Conscious and Unconscious Essay

Hassibullah Roshan November 2013 In the three following essays: Douglas Hofstadter’s “l Am a Strange Loop”, Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny’, and Allan McCollum’s “Matt Mullican’s World”, the conscious and the unconscious have been explicated through the scientific and artistic exploration of concepts, such as pattern, repression, repetition compulsion, the double, and uncanniness. In “l Am a Strange Loop”, Douglas Hofstadter explores the basis for understanding factors that constitute “l”, the illusion he argues which defines the human condition.

He characterizes the brain as more than a clump of eurons and particles; postulating an advanced level that is a complex system of significant patterns, the interchange of which is powerful and productive enough to make us aware. This awareness takes place in a “feedback loop” which exists in the brain in a remarkable layout – the actual thing that makes us who we are as individuals. Around this context, he introduces a principle structure with which consciousness is modeled.

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He further claims that the notion of nested “self- reference” results in the rise of consciousness which is contingent on the categorization of “patterns” as it involves thinking, and thinking thus signifies and/or vokes consciousness. In other words, “the dance of symbols” inside the cranium represents consciousness as Hofstadter states, “Though no one would call the swing itself alive, here is no doubt that its mental proxy is dancing in the seething substrate of your brain.

After all, that is what a brain is made for – to be staged for the dance of active symbols. ” Within the brain, discerned external events are constantly activating the highly selective repossession of symbols from dormancy, and inducing them to be active in all types of unimagined and extraordinary structures. This dance of symbols in the brain, which has to be perceived at that level, is what constitutes consciousness. Furthermore, Hofstadter adds that the interaction of neurons conforming to the laws of “quantum mechanics” eventually causes desires in humans.

Our “l” inevitably views itself as the cause of desires. In Hofstadter’s view, the “l” that desires or wants is principally unreal or illusory. “l” automatically see things in terms of higher level symbols rather than particles and molecules. This is well understood in Chapter 13 where Hofstadter sheds lights on this matter with an stonishing analogy, “Just as we are convinced that ideas and emotions, rather than particles, cause wars and love affairs, so we are convinced that our “l” causes our own actions. According to Sigmund Freud, the experience of the uncanny is as a result of unconscious beliefs or desires that are either “repressed” or “surmounted”, and because of their recurring nature, find their way back into consciousness and consequently lead to provoking uneasiness or anxiety. In other words, uncanniness is an important constituent of the unconscious that emerges into the illumination of he conscious. The ascendancy of a compulsion to repeat, which originates from identified with the unconscious mind.

Freud says, “This compulsion probably depends on the essential nature of the drives themselves…. ” In his view, the drives are extremely vital and originate in the id. Being vital, and implicating a compulsion to repeat, the drives or the id along with the unconscious constitute the key feature of the psyche. He ascribes uncanniness to “the individual narcissistic stage of development corresponding to that animistic stage of primitive men” In addition, using the E. T. A. Hoffman’s story of “The Sandman”, Freud discusses the repression of infantile complexes which bring about an experience of the uncanny.

In the story, Nathaniel’s fear is represented in the fgure of the Sandman, and thus is the cause of his fear of castration. The basis of the uncanny is bound to the idea of being robbed of one’s eyes as it signifies the fear of castration. Coppelius, the “bad” father, barges into all love relationships. He represents the castrating father who replaces and supplants the good father who first saves Nathaniel from losing his “eyes”. It ecomes clear that the castration complex as an element of infantile sexuality is re- invoked by the fear of losing the eyes in the story.

In a similar context, the idea of “the double” with primary narcissism of the child and its self-love being its source, creates projections of numerous selves. Through this, the child protects his or her immortality. Yet, when it is faced later in life after childhood narcissism has been prevailed, the double induces a feeling of the uncanny causing a return toa primitive state. The concept of “the double” is also linked to the development of the super-ego hat projects everything it represses toward this primitive portrait of the double.

Consequently, the double in later life comes across as a feeling of uncanny since it calls forth all this repressed matter. This is well explained by Freud as he states, “The quality of uncanniness can only come from the circumstance of the ‘double’ being a creation dating back to a very early mental stage… a regression to a time when the ego was not yet sharply differentiated from the external world and from other persons”. Allan McCollum, the author of “Matt Mullican’s World” expounds and puts forward a odel of the uncanny effects in a photo “the cadaver of an elderly man”, an uncompromisingly obvious lure to objective exploration.

Hung on the wall right next to the cadaver photo are selected titled drawings of stick-man in dissimilar postures, with non-compound statement inscribed beneath it statements like “his thymus gland”, “his motivation”, “acting as if a child”, and so on. The concept that one presumes is to illustrate and connect the stick-man drawings to the history of the life of the dead. It is rationally accepted that these drawings are imaginary and the work f the artist.

Consequently, we are under the presumption on the likelihood ofa link between the stick-fgures and the cadaver’s life history. This, thus, produces a feeling of the uncanniness within us. Through these drawings, we either stimulate real fantasy, or stirs sadness, which are merely nothing but the result of artificially fashioned knowledge and a fictional illustration. This is clearly explained in the first page by McCollum as she states, Views from the social sciences shows that the consciousness of reality is learnt during the childhood the same way as learning


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