Conscious Will

James Piat piat1 at
Mon Apr 29 13:48:34 EDT 2002

Dear Ken Armstrong, 

Thanks for the comments. You wrote:

>>  Quite a feat, Jim, to declare consciousness the strongest drive of all (I'm not sure, though, where the drives are kept) and then declaring yourself ignorant of what consciousness is.

OK I withdraw the comment about consciousness being a drive.  But seriously I still not sure what it is.  How would you define it?  What do you think is its function?  Do you think it can occur in the absense of the ability to symbolize?

>> And THEN of all the *$(@#$*%$ things, devolving to consciousness being no  different from stimulus/response!

Well I didn't mean to imply that was a done deal  --only that I could not explain to my own satisfaction how consciousness differed from "mere" responding other than qualitatively.  

>> Well, heck, man, no wonder you don't understand how consciousness would be necessary for free choice to occur!

But Ken, I'm all ears.  Seriously, this is a subject of great interest to me and I would enjoy any explantions or suggestions you might have.   I'm not being flip.  It does seem to me that consciousness plays some sort of role in choice.  But when I get down to trying to specify how or why conciousness would be necessary  --or even what exactly I mean by free choice I never seem to get very far.  

>> All I can say, with some expectation of being understood, is that Percy would indeed have been willing to deflate (much better than I, obviously) the idea that will is illusion. I notice no one took me up on my question of how that book came into being. Stimulus/response d'yer suppoze?

>>Well, I suppose that the author might argue something along those lines.  But supposing the author said the book came about as a result of many discussions.  Does this mean that free will was necessarily involved,  that the process was fully conscious or that consciousness was necessary for the book to have been produced.  Granted I think it is unlikely that the author would argue that consciousness did not even accompany the process by which the book developed but as you know correlation does not necessarily imply cause.  (Moreover there is some experimental evidence that consciousness occurs after one makes a choice  --not concurrently or before.) 

Jim Piat

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