Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Out of Nowhere - 1

I have memories from before I was born. The earliest is my first recollection of consciousness.

Have you ever been in the countryside, and suddenly heard distant church bells? And when you heard them, you realise that there were several peals *before* the one you actually heard, that you are hearing now, in retrospect?

Well, it was like that. I woke up, and at the same time I realised I had been awake before. And also that because I could remember having been awake before, there was a connection between these states of wakefulness, and that connection was me. Wow! I existed!

Now as every good scientist knows, people can't remember that far back, so clearly this is a false or manufactured memory. This is convenient, because if it were a true memory, it would give the lie to the belief that consciousness requires language, since it would mean that I was conscious before having any language. And it's helpful too because you can treat animals like automata, since, although they clearly react to pain, they don't actually *feel* it in any conscious way, having no language. Dead handy for experiments.

And everyone knows that rocks don't fall from the sky, either.

1 comment:

Tim Trent said...

Not as long ago as you would wish, especially if you broke your arm, say, as a child, English doctors used to set the fracture without using anaesthetic.

"Children," they argued, "are smaller than adults, so they will not feel as much pain as we do as an adult." And they set the simple breaks quickly, efficiently, and painfully.

I was lucky. I never broke my arm.

My dentist did not believe in pain relief for children. He drilled away without a local anaesthetic. I wonder why i'm not terrified of dentists.

All my life I've had bad headaches at times. When I was six I complained of one to my teacher. "Nonsense! Children do not get headaches," she said, and made me run until I threw up for the headache.

Animals bear pain with simple stoicism when they can bear it at all. I wonder if its any consolation for them that they don;t understand when a human patronises them.

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