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Thread: The Observing Self vs The Thinking Self

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    The Observing Self vs The Thinking Self

    I've been reading The Happiness Trap recently and it had a chapter on the 'observing' self, in contrast to the 'thinking' self. The distinction is that a part of our mind is observational and aware of it's surroundings, and the other part thinks, typically about problems and issues.

    I found this interesting. Yesterday I made a few attempts to be more observational, but one way or another I'd find myself falling back into the thinking self. And that got me to thinking about the utility of both processes, and why we would favor one over the other at different times.

    Basically I came up with that the observing self scans the immediate environment for relevant stuff happening, and if nothing relevant is happening it starts thinking about problems that aren't exactly immediate to help solve those too. It doesn't make sense to expend energy on an environment that has no relevance to us, so we start thinking about how to solve problems that aren't in the immediate environment.

    I also wonder if there are gender differences here at a broad level: women are more observational because they need to keep children alive, right now. While men are less observational because throughout history they've been faced with more abstract/distant, rather than immediate problems.

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    Keeping children alive is fairly abstract/ distant - certainly compared top dealing with an injured bison charging at you, feeding a child can always wait another hour, even if it may not sound pretty.

    Science is about testable hypotheses that make sense given the context of our knowledge of the world. Not arbitrary conjectures that happen to sound nice to your ear and appear to confirm whatever it is you were already suspecting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post
    Keeping children alive is fairly abstract/ distant - certainly compared top dealing with an injured bison charging at you, feeding a child can always wait another hour, even if it may not sound pretty.

    Science is about testable hypotheses that make sense given the context of our knowledge of the world. Not arbitrary conjectures that happen to sound nice to your ear and appear to confirm whatever it is you were already suspecting.
    Sure, but the hard data doesn't exist so I'm conjecturing based on anecdotal experience. I could be totally off base but that's the arena we're in, if you don't want to take part, fair enough, or if you want to find hard data to prove me wrong, you're free to do that too.

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    Typical Buddhist and Hindu thought, which leads to the question what is that which I call myself? There is no answer only a realization to be experienced.

    My observing self observes my thinking self. My thinking self contemplates my observing self. Who or what is observing my observing and thinking self?

    Traditional eastern metaphysics. Google Atman Wiki. Ancient perennial questions.



    The OP is a question for the metaphysics forum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post
    Keeping children alive is fairly abstract/ distant - certainly compared top dealing with an injured bison charging at you, feeding a child can always wait another hour, even if it may not sound pretty.

    Science is about testable hypotheses that make sense given the context of our knowledge of the world. Not arbitrary conjectures that happen to sound nice to your ear and appear to confirm whatever it is you were already suspecting.
    Sure, but the hard data doesn't exist so I'm conjecturing based on anecdotal experience. I could be totally off base but that's the arena we're in, if you don't want to take part, fair enough, or if you want to find hard data to prove me wrong, you're free to do that too.
    Your conjecture doesn't even make sense. Over 90% of our time, our s species consisted of only foragers. If, between childcare and gathering roots on the one hand vs. hunting on the other one requires more direct, immediate responses, it's hunting

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Typical Buddhist and Hindu thought, which leads to the question what is that which I call myself? There is no answer only a realization to be experienced.

    My observing self observes my thinking self. My thinking self contemplates my observing self. Who or what is observing my observing and thinking self?

    Traditional eastern metaphysics. Google Atman Wiki. Ancient perennial questions.

    The OP is a question for the metaphysics forum.
    I don't know that I expect hard science to come out of this thread - I definitely don't have the time to research the question more thoroughly. But based on my own observation I figure these are at least two separate, mental processes, likely signified by the folk terminology of 'observing' and 'thinking'.

    The observing is likely a kind a kind of external searching, while thinking is a constant scanning of our memory bank in relation to what's observed. And when there is nothing to observe it is advantageous to be aware of past/future issues. Complete inaction doesn't solve problems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post
    Keeping children alive is fairly abstract/ distant - certainly compared top dealing with an injured bison charging at you, feeding a child can always wait another hour, even if it may not sound pretty.

    Science is about testable hypotheses that make sense given the context of our knowledge of the world. Not arbitrary conjectures that happen to sound nice to your ear and appear to confirm whatever it is you were already suspecting.
    Sure, but the hard data doesn't exist so I'm conjecturing based on anecdotal experience. I could be totally off base but that's the arena we're in, if you don't want to take part, fair enough, or if you want to find hard data to prove me wrong, you're free to do that too.
    Your conjecture doesn't even make sense. Over 90% of our time, our s species consisted of only foragers. If, between childcare and gathering roots on the one hand vs. hunting on the other one requires more direct, immediate responses, it's hunting
    Child-rearing requires a more consistent presence, with a stable problem space. Most of womanhood throughout history has been 'don't let my child die' and 'be good/efficient' at household tasks. This requires a completely different, but equally important skill-set as hunting. To hunt you're dealing with the outside world, which is less predictable and requires a greater amount of abstract problem solving.

