CONSCIOUSNESS
© C.O. Evans & J. Fudjack

Part 1B - The Model [table of contents]  [previous]  [next]


The model of consciousness we propose offers a subtler understanding of the phenomenological properties of human experience and describes a more complex relationship between terms like 'consciousness' and 'attention'. It should be said that the philosophical basis for this model has already been explicated elsewhere and that it therefore constitutes a contribution of philosophy to this scientific enterprise. 13

The model makes a conceptual distinction missing in Tart's and John's models, a distinction which allows a description in phenomenological terms of the fundamental structure of consciousness. We shall present the model in such a way as to make clear in what sense it is to be understood as constituting a systems view of consciousness. In order to do this we shall adopt a convention for using the slash (/) that understands this punctuation mark as signifying a special kind of relationship.

A special usage for the slash was first introduced by Gregory Bateson. He describes its usage in this way:

An aggregate of events or objects (e.g., a sequence of phonemes, a painting, or a frog, or a culture) shall be said to contain 'redundancy' or 'pattern' if the aggregate can be divided in any way by a 'slash mark', such that an observer perceiving only what is on one side of the slash mark can guess, with better than random success, what is on the other side of the slash mark. 14

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as an example he offers:

From a part of an English sentence, delimited by a slash, it is possible to guess at the synthetic structure of the remainder of the sentence. 15

Varela formalizes the usage of the slash in a related way. The slash, when used as in 'A/B' signifies a pair (A,B) the elements of which are to be understood as standing in a special kind of relationship. The element on the left side of the slash mark is understood to be a whole of which the element on the right side is a part. Yet the element on the left side is not a whole merely in the sense that it is an aggregate of parts of the type represented by the element on the right side of the slash. We might best characterize the kind of whole appearing on the left side of the slash by calling it a 'system'. The element on the right side of the slash in one part of the system-whole brought into relief by putting it on the right side of the slash. We might speak of the function of the slash as singling out that part.

What is meant by calling the element on the left side of the slash a 'system' can be understood in terms of the general system theory developed by Bertalanffy.

A system can be defined mathematically in various ways. For illustration, we choose a system of simultaneous differential equations. Denoting some measure of elements, pi(i=1,2...n), by Qi, these, for a finite number of elements and in the simplest case will be of the form:
                               
     dQ1/dt = f1(Q1,Q2,...Qn)
     
     dQ2/dt = f2(Q1,Q2,...Qn)
     
     ....................

     dQn/dt = fn(Q1,Q2,...Qn)
Change of any measure Qi therefore is a function of all Q's, from Q1 to Qn; conversely, change of any Q entails change of all other measures and of the system as a whole. 
16

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Bertalanffy is here offering a mathematical description of a 'system' in terms of a set of differential equations. The entire set of equations characterizes the system. He interprets the set of equations, telling us that intuitively it means that a change in any part (any Q) is a function of all the parts of the system. The first equation tells us, for instance, that change in Q1 with respect to time is some specific function (f1) of all the parts (Q1,Q2,...Qn) of the system. Although the equations as a set can be understood to characterize simultaneous interaction between all the parts, each differential equation, in effect, singles out from the whole a particular part and describes its behavior as a function of all the parts of the system. In the first differential equation, for instance, Q1 is singled out. The function of the grammatical symbol '/', as we shall use it, is analogous to the function of any one of the differential equations of the set characterizing a system. Just as the behavior of Q1 is understood to be a function of all the Q's and cannot be described as acting independently, the element on the right side of the slash is understood to be dependent on the element on the left side. Likewise, just as Q1 is singled out in the first differential equation and its behavior brought

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into relief against the background of all the parts of the system, the element placed on the right side of the slash is understood to be in relief against the element on the left side. Varela has the following to say about the relationship between the type of whole which appears on the left side of the slash and a part of that whole appearing to the right of the slash:

A whole is here a set of simultaneous interactions of parts (components, nodes, subsystems) which exhibit stability as a totality. The parts are the carriers of particular interactions which we can chop out from the whole and consider their participation in various sequential processes that constitute the whole. 17

As we shall use it, 'A/B' is to be interpreted as representing the singling out of a part, B, from the whole or 'system', A, of which it is a part. Any such part is capable of being 'singled out', but, as a part of a 'system' of simultaneous interactions between all parts, is capable of being singled out only insofar as it is understood as carrying with it a particular interaction with the other parts of the system or whole.

The idea of 'redundancy' which is central in Bateson's description of the usage of the slash can be understood to be a function of this systems relation between part and whole. Insofar as a part that is singled out 'carries' within it, so to speak, a particular interaction with the whole - is dependent on the whole or exhibits behavior not independently specifiable - then consideration of that part will entail some knowledge of the whole of which it is a part, so that an observer "perceiving only what is on one side of the slash can guess, with better than random success, what is on the other side of the slash", as Bateson puts it.

