Sunday, April 16, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 4/8: Generative Levels in Psychology

4. Generative Levels in Psychology

It is easier to understand this downward causation pattern within psychology. There are many examples of derivative dispositions in everyday life, in psychology, in particular in cognitive processes. The accomplishment of a given disposition requires the operation of successive steps of kinds different from the overall step. The original disposition on its operation generates the “derived dispositions” for the intermediate steps, which are means to the original end. An original “disposition to learn”, for example, can generate the derived “disposition to read books”, which can generate further “dispositions to search for books”. These dispositions can then generate dispositions to move one’s body, which in turn lead to one’s limbs having (physical) dispositions to move. These successively generated dispositions are all derived from the original disposition to learn, according to the specific situations. 

Another example of sequential and derivative dispositions is the ability to learn. To say that someone is easy to teach, or that they are musical, for example, does not mean that there is any specific action that they are capable of doing. Rather, it means that they are disposed to learn new skills (whether of a musical or general kind), and that it is these new skills that are the dispositions that lead to specific actions.

In this I follow Broad [7]: that there are “levels” of causal influence. Particular dispositions or intentions are not the most fundamental causes, but rather “intermediate stages” in the operation of more persistent “desires” and “motivations”. The intention to find a book could be the product or derivative of a more persistent “desire for reading”, and need only be produced in the appropriate circumstances. Broad would say that the derived dispositions were the realization of the underlying dispositions.

The pattern of “underlying propensity / distribution / result” for “mental sub-degrees” shows the steps by which deep motivational principles (purposes) in an “interior mind” lead to action. These purposes come to fruition by means of discursive investigation of ideas, plans and alternatives in what can be called a more exterior “scientific discursive mind”, as constrained by existing intellectual abilities. The actions of the sensorimotor mind select one outcome among many, as constrained by bodily conditions. Psychologists who have investigated perceptive and executive processes within the sensorimotor stage realize that these are far from simple. What we see is very much influenced by our expectations and desires, as well as by being constrained by what is in front of our eyes. There are subsidiary degrees of expectation, presentation of alternatives and resolution even during “simple” sensations. 

Consciousness enters into this picture whenever actions occur. All actions of desire or love are conscious actions, and part of the conscious awareness of at least some personality or person. Consciousness is therefore not a mental source itself, but an essential aspect of operations from mental sources.

[7] C. Broad, Mind and Its Place in Nature, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1925. 

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