Convening the Society of the Mind

by phil on Wednesday Dec 3, 2003 5:01 PM

Let's say... I decide I want to convince myself to like the color red, even though my favorite color is blue. Doesn't the mere act of trying to convince myself that I like red automatically signify that I do in fact like red? Well, in fact it does, but only partially, it signifies that I like it enough to want to convince the rest of me to like red.

But what is this "rest of me" that I speak of?

I have a different visualization of the mind that might clear up confusion on this and other similar questions:
- How does one unify himself?
- What is a "strong will"
- What is emotional pain?
- How can you want to do something but do the opposite?

How about we view the mind as a society. How about a society similar to American society, replete with human analogs, such as leaders, workers, special interest groups, different religions, and pundits. Each individual person or group, just like their human counterparts, have varying powers, methods of communications, and weaknesses.

Together, all these individual components come together and act as one nation in spite of their disparate interests.

So taking the decision to like the color red, you may have any number of motivational leaders that have a lot of say or power in this society. According to the president, some legislators, maybe a couple of interest groups, and word on the steet, is that red is the good color. However, the majority of the nation is still stuck on blue.

If you were asked to choose which color you like the best, the leadership powers may take charge and mark the color red. But in other situations, possibly when you're more emotional, or when the consequences are more real, you may decide to buy the blue shirt instead of the red. You'd have to fight yourself in order to force the red choice.

Likewise, a nation is similar. There is only so much that the major authorities or preachers or pundits can claim without public appeal. Like it's hard to go to war without the support of the people.

This of course assumes that you run a democracy. In our "democratic" society, we have a constitution that guarantees free speech. A similar mind would give all motives a voice and never stifle any opinion or any urge from speaking forward. This person would be open to differing perspectives and willing to accept compromise between different groups.

You could run an autocracy, on the other hand, and have the executive powers run the show. Everything that you decide has to become action, and you force yourself to follow it. For some this may be easy, for example if you have a weak, disorganized public (i.e. you are not very emotional or have an undeveloped sense of desire, such as when you're young), you can pretty much do things based on fiat. You decide it's important to like money, and jump right into running a business, not because you're brash, but because nobody in you is stopping you. You don't have little clubs of fear-mongers convincing others that what you are doing is wrong.

This model can be applied to active, conscious thinking. Just like the nation is comprised of institutions and independent communicators who publish papers or make assertions to the rest of the world, so too you have various voices that gain control of the mic in your stream of consciousness. They bubble up, and you hear them loud and clear. And by this "you" I speak of, I mean merely another group of people in you that are processing that information.

Take me, for example, writing this post. Let's analyze this. It would be as if a fringe group of psychologists came up with this "society of the mind" theory and is sending it to the news media channels. The recipient of this information are people who buy the science magazines, and get excited (as I am getting excited about this). The pundits are excited as well, and are seeing how they can take this information and write articles and entries to the other members of my mind, suggesting how to organize themselves more efficiently. And maybe some other force that cares about spreading information and knowledge to foreign lands, is taking it and writing these words you see. The "I" is any sum combination of these various people who come on and off the stage depending on the volume of their voice.

Also of note are the silent members of my mind, who don't care much about this discussion. Such members would be the frat guys who are too busy scheming, or the religious types who still hold onto some beliefs, such as you can never know anything for sure.

Anyways. This model handles the subtleties that confuse me then I think about ME wanting to do things to ME (because they can't be the same ME, we're talking about).


I heard Dennet say something like "Society of the Mind" a couple years ago, and it has stuck with me.

NB: I've developed this faith that there are recursive nested structures in our universe, and so it wouldn't/doesn't suprise me that our governmental organization would be similar to the way our brain organize (millions of nodes in a network with different purposes and objectives coming together to act as one).


AARON said on March 21, 2004 11:52 AM:

ITS TOUGH NTO COMPARE MODERN GOVERNMENT W/THE MIND..MAYBE THE FIRST DEMOCRACY,LIKE THE ROMAN EMPIRE WITH ONLY 1 MILL OR SO PEOPLE,BUT NOW THE NUMBERS ARE TOO LARGe,.our brain does have infinite power,but i believe functions better on a limited set of personas,variables,or factions. our social enlargment with society as it booms is directly related to the expansion,and evolution of our my opinion,of course.

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