Bateson's example, quoted above, concerning the case of guessing at the synthetic structure of the remainder of a sentence from a part, describes

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a situation that is similar to one we frequently find ourselves in, for example, in the course of reading. As we attend to words or phrases we hold the whole of which these are parts in mind, although we are not explicitly aware of that whole. The ordinary way of expressing this is to say that we are aware of the context for these objects of attention. Such awareness of context, however, is not explicit awareness in the way in which awareness of the object to which we are attending is explicit. We can speak of this awareness as subsidiary awareness. And using the slash according to the convention developed in the preceding pages we can represent the fundamental structure of consciousness by placing the phenomenological terms 'subsidiary awareness' and 'object of attention' on the left and right sides of the slash respectively, saying that consciousness is subsidiary awareness/object of attention. In doing this we represent consciousness as singling out from a whole in subsidiary awareness a part as object of attention.

We have characterized models of consciousness that treat the terms 'consciousness', 'awareness', and 'attention' as nearly interchangeable terms by calling them spotlight models of consciousness. We should like to note at this point that the model we here introduce, which models consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention, offers a richer description of what it is like to be conscious and a more complex inter-relationship between such terms. It does this by making a fundamental distinction of a sort missing in the spotlight models, the distinction between 'subsidiary awareness' and 'object of attention'.

By explaining the relationship obtaining between these terms we will

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proceed to unfold the definition of consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention. We will do this by comparing this relationship with three polarities represented by the following parts of terms.

  1. Unnoticed-noticed
  2. Gestalt ground-gestalt figure
  3. Feeling-percept

These polarities can be construed as offering us phenomenological evidence for modeling consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention. We are making the claim that consciousness singles out an object of attention from a whole in subsidiary awareness, as we mention above. But we are also claiming that an object of attention is related to subsidiary awareness as a part is related to a systems-whole and our reasons for making this claim will become apparent in the following analyses concerning the three polarities.

(1) Subsidiary awareness is to object of attention as unnoticed is to noticed. Suppose you are looking for a medicine bottle and that it is the object most immediately in front of your eyes, but that in spite of this you do not notice the bottle. In that case the bottle may described as unnoticed, and is in subsidiary awareness. The major claim of this theory of consciousness is that it is not correct to infer from the fact that something is unnoticed that it is not experienced. The theory is incompatible with the belief that we only experience objects of attention. It claims that we also experience what is unnoticed. The first philosopher

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to clearly make this claim was M. Polanyi. He chose to describe our experience of the unnoticed as subsidiary awareness, and his articulation of the concept in the passage which follows makes it clear that subsidiary awareness refers to that in our experience which is not noticed at the time.

When we are relying on our awareness of something (A) for attending to something else (B), we are but subsidiarily aware of A. The thing B to which we are thus focally attending, is then the meaning of A. The focal object B is always identifiable, while things like A, of which we are subsidiarily aware, may be unidentifiable. The two kinds of awareness are mutually exclusive: when we switch our attention to something of which we have hitherto been subsidiarily aware, it loses its previous meaning. Such is briefly, the structure of tacit knowing. 18

A is identical with an element of subsidiary awareness, and B is identical with an object of attention. It can readily be appreciated that when Polanyi refers to the switching of attention to something of which we had been subsidiarily aware he means us to understand this as a case of noticing something, and he maintains that noticing an item changes its experiential value. In other words, he is saying that we cannot notice what is subsidiary without its thereby ceasing to be subsidiary, and ceasing at that point to function as it had been while subsidiary.

This phenomenological evidence for the existence of subsidiary awareness is not the only evidence to which the theory has claim. It can also be backed by evidence which has been produced in the scientific study of perception. Let us then consider recent scientific findings in the case of vision. The physicist David Bohm has made an excellent summary of the relevant material.

The essential point that we wish to emphasize in the work concerning the eye is that nothing is perceived without movements or variations in the image on the retina of the eye, and that the characteristic of these variations play a large part in determining the structure that is actually seen. It is important that such variations shall not only he a result of changes that take place naturally in the environment, but that (as in the case of tactile perception) they also can be produced actively by movements in the sense organs of the observer himself. These variations are not themselves perceived to any appreciable extent. What is perceived is something relatively invariant, e.g., the outline and form of an object, the straightness of lines, the sizes and shapes of things, etc., etc. Yet the invariant could not be perceived unless the image were actively varied. 19

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The crucial sentence in this passage which can be understood in the light of the subsidiary awareness/object of attention model of consciousness is the one which states that the movements taking place in the sense organs themselves are said not to be themselves perceived to any appreciable extent. The reason such eye movements are not perceived to any appreciable extent is that they are only experienced in subsidiary awareness. Thus Bohm's qualification according to which he does not want to say that such movements are not experienced at all, allows the interpretation to be given that they are experienced subsidiarily.

Emphasizing the active role of the observer in the case of identifying the shapes of objects by touch Bohm makes a parallel point about handling the object.

Thus, if one tries to find the shape of an unseen object simply by feeling it, one must handle the object, turn it round, touch it in various ways, etc. (This problem has been studied by Gibson and his co-workers.)

