Cognition and States of Consciousness: The Necessity for Empirical Study of Ordinary and Nonordinary Consciousness for Contemporary Cognitive Psychology


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Abstract

Recent criticisms of the place and function of “consciousness” in “cognitive science” are considered and rejected. Contrary to current orthodoxy subjective experience during abstract cognitive activity, especially when placed in its natural series with phenomenal accounts of so-called “altered states of consciousness,” can provide unique and crucial evidence concerning just that core of “semantics” which eludes the automatized “syntax” of computer simulation. The “noetic” aspect of extreme altered states can be placed in relation to introspective descriptions of “insight.” Various altered state features—synaesthesias, geometric/mandala imagery, reorganizations of “perceptual” dimensions and enhanced “self-reference”—can be taken as direct “exteriorizations” of abstract symbolic processes as discussed by Neisser, Geschwind, Mead, and Arnheim. A genuine cognitive psychology cannot continue to ignore the qualitative-experiential bases of symbolization. More specifically, the sense that insight just comes to us as if from “outside,” its preliminary microgenetic processes masked, does not show the failure of introspective phenomenology but rather offers a unique and positive clue to the imaginal dialogic structure of higher mental processes. Thinking, as one phase of imaginal “conversation,” must be “sent” from the phenomenal “other” to an attenuated, receptive phenomenal “self.” A reconsideration of the Würzburg controversy, adding closely related altered state phenomena to the transitional series between “impalpable awareness” and specific imagery, suggests that the normally masked processes underlying the “felt meaning” or “insight” state are most directly exteriorized as what Klüver termed “complex” or geometric-dynamic synaesthesias. Finally, a reinterpretation of classical introspectionism's “sensation” shows the “mechanism” by which the metaphorical/synaesthetic processes of cognition are generated. Titchener's “sensation” plays the crucial role in metaphor it so conspicuously lacked in functional perception.

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