The voices

There is some tune going on in your head. Most of the time, if you are not otherwise preoccupied, there is a tune or ditty of some sort going on in a loop of some kind. We all know the Ohrwurm phenomenon. Now look at that tune: Do you identify with it? Is it you? Are there attitudes, points in time when you are less self-conscious, in which it is reasonable to say it is you, as it occupies the forefront of your attention? Now it is an object. An odd object, as, for now, it is epistemologically privileged. Perhaps some day we will have brain interpretation devices that allow us to use a neural pattern to play “name that tune”. Then it would have this weird dual character: in direct experience, where it is available only to me, and in the world of objective registration, where it is available to all.

If that doesn’t make sense, try imagining yourself whistling the tune un-self-consciously. Now try to imagine the experience the person you are imagining is having. Is that not like having the tune be you at that moment?

Now consider the contents of consciousness from other times, when you do identify with the contents. Say during the having of a propositional thought. Can that thought, or the having of that thought, be considered in this dual way too? Why not?

This question troubles the psychotic. When he hears strange voices, the voices are “in his head”, meaning they are epistemologically privileged, but perceived as “other”. There is the whole battery of depersonalization symptoms that seem to point to the same issue.

If we take the extended mind hypothesis far beyond where Clark goes, we arrive at the co-dependent arising of subject and object in immediate experience, as Varela saw.

If we adopt this stance, and redevelop our vocabulary of psychology, junking the received notions of memory, attention, etc, we might arrive at terms that can help us to better understand the psychotic’s situation. I’m just sayin’.

The Middle Way (Madhyamika) of Mahayana Buddhism seems to me to be a way of overcoming this conceptual problem, which is simultaneously a vision problem. We have no clue to what extent our derived concepts structure experience, and to what extent it arises from immediate sensori-motor activity. In fact, present experience turns out to be something of a myth. There is no P-world. But you have to look very hard at the P-world to see that. Autonomy is not tied to some personal construct.

There is no P-world. This might be a hard one to swallow.

But Wei Wu Wei saw all this very very clearly indeed. But it comes out in various ways: Here’s a good one:

There is no time….Phenomena are not extended in space-time objectively, as things in themselves: it is the perceiving which extends them.