In such operations one seldom notices the individual sensations on the fingers, wrist joints, etc. Rather, one directly perceives the general structure of the object, which emerges, somehow, out of a very complex change in all the sensations. 20

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The sensations in the fingers, wrist joints, etc., to which Bohm is referring are called kinaesthetic sensations, and the point he is making is that we need to have them in order for shape recognition to occur. Nevertheless, we do not experience such kinaesthetic sensations as objects of attention when they are doing their work. We experience them subsidiarily.

Absolutely crucial to an understanding of the definition of consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention is a recognition of the claim that both terms are terms having a phenomenological value. That is to say, subsidiary awareness is as much a term of experience as is the term object of attention. The definition must not be understood as confining experience to the right hand term. And yet this is the single most prevailing error of most theories of consciousness offered today.

We can take the theory of Roy John as a case in point. It will be remembered that John distinguished two lower orders of information which refer to the occurrence of processes occurring below the level of consciousness; i.e., non-conscious processes. These he calls the order of sensation and perception, respectively (see pages 6 and 7). As we have noticed he calls these orders 'preconscious' and this term is understood to refer to information which a percipient responds to without being aware of the existence of that information. Roy John may be right in postulating an order of information which exists at a purely physiological level.21 However, it is to be questioned whether such information is correctly describable as sensation. Sensation, after all, is a term of experience.

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and as such a sensation is a component of consciousness. Roy John himself fails to foreclose this possibility by saying of sensations:

They are a product of the irritability of living matter. 21

Irritability, after all, is experienced. Now if we take the movements we make with our eyes as we focus them upon an object, these movements will be felt as sensations. However, it does not follow that we only have these ocular sensations when we are making them themselves objects of attention, although it is true that we can do this with them, and that when we do, we talk of noticing the sensations connected with our eye movements. So we presuppose that they have been singled out as objects of attention when they are referred to as sensations, but it does not follow that such sensations were in no way experienced when they were not experienced as objects of attention. On the contrary, they are then experienced as part of the content of subsidiary awareness. However, when so experienced we cannot actually refer to them as sensations, since so to call these elements implies their having been singled out as objects of attention. If we return to the last Bohm statement quoted we can interpret it to be referring to subsidiary awareness in the manner we have been indicating:

One directly perceives the general structure of the object, which emerges, somehow, out of a very complex change in all the sensations. 22

This reference to 'a very complex change in all the sensations' receives the interpretation on the attentive model of consciousness as a reference

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to subsidiary awareness.

All this means that we can see John's reference to preconscious orders to be interpretable as a reference to subsidiary awareness, and this provides us with the identity that the preconscious is subsidiary awareness. In other words, we see the relationship between John's first order information (sensation) and second order information (perception) in terms of the attentive model which models consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention.

(2) Subsidiary awareness is to object of attention as gestalt ground is to gestalt figure. Despite the obvious semantic affinities between the terms 'subsidiary' and 'ground' the understanding of subsidiary awareness as ground has not generally received attention. We believe that the following explanation gives a reason for this apparent omission, and also explains how the relationship can be conceived in such a way as to justify the analogy we are making.

The Gestalt pictures which are used to illustrate the figure- ground relationship are all misleading in one respect. Insofar as it makes sense to discriminate an object of attention as 'out there' or in the distance, it makes sense to locate subsidiary awareness as 'in here', where the 'in here' is specified in relation to the body of the subject locating the subsidiary awareness. Now in the sense in which we have an 'out there' and an 'in here' gestalt diagrams locate both figure and ground as 'out there'. However, the conception of the ground which the attentive model of consciousness is mapping locates the ground as 'in here' and not 'out there'. In view of this, it is satisfying to discover that the

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connection we are arguing for between ground-figure and subsidiary awareness/object of attention has been made by W.F. Fry.

I refer to the general area of figure-ground relationships and in particular to the attention-alteration aspects of figure and ground.
....
For each perceived item that sets itself up in the perceived organism's brain as the immediate figure, there is related material that is perceived though not attended to and hence is the "ground". Further, the figure and the ground are within the frame of interrelationship (the vase is the figure against the ground of the rest of the painting, the painting is the figure against the ground of the wall on which it hangs, the wall is the figure against the ground of the room, the room is the figure against the ground of the house, etc.).

The extension of this concept from the area of sensory perception to the area of cognitive perception would seem to be a legitimate extension, though perhaps somewhat deviant. Such an extension would involve the indication of a communication (perhaps originally sensory) as figure and the indication of all conscious and unconscious themes implicit to that communication as ground. 23

It is a perfectly natural interpretation of this passage to see it as backing up the proposition that subsidiary awareness is to object of attention as ground is to figure.

