(You can now find the complete collection of eight installments on this Page.)
Book 4: Find Out!: The Real Way You Are Supposed to Act
Installment 6 (Below)
Chapter I: Seeing Through Illusion: Bridging The Gap (continued)
“Now back to the above question: ‘What does it mean to be a person who acts in the world?’ It means to be an organism that has various bodily functions, including all the physical movements we can name. Those movements are what we mean by action, and none of them are gestures coming from a mind. It isn’t to say people don’t have thoughts that contain messages that relate to the things they do, but no one can know what they are going to do before they see themself doing it. The physical act is seen (by the individual whose body it came from), and then that person knows they acted a certain way (in the world.) Our familiar stream of thought is a result of electrical firings in the brain (nervous system) that correlate more or less with the life we see ourself having, or hope to have. But there is no direct link going from a thought to an action, and certainly no person (or ‘self’ mechanism) sitting in the brain that can direct the body parts of that human to behave in accordance with its desirous thoughts. This is mythical, and a bit absurd, though completely intuitive. Present day humans have brains that make us feel that way, so the assumption is natural and normal.
Earlier I was talking about bridging the gap between the external and the internal, really what’s defined as the body-mind problem (relatedly, the hard problem in philosophy regarding consciousness). I like to keep it simple, since I am not a philosopher but an awareness educator. Because the human body (like all organisms) is an integrated operating system, functioning in full coordination with itself as a whole (and its immediate environment), there is no reason to distinguish its outside (skin view) from its inside (innards). There is something very strange that occurs, however, for humans, when we perceive ourself and others. This comes about when we conceive of our person (or another) through our thought process, instead of visually seeing our body–in the mirror or under our head–or another human in the room. (If one is blind, then seeing would be tactilly feeling.) We are wired to somehow observe through the lens of our so-called mind (our introspective narrative), rather than use our eyes in the way we would anything else we were looking at, like a plant or bird, for example.
If we do not distinguish between our outside (skin view) and our inside (innards), but rather see ourself as a whole, then behavior may be thought of differently. It may be easier to immediately comprehend ourself to be ‘of nature’ or ‘of science’ only, without the addendum of a mind separating us from the corporeal organism. When considering the behavior of a tortoise, for example, we do not divide inside from outside, and so it’s clear the behavior is straightforwardly of the tortoise’s body/organism, without the ‘intentional stance’ (Daniel Dennett). In fact, the cute way we tend to personify other animals to have human qualities–‘dispositional states’ (Paul Churchland)–we could instead see ourselves to be like other organisms. In other words, no behavior by any animal needs to be deemed voluntary or intentional.”