Blog Post 3: Stream of Consciousness

March 8th, 2011

Jackie Weber   Blog Post #3   English 391W Professor Zino

In Rita Carter’s, “Exploring Consciousness” and William James’ “the Principles of Psychology,” the authors are both examining and explaining the range of stages of consciousness.  According to James’ theories, our mind is able to focus on exactly what it finds interesting in viewing and studying while we are consciously perceiving something.  This rang true for me – I often find myself focusing in on what particular part of an image I am looking at – whether it be a photograph, picture or real life view.  Our eye picks up on what exactly we want to notice.  Carter also gets a feel of the incessant stream of consciousness that warps our minds.  She explains through the process of reading that is “present in our perception of everything.” (Carter 24).  When someone is reading, their minds do not pick up on every word, while at the same time highlighting internally words that stick out to us and draw our attention in closer.  Together, both Carter and James acknowledge that our minds are constantly running and working – interrelating and succumbing to the environment around it.  Even while we sleep, our mind is processing different forms and interpretations of reality through our dreams.  Our conscious is able to process for us a plethora of emotions and feelings; it creates our happiness, sadness, anger what have you.  James says in his essay that, “the object is not only apprehended by the mind, but is held to have reality.” (James 288).  This made me believe that not only does our mind work to take in objects and images – but it does it in the most accurate way.  No picture, no photograph can give such a direct image as the mind and the eyes do in the conscious state.  The mind is able to create aspects that it deems to be defining reality – which makes interpretations key in shaping the world.  A point I find thoroughly interesting in James’ essay was the theory that the way our mind is constructed orders a person’s ability to view but after an extended period of time, it becomes harder and harder for a person to distinguish what is actual reality and what is figments of the imagination aiding and molding the thoughts we perceive.  In her essay, Carter quotes Kevin O’Regan, an expert in psychological perception, on what he believes to be the truth behind perception and the conscious.  He believes that everything we perceive is just a grand illusion, but this creates an argument that if it is an illusion we are not interpreting reality.  If one can say that everything we perceive is just a part of this grand magic act – than what is in fact reality?  Is the sky actually blue – or do we just perceive it as such because someone many years ago decided it was blue and we all just liked that answer?  If I say that the sky is purple, is there no room for debate – simply because our perceptions are “grand illusions?”  This theory of O’Regan’s seems pretentious and I enjoyed Carter using it in a way to expand what not to truly believe.  The Anton Delusion I found very interesting – “Can operate very happily as a fully sighted person until they collide with objects that happened not to be in their imaginary picture of the world.” (Carter 18).  This to me rang so very true in what I believe is the conscious working; countless amounts of times I have experienced incidents that I had never witnessed before – shaping and changing the way I see the world and, to be honest, scaring me because it wasn’t something I was used to by any means.  While Carter reflects James in her essay, I found her essay a much easier and enjoyable read.  Both works, however, made me think of the “stream of consciousness” that is found within many writers, most notably Lewis Carroll.  He never feared using his conscious and the stream of words that flowed through it to make up a story or enhance a story – an attribute to the literary field that worked wonders.

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One Response to “Blog Post 3: Stream of Consciousness”

  1. Dominique Zino on March 17, 2011 1:07 am

    In reference to your questions at the end of the first paragraph, is there a way in which we can think outside of the notion that “reality”=good and “grand illusion”=bad?
    (Also, you are not alone in asking the question, “Then what is reality?”)
    Just one thing, remember that “stream of consciousness” is a writing style and “stream of thought” is James’s way of describing how our minds work to process the environment we find ourselves in. They are not identical ideas.

    Thank you for this.

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