It is important to see the relationship between subsidiary awareness and object of attention in the light of the gestalt ground - gestalt figure polarity because it mediates a connection between the description of consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention and another polarity, which we shall call the context-content polarity. In the above passage Fry speaks of a communication and the themes implicit to that communication as standing in a relation of figure to ground. It is clear that in speaking of a communication Fry has in mind a message, an utterance, or perhaps even, as he implies, a bit of sensory information. His

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characterization of the communication as gestalt figure warrants identification of it as, in our terminology, an object of attention. Furthermore, Fry mentions certain themes accompanying the explicit content of communication describing them as implicit to the communication and as assuming the role of gestalt ground. We reformulate the distinction he makes between the explicit content of communication and themes implicit to the communication in terms of the concepts of content and context by saying, using the terminology of our model, that the person attending to the content of communication is subsidiarily aware of a context for the communication, or that he has tacit knowledge of that context. To describe the subject as subsidiarily aware of the context of communication is to say that the themes that constitute the context are implicit to the communication for the subject in some experiential sense and this is what we have in mind in characterizing the consciousness of the subject in the example in terms of the polarity context-content.

The concept of context is particularly well suited for the use to which we are putting it in this instance. For it does not go contrary to common usage of the concept of context to say that a subject's context, if it is experienced by him at all, is experienced subsidiarily, since if his attention is turned toward that context it is no longer his present context; he has transcended it by making it explicit. Insofar as the subject is aware of the context as such he is aware of it subsidiarily. The role of a context is similar to that of a frame, it is that in experience on which attention is not focused. Bateson formulates the

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concept of context in terms of the concept of psychological frame. In the following passage he discusses the relationship between attention and frame.

The frame around a picture, if we consider this frame as a message intended to order or organize the perception of the viewer says, 'Attend to what is within and do not attend to what is outside.' Figure and ground, as these terms are used by gestalt psychologists, are not symmetrically related as are the set and non-set of set theory. Perception of the ground must be positively inhibited and perception of the figure (in this case the picture) must be positively enhanced. 24

However, it is Bateson's understanding that the ground is positively inhibited to such an extent that it is not experienced at all and instead is described as existing in the subject's unconscious. 25 It is our belief that Bateson was forced to reach the conclusion that the ground exists in the subject's 'unconscious' because he lacks the concept of subsidiary awareness. It is our claim that the ground or frame or context is experienced, albeit in such a way that awareness of it is subsidiary.

We all know what it is to direct attention from an idea or physical object to the context and we do such things often. We can direct our attention to a wider scope and discover the assumptions we had made while entertaining the idea or notice the room or surroundings in which the object we watched was located. We can attend to a picture's frame or notice the temperature in our present setting. But these descriptions are not descriptions of what it is like to experience a context as such. What is it to be subsidiarily aware of a context while attending, for instance, to a message? How are we to characterize our experience of this subsidiary awareness? Without such a characterization our challenge to

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the position that gestalt ground or psychological frame or context is so positively inhibited in a subject's awareness as to be not experienced at all is a seemingly hollow or mysterious challenge.

In seeking a characterization of the experience of subsidiary awareness it is helpful to consider an account of context taken from a textbook on logic. In An Introduction to Symbolic Logic , Susan Langer writes,

In ordinary thinking, the context is indefinite, mutable, and tacitly assumed. It grows and shrinks with every turn of the conversation. You hear a bang, and ask: "Who has just come into the house?" And all your thoughts are in terms of people, front door, and the relations of closing, entering, etc.; but let the answer be: "No one; that was the cover of the wood-box you heard," and your whole constellation of ideas, your context, has shifted to wood-box, cover, the relations of dropping, making noise. The person who gave the answer was thinking in your terms and also in those which his reply presupposes, else he would not have found any sense in your question, and his answer would have been an irrelevant statement, not an answer at all. So the context in everyday conversation is always varying, adjusting itself to the interests of many people and many domains of thought. 26

The italicized phrases in the passage clearly individuate objects of attention. And it is also clear from the passage that Langer understands context in terms of constellations or sets of such objects of attention; she introduces the idea of a shift in context by enumerating a different set of objects of attention. In formulating his concept of context in terms of the concept of psychological frame Bateson uses a similar approach.

The first step in defining a psychological frame might be to say that it is (or delimits) a class or set of messages (or meaningful actions). 27

To define context as a set of objects of attention precludes an understanding of context as experienced since although the objects are

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experienced sequentially the entire set of objects of attention is not experienced as a whole at any one time. Is there an alternative to this understanding of a context as a set of objects of attention? Let us reconsider Langer's passage and ask ourselves what she has left out of her account which might supply us with an answer to this question. Let us consider, specifically, what she has left out of the experience she is describing such that not merely the content (objects of attention) but also the context is experienced. The answer is that she has left out of her account any mention of the feelings of the person who heard the band and asked: "Who has just come into the house?" She has not mentioned the surprise or apprehension, although her example makes it clear that such factors are present We claim that Langer has left out precisely the experiential aspect of context, the way we feel in a situation.

