Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

Anne Dalke's picture

Notes on the Brain's Way

My notes from today's rich session:

* To choose is to have alternatives.

* We can choose not to engage in the habitual; we cannot but choose.

* Most of our choices are unconscious: to perceive is to choose.

* The "you" making the choice, in most cases, is "the you not known to you."

* What gets us into trouble is our illusion about conscious choice ("what a piece of work is man/How noble in reason..."): our seeking meaning independently of our unconscious relation to the world.

* We idealize conscious choice as separate from what constitutes the basis of our decisions: the coarseness of our organs.

* Several different metaphors were evoked to describe the relation between conscious and unconscious processes: an onion with layers, a rider on the back of a horse, and a continuum.

* The hazard of focusing on conscious choice is that of getting stuck; this belief can generate a number of problems, including depression.

* We recognize in Hamlet our fears about conscious choices--though there is actually a pair of choosers in that play: Ophelia has the "more raw choice" ("her options were worse than his") of tearing herself out of the narrative, purposely absenting herself from the play.

* This series began with an overview of the history of theater:

  • conventional Aristotelian theater, in which the audience makes no conscious choices of their own;
  • Brechtian theater, which forces the audience to become conscious choosers;
  • a postmodern theater of connection and engagement, which involves the interplay of the conscious and unconsciousness.

* We closed by invoking a further range of related ideas:

  • Sartre @ the cliff: "Your present tense self unwilling to trust your future self to jump";
  • William James similarly invoking the "will to believe";
  • the use of totems to enhance one's sense of agency;
  • the role of the "we-function" (culture; the "unloading of language"; the revising of the past) in choosing;
  • the developmental model of Damasio, moving from "proto-" to "autobiographical" self.



The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
9 + 10 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.