Abstract Details

Conversation, Consciousness and Evolution  Carl Flygt (Art, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV )   P1

Conversation, probably best understood as mutual and flexible dependence in language, and analogous perhaps in biology to co-evolving genes in each other's environment, would seem to occupy a primary position in consciousness, bearing on causes, on functions and on evolutionary probabilities. In some defining sense, likely combining inner abstraction, inner reproduction and inner sympathy, conversation of one sort or another may constitute the actual consciousness of any living organism that has it. Accordingly, and notwithstanding its essential blindness, conversation of an ideal or perfectible sort probably holds the key to all evolved forms of consciousness. To date and to the best of my knowledge no positive (testable) theory of natural language conversation has been proposed, much less externally tested. This despite the fact that conversation can (and should) be taken as the most ubiquitous and the most immediate part of the world available to human beings. At present the reasons for this shortfall, although instructive and important, need not concern us overly. What might concern us immediately is whether or not the right theory has been identified. I think the correct theory is algorithmic (not heuristic), simple (not complex) and morally challenging (not morally neutral). It appeared in my 2006 book Conversation: A New Theory of Language and it postulates universal satisfaction moment by moment as the defining, if ineffable, feature of ideal conversation. I am currently drafting a followup text, Conversation, Consciousness and Evolution, further to flesh out the premises, the scope and the plausible applications of this theory. If we begin to test, to verify and in memory, both inner and outer, to retain a science of conversation, as I think we will, we should expect to experience important changes in our social conventions, in our institutions and in our biology. Whether these changes accumulate in the right order and in the right way would seem likely to fall to a substantial degree within the purview of the science itself. If and when conscious evolution, both of the internal habits and scope of the daily mind and of the external world of space, form, commodity and artifact, becomes a science it will almost certainly be the product of perfected natural language conversation.