(3) What we want to bring into relief by characterizing subsidiary awareness/object of attention in terms of a feeling- percept polarity is the claim that subsidiary awareness is experienced as feeling. When we are entertaining an object of attention our subsidiary awareness of context is experienced as a feeling about that object. When a person is asked how he is feeling this is the same as asking him how he is contexting his situation, how he is framing the comment he has just received or the action he has witnessed. Conversely, how he feels about what he is attending to will determine which set or which particular object of attention he will proceed to single out. Above we saw Bateson defining a psychological frame as a set of objects of attention and intentionally ignored the fact that he also wanted to characterize a psychological frame as delimiting a

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set of objects of attention. We appreciate that in this further characterization he was exhibiting his understanding that a frame or context predetermines, for the person whose frame or context it is, which features of his situation become objects of attention for him, or, using a Bateson term, how the person will 'punctuate' his situation. We are now at a stage at which we can entertain the claim that a context 'delimits' a set of objects of attention. The subject's feeling-state will determine what he will single out as an object of attention.

It is important to understand that a distinction must be made between the particular feelings which from time to time get singled out and themselves become objects of attention, and the way we feel as a whole, which cannot as easily or so fully become an object of attention.

Failure to make this distinction has prevented theorists from adequately integrating feeling into the life of the mind. As a way of explaining the distinction between feeling as the mode in which subsidiary awareness is experienced and particular feelings which are singled out as objects of attention we shall try to show how this distinction solves a problem in the analysis of the concept of feeling put forward by the philosopher G. Ryle. The passage which follows puts forward a theory about the nature of moods. According to Ryle's theory moods are not feelings, but when reading this passage put in mind the possibility that mood words identify particular characterizations of the feeling of subsidiary awareness as a whole.

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Mood words are short-term tendency words, but they differ from motive words, not only in the short term of their application, but in their use in characterizing the total 'set' of a person during that short term. Somewhat as the entire ship is cruising south-east, rolling, or vibrating, so the entire person is nervous, serene, or gloomy. His own corresponding inclination will be to describe the whole world as menacing, congenial, or grey. If he is jovial, he finds everything jollier than usual; and if he is sulky, not only his employer's tone of voice and his own knotted shoelace seems unjust to him, but everything seems to be doing him injustices.

Mood words are commonly classified as the names of feelings. But if the word 'feeling' is used with any strictness, this classification is erroneous. 28

One of the things to notice about this passage is the beautiful description it offers of the idea of an overall feeling state through the metaphor of a ship responding to the weather and the sea. Just as the entire ship is affected by air and sea, so the entire person is affected by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (or, the environment as a whole). We also notice that such overall states are described by the use of words such as 'nervous', 'serene', and 'gloomy'. It is also crucial to notice a linguistic fact which Ryle suppresses; namely, that we speak of feeling nervous, serene, or gloomy. Thus when Ryle concludes by admitting that mood words are commonly classified as the names of feelings we can take the position that this common classification is right (with reservations about the description of a concept as a name), and Ryle wrong, and proceed to consider why Ryle is driven to resist this common classification.

The answer to this question is that Ryle treats all feelings as objects of attention. Only insofar as a feeling is an object of attention will he concede to classifying it as a feeling. The fact that feelings are by definition objects of attention for Ryle is clear from the next passage.

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By feelings I refer to the sorts of things which people often describe as thrills, twinges, pangs, throbs, wrenches, itches, prickings, chills, glows, loads, qualms, hankerings, curdlings, sinkings, tensions, gnawings and shocks. 29

All the experiences Ryle lists are experiences we notice while having them. They are objects of attention, in our terminology, and not components of subsidiary awareness. Yet we do not experience feeling only insofar as we take sensations of the type Ryle lists as objects of attention. We feel while we are attending to other things and what we feel in these cases is our present life-quality as a whole.

Thus we see that when Ryle talks of using the word 'feeling' strictly he has in mind references to noticed feelings or objects of attention. This forces him to conclude that mood words are not feeling words, became they are not used to describe objects of attention. But if we allow for a feeling state which is not an object of attention, then we leave open the possibility that mood words are feeling words which characterize such overall underlying feeling-states.

The fact that Ryle treats feelings as objects of attention is testified to by the fact that he deals with reports of feeling, and naturally we can only report what comes to our attention. Thus,

Ordinarily, when people report the occurrence of a feeling, they do so in a phrase like 'a throb of compassion', 'a shock of surprise' or 'a thrill of anticipation'. 30

It is instructive at this point to consider an attempt to describe a feeling in such a way as not to prejudge whether or not it is at the time an object of attention. The attempt is that of Freud.

We can at any rate note one or two things about the feeling of anxiety. Its unpleasurable character seems to have a note of its own - something not very obvious, whose presence is difficult to prove yet which is in all likelihood there. But besides having this special feature which is difficult to isolate, we notice that anxiety is accompanied by fairly definite physical sensations which can be referred to particular organs of the body. 31

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Freud speaks of the feeling of anxiety, but a similar point is made about feeling in general by the philosopher R.G. Collingwood.

