HONOURABLE MENTION

Consciousness: Where are my thoughts?

In my project I will be comparing theories of the ideas of consciousness, the history of consciousness, philosophers' views on consciousness, and the scientific history of consciousness.
Serafina Oliva
Grade 7

Problem

What is consciousness? Where are my thoughts?

Method

I will be studying and making connections between different sources such as Sigmund Freud's Case Studies, Carl Jung's case studies, the History of Consciousness (such as philosophy) and more. 

Research

"To be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious of our own existence" - Aristotle.

 In this quote, Aristotle briefly elaborates on the comparison between our unconscious (our awareness) and our consciousness (our awareness of our consciousness and unconsciousness and existence). In comparison with Socrates' quote: "To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom" Aristotle was more relevant to consciousness while Socrates was more relevant to individuality and elaborating on the idea of original thought.   All of these great philosophers believed that constant learning is the only possible way to live. As French philosopher Rene Descartes once said: “I think therefore I am” as he himself was doubting his existence.

Have you Met my Mother? A Brief Introduction to Sigmund Freud. 

S. Freud: Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist. He was born in Freiburg, Moravia. Before his career in neurology began, he was invested in biology and medicine. However, when he met Jim Charcot, a French neurologist, Freud began to research aphasia (PPA, dementia). Freud later published several articles on dementia. Freud’s mentor, Jean-Martin Charcot, had been interested in hypnosis, and he told Freud that: hypnosis + mental hysteria = physical changes. Freud had misgivings about hypnosis but later used hypnosis for medical purposes. 

Some key definitions part 1:

 Consciousness: The act of being in one’s self and the act of being in one self.

Unconsciousness: Freud found in his studies that the unconsciousness is similar to the conscious. He also observed that a large part of the mind is the unconscious. Contrary to Freud, Jung thought that without the  unconscious there would be no conscious. 

Hypnosis: “Science and art mentally controlling the thoughts of others” - Practical Lessons in Hypnotism by W.M. Wesley Cook, A.M., M.D.

PPA: Primary Progressive Aphasia, a severe form of dementia. 

The Id, the Ego and the Superego: 

  1. Id 

The id is the part of the mind where mostly imagination and the unconscious takes place. 

  1. The Ego  

One’s understanding of one’s accomplishments and excellency. 

3. The Superego 

Essentially the master of the ego. The Superego controls the ego.

A Brief Introduction to Carl Jung: 

Carl Jung was a Swiss neurologist. He was born in Kesswil, Switzerland, in 1875. He studied at the University of Basel from 1895-1900 and then at the University of Zurich from 1900 - 1902 where he got his doctorate in medicine. He then decided to pursue, like Freud, psychiatry. He eventually travelled to Burgholzli, which was both a university and a mental hospital in Zurich. While studying at Burgholzli Jung found he was more interested in the presence of the unconscious, as well as schizophrenia (in his earlier studies) which literally means ‘split mind.’ Schizophrenia was also referred to as manic depressive anxiety - which was called phasic. Jung noticed that there was a loss of coordination between different psychic functions. 

Gabriel García Márquez writes of dementia in a dramatic scene from his book 100 Years of Solitude: 

“When Jose Arcardio Buendia realized that the plague (of forgetfulness) had invaded the town, he gathered together the heads of families to explain to them what he knew about the sickness of insomnia, and they agreed on methods to prevent the scourge from spreading to other towns in the swamp. That was why they took the bells off the goats, bells that the Arabs had swapped them for macaws, and put them at the entrance to town at the disposal of those who would not listen to the advice and entreaties of the sentinels and insisted on visiting the town.” - the nobel prize winning 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. 

The town Macondo, the main setting of 100 Years of Solitude, suffers a loss of the unconscious.  It is a plague of insomnia, or what Gabriel Garcia Marquez calls a “plague of forgetfulness,” which is one of the consequences of insomnia. The whole town loses its ability to sleep and soon after the villagers begin to forget everything. They panic and begin to start labelling common objects in their households with black ink so they would not forget how to use them and what they are called. Eventually a gypsy, named Melquiades, who was rumoured to have been dead, returns with a golden elixir that restores consciousness.  Garcia Marquez is using imaginative language, but Sigmund Freud might have described the town’s plague as a loss of the unconscious, or the id. He said that the Id is entirely unconscious, meaning that it is entirely one’s dream life. 

Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds  notes that: “the sea is the original home of the mind”, meaning that the sea, if it is the original home of the mind, is the birthplace of our unconscious.  Why is this?

600 million years ago, a worm-like creature evolved in the ocean. This creature would continue to evolve over the course of time, eventually splitting into two groups. One group (which would later include the octopus, and insects, etc.) was invertebrate. The other group (with animals and humans, etc.), evolved as vertebrate. Although our species originated from a very early wormy ancestor, octopi and humans split paths and then, much later on, each managed to develop its own complex nervous system. It’s astounding to imagine that “evolution built minds twice over,” as Godfrey-Smith notes.  

 

 

Conclusion

I believe that consciousness is the ability to make connections.  I have made some connections here, between Freud and Jung, between Octopi and Macondo, because I want to understand where my thoughts come from, how they disappear, and how they grow.  These books and films excited my imagination, or my Id.  As the winged man said, “Your thoughts are not your own.”  This means, I think, that we are influenced by each other, and by the world around us.  And when we are comfortable within ourselves, when we understand ourselves, we are better able to make connections.  That is all-important, and as essential to our existence as air or food.  As E.M. Forrester once said: “Only connect.”

We can only guess at the orchestra of senses, the underwater jazz that Godfrey-Smith describes, and the sensations that an octopus might have.  Their ability to make connections, to solve problems, to escape dangers, to become friends, to love, to disguise themselves, their ability to cancel their internal lights so that they can cancel their shadows: all of these things are amazing.  But what makes them conscious?  It is their ability to make connections, to remember (in both short-term and long-term), and to learn.  We can also learn, perhaps from them.

Connections can be made through dreams.  Butterflies can connect our thoughts, or follow us through the streets of Macondo.  But it is the conscious mind that must make these connections.  

Freud taught us that connections can be made within dreams.  Butterflies can connect our thoughts, or follow us through the streets of Macondo, as they do in 100 Years of Solitude.  But it is the conscious mind that must make these connections.  

It is the essential reason why a butterfly is so different from an octopus.  Our octopus friends are making connections with their minds.

 

Citations

1. “When Jose Arcardio Buendia realized that the plague (of forgetfulness) had invaded the town, he gathered together the heads of families to explain to them what he knew about the sickness of insomnia, and they agreed on methods to prevent the scourge from spreading to other towns in the swamp. That was why they took the bells off the goats, bells that the Arabs had swapped them for macaws, and put them at the entrance to town at the disposal of those who would not listen to the advice and entreaties of the sentinels and insisted on visiting the town.” - the nobel prize winning 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. 

 

  • Oxford Companion to the Mind (Edited by Richard L. Gregory) Oxford UP 1987. 
  • The Red Book (Liber Novus) by Carl Jung, published by Norton, London 2009.  
  • 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, published by Harper & Row 1970.
  • Delusion and Dream in Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva by S. Freud, published by Green Integer 2003. 
  • Other Minds by P. Godfrey Smith, published by F, S and G 2016. 
  • Case Studies Books 8 and 9 by Sigmund Freud, published by Penguin 1977
  • Practical Lessons in Hypnotism by WM Wesley, published by Thompson & Thomas, Chicago 1901. 
  • Introducing Jung, A Graphic Guide by Maggie Hyde and Michael McGuinness published by Icon Books, UK 2008. 
  • ‘My Octopus Teacher’ a film by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, 2020.
  • Various pictures are sourced from Google Image

Acknowledgement

  • Oxford Companion to the Mind (Edited by Richard L. Gregory) Oxford UP 1987. 
  • The Red Book (Liber Novus) by Carl Jung, published by Norton, London 2009.  
  • 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, published by Harper & Row 1970.
  • Delusion and Dream in Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva by S. Freud, published by Green Integer 2003. 
  • Other Minds by P. Godfrey Smith, published by F, S and G 2016. 
  • Case Studies Books 8 and 9 by Sigmund Freud, published by Penguin 1977
  • Practical Lessons in Hypnotism by WM Wesley, published by Thompson & Thomas, Chicago 1901. 
  • Introducing Jung, A Graphic Guide by Maggie Hyde and Michael McGuinness published by Icon Books, UK 2008. 
  • ‘My Octopus Teacher’ a film by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, 2020.
  • Various pictures are sourced from Google Image