The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The Genetic Meaning Of Dreams

Jouvet was also a pioneer of the theory that dreams have a function. To derive crucial action patterns from the genetic program of the individual.REM sleep provides a means to combine genetic instructions with experience. Sleep and dreaming are a survival strategy.

Jouvet thinks that a dream is the vehicle employed by an organism to cancel or archive the day's experiences on the basis of a genetic program. This explanation would also reconcile the dualism between hereditary and acquired features: how much of what we know is innate and how much is acquired by experience? In Jouvetís scenario, an hereditary component is activated daily to decide how new data must be acquired.

This theory of "iterative genetic programming" ("Paradoxical sleep and the nature-nurture controversy", 1980) is based on the observation that, evolutionarily speaking, there seems to be an inverse relationship between post-natal neurogenesis (the brain of cold-blooded animals continues to grow throughout their lifetime, whereas the brain of warm-blooded animals is largely shaped at birth) and REM sleep (widespread among warm-blooded animals). Jouvet concludes that REM sleep could play the same role that neurogenesis does: continuously recreate the self. Within the debate of nurture and nature, Jouvet side with those who think that we don't simply inherit from our parents some somatic (bodily) traits, but that we also inherit traits of a personality. The events of a day tend to change that personality. At night the "original" personality gets reinforced during dreams, whose goal is to erase knowledge that is harmful to that personality and to keep what is useful.

More than Freud's pathological theory of dreaming, this resembles the theory of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, that dreams reflect the "collective unconscious", a shared repertory of archaic experience represented by "archetypes" which spontaneously emerge in all minds. One only has to adapt Jung's thought to genetics in order to obtain Jouvetís theory. The universal archetypes envisioned by Jung could represent a predisposition of all human brains to create some myths rather than others, just like, according to Chomsky, all human brains inherit a predisposition towards acquiring language.


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