A feeling consists of two things closely connected: first, a sensuous element such as color seen, a sound heard, an odor smelt; secondly; what I call the emotional charge of this sensation: the cheerfulness with which you see the color, the fear with which you hear the noise, the disgust with which you smell the odor. 32

Both Freud and Collingwood imply that a feeling has two aspects. We attribute this double-aspect approach the authors share to the subsidiary awareness - object of attention dichotomy in the following way. A feeling when it is functioning in its role as subsidiary is not an object of attention. Its character when it is functioning in this role is 'not very obvious' because the feeling cannot be 'isolated' as an object of attention and remain subsidiary. It can perhaps best be described as an 'emotional charge' accompanying an object of attention. Yet we can also attempt to turn our attention to such an underlying feeling state in order to identify or characterize it. And it is easy for the subject who does this to land up singling out a particular sensation in its place. We have seen Ryle, for instance, take a throb for compassion. Moreover, we note Freud speaking about definite physical sensations accompanying anxiety and Collingwood listing sensations that are clearly objects of attention in describing the sensuous element of feeling. And it is clear that sensations can be taken as objects of attention and it is proper to speak

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of feeling them. But we have distinguished between particular feelings such as these, which can be taken as objects of attention, and underlying feeling-states. Is it possible to succeed in the attempt to experience the whole underlying feeling-state as an object of attention?

In answering this question let us consider the attempt Ryle makes to describe a particular mood, laziness. It will be remembered that we have interpreted Ryle's mood words as naming such underlying feeling wholes and have argued against his position that moods are not feelings. We will discover, in the following passage, that in order to characterize a mood (and hence an underlying feeling-state) Ryle finds it necessary to make reference not only to particular sensations but also to a corresponding situation in which the subject finds himself.

To be in a lazy mood, is, among other things, to tend to have sensations of lassitude in the limbs when jobs have to be done, to have cozy feelings of relaxation when the deck-chair is resumed, not to have electricity feelings when the game begins, and so forth. But we are not thinking primarily of these feelings when we say that we feel lazy; in fact, we seldom pay much heed to sensations of these kinds, save when they are abnormally acute. 33

So, to merely identify a sensation is not to describe a mood (or feeling-whole). And Ryle would be in agreement with Freud and Collingwood on this point. But he would not agree with Collingwood's attempt to fill out the picture by mentioning 'emotional charges'. He would not seek the necessary something extra in the subject's experience at all, but would rather give a purely dispositional (or behavioral) analysis. We suggest, however, that the appeal Ryle makes to the subject's situation in his attempt to describe a lazy mood provides the key for the answer to the question we pose. This is because, as we understand it, to describe a

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feeling state necessitates a reference to a situation experienced by the subject. In other words, description of a feeling-state entails describing the subject's experienced context. A situation, when it is functioning as context for some object of attention, is experienced by the mode of feeling, but in successfully turning attention to that feeling-state in order to identify or describe it, one experiences not a feeling as object of attention but a situation as object of attention. One is widening the scope of attention, so to speak. He is making explicit his formerly subsidiarily experienced context.

The concept of a feeling whole, or underlying feeling-state, and the claim that subsidiary awareness is experienced as such a feeling whole is a crucial move in the position we are elaborating. Consequently it is of importance that there is psychological warrant for the phenomenological identification of subsidiary awareness as feeling whole, and it is given in this passage by the psychologist F. Kreuger.

Everything distinguishable in experience is interconnected, embedded within a total-whole that penetrates and envelops it.

The experience-qualities of this total-whole are the feelings and emotions. -The organized parts in this totality also have such experience-qualities (or complex-qualities) related to feelings, the more so the less distinct a part is from the whole. The earliest and most natural way in which we experience a visuo-motor situation, a change in bodily position, in which we react psychologically, is determined by such complex-qualities, that is, determined by feeling-like states. This is true also for all seeking, finding, willing, recognizing, remembering, knowing, judging, - in short, for all psychological activities. 34

We can see this passage as supporting the phenomenological identification

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of subsidiary awareness as feeling whole, and further see it as in need of the distinction we have introduced between a single underlying feeling state and particular feelings as objects of attention since it lacks a way of mentioning feeling except as 'feelings and emotions' which are easily construed as objects of attention.

Now that we have the concept of a feeling whole we can elaborate on it by saying that the whole itself is in a continuous process of modification. In psychological terms it is affective; that is, it is a felt reaction to the environment in which changes in the environment are continually producing modifications of feeling tone. We are dealing with a system that we experience as a felt whole and the changes in feeling tone produced by the environment are experienced as changes in underlying feeling- state. Moreover, our feelings influence which objects of attention are 'relevated' from the whole. 35

Likewise, the appearance of new objects of attention in the environment bring about a change in underlying feeling-state. Singling out a particular part of the system as object of attention results in a different underlying feeling-state than would result from singling out some other part. For we experience part of the whole explicitly and have a feeling for the remainder, so to speak, which will be different as different parts are singled out.

