Abstract Details

The Field of Consciousness as a Network of Relationships: Support for Idealism from Theoretical Linguistics  Sydney Lamb (Linguistics, Rice University, Houston, TX )   C3

Study in theoretical linguistics has shown that the information system that supports an individual's language processing, including speech, reading and writing, is a network of relations (Lamb 1998, 2016). What appear to be linguistic objects, like lexical items and phonological units, turn out to have no existence apart from their relationships, which taken together form a relational network (RN) with no objects, only connections. It has also been shown that RN structure can be implemented in neural networks whose nodes are cortical columns of neurons (Mountcastle 1998). Although this finding provides a physical basis for RNs, the possibility of mind extending beyond the brain should not be dismissed. It can also be argued that there is no such thing as a language as distinct from the linguistic systems of individuals. The question arises whether similar reasoning might be applied to other objects in the world and to other systems, extending perhaps to the entire cosmos. The notion of such a 'cosmic network' would apply first to the cosmos as conceived and understood by an individual, but it suggests two further questions: (1) How is the Individual Mental Cosmos (IMC) related to the Cosmos as a whole? (2) How are the IMC's of different individuals related to one another? (1) According to the commonly held view, people have sensory-perceptual systems that bring in information about an independent outside world, but we know that perception is altogether unreliable and is heavily dependent on projection; we actually have no compelling evidence that any perception at all is reliable. If it is altogether faulty, the illusion might include the perceived externality of the Cosmos; we must consider the possibility that the assumption of a separate Cosmos, like that of a separate language (as distinct from the linguistic systems of individuals), is mistaken. (2) It is clear that every IMC is different from every other in more or less detail, and also that there are certain commonalities (e.g., in conceptions of 'the moon') among different IMC's. Consideration of these two issues, especially the question of whether reality is purely mental, along with the challenges identified by David Chalmers (2019), can be facilitated by including unconscious mind in the scope of deliberation. Individual consciousness, in RN theory, would be an agent that travels along pathways of a vast relational network, but it is quite limited in two respects: (1) it has access only to a very small portion of the whole while the rest remains unconscious; (2) it is a narrowly focused serial processor, while most unconscious network activation travels in parallel pathways and in multiple areas simultaneously. References: Chalmers, David. 2019. Idealism and the mind-body problem. In W. Seager, ed., 2019. https://philpapers.org/archive/CHAIAT-11.pdf Lamb, Sydney. 1999. Pathways of the Brain: The Neurocognitive Basis of Language. Benjamins. Lamb, Sydney, 2016. Linguistic structure: A plausible theory. Language under Discussion. http://www.ludjournal.org/index.php?journal=LUD&page=article&op=view&path[]=30. Mountcastle, Vernon. 1998. Perceptual Neuroscience: The Cerebral Cortex. Harvard University Press.