The Helpless Spectator Theory

A materialistic view of the origin of consciousness arose in response to the metaphysical imposition theory. The helpless spectator theory suggests that life is like a roller coaster ride and that consciousness does nothing at all, being an epiphenomenon to important biological activities. As a helpless spectator of cosmic events, consciousness was described as the heat given off by wires, colors laid on the surface of a mosaic, the movement of a train going along tracks that have determined its destiny, the melody that floats from a harp but cannot pluck its strings, the foam raging from a river that cannot change its course, the shadow of a pedestrian (Jaynes, 1976).

Giving up on free will, T. H. Huxley bleakly summarized "we are conscious automata." (The negative connotation of automata as helpless spectators prevails in the context of robots and machines, however should not be confused with the notion of cellular automata which may independently process information and deterministically compute, and which have been likened to biological processes.) The helpless spectator theory was rejected by William James who found inconceivable the notion that consciousness should have nothing to do with the business it so faithfully attends. He asked, "why is consciousness more intense when action is most hesitant, why are we least conscious when doing something most habitual?"

0 0

Post a comment