    This is a bit of a simplification of gender differences at a broad level, but you can see the results borne out by how men and women are actually employed, and what their gender roles still are today.

    But again - I'm not trying to write a science textbook here, this is a forum on an obscure message board that no one visits. The conversation doesn't have to be that serious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Typical Buddhist and Hindu thought, which leads to the question what is that which I call myself? There is no answer only a realization to be experienced.

    My observing self observes my thinking self. My thinking self contemplates my observing self. Who or what is observing my observing and thinking self?

    Traditional eastern metaphysics. Google Atman Wiki. Ancient perennial questions.

    The OP is a question for the metaphysics forum.
    I don't know that I expect hard science to come out of this thread - I definitely don't have the time to research the question more thoroughly. But based on my own observation I figure these are at least two separate, mental processes, likely signified by the folk terminology of 'observing' and 'thinking'.

    The observing is likely a kind a kind of external searching, while thinking is a constant scanning of our memory bank in relation to what's observed. And when there is nothing to observe it is advantageous to be aware of past/future issues. Complete inaction doesn't solve problems.
    Today this is probly all under psychology, possibly cognitive psychology. I am sure these questions by this time have all been systematicly addresses in psychology along with experimental evidence.

    Instead of pop philosophy try some undergrad texts in psychology. An old one I read but probably still good is Gestalt Therapy. It is about a way of perceiving and tying all the function together. 'forming a gestalt' is a common term. It means viewing things as a whole at the same time instead of a reductionism of parts.A variation is a holistic view. I doubt there is one absolute approach.

    Yours may be as good as anyone's.

    Psychology is the soft part of it. Neuroscience has ling since identified specific areas of brain where deferent functions are located. I hit my head and ended up with speech aphasia from a subdural hematoma, fluid on the brain. It compressed the speech center. I could think clearly and imagine words, but I could not speak.

    Damage to the impulse control center can lead to aggression and violence, and so on.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_psychology

    Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental processes such as "attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking".[1] Much of the work derived from cognitive psychology has been integrated into various other modern disciplines such as Cognitive Science and of psychological study, including educational psychology, social psychology, personality psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, linguistics, and economics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post

    Your conjecture doesn't even make sense. Over 90% of our time, our s species consisted of only foragers. If, between childcare and gathering roots on the one hand vs. hunting on the other one requires more direct, immediate responses, it's hunting
    Child-rearing requires a more consistent presence, with a stable problem space. Most of womanhood throughout history has been 'don't let my child die' and 'be good/efficient' at household tasks. This requires a completely different, but equally important skill-set as hunting. To hunt you're dealing with the outside world, which is less predictable and requires a greater amount of abstract problem solving.

    This is a bit of a simplification of gender differences at a broad level, but you can see the results borne out by how men and women are actually employed, and what their gender roles still are today.

    But again - I'm not trying to write a science textbook here, this is a forum on an obscure message board that no one visits. The conversation doesn't have to be that serious.
    Sure, this is but a message board. Yet, we have sections on Miscellaneous Discussions, Other Philosophical Discussions, Social Science, Pseudoscience, Elsewhere - each of which along with several more I forgot is better suited for random musings of this sort. You posting it under Natural Science is strong evidence that you severely overestimate the scientific value if your prejudice cum confirmation bias. What you call anecdotal experience is a far cry from qualifying as data, and your logic doesn't look like much more than a feeble attempt to dress up your prejudices as rational.

    And if you think you have addressed my objection, think again. Hunting - and in particular big game hunting where the hunter puts himself at risk, which is of particular relevance here since small game hunting and trapping has often been the domain of both genders - requires more, not less immediate reactions than childcare, more, not less presence.

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    I'm not sure about the notion that the "observing self" deal with immediate problems while the "thinking self" deals with more distal problems. While distal problems do likely entail mostly thinking rather than observing, I think immediate problems require both and we tend to vacillate between the two when solving immediate problems.
    It's a matter of whether the solution to the problem lies in gathering more information versus reasoning about already gathered information, especially if there is not a truly immediate threat where there is not time to think. Most efforts to deal with an immediate problem in front of you don't entail a pressing threat that must be reacted to within seconds. For example, you encounter a river that you need to cross. You might start by observing to gather the important facts, then switch to thinking to put that info together with past experiences and form hypotheses about what will work. Then you switch back to observing to doublecheck whether the current situation has the same factors as the situations where a potential solution worked in the past, and so on. Sure, if you a charging lion chasing you to that scenario, then you just observing and reacting without much reasoning, but those situations are relatively rare.

    As for the gender roles thing, males have historically put themselves more often in immediate danger during hunts and inter-tribal conflicts. Those are situations where there is little time to reason, and rather reactions must be more instinctual and rely upon more mid-brain than forebrain areas. In contrast, females spent more time on problems where there is a luxury of more time to reason about optimal strategies, whether gathering fauna, figuring out how to process it into immediately edible and storable substances, using varied substances for medical purposes and developing them into clothing and shelter, etc. But again, since the majority of problems entail combining observing with thinking, it seems unlikely that this would have produced notable differences between the genders.

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