Just a couple of quick things that came to mind:
The "eureka!" experience comes as a result of solving a problem, in
which effort had been expended, and that expenditure was expected to
continue. Typically, sets of ideas may be in conflict, and an effort
is being made to visualize a resolution, a new idea set that resolves
the disparities or apparent contradictions. Because that effort
requires focusing on conflicting ideas, and the mind is not capable of
holding an actual contradiction in conscious focus, it has to work
around the problem, looking for elements in common, and switching back
and forth between the conflicting perspectives.
As Koestler discusses in "The Act of Creation," this creates a state of
internal tension, whose resolution results in a sudden release of that
tension, a feeling of vast relief, the sensation that a load has been
lifted, that new perspectives, previously blocked by the problem, are
now available, etc. - the "eureka!." There is a parallet, which I have
mentioned before, in humor. As Koestler, again in "The Act..."
analyzes, every humorous event consists of forcing the mind unexpectedly
to focus on something in two contradictory ways simultaneously.
Again, since this is impossible, the mind actually flashes back and
forth between the two (or more) perspectives. But, although the
functions of the mind that are explicitly based on nervous impulses and
internal processing within neurons can oscillate relatively rapidly
between the different meanings, for example, of a pun, the emotional
part of the brain has a lag, as it pumps out hormones, etc. to prepare
the mind/brain system for the current demands. Ie., it can't keep up.
In particular, it can't cancel out or reabsorb the chemicals nearly as
fast as the cognitive oscillation. So, instead, it overrides each
previous state by increasing the level of chemicals, an exponential
slope that very quickly maxes out the system, resulting in a release
process we call laughter. The original emotional load of the two
contradictory perspectives may have been very small, but throw in that
exponential, and the result is the same.
Regarding another recent set of postings having to do with the origins
of consciousness: I recall seeing an article hypothesizing that when we
chimpanzees split up into the forest versus the savannah chimps, that
the savannah chimps suddenly needed to be able to throw accurately, not
nearly as valuable a skill in the dense jungle. Our brother chimps
still in the jungle are notoriously inept throwers. The advantage
gained by accurate throwing was evolutionarilly self-preserving and
self-reinforcing, and only increased that much more during the ice ages.
Throwing accurately, however, requires projecting ahead in time,
visualizing results and consequences.
On a further note, re the bicameral brain theory of consciousness,
Koestler also had some things to say, long before Jaynes wrote. He
pointed out (again, "The Act...") that no one painted accurate clouds
until a particular artist analyzed all the different types of clouds and
developed a classification and nomenclature which we still use.
Suddenly everyone then was painting clouds that looked real.. Simlarly,
consciousness of self requires a means of discriminating between
different self-states. Such a discrimination and consequent awareness
is only possible beyond a rudimentary level if one has learned a set of
differentia and geni and a nomenclature to label the events.
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