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The Small Mindedness of Consciousness


The problems we face are bigger than left and right.  Left and right are identity groups.  Thinking in terms of identity groups prevents us from thinking in terms of our basic humanity. Human nature transcends identity groups.  It cuts across all of them.

We – the collective we; society, western culture –  try too hard to fit real human nature into the Procrustean bed of our dreams / wishes / desires for it, with predictable results.

Humanity had one brief shining moment when it did NOT do that but instead accepted human nature as it is and organized itself accordingly: The American Founding. That moment was a flashbulb of pure genius in the long arc of tribalism and pedantry that is human history. The American Founding exemplifies the reason-based ( and/or reality-based and/or science-based) morality that the atheist faith believes in and strives for.

I think consciousness itself is a kind of bias.  I see it as something different from naive realism or The Rationalist Delusion; I think it precedes them. I also see it as different from the rider and the elephant.  The rider and the elephant is a “third story” of the human mind from outside the perspective of either the rider or the elephant.  Yes, it’s possible for the rider to step outside itself and look upon itself.  That’s how third stories like the rider and the elephant are  possible. What I’m proposing is another, different, third story. 

The consciousness bias is our view of our selves from inside the mind of the rider. It’s really the only way we can see ourselves.  But because it comes from the rider it’s a distorted view that exaggerates the influence of consciousness similar to the way a Mercator Projection map exaggerates the size of Greenland and Antarctica.  In this view of our selves the rider, even in accepting its role in relation to the elephant, STILL has an exaggerated opinion of its influence over its self and society as a whole.

Conscious awareness predisposes us toward placing disproportionate, i.e., near total, faith in the thoughts of which we are aware, and toward similarly disproportionate rejection or ignorance of who and what we actually are.  Again, I do not see this as merely a restatement of the concept of the rider and the elephant. I think that even within that concept of the mind, the impression, the image, the narrative, that the mind conjures of itself, and of the nature of the rider and of the nature of the elephant is, itself, distorted in favor of a self-congratulatory idealism about human nature that is in fundamental opposition to the reality of what it actually is.

We are not what we like to think we are.  We are not primarily a noble race of rational egalitarian beings driven by reason, logic, facts, and evidence to routinely  – as a characteristic trait – rise above our baser instincts. Rather, we are animals driven almost entirely by instinct, intuition, and emotion – by those baser instincts – just like every other animal.

Consciousness is but a tiny piece of the pie of human social thought and behavior, but the awareness it gives us is the very thing that distorts our perception of the rest of the pie.  Consciousness projects onto us an image of our selves that is an exceedingly poor representation of our true selves.

I think therefore I am” is the height of arrogance.  99.99999999999999 percent of the universe does not “think,” yet it exists as surely as do “I”. The notion that consciousness proves existence seems to me to be frighteningly small minded and short sighted. 

The Consciousness Bias, as I call it, gives to us a view of our selves similar to the view of the world from 9th Avenue on the famous cover of The New Yorker, with two added captions.

the-world-from-manhattan-with-new-captions


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