This relation between feeling and object of attention that we have been describing makes a synthesis between two opposing theories of emotion possible. The psychologist R.W. Leeper maintains that "emotional processes operate primarily as motives. It means that they are processes which arouse, sustain, and direct activity!" 36 In contrast, J.R.S. Wilson states

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that "emotions typically arise from the apprehension of certain characteristics in the object, and include certain tendencies or impulses to behave with regard to the object." 37 Each theory is highlighting a different feature of the relationship between feeling-state and object of attention. On the attentive model, an object of attention is a part of a system which, as background to that part, is experienced as a feeling-state. The relationship can only be understood as one of mutual influence. Leeper stresses the influence the feeling-state has by characterizing it as a motive. Wilson, on the other hand, stresses the influence perceptions have in 'causing' emotions.

The concept of an overall feeling-state and the idea that subsidiary awareness of context is experienced by the mode of feeling can be related to a significant body of literature by quoting the works of three authors-- the philosopher Leibniz, the psychologist Muchielli, and the psychologist Naranjo. In the following quotation Leibniz can be understood to be speaking of having a feeling of an item in subsidiary awareness:

For all attention requires memory, and often when we are not, so to speak, admonished and warned to take notice of some of our present perceptions, we let them pass without reflexion and even without observing them; but if someone directs our attention to them immediately afterwards, and for instance bids us notice some sound that has just been heard, we remember it, and we are conscious that we had some feeling of it at the time. 38

Also, the attentive model, in conceiving of subsidiary awareness of context experienced by the mode of feeling, sheds light on the sense in which a situation can be identified as "one and the same thing" as a feeling-state, as is done in the following passage by Muchielli, a structural psychologist.

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In fact, for a subject who has a very special fear of bears, the irruption of the situation of mortal danger (and therefore of meanings) and fear with its various manifestations and expressions characteristic of this subject in this kind of situation are one and the same thing39

The following passage, also by Muchielli, can be interpreted as claiming that the context for an object of attention is experienced as a feeling whole.

A subject's perceptive and behavioral field is his own. For example, the significance of a situation experienced by two or more persons together (as in a family) is not the same for any two of them. A closely knit system of reference gives each detail a meaning that it possesses only for the subject equipped with this system; this same detail is perceived by the others with other meanings because it is incorporated into other systems. When such a system is itself reflected in a subject's consciousness, it is experienced in the form of a sentiment enveloping a current content... [italics ours] 40

And finally, we find Naranjo speaking of an affective context or affective background reminiscent of the idea of an underlying feeling-state in its role as background to an object of attention.

Any thought, for instance, though principally a cognitive act, arises in an affective context which influences its form and concatenation (as was shown by Freud in his study of free association). In the same manner it can be said to reflect our drives, our aversions, and our habits, both in the sense of automatisms of thinking and in the sense of conditioned preferences. Similarly our actions and the will or impulse sustaining them are (except for totally reflex actions) influenced by an affective background (in content, style, or both) and by cognition (in content, strategy, or both). 41

Let us at this point review the ground we have so far covered in the conceptual development of the attentive model of consciousness. We have been examining the relationship between subsidiary awareness/object of

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attention and the feeling-percept polarity. We need to keep in mind the meaning of the slash and the systems-thinking that has gone into its use. We need to remember that we are using it to conceptualize a relationship between a certain type of whole and a part of such a whole. We are dealing with wholes in which any part interacts with all other parts simultaneously, and thus with the whole; there is a mutual influence between part and whole. According to the attentive model, each object of attention is to be understood as such a part relevated from a whole which we have characterized as a felt whole. The felt whole is modified by each object of attention as it gets relevated as an object of attention and conversely the felt whole will exert an influence on which objects are singled out by attention. We have also examined the relationship between the feel-percept polarity and two others, the ground-figure polarity and the context-content polarity. We have rejected an understanding of context that would construe it as a set of objects of attention and hence conceive of it as a mechanical type of whole, an aggregate construct in which the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. Our alternative was to conceive of context as subsidiary awareness experienced by the mode of feeling. This alternative allowed us to see context as being experienced and to account, in terms of feeling, for the influence context (whole) has in determining which objects of attention (parts) are relevated. Our intention in relating the concept of consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention to these polarities has been to permit an experiential identification to be made of the terms 'subsidiary awareness' and 'object of attention'. In the process, however, we have also related these polarities to one another,

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constructing a nexus of concepts to each other through the idea of consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention.

