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

The Why of Why We Want to Know Why, "I think?"

Shayna or Sheness Israel's picture

The Balance between the I-function (Consciousness)

and the Nervous System (Unconsciousness)

by Shayna Israel


1) Why does the I-function want to know why? Or why it “felt” something?

2) For the body to “move” it does not need the I-function to motivate it or even give it the energy to move. So, why does it not only need the I-function, but why does it even have it? Unless it actually does need the I-function to give it the energy, “will”, “a something” to move it. Is that what is going on with people who are brain (I-function) dead? They don’t have an I-function to motivate their nervous system? If we look at frogs, the nervous system does not need an I-function to move it, and not only that, it also makes decisions. Back to my question, why do we have or even need the I-function?

3) What does this mean for how we diagnose people as dead? Do we have to be “I-function dead” to be dead? Or do we have to be “Nervous system dead” to be dead? What does it mean to be both “I-function dead” and “Nervous system dead?”  If my nervous system dead is my I-function dead as well? Or is Emily right, that when the nervous system dies, we die?

4) What is this unique being that forms when the I-function and the nervous system meet? What holds us together? Is it an electromagnetic field? Is it culture? Is it love?

5) If we look at frogs, their nervous system did not come with a built-in I-function like ours did. How did we acquire this?

6) Some usually associate bliss with having no emotions regardless of stimuli internal or external. Everything just is. Just like in The Stranger. We get feeling but they mean nothing. Everything means nothing or (No-thing). Is having an I-function the disruption to our natural bliss? Is thinking or thinking too much a disruption to our natural bliss?

7) In The Stranger, this guy did not think but acted much of the time. When his mother died, he felt no-thing in particular. It was just an observation. He felt this kind of pressure and shock from other people because of his reaction. They even look at him with disgust. One time the people’s shock was so great, (this was after this guy killed someone) that they not only were disgusted but they gave him a death sentence. The jurors were appalled by the fact that not only did the guy not have an explanation (a Why) for his actions but when after being forced to give one he said that maybe it was the sun. This explanation was not “good” enough for the jurors, so they sentenced him to death.

8) What does this mean for how we treat people or beings that not only do not think like us, but do not think?

9) Is the fact that we are thinking too much, the reason why we are suffering so much? Is this how the I-function extracts from the nervous system?

10) Like I said in class, I do not think the relationship between the nervous system and the I-function has to be adversarial. I think culture, norms, and/or values often make this relationship adversarial? For example: just learned that the nervous system itself likes and produces variation through something internal to it. So, I guess, we “get bored,” easily or more precisely innately. My I-function helps me not get bored by telling me stories. I get to live through it (its stories). When I get bored, my I-function can, eerily and with great intensity, create an experience that I have never had before and probably could not have in the existing world as I know it and one that I could have sworn to be “real.”

11) My I-function is my imagination. It helps me think hypothetically so that I don’t need to “waste” time with an experience that may not be fruitful—fruitfulness depends on my particular goal(s), i.e. for difference/variation, at that particular time.

12) There has been a profound culture of mistrust of our body or nervous system in “our” American/Western society. Yet I have found in “my” African-American/African-decent culture, there has been an emphasis of “letting go” and just feeling, feeling the vibe, feeling the moment, feeling period.

13) Is this what repression is—and overly dominant I-function.

14) What implication does this conversation have for the definition of internalization? Usually the indication for some action being associated with internalization is that once it (internalization) has happened, one would do it without thinking. Within this context that means that internalization of something is seen when the nervous system begins to do or feel a thing that can clear be traced as something not intrinsic to it as well as do or feel it without ever consulting the I-function—without ever thinking. Or also does the internalization of an action could be an action to which the nervous and the I-function agree?

15) What happens when one begins questioning or problematizing these (internalized) feelings that one believes are “natural” or “innate” feelings? If one cannot come to a rationalization or story about what they are doing something, what then happens? Meaning when one’s I-function begins to try to make a story about what the nervous system is doing or believing and actually cannot come to a story that “makes sense to it?, what happens? Can we (our [collective] I-function(s)) be okay with the fact that we don’t have an explanation for something? Or must we infinitely problematize everything? Will we be “happy”? I know that I sometimes will not do something unless it makes sense to me or unless I can construct a story or meaning for it. I also know that I sometimes tell myself to shut up and just do. Sometimes if it not even an argument to do something.


16) I am not sure how to answer all the questions that I have just posed. All I can say with some certainty is that I am from the camp or the culture that lets me both problematize all that I am feeling as well as be okay with the fact that I cannot always come up with a story. The reason that I advocate problematizing things that I think we believe are fixed or natural is because it provides us me more choices. I need to know that they are other things out there and other things to experience besides that reality that I am currently experiencing.


I need to know that there are infinitely worlds out there in which my nervous system can choose from/ to act in/ and be apart of. This is the balance between the nervous system and the I-function—using the I-function to create infinite worlds for your nervous system to not only be apart of internally ( in the Imagination) but also externally motivate your nervous system in conjunction with other people or beings (in society).