The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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

Emotion as Communication Between the Brain and the Self

Another synthesis that brings consciousness and the body into the picture has been proposed by the Spanish anthropologist José Jauregui.  Jauregui, like Edward-Osborne Wilson, views sociology as a branch of biology.  In his opinion, the same emotional system controls social, sexual and individual behavior.  Such an emotional system originates from the neural organization of the brain: emotions  are rational and predictable events. Jauregui believes that the brain is basically a computer, and emotions represent the output of that computer's processing activity. It is emotion, not reason, that directs and informs the daily actions of individuals. 

Jauregui begins by separating the brain and the self: the brain is aware of what is going on in the digestive system of the body, but will inform the self only when some correction/action is necessary. Normally, an individual is not aware of her digestive processes. Her brain is always informed, though. When her awareness is also required, an emotion is generated. The communication channel between the brain and the self is made of emotions.  The brain can tune the importance of the message by controlling the intensity of the emotions. The more urgent the message, the stronger the emotion. Far from being an irrational process, the emotional life of an individual is mathematically calculated to achieve exactly the kind and degree of response needed for the well-being of the individual.  Feelings are subjective and inaccessible, but they are also objective and precise. 

When it receives a message in the form of an emotion, the self has no idea of the detailed process that was going on in the body and of the reason why that process must be corrected. The emotion makes detailed information redundant because the emotion basically contains its own correction mechanism. The brain's emotional system is a sophisticated and complex information-processing system. The brain is a computer programmed to inform the self (through emotions) of what must be done to preserve her body and her society. It is through emotions that the brain informs the self of bodily situations that are relevant for survival.

The self maintains a degree of freedom: while it cannot suppress the (emotional) messages it receives from the brain, it can disobey them. The brain may increase the intensity of the message as the self disobeys it, and a painful conflict may arise. The brain and the self are not only separate: they may even fight each other. 

In conclusion, only the self can be conscious and feel, but the brain has control over both consciousness and feelings. 

If we one views the brain as a computer, the hardware is made of the neural organization. There are two types of software, though: “bionatural” (knowledge about the natural world) and “biocultural” (such as a language or a religion).  A program has three main components: the sensory, the mental and the emotional systems. Any sensory input can be translated automatically by the brain into a mental (idea) or emotional (feeling) message; and viceversa. Both biocultural and bionatural programs exert emotional control over the body. 

Jauregui distinguishes five systems of communication: the natural system (in which the sender is a natural thing, such as a tree), the cultural system (the sender is culture, something created by humans), the somatic system (the sender is the individual's own body), the imaginary system (the sender is imagination) and the social system (the sender is another individual).  The human brain is genetically equipped to receive and understand all five kinds of messages.  What ultimately matters is the emotional translation of sensory inputs arriving via these communication channels.


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