One final point should be made about the attentive model in respect of systems theory. We have characterized the type of whole in the whole-part relationship signified by use of the slash as a 'system', and speak of the relationship between system and part. Attempts to explain what a system is are often made by contrasting such a whole to an aggregation as A. Angyal does in this passage:

in an aggregation the parts are added, in wholes the parts are arranged in a system. The system cannot be derived from its parts; the system is an independent framework in which the parts are placed. [italics ours] 42

In light of this passage it can be said that in speaking, as we have in the preceding pages, of subsidiary awareness of context or frame we have connected the concept of subsidiary awareness with that of frame in such a way as to make it clear that the fundamental structure of consciousness (as subsidiary awareness/object of attention) is what allows consciousness to entertain an object of attention as part of a system. For we have described consciousness as singling out an object or attention from a background, context, or framework in subsidiary awareness. To describe consciousness in this way is to account for the possibility of systems thinking in terms of the structure of consciousness, whereas other models have attempted to connect systems theory with the concept of consciousness by merely construing consciousness as a system of one sort or other.

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Footnotes

13. C.O. Evans, The subject of consciousness (New York:Humanities Press, 1970).
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14. G. Bateson, op.cit., p.103.
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15. Ibid., p.104.
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16. L. von Bertalanffy, General systems theory, rev.ed. (New York:George Braziller,1968).p.56. Inspection of the set of equations shows that the system will be in a steady state or stationary state when
f1 = f2 = ... = fn = 0. Under certain conditions which can be mathematically specified small changes in any Q will not change the state of the system: the system, in Tart's terminology, will 'maintain it's integrity or identity in spite of various (small) changes." (See quotation page 11 of this study.)
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17. F. Varela, "Not one, not two," The Coevolution Quarterly, no.11(1076), p.63
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18. M. Polanyi, Personal knowledge (New York:Harper Torchbooks,1964), p.x. Polanyi's understanding of the relationship between 'subsidiary awareness' and 'focal object' connects these terms with the whole-part relationship in the opposite way to the way we have it. He understands an object of attention to be a whole composed of parts of which we are subsidiarily aware when attending to the whole. According to Polanyi,

We know a comprehensive whole, for example a dog, by relying on our awareness of its parts for attending focally to the whole. [M. Polanyi,"Experience and the perception of pattern." in K.M. Sayre and F.J. Crosson, The modelling of mind (Notre Dame:Univ. of Notre Dame Press,1963), p.213]
Our argument against Polanyi's position is essentially that we needn't be aware of each part of the object of attention in some way other than the way we are aware of it when attending to the entire object of attention. By contrast, in our use of the term 'subsidiary awareness' it can be said that an object of attention is a part of a whole of which we are subsidiarily aware. To this view Polanyi takes exception. Consequently, he says,
It is a mistake to identify subsidiary awareness with subconscious or preconscious awareness, or with the fringe of consciousness described by William James. [Ibid., p. 212.]
But not only do we not see this as a mistake, we shall go on in the addendum of this work to show that this identification can be successfully made.
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19. D. Bohm, The special theory of relativity (New York:W.A.Benjamin, 1965), p. 201.
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20. Ibid., p. 197.
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21. See B. Brown, New mind, new body (New York:Harper & Row,1974), p. 82, for a discussion of experimental findings suggesting an order of information existing at a purely physiological level.
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22. E.R. John, op.cit., p. 3.
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23. W.F. Fry, Sweet madness: a study of humor (Palo Alto: Pacific Books,1963), p. 154
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24. G. Bateson, op.cit., p. 160.
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25. Ibid.
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26. S.K. Langer, An introduction to symbolic logic (New York:Dover,1938), p. 65.
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27. G. Bateson, op.cit., p. 169.
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28. G. Ryle, The concept of mind (London: Hutchinson's Univ. Lib.,1949), p. 100
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29. Ibid., p. 83.
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30. Ibid., p.84.
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31. S. Freud, "Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety." In J. Strachey (ed.), Standard Edition, vol.20 (London:Hogarth Press,1959), p.132.
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32. R.G. Collingwood, The new Leviathan (London:Oxford Univ. Press,1942), P.18.
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33. G. Ryle, op.cit., p.103.
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34. F. Kreuger, "The essence of feeling." In M.B. Arnold (ed.), The nature of emotion (Baltimore: Penguin Books,1968), p.97.
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35. This use of the word 'relevate' was first introduced by David Bohm who explained it as meaning "to lift it into attention so that it stands out 'in relief'." We construe the reference to an 'it' to be a reference to an object of attention. D. Bohm, "Quantum theory as an indication of a new order in physics. B. Implicate and explicate order in physical law," Foundations of Physics, vol.3, no.2 (1973), p.150.
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36. R.W. Leeper, "The motivational theory of emotion." In M.B. Arnold (ed.), The nature of emotion (Baltimore: Penguin Books,1968), p.185.
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37. J.R.S. Wilson, Emotion and object (London: Cambridge Univ. Press,1972)
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38. F. Leibniz, The monadology and other philosophical writings, translated by R. Latta (London: Oxford Univ. Press,1898), p.371.
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39. R. Muchielli, Introduction to structural psychology, translated by S.L. Markmann (New York: Avon,1970), p.36.
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40. Ibid., p.50.
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41. C. Naranjo, "Vanishing magician-spectator, rabbit, and hat." In T. Tulku (ed.), Reflections of mind (Emeryville, Ca.:Dharma Publ.,1975), p.46.
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