Re: Non-sensory experiences

From: Phil Osborn (
Date: Sun Nov 11 2001 - 16:20:29 MST

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Subject: Re: Non-sensory experiences
From: Phil Osborn <>
Date: 10 Nov 2001 16:09:37 PST

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.

(Added, Sunday) When one is focused on a single "path," without conflicting perspectives, then the mind/body system can maintain a state of relative calm or relaxation. It takes a conscious effort and a concommitant level of stress on the system to maintain a dual focus or a multiple focus, as there is, by the nature of the operation, no single way that the automatic responses by the endocrine and other systems involved in preparing the body for one particular type of action can smoothly respond. Instead, there is always the possibility of positive feedback excursions, chaotic events, etc., when one tackles the task of creating a new integration. (End, addition)

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, when the ability to hunt large dangerous land mammals became especially valuable. 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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