self-consciousness: another recursion


the form of the question

“We human beings find ourselves doing whatever we may be doing (like asking this question) when we ask ourselves about what we do.  The form of the question that we ask determines the operational and relational domains in which we want an answer.  The form of the question that a listener hears determines the operational and relational domains in which he or she wants to hear an answer.  The operational and relational domains in which our living occurs at any instant changes in the flow of our living as our living changes, and as our living changes our listening changes according to what is happening in our living.  Thus, we may begin asking a question in a particular relational domain, but as in the flow of our living our listening changes, we may end accepting an answer in a different relational domain, without even becoming aware of the change.  It is to avoid this sort of confusion that I take special care in showing explicitly the relational domain in which I think the experiences which are lived or are connoted when we speak of knowing and of self-consciousness occur.  Indeed, it is to avoid this sort of confusion that I am always careful in making explicit what kind of answers I shall propose or I shall accept in relation to questions that deal with what is connoted when we speak of cognition, consciousness and self-consciousness.”

there is yet more to language ...

When people speak of self consciousness, they may either be evoking the somewhat mysterious experience they have and which they assume we all experience, or they may be trying to specify what this “thing” is.  What is “it” that we sometimes claim as unique to human awareness?

Like many names, “self consciousness” refers to the result of a process that itself disappears as we begin to treat the name as an object.  We cannot achieve an understanding of the dynamic, the process thus, nor can we generate the process through the description.  We may find that the description resonates, with our experience, and thus become tempted to conflate the two.

“We modern human beings do all that we do, even if we are not aware of this, as self-conscious beings.  We use the words or notions of consciousness and self-consciousness in our western culture, whether in the domains of science, philosophy, art or daily life, under a fundamental epistemological attitude in which we implicitly or explicitly act as if they referred to some emergent property of the operation of the brain, or to some essential feature of the cosmos, or even to some intrinsic property of matter.”

“ What is particular to us as languaging human beings is that we live in consensual coordination of feelings and doings in an interactional dynamics that we feel as our living in recursive distinctions that constitute the world that we feel to be our living in the flow of our living in language.  It is in the flow of this manner of living as we live with other human beings, that we learn the coordinations of doings that an observer will see as recursive distinctions that distinguish the doings of the doings which are felt as consciousness, awareness, self-consciousness and knowing ”

“How does self-consciousness occur?

An observer says that the operation of self-distinction occurs when in the happening of a recursive operation of distinction he or she sees that the body and the operation of the distinguishing organism appear being distinguished in the operations of distinction of the same organism that does those distinctions. 

And an observer says that self-consciousness is occurring when in the context of a flow of a languaging relation he or she sees a person operating in recursive self-distinction in a way that he or she would describes as a relational dynamics in which such a person is operating in the sensoriality that could lead him or her to say that he or she is distinguishing what he or she is doing in distinguishing his or her doings and feelings. 

When does self-consciousness occur?

An observer says that self-consciousness occurs when he or she sees a person living in the sensoriality that takes place when a person lives him or herself in the sensoriality of the operational flow of recursive self-distinctions and he or she is open to remain in that operational disposition. 

Where does self-consciousness occur?

An observer says that he or she sees that a person is operating as a self-conscious being when he or she sees that that person operates in the sensoriality of a flow of recursive coordinations of doings that constitute the operation of recursive self-distinctions in a relational domain of living in which he or she distinguishes in the observed person the feelings of self distinction of self-distinction.   That is, self-consciousness is occurring in the sensoriality that a person lives when an observer, that could be him or herself, says that he or she acts knowing that he or she knows what he or she is doing”

Constructivist Foundations

The above quotation, and the following ones, are all selections from Maturanas article “Self-consciousness: How? When? Where?” published in the free on-line journal Constructivist Foundations.  If you find the quotes interesting, I recommend you access the full article.

a gift of the infinite