims that you are some epiphenomenal and detached observer of this stream. Is he taking a piss, as they say? He apparently doesn’t realize that the “observer effect” is not just a useful concept in physics. I would like to claim that you can swim in that stream, but you invariably end up peeing in it too. Once this basic “strange loop” is pictured, you might realize that after years of doing this, your stream will be more yellow than blue. That is, what most people consider to be “unconscious” thoughts, or those parts of every moment of thinking that are not privy to consciousness, I consider to be previously conscious thoughts, for the most part any way. In fact, this entire rant will likely float downstream later tonight or tomorrow, almost completely opaque to my conscious mind, and will buttress whatever conscious thought I am then having. My point is that we are not motionless observers subject to the whim of the prevailing currents in our stream of consciousness, but rather, our intentional, conscious thoughts create most of those currents to begin with! So don’t worry about the ripples in your stream, the consistent and powerful currents of your thought, they are merely proof that you have been swimming in your stream of consciousness for a long time. Realizing this is like spotting a yellow streak coming from upstream!
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Think On These Things by JL Tkachuk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at thinkonthesethingstoo.wordpress.com.
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