I quite enjoyed the last few chapters of this text we’re reading together, and am looking forward to the next talk! Hofsteder’s bypassing, or at best hand waving, of the ‘Hard Problem’ of consciousness, was a stone in my shoe that I just couldn’t ignore (even though I wanted to) for the first few chapters. Now, my attention has been captured by the paradoxical, playful, and down right fascinating nature of these self referencing systems we are exploring. The stone is no longer a burning distraction! Besides, my Dad told me about an eccentric podiatrist he knows from work that believes putting a couple stones in your shoe can be beneficial for problems with the foot, as they break up the artificial uniformity of our super soft, super smooth, foot cushions.
Reading this book is continually bringing up many things from my childhood. I forgot how much of a loopy kid I was. Last session I mentioned a bit about the philosophical endeavours I would get tangled in as a kid of 5 or 6. I would think about thinking, (at the time I equated thinking with consciousness) and conclude due to this self referential nature that consciousness must be some kind of loop. Upon further meditation on this book, I am remembering some probably even earlier proto-hofstadter type adventures.
At an age no older than 5 I would often try to create perpetual motion machines, having no idea about physics or ‘perpetual motion’. There are three that I can remember vividly (I’ve attached a diagram to illustrate these humorous attempts). The first was a car built of lego (actually it was connex which is the stick version of lego). After observing the force between two magnet’s opposing poles, I thought that I could house this opposition on board a car and it would, in turn, move the car. Another attempt was an infinite river. I noticed that when I dug a moat in my sandbox, and gave it some slope, the water I poured from my bucket would rush down. I thought, maybe I will dig this moat around and loop it to the top of the little mound. Of course, I thought there would be enough momentum to reach the top of the mound again and the water would run around forever. Getting bolder, I thought of an embodied way to try out my self propelling drive. I noticed that if I placed a skipping rope under my feet and pulled up, I could feel an upward force. It felt obvious that this would never get me off the ground, but for some reason I thought; If I just jumped down the flight of 3 stairs in my backyard, it would allow for this force to keep me off the ground, and I would hover. How my parents didn’t erupt into laughter, I don’t know. Maybe they did, but I was too caught in my own loop to notice.
Despite being a fairly philosophical kid, I have an intuition that I was not the only one trying to create these types of self propelling objects as a small child. Where would a kid get such an idea? As Hofstader points out, we feel as though we can generate our will from nothing but our will itself. We feel ourselves to be a force in itself. It seems to me that I was trying to externalize this innate feeling within me. I’m interested, do any of you have similar experiences, be it from your own childhood, or observation? This has also got me thinking much about the archetype of self-creation, that’s at the core of my metaphysical pondering.
Or as Spinoza states in his first Definition in Ethics: “By cause of itself I understand that whose essence involves existence, or that whose nature cannot be conceived except as existing”