One of the most elusive concepts – our conscious mind. Our subjective experience of thinking the thoughts and choosing our choices. Especially in the west, with more than two millenniums of pounding into the philosophical bell of the idea that human beings have a free will to go against the nature and act in a way that enables "us behind the curtain" to change the world around our bodies. In a way (and against the odds) we believe in a “mind over matter” scenario, where our free consciousness is removed from the universe/the nature (and from mechanical conditions that govern that reality) and can, through firings in gray matter, actively change that exact universe it’s immersed in.
Our mainstream philosophy is based on the idea that we are indeed responsible for our thoughts, decisions and actions. We are inclined to be unkind towards less (and more) fortunate, not to forgive easily, to take things personally, to blame and to take pride. We've taken for granted our subjectively experienced abilities. And not to blame us any further I'll pose a question: If presented data, can we change our beliefs we hold so dear? But I think we all know the answer to that one.
What if our conscious mind is just like movie projection?
The findings are clear and I won’t fool around – ground for decisions made by our “free will” is laid up to 10 seconds before entering our awareness. The simpler, more motoric the decision, the lesser the gap. But mind this: Reflex decisions are made entirely without entering the awareness. The thought is thought before we subjectively experience thinking it – this is what’s factual about nature of our consciousness.
The conscious mind is more like seeing a movie that unfolds before the eyes of our awareness. We see what is shown – edited, censored. We see more of a finished product than the Lego pieces to assemble.
So why there is a conscious mind, if it’s only an illusion?
That’s the point – from the beginning we could be closed in the wrong question. The “why?” does not matter. What matters is “how?”. If we could answer that question then we could say something about the purpose. For me there are two possibilities: First that our subjective experience of conscious mind is a byproduct of other late evolutionary processes. Second that this kind of processing is needed for sort of abstract processes that gave our branch of apes competitive advantage.
No matter what the how or why is, we’re still before a lot of philosophical heavy lifting. What we can say though is this: Focusing on blame, personal pride and unkind behavior is not the smartest way to operate given what we know about the nature of ourselves and of reality that surrounds us.
Take good care,