Continuing this series of posts examining identity fluidity, I was chatting with Jacob Isler, who runs a YouTube channel devoted to tulpamancy (he's also a psychology undergrad). I was interested in his experiences of multiplicity (or plurality) of consciousness. Anyway, Jacob kinda criticised my model, so I thought I would clarify it.
So this is the original diagram. Consciousness sits between two aspects that argue to be us. Soma (which includes our biological heritage and evolved predispositions) and identity (which includes our psychological heritage, our personality, our autobiography). In the last post I said that all identity is essentially fictionalised. What I meant by that in simplified form: The past cannot dictate to the future. The self is not a contract out of which we cannot escape. Arguing that we are trapped in the valley of the self does not make it so.
So if I think I understood Jacob's criticisms and comments correctly, we can imagine two different adaptations to this simple model. The first involves multiple identities. You can see that the model looks very similar to the original version. I've taken out the arrows to make it less busy (but you can imagine there are still arrows in it). I have also added something that I frequently refer to: the unconscious machinery of the mind. That's just there for completeness sake. So in this multiple identity model, any identity fluidity is found within the identity aspect. Whether that includes a changing identity over a lifetime (think child to adult) or more extreme versions like multiple personality or existential choices to be a different person. Though it is ultimately consciousness that chooses to enact or not, essentially the identities are like multiple biographies. We are actors playing a part (remember patient 42?). This is the model I currently favour. Not remarkably different from the earlier version.
The final version is what I'm referring to as multiple concurrent consciousnesses. So where in the previous version there was only one consciousness, but multiple identities, in this version there are multiple consciousnesses and multiple identities. Hmmm, right off the bat I feel a problem with this version (no, not that it looks like some kind of ant man). Too much duplication. What is it Occam said? So I definitely think this version is more complicated than the previous one. Does it have greater explanatory power? I am also not so sure. Forgive these blatherings (and what is a blog, if not a place to blather), but also (and this is a big problem) I don't really see how we distinguish experimentally between the two models. How do we determine that multiple consciousnesses are running when we're not paying attention to them, and if we can think of a way, could the results not be due to multiple identities rather than multiple concurrent consciousnesses?
Call me biased and a sceptic, but I don't believe in Louie at the best of times (except as a narrative construct). It's going to require some pretty convincing evidence for me to start believing that there are multiple autonomous consciousnesses inside heads. On the other hand, if you ask me ["We didn't!" comes a cry from the back], in some ways we're splitting hairs. When a book is on a shelf, it exists, but doesn't live until it's read. The same is true for a computer game. It doesn't come alive until you play it. So what does it really matter if the multiple consciousnesses are stored within tomes (only alive when they're read)? They're just as real as if they were being played all the time. (I'm getting shades of "If a tree falls in a wood and there's no-one there to hear it...")
More thought provoking ideas, and surely, that's no bad thing ["Don't call me Shirley!"].Go Top