performing conscious process

Photo credit: Android Jones

in consciousness and life,
we identify with our practice.

being “in practice” as a philosopher
is more about daily reading & thinking
than having a degree on the wall,
just as being a practicing martial artist
requires daily discipline.

if you wish to become anything of value,
you must train daily to become who you are.

consciousness is procedural.
identity is procedural.

the salience filters of consciousness
are in constant flux.
they are more like a standing wave
than a sieve.

many (if not most) of the lived categories
that suffuse our lives with meaning
are ad hoc,
since our lives are ad hoc
(we don’t merely experience generic concepts like “hat” or “friend”,
but “this particular favorite black ball cap of mine” &
“that individual friend with whom I discussed X yesterday.”)

the “this” of the “hoc”
in “ad hoc”
is temporal, spatial, & idiosyncratic:
“my” “here” “now”.

cognition & perception
(including those of the “proprio-” flavors)
are procedural & largely ad hoc.

hence the effects in
well-performed magic tricks,
hypnogogic hallucinations,
hypnotic states,
and psychedelic states.

for a while now
i’ve been fond of saying that
“consciousness rides chemicals”:
in other words,
consciousness is procedural
(at least in a chemical sense
if not other senses as well).

conceptual distinctions (e.g. “categories”)
& cognitive context
may be sedimented into core cognitive operations.

such sedimentation is common in early development.

later in life,
it becomes clear that
for many forms of
conceptual & cognitive infrastructure,
the “use it or lose it” rule applies:
neurons that no longer fire together
relax their wires.
machinery not well used & maintained
decays into
the neuro-chemistry of forgotten skills.

as it is in detroit or in ancient rome:
so it is with the mind.

many mansions of the mind
lie in ruins.


is a local & logical
piling up of memes
such that a thesis makes sense.

“framing” is how some academics today manage to cling to partial intelligibility.

framing is local.
for framing to perform any useful logical work,
the local frame
must resonate with a sedimented conceptual framework,
leading to resonance with the thesis.

in rare cases,
local framing
may alter a conceptual framework
on a specific topic.

(nested contexts,

consciousness is performed.
consciousness is performative.
identity is performed.
identity is performative.

what i
“identify with”
who i
“identify as”
often dramatically,
with life circumstance.


graziano hypothesis:
consciousness is signal processing.
only signals & processors exist.

like the genome,
the neural substrate for signal processing
will appear largely similar
across individuals
in most test cases.

like small individual differences in the genome,
sedimented or locally framed infrastructure
that provides a salience context
for signals
may differ wildly,
especially with respect to high-level, abstract sub-signals
like those we find in religion, politics, morality, or worldview.

who tunes the channels
for the internal radars
that sniff out
in our lives as animals
in academics?

when i say
“consciousness is procedural,”
on one level,
i mean to echo
something very similar to
graziano’s “attention schema theory”:
viz., “awareness is a model of attention.”

saying “consciousness is procedural”,
means i wish to treat
consciousness as a physical process,
highly attuned to initial conditions.

change those initial conditions,
(e.g. by changing your conceptual frame,
changing your set & setting,
changing your life situation,
reading an article full of useful & persuasive philosophical distinctions,
drinking a glass of wine,
or smoking cannabis),
and you’ll change consciousness-as-process
as well as consciousness-as-(signal)-processor.

existential upshot:
consciousness & identity are in flux.
they’re procedural & performative.
they’re part of a great becoming.
daily practice helps determine them.
choice is involved.

even one’s sedimented conceptual framework
& salience filters
are in flux
and may be altered.

no “soul” exists.
no “mind” exists.
no “i” exists.
(or, if that’s too strong for you:)
“i” change (even “the i” we mean by “i” changes.)
“existence precedes essence” (sartre).
you only ever “are” who you “are” here & now.

consciousness & identity are procedural & performative.

that’s why it’s important
in your ongoing quest for awareness & self-awareness
to pay attention to set & setting
to develop a practice.


The Essence of Peopling

Intuition of the Instant: French Philosopher Gaston Bachelard on Our Paradoxical Experience of Time


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