Thursday, 22 November 2007

Is thinking an automatic process?

Julian Jaynes in his lecture "Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind" mentions

"instructions given to the nervous system, that, when presented with the materials to work on, result in the answer automatically without any conscious thinking or reasoning."

Somehow this statement strikes a chord as I draw from my own experience while thinking. Even now when I try consciously to develop my thoughts about this statement I pause and the next words to come are bursting out, as if from nowhere. Often enough I caught myself thinking about a notion and wonder. What pushed me into formulated such an idea?. John H. Holland mentions about reverberating cell assemblies organised as 'exclusive-or' networks of neurons, the parts of the nervous system that once they are presented with the materials to work on, they will automatically give the answer. Consciousness is not engaged, neither reason. If I reason at all, I would have lost the essence of my inquiry.

Julian Jaynes continued further and stated that

"this process on a smaller scale is going on in me at present as I am speaking: my words are as if chosen for me by my nervous system after giving it the instruction of my indented meaning."

We should not therefore be talking about a stream of consciousness when we talk, since as an automatic process our neurons know better. Than us? Do we identify ourselves solely with our consciousness? Is it because by consciousness we give substance to our ego?

But looks as if the the unconscious knows better.