Sherman Wilcox wilcox at UNM.EDU
Wed Mar 21 14:38:21 UTC 2001

On 3/21/01 6:10 AM, dan everett said:

>    In any case, one example he gave was that of skiing. When one begins,
>    every move is conscious and intentional. "put this foot here, that
>    foot there, bend the knee so, etc." As one becomes better at the
>    sport, one just has the intention of skiing, the others becoming
>    subconscious subroutines. But, and this is crucial, all these
>    subroutines can in principle be brought back to consciousness.

Aha! This is very interesting, Dan. Thanks for adding this.

So at least one application of this treatment of consciousness and
intentionality is in coordinated movement. What this suggests to me is that
we not only need to read Searle and other philosophers, but to get the full
picture we need to complement this by reading people in the motor control
area (Kelso, MacNeilage, and many others).

My gut (and not much more right now) tells me that the question of whether
these "subroutines" can in actuality (not just in principle) be brought back
to consciousness, and performed as the non-functional or non-entrained
components of the coordinated action that they have now become, probably
depends greatly on the example we take. For learning to ski, which depends
(at least partially) on already learned motor behaviors, I believe Searle is
probably correct. For other complex motor behaviors or coordinated actions,
I wonder.

Also, once again I get the feeling that much of this discussion depends on
conceptions of consciousness and intentionality that may be applicable only
to humans. Is this correct? It seems to me that my friend's puppy Owen has
the intention to catch the frisbee that she throws to it; he doesn't yet
have the coordinated motor skill to do it (he really enjoys practicing these
skills, though, way more than I enjoy practicing skiing). He doesn't perform
the requisite actions correctly; he messes up the intricate timing of
component actions.

When he finally does learn this skill, does he just have the intention to
catch the frisbee (the component skill actions and their timings having now
become subconscious subroutines for this function)? When Owen has learned
this coordinated action, can the subroutines in principle be brought back to
his consciousness?

Does this make any sense? If not, then I'm left wondering if the way we have
framed the discussion is so limited that it has limited use in understanding
these problems in a cross-species, evolutionary way. [But I probably have no
idea what I'm talking about.]

-- Sherman

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