Instrumental Consciousness


Systems of classification can be liberating or confining to one’s way of approaching and engaging the world; there is always the danger that a given set might unduly limit one’s way of being, yet there is also the possibility that a robust set of categories may encourage one to repeatedly consider a varied set of possibilities.  In this way, a robust set of categories can prompt the question: am I being one-sided or reductive?  Analysis, ontology, science, and interpretation have all revealed in their various ways that consciousness is situated materially, personally, bodily, culturally, and socially.  It is in the spirit of the latter that we offer this brief sketch.

We will offer some differentiations of consciousness and psychological attitudes or types which will provide a reference point for other distinctions as necessary.  First, there are passive and active thinking.  For example, I may passively encounter a piece of chocolate cake with peanuts on top via intellectual presentation.  On the other hand, my active acknowledgment that there is a piece of cake is a judgment.  This is reflected in the statement, “There is a piece of cake.”  Judgments have a binary character; they apply to a state of affairs and they may be true or false.  Intellectual presentations, on the other hand, are presences or absences that provide the ground, as it were, for judgments.  Hence, the intellectual presentation of the piece of cake—that is, the objectum—provides the perceptual presentation and basis for my judgment that there is a piece of cake—that is, the objective.  These differentiations, of course, are merely a starting point.  Intellectual presentations can pertain to past experiences in the form of recollection (“I remember the last time I ate a piece of cake”) or even reach out to new experiences in the form of imagination (“I imagine a dancing birthday cake”).  We can also make various assumptions in order to entertain possibilities (“What would we do if I dropped the cake?”).  Thinking can thereby involve other actions, such as theoretical conjecture, which is a kind of judgment that indirectly pertains to what is, has been, or can be (“I conjecture that every foal, if it does not die or suffer from neoteny, grows into a horse”).

Second, there are passive and active feeling.  For example, when I encounter a piece of chocolate cake topped with peanuts, this situation will passively elicit options for action via emotional presentation.  I may be attracted to the idea of eating the piece of cake; or, if I am allergic to peanuts, I may be repelled.  Emotional presentations accordingly have a binary character; they apply to a state of affairs—that is, the dignitative—and they attract or repel.  On the other hand, with regard to the active preference for a state of affairs—that is, the desiderative—I actively choose to refrain from eating the piece of cake.  Note how active preferences or choices also have a binary character; they create or destroy, bringing one state of affairs into being over and against another.  These differentiations, of course, are merely a starting point.  Feeling can involve various other ways of being, such as wishing, which is a kind of preference that does not directly relate to active change of or interaction with one’s environment (“I wish it were Friday rather than Monday”).

According to the notion of “intentionality”, consciousness is directed toward an object.  For example, the chocolate cake is an object whether addressing my feelings or thoughts regarding it.  “I better not eat the chocolate cake because I am allergic to peanuts,” or simply, “There is a chocolate cake topped with peanuts,” are different ways of addressing the chocolate cake.  Even if I envision a dancing piece of cake via an imaginative presentation, consciousness is still directed toward an object in this sense.  Perceptual presentation concerns passive thinking and feeling tied to the presence or absence of entities—in the widest possible sense of the word—as revealed through intellectual and emotional sensation.  Sensation, in the sense proposed here, pertains to the actual encountering of an entity or object—in the widest possible sense of the word, which includes other people as well—whether that be a dignitative (object of emotion) or an objectum (object of perception).

One can see that ‘presentation’ is a better term than “sensation” for the encountering and presence of an entity—especially another person, because “sensation” has a physicalistic bias that seems to rule out the realm of interpretation.  It is perceptual presentation—that is, “intellectual sensation”—and emotional presentation—that is, “emotional sensation”—that relate consciousness to the wider world.  Unfortunately, the letter ‘P’ is already reserved for perceptual types in the Myers-Briggs typology, which includes people inclined toward sensation and intuition.  Therefore, we need to use the terms sensation and presentation synonymously, relying on the term sensation within the context of the typology.

Intuition refers to the perception of the elaborate background and mood for any entity under focus.  It concerns context and relevant possibilities as much as actualities: the piece of chocolate cake was presumably cut from a whole cake; there is a birthday party going on, hence the cake; more people might arrive soon; the weather is lousy, but the mood is celebratory; we are in an apartment on a street, within a city, within a nation, on the earth, within the cosmos, within the lifeworld.  Consider the image below: is it two faces or one vase?  It depends on the context; that is, it depends on how one exercises one’s intuition.

To recap: intellectual presentation or sensation indicates that something is present—that is, the objectum.  Active thinking—that is, judgment—ascertains whether something about what is present is true or false—that is, the objective.  Emotional presentation or sensation reveals that something about a state of affairs is agreeable or disagreeable—that is, the dignitative.  Active feeling—that is, active preference, decision or choice—determines whether one destroys or creates a state of affairs—that is, the desiderative.  Intuition reveals the broader context of what is relevant, possible and impossible, happy or sad, via both background and mood.

A person can orient things relative to her consciousness, focusing on features of the world that are observer-dependent.  This is called introversion.  A person can orient her consciousness relative to things or other persons, engaging features of the world that are observer-independent.  This is called extraversion.  Typically, a person, as an extravert or introvert, will favor one of these two attitude types.  This analysis of consciousness thus far has favored an attitude that is implicitly introverted; the set of basic categories offered here concerns objects and how they relate to consciousness.  A more extraverted attitude would include ways of being such as absorbed coping, which does not involve intentionality in the conventional sense.  Absorbed coping is essentially being engaged in the world.  One engages in absorbed coping when one is “in the zone”, fully involved with what one is doing, whether sawing wood in the woodshop or dancing on the stage during a performance.

A given person also tends to favor a primary and secondary function, whether thinking, feeling, sensation, or intuition.  Where the primary function is judgmental (thinking or feeling), the secondary function will be perceptual (sensation or intuition).  Where the primary function is perceptual (sensation or intuition), the secondary will be judgmental (thinking or feeling).  For example, there is an extraverted thinking sensation type (which one might designate the “typical male”), but not an extraverted thinking feeling type.  There is an introverted feeling intuitive type, but not an introverted sensation intuitive type.  The secondary function is therefore not the opposite of the primary function, but coexists with it.

[References forthcoming.]

Communicative Consciousness