Article Review - Subjective Consciousness Explained

Ryle, A., 2005. Article Review - Subjective Consciousness Explained. Reformulation, Spring, pp.18-19.


The issue of consciousness has been addressed in CAT theory for some time (Ryle,1994 British Journal of Medical Psychology, 67, 115-123), and the social formation of mind and self processes have become central themes, as the theory has increasingly differentiated from its sources and absorbed ideas from Vygotsky and Bakhtin. Current theory, as proposed in Ryle and Kerr (2004) (Introducing Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Chapters 3 and 4), emphasises how social experience plays a major role in human personal development and is based on innate characteristics, which are manifest in the way infants engage, from the start of life, in intense interaction with others. This interaction does not involve the exchange of messages between a gradually maturing baby and it’s caretakers, it involves joint activity and pre-verbal and verbal exchanges with others from the start, a process which shapes the baby’s mental processes and influences how its neural tracts develop. This social experience and dialogue shape individual development and equip us all with the concepts and tools needed for social life and for consciousness. CAT is distinguished from monadic models which describe consciousness as being formed and located essentially in the individual head.

I have the impression that the eyes of some CAT therapists will have glazed over while reading the above paragraph; others will nod indulgently towards these theoretical insistences, while clinging to the unreflected-upon assumptions of the general culture.

I think this is a pity and underestimates the potential of CAT theory to contribute to a general human psychology and to support therapists in offering an intelligent and fully human therapy. For these reasons I would recommend a look at the paper reviewed here, which is available on the web:

http:/www.lclark.edu/-clayton/papers/explainingcs.html

SUBJECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED is by Prof. Clayton Morgareidge of the department of Philosophy at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. This paper arrives at conclusions which are powerfully supportive of the CAT model but reaches them by a different route, namely by way of philosophical argument. Morgareidge suggests that, due to the preoccupation with the analysis of language by Wittgenstein and others during the mid-20th century, philosophers had put aside, but not resolved, the longstanding mind-body problem. To address this, he proposes that the way ahead is to be found in the work of George Herbert Mead, whose views are summarised in the statement ‘We must regard mind...as arising and developing within the social process...’

The paper explores the implications of this position for three philosophical puzzles, namely intentionality, phenomenal consciousness, and the question of privileged access to one’s own thoughts. It is argued that Intentionality should replace the notion of the mental, for thoughts and feelings are not internal mental events, they represent active engagements with the world. In this respect he quotes Heidegger ‘s description of ‘comportments’ which ‘have the structure of directing oneself toward, of being directed toward’--a description close to the CAT concept of reciprocal role procedures.

As regards consciousness he argues that ‘It is the consciousness of our mental activity that requires explanation, not its unconsciousness’. He proposes that a belief or intention becomes conscious “when its owner brings it into the space of public meanings where comparisons are possible”. For this there must be a self, and self processes are derived essentially from dialogue with others. Dialogue requires the use of symbols which have shared meaning for all of us.

As regards privileged access, insofar as thoughts and feelings are aspects of our active engagement with the world we and others can observe and comment on them. Once I declare a belief or express an intention or make a promise (to myself or to others) I am taking up a position in public space, my access to the meaning of which is no different from that of others.

Review by

Tony Ryle

Full Reference

Ryle, A., 2005. Article Review - Subjective Consciousness Explained. Reformulation, Spring, pp.18-19.

Search the Library

Related Articles

Book Review of: How Infants Know Minds. Reddy, V. (2008). Harvard University Press.
Ryle, T., 2009. Book Review of: How Infants Know Minds. Reddy, V. (2008). Harvard University Press.. Reformulation, Summer, pp.33-34.

Letters to the Editors: Consciousness & The War
Dunn, M., 2003. Letters to the Editors: Consciousness & The War. Reformulation, Summer, pp.4-5.

CAT's Dialogic Perspective on the Self
Ryle, A., 2001. CAT's Dialogic Perspective on the Self. Reformulation, ACAT News Autumn, p.x.

CAT Publications Update
Tony Ryle, 2005. CAT Publications Update. Reformulation, Autumn, pp.28-29.

Book Reviews
Tony Ryle and Miranda Buckley, 2005. Book Reviews. Reformulation, Autumn, pp.27-28.

Other Articles in the Same Issue

Article Review - Subjective Consciousness Explained
Ryle, A., 2005. Article Review - Subjective Consciousness Explained. Reformulation, Spring, pp.18-19.

CAT, the Therapeutic Relationship and Working with People with Learning Disability
King, R., 2005. CAT, the Therapeutic Relationship and Working with People with Learning Disability. Reformulation, Spring, pp.10-14.

Journal Reviews Update Spring 2005
Ryle, A., 2005. Journal Reviews Update Spring 2005. Reformulation, Spring, p.19.

Letter from the New Editors
Jenaway, A. and Elia, I., 2005. Letter from the New Editors. Reformulation, Spring, p.2.

Update from Council
Dunn, M., 2005. Update from Council. Reformulation, Spring, p.3.

Workshop Presentation Synopses from the 2005 ACAT Annual Conference
Carroll, R., Elia, I., Compton Dickinson, S. and Webster, M., 2005. Workshop Presentation Synopses from the 2005 ACAT Annual Conference. Reformulation, Spring, pp.7-9.

Help

This site has recently been updated to be Mobile Friendly. We are working through the pages to check everything is working properly. If you spot a problem please email support@acat.me.uk and we'll look into it. Thank you.